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  1. #1
    Jo Mazz

    I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    I sent the first pages to the wrong site here and I still received great advice. One pro suggested I started my book, Titled WHY WHISPER? with less poignancy than I could have.

    The book is about the grief process after losing a son to suicide. After I paid an editor to fix this work, I believed he raped it of emotion and since I came to this forum, I think I should reconsider the edit job he did.

    I got some good constructive criticism including, I was in the wrong place. My questions and need for critique belong here in writer's craft. Please let me know if anyone here is interested in pointing out the flaws in my second choice for an opening of WHY WHISPER? Thanking you, Jo
    __________________________________________________ __________

    "Day turned to night and night never turned to day again."


    When the two men approached my back door, I was emailing someone I don’t remember anymore. Earlier that morning, I turned on my computer, feeling restless, worried about Danny and sent my daughter Carolynn a picture of Danny and me, and it appeared in her email inbox many times though I sent it once. She said, “It just kept pouring into my inbox: It was so strange Ma!”

    Danny and his wife had been divorced over a year. He had moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where he was able to get sober. A contracting company hired him as an engineer. He was doing well, until he wasn’t. Eventually he returned to Rhode Island and again needed a job and a place to stay. He got both from me, with conditions. He moved back home to my house in June, 2001.

    The week before the 2 police detectives arrived at my door, and after we spent a wonderful summer in hope, and enjoyed him so much, Danny had moved out of my house because he fell off the wagon after having promised to stop drinking. His life had been looking good until then. We enjoyed the summer and the dreams we all embraced, but that was now over.

    He moved into a rented motel room. I was no longer surprised that his life had turned bad in a matter of days. This event was a part of a pattern he had mastered since he left college.

    It was November 9, 2001. The two well-dressed men approached our side door and rang the bell. I watched them from the window near my desk. Jehovah’s Witnesses or salesmen, I thought to myself. I wondered why they hadn’t come to the front door. Still wearing my pajamas even though it was noon, I covered myself with a robe. When I opened the door the taller of the two men held up a silver badge.

    “Danny,” I said.

    I found myself backing into the bathroom to the left of me after he blurted out his message. “Daniel XXXXX is deceased.” He sounded like a recording.

    I didn’t scream. I didn’t faint. Hysteria didn’t happen as it did when an actor in a movie on TV is informed that her child is dead and she falls to her knees and screams a blood-curdling scream that seems to resound for a whole minute. It didn’t hit me as I thought it would when I thought Danny would die; when I imagined it so many times. I was sure if he died I would scream until I went blank. Instead, my mind was colliding with what the man said and it resisted the temptation to believe his words.

    He didn’t tell me that Danny died in a drunken driving accident or he was shot. He didn’t’ tell me that he killed a few children with his car, then it rolled over and burst into flames or that someone bashed his skull in at a bar with a pool stick. He didn’t tell me that he died in the hospital from diabetes complications.

    He told me Danny killed himself.

    Hold on a minute, I thought, “I have to say something that will make this guy change his mind. Danny isn’t dead.”

    I found myself leading the two men down the hallway as they asked for his father’s phone number. I remember searching for it in my phone book then walking away from the counter. I had to keep moving as I talked with the two men about Danny. I don’t remember everything I said. We ended up in the family room and I was showing them his framed picture on the wall alongside my other three children. “That’s him! “That’s Danny.” I said confidently, as if to convince them he was alive. They looked at me then lowered their eyes. Then I said it again. “That’s him! That’s Danny! He is right here! See him?” I wanted them to say, “Oh we are so sorry, that is not the young man we found dead, it’s all a big mistake! That is not him!”

    They gave me a detailed account of his death—the time, the place, the testimony of witnesses who were with him the night before. They told me he had been visiting Ray, an older man he had befriended while he was living off campus when he was in college. Ray was a heavy drinker and often partied with the college students in his home. He remained friends with Ray in his older years. Danny arrived there upset and drunk. Jimmy, his best friend for 20 years had run off with Danny’s wife and little two year old daughter Kayla a year before. Because of this, he became bitter and confused then he relapsed after sobering up in a rehab center. Though he appeared to have gotten over it, he wasn’t the same. At first, he was shocked and angry then depressed; his main reason for moving to Florida.

    When he returned to Rhode Island, more than a year later, he said he accepted it. When the police detectives spoke with me that morning, I knew he had not.

    The older teacher had gone to bed that night, leaving Danny in the company of the borders who lived there. He left the kitchen table before Danny wrote a suicide note and injected two full vials of insulin into his leg. Danny was a diabetic. He was only in need of 80 units, which didn’t completely fill one vial. Within a short time he became combative then lethargic and drowsy. The other people in the house placed Danny on an air mattress in a back room because they thought he was drunk. They continued to party.

    They claimed tot he policeman who took the report, they knew he was a juvenile diabetic but said they didn’t realize he was injecting more insulin than he needed—even though Danny had talked about dying just before injecting himself.

    He had scribbled the words, “New York” in the margin of his suicide note, along with the telephone number of a local treatment center. The note he left simply told us all that he loved us and said goodbye.

    911 had happened two months before. It made him sad. He talked to me several times about going there to help. “We can go set up a stand and feed the firemen.” I didn't think about the coincidence—it was now 11/9.

