May 22, 2019
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
My new collection is almost finished. “These Stories Are True” will contain 18 essays and should be unlike anything I’ve written before, because I’ve never attempted pure non-fiction until now.
Except for these monthly blogs, that is.
And the monthly emails…
Those rehearsals, in fact, turned out to be valuable, because I found the process more difficult and time-consuming than expected. Many of these oddball stories had already been recounted seemingly hundreds of times, but I guess my conversational style manages to convey the gist of the plot without reaching for the best word, the proper syntax, or even, occasionally, the correct grammar. To eliminate these deficiencies on the written page has taken a good amount of effort.
There was also the issue of how to best frame what might be a simple story with seemingly unrelated yet important secondary events. Proportionally, more pages were cut during the editing process for this project than any other. I believe this is because my memory for true-life details was reassuringly strong - but not always necessary.
And while I enjoy having a fictional character surprise me with an unexpected point of view or reaction, I couldn’t allow myself the same detour from reality when composing non-fiction. Thankfully, however, there were enough crazy twists and turns in real life to keep things interesting. In fact, some of the more outrageous details would have likely been edited out had I been making things up. Seems like I’ve gone a long way to simply confirm a cliché I might have heard at age four or five.
“Truth is stranger than fiction.”
And I recently learned of a famous quote from Mark Twain, which probably best encapsulates what I’ve learned from taking on the challenge of non-fiction.
“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”
I have to say, as of this moment anyway, I’m happy with the result. When I left Martha’s Vineyard for a return back to NYC, I had the topics chosen but not a single word written down. And now here I am, seven months later and back on-island, with a new book. Hopefully, my friends at michaelaba.com will enjoy these stories.
The next challenge, after putting the final touches on my last two essays, will be to record an audio version of “These Stories Are True”. Theoretically, this should be easy - they’re written in my voice, after all, and I’ve told versions of these tales many times before. But I’d believed writing them down would be quick and easy, too, and this turned out to be fiction.
All things considered, there’s no reason why the audio won’t be finished by the time of next month’s blog entry. But I’m not wagering money on such an admittedly optimistic prediction.
I might get laryngitis, or stage fright… And I’m not particularly enamored with the sound of my own voice…