Yesterday I exchanged a few emails with Ben Evans from Fogged Clarity arts journal. He suggested revisions for “Lena’s Trip Home” and the revisions led to some minor changes. The biggest change was the last line. The original last line was Lena yelling “Bullshit!” and I originally thought they wanted to lose the curse word. D helped me to understand the line gave the character Lena a more active voice–losing her silence and maybe the silence most women display in literature. The story now ends with Lena watching Felipa. A less ambiguous ending since this again priginally was a chapter from Monte stories and now feels less reliant on the next chapter or chapters and gives it a more self contained feel.
These emails led to an exchange of emails from me and D debating that revision:
D: I think it’s okay, but it’s not the story you were telling–the story you were telling was about a woman who was confused and torn–sensitive enough to understand what’s going on with Felipa and stunned or hardened enough to go through with it anyway. I loved your last line, and the story uses the words “shit” and “bullshitted” in it already, so it’s not the cursing they’re objecting to. They are, in essence, silencing your character–Lena. They’re silencing her, and she’s not the silent type, and that makes me mad, because it’s as though they are forcing her into some image of “a mother” that she is not. Maybe that’s over-dramatic, but that’s how I feel. The story they are telling is of a woman who is silenced by another woman’s pain. Lena is not that woman. She CAN”T be and take the baby.
Me: Now I am rethinking the whole thing which is good I guess. Jeri just wants her home to take care of him. ANd Jeri is a drunk and is not the best father. SHe kind of worries baout that too in other sections of Monte Stories. And I think he even tells her in an earlier section not to get a baby because it will Hills Like WHite Elaphants up the relationship you know what I mean. Anyway the Jefe is doing what’s best for him and so is Lena I think. She is a lot like the Jefe. She is actively going away from Jeri–and maybe he should not know she is gone that might heighten it a bit. I thought that was a bit more clear in their phone call but could be less subtle.
I’ve read about Salinger and his editor arguing over the content. Lee Abbott used to tell me about arguing over lines. He loved one sentence paragraphs and his editor hated them he would tell me. I just don’t have strong opinions. I still think I am finding the story and the characters. I don’t think they were making it a different story. I do think the edits should serve the story. And in my head Lena is a part monster and part saving kind of a person. She saves Bruna but can’t save herself. She wants the baby and gets the baby and that is it. I think the edit serves the story and no one will read it if I don’t get it out there. And the real Lena didn’t leave Jeri–he left her. The real Lena never got a driver’s license. Cordelia and all her strength let Paul walk all over her. It was the 40s and 50s and the reality was different unfortunately. In a way your mother got a divorce and Lena never married Jeri or married Louis or nothing. The only thing she did in her life was to leave San Luis–and that was because she got married. I’m rambling…
D: This is very good and I agree with you. I think it’s interesting particularly because when you think about it, your stories (well, for every writer and every reader really) stories serve multiple purposes, don’t they? You make the character that you want and that serves your ideologies the most or that challenges them the most. We read for bibliotherapy sometimes and sometimes we read for a new outlook. I think the fact that Lena is “part monster/part savior” is apparent. I agree for now, just get the story out there, and when it goes into your book and the whole ms is getting out there, you can change/tweak to adapt to the shape that Lena takes for you then and that fits the entire ms then.
Oh and then I got this email:
Thank you for your submission to Black Lawrence Press.
Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish your manuscript. Please
know that we afford careful consideration to every manuscript that we
receive. However, we can only accept a few titles for publication each year.
I wish you luck in finding a publisher for your manuscript.
Executive Editor, Black Lawrence Press