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Mike
Posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - 06:38 am:   

I think Suzy McKee Charnas's memoir about his father is a terrific book. Here's a review of it that I recently did for New York Review of Science Fiction:

My Father’s Ghost: The Return of My Old Man and Other Second Chances by Suzy McKee Charnas. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam; $23.95 hc; 307 pp.

Reviewed by Michael Bishop

You know – when we croak, what we’d like? – to be a ghost. We’re mostly one now, so why not be one altogether. . . . A simple ambition. To be a ghost. Since a ghost, by one definition, is a human spirit that doesn’t know it’s dead, such an extension of our “life” would be perfect, for we don’t – so far – know that we are alive.
To be a ghost. Lovely. – Robinson McKee, Journals, 1969

Most readers will know Suzy McKee Charnas as the author of the four volumes of The Holdfast Chronicles (starting with Walk to the End of the World in 1974 and concluding with The Conqueror’s Child in 1999), The Vampire Tapestry (1980), the young-adult Sorcery Hill trilogy (1985-1989), and the award-winning genre stories “Unicorn Tapestry” (Nebula, 1980) and “Boobs” (Hugo, 1989). She has also previously published a book-length ghost story (Dorothea Dreams, 1986), but never, to my knowledge, a ghost story lacking an irrefutable fantasy dimension.

My Father’s Ghost, a memoir of Charnas’s twenty-year relationship with her father after a long estrangement, discloses the author in a new context, that of a daughter striving to do right by a man whom a less caring person could have ignored without incurring significant censure from friends, family, or society at large. Because Charnas does not sugarcoat or evade any of the hardships of resuming a broken relationship, her memoir never reads like a petition for sainthood (except self-mockingly), a smarmy account of forgiveness and reconciliation, or a step-by-step guide for frazzled caregivers seeking to warehouse an aging parent. No, My Father’s Ghost is a forthright confession by a woman of wit, moxie, and bittersweet integrity, for Charnas reveals not only her improvident daddy’s flaws but also her own.

In 1973, Charnas, a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in her early thirties. Her father, Robinson McKee, 61, a prickly, little known artist apparently in the process of going blind, worked in a pub called the Lion’s Head and lived in a fifth-story cold-water loft in Greenwich Village. During a telephone call, Charnas invited Robin – a nickname that he hated – to come live with her and her husband Steve. And reluctantly, grousing at nearly every step, Robin complied.

The elder McKee had left his second wife and his two daughters when Suzy was eight, ostensibly to fulfill his ambitions as a fine artist (as his idol, Paul Cézanne, had left France for the South Pacific), although he then had a well-paying job illustrating children’s stories for Wonder Books. Later, much later, Charnas learns that her mother had thrown Robin out for declining an even better position as one of Wonder Books’ premier artists. But she feels compelled to help Robin because her mother died in 1969 and her other family members have circumstances difficult to square with daily care giving. Robin moves into a separate adobe cottage in New Mexico with only a few of his paintings and artist’s materials, but does bring forty black-bound journals that he kept from the late 1920s until the year of Charnas’s mother’s death.

Charnas does not thoroughly read these journals until after her father has died, but she samples from them effectively throughout her memoir to give Robin voice, to highlight his quirky character, and to provide ironic counterpoint to some of the major issues confronting them in their new association. The quotation heading this review, for example, achieves all three aims, I think, and others reveal a man of decidedly original notions, some of them bordering on the crackpot:

“The American Girl, as presented to her forerunners by Hollywood and the magazines, will be almost noseless, she will have buttock-sized breasts and breast-sized buttocks, and she will be able to sit on either in perfect comfort and probably at the same time” (1942).

“Love happens; sex you shop around for” (1944).

“The Bible does not mention the artist -- let alone the painter -- thus the painter owes theology nothing; what did Christ know of art? Probably what he liked” (1945).

“Above all, remember this: Never let a barber trim your eyebrows” (1968).

“We have never met a long-nosed man or woman who was foolish, intemperate, stupid or less than superior to us. We have never met a short-nosed, flatchinned [sic] man or woman who was not foolish, stupid, or equal to us” (1969).

The reader learns that in 1937 or ’38 Robinson McKee wrote Albert Einstein, then teaching at Princeton, a letter asking the Famous Scientist’s opinion of some abstruse philosophical notion, and that Einstein took the time to reply – in “ungrammatical German," according to Charnas – confessing, most likely with relief, “By the way, the imparted maxims are not understandable to me.” And Charnas discovers that during his efforts to paint seriously in Manhattan he knew and may have even consorted with Mark Rothko, Franz Joseph Kline, Willem De Kooning, and other abstract expressionists.

