CNF 500: Show and TellBy Erika Kleinman
October 15, 2014
When someone asks me what type of stuff I write, I usually have about five seconds where I think, “How much should I tell this person?”
Should I bring up sexuality and the sex industry? Should I just stick to parenting and gender? What about bdsm?
And to take it even further, how much do I tell people who are already in my life? My parents? My husband, who is not a writer? My friends, most of whom are not writers?
If you haven’t seen Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce with Kate Winslet as the titular character, I highly recommend it. It’s a story about a mother and her daughter, who are continually at odds. Partially because of dramatic events in their lives, and partially because of that collision that occurs when two personalities are totally oppositional, and the space between them becomes turbulent. When a gigantic fight occurs between Mildred and her daughter, Veda (played by Evan Rachel Wood) leaves home. Mildred hears through the grapevine that Veda has become a cabaret singer.
There’s a scene when Mildred and her husband are preparing to listen to Veda on the radio. Mildred and Veda have not spoken or seen each other since their argument. The song begins, and we hear the first notes; an aria. In a complete stunner, Veda’s voice is phenomenal. Veda, as we find out, is a coloratura soprano; a rare class of soprano whose high, lilting trills cascade from the vocal folds and make your heart soar.
The shock on Mildred’s face as she realizes what is happening is devastating. Her daughter has this incredible talent and is displaying it freely. Mildred has been completely excluded.
It’s the same with writing. How much do you want to include someone in your transformation? For example, your paramour. If I’m going to do a reading, or I publish a piece, I want my husband to be a part of it. He might not go to every reading, but he reads every piece. He prefers fantasy sci-fi books. When he reads my writing, he gently ribs me: “Are there any centaurs in it? Maps of invented, far-away lands?” He’s not someone I would turn to as a pre-publication reader, unless it involves him and I want to check with him before publishing. I save editing and reading for my writer friends and close friends that I trust with that sort of job.
If we’re talking about my parents, I generally send them about every third thing I write. At their request (which I am happy to respect), I don’t send them sexual content. I’ll send them essays about gender and parenting. My intent is to include them in my passions on some level. I tell them I’m writing, and that I plan on continuing. That way, if something takes off or if I get a book deal, they’ll be part of it too, not stuck on the shore, feeling the distance of oceans and solar systems between us.
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