In the memoir genre, about 70,000 words forms a standard book. As I cruised past 40,000 words on my project, I thought about the haphazard content I’d typed in double-spaced format. It was likely time for a professional review and I turned to my cousin Cindy in Los Angeles, who had mentioned she had some writing contacts if I were ever in the market for them. Cindy dutifully sent along “M”‘s name and put us in touch. As it turns out, M had an intimidating writing pedigree, schooled at a well-known college under the tutelage of a renowned American author, as well as having several published titles to her name. When I laid out my story, an amazing thing happened. M told me that she too had been burned at a young age, a casualty of trying to be cool by smoking in a closet. “Unless I wear a short sleeve top, no one notices,” she said referencing the burns on her arm. What are the chances that I’d so quickly find a writing professional who would understand the very personal nature of burns? As luck would have it, M’s plate was full and she did not have time to serve as my critique professional. Instead, she put me in touch with her similarly pedigreed writing friend “K”. Eagerly I contacted K, who did not have a burn injury to share but rather a witty life story of life as an outsider of sorts in southern Indiana. More importantly, she had time at hand. After some hand-wringing, I looked over my project, divided it into 3 parts, packaged up Part I as ready fir review, closed my eyes and hit the “send” button. And now I wait. Wondering if my book, or at least the initial piece of it, might pass professional muster, might have story enough to be told that it has a literary life. And I wait.
If you poke around, you’ll see (as I have) that many people write about burns. Recently I finished Burned: A Memoir (www.louisenayer.com), and was fascinated by this book because it describes the effect of a mother’s burn on her daughter. I contacted Louise to ask her some questions about why she wrote the book and we’ve developed a communication of sorts. Other books I need to explore include Burned But Not Broken (www.michaeljnolte.com), Nothing Left to Burn (www.jayvarner.com) and The Burn Journals (www.burnjournals.com).
I’m not sure if the world needs another burn memoir but I still want to publish mine and I realize even from this handful of books that my story is completely different than these. Every burn it seems is unique.