The feedback I got was unsparing and direct and it wasn’t about getting out and leaving this work to those with the gift, who know what they are doing. The word is, get serious. That means reading more. Writing more and in different ways. Getting my work ready for publication.
The encouragement of tough feedback is why I came, so this time has been wonderful in a painful sort of way. The piece I brought was an extended reflection on the days leading to, and immediately after, my mother’s death. The larger project explores the way in which life unraveled for me between June of 2011 and June of 2014, when Daisy, my dog, Spot, my cat, and I, folded ourselves into my car and drove to Lowndesboro to build a new life. Grief, loss and failure are hard to talk about and one of my great fears was that my writing was too sentimental and overwrought. In fact, my readers said it was the opposite—I went into analysis too quickly, didn’t take the evocative writing far enough, left them wanting more. Those are things I can work on.
There’s another reason this is such a meaningful moment. My grandmother was a trained journalist who ended up writing very little and instead, spent far more time caring for an alcoholic husband. My mother spoke yearningly of writing and her life was filled to the brim taking care of lots of people, including, and in some ways, especially me, because of my hip problems. By the time the space had opened when she could write, I don’t think she had the energy and she did not trust her voice enough to speak the truths she’d tried to learn. When I write, I write for her and for Vera, my grandmother and namesake. This is only the beginning and I hope I can make them proud.