I've never said so in so many words on the blog, but I'm now an ex-New Yorker, having relocated to my home state of California over the summer. It feels especially strange, not "being there" this weekend, even though when I was there I usually just put my head down and tried not to think about it too much.
I'm not going to say much about the Big Anniversary that's coming up, in part because it's hard to imagine I could say anything here that would usefully contribute to the media glut that's been underway for what feels like ten years already. Suffice it to say, I have my own "where were you" story, just like everyone else, and just like everyone else, I have my own complicated relationship to the anniversary's observance.
This morning I was filling out a bio/questionnaire for a writer's conference I'll speak at this fall, and there was a section in this questionnaire for me to write down any special preferences I have. I never quite know what to write for that sort of thing: too vague and I come across as wishy-washy, too precise and I sound like a terrible curmudgeon. I successfully fought the urge to write "no [you-know-what] stories," but it got me thinking about who "owns" a given narrative, and why.
If it literally happened to you, of course you have the right to write about it. If your experience was featured in People Magazine, you'll probably get a book deal out of it, complete with possibly-optional ghost writer.
But what about the all the (in)famous Law & Order episodes "ripped from the headlines?" Why does true crime, or lightly fictionalized versions thereof, always feel so tawdry? Why is it even more grotesque when the writer tries to claim a tangential, minor, over-eager relationship to the events being described?
Who owns a story? How do you tell a story that you're not sure is yours to tell?