I have to admit that I’m still having a vulnerability hangover after attending the Seattle Writing Conference on Saturday. It saps energy to sit in front of someone and condense the last year or two of your life into a three minute nugget. You have to justify the time you spent in front of a computer every step of the way. Will it sell?
Memoir takes the whole process to the next level. Ultimately, pitching a memoir to an agent is like reviewing your life.
“Couldn’t your character have done something a little more out there?” they seem to ask.
“Uh, um, my character is me. I’m not willing to decorate my cat at Burning Man or to leap from a helium balloon to snowboard Mt. Everest naked while detoxxing from methamphetamines.”
“Did you grow up in a cult or a brothel? Are you a member of any thrill-seeking fellowships, cosplay clans, or poetry slam charities?”
“Uh, I’m still in Scouting but I’m not as active now that I’m writing.”
“No, I’m thinking something quirky.”
“In what way? How does that manifest in your story? Do you have any issues with gender fluidity, mental illness, political resistance, or social justice? Those areas are hot right now. Hot.”
No, this isn’t the real conversation I had with an agent, but a river flowed under the surface. Don’t write what you know. Be the show.
It takes the navel-gazing of writing memoir to the extreme. Were the results of my life marketable? Would my actions sell a million copies and the rights to the Netflix special?
That could be the question that I am asked on the threshold of my death and my answer would have to be that I took a lot of walks and talked to a lot of people.
Thank you for listening, jules