Seeing someone wear a fiction dress, I thought how beautiful, glamorous and very sexy. Of course I wanted to have a dress like that! I had all the material at hand, bolts of material in fact, from dense brocades and velvets to transparent silk chiffon. Like some unpaid, third-world garment worker, I became the Mistress of Fiction’s devoted seamstress spending hours, days, nights, even years, poking my eyes out fashioning a costume worthy of Elizabeth I.
At a workshop for writers, I met a wonderful woman, an accomplished writer of non-fiction and fiction, and asked if she would take a look at my opulent creation. Certainly she could give me tips on how to make this dress the most elegant jaw-dropping of all. She gave me incisive suggestions and asked many, many questions. And I went to work adding ribbons and lace, ruffles and flounces, embroidery and seed pearl designs, creating crisper, more precise sentences held with starch and heated irons. Of course every worthy costume must have fancy footwear: I needed shoes that would give me stature so I could stand out in the crowd and strut my stuff in the world
A year later, I met with the woman again. I had written 1000 pages. I had never bothered to count the millions of tiny stitches that covered reams of paper like black silk Chantilly. I was one of those supermodels on the catwalk wearing an outlandish dress and preposterous shoes. Oops! Down I went. And like those models, I picked myself up and continued, only to trip and fall – again and again.
Back to the garment factory. I snip and cut and paste, take it in, take it out, a dart here, a tuck there, shorten the hem, strip away surface ornamentation, rip off all the “little darlings” everyone suggests we kill, until I have a sleek, much more stylish and up-to-date fiction dress. I throw out the 5-inch impossible heels and get down to earth in kitten heels. I have a serviceable 400 pages ready to show an agent. It is the absolute best I can do in this world of outrageous fashion.
The agent’s editor praises my needlework, but now the piece lacks glamour and tension, the stakes (or is it the heels?) are not high enough. The harshest cut of all is the comment about my beloved protagonist, “I do not know what makes this woman tick.” This is more than a wardrobe malfunction. I go down for the last time. Fuck this fiction dress. What was I thinking? It never fit anyway. I crawl into my old familiar sweats and running shoes and set out to write a memoir.