Friday, June 22, 2012

A Memory of Sound - Conclusion & Author's Notes

Meredith had wondered why Dan had been called when Father died, instead of her. But of course, it wasn’t Dan, but Mother who’d received the news. Mother, who’d remained the next of kin on all of Father’s mundane paperwork. Mother, who’d continued to pass on photographs and updates about their children. Mother, who’d never seemed worried or lost or lonely, but surely must have lived her own version of grief. Why else would she have stayed in contact with him?
She’d told Dan over the phone in a cold tone, like she was giving him the weather report instead of telling him his father was dead. He’d made the trip to Meredith’s apartment and held her stiffly as she wailed. He sat by her side while she made the funeral arrangements and picked out Father’s suit and wrote the obituary. He walked around pretending he’d known the man, while his mother sat at home, pretending she hadn’t.
Dan found himself alone in the apartment. He packed up a few final books and sat on the floor among the boxes. The room was silent, save the lonely drip of the faucet. He sat and listened to the solitary sound. He listened for a message in the monotony, and waited for a ghost to appear. 

Author's Notes:

I hate this story.

When I decided to write a piece for a prestigious literary award, I made one giant mistake: I believed that 'prestigious literary award' translated to 'something I wouldn't normally write'. It had to be serious. The writing itself needed to involve a good amount of hair pulling and agonizing and self doubt. And it did. It was hard, this writing for a prestigious literary award. Too hard.

Of course, I didn't win.

Not because it isn't a well written story (because I think it is, mostly), but because it lacks the one thing that you can not fake: authenticity. If the assignment had been, 'channel Tennessee Williams and write something dramatic and morose', I might have won. But it wouldn't have been my story. This isn't my story. This is a story I wrote while trying to be the kind of writer I am not. My amazing pro bono editor and my husband both tried, very nicely, to tell me this, but it was something I needed to figure out for myself.

That doesn't mean that I can't write something serious, because I can, and have. But it comes from a place of personal perspective, or experience, or belief. It comes with authenticity. It also doesn't mean that there is not value in humor, and poop jokes, and possum c-sections.

This week, I've been working on my submission for Southern Sin. There's been no hair pulling, or stomach churning, or wondering if the story is good enough. Because it's my story, in my voice, and that's good enough for me.

Thanks for continuing to read, and for your wonderful comments, and for your continued support.


  1. You know what, this story may not have been anything like what you normally write but it kept me interested, kept me reading it each day, and I thought it was very well written. I think as a writer you don't need to paint yourself into a corner saying that you can only do "funny" because I think this story proves otherwise.

  2. Kelly, I love you. Have I mentioned that before? I think I'm starting to sound like I'm stalking you. I totally get it. When I submitted something to Erma Bombeck, I did the reverse. It was supposed to be written in Erma's voice, so I spent all this time tweaking something to sound like an Erma Bombeck piece and my husband and dad said it wasn't as good as my usual writing. Then I wrote something in my own voice, submitted that and it didn't even warrant an editorial comment. But my family liked it much better and so did I.

    I liked this story, but I didn't like it as much as your other stuff, although it was packed with talent. It didn't sound Kelly and I like Kelly. But I admire the Hell out of your versatility and it is actually a solid piece. So, you might hate it, but I definitely didn't. Thanks for sharing it. :)

  3. I really hope you post therest of this story!! Ive come to your blog all week wanting more of this story!! I think you did great!

  4. Well, it may not be a true Kelly story, but it is good (I enjoyed it) & you did do an awesome, courageous thing by writing it & submitting it for the prestigious literary award. And next year you'll submit another one, right? -Y

  5. Kelly, I hate you just a little bit, I wish I could do what you do! This is such a brilliantly written piece and you hate it! You have a remarkable ability to not just paint a picture with words but stir up feelings that were not there when I started to read. Don't knock are a gifted writer and I LOVE reading what you write no matter what it is. Keep writing!!!!

  6. I completely understand why you hate this story.
    However, I think I said this the first time I read it, but I am in awe of your talent. Especially your ability to write a powerful, compelling story in a completely different voice.
    I love your honesty in admitting that you hate this and why. I really think that's part of the reason we keep writing - to learn these things and hone the things we're best at.
    I can't wait to see your "Southern Sin"!

  7. I really did enjoy this story, but I can appreciate what you mean about it not being 'yours'. The first piece of fiction I ever had published was dragged from me kicking and screaming, and I'm still not nuts about it.
    I can't wait to read more (of your fiction, and of course, poop jokes)

  8. I loved this story!!! I wanted to know so, so much more about all of them!

  9. yup, excellent and compelling story. I know you hated it, but I loved it. I'm really impressed!

  10. Thanks, everyone. It is so encouraging to hear such wonderful comments, especially from people I don't sleep with and aren't related to me. It took me awhile to get back to these comments, because I am emotionally stilted. But thank you, very much.