Monday, August 31, 2009


Warning: I'm probably going to be melodramatic, or as I should say... "Myself." I call genetics, hormones and a colorful upbringing in as my defense.

I just finished reading Cherry. I feel like a friend has died. I never wanted the book to end. At the same time, every word, every new page, every continuing chapter made me want to throttle Mary Karr's certainly silken alabaster neck. It's not like she has stolen my stories (though the similarities are UNCANNY... she is acquitted of all suspicion of plagiarism due to the fact that, well, she got here first--is older than my own mother). The problem is, I've always thought I was different. As a child, it was a blemish... a handicap even... that I was so strange. So unlike those around me. Later, it's what drew/draws people to me. "She's so unique." Blah blah blah. Then I read this Karr chick and I'm shown just how not-so-unique-at-all I really am.

Thoughts I used to have, that seemed to so profoundly obscure and for lack of a better word, weird, I found uttered on the pages of this Cherry but in words that I'd never have the creativity, presence of mind or eloquence to write. I hear myself in her voice, I see myself in the images she draws and I find myself saying, "Me TOO!" with the enthusiasm one uses when one finds a fellow. Another yellow M&M in a pack of greens. But I also spend my time seething with jealousy and spite. My ego crushed.

Growing up (the throes of which I still find myself hourly), I used to comfort myself in my situations with the mantra, "Don't worry. Someday, this will make a great story." One time, my uncle told me, "If someone sat down and wrote out their life without censoring thought in light of other people's feelings or prejudices--without worrying about getting sued--that book would be the greatest work in history." Even then, at age 14, it sparked butterflies in my stomach to know that I'd attempt that feat someday.

But now I know. Just like every other way I've considered myself unique. It's all been done before.

The question is, what do I DO with this information?

Part of me says, Oh fuck it, just because it's been done doesn't mean it cancels out the value of YOUR stories.

But another part of me SCREAMS, You're no more special than anyone else, you know? Your stories aren't funnier, weirder, scarier or more obscure than anyone else'. Oh, so what if you have the "gift of gab?" That's all so much blabber. Your story's not that different. What? You thought you'd become a writer? You suck at fiction! You thought you'd fall back on your memoir because those stories mean something to you? Well, tough shit. Someone's already written those stories and done a better job. So, just give up all the lah-dee-dah about publishing anything and concentrate on doing what you DO know... Go do some dishes, start some laundry, cook some food, wipe some ass. Concentrate on that stuff. Better yet, drop all this writing stuff and just hone in on the whole farming thing, yeah?

Still, you all know how bipolar I am. In the next second, I'm saying, Oh yeah? My story may not be as full of sludge and mire, and I may not have had as much "hardship" as I thought, but my stories and the way I tell them ARE valid. And they ARE good. And don't you remember why you wanted to start writing them anyway? Because so many people said your stories helped them? Isn't that why you put pen to paper anyway? Not because you wanted to be famous or because you wanted to sell a book to buy a tractor! But because every time you told another story, the light you saw go on in the listener's ear, the gasp from their lips, the hand clutching chest... The "thank you for telling me that"... THAT'S why you decided to talk on paper. Hell, it's part of the reason you're typing RIGHT NOW, isn't it?

*sigh* He hasn't written me back yet. I think that's a big part of it. I think I expected the AMD/JMC to write me RIGHT back with enthusiasm for me to get started on a new and improved direction with the memoir. I tell myself that he can't really comment on it because for one, he's not done reading it. How can he know what you should do to it if he doesn't know how it ends yet? Isn't that what you used to tell your own writing students? Don't edit the little shit until the big chunks are in place as they need to be?

I try to busy myself with other things. Sadly--and orgasmically--Cherry came along and possessed me, making me only want to read, read, read, but fearing the day, the moment, when the book would end. That fucking book made me want to stop writing on the one hand, but encouraged me to jot down pages of notes about my own story (that and to buy a fucking thesaurus... I don't know if I'll ever attain the eloquence of a poet) on the other hand. I even wonder if JMC is psychic and he turned me on to Mary Karr as a mean joke... As a round about way of not just telling me but SHOWING me that I might as well stick to raising goats as my lifelong contribution to earth's existence. He doesn't have to write me a rejection letter if I write him and quit first.

I fucking hate waiting. What is taking him so long to get through my book? I mean, is it because he reads several at a time? If so, that sucks... how can he keep more than one book at a time straight in his head? Is it because he's writing a lot in the margins? Ideas he wants to throw at me for ways to make the thing better? Is it because he has so many meetings and lunches and dinners and gallery openings and other New York-y things to do? Is this agent thing just a hobby? Does he write?

It only took me two weeks to get through the book and I was REVISING it as I went along. What's TAKING HIM SO LONG?

It's, um, really only been a week or so. Really. So, I should calm the fuck down.

I SHOULD consider this an opportunity to write other things. Or to have a little extra time to read. Or research the farm. Or clean my house. Or play with my kids before all of them are back in school (Thursday). I shouldn't sit around and bite my nails and bitch about how long it's taking. But I can only be me, right?

Okay... let's change the subject.

Uh... oh yeah. We went to the bird park the other day. It was AWESOME. I'm not really into going to a park where there are a lot of captive animals with little signs showing you that the animals have been captured from their native habitat so you can see in real life that they are far from home. But this place was different. First of all, it wasn't super touristy (I mean, yeah, okay, there were three or four little/big playgrounds and a few restaurants, but it wasn't like there were actual humans walking around in bird suits with balloons or a camera ready to immortalize your experience with a personalized post card). Secondly, from what I could see, they made major efforts to mimic the natural habitat of the birds. I mean, there were warm-weather penguins in a huge wave pool. There were birds allowed to fly free. We even rescued a baby peacock looking bird who had strayed from his family's run, his mother walking back and forth along the fence whimpering at her baby as he tried here and there to bob his head back in--we surrounded him and Sam scooped him back over to his mama, who puffed up like she was about to attack until she understood that we were actually trying to help. She and her baby hid behind a bush (while we watched to make sure she wasn't going to eat him in an attempt to clean the Sam scent off of him) until they got the nerve to finally walk around the run.

