Squeeze This Book!

Memories are diaphanous things. It doesn't matter how close or distant the event. The moment we've lived through a thing we begin to piece it back together again and the process is imprecise at best. It's nothing like matching puzzle pieces. It's more like trying to reconstruct a fire-ravaged building from smoke and burning ash.

Yet we have our history books and the journals we keep. We have newspaper articles and clips from magazines. We have the Bible, New American Standard, New International Version, King James. There are biographies, auto-biographies, semi-autobiographical stories, and real-life events that have been fictionalized or perhaps only names were changed to protect the innocent. In reality, I'm not sure that any of it can be quantified as objective truth in the end. Perception colors every experience.

I think of those who perceive the bible as being the literal, infallible word of God. I don’t see it that way at all. I think that if you squeezed the pages, wrung them out like a damp dishcloth, the truth would come dripping out of the bible despite the loss of form. In that way it is God-breathed to me.

My first rough draft of my first novel is nearly finished and I've been struggling with it. The story is fiction and there are places where I am well aware of that when I'm writing or reading back. Other times, the story feels so true that I can barely breath as I'm writing and I can't read it back without crying. Sometimes it hits me like a fist in the gut, it feels that real, that immediate.

I stopped writing for a long while as I tried to tease out the fantasy from reality, but I eventually gave up. If you squeeze my book, the truth will come out. It's not in the details, it's in the heart of it. And that makes it a painful thing because it captures a piece of me that I'm not sure I trust you to hold.

But then again, you can no more hold a piece of me than you can grasp a wisp of smoke or handful of sand. And so what if you misinterpret my heart or intent. So what if you get it all wrong. While I'm writing it, the story is mine. Once it's finished it belongs to whoever reads it. You can do with it what you will, feel it in whatever way you do, and it's all good. If it moves you, read on. If it doesn't, lay it down. I grinned when I wrote that. Writing it felt better than good.

I recently read a book by Dean Koontz – that’s right, shut up! – and I realized that Koontz isn’t a horror-author or a fantasy-author, albeit that’s the genre he writes in, he’s simply a writer, a gifted story-teller. As fantastical as that particular story was, a story about dogs with the intelligence of humans, it was woven through with Koontz’s truth and that’s what captured me and made it feel plausible and real.

Memories are diaphanous things. I started there and I’ll end there. Even when I’m writing something true about me, about my life – a memory - the truth is far less in the details than it is in the heart. I think that recent realization is freeing me to be a better writer.

Maybe one day I’ll be the kind of writer, like Koontz, that can write about something as ridiculous as a dog with a brain to rival that of Einstein and people will be captured by the greater truth hidden in my fiction, the truth being that dogs are beautiful in the simplicity of their love and devotion. Once-upon-a-time a dog helped me survive my childhood. She was my friend, confidant, and guardian angel. Truths like that weave over, around, and through our stories and seep through the substance of our memories.

©Just Kate, May 2010

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***For my friend, Jay, and anyone else who wonders at my intentionally unconventional use of the word "diaphanous" in describing memory. This photo works well as an illustration. I hope other people can see it. If not, tell me!



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    About Me

    I love laughter, wickedness, fearlessness, irreverence, and kindness. I love road trips where I can prop my bare feet up on the dashboard. I love the feel of sunshine warm against my bare skin, the smell of the mountains and the roar of the ocean. I love to read. I love to challenge conventional thinking. I'm a huge fan of spirituality but have little tolerance for religion. I love to talk faith and philosophy. I love children. I get bored far too easily. I love debate and people who don't try too hard. I love it when people aren't afraid to disagree with me and know why they believe what they believe.


    Things that sound like music to me: rain on a tin roof, the trill of birds first thing in the morning, the coo and gurgle of happy babies, the beat of African drums, the roar of the ocean as the tide ebbs and flows, the sound of a rushing river, unrestrained laughter, the wind moving through leaves, the tick-tock of my grandma's old clock, the crash of thunder, a quiet whisper in my ear, the contented purr of a cat, the musical ting ting of wind chimes, children laughing, the sizzle sizzle sound of something yummy cooking, and the rustle of dry leaves under my feet.

    I also enjoy many musicians and bands including: Ray LaMontagne, Jason Mraz, The Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, James Carrington, CCR, REM. My favorite genre is acoustic folk/rock.

    Favorite Quotes

    "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." —Aristotle

    "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." - Ben Okri

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."—John Ruskin