Episode 26: The Strongest Woman in the Room
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Hello and welcome to the after show for Now That's a Great Story. On Monday we had on Kitty Sheehan who talked a lot about her amazing story The Strongest Woman in the Room. Today I wanted to focus on one facet of that story that actually compelled me to talk with Kitty in the first place. And that is the perspective that she offers on that story. I have not read too many memoirs or too many first-person essays that pull off what Kitty pulled off in that piece. I can't even really think of another memoir, or first-person essay that actually takes an omniscient viewpoint. And it's because she takes that omniscient viewpoint it tells the story of her mother and what her mother was thinking and her father, and how hard it was for him and how she herself is this minor character in this story, and she delves into, you know, the thoughts and actions of her parents and her and her brother. It's what makes that story really come alive.
And I think there's probably some people out there that would say, well, you know, is Kitty something akin to like this decades James Fry or a Augustin Burroughs: memoirists who have been, you know, in Fry’s case, he fessed up to fictionalizing large swaths of his best-selling memoir, and in Augustin Burroughs’s case, many people have called into question for more than a decade all of the anecdotes that he relays in his book Running with Scissors, whether or not those are actually true. And he's had to, you know, almost do these sort of feats of memory to try to prove that he actually does have that good of a recall.
I am not so concerned about that with Kitty because for a couple of reasons. Number one, this was her own family. Number two, the day and question was one that her whole family remembers; was one that really shaped the lives of every family member. So I am not as concerned about the idea that Kitty was fabricating something. I'm glad we had Kitty on the show to talk about it because it's, again, it's something that I really haven't seen all that often.
There have been some memoirs that I really liked like David Cars The Night of the Gun. He was a longtime media columnist for The New York Times and his memoir was all about his drug addiction and so he goes back and actually interviews the people who knew him when he was an addict, to talk with them about what they remembered about him. The point is, there are a few other examples of taking a new approach to writing your own story. But what I also like about Kitty’s story is the fact that she stuck with it. She was in various writer’s groups over the years trying to get this piece published, and she was told repeatedly that actually it was this very approach that kept her from getting it published. Sort of nevertheless she persisted.
And I'm glad she did because this is a story that is wholly her own. This isn't a voice that is fully hers. She put on the page the vision she saw for the story and because it was her vision, because it was her voice, tt was an original story. And that really is more than anything else why I wanted to have her on the show, and why I was, I'm hoping that today you can sort of take some inspiration from what Kitty did and apply it to your own work. Much like Kitty there's probably going to be a lot of times where you're going to get a lot of rejections. And the point is if you have something you want to say, and if you think it is yours truly to say, stick it out. Because when you stick it out the world starts to pay attention for how original the story actually is.
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