Charnas notes that her father, seldom sick, contracts a mysterious disease in the adobe cottage (psittacosis, or parrot fever), an illness resulting from his feeding the pigeons in his attic, including one named Beakless Betty. Robin thinks more highly of animals, cats in particular, than he does of people, but his gruffness, irritability, and cynicism do not prevent him from charming others, owing to his good looks and flexible mind, even if, around home, he is apt to reply to questions in monosyllables and to sit in the dark watching soap operas with the sound turned down. Even more chagrining, he receives a phone call from a dying older brother offering him a $125,000 behest and flatly rejects it for reasons that seem prideful at the time but quixotically chivalrous after his brother dies. In any case, this act strikes Charnas as shortsighted, self-spiteful, and potentially calamitous, especially when age begins to gnaw away at her father’s curmudgeonly vigor.

Ultimately, life – the passage of time – afflicts Robin with a near-terminal clumsiness, a persistent ankle and foot rash, and incontinence. By necessity, then, the latter third of the book centers on Charnas’s efforts to find a suitable nursing facility and on her father’s life in this facility (which Charnas dubs “Vista Linda,” or Beautiful View) once admitted. Charnas does not neglect to address the confusion, shame, anger, and sense of helplessness that one feels when one must seek such a place, nor her “furious resentment that this rich, technically capable, and inventive society deals so meanly . . . with the problems of providing for our own aged parents.”

Nonetheless, Robin’s story offers one final upbeat, transfiguring surprise that I won’t relate here, but which seems to Charnas a tardy guerdon for his crumbled ambitions and limpingly contrary existence: “[He] stayed with his life until he achieved a great reward at last. Not a perfect reward, and not for very long; but it found him at Vista Linda, a place that he might never have entered at all if things had gone better for him, if he had made . . . more prescient [choices].” She adds, “His one greatest error led him to his last, and perhaps his best, joy. Isn’t there hope for the rest of us in that brief and unexpected blooming out of ruin and decay?”

Advance publicity quotes for My Father’s Ghost, which appeared last October, include laudatory comments by Tony Hillerman, Peter Straub, Mary Doria Russell, James Morrow, Jack Williamson, and a former executive director of AARP. This exquisitely honest memoir deserves them all. Further, a young editor at Jeremy P. Tarcher Books, a subsidiary of Putnam, deserves kudos for securing for her literary house this moving chronicle of a flesh-and-blood ghost who achieves true redemptive solidity before dying into whatever conjectural realm may await us. Those wishing to buy the book or to learn more about its writing or its publishing history should visit www.suzymckeecharnas.com, and I urge everyone who reads this piece to do just that.


Michael Bishop
July 14, 2003
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - 09:59 am:   

Thanks for posting (and writing) that review. I've been wanting to read the book and will move it up a notch on my list.

Leslie
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Maureen McHugh
Posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - 12:08 pm:   

What Leslie said.
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Mike
Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2003 - 04:48 am:   

Leslie, Maureen, thanks for dropping by. The book is well worth your, or anyone's, time, and I think it struck such a chord with me because I've long contemplated writing a memoir about my own father, a character of a very different sort, and have just never hit upon the right structural strategy to get the project off-center. Charnas's book suggests some possibilities. On the other hand, her dad wrote journals, and my father tended to produce only cryptic handwritten, almost illegible notes, many of which urged me toward the "Truth" of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and we argued back and forth over his obsession continually. Once, however, he did produce -- illegibly handwritten, of course -- a short story that dispensed with quotation marks, a la James Joyce, and actually moved at a pretty good clip. Unfortunately, it wound up dramatizing the young protagonist's triumphant entry into the post-Armageddon glory of Paradise Earth, yet another surrender to JW end-time theology. On the third hand, Dad was also a pretty funny guy, and . . .

Anybody else secretly or candidly contemplating committing memoir? The genre's gotten a bad rap of late, I think, probably legitimately so, because some of us seem to think that simply existing, or having quasi-existed, constitutes a perfect reason to afflict others with autobiography. And then somebody comes along who shows everyone else how to do it right ... if only you had that person's experiences and/or insights as delicious memoir fodder.
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2003 - 12:59 pm:   

I would like to write about my father, who could compete in The Weirdest Man Ever Pageant. I've taken classes on memoir and thought a lot about the structure and came up with the horrible realization that I haven't a clue as to why he really acted the way he did and that I'd have to make that up. I have some ideas based on psychological reasoning, but it doesn't seem fair to tell a story that involves more than one person from only one viewpoint.

