Undenialble truth: When you write, people will seek you out to tell "their story." You didn't hear that here first.
Charles' posts on Assumptions About Writers sent me on a trip back in time, one recollection leading to another.
I've lost count of how many people have tracked me down to get me to write books for them and it's hard to know where to start but to name just a few:
1. The woman with the government documents - A woman arrived near the end of a book signing, a stack of papers and folders clutched to her chest. When pointed to my table she launched into an explanation of state government mismanagement, all detailed in the papers she could provide. "All the research is done. Somebody just needs to put it all together."
"I'm, uh, really a fiction writer," I explained gesturing to the novel with the vampire on the cover I was there to sell. I suggested she go to the government reporter at her local paper.
Not to be disuaded by such a logical suggestion, she reiterated her point repeatedly in a stab at persuasion. It was all there, it just needed a writer to string it together.
I finally had to tell her, "If I wanted to be a reporter, I 'd still be one. I'm not going to write an expose for you."
2. The reporter with the great idea - When he was alive, God bless him, my father could never get straight who it was OK to give my unlisted phone number.
He had the same name as me, so people would find him in the phone book and when they asked him to write a book for them, he'd say "Oh you want my son" and give them my number.
"Wow, it was like clearing security to get to you," said the TV reporter one Sunday afternoon.
"That's the general idea," I said.
"I thought we could write this book together," he said. "I had this great idea: The Firm set at a TV station. I've worked at TV stations for years so I know all of the inside scoop."
Yeah, for that piece of originality my afternoon needed to grind to a halt. I told him I was going to have to pass.
3. My life's so interesting - Maybe not my favorite, but one of the odder requests came as a missive to Michael August, which was my pseudonym for young adult novels. At least it came as a letter and not a phone call. Michael August's father was not as prone to rat him out, I guess.
The correspondent noted people had told her that her life should be a book. After contemplation she had decided, yeah, it was true, there was something for everyone.
She'd read his book and Michael August--author of novels for kids 11-16--was just the man for the project. Michael wrote back that he'd only work with Sidney Williams.
4. The private eye - The private detective, who was very nice, liked my thriller Azarius and thought I'd be perfect to write a novel based on his theories of an unsolved murder. The killer was still alive.
I've seen too many TV movie about things just like that. Writer gets the real killer mad at him. I passed.
Some were sadder than others. I've mentioned before in this blog the old man who used to call about the Green River Killer, and I once had a prisoner who wanted me to chronicle his life mistakes as a warning to others and, he hoped, a path to his enrichment.
What's the moral of the story or the profundity of all this?
Don't give your dad you unlisted number if you're not looking for collaborators.