Telling

Thanks to everyone who has written with compliments or sharp-eyed line edits thus far. I’m fortunate to have a mother-in-law who is an experienced editor of several volumes of women’s writing, and friends who are accomplished authors or writing instructors in their own right (See Sarah Bartlett’s work with the Vermont based group called Women Writing for a Change.). But my father has outdone us all, having written collections of short stories in both English and Vietnamese; much more about that in future postings…..

Now that the first few chapterlets are posted, I will pace the release of new ones to maybe two each week. There’s still a lot left to draft too! Let me also pause now to confess a few insecurities and ask for your input in these general areas:

  • The Prose: Do these pieces read as believable recordings of how a child experienced and absorbed events around her? Do you find my use of different verb tenses confusing or disorienting at all?
  • The Story: Is it obvious that some chunks of narrative are missing in between chapterlets? If you’ve noticed it, do you mind that? I ask because you will find with future postings that I veer back and forth in time as the associations lead me. The pattern is not random. The driver is largely the process and order in which I explored and understood events over the course of my therapy. In fact, I think Blue will recognize the book as a pretty faithful temporal reflection of the ground we covered in our therapeutic work together.

Blue has had patients who are authors or journalists come to him because they reach a writing block for one reason or another. In my experience, there wasn’t a block so much as a blur, something smothered under layers of grime and yellowed varnish. We scraped the stuff away, a bit at a time, and the story emerged to tell itself. There’s more than a little archaeology to therapy. We discovered similar strategies for other creative blocks I encountered – and out poured bits of paper sculptures and paintings that I’ll share later on.

For months I struggled with how to organize the story. It’s intimidating to try to weave so many different themes into a narrative that I could be confident readers (most of whom are not dissociated or necessarily comfortable with lots of compartmentalization) could follow. Eventually, I gave up on the notion that I could ride the tale as someone else might read it. It felt much simpler to tell it just the way that it unfurled itself to me.

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7 Responses to Telling

  1. Jo says:

    Thanks for linking to two of my books!

  2. Arthur Munisteri says:

    Your descriptions of how things looked to you as a child drew me in to reading your work. I have no idea whether you find it easy or difficult; it just feels perfectly appropriate to me. The evocation of a young child’s experience is very very strong, whether it’s strictly accurate or not. Verb tense changes didn’t bother me at all. And the gaps are (so far!) just right. You’ve filled them when necessary so now the reader trusts you to fill in what needs to be disclosed, when it’s necessary.

  3. Mai Pham says:

    Thanks, Arthur. Try to keep track of that little girl as things unfold…..

  4. lydia413 says:

    i’m enjoying how the various bits unfold, since it feels like we get to participate in your discovery process as the puzzle pieces emerge. no sense of disorientation for me. i love your evocative descriptions; the intensity of remembered childhood reminds me of the way my grandmother wrote (in latvian) about her earliest memories — the first volume of her memoirs covers only until she reaches school age, which means she remembered a whole lot more about being 3 than i do!

  5. bmorrison9 says:

    Your writing is beautiful, Mai! I especially love the way you capture the voice (and perceptions) of a child. The time shifts do not bother me either, perhaps because they come in blog posts, so feel somehow more discrete than a book’s chapters or scenes.

  6. oddznns says:

    Your writing IS beautiful. It has a truth and immediacy that is immediately compelling. It’s going to be a great book when it’s finished.

    Please don’t worry about order, symetry or consistency now. Just write. It can all be edited when you’re done. The essential thing is the VOICE … which you have in oodles. I have a WIP about a conflicted VC informer who ends up in the US. When I read your blog, I despair about my own WIP.

    Keep going.

    • Mai Pham says:

      Wow…..what a lovely reflection to find at the end of my day. THANK YOU for the encouragement. I will keep writing. It is the thing I am most looking forward to about my upcoming vacation….

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