Artistic Death at A Funeral

As I wrapped up my stay at the RT Booklovers’ Convention in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, I was given a great piece of advice by fellow author, Sheila English, in regards to my efforts in marketing myself as a writer. “Get your own domain name,” she said as we walked toward our meeting spot for the St. Louis #1 Cemetery Tour. “What you have now is okay, but you need something with your name on it. You can keep the paperback one, but have it direct to your name. That’s what publishers want to see.”

So, here we are. If you look at your address bar you will notice you are now visiting http://WendyCWilliford.com. I’m a dot com! Celebrate with a glass of wine. So what if it’s barely mid-morning. I’m sure you’ve done something to deserve it already.

A few days after I came back from New Orleans, some bad news made its way to my mother. One of her cousins had passed away from cancer. Unfortunately I didn’t know this particular cousin very well, had maybe only met her once or twice as a child, but I knew her from several of the stories my mom had told me over the years. Being that the funeral was only about a 45 minute drive from me, I offered to go with my mom. She declined me attending the funeral with her, knowing that I didn’t remember this cousin very well, but asked me to meet her at her cousin’s house afterward for the after funeral lunch. I’m not sure if this is the thing in the north or even in other countries, but here in the south, after a funeral we have a potluck at the house of the deceased. And it’s not this catered nonsense either (unless you count the 50 count box of chicken from Church’s Chicken catering). Nope, everyone brings a covered dish and enough of it so that the grieving widower doesn’t have to cook for himself for the next month. I weighed the implications of just showing up for the lunch. You can call me many things, but never call me tacky. I asked my mom if it would look rude for someone just to show up for lunch and she assured me I would be okay. Afterall, several of my other aunts would be there and a couple of same-age cousins that I hadn’t seen in a long time. You can call me many things, but never call me late for dinner. So I agreed. I made sure I had something other than blue jeans to wear and drove the 45 minutes to Cleveland, TX for after-funeral (which I didn’t attend) lunch with my mom.

I get there just as everyone is arriving, many faces I’ve never laid eyes on in my life. Sometimes I’m horrible in unknown crowds. Even worse when it’s family. Being in a crowd of complete strangers I can always fake it pretty good. I can read a book, write something, listen to music, play candy crush and keep myself generally amused. When it comes to family, you actually have to make an effort to get to know people. Blood ties won’t let you sit back and be a wall flower. I’m an introvert in a family of southern Baptists extroverts. Sometimes it’s very hard to breathe in situations like this, but I do my best. As I said, a few of my aunts were there that could fall back on and sit by that don’t necessarily force me to talk.

After a few rounds of food, I’m walking through the living room with my mom and she starts introducing me to some important members of the family, (mainly the preachers) and I would like to add these are the relatives I’ve known all my life. For whatever reason my mom was convinced I didn’t know any of them. I assured her I did, especially the preacher-cousin who conducted the service at my dad’s funeral. I have a great memory, which my mom routinely forgets. Anyway, she begins to introduce me and says, “This is my daughter, Wendy. She’s trying to be a writer.”

I’m not sure what look flashed across my face at that moment: sarcastic, sardonic, odd eyebrow-furled disbelief, but the words “Et tu, Brute” definitely flashed across my mind. I’ve had great accomplishments over the last year – fifteen publications and a book in the top 100 of its genre on Amazon. I’m not trying to be anything. I am. But I played it cool. After all, she’s my mother. We’re at a funeral. One does not make a scene.
“I AM a writer, mom,” I say.

She laughs. Not a “forgive my blunder” laugh, but the “oh, yes, whatever you say” laugh. “Yes, sorry, this is my daughter, the writer,” she corrects herself.

And that’s pretty much where I want to leave the scene. I’m not here to bash my mom. My mom is one of the three most import people in my life; my husband and my brother being the other two. I get it that she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand the writing thing. I don’t think she ever has. I’ve only been doing it since I was 8 years old, but she doesn’t get it that it’s who I am. She views talent in a different way. She views talent on a person’s ability to pick up a musical instrument or sing a church song. Visual and literary art, she has trouble seeing on the same scale. I’m reminded when I told her about my first magazine publication of a short story, she asked if the mag was something like “Better Homes & Gardens” magazine. Er, not quite. My mom rarely reads my stuff. And I get that too. I write very differently than what she reads. She’s a true crime/biography type of reader. I’m a very wordy lit-fic short story writer. If she goes for fiction, she goes for non-threatening, non-graphic stories. I question religious dogma and kill babies in my stories. Several years ago I tried to get her to read my screenplay. I don’t think she made it past the 5th page when all of a sudden “blowjob” appeared in the dialogue. Literary style wise, I’m not my mother’s cup of tea. And I don’t hold a grudge against her for that. My brother plays guitar and I don’t go out of my way to listen to his stuff. He plays death metal and his vocals are nothing but screaming, to put it kindly. I’m more of a classic rock type of girl. I am supportive, nonetheless.

FCMSo, we get through the funeral lunch and I bid my mother adieu. As we’re walking back to her car, I give out several book flats to my mom and aunts, with extras to give to the cousins. I wouldn’t have dared do this at the funeral lunch. Like I said, you can call me many things, never call me tacky! I point out to my mother that the book is only available for download. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have an eBook reader. That might be my Christmas present to her. But, that’s another thing she doesn’t “get”: electronic books. It’s not that my mother is that old, it’s just different. And I don’t think she every really knew how to handle a child that was different.

Was this depressing enough for you? It wasn’t intended to be. But that’s the rambling thoughts I had in the bath this morning. Artistic expression and parents not understanding the art you’ve chosen kinda filled my thoughts this morning. It reminds me when Aerosmith were inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of fame about 12 years ago. Tom Hamilton humbly accepted his induction and stated to the crowd: “Mom, I haven’t forgotten my promise. When I get this out of my system, I’ll go back to dental school.” I have a feeling Tom’s mom is still waiting.

In the meantime, I wanted to take a moment to talk about my newest publication. Happily enough, when I came back from New Orleans, I found in my mailbox my contributor’s copy of Floyd County Moonshine, featuring my non-fiction story, “Toward The Light”. This one has appeared online before in Gravel Online Journal, but this is the first time it’s been published in print, so it makes me happy to see it getting out to new readers again. I’m proud of all my work, no matter the format it’s presented in. If you have a chance, look at their website. If you want to experience new writers, poets and some great non-fic, buy a copy and support your struggling artists. When I get this out of my system, maybe I’ll go to dental school.

Cheers and Sláinte!

Wendy

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