Being Authentic While Protecting Privacy

Guest Blogger: Susan DiMickeleSusan DiMickele - author photo

As a non-fiction author, I tend to air my dirty laundry. After all, it’s my choice whether or not to share personal information with the public, isn’t it?

Enter my husband.

Does the spouse of an extrovert writer have a say in what gets published? I happen to be married to a very private person. When I told him I was going to write a book about my journey as a working mother, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Please leave me out!”

So I tried my best. And I almost cut him completely out of the first draft of Chasing Superwoman. Then I got “the call” from my editor.

“Susan, if you’re going to write a credible book about your life, you have to include your husband.”

Rats! She noticed.

Now What Do I Do?

Was I supposed to put my writing career ahead of my marriage? I was already knee deep into a manuscript and a publishing contract—a contract that gave my publisher editing rights.

How could I be so naive? Why didn’t I have this issue resolved before signing a contract?

I was both inexperienced and idealistic. As first time authors, we shoot for the stars, hope for the best, and tend to put our heads in the sand. But I had a decision to make. Should I risk my most important relationship and ask for forgiveness on the back end? (“Sorry honey, I couldn’t help myself. You know how I am! You’re the one who married me!”)

Or should I write a superficial memoir that wasn’t acceptable to my publisher? (“I’m sorry, I know I signed up to write an authentic memoir, but my husband has drawn a line in the sand.”)

Enter the Editor

There’s no easy answer. But two heads are usually better than one, and this is where a wise, experienced editor is invaluable. My editor and I agreed readers are pretty savvy, and we couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room. So we tackled the elephant head on. We explained up front—in the introduction—why my husband wasn’t featured as a prominent co-star. I truthfully told my readers that he would absolutely kill me if I shared the intimate details of our relationship. And in the process of not talking about my husband, I actually got away with saying a bit more than I had planned. Pretty clever, huh?

I’m Still Learning

I solved the issue with my husband, but there are other people in my story, and I probably played loose with a few facts and didn’t consider the impact on several relationships. And after publication, I had a few sleepless nights worrying what certain people thought about my writing. But I let it go. Rather than wallowing in regret, I decided to learn from the process.

I pay close attention to other memoir writers. I notice the good ones make the reader feel like an insider instead of an intruder. They don’t mince words. Nor do they seem to overly-censor the content. And they don’t exploit relationships for the sake of ego.

Frankly, I still struggle with protecting relational privacy while maintaining an authentic dialogue with my readers (it’s called blogging!). I still have much to learn. But after releasing Chasing Superwoman, my husband became my greatest cheerleader and biggest fan. And I can live with that.

Do you struggle with personal privacy, particularly when it comes to your closest relationships? And if you plan to publish, do you have a plan before you face this dilemma?

* * *

Chasing Superwoman Susan DiMickele writes about the working mom’s stuggle to live out an authentic faith in a complex and fast-paced world. Her first book, Chasing Superwoman, released in 2010, and she is now working on her second book, Working Women of the Bible (Leafwood Press, 2013).

Visit her blog at SusanDiMickele.com, and join her for the Working Mom’s Devotional every Friday.

 

Rachelle’s post today over at Books & Such:

4 Reasons to Write Several Books Before Seeking Publication

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  • http://thekerrieshow.com Kerrie McLoughlin

    I totally have this problem. I’m super honest and try to put humor into everything and sometimes my husband and kids might get the brunt of that … so I check with them and if it’s not okay, I either don’t write it or else delete it if it’s already out there. I struggle also with future writing like my momoir and my memoir from when I was married the first time. How much to tell? You want to help people with your stories, but do they have to know everything?

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      It’s such a tough balance to strike. In my case, an objective editor was key to the process. I think you also have to decide how much you want to push the envelope — only I know how far I can push my husband (at least I think I know!).

      • http://creativitylifecoaching.blogspot.com Sherrie

        I was just writing a response to this same topic in a LinkedIn discussion. Rachelle (& Susan), I often forward your posts to my writer’s group, but how do you feel about me re-posting this article to LI or FB or anywhere else? Of course your name would be there.
        Thanks!