    Early the next morning his friends couldn’t wake him. They called the rescue squad and he was pronounced dead. He death was ruled a suicide.

    I remember telling the two detectives that I was sorry they had to tell me the news. “That must have been hard for you to do,” Then took their hands in mine and patted them apologetically.

    I called my husband at his office. I was calm. “We lost Danny, I said in a flat voice. He yelled, “What did you say?” I repeated my words and told him, “The police came. They just left and they told me Danny died last night.”

    He told me he was on his way and would tell Richie, my younger son who worked in his office; I called my daughters and gave them the same message. I didn’t panic or cry and was very concerned about them driving to my house alone. I asked them to call their husbands or a friend to drive them there.

    In less then an hour they were all standing in my kitchen in shock. I have no memory of what I did while I waited for them. When they arrived they all hugged me and none of us were ready to believe that Danny was not alive anymore.

  2. #2
    Patrick Edwards

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    Hey, Jo

    I must be honest here (though maybe it's just me): I am completely lost. I did read through the first couple of paragraphs, but I still can't find a proper rhythm. But, like I said, it could be just that it's the end of the day and I'm tired or something. I look forward to hearing from others (as I'm sure you are).

  3. #3
    Jo Mazz

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    Patrick thank you. I believe you when you say it has no rhythm. Actually that incident is nothing short of an acid bath. It needs a complete overhaul to describe it. It took a few years to write 300 pages and will take another few to write it right; I'm sure.

    Everything here helps.

    Thanks again

  4. #4

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    Do you have access to a memoir writing class where you live? It might really help you with the process.

    This rewrite rambles. The past, the present, the past, it's hard to keep track of where we are. Men are at the door - then they're not - then they are again.

    You're obviously very sincere, and still struggling with your pain. But you can't write what basically reads like a series of random diary entries and expect readers to follow it. We need a little structure.

    Read the entire thing aloud. That may help you hear what to leave in, move around, or delete.

  5. #5
    Jo Mazz

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    Thanks Leslee.. I'm too old for a writing class. I just told it like I talk. I'll probably never be published but it's interesting to see the reactions to my lack of writing skill. I'll keep reading and one day I may be able to compose the truth I can't invent.

    I might take out Danny's history and stick with the events of that day. I'm not struggling with the pain any anymore. I'm struggling with the telling of it. I'm doing well, thank you.


  6. #6
    Kitty Foyle

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    I just took a quick look at this, Jo.

    Might this be a better beginning?

    It was November 9, 2001. The two well-dressed men approached our side door and rang the bell. I watched them from the window near my desk. Jehovah’s Witnesses or salesmen, I thought to myself. I wondered why they hadn’t come to the front door. Still wearing my pajamas even though it was noon, I covered myself with a robe. When I opened the door the taller of the two men held up a silver badge.

    And then do your thing from there.

    (It can be a great release just let it all out...even if your memoir never gets published. Keep at it.)


  7. #7
    Sergei Sheinin

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    that's good stuff. i stopped a few paragraphs before the end, right after the word "danny" became a wee-bit repetitive. i think you should fix that in some points, for i believe it may begin sounding corny if people are used to reading novels. you had it prop. going earlier tho. anyway, i think that the editor may be squeamish at publishing so much emotion in the main stream. un-happy-snappy for a happy-snappy world, like.

  8. #8
    Jo Mazz

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    Thank you Kitty.

    GOOD GOOD GOOD. I'll keep that if you don't mind.


  9. #9
    Jo Mazz

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.

    Serqei Thank you.

    I hear you about the happy snappy. Some are repelled by sad book contents, and others attracted to it. I guess you wouldn't be interested in, The Year of Magical Thinking. I hate mysteries, it's alright. It's all good. Danny is repetitive, I agree.

    Thank you again,

  10. #10
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: I wrote a book. I need a clue.


    I agree with Leslee that your excerpt lacks focus, but the writing itself is pretty solid. Certainly better than a lot of what people post on here. I also agree with her recommendation to look for a class on writing the memoir.

    I've taught memoir-writing classes, and some of my students were in their 80s, so you're NOT too old.

    As a woman *cough* of a certain age, I don't believe you are ever too old to learn something new. In fact, I've gone back to grad school to get my MFA in Writing.

    Your problem here is the shifts back and forth in time. You're trying to tell us Danny's history and keep us in the dramatic moment when you first learned of his suicide. It's forcing the reader to think about too many different things, as well as making rapid shifts in emotional content. The scene really does start when they arrive at the door. Kitty did a nice job there.

    I have a worksheet that discusses the different ways you can organize your memoir, but it's too long to post here. I've also got a list of memoirs I recommend my students read so that they can get a better sense of the genre. If you'd like a copy of either of those handouts, just send me a PM.

    If you're serious about writing this book, do consider enrolling in a memoir writing class. It may be painful to share your story with others in a class, but it will help you organize your thoughts and frame your story. And do read some books on writing the genre. One of the best books out there on the subject is called Your Life as Story, by Tristine Rainer. You should be able to find it on Amazon.

    Do you know about Compassionate Friends? It's an international support group for parents who have lost children--of any age. Google them to find a chapter near you. Many of them have separate groups for parents of a child who committed suicide.

    My best to you. Good luck.

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