Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I even have a title in mind

Between 1998 and 2003, my family and I went through what I guess could be called a tragedy. I don't really talk about this. Even those folks who are closest to me probably don't know the whole story. One thing I've never thought about is exploiting the story professionally. So, I was very surprised when I found myself wondering yesterday what the story would look like as a comics memoir.

I tried to ignore it for a while, but even today, I find myself thinking about the structure of the tale. And I've been thinking about it in those terms: a tale. What would need to be revealed first, second, so on.

In comics, memoirs like these are often the purview of the writer/artist. I'm thinking about Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Epilepsy by David B. I am not an artist of course, but that would be an interesting problem, wouldn't it? Attracting an artist to the project who would fit visually. What exactly would be in the project that they would find attractive?

I think as far as publishing goes, that the project would be sort of a no-brainer. It seems like exactly the kind of projects that large publishers are looking for. Thinking about it in these terms makes me feel a little slimy. How many times have I looked at an ad for a new memoir and said, sarcastically, "Boy, I wish I'd experienced some horrible tragedy so that I could get a book deal." Now that I'm thinking about it seriously, I feel like a hypocrite. Of course, I can't help but think about the commercial potential of any project I might consider. It's second nature to me by now.

So, I suppose, I have to consider why it is I want to work on this project. It is not simply to have a commercial project (believe it or not, it's never only that). I've found myself thinking about this time in my life more and more lately. It almost feels like something that needs to be exorcised. But that's not right either. It's an episode that has certain power over me, mostly because I haven't examined it closely. Perhaps, once I have looked closely at it from all sides, it will no longer have a hold over me.

And of course, there are more feelings in play than just mine. My brothers, my sister, at least one ex-girlfriend, inlaws. I'd need to speak with all of them about this, right? They were all involved and will be affected if a book about this period comes out. How does one handle that?

There's a lot here I need to think about. And I few people with whom I should talk. More later, I promise.


Sarah said...

These are all tough questions that memoir writers constantly deal with. And they deal with it in different ways -- some work closely with the people in their lives to make sure they're happy with the book, some ignore them completely and publish whatever they want, some change names/dates/places to protect the "characters." There are no easy answers to these dilemmas. Regarding "I need to have a tragedy in my life to write memoir," this is a debate that comes up often with me and my fellow non-fiction writers in my MFA program... what I've slowly learned is that, although "torture memoirs" do tend to get published easily and sell well, you don't have to have a tragedy to write a good story. If you're a good enough writer and know how to properly tell a tale, you can write about anything. See Annie Dillard's "An American Childhood" or Ruth Reichl's "Tender at the Bone."

ThomSouza said...

it can often be productive to write a memoir from the perspective of an individual in the narrative that isn't you. Son of Rambow the film used this tech to great effect.

Lani said...

I think this project would be good for you both personally and professionally. You have enough distance that it won't drag you to a dark place if you dredge some of the past back up, right?

Do you know of any comic memoirs by a writer who did not also do the art?

adam jk gallardo said...

Hi, Lani!

Thanks for the comment. I think you're right about having the distance required to write this and not have it drag me down. Though I am not planning on it being easy to write.

As far as memoirs featuring a separate writer and artist. I can think of three off the top of my head: The Alcoholic by Ames and Haspiel; Sentences by Carey and Wimberly; and all of American Splendor. So, yeah, it's not unheard of now that I think about it.