Ever since I went to the memoir conference in October, Frankie/Francine, my mom, has been asking me on a regular basis “How’s the book coming along?” This is usually followed up by a quiet but firm “It won’t write itself, you know.”
Then after my last post here on Just TypiKel, she came straight out and said that she wanted to read some of it to get an idea of “what you’re saying about me.”
I’ve been reluctant to show her mainly because I wanted the chapters to be polished to the point of being shiny. But honestly, I can only polish so much. It was time. So, I put on my big girl pants last Wednesday and printed off the first six chapters of the book and then popped over to her apartment …
It Won’t Write Itself
I should explain that Mom’s been under the weather lately with a nasty cold that required rest and antibiotics. I thought she’d put the papers to one side with a promise to read them later and we’d sit and chat. Nope. She clutched them eagerly and grabbed a pen. What was the pen for? To edit of course. Her mind is admirably sharp still when it comes to editing.
With my heart pounding in anticipation (would she like it? Would she hate it? Would she tell me the truth?) I sat on the couch opposite and played with my phone. She read. I looked at Instagram (you can find me at kellylmckenzie ) and was just about to head over to Twitter when she started in. Most of her initial suggestions were changes to the dialogue. “I wouldn’t say it that way. Drop the word ‘exactly’ and take out ‘huge.’ She also picked up on wee technicalities. “Your father moonlighted for me on the weekends only.”
I’d forgotten how quickly she reads. I never did get to Twitter. She put down the papers and smiled. A kind of odd smile. As if she was debating whether or not to tell me the truth. Then softly and gently she began.
“It’s funny and light but it’s not going to be read by a large group. Your brother won’t read it, for example. No, only a certain small group of people will read it as you’ve written it.”
Oh. Is that good? Is that bad? I held my breath. She held hers. Then her expression changed and I knew she was committed to lay it all out, warts and all.
“Your chapters float. There’s no anchor. The reader will have no sense of the store. My shop was one of only two Asian antique stores in Vancouver for years and years. It mattered. It was a fixture on the Vancouver antiques scene. You need to show your readers that.”
“So, I should lose most of what I’ve shown you?” My mouth was dry and I had a difficult time getting the words out. I’d shown her but a mere tidbit of what I’ve written …
“NO. That’s not what I’m saying. It’s unique and I’ve never read anything like it. Keep what you’ve done but tighten up that first chapter by including how I told the land lord I was going to sue him for $8,000,000.00 if he didn’t send in a plumber that instant. Then, make your second chapter your fourth. You need to make a new second chapter on the importance of the shop in Vancouver and a third chapter on your very first sale. Once you do that, bring it back and I’ll have another look. And keep writing. It won’t write itself, you know.”
She’s right. Since then, the words have flowed. I have a clearer vision. And the best part? I’ve got the theme firmed up and a quirky working title. Who knows, perhaps if I keep at it, even my brother will read it.
Best part? I’ve got a crackerjack editor. Can you believe she’s 94?