Jennifer Sweeney (jensweeney) Mon 17 Nov 03 11:13
Yikes! I think it must be obvious that, like Chris, I haven't done this before. I just managed to look at all of the postings -- didn't realize that so many writers and readers had weighed in. Thought I would answer the one question that seemed aimed at the editor, about whether the pieces were edited for the book. They weren't, actually. I can't think of any piece in the anthology that was edited for the collection.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 17 Nov 03 11:32
Welcome, Jennifer! Gret to see you here. Just think of it as an informal gathering. Like a transcript of people sitting aroudn a table or a campfire to talk, taking turns, sometimes with a little diversion from the last remark, sometimes referring back to something said a while ago. I think it's phenomenal how well these all work on paper and online.
Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Mon 17 Nov 03 12:59
Hi Jennifer! I was really thrilled to be included in the anthology-- when I was teaching creative nonfiction last winter, I was always printing essays from Salon and showing them to the class. I may use this anthology in my next class-- it has so many great examples of personal writing.
Jennifer Sweeney (jensweeney) Mon 17 Nov 03 14:34
Kristin: It is wonderful to hear from you -- I have been following your great success. And I do hope you find a place for the book in your next class.
Theresa Pinto-Sherer (theresa-ps) Mon 17 Nov 03 17:12
i wanted to respond to viv about writing for the "small space." i included everything i wanted to in the piece and was not edited to be shorter, in fact, if i remember correctly, Jennifer wanted me to make it longer and fill it out. that's what i love about the personal essay, there really is no formality to it, grammatically or otherwise. and i am a fervent believer that all writing is personal essay to some extent. also, as far as the difference between online publication and print publication, i have to admit that publicly (my friends and family), the book legitimized their view of me as a "writer" and i felt some pride in that. i love books, the feel and look of them, so having something to put on my bookshelf put a smile on my face. but i personally like the online format better, it is more immediate and in that sense seems more personal to me. it can reach much more in less time than a book ever will. plus, being someone who is very short on time, i like the route to publication much better. no longer the old mailed manuscript with a self-addressed stamped envelope. i find that i'm much less likely to submit something if i can't just hit "send." finally (forgive my lack of brevity), i view "life as we know it" as a way of putting together disparate threads and weaving a picture of love as we know it, in all its forms. as a scientist, it reminds me of someone who has poured over the vast amounts of research articles out there and pulled together a unifying theorem for all to read.
pooning tang; tanging the poon (viv) Mon 17 Nov 03 18:03
thanks, theresa, for addressing yourself to the length question. hmm. I'm still waiting to get the book in hand, still my preferred way of reading. Jennifer, can you talk a little about putting the anthology together--you must have pieces you can point to that you didn't get to include.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 17 Nov 03 18:43
Meanwhile as an aside, I'll post a roundup of some of the essays from the book in a "hidden" post, just one click out of the dialogue.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 17 Nov 03 19:05
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 17 Nov 03 19:12
I just re-read "A matter of life in death," and it's just amazing. More than I remembered. I agree that it's tender, as well as heart-pounding and difficult. We're all the richer when a doctor can write like that! What are the privacy issues in writing about emergency room scenarios? JB, do you ask the patients about using their names, for example, and do you ever use them? I'd read some of these stories as they were first published, and it's a pleasure to go back through them again.
Jennifer Sweeney (jensweeney) Mon 17 Nov 03 20:24
To answer the question about putting the book together ... The first move was to use only personal essays. It wasn't so much that we needed a theme to narrow down the number of eligible essays, but I felt that stories for the anthology needed to be timeless. Since we were putting them on paper, that seemed important. But that made it difficult, because there were so many great features on salient issues -- abortion, drug testing, drug laws and their impact on women and families -- that are unforgettable. Like a lot of stories in Salon, the ones in Life that were connected to the news were unlike other stories that were appearing elsewhere on the same issues. Very different, and very good. After that, it was painful. There are so many first-person pieces that I am attached to, that I still remember. And there was great graphic stuff too. Mostly I just had to make choices based on my own instincts about what people would like to read -- and re-read.
JBO (julianjbo) Tue 18 Nov 03 08:24
This is kind of like being in the dentist's chair (at least, my dentist, who's always got a good, steady stream of talk): by the time I'm back to get a word in, there are a dozen things I wanted to say. First, Jen/Jenny/Jennifer/Nifer?, thanks for including my piece in the book and posting it in the first place. It's gotta be great to help shape these stories. Second, names and privacy. I use real names when I have permission to do so. I've fictionalized stories when I really wanted to riff on a theme (and am now trying to place one such story). But when an event like the Sierra Doe story happened, which is once in a lifetime, it really calls out for as much truthful detail as is possible. So it was very scary to track down Richard (husband/father) and let him in on the fact that I was writing about the worst moment in his life. He was very gracious and warm and, this was the most rewarding thing about the whole project, grateful to know what had happened.
