"So, what do you do?"
"Well, I'm an… an au-au-author." I stuttered over that last word.
She looked at the women in the circle, some drinking wine, another smoking a cigarette. "Did you hear how she stuttered over that word? She almost couldn't say it! It's okay, honey. It's real. It's happening."
Another woman raised her wine glass conversationally, resting her elbow on the back of her other hand. "So, what do you write about?"
I don't know why this question is so difficult for me to answer. I don't have the answer figured out yet. This is how I ended up telling someone that I write 'adult novels.'
I suppose the real and complete answer is, "I write memoir and creative nonfiction." But those words feel nebulous and evasive outside of a literary genre class.
So instead, I ramble a list of things things that are only pieces of the mosaic.
"I have a blog." As do a million other people.
"I have a book coming out in February." They raise their eyebrows and ask if I self-published. No, Random House is my publisher, and I can't believe it either.
"Well, I write about everything and nothing." This is somehow true and yet meaningless.
"I write books for women." But that's not entirely true. Men read my stuff. Smart men.
Sometimes I say I write novels, because I do. Novels that are unfinished and aspiring.
"I write about what I'm learning," which could be anything.
"My husband died two years ago, so I write a lot about that journey." But it's not all heavy and sad.
"I write about my kids." But I'm not a parenting guru or a Mommy blogger.
"I write essays." That sounds like the consequence for forgetting my homework in eighth grade. (Because it was the consequence for forgetting my homework in eighth grade.)
Yet, I think that's what I do. The essay is the basic form of nonfiction, conversations with an unseen neighbor, an experience with perspective.
Susan Tiberghien says, "Meander is a good word for essay writing. As you write about an experience, one thought leads to another and you meander as a river does, diverging, digressing, winding from the source to the final outlet."
To write a personal essay, one must have lived it. Annie Dillard says, "The essay can do everything a poem can do, and everything a short story can do - everything but fake it."
Well, look what has happened. In writing this essay of sorts, I've found the answer to my own silly question.
"My name is Tricia. I'm a writer. I write creative nonfiction, memoir, and essays."
And I'm glad you do. 🙂