  • http://Www.healnowandforever.net Jodi Aman

    Apropos tonight as I struggle with this very topic. I’m a non-fiction writer, too. And struggle wih how much to tell of myself and worried that I can’t be truly me and what does this mean to the excitement factor of the book.

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      I think readers appreciate your authenticity. The fact that we struggle with this is (I think) a good thing. Don’t you?

    • http://theartoftoadkissing.com Heidi Lee Munson

      Jodi – I follow your blog and I think you do a wonderful job with authenticity. Great to see a she-writes sister here!

  • Megan Sayer

    Oh I feel this so strongly! I’ve recently completed a coming-of-age memoir. The elephant in my room is between me and my mother: she’s so proud of my happy childhood and how well I grew up. I’ve been okay with that, I love her, I’m happy to let her believe that things have been good.
    Unfortunately though, I’ve felt God’s call to write a memoir of my journey out of all the things she believes never happened.
    Right now I’m editing, and trusting that God knows what He’s doing with this story (that I very much want to share with the world), and He knows and loves my mother as well. Still scared though.
    Eeek! Any advice?

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Prayer was so key for me in this process. It’s funny, you can go out of your way to protect the people you love most and it turns out the people you didn’t think will be upset emerge — maybe because you didn’t write enough about them! At the end of the day, I learned that pleasing people could not and would not be the goal. But there were several core relationships (my immediate family members) where I pained over every word and edited until the bitter end. And, I would now even write some of those sections differently two years later. Lots of prayer and even more grace!

    • http://community.advanceweb.com/blogs/pt_4/default.aspx Janey Goude

      Megan,

      God alone, the One who sees the end from the beginning, knows how best you can honor your parents. Ask for discernment to know God’s purpose for the memoir.

      Does He want this publicly revealed now to bring healing to others, including your mother?
      Is He laying this on your heart now, but His timeline for release to the public is in the future – after your mother and others who would be affected by the memoir’s release have come to terms on their own or died?
      Has He laid it on your heart to write for your own personal healing, never intending it to be seen by others?

      Thankfully, He promises to give wisdom to those who ask. Best to you on your journey.

      • http://suzysammons.com suzy sammons

        amen.
        This is my prayer every day as I write to glorify Him… through scandalous and honest story-telling. I’ve come through healing and grace, too!

        Mary DeMuth says to make sure you’re healed before writing memoir – it might be a good catalyst, but if you’re not healed, it’ll be painful for the reader!!

        I love that advice.
        Great conversation!

  • http://www.melissa2u.com Mel

    Yes, I struggle with personal privacy and relationships in my writing and blogging ALL the time. I have gotten into blow-out fights with girlfriends, husband, parents, etc. and didn’t publish a memoir for over a decade for this very reason. My book is filled with brutally honest confessions of my own, though, and I tried to keep mention of others limited unless necessary. Still…as I approach the release of my memoir I am having some sleepless nights worrying about what people might think. I’m trying not to, but sometimes I just can’t help it (like right now).

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Yes, I had a few of those sleepless nights. But then at some point I just had to let go and give myself some grace. (Besides, there are too many other things that now keep me up at night — like trying to write a second book!) But the more focused I am on really quality writing, the less focused I am on what people think.

      • http://www.melissa2u.com Mel

        And that right there is excellent advice!

  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    I’m a pastor, so I feel your pain! When I’m preaching on I Corinthians 15, I can leave the family out of my homily on the resurrection. However a sermon on Ephesians 5:22-23 calls for more than euphemisms. People want some personal example as proof that what I’m saying is practical and not some Utopian fantasy.

    In order to keep peace, I always ask before using details that involve my spouse. Trust with readers must always take a backseat to the covenant with my spouse before God. Therefore I will honor her with the choice of whether or not to participate in my sharing.
    Fortunately for her, I am the one that usually looks like a goober in my musings.

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Bless you. Asking for permission is the absolute best course and honors your wife. I am too guilty of pushing the envelope, but I thank God for wise counsel (including my editor) to help me strike the balance between forgiveness and permission!

