The wonderful editors at The Chattahoochee Review today published my ‘Tell-Tale Table’ to their blog. The table reveals the approximate percentage of actual, real-life events depicted in every story published in Hard to Say.
Hard to Say won the 2010 PANK Little Books Contest and is now available in print and on Kindle. Despite the thrilling and humbling advance praise and the excellent reviews thus far, this tiny collection of fifteen linked short-short stories has not sold well.
With hindsight, part of the low-sales problem is the book came out much too soon after Cut Through the Bone and hasn’t thrived in the shadow of the latter’s widespread promotion and success. There’s more to the problem though.
The truth is that because I did draw on parts of myself and my past in these stories, I’ve tried to hide this book from so many, afraid of who the stories might reach and who they could shock, upset, and hurt. I’m afraid of my own little book and that’s a terrible place to be.
I don’t know why I suffer these sometime bursts to draw attention to myself and bare my soul in my writing. It goes against the grain of my Irish culture and my preference for privacy and grace. I pay an awful price emotionally for such revealations. Yet by the very nature of writing and writing well, every time I pull words out of myself, the onus on me is to be as honest as possible about what it is to be human–and by default what it is to be me. Even if I write stories that are 100% fabrication, I reveal myself. We artists all do.
In the worst of my terror, I worry Hard to Say most betrays my mother and belies my deep love and compassion for her. In my strongest moments, I believe the book is a tribute to girls and women everywhere who have suffered and journeyed and who refuse to be silenced.
Today someone dear to me read my post at The Chattahoochee Review blog and felt appalled. I’ve allowed that person’s horrified reaction make me want to crawl into bed, hide under the covers, and never show myself again.
I’ll share two of the best kernels of wisdom I ever received: “It’s none of my business what anyone else thinks of me,” and “Everything gets back to our intention.” My intention in writing Hard to Say was not to shock, upset or hurt anyone. My intention was to write out of me the best stories I could around the real and the fabricated that have long haunted, fascinated and compelled me.
Maybe you’ll help a girl out and buy a copy of Hard to Say from PANK ($7.50), or on Kindle ($4.50), or a signed copy at AWP? Maybe then the right someone will read this book and let me know everything’s okay, tell me I did a good thing in writing and publishing these stories, and reassure me this little book won’t injure me or anybody else, if we don’t let it.
Wait, of course, that right someone is me.