WriPaMyMeNo, Day 6: The Dead Can’t Dispute Your Version of Events

Write Part of My MemoirWelcome to Day 6 of my Write Part of My Memoir in November challenge, wherein I wish that my childhood was more traumatic

I was surprised to read in Mary Karr’s The Art of the Memoir that she and other memoirists sent their manuscripts to the people featured in them before publication. When you think about it, it makes sense to get advance approval, or at least give the subjects a heads up that you might be shining an unflattering light on them, but it sounds terrifying. What if they protest, tell you that the book has to be scrapped? According to Karr, this hasn’t happened.

Although I explored my mother’s experiences with the Nazis in a genealogical blog, Freud’s Butcher, my own childhood wasn’t sufficiently traumatic to be the focus of a memoir. On a literary level, this is unlucky. Neither of my parents is alive and my only sister and I are estranged. Were I to write anything to upset her, we couldn’t not speak to each other any more than we’re already not speaking.

Most of the people I worked with in travel publishing are still kicking. I foresee no problem running my manuscript by the ones with whom I am still friends; the fact that we are still friends suggests my depiction of them is positive or benign. The ones I am dissing…that’s another story.  In some cases, I can change names, no problem. In others — say, when the book division I worked for is named for that person — it’s impossible to hide identities. In those cases, I’m planning to follow the principles outlined in the article How to Use Real People in Your Writing, including:

Don’t say someone is criminal, sexually deviant, diseased, or professionally incompetent or use labels such as crook, cheat, pervert, or corrupt. Instead, stick to verifiable facts and your personal, emotional responses. Apply your creative skills to hyperbole and voice. Remember the old adage, show, don’t tell. Let your readers come to their own conclusions.

I can work with that.

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

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  1. David Benn Crawford says:

    We will all get to join that cohort in the great by-and-by.

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