    • Jennifer Major

      An articulate and funny goober. With depth. Now, go buy her flowers. Just in case. Or a gift card to a giant shoe outlet.

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Thank you, Jennifer! Ah yes, those shoes work wonders! :)

  • http://www.playback.net/stacypoulos/nutshell_book.htm Stacy Poulos

    I wrote “Life In A Nutshell” and I struggled with it as well, but I gave my family a copy and had them sign a release. Since I struggle width one of my family members the most, I spoke of him as a 3rd brother – the brother under the influence. I can’t write unless it’s the truth. My writing teacher said “you have to be honest”. Your listeners aren’t dumb, they don’t need to be lead by your answers, they want to hear your story… and don’t candy coat it. ..tell it like it is in the passion you have about it or put your pens down.
    I would rather write the truth in a creative way then hold back about it. They don’t need to know your family’s names. In fact pet names are better than real names. I call a Ex ‘Driveswithportapotty’ and “Chaos’ it’s a true story. My Counseling ‘Crack-Pot-Counseling Services’. Is it her SSI number and real name? no? It doesn’t need to be. “My Other Brother Dope-py”if you can’t handle the truth stay out of the book. But don’t ask me I can’t spell. <8-)

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Thanks Stacy — you make a great point. I have watched other writers and notice they often change names or even put a disclaimer up front such as “some names and situations may be changed to protect privacy.” I tend to like that approach. In the case of my husband, we actually discussed changing his name but decided against it for other reasons! (The last think I needed was for readers to think I had a new husband…..)

  • http://www.playback.net/stacypoulos/nutshell_book.htm Stacy Poulos

    Here’s a link if your intrested. http://www.playback.net/stacypoulos/nutshell_book.htm

  • Kara

    I struggle with the fact that in my “real life” I work for someone high profile. I’m proud of my writing, and would feel really sad if I was to be blessed enough to land a contract not to have my real name on the front however, for a number of reasons, I’m not comfortable with my professional life and my writing life being publicly intertwined.

    But I figure I’ll cross that bridge if I ever get to it ;)

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      You are not alone. I still struggle with this issue. I respect a lot of professionals who publish and even blog under a pen name. Publishing under my read name has sometimes caused my personal and professional life to clash and I’ve even though I should have published under my maiden name. Yet there are so many benefits to just being me (it goes back to authenticity) and writing under my real name has a way of holding me accountable for my actions as a writer, lawyer, and human being!

  • http://between-the-grey.blogspot.com Fiona

    I think I struggle with this problem, and I’m not even published! I’m a very private, personal person and I don’t like other people knowing about the extent of my writing. I don’t honestly feel ready to share my writing with everybody, because I feel it’s not yet up to the standard I want it to be, and because I think my writing says a lot about me as a person. I know one day I’ll have to take the plunge and say to people ‘I’m a writer’, but until that day comes, I’m going to keep it as personal as possible! Great, insightful post.

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Thanks Fiona. I think you are wise to air on the side of caution here. Once it’s out of the bag, it’s out! It’s easier to hold it back than take it back.

  • http://perichoreticlife.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Oh, yeah. I’m doing a set of blog posts now about some people who were important mentors in my life growing up. I’m trying to honor them, but also be honest. I have held off on these three posts for awhile, but decided to do them all this week together and see what happens.

  • Jennifer Major

    I’m glad I haven’t been called to write non-fiction. Yet. I’d have to get real.I cannot abide my sister. Or her husband. OR her sainted sweet pooky wookies who have taken being darling to a whole new level of awesome.She wouldn’t let them swim without life jackets when they were 10, but did let them go buffalo hunting. With guns.
    Thank heavens I write fiction. I need to go put on some ruby slippers and click my heels. Thank heavens I write fiction. Thank heavens I write fiction…

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Well, we all know fiction writers use real subjects as your characters! So I guess you have the best of both worlds. Just try to make sure your characters don’t blantantly represent your closest friends and neighbors. Right?

