Friday, April 5, 2013

The Writer Attends the Family Reunion

Ever sit around your family reunion and eye everyone deciding what secondary character they might be in your next novel? Families are breeding grounds for material. A couple of years ago, I received some great advice at a writing group. Write your family novel the one where you were the overlooked child, or bullied by your siblings, or your father was absent due to divorce, death, or neglect. Get that novel out of your system, then, let it go.  Most people do not want to hear about your family unless your mother was Bette Davis.

Your family book may never get published, which is just as well. You might end up being unwelcome at the next reunion. My sister is writing a family tell-all book she deems non-fiction. In this charming tale, my name is terminator because of a cat I once threw in the pond. I was testing my theory if cats had nine lives.  Hey, I was only four.

My oldest sister is portrayed as a sadistic bully, who does her best to kill the author, my middle sister. My father comes off as a good-looking womanizer.  My mother is more like Charlie Brown’s teachers in these tales off to the side, but not interfering too much. Did we find out about this story by picking up the book in a bookstore? Not hardly, my sister treats me to an update every week of what she’s written. The truth is most of us do not remember these tales. We aren’t that thrilled to be portrayed as human or animal bullies. Something similar must have birthed the libel laws.

At our latest reunion, I brought my copy of Ladies Home Journal, where my picture and short article appeared. Suddenly, I was a writer.  I have had over 60 articles published in various magazines, appeared in about a dozen anthologies, and published nine books with Secret Cravings. Yet, none of that  counted  because It wasn’t part of their world.

On the other hand, I could be published in The New Yorker, and none of them would blink an eye. Often it is hard being a writer around your family.  My relatives congratulate me on my retirement, believing that I am catching up on my television viewing.  They are unaware that writers do not get weekends off, especially if they are in rewrites or edits.

Do any of you suffer similar challenges explaining writing to family members?


Rolynn Anderson said...

Great post, Morgan...loved the family anecdotes. You're right...civilians who don't write have no idea how many hours we work every day at our business. They think of it as an indulgence rather than a job. What I learned from my family is that some of them are not readers, nor are they even curious about what I'm writing. Since I'm a voracious reader, I can't understand their lack of interest...and yes, their lack of support. I have to remind myself that reading (and what people read) is a preference much like music. We writers have to grow thick skins, for sure!

morgan said...

Hi Rolynn,

Thanks for your comment. How are you doing comment, does not mean the relative wants to hear anything about writing. Rather they want to know about any upcoming surgeries or vacation plans, which will allow them to relate theirs.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

No - not family. Ours is so small that we don't have reunions anymore. Where I found the most humorous lack of interest was our accountant. Mind you, he's been doing our tax returns since the earth's crust cooled and I worked for him at one time. He adamantly would never let me deduct anything, including my office, until I got paid for my work. SO this year I was so pleased to let him know I am a published author and sent him my 1099. He actually called me and asked if I was going out and buying books to sell. He wouldn't believe that I was selling books I wrote and even needed to see my contract so I sent it along with my copyright. Geesh, it makes me wonder how low of an opinion the man has of me after all of these years!!!! He did believe me because I got my Schedule C and the deductions helped a lot.

morgan said...

The good news is he wants your taxes to be correct. He has probably had a few clients who were victims of vanity publisher. Realize the man is not a romance reader. LOL. Thanks for commenting.