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That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

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I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

Revisionist History

Still Life with Glasses and Tobacco, 1633 Willem Claesz. Heda (1594–1680)

Writing in the memoir genre can make you feel less like you're retelling an authentic part of your story, and more like you're rewriting it. Or should I say it can make me feel that way. Get out my red pen baby, cause we're doing some major editing tonight. There are times when that fine line between truth—yours, mine and ours—isn't straight but wavy. And undulating. Trying to grab onto, and hold it straight to the page, the line slips and slides through our hands, too fine to get a grip on, it flies through our fingers like fishing line spooling out from the reel, unstoppable, when a big one is dangling at the end of it. It's not that our personal stories are whoppers, tall tales a fisherman tells; it's just that our truths don't always match up because they never matched up to begin with. Like a meal we once shared, the fresh swordfish I raved about is what I recall, while you not only know that we drank a bottle of Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc, and that I drank too much of it (another factor in our differing memories of the dinner), you remember the year. 


Those vagaries of memory and mindset may be why I've left a few narratives unfinished; the undoing of my first marriage at twenty two that I posted under the umbrella Leaving Home being one. I think of what I've written so far and I wonder: is it hurtful, unfairly so, and is it even true? Or is it the story I've told myself over and over again, more important to the maintenance of my sense of self, of being a decent person, of being compassionate, than seeing his side might allow me to be? Did I stop because I didn't know the ending, didn't like the ending or because after all these years I still don't know the how or why of it? And what's the point of rehashing the past if you can't put a point on it, if you can't draw a line from A to B and come up with C?
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#AtoZChallenge, The Letter R



Comments

  1. Thanks for all the comments, guys! I'm really getting a kick out this #AtoZChallenge; getting to meet so many people from all over the globe!

    ReplyDelete
  2. OOPS! I meant to post that comment on Queen Me http://simcarter.blogspot.com/2015/04/queen-me.html?showComment=1429658737435

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