I thought about using a format where I narrated events from life and then fictionalized the whys of it. But I might as well fictionalize the whole thing.

After taking a class with Sally Tisdale, it made me think twice about writing memoir because of the possibility of hurting other people I care about. Tisdale says the story is the most important thing. I'm not sure that's always true.

Also, memoirs are selling well, supposedly better than first novels. It helps if you are an attractive women who has some sort of sexual expose to write about.
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Mike
Posted on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 04:29 am:   

You're right on that last point. I quite liked Mary Karr's The Liar's Club, but still have not read her follow-up, allegedly about her sexual awakening, Cherry, and of course there was that book called The Kiss by a writer's whose name I can't recall; if I remember correctly, it dealt with mother-father incest.

As far as not knowing what prompted your father to act as he did, I'm not sure that should hinder you from writing about him. You could admit up front that much of what he did puzzled you, you could speculate about the reasons underlying his behavior, and you could simply dramatize many of his actions -- which would probably be amusing and/or intriguing in and of themselves -- without attempting to explain them, although you could certainly detail their effects on others, including yourself.

Also, I agree with you that the possibility of hurting other people should in some instances play a role in our deciding whether to write a memoir; for that very reason, in fact, I've delayed writing about my dad. Now, however, I believe that I could do so without betraying folks that I care about. My grandmother has died (a little over a year ago, at age 103), so has my stepgrandfather, and so have a couple of the women to whom my father was married. My mother, his first wife, is still alive, but I believe that I could write the story in such a way that she would find humor rather than hurt in the situations set forth. After all, it was a long, long time ago that they were divorced.

True war stories also do well, in case there are guys out there despairing of not being "an attractive woman who has some sort of sexual expose to write about." On the other hand, even if you're a guy, you have to have been to war to write convincingly about it. I remember Joe Haldeman's War Year from the 1970s and Tobias Wolfe's much more recent In Pharoah's Army, which, however, is also about the conflict in Vietnam.

And lots of writers have achieved some impressive results, Leslie, by doing exactly what you tentatively propose in your second paragraph.

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LeslieWhat
Posted on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 09:06 am:   

Katherine Harrison wrote The Kiss. She might spell her name dif.

It would be easy to get in some war experience right now if we want to enlist. A writer friend stationed in Iraq reports that they get to do lots of fun things with explosives.

Mike, it sounds like you're ready to write the memoir. I'm not sure I am. Although I do think I'll write up one or two anecdotes and see how they read.

L.
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Mike
Posted on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 11:57 am:   

I meant to say father-daughter incest, and I think you've spelled the writer's name correctly; I just wasn't secure enough in my knowledge to make a stab at it this morning.

An article in the paper yesterday -- speaking of the war in Iraq, albeit tangentially -- pointed out that for the cost of one "stealth" bomber, we could pay the salaries and benefits of 38,000 public-school teachers.

Well, at the moment I'm writing what I've been telling myself is a young-adult novel, although others may disagree when they see the final product. So I'm not quite at the jumping-off place for that memoir, although edging closer every day. Your strategy of trying a couple of anecdotes sounds like a good one. Give it a shot.
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Maureen McHugh
Posted on Saturday, August 30, 2003 - 05:38 am:   

Have either of you read Lauren Slater's book Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir? It's a memoir about growing up with epilepsy except Lauren Slater makes it very clear at the beginning of the book that she may or may not have had epilepsy.

"I have epilepsy," she writes in the first chapter. "Or I feel I have epilepsy. Or I wish I had epilepsy, so I could find a way of explaining the dirty, spastic glittering place I had in my mother's heart."

It's a disturbing and facsinating book.
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Mike
Posted on Saturday, August 30, 2003 - 09:25 am:   

No, I haven't read this one, but I appreciate your putting me on to it. Do either of you all know Lucy Grealy's 1994 memoir, Autobiography of a Face? (I read not too long ago, by the way, that Grealy had died.) This is an eloquent and poignant piece of work by a young woman who had cancer, but she was less troubled by the disease than by the fact that its depredations and consequent surgery to combat it left her jaw disfigured.

A quote from the jacket copy (it's been a long time since I've read the book): I spent five years of my life being treated for cancer, but since then I've spent fifteen years being trated for nothign other than looking different from everyone else. It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly, that I always viewed as the great tragedy in my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison."

