This week I am guesting Lily Iona MacKenzie on her Women On Writing Blog Tour.
Take it away Lily…
ON WRITING MEMOIR
I opened the I Ching at random this morning and came up with #38, K’uei / Opposition. The commentary says it is common for two opposites to exist together, needing to find relationship. I realize an opposition is being set up just in the act of writing my memoir Drop Out: my inner writer will be observing everything I do closely and recording what she finds valuable. I’m reminded of a review of Journey into the Dark: The Tunnel by William Gass that appeared in The New York Times Book Review. He said,
Writers double themselves all the time in their fictions, of course. That’s one of the reasons for writing them: to clone yourself and set yourself out on a different path, or to reconfigure yourself as a marginal observer of your own childhood, as Lawrence does with Rupert Birkin in Women in Love, and as Woolf does with Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse; or to split yourself in two and reimagine one side of yourself through the eyes of the other, as Joyce does in Ulysses, and as Nabokov does in Pale Fire.
He goes on to say, “The reason for this is that making copies of ourselves and setting them in motion in imaginary space is built in to the way minds work. We do it all the time—when we plan for a future event, when we relive the past, when we daydream.”
I like the idea that I’m daydreaming myself into existence, that day and night dreams, which can be in opposition, work together to make a creative entity. I’m actually making a fiction in my memoir, just as we all are fictions, walking around. I can’t possibly capture my whole life in these pages, so in making the choices I do and recording them, I’m altering my experience, describing a fictional “I,” transforming my life and my experiences. They are both mine and not mine.
In fact, the act of writing these things and reflecting back on them alters that period, transforms it, just as the moon’s reflection changes what it touches, causing us to see a landscape differently at night than in the day time, under the sun’s glare. The moon softens surfaces, embraces them. The sun brings out an object’s hard edges and distances us from it. It makes an object seem farther away than the moon’s light does.
In a way, I’m creating a character named Lily, just as other writers recreate themselves when writing memoir. By organizing our pasts as we do, we eliminate a good deal, including only what fits the page limitation and what we’re willing to reveal. Of course, this is how we give shape to a self, anyway, by uncovering/discovering it, bit by bit. All of our personality doesn’t show at any one time. Maybe over a long period, the different parts of ourselves will come forward and be exposed. But we are always selecting, choosing. When I had my sessions with A., my therapist/analyst, there were many dreams and experiences she never knew about, yet that didn’t make our work any less effective.
It’s similar to what happens when we photograph someone. So much is left out, and we end up with an idealized (or sometimes extremely revealing) image. If we took a dozen photographs of the person, while there would be a recognizable self in each picture, what’s captured in celluloid changes. Usually, we only see a posed image, not a full-blown experience of another caught in natural motion. I suppose it’s why many people prefer to choose photographs of themselves that project their best features, leaving the viewer with an idealized picture of someone.
I think Proust was pointing to a similar phenomenon when he claimed that the narrative “I” is much different from the writer’s self/I. The writer is creating another fictional self to speak through, and it isn’t exactly the same as the writer’s self. I believe this happens in all writers.
It’s very useful to be reading Proust at the moment. I’m interested in his ideas about memory, how we’re so caught up in the moment that it’s difficult to understand our experiences. But by revisiting them in memory, we make sense of our lives. I feel that’s what I’m doing here, trying to sort through inner and outer experiences, to understand them, to uncover their meaning.
A Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in her early years, Lily Iona MacKenzie supported herself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored her into the States). She also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (and almost got her legs broken), founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in Creative writing and one in the Humanities). She has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 140 American and Canadian venues. Fling, one of her novels, will be published in July 2015 by Pen-L Publishing. Bone Songs, another novel, will be published in 2016. Her poetry collection All This was published in 2011. She also teaches writing at the University of San Francisco, is vice-president of USF’s part-time faculty union, paints, and travels widely with her husband.
Visit her blog at:
Lily Iona MacKenzie’s debut novel Fling!, a wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and travel, was published by Pen-L Publishing July 1, 2015. The book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. The heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences.
About Fling!: When ninety-year-old Bubbles receives a letter from Mexico City asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, lost there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing, she hatches a plan. A woman with a mission, Bubbles convinces her hippie daughter Feather to accompany her on the quest. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.
Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey. The two women travel south from Canada to Mexico where Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their hilarious antics.
In Mexico, where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother, and Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes—and a new man—increases her zest for life. Unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. She doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily and lusting after strangers, exulting in her youthful spirit.
Readers will believe they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, Bubbles comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.
Amazon Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Fling-Lily-Iona-Mackenzie
Lily’s Blog Tour:
Monday, August 3 @ Bring On Lemons Crystal Otto reviews “Fling” by Lily Iona MacKenzie. Don’t miss this review as well as a giveaway to win your own copy of this debut novel. http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, August 4 @ All Things Audry Join fellow author Audry Fryer as she reviews “Fling” by Lily Iona MacKenzie. http://allthingsaudry.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, August 5 @ MC Simon Lily Iona MacKenzie shares insight about “Writing Like an Architect” as she writes the guest post for Mc Simon Writes. http://www.mcsimonwrites.com/
Thursday, August 6 @ Kathleen Pooler Join Lily Iona MacKenzie as she writes about “Timing and the Creative Process” as the guest author at Kathleen Pooler’s Memoir Writer’s Journey today. http://krpooler.com/
Saturday, August 8 @ Hott Books Today’s guest author at Hott Books is Lily Iona MacKenzie with a guest post about revising your writing. http://www.hottbooks.com/
Monday, August 10 @ Create Write Now The topic is: “Writing as a Spiritual Path and an Exercise in Trust.” http://www.createwritenow.com/
Tuesday, August 11 @ Lisa Haselton Lily Iona MacKenzie authors today’s guest post at Lisa Hasleton’s blog. Don’t miss this topic of “Blogging.” http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/
Friday, August 14 @ Slay the Writer Fellow author Trisha Slay reviews the debut novel “Fling” by Lily Iona MacKenzie. http://trishaslay.com/
Until next time…be kind to each other…and to yourself!