Thursday, 28 April 2011

Writing autobiography - risky business

The seven tales that I wrote for my anthology 'From Wear To Wye' are all explicitly autobiographical. By explicitly I mean that I name names, referring directly to family members and friends, so I talk about them in material that is intended for, and has reached, the public domain ...

Depending on what you say and how you say it, doing this can quickly lose you those beloved family and friends, so you have to be careful, careful, careful. Especially since, as much as we like to think we know some folk inside out, we actually don't. Who of us shows everything to anybody except perhaps a miracly-discovered soul mate (come on, it has to be a miracle, what are the odds against that ever happening). So the risks are high that your view of something you're saying about somebody being completely harmless, inoffensive, and actually true, aren't guaranteed to be received that way by the somebody themselves.


My anthology tales comment on happenings from the past, from my personal history, and of course from the personal history of everyone I mention in the book. But much more risky it seems is writing autobiography for a family member and actually writing their lives ahead of where they are now. Because I've just finished reading A S Byatt's 'The Children's Book' - which I borrowed from Ross-on-Wye public library but which I love so much I'm intending to shell out some of my small-but-special writer's income to purchase my own copy of the book. I wanted to start reading it again the moment I'd finished it - and a character in the book is a writer who is writing autobiography ahead of the game for one of her children. With dire consequences. Of course, this is the fabulous Byatt, and none of what I'm describing is as simple as this summary of it. But it did make me think more deeply about the implications of giving an opinion about somebody in a public work, and the risks of that opinion becoming self-fulfilling.


'From Wear To Wye' is published by Doug Maclean Publishing in Gloucestershire, but remaining copies now available only from my good self, if you'd like details of how to buy a copy put your enquiry in a comment to this posting, I'll find ye ...

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