Grealy was a poet; she attended the Iowa Writer's Worshop, and she wrote an article for Harper's, "Mirrorings," that provided the basis for Autobiography of a Face. For a brief period in the mid to late 1990s, you could pick up a copy of the book from Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller, for a dollar a copy plus postage (which is how I happened to obtain my copy and to read the book). I was saddened by the fact that I could get her book so cheaply, and I was deeply, strangely, saddened to learn of her early death last year.

Thomas Lux: "A beautiful book about the terrible obsessions and perceptions of physical beauty that so dominate our culture. It is impossible to read [Grealy's book] without being changed, challenged. It is a splendid debut by one of the finest young writers I have read."

Anyway, it sounds to me as if Autobiography of a Face and Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir would make quite an interesting pair -- I think that our feeling that we need to be something other than what we really are may underlie both books.
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Sunday, August 31, 2003 - 12:12 pm:   

I was quite moved by Grealy's book and saddened at her subsequent early death.

Slater's book sounds fascinating. In one of the classes I took the teacher stressed that the power of memoir is its authenticity. She said it was okay to make up small details so long as you told the bigger story. She was answering a question in which a woman couldn't remember exactly what she was wearing during a particular horrible incident.

I know that when I was ghosting the memoirs for a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto he did not want to slow down the story to remember the small details that, IMHO, made it all more real.

So, we've identified that our favorite memoirs are about things that suck. Or did anyone like Errol Flynn's book?
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Mike
Posted on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 04:50 am:   

This is my second shot at writing this. My server cut me off just as I had finished the first version. Anyway, I've not read Errol Flynn's book, but I very much liked Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shoutin', his memoir about rising from poverty in rural Alabama to become a successful journalist and to provide his hard-working mother a modest house of her own and a degree of security about her future. I look upon this memoir as a triumph-over-adversity story, but my mother-in-law could not finish it, because of the many incidental, but heart-rending, narratives that Bragg necessarily recounts along the way, and viewed the book as a "downer." And I was disappointed to learn, not too long ago, that Bragg was called on using a stringer's words as his own in one of his local-color pieces from the South for The New York Times. That was a bigger downer for me than his memoir, which I still highly regard and which I believe that he wrote, uh, All By Himself.
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Deborah
Posted on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 06:38 am:   

Mike,

I really enjoyed Bragg's book, too. Interestingly, my mother had a hard time with it. We moved up North when I was six, but it was to a rural area outside Cleveland where a whole lot of other southern folks had moved. I'm around the same age as Bragg and many of the stories he told about the way people treated poor kids resonated with what I remember of the way class worked in elementary school -- and with the stories my cousins who were still in Bama told me at the time.

My mother was upset by the way he claimed to have been treated in school -- and it seemed to me she felt that way because she'd spent those years "in exile" and didn't want to think that things might have been tough in Bama during those years, too.

On the other hand, she really liked his follow-up, Ava's Man.

Anyway, I confess to doing a fair amount of weeping while reading Bragg's book, which I don't consider a bad thing.

Deborah


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LeslieWhat
Posted on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 02:54 pm:   

Not sure I am emotionally stable enough to enjoy triumph over adversity stories, though I did like SEABISCUIT. I don't know that this is really a memoir but I'm particularly fond of Keith Hernandez' book PURE BASEBALL. I must find a way to include scoring charts in any memoirs I write.
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Mike
Posted on Wednesday, September 03, 2003 - 05:27 am:   

I don't know Hernandez's book Pure Baseball, and because I'm a baseball fan, I'll have to look it up. Thanks, Leslie.

I might mention here that if you like baseball, too, I can heartily recommend Mark Weinstein's Prophets of the Sandlot, about baseball scouts and one scout in particular, as an insightful and thoroughly colorful primer on a little-discussed aspect of the game. I got a lot of mileage out of it writing Brittle Innings.

Deborah, I don't consider getting emotional -- to the point of weeping -- while reading a book a bad thing, either. And your contribution reminds me that I need to hunt up Bragg's second book, Ava's Man. The question, of course, is, well, When?

Finally, I notice that this thread is subtitled "caring for the aged," and actually it's about memoirs. And that's okay . . .
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Deborah
Posted on Wednesday, September 03, 2003 - 04:05 pm:   

Leslie (and Mike), I didn't exactly find myself weeping over the triumph over adversity stuff. It was more the "Oh, look, my family isn't (necessarily) a bunch of mutants -- other people do that stuff, too" kind of weeping, if that makes any sense.