      • Jennifer Major

        Coming up with names can be a challenge, and yes, the friends and neighbours get called upon to become part of the book, whether or not they know about their impending fame. I *did* give a cold blooded killer the almost same name as my very horrible grandmother. But of the two (heroic) brothers, one is named after my best friend’s dad. I couldn’t name him after my dad, his extremely ethnic name just wouldn’t fly! On one of my blogs, I use fake names for everyone accept my youngest. He’s already on Youtube.

        • Jennifer Major

          *except.

        • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

          I know what you mean about finding names. In the novel I’m currently writing, some of the names are hybrids. I took the first name of people I know in one city and put them with the last name of those from another city. Then I nicknamed them up where it seemed applicable.

          Mary Davis + John Smith= Mary Smith and John Davis. John Kennedy was Jack so I would have Jack Davis. (also Maria Smith)
          This may seem complicated, but it makes complete sense to those of us with ADD, right? :O)

          • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.ca Jennifer Major

            Okay, Nerd Alert, when I read “hybrids” I instantly thought you were talking about Helo and Boomer’s baby on BSG.
            ODD? Oh yeah. On so many levels.

  • http://www.lisajordanbooks.com Lisa Jordan

    Funny this should be the blog topic today because just yesterday I wondered just how transparent a writer needs to be on his/her blog if he/she is trying to connect with readers. We all have our secrets and those things we’re not ready to share with the public.

    I write fiction, but there’s always a tiny piece of me in every character. When I wrote my first novel, and mentioned in the acknowledgements that it was the story of my heart and loosely based on something that happened with my husband and me, several people asked me if my husband broke my heart the way my character’s heart had been broken. I laughed and explained how the core theme of the book tied into my relationship. Hubby read my book and expressed his pride in my work, so we’re all good. :)

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      The blogging issue is one I struggle with. I used to write about my kids openly, but now that they are getting older I don’t want to embarass them. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about talking to my 11-year-old son about sex — and I ended up deleting most of the post because I wanted to respect his privacy. But it was still fun to write!

  • http://mauricefoverholt.wordpress.com Maurice Overholt

    Thanks so much for this. As a blogger who tends to be pretty transparent I struggle with this issue. I found your words very instructive and encouraging.

  • http://theartoftoadkissing.com Heidi Lee Munson

    Susan – I’m going through a parallel issue right now. My memoir on Online Dating started out very PG.

    I had a bit of a struggle bringing in some of the intimate details to show the PG-13 that is needed to be successful with such a topic. Working with my editor, she taught me how to “not say” some of the details to make a powerful statement.

    Part of my hold-back was out of respect for my husband and the other part was simply a bit prudish on my part.

    But Stacey was absolutely right – you can’t write about online dating without some of the racy details. No one would believe it.

    So now I get to be a saucy vixen in spite of myself – and I see how drastically those intentional omissions have improved the story.

    When it comes to my blog – I’m not there yet. I’m transparent, but I still avoid some of the R-Rated topics that would probably drive a higher readership.

    Rachelle – thanks for bringing us this lesson through Susan. I can’t wait to read Chasing Superwoman!

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      I too avoid the R-rated topics (in part because my kids now read the blog!). And my memoir started out more PG-13 and ended up more G/PG. The good news is I can still live with myself and my family still likes me. But no doubt an R-rated memoir might have commanded greater sales figures.

      • http://theartoftoadkissing.com Heidi Lee Munson

        Susan – that’s fantastic! I am now on the conservative side of PG-13, but it certainly did make for a better story.

        I have it written so that my 16 year old son could read it – although he will never want to ;)

        Best of luck and congratulations on your success. I look forward to your book as well as now following your blog! I too hope to wear a super hero cape some day :)

  • http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ Wendy Paine Miller

    Fun to see you here, Susan!

    I remember that up front explanation in your book—remember thinking how relatable it was! I’m careful (on my blog for now, perhaps in a memoir someday…) about this balance. I often grapple with what to share, when, and how much to share. I think some folks might truly be blown away by some of the stories I could tell. But as with most decisions, I’m waiting on the green light.

