FML. I was told by classmates, and my instructor, at the UNM Summer Writers’ conference last July that my memoir excerpt reminded them of “The Glass Castle” (in theaters in August, 2017). I had never read this book, nor have I to this day. (With small exceptions, revealed below)
I watched the trailer for the movie. Looks good. Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Brie Larson. Hmmm… “quirky” rural childhood, salvation through escape to education and city life, past comes back to haunt. OK… I see the similarities.
I check the author’s Wikipedia page. She lived in Battle Mountain, NV for a portion of that quirky childhood. Battle Mountain is where my father died, and is central to a couple chapters in my memoir. Coincidence, surely.
Pursuing potential agent contacts, I query Google for “The Glass Castle acknowledgements.” Apparently “fishing” the acknowledgements is how you find an agent. Google returns the Acknowledgements page. I find the agent name, then note that Google (bless Sergei Brin’s little heart) has returned dozens of pages of the memoir. Should I read it?
I decide to just peek under the blindfold. I promise myself I’ll bail out at the slightest temptation to copy something from her style or story.
Interesting… an extended story in a hospital setting, and detailed memories from age 3. Explicit commentary on precocious reading abilities. Maybe these things are memoir cliches, as I have both in mine?
The Google sample skips a few pages and I find myself in a chapter where the father is bailing the family out of the house to move because the bill collectors are hot on his tail. He barks at the kids to get the essential things and get them out to the station wagon, affectionately called “The Blue Goose” by eccentric Dad. Or perhaps all Westerners named their vehicles in the early 1970’s?
OK…this is going too far. My Dad called our ramshackle station wagon “The Brown Eagle.” Who is going to read my story and not think I’ve been snatching concepts wholesale? I suppose next there’s be stories of mental illness?
Son of a … !!
I am afraid to read more. That said, the opening scene taught me one thing: I need to get a gut-punching, attention grabbing setup in 5 pages. Hers was brilliant. I hope I CAN copy that.