One thing that really got to me was his mother's response to finally living in what Bragg considered a "decent house." And the whole thing about the dentures. Pell City for dentures. Everybody does that, right?

Anyway, I've not read the follow-up but have it on that Yeah? When? list, too.

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Mike
Posted on Thursday, September 04, 2003 - 04:44 am:   

My grandparents had a small farm in Arkansas and survived through the Depression, World War II, the conformist fifties (when a dusty television set in the boxy little living room became their eye on a larger world), the upheaval of the sixties, the Disco Era, and the Ronald Reagan years, without too many significant concessions to the preoccupations of urban America. My stepgrandfather Cody died in 1990 (or '91; my memory gets fuzzy here), and my grandmother Zelma just last year, 2002, at age 103. They were probably ahead of their neighbors a time or two during their lives, purchasing one of the first refrigerators in Poinsett County back in the 1930s and getting color TV relatively early in its development, but they knew poverty, want, and uncertainty for big chunks of their adulthood and managed to triumph over it without becoming something other than their original authentic selves. I don't mean to romanticize them, either, just to emphasize that they were simple, straightforward people, and that it absolutely kills me to return to their farmstead outside Harrisburg and find the barn torn down, the shop a heap of lumber, and the squat little square house shuttered and woebegone, where once life had abounded.

Whoa. Didn't mean to get off on that. It does remind me, though, that I have a 4,000-word memoir of my own, "Recalling Cody," scheduled to appear in the next issue of a small Georgia-based literary magazine, The Chattahoochee Review, which offers a pretty even-handed portrait of my stepgrandfather and a few insights into a life-style that has just about ceased to exist, even if it hangs on in some of the more remote rural corners of North America. Anyway, Bragg's first book also gave me to understand that there were others out there like Cody and Zelma Philyaw, and that I had a virtual blood link to them.
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Thursday, September 04, 2003 - 07:26 am:   

Well, I used to care for the aged and was the charge nurse at a nursing home and am married to a geriatrician, so the Caring for the Aged thing was a hook for me.

Mike, I love reading accounts of rural life and accounts where heros are regular people.

Is Bragg the same Bragg who is writing Jessica Lynch's story?


And I should admit to weeping while watching last night's Dateline story about a man who forgave a teen for killing his wife and daughter with reckless driving.

I have the tentative first sentence of my memoir:

My father could be cruel in his humor.
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Mike
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 05:10 am:   

Leslie, I like your first line. It's similar (well, a little) to one that I had thought of using as the opening sentence of a memoir about my father, Lee Otis Bishop, better known to those in Poinsett County as either Sonny or Sonny-man: "My father never met a woman he didn't like."

I didn't know that a writer named Bragg was going to do Jessica Lynch's story. It doesn't sound to me like something Rick Bragg would undertake, but I've certainly heard of stranger pairings -- like Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, for example.

Glad I hooked you in with that "caring for the aged" tag, even if we've gone off in other directions. One of my early Urban Nucleus stories, which I wrote as a relative whippersnapper, was called "Old Folks at Home" -- it first appeared in a volume of Terry Carr's anthology series Universe and later as part of the fix-up Catacomb Years -- and I recall taking great pride in my then-agent Virginia Kidd's response to it: "How does someone your age know so much about the elderly?" Actually, I wasn't sure that I did. I just tried to extrapolate myself into the future. And now I feel that I know less than I did then, if I ever really knew anything at all. Have you written about your experiences as a charge nurse or a caregiver for the aged, Leslie?

And let me strongly encourage you to proceed with that memoir -- wonderful first sentence, even if you regard it, at this point, as "tentative."
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 06:51 pm:   

I forgot to look up and see if it was the same Rick Bragg. Will have to wait and be surprised.

I haven't written much about working in nursing homes. It might have been too surreal an experience to recount.

I started the memoir today after meeting with Nina Hoffman to write radio commentaries. We finished and had time to write other stuff. As I was writing I started thinking about markets and then I realized that I'll have to learn to cope with editors rejecting my life story. Am I tough enough? We'll see.
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Mike
Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 05:18 am:   

I've had lots of editors reject my only mainstream novel, and I'm still standing, although sometimes a tad shakily.

This is completely off the alleged subject of this thread, but how does one get into writing radio commentaries, and for whom do you write them, NPR?

Remember, too, there are a lot of publishing houses and editors out there, and one of them and your memoir may be a perfect fit . . . although you might want a little more money up front from the firm that wants your manuscript. In any event, congratulations on starting the memoir; that's a big, and obviously important, step.

