Saturday, August 25, 2012

Meeting a Murderer

I wrote this a few weeks ago:

Sometimes writing it like being lost.  Not turned around or momentarily confused.  It is like being seriously, frighteningly lost, uncertain of which is way is up, how to get out, how far or how deep or wide the thing is that I’m inside of.  Sentences don’t do this to me, although, a paragraph has been known to leave me stumped.  A chapter can definitely make me feel lost.  Sometimes, however, I am lost in an entire book.  What once seemed like the perfect layout now feels sophomoric.  The story itself can start to feel thin and pointless.

When I’m lost I’m usually also exhausted, physically and mentally.  I can’t remember why I started and I just want to stop.  For lots of reasons, I can’t.  

At some point, I’ll usually remember the last time that I was lost, and the time before that, and the time before that.  With relief, I’ll recall that each time I was lost before I didn’t find my way out, the way out found me.  Sometimes a person will make a comment in passing about the weather or life in general and I’ll realize that their statement is the answer to my writing challenge.  Sometimes someone will read my work and make a simple statement that changes everything.  Other times, I just wake up one morning and know what needs to be done.

Today, I am lost and tired.  1% of my brain knows that it won’t last.  Change is on the horizon and I will find a way out.  99% of my brain is convinced that there is no way out.  Like being locked in a coffin I am anxious, sweating, desperate, and unable to remain calm.  I want to move, act, talk, eat, change my clothes, anything, I just have to keep going because the weight of being lost is heaviest when I am still and silent. 

I am fried and late and lost. 

I wrote the above piece because the ending of my book was lame.  In the first half of my book I learn about my grandfather and all about Greenwood, and then the second half  of the book is about me trying to uncover the story of his murder.  Then the book switches gears and sort of ends.  In the final chapter I write my theory about the murder and talk about how I’ll continue to research it.  Blah, blah, blah.  

Last year I was supposed to go visit Cork, the man who murdered my grandfather (I think).  I chickened out.  Read this and this.  Recently though, out of the fog of confusion I've felt about the ending to my book I realized something.

My book is unfinished because the story is unfinished.

In an excel file I have a list of chapters and the other day I added a new one called “Meeting a Murderer,” then I put a certified letter in the mail to Cork, asking him if I can meet with him.

Part of me doesn’t want to meet him because Cork may say or do something that marks the end of the road.  It's like I've been racing down a freeway that doesn't have a speed limit and meeting Cork is a brick wall falling into my path.  My work to understand my grandfather’s life and the murky circumstances surrounding his death may stop on a dime with the words of a man who could be insane.  Was he hired?  Did he do it for no reason or the oldest reason?  All of my questions might get answered when I sit across from a murderer.

But pushing that meeting off into infinity is not fair to the readers who will follow my quest.  It’s also not fair to Booker Wright.

In October I'm traveling to Mississippi and, if Cork agrees to it, I am meeting with a murderer.  Typing that feels profound.  I’m setting my plans in stone and this time, I will not turn back.  


  1. This is a brave move and a moving end to an incredible story. You are a strong woman. If anyone can find the power in this situation it is you. Good luck!

  2. Jacqueline Jordan HarrisAugust 28, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    I always wondered if you were going to change your mind about meeting him.. I'm glad you did.