According to most authorities, a memoir is a true story which uses fictional techniques to engage the reader and make the story more vivid. It focuses on a narrow time period tied together with a theme. String Too Short to Tie meets all the criteria for a memoir, except that I use fictional names for all the characters in the story, including myself.
I realized, as I was writing my first draft, that if I was honest and told a true story, I also ran the risk of invading the privacy of people I cared for greatly. This was a dilemma that I struggled with as I kept writing. For me, this became a spiritual reckoning. Should I tell an honest story that I was begging to be told, or should I forget the whole thing.
As I wrestled with this, I sought both counseling and a solitary spiritual retreat. I found both at the ecumenical Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, Wisconsin. My counselor was a wise older woman who listened to my story and let me cry out my pain. At the end of that week, I came to the conclusion that I must write my truth because it seemed to demand the light of day.
But I would also respect those people in my story who might be embarrassed or even horrified by my truth. I would not use the real names for any of my characters, not even myself or my hometown. Also, I would tell my audience that there are times in my story where I have exaggerated and stretched the truth in order to tell a good story.
So, did I write a memoir? I’d like to think I did. Yet perhaps my story is a hybrid, mostly fact with some fiction thrown in for good measure. Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy bouncing along with me over the rough dirt roads.
P.S. The photo is a childhood photo of an important character in String Too Short to Tie. I’ll let you figure out who it is!