Sorry I haven't posted much the past couple of days. I have a parent in the hospital, which always makes life kind of crazy, especially when the other parent is alone in the apartment. I'm having to answer the phone every time it rings (I usually let the machine pick up), and that, of course, leads to conversations I'd usually let ride until my writing day was over.
Anyway, speaking of writing days, a blogger I hadn't "met" before commented on my newspaper post the other day so I checked out his blog, Open the Vein––that's a literary reference BTW. He just won first place in the Utah State U writing competition only he has a problem. The winning sub is "a fictional piece about the conflict between a young man and his new father in law. It's so closely based on actual scenes from my experience that I am unfortunately unable to share my excitement in winning with my in-laws."
Has that happened to you? It has to me. In fact, I don't let anyone in my family read my writing for fear they will find themselves, either real or imagined, in my work. About the only one I haven't written about is my daughter, because her character is a tough one to pin down, and she doesn't read my stories out of total disinterest.
Funny thing is, when I first started submitting seriously, I had about three stories I sent in over and over. One of them was a "literary-light" piece, "Dora's Memoir", based on family lore from my mother's side. I think there was more to it than coincidence when it turned out to be my first published piece, because it was an easy way to introduce my family to my writing with characters based on them but in the same light they preferred to see themselves.
The main character in my second published story, "The Box of Cereal," is blatently based on my husband, though––thank God––not on a true incident. Despite how it first appears, it was written in love, a way of saying, I know who you are underneath. Yet, when it came out we played this little game. I gave it to him and he eventually lost it in his own personal slush pile of reading material where all my suggested reading usually ends up. Of course, I knew that would happen and that it would allow me, with great anger and annoyance, to snatch it back lest I lose my only contributor's copy (this was the first pub in print before it was repubbed in R&T). I then dropped it in the back of my closet with great relief that neither of us had to endure the discomfort of him reading it.
Since then my husband has made it clear he feels uncomfortable reading my fiction, and I feel the same––though I still act hurt instead of telling him––it's a woman thing. When my biological family ask how my writing is going I show them my articles and interviews––innocuous things––because even the fiction that isn't based on their characters would be wondered at by them. A woman having an affair––could that be who I am or who I want to be? The man considering suicide––is that my alter ego?
The strange result is that my parents have no idea of my successes. My sister, who publishes for academic reasons, is bragged about to friends and family while my work goes unnoticed. That really doesn't bother me, though. I live in a separate world where friends who understand and appreciate the sweat that goes into it share my successes and failures as I do theirs. I'd rather that than have my work raked over by people who just wouldn't understand.