Saturday, March 08, 2008

Family Ties

“The one thing all nations share is the fear that a member of the family will want to be an artist.” - Robert Frost

My family's fears have come true. An excerpt from Memorial, the book I'm writing about my father, has been published in The Pitkin Review, Goddard College's literary magazine. As excited as I was to have the excerpt accepted, my fear of my family's response outweighed the joy ten to one.

The only way I know to overcome the fear that my family will be unhappy with what I’ve written is to let them know what’s coming. This won’t work for everyone, but I don’t like surprises and I doubt they would either. Some memoirists never show work to family members until after it’s published. Some show the drafts to anyone who appears in the work. Others, like me, have a conversation with family members about the work before it appears in print. My goal is to travel with as much ease as possible balanced by my need to tell the story.

A few members of my family have read the piece and, so far, no one has thrown any stones. Of course, the section published is a rather mild part of the book. But I’m testing the waters and getting my family ready for the more difficult sections to come. When I’m confused about whether to reveal something, I choose to honor the story. The story always wins. I hope it will win my family over as well.