    Praying for my own wise, experienced editor.
    Wendy

  • Neil Ansell

    I am a published memoirist and I would say it is almost impossible to keep everyone entirely happy. People construct quite different narratives in their minds out of their shared histories. Speak separately to a divorced couple about what went wrong and you will soon see what I mean.

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      It’s so true. People actually got mad at me for not writing about them. Go figure!

  • http://bysusancraig.wordpress.com/ Susan Craig

    This post hits a real issue in my life, too…but I didn’t think I’d care about the book until I saw ‘struggling to live out an authentic faith.’ I’m in, Susan. That’s where I live also.

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Thanks Susan. I’ve come to believe that the struggle might just be more important than the destination in this whole writing business. And life in general.

      • Jeanne T

        It’s true–the process teaches us so much more, and grows far more depth within us than “arriving.”

  • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.ca Jennifer Major

    In all seriousness, my husband is the polar opposite of me. People know I’m married, but he can’t stand it when he’s drawn into the spotlight. So I never use his name, I speak about things he’s done for me, but I’ve stopped talking about anything negative between us. I, on the other hand, blah blah blah…

  • Pingback: T.W.I.L.T… there is a privacy and authenticity solution!

  • http://www.deenasafari.com D.C. Spell

    This is the reason I have stopped writing my memoir. There are just too many things that have shaped me that I can’t discuss because they put several people in very bad light. I’m risking being disobedient to God’s call because I know there’s no way I’d get away with sharing those things with the world! My blog has been in hot water multiple times with family members (I got mauled by a mob of them in January), so I’m pretty censored in general now. Luckily, my husband is one of my biggest fans who totally understands me and is the first to get in my corner in a fight over something I write! I know it’s rare to have that, so I’m incredibly grateful. :-)

    • Catherine

      I was worried about that as well, in regards to my husband’s family. So, I made my blog private and unsearchable on the web. I invited a few trusted friends to it so I can have their input in my writing. I can write uncensored and really get into the meat of the stories of my past. My family would be different, but my husband’s–oh, boy. World War III! May be I chickened out by making it private, but I just didn’t want to deal with them.

  • Jeanne T

    Susan, I appreciate your post. As writers, and as women, it is easy to share too much. I’m learning to respect my husband’s desire for privacy. He does not enter into my online life. Both because of his line of work and of who he is as a person. Respecting relationships and striking the balance with appropriate amount of sharing is tricky. Thanks for sharing your story and for showing readers the importance of planning ahead for these facets of being published. :)

    It’s a good thing you had an editor you could talk to and who gave you good counsel on respecting your husband’s wishes and honoring your commitment to your contract.

    • Catherine

      I like what you wrote about your husband ‘not entering into your online life’. I have too. At first I was unsure if I should not share that part of myself, but because he is not a part of it, I am able to write with freedom about my life and past. Thank you!

      • Jeanne T

        Yes, honor our husbands, and be able to share authentically who we are. What a great combination. :)

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      I am the queen of TMI so I very much appreciate your struggle. When in doubt, shut your mouth — easier said than done!

      • Jeanne T

        So true. Just when I think I’m doing pretty well with the “keep your mouth quiet” thing, I blow it. Sigh.

  • http://4ambassadorsofchrist.blogspot.com/ Jarm Del Boccio

    I’ve always wondered myself, how much is appropriate to share with my readers. I’m so glad you honored your husband’s wishes…and it all worked out in the end. Thanks for sharing your publishing journey, Susan!

  • http://www.stevenwwatkins.wordpress.com steve watkins

    This is excellent. I, too, am fortunate to have a wise editor who won’t let me sidestep, and try to get away with the obvious. Great post.

    Steve

  • http://www.JulieJWrites.Blogspot.com Julie Jarnagin

    I’ve actually run into this with fiction. One of the things that happens in my latest novel hits pretty close to home for my family. I didn’t think much of it until I was about to turn the book in to my editor, and I was suddenly struck with fear about how my family might perceive it. As writers, I think that’s the dilemma we’ll always face – balancing honesty in our writing with our “real lives.”

