Grief and publishing

So, I’m in a magazine. And that is completely amazing.

It’s what I’ve been working toward and what I’ve secretly wanted since I was a kid. Even better, it’s in a magazine that I respect (despite my non-religiosity). So I’m excited, and grateful, and proud of myself (but not to worry, still completely critical).

But I’m also filled with some conflicting emotions.

The piece, which I started writing very shortly after my friend Tiina died in January, is about how I dealt with the online reminders that appeared almost immediately after her death.

I started to write it to organize my thoughts and to expel some of the horrid feelings I had. When I did, I felt powerful. I felt in control of my feelings.  I also realized I was on to something — if I was having this problem, surely others were too.

But I put it down for many months until I came across a call for pitches for Geez Magazine – a fantastic, ad-free quarterly out of Winnipeg. They were looking for articles about technology intersecting with people’s lives. It fit.

So long story short, I pitched a version of my article (with some additions including interviews), it got accepted, and I was off to work to write the most important thing in my career. My first.

But writing about the death of a friend isn’t easy.  I was filled with conflicting feelings of pride and guilt.

It was no longer just about processing my thoughts. Suddenly, it became an artifact.  I was manipulating words into the best possible pattern and inserting punctuation to emphasize emotion with the most impact — an important process as a writer, but weird as a person.  I was worried I’d lose my friend’s memory on the page.

That’s not to say it wasn’t sincere. Every word, and every feeling was true. And when I stop worrying about the structure of the writing and sit and remember my friend, my heart breaks all over again.

It’s been 11 months since Tiina died. I feel calmer now – though I still can’t bring myself to visit Victoria –and I’m glad that my memory of this big occasion will also remind me of my friend. I can’t help but feel guilty about profiting (ever so slightly) with a story about so much sadness, but I’d like to think she’d be okay with it. I hope I’m right.

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2 thoughts on “Grief and publishing

  1. Inspiration comes from many different places all the time. I don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about for writing about the death of your friend.

    You are right to feel if you felt a way about something, surely others are too.

    I’ve used friends and family as the basis for many pieces I’ve written over the years. When writing about the living, I’ve learned it’s important to give them a heads up. But after they’ve died, then I feel like I’m expressing how I feel, not broadcasting their death to the world.

    Would you have written that story if Tina hadn’t of died? Likely not. But as you said you flushed it out and made it less about you, more about the subject. By making it less about you, you also made it less about Tina.

    You done good, Lizz.

  2. Congratulations, Lizz!

    So you’ve wanted to be published since you were a kid. Now you’ve achieved that goal. That’s wonderful!

    ‘Geez’ sounds like a fascinating maagzine. I like their subscription solicitation that says, “Support Geez and get four issues of inspiration and education for people at the fringes of faith….”

    Can you send me a copy of your article in some electronic format? If not, I’ll check to see if it’s sold at Mac’s Fireweed Books.

    By the way, I agree with the comment by Sarah Millar. You are not exploiting Tiina by writing about how you responded to her death.

    Grief is a complex matter, as I know you know. Many in our society have little experience with grief and do not talk about it. People need permission, it seems, to talk about their feelings, and your example has opened the window for others a crack to let the sunshine in.

    Love, Dad

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