The young man who would become a knight is usually sent off on a quest to prove his worthiness: kill a dragon, rescue a princess, or some such business.
The person who would write a memoir also has to pass several tests: attend workshops or courses, pitch an agent, write a dazzling book proposal.
I enrolled in a “memoir boot camp” as a step in my quest to become a published memoirist.
This boot camp presented six tests to the aspiring writer:
- Pay $410,
- Park on a sketchy street in downtown LA, first emptying one’s car of all bags and supplies that might entice anyone to break in, and also obeying various no-parking signs,
- Figure out the buzz-in intercom system and persist until someone answers,
- Climb a three-story outdoor steel staircase with breezes wafting between each step and with all steps and landings made of an open lattice like a chain link fence,
- Take your shoes off at the door, with folded chairs leaning against the wall as your only aid to balance; then walk across the wide hardwood floor (tricky for those who wear arch supports or slippery socks),
- Agree to be one of the “guys” assembled.
I passed the first five tests but failed the last one.
Happy at having overcome so many challenges, I took my place in the circle of chairs, munching the snacks provided and thinking I had made it.
Then the teacher spoke to the seven women present. “Welcome! I want you guys to feel comfortable—”
I sat there feeling uncomfortable, considering whether to speak or to let it pass, once again.
Unaware that this greeting was a test of worthiness, I decided to speak up. “I’m not a guy,” I said firmly.
BZZZZT. I could almost hear the wrong-answer buzzer zap my ears. The instructor looked at me intently, said the you-guysing would continue, and warned “We need to have an atmosphere of acceptance and trust in this class.”
“Well, I don’t feel comfortable being addressed that way,” I said.
That answer earned me a quick dismissal from the group. Back across the hardwood floor in my slippery nylons, back down the scary metal stairway, out the gate, and safely to my unticketed car.
Consolation prize: my money was refunded.
Having been booted out of memoir boot camp, my quest to become a successful memoirist has taken a setback.
But I am undaunted. Like Sir Percival, I will journey on through perils and darkening woods in hope of someday kneeling before a publishing king.