What happened to me is that I had to come back from my residency early. Honestly, the landscape was beautiful and all, but I was having a mental health emergency. It had something to do with the cabin not having the right kind of light to paint by – or something.
I just couldn’t get comfortable. It was either to dark, or the light was blinding. I got depressed that I wasn’t able to produce much in the way of visual work there, and it just got worse from there. I decided to dedicate my last days to finishing my memoir, and then, I left. I saw my doctor as soon as I got back and it turned out I needed a medication change, so things are already better. It’s also a pretty short adjustment period to the new pills, thank God.
At first I felt like a total failure about the whole thing, but I come away with a little series of trailer paintings (made in watercolor and pen) that I will show at the Personal Matters show in the spring at the El Camino College Gallery. In fact, I’ll have my own little gallery space at the show. And perhaps most importantly, I finished the final draft of Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley. If that will stay the title, that remains to be seen. But what a HUGE milestone! And this time, I really feel it. I don’t think I would if my meds hadn’t changed though – in all honesty. That’s how I know I’m improving.
I still have another mountain to climb yet, but a major part of the process is complete now. How many people do I know that can say have written a book? Well, I do actually know quite a number of people that have, but I bet I’m one of the only ones on my block anyway.
What’s great is that I have written enough for two, maybe three books. (Maybe more!) It’s all about the editing now and Lisa is a great editor that I trust, because she is also a great writer with a comparable style (in regards to what I’m going for: clear, conversational, descriptive). It’s all about the story. I hand the manuscript off to her at the beginning of November. All that’s left for me now is a read-through, which I promised myself I would not do until October. I will not open the file until the first week of October. I swear. No obsessing either. This is the longest time I have not opened the file.
But until then, I have concocted a long list of questions that I want to keep in mind before, during, and after the read-through. And now I’m going to publicly share them, even though I’m a novice. But keep in mind, I’m not a complete novice. I did just write a huge memoir that took me about six years. With that, I felt there were some things I needed to make sure were present in the book, just as if it were a work of fiction (because after all, it is still a narrative), and now that I’ve finished the “process” portion of this project, I should have a clearer head to be objective now (as much as I can be) before handing it off to Lisa. If it helps any of you beginner writers out there, great. If it makes you veteran writers laugh, so be it.
I divided this up into four groupings of “questions.” Some are to answer now, some are to keep in mind while reading, and some are to ask myself again once I’m finished reading. Just trying to cover all my bases. I just want the book to be as good as I can make it. The sections are: Main Character (Me), Plot & Supportive Characters, Revelations & Growth, and The End.
Main Character (Me)
Are we interested in Carol Es as a person?
Can the reader identify with her?
What does she want, and what does she actually need?
What about me do people actually want to know?
Plot & Supporting “Characters”
What can I do to eliminate the reader’s disbelief of this story?
Who or what influenced the direction of my life and when?
Who do I rely on? And who do I try to reel in for support?
Who is my antagonist(s)? (both the unwitting and the ill-willed?)
Will readers understand their motives and human needs?
Revelations & Growth
Identify each setback, failure, fuck up.
What are some emotions, conclusions, decisions that resulted from them? (Then and now.)
Are there revelations revealed to the reader before they are even apparent to me?
What is my main antagonist’s story in all this?
Can I play up transforming that relationship somehow?
What in particular do I want to take a stand on?
Does the reader understand I am not capable of solving some problems? And do I want to mention that?
How do I acquire courage? What if I never acquired it?
Do I forgive or understand the people from my past, or come to a resolve? Is that even realistic?
What does “victory” really mean in the end?
What advice would I give others based on my successes or mistakes?
What will my story offer readers?
What have I expected to discover or prove in this entire process anyway?
That “disbelief” thing is there because I still don’t think people are going to believe the events in my book. This was why I started it off as a work of fiction. I changed it to a real memoir about a year into it. Mjp convinced me that the best thing about the book was that the whole story was actually true. I hope he was right about that. Once this whole thing is edited and complete…I still have to make the ultimate decision on whether I’m publishing it! I still may not. That may be the hardest decision yet. If I find out if it’s any good, I will though.
In other news, I started this watercolor once I got home, but I don’t know where it’s going yet. I’m not sure if I ruined it. I have to decide if I screwed up the bottom portion of it, or if it’s sheer genius and just need more crazy squiggly lines. Not sure.
I’ve also been working on the COLA grant application, which is new and online this year, seemingly easier. But is it? I guess it is – a bit. There is paperwork from other years we don’t seem to have to fill out this time around. City bureaucracy type stuff, which is a big relief because I am never sure if I am filling that out correctly – and I’ve been to two of their workshops over the years, even a semi private/special one where Joe Smoke (the Director) came to an Asylum-Arts retreat I went on last year. Luckily, I’m almost done, but I have to scan my entire Exodus catalog. Then, of course, you still have to print everything out and mail it in! And I hope mentioning this on my blog does not disqualify me or leave a bad taste in the mouths of the people that sit on the judging panel because I have been applying to this grant for well over a decade and I keep applying because I have faith in my city, and, I guess I must have some faith in myself (deep down) or I wouldn’t keep applying.