Sunday, September 28, 2014

“Failure’s Challenge” by Charlene Jones

I’m writing the book. I have been writing the book for thirty years or longer, perhaps since the seismic shift in my teen years. But I really am writing the book, and in fact have the latest attempt fully complete.

It’s just that it’s not enough. The structure isn’t right. The words flow, the chronology rights itself, the chapters although fuzzy begin to emerge but the structure is not right.

I am told structure in memoir is tricky. I have been told this since last year but I assumed, in that pocket that doesn’t really listen to anyone, that the advice was for others.

Now I get it. It’s true. I have to start again.

I can’t start again. Is this a whine? Ouch. I’d rather it were a rant. But it isn’t. It’s a whine.
Another part of me I do not like, to which I rarely cop. See what happens when you blend jargon with grammar?

Margaret Mitchell
Failure. It’s already a failure. No fear needed. It isn’t what it needs to be.  I might describe it metaphorically as polio-crippled limbs or as horrific birth defects, but that feels cheap. It already feels cheap. It doesn’t have the right structure and I have to return to it but can’t.

Can’t because there is no fear of failure, it has already collapsed in the middle, the cake that did not rise. Going back in, tearing it up seems about as useful as slicing that heavy cake, scooping out the tougher stuff and gluing the layers back together.

Won’t work. Need a new recipe. Need a new structure. Don’t have one.

Search the internet and I’m sure, I’m confident I’ll be able to learn about the structure of memoir. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to apply it to the failure which sits inside my computer now, lurching toward me with its open arms needing a hug.

Don’t hug me. Go away. You are a failure. I am a failure. You remind me of the failure I am.

Change. I like change. I like change when it’s on my terms. Fairly healthy, to want change on one’s own terms, but change seldom arrives in a package with the bow on top.

According to the media, others have that experience – the bow and the package all delivered. But the struggle’s left out – what it took to leave your family, friends, security, and go to Hollywood then sit in that damp and ugly run-down hotel for the call that finally came.

How it felt being rejected.

Gone with the Wind rejected for ten years. I assume Ms. Mitchell simply shrugged, clutched her multiple pages to her chest, straightened those Southern shoulders and breathed deeply before folding new brown paper around her manuscript, new brown paper and a new address, smeared with tears perhaps. Hugged toward her heaving chest likely. It takes that.

I’ll take it up, again, tomorrow.

Charlene Jones’ poetry has most recently appeared on Commuterlit. She also writes for her radio program Off the Top with Whistle Radio, 102.7 fm, aired every second Tuesday from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. (Note: Whistle Radio and CommuterLit have recently teamed up to run a monthly contest. Details here.) You can see Charlene perform her poetry and prose at Linda Stitt's inimitable monthly salon at Portobello Restaurant and Bar the first Saturday every month in Toronto.

Chalene’s first novel, The Stain was released in September.  You can attend a book launch for The Stain on Wednesday, December 3, 7:00 pm at Snow Lion Meditation, 708 Pape Ave, Toronto (map here) or Sunday, December 7, 1:00 to 4:00 pm at Blue Heron Books, 62 Brock St W, Uxbridge  (map here).  Order your copy here or by emailing Charlene at:  

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Stouffville, Sudbury, Toronto, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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