  • http://www.kathynick.com Kathy

    I once wrote an article under a pen name because of intimacy issues. Then I changed my mind and published under my real name. Unfortunately, I forgot to change my husband’s name back. Years from now, our grandchildren will wonder when I was married to a different man.

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      So funny! For awhile we called my husband “Rob” in the book. I could just hear my grandkids asking some day, “Who the heck is Rob?”

  • http://renewing-your-mind.blogspot.com Kelly

    Thanks so much for this! I have been thinking and wondering about this very topic and I bookmarked this post in my “Writing Advice” folder.

  • http://facebook.com/wordstoloveby.klb Karen Boncela

    I started out writing the LOVE STORY that had become my Life after divorce and I just skimmed over the past with the ex in order to help my readers understand my degree of Gratefulness. It’s funny tho, the 5% of my book about the past seems to be a big topic of conversation. I was blatantly honest, it was therapeutic for me. I felt that it was essential in the Story. It will be even more essential in my second book which is in the works.

  • http://christinabaglivitinglof.com Christina Baglivi Tinglof

    I completely relate to this. I, too, am a non-fiction writer and have written several books on parenting. My kids have to be included but I struggle with their/our need for privacy and being authentic in my message. It’s not an easy balance.

  • http://www.meghancarver.blogspot.com Meghan Carver

    My relationships with extended family are rife with tension and conflict … perfect fodder for writing. I prefer fiction, but I’ve often wondered, should I be published, if any would accuse me of using them as a character. So far I’ve been able to blend characteristics so that no one character is obviously a relative. Of course, the plot is an entirely different issue….

  • http://joannespataro.webs.com/ Joanne Spataro

    It’s like you read my mind, Susan! As a paralegal (a perspective you can understand as a lawyer), I’m naturally inclined to be objective and recreate situations to a T for my memoir-in-progress. I’m always hesistant to flesh out my own feelings since I’m so used to being “just the facts.” I’m working hard to get to the root of my emotions. Let’s just say I take a lot of long walks. :)

    Thanks for your perspective as a fellow legal eagle!

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      I totally yet it. We are cut out of the same legal cloth.

  • http://climbingoutblog.com Tracey Grimes

    This is an issue that I continue to wrestle with. I am writing a memoir focused largely on my traumatic childhood, but after reading an early draft my father asked me to keep him out of the story. As you can imagine I feel like I’m writing with my hands tied behind my back. I guess everyone in this genre must work to find a balance. The struggle is to figure out how to share our own truth without revealing too much of others’, not an easy task.

  • http://www.thehomeschoolexperiment.com Charity Hawkins

    Yep. I had the same issue. I decided to make my story a work of fiction, which gave me latitude with the facts and names, and to publish under a pen name. I wrote candidly about some of my children’s struggles in homeschooling, and wanted to protect their privacy. Everyone so far (especially moms) have totally understood why I did that .

    • Catherine

      I have been thinking about doing a fictional autobiography as well. Love it that someone has tackled that with their own life.

  • Catherine

    I have had those same fears. I have a blog, but it is private and I have only invited a few truly trusted friends to read it and give me input to help improve my writing. In my blog I share very private experiences about my past. I have used initials for people that I talk about. I guess the person I have been protecting the most is myself (if I am being honest). I love writing and diving into my past, it helps me to make sense of my present and gives a perspective about myself that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.

  • http://www.berylsingletonbissell.com Beryl

    When writing my book, The Scent of God, my sister told me that in “no way are you to let anyone know I was a nun.”

    So, I left her out. I was close to completing the manuscript when she asked me what I’d written about her. “Nothing,” I replied, “There’s no way I can include you without writing about the role you played in my life when we were nuns.”

    “Oh, but I want to be in the book!”

    So I included her. And stunned all those who thought they knew her and generated a flurry of calls wanting to know more. She became one of the most loved characters in the book. I rarely give a talk when one reader or another will ask “How’s Judi?”

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Wow, great story, Beryl. How interesting that one of the best parts of the book almost didn’t make it in!

