Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I ran into trouble with my memoir when I tried to get release forms signed by my family members who were in the book. Two of my siblings wanted to be omitted from the story. At the time, I was afraid I no longer had a book. You can read about my initial reaction in my Project Derailed post from July if you missed it.
I reexamined what I had left after I took my oldest sister and brother out of the book, and I believed that Annie’s story still shone through. I decided to rewrite the book as if we were a family of five people instead of seven, leaving out any mention of these two siblings as they requested. The main story is intact.
But I did lose things I really liked. Here are two abridged stories that got cut:
When we were young, a bat got in our house. I was fairly young, maybe four or five years old. I was in the bathtub by myself, with the door to the hallway open, when I heard screaming and then saw my siblings running down the hall towards the bedroom. Carol and my brother came first, and then my oldest sister, who probably wasn’t older than seven-years-old, came hurrying down the hall carrying Annie in her arms. She had never carried Annie before. Annie’s body, cradled between her arms, was dipping down to her knees. My parents must have been in the living room trying to contend with the bat. But my oldest sister, instead of just running and saving herself from the darting winged creature, stopped, picked up Annie, and saved her too.
The other story I hated to lose was at my oldest son’s wedding. We were in a hotel in St. Louis having breakfast in the lobby at the breakfast bar. I was sitting beside Annie when she got very excited. I had no idea why. There were a lot of people milling about, and a jumble of voices, so it took me a moment to realize that I could hear my brother’s voice. Annie hadn’t seen him in many months, or possibly even a couple of years, but she was able to pick his voice out of the crowd. He was the reason for her excitement. It brought tears to my eyes at the time.
My brother lives about six hours away and wasn’t home during Annie’s last days except for a short visit right before she died. So he didn’t participate in the main story line except for making frequent phone calls home. But my oldest sister, who lives close to my parents, was there all day, every day. She brought in groceries and frequently cooked dinner for all of us. She ran to the store for medicine. She sat with Annie and sang to her. Her presence was felt throughout the whole ordeal. She wrote and delivered a lovely eulogy that I had to cut from the book. I was very sorry to leave her out of the memoir. I desperately negotiated with her about editing and revising, but she opted out.
It has been a bittersweet experience for me.
But I rewrote the story, and continued onward with my self-publication project. I think it is still a good story. After all, it’s really about Annie, and possibly me, and we’re still there.
Have you ever had to make a large compromise on something you were writing or a project you were working on?