Most of you know I recently completed a memoir and am now querying agents for representation.
So far no one’s bitten. I have received a handful of polite rejections regarding my project. I suspect I will continue to get rejections for a while. There are just too many aspiring writers trying to get their work in print. Some agents claim over 100 new query letters hit their inbox every day. EVERY DAY! And so I trudge on, do my research, send the queries, and continue to work on my craft.
But I have a confession: sometimes when I get a rejection, I breathe a slight little sigh of relief. It’s not that I love rejection ( I mean, come on, I was in Junior High once). It’s not because I want to tell one more person in my life that I have spent over three years writing a book and it seems that no one, as of yet, wants to read it.
I breathe a slight little sigh of relief because of fear. I made a commitment to the story and to God to tell the whole truth about those first years of Polly’s life. In memoir, (as in life) its a no-no to lie. When I got serious about writing our story, I knew that I would have to be real about everything that happened after Polly was born. As a missionary and pastor’s wife, my response to having a child with Down syndrome was much less than Christian. The bottom of my faith easily fell out. I got depressed. I stopped showering. I drank too much Chardonnay. I struggled to love my baby.
Do I really want people to read all of that?
To tell the truth, the answer is no. I don’t want people to read the whole story because I am afraid of what they will think of me. I would rather hide the hard parts of my life and let them think that I scooped up my child with special needs and said a prayer of thanksgiving for her life and moved on. I would rather them think that I am always a woman of faith, worthy of the call to be a child of God.
But Flannery O’Conner says the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
I would also add that truth loses its power when altered.
Even though I am afraid, I realize that my story isn’t worth telling if not told in its entirety. The very essence of my memoir’s power (if there is any) is brokenness. The fact that God came in and rebuilt me and my faith and my relationship with my baby after I fell apart is the real story. The redemptive story. And I am convinced the very thing people need to hear to truly get a clear, non-superficial, non-judgmental idea of Jesus.
I used to think of redemption as a one time thing. I believed in Jesus when I was sixteen years old. His payment for my sins on the cross equaled a done deal. I still believe this. It is the very core of my beliefs.
But I also believe that we are all a work in progress. There is a continual need for everyday redemption. The kind of redemption that heals a mother’s heart. The kind that sets a person back up on the wagon after he has fallen off, that helps someone apologize to her kids for freaking out over spilled milk, or causes a shoplifter to put the bra in her purse back on the shelf in Target. A redemption that showed me that the child I was afraid to mother was the exact child I needed to reach depths of joy and wonder otherwise unknown in my life.
So I will keep putting myself out there. If my memoir publishes one day, not everyone will like it. There will be criticism (well deserved, I should add). There will probably even be disappointment. But most importantly, there will be the truth of everyday redemption and unexpected beauty, displayed in the birth of a child with slanted eyes and the widest smile on the planet.
And I think, that’s enough.