One of my current projects is a book of short stories. I have a dozen of my own offerings, from micro-short flash fiction to slightly longer pieces, plus four stories I have recently co-authored with my mom. If you knew my mom, you’ll raise an eyebrow at how this project is possible. You see, she died in 1997.
My mom wrote a lot. I’m still in the process of recovering so much of her work. But, to my knowledge, only one of her short stories was every published – Ten Days Out appeared in the Story Teller Magazine in the fall of 1996. Most of her work was in a constant stage of rewriting, revising and preparing for resubmission to one magazine or another.
The four stories I have been working on for inclusion with my work appeared in an anthology that she and her writing group, The Coastal Tail Spinners, put together for family and friends.
So – why the need to co-author these works? Why indeed …
I had thought to simply transcribe and include these works under her name. The moment I started to type, I realized it wasn’t possible. I began to make changes and what I was doing was much more than editing. An internal dialogue with my mom ran steadily through my head. It goes something like this:
I don’t think she’d say it like that, Mom. What about this instead? No – well then, I’ll rewrite it like this. Do you like that better? I’m reading between the lines here, but shouldn’t we tease this part of the story out? Good grief, this section is far too long – let’s shorten it up. I know what you’re trying for with the vernacular dialogue but it’s sure to irritate the reader – you see that, right? The story just can’t end here. I’m going to take it in this direction. What do you think of that?
And on and on it goes. The process is emotionally draining. By the end of a few hours working with my mom, I feel the need of a long walk, a hot bath, and a big glass of wine. And she isn’t even here to argue!
And that’s the hardest part. I would give anything to have my mom beside me in this process. We’d be pulling our hair out by the end of the day but it would be invigorating and enraging and oh so wonderful. This one way conversation makes me feel the loss of her in ways I’ve not plumbed the depths of in the sixteen years since her death.
The writing process has brought me into a new relationship with my mom – a relationship I have to build without her, through words left on scattered pages. It’s lonely and some days it makes me cry but I wouldn’t miss this opportunity – not for anything.
I will put the book out in both our names and claim co-authorship for my mom’s stories – though her name will appear first. No matter the work I’ve done, the one who came up with the ideas and the characters deserves first billing.
What would you think of taking on a project like this? Share your thoughts; I’d be interested in participating in such a dialogue.
Flowers are blooming somewhere – right? I’m longing for spring