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LeslieWhat
Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 - 08:27 am:   

Nina and I were board members of a local nonprofit that hosted a festival for young writers. The local public radio affiliate sent its mobile radio van to work with the kids, and being big kids, we hopped on board and asked the news directors if we could write and record radio commentaries. They agreed, but for the first few months, not much happened.

Then someone at the station got the idea that they ought to run some kind of special programming on the anniversary of Elvis's death, and since they couldn't find much to say, they asked us if we could produce commentaries by the next day. We said sure, and each wrote one.

(Mine included the factoid that Elvis was the top-grossing dead celebrity of 2001)

We worked into an alternating weekly schedule (My commentary on Empty NeXt and my daughter's on going back to school run today between 4:00-4:30 PST on www.klcc.org and can be accessed by listening the the radio on the web). Nina's (on success) will be recorded on Thursday and broadcast next Tuesday.

I haven't had any commentaries accepted by NPR, but I send them some every few months to see if I've worn them down. You can also find the NPR webpage and submit scripts directly.

If you have interest, contact the local news director of your public radio station and state an interest in writing for radio. Giving him/her some well-written scripts is a plus--one thing our news director told us when we started was he didn't have time to teach us to write, though he does hands-on editing and is really great.

I find I really love the 400 word oral essay. The limitations imposed by constucting a story in a couple of pages and then being able to speak it aloud continue to prove challenging and fun.

More than you wanted to know and longer than most of my commentaries.

Leslie
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Mike
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 05:27 am:   

No, no, not more than I wanted to know at all; in fact, I find the whole idea of writing radio commentaries fascinating, and it tickles me to learn that you can go out there, petitition a local news director for work, hand over some accomplished scripts, and wind up speaking your own words aloud to who-knows-how-many-people. Thanks for taking the time to set down your own experience. I've never submitted a commentary to NPR, but I've thought about writing something for them -- after hearing some of the folks who do manage to get on the air -- and perhaps your little essay on writing for radio will eventually prod me to try something. Again, Leslie, thanks.

By the way, this is the 100th posting on the Michael Bishop messageboard. Hoohaw, and hooray! Think I'll light a candle, or wave a flag, or eat a chocolate-chip cookie.

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Mike
Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 05:56 am:   

Okay, so I ate a chocolate-chip cookie.
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 01:34 pm:   

I was sooo hoping you'd pick that option.
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 09:18 pm:   

Hey, Mike, how go the mems? I've started two and am working on them both. It's slower writing than fiction and sometimes I'm unclear if I'm remembering exact details or fudging. Weird thing is how I'm writing along and suddenly something totally related to the story comes back into memory and I can add it.

I've never workshopped nonfiction but I think I'll show these to a friend who said he'd read them before I try submitting anywhere.

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Mike
Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 05:38 am:   

Leslie, good to hear from you, especially that you've got a pair of memoirs going and that a fresh memory sometimes kicks in unexpectedly and contributes to the work. I'd be interested in knowing what your friend makes of the nonfiction that you "workshop" with him.

As for me, I'm working on a novel. At first I thought it was going to be a YA effort, but now I'm convinced that I'm simply -- ha! "simply"! -- writing an adult novel that happens to have a precocious eleven-year-old girl as its protagonist. It's also a satire (which closes, I understand, on Saturday night) and a misguided attempt to conflate The Odyssey, Hamlet, the Alice books of Lewis Carroll, and James Joyce's Ulysses. I should probably start writing a memoir yesterday to save me from this madness!
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Sunday, September 28, 2003 - 06:14 pm:   

Not sure how my friend will read my short memoir. The worst would be to get an, Oh, That's Too Bad kind of response.

The novel sounds good. And think of the blurbs. "If you liked Joyce's ULYSSES, You'll really go for Michael Bishop's new novel!"

I'm hoping satire will stay in fashion just a bit longer as it's looking like my current novel in progress is veering in that direction.

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Mike
Posted on Monday, September 29, 2003 - 05:03 am:   

Yes, let's both hope satire stays in fashion a little longer; it's hard, given the current political situation nationwide, to believe that it's not the only appropriate response to party-driven events.

That Ulysses blurb of yours -- witty as it is -- seems designed to doom the book (if it ever gets published) to instant remainderdom. But I'm having a weird sort of fun doing what I'm doing and can only hope that I'm not too oblivious to the tastes and and the capacities for patience of what I facetiously think of as my "readership."

Meanwhile, keep me posted on the response of your friend to your short memoir. And let your own judgment count for something, of course.

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