I'm thrilled to have Mardi Jo Link as a guest blogger today. Mardi has previously been here for a standard Michigander Monday interview (click here to read that), and she's back today with a guest post about her new book, The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance, which hits the shelves this Tuesday (July 14). Here's Mardi!
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Do I Dare? The Perils & Joys of Writing About My Best Friends
by Mardi Jo Link
It’s the memoirist’s ever-present dilemma: How do I write about the people I love (or once loved), without turning them into caricatures? Without using them for the page, and damaging our real life relationship?
I managed to find my way through that quandary with my first memoir, Bootstrapper (Knopf, 2013), the writing of which presented all sorts of ethical dilemmas. I wrote about my sons, who were young; I wrote about my parents, who are from a generation which eschews excessive sharing; and I even wrote about my ex-husband, who never signed up for having our split chronicled in a book. (Certainly not one with a big red axe on the cover!)
I did it by having two mantras, which I recited every morning before I even put my fingers on the keys: 1. Write the story only you can write; the one that belongs to you and to no one else; and 2. Write with love; if not with love for the person, than with love for the truth.
“Yes but when are you going to write our story?” my best friends asked me, a few months after Bootstrapper was published.
There were eight of us; we’d known each other for a quarter century, and our annual wild-woman trips to a remote island in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula had bonded us for life. We even had a name for ourselves, The Drummond Girls, in honor of the island where we’d let loose.
So I knew we had a story; I just hadn’t thought our story was available for me to write.
Writers can’t help but consider just about everything we see and do as “material.” That’s just how our brains work, whether we write fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.
My first trip to Drummond Island with the girls was 1993. From then till now I’ve had four books published, received my masters’ degree in creative writing, become a newspaper columnist, and even taught writing to other writers. And through it all I went to the island every fall with my girlfriends.
It was the one place I turned my writer’s brain off. Or, at least tried to.
Our weekends to me were life, not writing about life. Until they asked me to write our story.
I thought about my two writers’ mantras and knew the first one wasn’t going to work. We had eight stories and only one of them belonged to me. I tried to explain that to my friends but they wouldn’t hear it.
“Then just write yours,” they said.
Which was when I considered mantra two: Write with love; if not with love for the person, than with love for the truth. And, I revised it down to simply, Write with love. And over the next two years, that’s exactly what I did.
The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance is a memoir being published on July 14, 2015, by an imprint of a big New York publisher. It has received early praise from Kirkus, BookPage, Library Journal and the Detroit Free Press, among other places.
Which is nice. What it really is though, is a love letter to my best friends. That’s how writers tell you we love you. We write about you.
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