Life Stories

Several months ago, I finally sat down and did what I had thought about doing for years: I wrote about what I remember as the worst night of my life.  Although the night in question happened now almost fourteen years ago, the memories of it have haunted me all this time.  It was a devastatingly traumatic night on many levels, and over the years I would flash back on it and be filled with rage and anxiety and shame.  There was always a part of me that thought if I could write it out – what happened that night – I could somehow relegate it to the past where it belongs and gain some sense of closure on it.  But I was also ambivalent about writing it out because I knew it would force me to relive the events of that night in detail rather than in the snippets that would sometimes flash in and out of my mind’s eye.

When I did write about it finally, it was an emotionally draining process, but in the end, it was cathartic as I had hoped it would be.  Reducing it all to paper, so to speak, found a way to take much of its power away.  And the memories finally stopped plaguing me.  It was a horrible night that happened a long time ago, to a person who only vaguely resembles who I am now.

What I wrote, An Excerpt From the Life of a Battered Wife, seemed to have quite an impact on other people, too.  So much so that I decided to submit the piece to a couple of publications with the hope that it might be accepted for publication.

The Sun magazine declined it.  They sent me a very nice letter telling me that, while they felt that it was a very well-written piece, they get so many submissions every month that they often have to turn down even very good ones.  (Okay, this very well might have been a form letter, but I’ve decided to take it at face value, thank you very much.)  About a week later, I received an email from the managing editor of Mamalode telling me that they wanted to publish it.  She called it “powerful” and “very moving.”  I was elated.  I would get paid for this, which seemed like a sort of sweet justice, given the subject matter of the piece.

So for the next week, the managing editor and I worked together on editing the piece.  I’ll be honest: the first edited draft she sent me left me feeling pretty deflated.  She cut so much out of the original version that it lost much of its punch in my view.  But of course, I was biased – I had lived the events, and it was impossible to separate myself from it and look at it objectively.  Still, it was interesting, and a little frustrating that she felt so strongly about taking a “less is more” approach.  I remember a few months back when I was working on edits to my review of The Shape of the Eye for Literary Mama, and how the editor kept wanting more; “Dig deeper,” she told me.  And that was a book review!  This piece, on the other hand, is a very personal story that is supposed to have a certain gut-wrenching impact, and the editor wants less.  Hmph.

So I pretty much scrapped her edited version and, working from the original, edited it down myself, thinking, okay, if it’s a space issue, I can cut it down without removing the parts that really need to be there (you know, in my completely objective view).  She didn’t like it.  In fact, she told me very nicely that if I wasn’t happy with the edits she suggested, if I felt that strongly about it, I could decline publication, because they certainly didn’t want to publish anything I wouldn’t be happy with.  (I make her sound snippy here; she absolutely wasn’t.  She was very kind and respectful.)

So I had a choice to make: forget the whole thing, or make some concessions and accept the fact that a willingness to make concessions is part of the deal if one is going to write for a broader audience than a personal blog.  I decided to go with Choice No. 2.  It would get my work out there, get me some exposure, and the whole thing is a learning experience as far as writing goes.  Right?

So here is the final published version: A Bruised Heart

As it turns out, I will get paid based on the number of unique views – which means if you click on it fifty time because you dig me, it won’t count.  But, please, feel free to pass it along to anyone you know who might get something out of it – either literarily (is that a word?) or, you know, as the story it relates to life experiences.

I’m going to write more here, soon, about being a battered wife, because it’s very much a part of my past and therefore has played some role in shaping me, and I think it’s an extremely important social issue that still remains pretty taboo.

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3 Comments on “Life Stories”

  1. Amen!!
    October 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    I’m with you, this second version ( I read first btw to be open to it) is watered down / made for tv & not clear enough but excellent in its own right but missing details which leaves it lacking.

    The original does not. I think a book on your current life with the snippets of the former life (lives, I think there are a few like the clueless unfeeling extended family for starters) would be good. I want the new life booming with joy & chaos & family dinner to overshadow the crappy nonsense that wasn’t full blown love & zest you create now.

    Kudos to you for selling it; we wait for more & will try to click from lots of different places too. Like anonymous at the library… 😉

    • Amen!!
      October 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

      And I’m loving loving loving the just write reminder, there are lots and lots of us who prefer this writing style over polished. Find those publishers. It’s not only about a wider audience. You can make money writing good stuff for discriminate tastes. I will not read shades of grey, twilight was bad teenage novel enough for me. Write to at a minimum the 20 year old audience with some life & less naïveté — the teen novel crowd is not going to like the boiled down version anyway.

      Congratulations & it’s excellent. I want to post at the original blog too but should we comment at that site too! Probably huh

  2. Darla
    October 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Congratulations Lisa. I can tell they made you have a word count, but you’re right: It was worth the concession. I’ve lived two lives too…or at least it feels that way.

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