one-memoir wonder

lynda barry
It is a one hundred percent undeniable, holy-crap fact that I’m lucky. I have an enthusiastic and very attractive agent, my memoir is coming out in the spring, and I have been grateful. I mean, this is what I’ve wanted my whole life, right? A book on a shelf and my name on the cover and the opportunity to totally freak out about the inevitable bad reviews and the imaginary things people may or may not be saying about the quality of my story, my writing, my life, my moral character and my general level of deservedness. Fun times!

Really, truly: I am excited and thrilled. But the book release is seven months away, and that’s a lot of time. It’s even too early to seriously start thinking about publicity (though my publicist has been very patient with my anxious questions) or start worrying about things like interviews and what to wear and how to stick with my resolution to avoid imaginary reviews that have not and may not happen. It’s too early to even fantasize, since I’m still asking questions like, “Uh, so, how do I review the layout?” and “Is a layout the same thing as an ARC?” and, “Am I pretty? Seriously. How pretty am I, on a scale from one to awesome?”

To combat the inevitable creeping panic I’ve been working on a novel, which made of fiction. It’s been my antidote to the entire process of writing a memoir, which as far as I can tell involves a lot of shame and embarrassment and self-loathing. Which experts tell me means I wrote an awesome memoir, so I have that going for me.

Anyway, this book. It’s YA. It’s totally fictional. It was a blast to write, unlike some memoirs I can mention. My agent knows I’m working on a book, but she’s under no obligation to be interested in it. There is not a reason in the world it should exist, or has a life beyond this draft, but I so desperately, earnestly want it to. I have wanted to write fiction since as long as I can remember.

I am thrilled, excited, grateful, that I’ve got this memoir coming out—but I don’t want to be just a memoirist; I want to be a novelist. I want to write fiction. I’d love to make a living as a novelist—I’d love to buy my agent a summer home on Fire Island. But if publishers would just keep buying my novels and people would read them, that would be okay too. I’d be happy with that. I would die happy with that.

So I am freaking out because I am struggling with this fiction-novel-book-thing. I wrote a first draft and went through critiques and was happy with it and proud of it and excited about it. Quick and dirty restructuring draft—still happy. And now I’m line editing, and I have become convinced that the book is a nightmare, and I am a one-memoir-wonder.

It is exhausting and frustrating and embarrassing—I don’t want to whine about this book, because aren’t I a lucky writer already? I am lucky. And I also want to write more. I want to write interesting things. I want to have a career, not just one book. Maybe that is greedy. Maybe it’s just ambitious. I don’t know. But in the end, all of it is hypothetical right now—I need to go finish this draft. And then we’ll see what happens, and exactly what kind of wonder I am.

2 Replies to “one-memoir wonder”

  1. Jen, I’m so excited for you. And I don’t think there’s any chance you’re just a one-memoir-wonder. (Though if anything, that would make a cute title for a follow-up book…) I’ve been a fan since I first found your writing on Elastic Waist, and I promise I’ll buy anything you write. :)

  2. Jen, you are going to definitely have and already are having a career as a novelist. Remember – you wrote a book long time ago about a very special fairy land and you received an A+. You were the author and artist.

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