I took a break from blogging during November to focus on Nanowrimo but I finished reading several books and got behind on my write-ups. I’m going to try to do these books justice despite having let them sit for too long before writing down my thoughts. I read January First by Michael Schofield in record time: I started it one evening and finished it the next morning before work. I am a SLOW READER so this is saying A LOT about how this book grabbed me and didn’t let me go. I don’t know if everyone’s experience of this book will be similar to mine but I was absolutely spellbound. This is a nonfiction account of a father whose daughter January has child-onset schizophrenia. There were many aspects of this book which rang painfully true, having experienced mental illness firsthand in several forms, in myself, close friends, and close family. This book demanded my attention; I had to know what was going to happen to this girl and the father fighting for her. So many aspects of this read were familiar, and it was affirming to see them expressed in print. I’m lucky to have a kid on the autistic spectrum high-functioning enough that we can easily communicate. But the way that January threw violent fits was very reminiscent of the way that a friend’s low-functioning autistic son acts out. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he just can’t communicate in a different way when he gets that upset. When January is hospitalized, I can see the facilities in my mind’s eye, because I know such places too well. And when January’s “bad memory” is recognized for the dissociation it actually is, I was dumbstruck. This book is heavy and somewhat dark without a picture perfect happy ending, although it does leave the reader with hope. If you are interested in mental illness and mental health, this is a Must Read. I haven’t turned this book back in to the library yet because I read through it so quickly I wanted to read it a second time through more slowly. An incredible tale offering a true human connection thanks to this dad’s ability to be so raw and honest about the frustration, fear, confusion, anger, and exhaustion that accompanies having a close family member with mental illness in crisis. If you read the book and still want more, here’s an interview with Michael Schofield; janisjourney.org is meant to be a progress blog for Jani and her family but I can’t get it to load so I’m not sure of its status.
So in one corner, there’s fiction. Made up, though just as often as not, inspired by some real stuff. In the other corner, memoir. The Truth, capital T, unless specifically noted, liked “names changed to protect my ass.” But somewhere in the middle, there’s this weird subgenre called fictionalized memoir. What is it, and when do you use it?
Anita from Word Cafe says that a fictionalized memoir is a semi-autobiographical novel. She tells us that Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is a good example. Melissa of Networlding says, “From a writing perspective, the fictionalized memoir allows a writer to embrace the creative process without a disclaimer because the fiction techniques create a compelling story.” Adair of Writer’s Digest outlines why you might consider fictionalized memoir instead of memoir memoir, like “I am uncomfortable relying on my memory.” While Taylor at Lit Reactor talks about how autobiographical fiction can give the author more freedom while potentially requiring more skill to cull all but the best parts. I feel smarter already! But of course, only you can choose what’s right for you.
So my friend Kassandra Klay and I co-taught a workshop entitled “Genre Wars: Romance vs. Erotica.” We talked about the similarities and differences of the two, and we talked about how blurry the line can get sometimes. All in all, we had a blast teaching an impressive turn out all about it! For anyone curious who didn’t get a chance to attend, here’s a simplified version of the presentation I did for my half.
So. How did your Nanowrimo turn out this year? Did it feel easier or harder than previous years? Did you develop any new habits that helped or hindered? Did you meet, fall short of, or exceed your expectations? My worst habit this year was waiting until the last minute to do a daily entry, making it hard to stay awake long enough to write even 100 words (which I’d set as a personal goal based on previous years’ experience). Hence my advice for my future self is: write your 100 words in the morning!
If you love tracking devices (I’m also addicted to the Wii Fit, yes, after all these years) you will absolute adore the way that Nano keeps all the information you give it and turns it into something truly magical.
So, now that Nano is over, we return to being lost in a sea of—no, wait! Did you know that Nanowrimo now offers GOAL TRACKERS and they’re available YEAR ROUND!?!?!?! That’s right. So get started on your next project, whatever it is, and keep using these great tracking tools for all your dreams come true (and for great justice). I’m going into editing mode for December so I set up a goal tracker based on hours instead of word count. I gave myself a goal of 0.5 hours/day. Wish me luck! Let’s do great things together, Writers!