With the recent passing of Maya Angelou, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes of hers: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Like many women, I discovered her when she was assigned to me in school and then drank endlessly from her fountain of wisdom at different times throughout my life. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a seminal work for young women because, among other things, it gives them permission to live our lives and tell our stories. And though we may learn to live our lives or tell our stories without waiting for permission to do so from others, some of us struggle with that.
I have more untold stories than I shall ever hope to write. I have scraps of paper, crumpled napkins, journals, drafts, clipboards of pages and they do not even begin to capture what is untold in me. I have given myself permission to tell some stories but not all. I have risen to the responsibility of birthing some ideas while others remain tucked away, for now or maybe forever. I don’t know.
My first novella, Just This Once, gets released tomorrow, and I’ll give nothing away if I tell you that it was not an emotionally difficult story to pen. Though it was born of a sad moment – a moment of raw marital discord between Sara and her husband Jason – it has a happy ending and is nowhere close to autobiographical. But it did ask to be told. It’s my first published work for a reason.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading erotica and chatting with people on adult forums, and a common theme is the pain of empty marriages. An unsatisfying marriage is a special kind of hell, and this I can tell you from personal experience. It is an affront to idealism. It is an assault on the self-esteem. It is a robbery of the spirit in every conceivable way. It is no wonder to me that unhappy partners seek solace in porn, erotic stories, online adult chat forums, and sexual affairs (both physical and virtual).
Sara and Jason’s story was important to me because it was a truth, though not my truth. Certainly it isn’t feasible or even desirable for most couples to have a threesome as a means of repairing their troubled marriage. For the Ellises it worked. For someone else, reading the story with their spouse might work. Or reading the story and thinking about the importance of one’s own relationship might work. Sara and Jason’s story is someone’s truth, and that is exactly why it needed to be told.
In library school and literature classes we’re taught that stories are windows and mirrors. We see our way out through them and we look inward because of them. Writers are plagued by untold stories for the same reason – because in writing them we either journey through our truths or we examine what they mean to us or both.
It will be fascinating to see which untold stories insist on being told next.
To untold truths,