Could You? (Yes.) Should You? (Maybe Not.)
|A Junior Hall|
Okay, it was really embarrassing. But it was also really funny. I didn’t have any trouble selling that story. I did, however, get grief from one of my nephews who read the story.
“I can’t believe you wrote about that, Aunt Cathy! I really don't think you should've put that out there. If it were me, I’d be pretty upset.”
Er…I hadn’t given it much thought, to be honest. But I quickly called the Junior Hall in question and asked if he minded me writing about that particular embarrassing episode.
Fortunately, he laughed. But it was a writing lesson that stuck with me. I always check now, before sending a family story out into the world.
Occasionally, anthologies will require permissions for other people mentioned in a story. But most of the time, writers are left to make that judgment call on their own. The embarrassing moments, the humorous mix-ups, snafus, and silly mistakes—they make for some awfully entertaining reading. But just because it’s a great story doesn’t mean you should share it with the world.
Sometimes, if you want to keep everyone on speaking terms, a great story needs to stay at home.
And it doesn’t have to be a funny story, either.
I wrote a story once about my mother-in-law and the struggles she faced with Alzheimer’s, right before she died. It was all true, a little bit comical and a little bit sad, which isn’t an uncommon story for those who suffer with that devastating disease. In the end, it didn’t make the final cut for the anthology, and reading that rejection email, I was—for perhaps the first time ever with a rejection—very relieved.
I realized that it didn’t feel respectful to her memory, telling that story. I was glad to have the chance to take it back, and though I probably needed to write the story for me, I didn’t need to send it out into the world for others to read.
I love telling funny stories, about my family, and about me, and I really love getting a paycheck based on those stories. In fact, I wrote a story recently about a different Junior Hall and a funny (and really, really embarrassing) potty emergency. (I had quite a few stories to choose from.) So I ran it through the Nephew Test and called my son before sending it off.
“I love that story,” he said, and we both laughed ‘cause honestly, it’s hilarious. “But if you sell it, you have to take me out to lunch.”
“Done,” I said.
I mean, he’s a pretty funny kid. I’ll probably get another story out of it.
~Cathy C. Hall