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo

    Struggling with that now regarding myself actually. My first book is in the editing stages with the publisher right now and I’m realizing that it’s actually being published. With that said, reality is hitting me that people are going to learn ALOT about me.

    It’s kind of like walking around in public with my underwear on.

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      I love that analogy. Sometimes, I walk into a room of lawyers (usually men) and they make some remark like, “Well, you must have been busy cookinbg yesterday. We read all about your Sunday dinners.”

      It makes me feel a bit naked. But then again I sorta asked for it.

      • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo

        True. I still think Jesus would allow you to slap them – at least once. :)

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TC Avey

    My MS is fiction, however I have thought about how it getting published (fingers crossed) will affect my family. I know not many writers turn into famous Steven King’s or J.K. Rowling’s, but I’m dreaming big!

    Thanks for the advice. I’m storing it in my mind for future use (wink).

  • http://www.artesianministries.org Donna Pyle

    I don’t struggle with telling my story, but it’s the lives that intertwine within it that makes it sticky. Such as an ex-husband. Even following divorce, it’s unacceptable in my opinion to trash his character or air dirty laundry with specifics. There’s no good or healing that comes from that. So when I write about that painful time, I keep the specifics to how I felt, how God got me through it, and the good God’s bringing out of it. Not the garbage, who said what, or the ugly. Regardless of what happened, no one deserves that. Any time I pick up a memoir and see it taking that downward turn, I don’t pick it up again.

    • Jeanne T

      Integrity is a good mode for evaluating what goes into books. Kudos to you for choosing that route.

  • http://babblefromtheburbs.blogspot.com/ Kathryn Elliott

    Great post, Susan! I laugh every time a friend or family member says, “this isn’t going in the book, right?” Who knew I created such fear? :-)

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      It has become the standing joke at my family gatherings. “Is Susan going to put this in her next book? We better be careful what we say around her.”

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.ca Jennifer Major

      I write for the city paper. I am really, freakishly careful about what I write. I rarely even brag about my kids, because then they hear about it from 3rd parties. Not good. I’ve even had nasty emails to the paper about me. Not good. But, I can nail who I want in my book, give them a fake name, change a few details…

  • http://livingthebodyofchrist.blogspot.com/ Connie Almony

    I have definitely dealt with this on my blog. I had one incident where I felt my husband’s reaction brought great emotion to the piece, so I had to okay it with him. I’ve had a situation where I guest blogged about an event, then re-sent my re-written post with names taken out … just in case. Because of these things, I’ve learned to be careful before I write and I’m learning how to talk around things, so no one’s dark (or just plain silly) secrets are revealed.

  • http://lauraplusthevoices.blogspot.com Laura W.

    This issue pretty much terrifies me, and I write fiction. I’m scared people will recognize themselves in my fiction. It’s worse with poetry; whenever I write a personal or autobiographical poem, I freak out a little. My solution to this for a while was just to not write anything personal or autobiographical. But, like you said, it was like dancing around the elephant in the room. I made myself let go of that, and I think my writing has improved as a result.

  • http://www.nebraskagraceful.blogspot.com Michelle DeRusha

    It’s so hard to know where to draw the line sometimes, isn’t it? With my memoir (which isn’t published, so I don’t exactly have to worry about it), I had those closest to me read it: my parents, my sister, my husband, my in-laws, etc), and I promised if they had an issue with anything I would take it out. My sister had one complaint, and I removed the offending sentence.

    It’s funny you mention this – just this morning I talked to my dad on the phone. I told him I was starting my second book, and he said, “Leave me out of this one!!” I guess it’s still a touchy subject!

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Your father makes me laugh out loud. It sounds like something my family would say. Can’t wait to read your memoir!

  • http://blog.authorpeterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    I’m currently working on two memoirs (writing one and researching the other — yes, a memoir that requires research). These are issues that I’m struggling with.

    In one instance, a valued friend and I went through a rough time. That will be in there — and he will see the draft before anyone else.

    For some minor players, I will charge their names to protect them.

