After reading Jeanne Darst’s entertaining memoir, Fiction Ruined My Family, I can’t argue with her assessment, but I wonder if it had to be that way. Her father was a newspaper reporter who’d had some success publishing magazine articles. He gave up regular day work to become a novelist, and managed to crank out two full-length books. Both were rejected by the publishers of his choice. He never considered revising the novels to suit his chosen publishers, or submitting them to a wider range of markets. Instead he worked a series of temporary jobs that failed to keep his wife in the manner to which she’d been accustomed in her aristocratic youth. She became a bitter alcoholic, and their four daughters had to largely fend for themselves.

It makes me wonder: if self-publishing had been a viable option at the time, would Jeanne’s father have considered it? He seems to have had a generally optimistic outlook on life, a love for all kinds of literature, and the dynamic intellect necessary to promote his own work. But self-publishing requires a certain lowering of expectations that was probably beyond him, considering he couldn’t swallow his pride enough even to revise his work.

The memoir is humorously written, but has elements of tragedy. We see how an endeavor that should be joyous and entertaining can ruin an individual and even a family. Jeanne managed to redeem her own story, despite a broken marriage of her own. She has written and performed solo plays while raising a young son and conquering her own alcoholism. One possible moral to take from all this is that fiction can be fun … as long as we don’t expect to get rich from it.

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