N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

Telling your story for better or worse?

I was listening to an interview with Marlon James, the Man Booker Award winner for 2015, and was stunned to find out his book was rejected over 70 times.

In response to the interview’s question about advice for aspiring writers he ended with: “remember you are doing good work and you have something to say.”

Something to say…

Something worth saying…

A personal story. Unique to you. Something only you can tell.

But what happens when you can’t tell it? What happens when it is so personal, so painful that you can’t bring yourself to do it?

My wife has often urged me to write about my experiences as a BBW…who most of her life just felt big…no, let’s call it what it is fat and ugly.

I just can’t do it though. I’d love to, I can see how my story could impact other women/girls who plow through the world that is set against them and cutting them down at every turn…I just can’t. I’ve tried, but I’ve spent so much of my life being the comedienne I can’t stand still long enough to write down the real me.

In the same day, I heard this excerpt from Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King” (a theater piece)…and was nearly moved to tears by the utterly devastating story he tells about being invited to Homecoming, while laughing my head off as well.

So, I know it can be done…but why can’t I do it?



    3 comments already | Leave your own comment

  1. 10/15/2015 | 9:13 pm Permalink

    I’ve only been able to deal with that kind of stuff in poetry. My fiction characters may have aspects of myself, but overall they’re fictional people.

    When I was in 11th grade, we had to write our autobiography in 25-50 pages with primary source research. I did my research, collected my notes, and tried to write it. I totally hit a wall. After trying for weeks, I went to my awesome teacher and said, “The only way I can see to do this is in poetry. It’s that or nothing.” He gave me this penetrating, assessing look for a couple of minutes while he thought. Finally, he said, “Okay, you can do it, but I’d I don’t think it works you’ll have to rewrite it as prose.” I told him he had a deal, and I went off to work on it. It just flowed. It worked for me.

    I handed in something like 40 pages of poems, many with footnotes for the research. Weeks later, we got the graded papers back. Most had comments and red lines like normal research papers. I leafed through mine, and there wasn’t a single word written or drop of red ink. I started to get worried. I turned to the last page, and all that was written was “A. You are a poem.”

    I teared up. I looked at my teacher, and he just smiled. Talk about affirmation!

    The next year, two weeks before graduation, that teacher pulled me out of my 12th grade English class and asked me to write the poem for the back of the graduation program. That was like being announced the class Poet Laureate and was always considered a big honor. He gave me 3 days. Two days later, I gave him a draft after school. He read it and cried a little. I couldn’t have been prouder.

    Anyhow, long way of saying that I completely understand what you wrote.

    Respond to this comment

  2. 10/16/2015 | 1:28 am Permalink


    Respond to this comment

  3. 10/16/2015 | 1:24 pm Permalink

    To play devil’s advocate:

    Perhaps playing the comedienne IS the way to tell the story. If getting serious puts you too close to it, you can’t “get at” it (does that make sense?) After all, you found Minhaj’s piece funny and touching at the same time. Humor doesn’t make it less poignant, it can provide a vehicle for fairly serious stuff.

    Respond to this comment

  4. Leave a Reply