    For other instances, there is no clear and easy answer. It will be a struggle, but if it wasn’t hard, everyone would be be writing memoirs!

  • http://everythingtosomeone.blogspot.com/ Christie

    I’ve definitely had this problem with blogging in the past. I never used real names, but I once had a classmate threaten to sue me for slander for repeating a conversation–she claimed inaccurately–on my blog. Yikes!

    To be honest, these days, I really struggle with how much I should put out myself. I am not necessarily a private person, but I am very sensitive, and revealing very intimate and emotional details of my life can be scary, especially if people react negatively toward them or attack them.

  • http://everythingtosomeone.blogspot.com/ Christie

    Here’s a question:

    How far can one reveal the details of another person’s life without risking being sued?

  • http://marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    Hey there, friend! I spoke at UALC MOPS last week and thought of you!!

    I can definitely and totally relate to this. I still shake my head whenever it hits me that I wrote a book about sex. With oodles of personal examples. My poor husband.

    Actually, I prayed over the whole thing so much that I think (hope!) it all worked out really well. Not too graphic, not too personal, but enough so to be a real help to people.

    Great post!!

    • http://susandimickele.com Susan DiMickele

      Your husband is a good man for sure. I could never get away with writing about sex, but somebody has to do it! (I think he gets his own media room in heaven for that.)

      Yeah for UALC MOPS! I never get to attend — I was probably in a deposition or something.

  • http://MindfulBanter.com Roxanne

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I struggle with this in non-fiction writing. It is so much easier to be completely honest when using a pen name. When I’m not, I’m concerned about how everyone will react and I find that it hampers my authenticity.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    I write my blogs ahead two weeks. This gives me a chance to read them repeatedly, tweak, and add or subtract words and think about it’s impact to stranger and relative. Being the child of a verbally abusive family relationship, naturally not everyone will agree with my content. The thing you ask yourself is: what purpose will it serve? What impact do I desire? Am I ranting or trying to execute revenge? If it passes the test, it gets published.

  • http://www.catnipkiss.wordpress.com Cathy Alexa Maxwell

    I am writing a memoir about my travels, and I have decided to at least change all the names of people, even ones I had a solitary innocuous conversation with, to be fair. As for my ex-lover, who figures prominently in some of the mental landscape, he is also a very private person, but in a story of my personal transformation, I just CAN’T leave that part out. I will also change his name, of course, but that would never be enough for him (sometimes the ego leads these things, right? “everyone will know”….) But we are already broken up, so let the fallout come, I guess, if it will. Memoir is like that, I think!

  • http://merceyvalley.blogspot.com/ Mercey Valley

    Too funny!! Reading the responses proves this predicament is truly a common one, and I am also in the same boat. The “disclaimer” at the start of her book is perfect and I think in this day and age readers are more understanding than they used to be (like in the days of Princess Di when we more or less drove her to her death thru the media). Privacy is far more protected and valued than it used to be. Conversely, some people tell TOO much, and that can be downright gross.

    Nicely handled :) and also shows the benefits of a wise and discerning editor!!

  • http://www.AllThingsBoys.wordpress.com Arnel Gonce

    This is a difficult issue. I have found some sticky moments with my blog, since it is about one woman (me) living with 4 men (three teenage sons and a husband–5 if you count the cat). I try to be respectful and humorous about the things that are so different between men and women. So far the fallout has been pretty minimal, but it’s a constant balancing act.

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  • Manuel

    As someone who could be the subject of an ex’s intended memoir I’m not worried for a few reasons. First, she may never get it finished. Second, doubtful it will be published. Third, if it is printed, my family and friends know me and what is real(and they probably would not read it anyway). Fourth, we live in different countries so distance, even in this era of the Internet, helps.

    A memoir or autobiography is not truly a piece of non-fiction: There are two sides to every story and writers, like all artists, often take artistic license in their story telling. I know her representation of me would be distorted, but I’m losing no sleep over this.

  • Denise Hisey

    This is something I struggle with, too, as I’m writing. Not my husband so much as my family of origin…
    Thank you for sharing your experience and giving good suggestions on what to consider.

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