Memoir Better Than Fiction?

I’ve been having so much fun meeting with Lisa and asking her questions about life beyond and my intention was to use the material for a fictional book I have been working on for a while now. But in the last three days, after telling the story about how Lisa and I met, I have had various people – another 9/11 widow who was in town for a night, a friend who is also writing a fictional book about the afterlife and now even my agent – tell me that I should write it as memoir. When messages come in threes like that, I am inclined to go with them. But I am filled with all the usual questions that fill my little brain whenever I try to get my head around a new memoir idea. Will people think I’m crazy? Can I fill a whole book with this story? Am I insane? Writing memoir is a lonely road to travel. We spend WAY too much time navel gazing and putting ourselves out there.

Perhaps then, it is no coincidence that I am to be teaching a class called “Shame Resilience” based on a course offered by one of my favorite speakers, Brené Brown. She has written a book called “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power” which explores shame within our culture and offers ways of becoming resilient to it thereby allowing one to live a more authentic and “wholehearted” life. I seem to have no problems with being authentic, vulnerable, letting everything hang out there for all to see. I guess I must ooze wholeheartedness. I’ll take that. I will be curious to learn if it’s possible to be too authentic and vulnerable in this age of over-sharing.

A big reservation I have about writing my experience with all things paranormal is that the stories are so crazy that I wonder if people will even believe any of it? And yet, I have yet to have one negative comment. People seem hungry for this sort of information. Still, I know I have to be careful about who I tell this stuff to. Not everyone is open to it.

As fiction I might have been able to write just about anything and get away with it. With memoir? Not so much. I don’t want to pull a James Frey. My agent met my idea with skepticism putting forth her theory that “those people” have an ability to intuitively read a person’s thoughts, tell people what they want to hear. So maybe she won’t be able to sell it if she doesn’t believe in it. And yet, with one book proposal in the hopper being assessed by my agent, I plow ahead.

Because writing about relationships and sex wasn’t hard enough.

8 Comments

  1. annie March 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    How can it be James Frey if you are recording actual events? He made stuff up after all. It’s a good idea to go non-fic and let’s face it, non-fic sells way better. Too many ppl have their own “ghost” stories for your experiences not to resonate. Some of my most read blog pieces are those talking about the unseen residents of our house or Rob and mine own brushes with our late spouses. Go with it.

  2. dampdynamite March 31, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Oh brother. What ever makes you feel better, but gee, do you really expect people to swallow this stuff? Living in the now is my goal. Always looking back at what happened to me, or trying to communicate with my dead husband is not where I am. So there is a negative comment for you.

    1. annie March 31, 2011 at 8:57 pm

      People, even the skeptical, are drawn to the unexplainable and the supernatural, so yes, I think many would “buy it”. In any case, I don’t think Abby is looking backwards or doing anything unhealthy. This all came about from her research for her fiction novel. Sometimes as we write, ideas shift and take off in a new direction and good writers go with the new flow. Simple as that.

  3. Jacinta April 1, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Your story of Lisa has been my favourite post so far, I think there is such a curiosity out there for this kind of information. I would buy it and read it with great interest.

  4. Rebecca Young April 1, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    All I can say “to the non-believers is “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.” It’s a truly AMAZING thing to delve into the other side.
    I’d buy your book Abi. : )

  5. megan April 14, 2011 at 8:20 am

    who needs people to “swallow this stuff”? If you don’t like it, read something else. Tra la la. No need to be all grumpy about it. I don’t like murder mysteries or teen beat magazines, so I just don’t shop in that genre.

    The way I see it, everything is a fiction, everything is a theory. I was reading something a bit ago (some controversial environmental ideas, I think) that said – if you present your work as a theory, you can say anything. Plus,. I personally would love a book on this subject that starts with the author saying – who knows if this is real, or if this is my mind. It presented itself, and I am writing it. Think of it however you’d like.

  6. Abigail - Site Author April 14, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Thanks everyone for the support. It’s been an interesting journey if nothing else and I do hope I can make it work.

    As for the notion that seeing a psychic keeps me in the past, dwelling on Arron, the reality is that there is almost no looking back and every “discussion” has been very spiritual. The gifts of this experience has really been in the relationship I am developing with Lisa, the trust, and the lessons around faith and afterlife and the like. It’s been just a profound experience that I hope to share in the form of a book.

    I am aware that there will always be naysayers and that’s fine. It keeps me on my toes, keeps me from sliding too far into the realm of gullible and keeps me questioning everything which will only help me to lay out this story in a way that will be all the more authentic as I try to show both sides of the coin.

    1. dampdynamite April 18, 2011 at 8:13 am

      Abby, I knew you could take it!

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