Writing fiction is a freeing exercise. As a trained journalist and working reporter, the concepts of truth and objectivity once took precedence in everything I wrote. When I became a columnist, truth still mattered, but I got to taste the savory flavor of injecting my own opinion into the content. Except for the occasional hate mail, it was delicious. Still, it doesn’t compare to the sweet sensation of just making shit up. Fiction gives a writer license to lie.
The novel I’m currently writing, Irish Twins, is the story of two sisters born less than twelve months apart. Without doubt, those who know us will see Gayle and me in this tale. When I first started writing it, I relived the past my sister and I shared as I typed. Somewhere around page 80, however, the concept of fiction took hold of my creative powers, and the two main characters, Jenny and Caylie, took on their own identities. Characteristics were embellished; conversations more dramatic, and certain elements I simply didn’t want to relive were conveniently erased from existence. It’s truly a powerful thing.
Having just returned to our summer home, I’m still unpacking and becoming reacquainted with the place we’ve owned for 17 years. It’s filled with furniture and keepsakes, items far more representative of who we are than what we have on display at our desert dwelling.
Back in March, I posted a blog about an old typewriter that once belonged to my mother. (It’s Not Your Mother’s Typewriter). I waxed nostalgic about using it as a child and recalled a black and white photo of myself in front of it. It’s a photo that was sent by my mother when I was still a working journalist and she wrote a caption on the back indicating the snapshot was prophetic of my future. I knew the photo, processed in Sept., 1964, was in Wisconsin, but I didn’t realize it was in a magnet frame on the fridge.
In my fictional memory, the little girl was sitting in front of the Underwood typewriter featured in my blog. The factual reality is that it’s a child’s typewriter, one with a wheel at the top, used to dial the desired letter. The caption I quoted in the blog was: “Was there ever a question of this girl’s future career?” Factual evidence shows my memory was close, but not entirely accurate. Here’s my mother’s quote, in tiny, tight handwriting that isn’t the least bit foggy in my memory:
For my mother, who often speaks to me as I write this new novel about the Irish Twins, I will answer her question: This photo tells me a lot about this little girl’s future. Here’s what it says: She’ll grow up to write fiction based on fact, but she’ll take a lot of pleasure in creating her own reality. Also, she’ll always love and have that hand-hooked rug with the birds and the cats and the rose-colored house. And it’ll always be with her other childhood keepsakes in the place she calls Summer.