Writing a story: it’s not all about me!

I’ve listened to many seasoned authors’ advise ‘write what you know’ but my novel Covering the Sun with My Hand is not my memoir. Most people upon hearing me speak about my novel, ask whether it’s ‘my story’. I wrote it but, no, I haven’t disguised or embedded my identity in that of my protagonist.

Don’t get me wrong, Julia Acevedo and I have lots in common. We’re both Puerto Rican and grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY. We were teens in the seventies so we knew as much about Three’s Company as we did about Roe vs. Wade. We suffered overly protective mothers during adolescence. We both found ourselves practically living in hospitals because of our ill siblings but my sister died when I was eleven to a medical illness. Julia stood side by side with her mentally ill twin, Rene, for almost her lifetime. Illness in children changes the family landscape forever.

This story belongs to Julia, it touches on her brother, Rene, and her parents. The four are inexplicably woven together in love and fear and all the richness of the lives of human beings. An editor’s feedback post one of my feverish sixty second book pitches was “Nobody likes to read stories about families, but I’ve read stories about families and once I’ve loved a story about a family.” I must admit that I thought she was nuts when she uttered those sentences. I still do a bit, but I also understand the complexity of families and the sometimes web-like strings that holds families together.

Why read about someone else’s raving mad relatives when most of us have lived similar existences? Sometimes complete separation of the fine tethers is needed before healing can begin or at least an attempt is possible. Having the ability to laugh at how seriously I’ve taken things when a hearty laugh might have sufficed is fairly new and refreshing. The transferability of lived experience helps many of us to make sense of what we wrestle with or at the very least, opens our eyes to the fact we are not alone. Writing is the fine instrument that affords some of us the ability to do just that.

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