Beyond that, the kids really liked it. I thought they would get bored and complain, but no. We did half of the park, had a sandwich lunch at one of the restos, played on the playground, did the other half of the park, had an ice-cream and cereal bar snack and made our way to the car. No pee pee or poop accidents. No major fights between Ryan and Antonia (in fact, I caught them with their arms around each other and actually kissing on cheeks). No pessimistic meltdown from Sam until he was ready to go. Just your all around great day.

Oh, that reminds me, when Antonia got back on Friday and she came by to say hi, she and Ryan actually RAN to one another like Romeo and Juliet awakened from the dead. It reminded me of what Ryan had said in Munich while we were about to board the plane: "Don't worry Antonia. I'll be home soon. I'm on my way." We took her with us to have lunch at our favorite Bouchon Lyonnais (which, by the way, like our pizza wagon, is no longer on our "best resto" list as their food has gotten tough and salty), after which we came back to the apartment, played a little and then took a nap. Ryan and Antonia insisted on sleeping together in the big guest bed. And as they climbed in and covered up, they actually freaking SPOONED and let out a sigh of what I could only interpret as... relief? Natalie and I joke that they are married, but it's scarily accurate, the way they interact. Natalie told me, that probably at the exact moment Ryan was thinking about Antonia, SHE was asking her mother, "What if he gets home and I'm not there? He'll be worried and sad and scared!" As if they are psychically connected to the point that her presence is his very life source.

I always thought (hoped?) Ryan would be gay. That way I wouldn't have to be the mother that gets the call in the middle of the night from some murderous father-of-the-female-object-of-my-son's-affection. At least I don't think Patrice would call me in the middle of the night. He would just punish Ryan on his own. And since they consider him to be family already, they might not murder him.

Yesterday we went to the in-laws' place. They were happy to see us and oohed and ahhed over the pix of our new property, as expected. We had a delicious lunch of herb roasted chicken, scalloped potatoes, stir-fried fennel, lamb's lettuce salad with hard-boiled egg and sliced tomatoes, and a homemade plum pie (with fruit from my sister in law's plum tree) for dessert. The cool part was letting the kids run around the yard, climb in the cherry and apple trees, roll around in the grass and tiptoe through the garden without worry. They plucked apples from the tree and nibbled on their not-so-yet-ripeness, getting three or for teeth-scrapes in before discarding the runted fruit onto the ground, returning to the tree later to find another specimen. We adults stayed in the house while the kids ran around. That's what I'm after. The freedom to be in my house while my kids are in my yard without the constant fear that someone is going to molest or kidnap them. Let's hope such an existence is in my not-so-distant future. *sigh*

I've been moving into the house and land in my mind when I'm not obsessing about the agent. Where will the couches go? Should they face the window? Or should we have them turned around to face the bar, fireplace and TV nook? OR, should we have one doing one thing and the other doing the other? Should we get the basement finished before we even move in so the kids will automatically have a place to go crazy without getting hurt? Should we give Ryan his own room and let the girls share one? Or should we have them all sleep in the same room and let the other be a toy room or guest room? Or guest room for now and toy room later? Or an office and put the toys and guests downstairs? Should we make the "yard" bigger and fence it off with split-rail and chicken wire right away so the kids' "playroom" can be the Great Outdoors (I'm leaning toward this one)? How much will it all cost? What should we do first? Which is more important? Feel free, if any of you have any good answers for these questions, to answer them in the comments option, thank you in advance.

Well, thank you for lifting me out of my Cherry-inspired funk. I promise to lay off the way-too-similar-to-my-own-life memoires for a little while. The next memoir I read will probably be Confessions of a Counterfeit Country Girl. But I see some fiction in the middle there to keep me from pushing YOU ALL to put a gun to your temple!


Teri said...

Joelie, DON'T get discouraged that there's someone else out there that wrote "your" story(ies). I had more or less the same thing happen to me last week, an idea that I've been rolling around in my head that I thought was completely mine, completely unique, I just happened to stumble across a web page that was MY idea, staring me in the face. Then I looked some more, and found a million more websites with MY idea. I became extremely discouraged, depressed, lost all hope (you might have remembered this from my FB status post) but then, someone commented on my status and absolutely made my day. And the same is true for you. This Cherry might have written down YOUR life, but she did it HER way, you do it YOURS. There's no way it will be exactly like that, because you ARE unique. You have your own story to tell, and your own way to tell it and by golly you should not let it get in your way that there's someone else that has told a story that is so similar. Those are still YOUR words to write in your own way. DO IT! DO IT and BE PROUD! I look forward to reading your stories someday, fiction and non-fiction.

Joelie said...

Thanks T!!! Needed that!!!

gkd said...

Amen to what Teri said, Joelichka! And you're in good company: SHAKESPEARE wrote stories that had been written before, but he wrote what he needed to write, in the special way that he wrote, and he became the greatest writer of the English language. You may become the next Shakespeare, and only a few snooty English scholars will say, "Well, yes, Joelie Key-Tissot was very influential, but *she* was probably influenced by this book "Cherry" despite the evidence from her blog that she read it AFTER she wrote her own story." Everyone else will say, "What's this Cherry book and why should we care? We LOVE Joelie's work! She was awesome! She was amazing! She is an inspiration to us!" So. That's what I think. Keep writing; the world needs to hear *your* voice.

Joelie said...