JBO (julianjbo) Tue 18 Nov 03 08:36
Finally (oops, hit the send button before I was finished), the book is just great. I can't really read anything online, and I like the length and variety of stories. It's kind of like a book my 6th grader is reading, Seedfolks, a story about turning an empty ghetto trash lot into a garden told in snippets by over a dozen characters.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 18 Nov 03 10:07
That could be the Well's new slogan: "Sort of like being in the dentist's chair." Um, maybe not.
only a lunatic would apply shoe-polish to a weasel. (tinymonster) Tue 18 Nov 03 10:25
Berliner (captward) Tue 18 Nov 03 11:01
The drugs are better at the dentist's.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 18 Nov 03 12:35
I've watched ER on television for some of the past many seasons, and I should know better, but tv seeps in. Reading <julianjbo> had me thinking in that small critic's voice in my head, "this is just so much more... more vivid, more dramatic than reality..." no, wait. I don't know the reality; I can only compare to tv! What weird baselines mass culture gives us. For anyone reading along on or off WELL, if you haven't got your hands on the book yet, JBO's tale is at http://archive.salon.com/mwt/feature/2001/03/21/sierra_doe/ This is not a spoiler: it's not about a deer. OK?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 18 Nov 03 18:39
And my question for (kristin-ohlson): Kristin, I know you're going to be reading from your new book this coming Friday evening at Copperfield's (Montgomery Village branch) here in Santa Rosa CA. Are there any other readings you've got booked in the next few days you might want to mention now? (I'm looking forward to coming to hear you read, BTW)
Kristin Ohlson (kristin-ohlson) Wed 19 Nov 03 05:03
Thanks, Cynthia! In addition to the Nov 21 reading at Copperfields, I'll be reading from Stalking the Divine at Book Passage in Corte Madera on Sat, Nov 22-- 7 pm. I just started to wash the clothes that will go in the suitcase... If you can make it on Friday, please shove my mother aside and say hello.
pooning tang; tanging the poon (viv) Wed 19 Nov 03 08:34
Anyone reading in Philadelphia?
JBO (julianjbo) Wed 19 Nov 03 16:12
I'm setting up Jan/Feb readings in Rockville, Maryland (outside of DC), NYC and Stamford. Mom's in Stamford, and she'll bring the STML* crowd from the senior living place. I'd be willing to go up to Philly - I have a pal there who owes me tickets to see the Sixers. *Short term memory loss.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 19 Nov 03 16:59
Heh! I'm sort of skipping around the book, which I like more and more. Some of these stories were familiar to me, from having read them at Salon on initial publication. So I made the mistake of skipping some as I raced through the book. Rereading the emergency room story told me I had better reread Identity Crisis too, since a second pass was so effective with A Matter of Life in Death. I read this one the first time through, and I remembered that I was impressed that I had not seen anyone explore the identity issues for a Korean American adoptee as well as the specifics of being an Italian-American Korean from New York. I wanted more... which is probably a good thing. I wonder, for the next time Theresa's around, if she's considered interviewing others with similar stories, and expanding the exploration of identity for grown up kids somewhat like her, whether they live with "carry on baggage" or huge bread pillows. And that works as an open question for everyone. Do you have any desire to use your story as a seed for something further -- to expand on it in any way -- or is it a finished piece that you leave as you go on to other projects?
pooning tang; tanging the poon (viv) Wed 19 Nov 03 17:07
All those stops are Amtrakable. REad Whie You ARe Gone (Stephen J Lyons) and though its terrain is familiar to me I still was able to come away with a refreshing take. Not every piece is doing that for me, of course, but discovering those pieces that do is very satisfying. I read a few others while commuting today and don't think reading them back-to-back is the best way to appreciate them. Perhaps I state the obvious.
pooning tang; tanging the poon (viv) Wed 19 Nov 03 17:08
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 19 Nov 03 17:10
No matter. Planning readings is very cool.
Theresa Pinto-Sherer (theresa-ps) Wed 19 Nov 03 19:42
in response to gail, i'm sure i have thought about large-scale projects on any of my essays. it's a hard thing editing what you will and won't include in a piece and inevitably, after you're done, you come up with a dozen more things you could've said, loose ends you could've tied, etc. but paradoxically i also feel that i told a complete story and after getting if off my chest, i don't want to revisit it. for me, time constrictions are a factor too- working full-time, raising a three-year-old and planning for a second. i haven't really written anything since i went back to work. but i have a long to-do list of things i want to get back to and it's one of them.
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