Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Short Story About Getting Published on Longreads, and Why the Timing is Perfect for a Memoir Author-in-Waiting

I'm proud to say I have a new work of nonfiction just published at the wonderful Longreads, home to such a vast range of compelling journalism, essays, and narratives.

"What To Do With a Man Who Has a Story, and A Gun" is something different for me. Though I've written before about past loves, to write this story the way it needed to be told forced me into areas I rarely go on the page: sex, my own youth-fueled dangerous behaviors, and the politics of class and wealth I learned as a privileged young person.

I hesitated at first to send this piece out on submission, worried about what reactions it might bring from those more used to me writing about milder, more "acceptable" life passages. 

Then I put on my grown up writer woman pants and hurled it into the editorial cosmos. It landed at the perfect place, where editor Sari Botton gave it that slight extra push it needed to truly shine.

Once I knew it was going to run, I asked my kids not to read it, and warned my husband (Frank, who is that rare, blessed nonfiction writer's spouse who never tells me what personal stuff I can't write about) to read with caution because he might not like knowing this particular story.

As it turned out, Frank read it and with his usual mix of candor and enthusiastic support, said he was intrigued to know more about who I was in the eight years between when he and I first met (when I was 15), and when we circled back to one another in our mid-20s. I don't know if our sons have read it (how effective is it anyway to put something off limits?), but I think by now these adult children (of 19 and 24) can handle knowing their mother is a flesh-and-blood flawed human who learns from her experiences. And maybe they'll learn something from the story I tell about trusting too soon, conflating sex with love, and ignoring one's intuition.

Some friends and relatives were a little bit shocked and surprised that I told this story. A few, I suspect, are appalled. That's okay. It is, perhaps, a good practice run.

In four months, my memoir will be published and many people (well, I hope many!) will be reading about other parts of my personal life: about what I did with grief; my adult relationship with my parents; what it was like to grow up where and how I did; and how family dynamics, siblings, and other relatives shaped my experiences. And certainly some who read that book -- strangers and perhaps even people I know and care about -- will not like everything it has to say. 

And I'll need my grown up writer woman pants, pulled up and in place. 


Shari Eberts said...

Congratulations to you! It must be so freeing to get your story out there. Best to you!

Lisa Romeo said...

Thanks, @Sheri. I'm not sure whether it's exactly "freeing" but certainly it gives this writer confidence each time I'm able to write something that I previously thought I can't, shouldn't, or wouldn't be able to treat well. That's the thing about writing--we keep learning and growing, and we find as we go along that we can write about more/other than we thought was possible. Thanks for stopping by!

J. Glenn said...

I read the piece on Narratively and admired the honesty. Congratulations on breaking through the censors we all have in our heads! And best to you when the book comes out.

Lisa Romeo said...

Thanks for reading @J.Glenn. Yes, those censors need a kick to the curb! (P.S. it's on Longreads!).

Lorri said...

I loved this story, Lisa! I agree with your comment that we learn and grow and in the process find we can write what we thought we couldn't. We all have crazy stories from our past. We all want to be unique but also know we're not alone, and writers especially want to think, hmmm, could I write that story I've been afraid to write? The challenge is to tell the story well, but then that's always the challenge, and you do it here so well. Thank you for a great read!

Lisa Romeo said...

Thank you @Lorri. There are so many writers, and so many pieces of their work, that have helped me understand that it's okay to write about the uncomfortable stuff.