We're off to the No Tell Books launch party this evening to party with the poets. Watch this space for a full report.
For those in the Atlanta area, don't miss our favorite artist, Elizabeth Osborne as she unveils her amazing work at San Francisco Coffee (664 N. Highland Avenue NE). The show will be up for all of December with an opening reception tonight from 8 to 10. If anyone is looking for the perfect holiday gift for the Happy Booker, anything from this show would fill the bill.
Over at The Writer's Center this Sunday don't miss visiting author Katherine Min as she reads from her new novel Secondhand World. She is joined by Veronica Li, who will read from Journey Across The Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home. This free event will take place from 2 to 4pm and will be followed by a reception and book signing.
Author Katherine Min as kind enough to stop by the blog today to share her happy thoughts on book tours. Secondhand World is Min's debut novel. Her short stories have been widely published, performed, and anthologized, most notably in The Pushcart Book of Stories and NPR's Selected Shorts. Her reading this weekend at The Writers Center marks the end of her official two-month book tour. Come on out and help her celebrate but don't ask the following questions...
REALITY BITES: NOTES FROM MY BOOK TOUR by Katharine Min
Forget royalties. Just give me a dollar every time someone asks, "How much of your novel is autobiographical?" I never know how to answer this question, and its variants: "Did you write from your own life?" "How much of this is true?" and "Did you really have a three-way with an albino?"
The short answer is simple. No, my childhood home did not burn down; my parents are still very much alive; I'm not horribly disfigured; and -- reluctantly, I disclose -- I've never engaged in a menage a trois.
The truer answer is, of course, much more complicated.
Fiction is an alchemical process that even the writer, if she's being honest, doesn't fully understand or control. In my case, I started with a Korean American girl growing up in upstate New York who rebels against her immigrant parents. Her father is a physics professor. She has a brother who dies. This is autobiography. Then I added an albino rock star boyfriend, a bad poet, eye surgery, and a fire. Where did these elements come from? Things I read about, conversations I eavesdropped on, stories my friends told me... The writer's imagination can be fired by such scant kindling. You start to write and discover how all the pieces fit together. And once you've pieced them together, the result becomes wholly fictional.
But we live in an age that is strangely obsessed with reality -- an Oprah-Jerry Springer - Survivor -Big Brother world in which we stare in fascination at "real" people making spectacles of themselves. Fiction seems lesser, somehow, imagination dismissed as some dim approximation of reality, shameful kin to delusion and mental illness. "He made it up!" we say, when James Frey embellished his memoir -- the issue quickly becoming not that he broke trust with the reader, but that he is somehow trying to pawn off defective goods. Never mind that memory itself is a kind of fiction. We demand only the facts.
But one of the fabulously paradoxical things about fiction is how much closer to the emotional truth you can get through a well-conceived story, some complex, three-dimensional characters, and a strong sense of narrative. My novel contains truths I could never have gotten to by any other path, and I certainly couldn't have articulated them another way.
Fiction is the elegant lie that leads to the truth, I tell my students. So, in answer to the question, how much of my novel really happened? I say, "Did you believe it?" Because if you believed it, then it all did. It happened because I made it happen. It's all there, on the page. I come to fiction from the premise that reality isn't so great. Reality is what we're stuck with. Fiction is compelling precisely because it takes us beyond what is merely real. Ultimately, not the elegant lie that leads to the truth, but the elegant lie that contains truth.