Road to Publication: When the Memoir Goes Meta

What do I mean by a memoir going “meta”? When the book itself is part of the story, and when the process of bringing the book to publication is also the story. (Teaser: I’m going to ask you to vote on a part of my upcoming memoir’s cover.)

A self-portrait of my photographer daughter Marisa Ross shortly after she suffered a concussion her freshman year at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Click on this photo to see more of her work.
A self-portrait of my photographer daughter Marisa. Click on this photo to see more of her work.

Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road tells the story of a frustrated creative who has abandoned his muse. As the reader accompanies the narrator’s journey across the United States while he interviews creatives of all stripes, the reader sees the narrator struggling with the hidden reasons he no longer creates. One of the interview subjects early on in the book suggests that the narrator write a book about his trip. Because the book is written in the present tense, the reader knows something the narrator doesn’t; a book will in fact be written.

In that section of the book the narrator is accompanied by his  daughter Marisa, at the time a sullen fifteen-year-old girl with artistic aspirations as a photographer and emotional issues related to family conflict. As it happens, Marisa is the artist I have recruited to take the author photo for the book cover for Committed. Thus a “meta” element I refer to here, namely that the reader knows when meeting Marisa in the book that her photography will one day appear on a dust jacket.

Now I’d like to invite you to vote on the photo we’ll use for the book. There are three pre-final proofs (no touch-up work) to choose from on my Facebook author page. Let me know what you think!

4 thoughts on “Road to Publication: When the Memoir Goes Meta

  1. pjreece

    Interesting… this meta business. I’m experimenting with something similar, except the trip I’m on is fictional. I’m at the point in the journey where I have serious doubts about my ability to finish the “book.” Since I make myself a protagonist in this fiction, I reckon I must have a “writer” making my life miserable. Damned if she isn’t on the riverboat as well. I’d throw her overboard, but then what would happen to “me”? So I abandon ship, thinking I’ve taken my life in my own hands, but that’s just how it appears. This meta stuff can mess your mind. Btw… Patrick, you might think of rendering your photo in b&w. More “authorial.” Maybe.


    1. PJ, love the black and white image. I’m going to talk with Marisa about that.

      As to throwing the character in your man vs. (wo)man conflict overboard, in nonfiction I have to stick with what transpired. However, I (and many others) would argue that when writing about real people, we’re pretty much throwing them overboard any time we reveal a truth about them they’d rather not have revealed. I think I’m guilty of a lot of overboard-throwing in this book (is there a word for throwing someone overboard like there is for throwing someone out a window, i.e., defenestration?).


  2. The more I hear about this memoir, Patrick, the more excited I am about reading it. The meta approach is intriguing, and definitely lifts it above the ‘average’ memoir out there (if such a term could be applied to a memoir 😉 )

    I’ll admit I’m with PJ on the black and white idea. In fact, I love the self-portrait of Marisa (I can see the family resemblance) and – if this isn’t too brazen of me – would like to suggest that maybe a portrait of you done in a similar style would make a great book cover.

    Oh, and as for a term for throwing someone overboard… my dad was a naval man for some thirty-odd years, and in naval slang the closest thing would probably be ‘ditching Oscar.’ ‘Ditching’ is naval slang for ‘throw away,’ and ‘Oscar’ is the name given to the dummy used in practice drills for the man overboard scenario (because when a man’s overboard the ‘O’ flag is hoisted; O for Oscar in the phonetic alphabet and O for overboard.) Hopefully you’re not sorry you asked now… 😉


    1. Wendy, I love your enthusiasm for the book! I also love your input on the photo. I’m leaning now toward b&w. And I really love the ‘ditching Oscar’ expression. I could have used that in my MFA critical thesis, which was on the topic of selling out people in our lives when writing about them (inspired by a Joan Didion quote).


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