In a memorial for Irving Warner, who passed away Jan 10, 2024, someone mentioned a one time autobiographical blog post: I share it here in case that website disappears.
I write my autobiography because I have been informed by various people that “.. I’ve had an interesting life.” I am 80 years old now, and despite spewing out hundreds of thousands of words (Yes, most unpublished and/or failed creative efforts) I have avoided autobiographical writing, save for very short pieces. I am a storyteller, and my venue is fiction: I have written most types of fiction—in earlier days with great confidence of getting published and perhaps enjoying the life of a professional writer with the subsequent reputation—good, bad or indifferent.
Well, after a solid half-century plus of trying, it never happened, and for most, that is the usual outcome. But, I’m guessing I’m one of the most prolific of ‘unsuccessful’ writers around. I’ve had published seven books, all fiction. As I am fond of saying, “All of them rocketed into the single digits (of sales) immediately upon release.”
Little old ladies (LOLs!) on the backside of Mississippi bayous publishing cookbooks on such topics as the preparation of snake stews and/or making snapping turtle broth sold more books than I ever have in a lifetime. So, the big “Ha, Ha” is on me, it would seem. But, I have had my ‘innings’, made some thousands of dollars at rare intervals—that included winning national, state and even one international prize. But today, all those prizes and 20 dollars would buy me a latte and a poppyseed muffin in Seattle or San Francisco.
Like my long-deceased black lab Max, when I pulled him out of another losing fight, despite being bruised, torn, I look back and say, “Let me back in there! This time I’ll whip their ass.” To Max, the fight itself was victory.
All my chops as a writer were developed writing mostly fiction. One of the reasons I wrote only a few autobiographical material, is because I would have to let many fiction skills fall behind me. I’ve read autobiographies by some very good writers, that informed me and all my instincts as a storyteller, that there was embellishing going on in this particular passage. I however believe that autobiographical writing must be true, not generally the truth but generally and specifically.
Storytellers don’t deal with the truth, they must deal with telling a story, and keeping the attention and interest of the audience. For instance realism in literature is certainly part of things but a storyteller embroiders into this ‘truth’ storytelling techniques to make it far more interesting, clear and even vivid. This is the very soul of writing fiction. In my view, fiction relates to impressionism as love does to touch.
Of course I’m going to be using some storytelling techniques to write this autobiography. I will not, however, be doing any embellishments of the people, places or incidents that involved me. This goes against my instincts as a storyteller, but it is going to have to be kept truthful for the sake of this narrative history. Therefore what you are read that follows, is the truth as best as I can remember it. So I declare here that working from memory even notes and journals, I shall keep everything as truthful as I can; because the truth is generally not as interesting or flattering as an embellishment or a fictional situation.
I will be writing this autobiography in chronological order; I shall begin with the 1940s, go into the 1950s, and so follows. Clearly the 1940s from some of my memories are very vague, but I shall actually state that where I write them. Memory is a very tricky thing; eyewitness accounts are notorious for their inaccuracy. Everything herein will be essentially an eyewitness account. It follows then, that the accuracy will suffer somewhat. I hope to make that a minimum and for you to read this autobiography in the nature in which it is written: To pass on my 80 years in the most frank an unvarnished way possible. So, we both shall be learning together. Many times, damn my soul, I’ve told snippets of my life stories to friends and loved ones and embellished a bit, knowing I was doing so.
I passed over it as, “Well, it was essentially the truth.” At the time I figured this was my primary responsibility, but I won’t be doing that in this work, and this is going to be very tough for me.
I have been extraordinarily lucky to live 80 years. I had a brother Douglas who died when he was 12; poor Doug was denied nearly all his years where he could have enjoyed life on this planet. Hence, I dedicate this autobiography to Douglas Warner, my brother; my Main Man On the Dock, (MMOTD).