Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Author Unclear on the Concept?

From Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries series, in Star Two today :
Someday I might do a memoir, but I don’t think I could write about it from a fictional character’s point of view. I’ve just tried tonnes of times and have never been able to finish it.
Well duh!

Did Stephanie Yap who interviewed Cabot for the Straits Times in Singapore simply misquote her? Or is this a sinister comment on the state of memoir writing in modern times?

Postscript :

Peter Robbins picks this up on the Telegraph blog!

(Thanks a lot to Poppadumdum for laughing at this line first.)


Ms Ulat Buku said...


Amir said...

On a not-entirely-unrelated front, I can't understand why people call Kam Raslan's book of last year a novel. It's a collection of short stories, surely?

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHA!!!! She's Cabot-ing around...Mamma-Princess-Mia!!!

Maybe she's been taking lessons from James Frey....

- Poppadumdum

bibliobibuli said...

yes, Amir, i would say so. but actually Kam likes to call it a novel!

Anonymous said...

Kam can call it a serialised novel, serialously! :-)

- Poppadumdum

Chet said...

I think it's just a work of fiction (Kam's book). He sure duped a lot of people into believing that Dato' Hamid is real.

Maybe Kam will drop by and enlighten us.

bibliobibuli said...

yes, excellent fiction but linked short stories (with one longer one).

animah said...

Oh, I thought Kam's book was a memoir?

Chet said...

Serialised memoir.

bibliobibuli said...

serialised FICTIONAL memoir!

Chet said...

This year's NaNoWriMo is sending out 2 published writers' pep talks every week. Last week's included Philip Pullman. This week's second pep talk just arrived in my mailbox and it's from Meg Cabot. Here are her first lines:

"Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

I know what you’re doing. You’re thinking about cheating, aren’t you?

Ha! Caught you!

Come on. One cheater knows another. You think I’ve never been there?"

Strange ...

Stephanie Yap said...

Hi Sharon,

Stephanie here. I did not misquote Meg as I use a voice recorder, but I can see how her quote might be misunderstood, and I should have clarified it.

Firstly, I think her quote should be seen in the context of my preceding paragraph:

"As her readers grow up, does she think she will ever seek inspiration from her past to write about, well, the darker side of life?"

Hence her reply: “Someday I might do a memoir, but I don’t think I could write about it from a fictional character’s point of view. I’ve just tried tonnes of times and have never been able to finish it.”

She means: Someday, she might write a memoir about her childhood. But she would NOT incorporate her experience into a work of fiction. She had tried to use her childhood as inspiration for her fiction before, and failed. That is why she would only ever consider writing a memoir in the future.

Hope this helps clarify things. Meg struck me as a very intelligent and warm person, and I feel uncomfortable seeing her laughed at for something which is not her fault.

And thanks for blogging my article, Sharon! I do enjoy checking your blog to see what's happening across the causeway =)

bibliobibuli said...

thanks for clarifying Stpehanie.

sometimes i think that in conversation some things are understood between interviewer and interviewee but don't always clarify themselves so easily to the reader.

yes, she does come across as warm and intelligent

Anonymous said...

But I think this sentence really is ambiguous even within the context of the article. Sometimes I guess you have to sensitively "edit" the actual words of an author so they won't be misunderstood. (Though in fairness, Sharon, I think we knew what Cabot meant to say.)


Anonymous said...

Agree with SPT - Cabot still sounds ambiguous in the context of the full interview.

And did no one at the newspaper do a proper edit before the article was published, and say, What the F does this sentence mean? Did the writer not check it herself?

- Poppadumdum

Stephanie Yap said...

Hi Poppadumdum,

The article did go through several layers of edits, and no one (including myself) found the sentence ambiguous, nor have we received any feedback directly from readers saying that the sentence appears strange or ambiguous.

As for the writer (I assume Poppadumdum refers to Cabot and not me) checking it -- given that she was on a jam-packed book tour, she did not have the luxury of time to check back all her quotes, especially as she did multiple interviews that day. She probably felt secure enough not to do so given that I was using a tape recorder.

I take SPT's point about "sensitively editing" the quote -- though I would NEVER, EVER change the words someone used, I could have added sentences outside of the quote that would have clarified what she said. I will note that for future interviews. Thank you all for the very helpful feedback!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Stephanie, for the clarification!

- Poppadumdum

bibliobibuli said...

thanks Stephanie. it is never an easy job knowing what to put in, what to leave out when we have such tight word limits. i think this shows just how tough the job is.

ppdd - authors don't usually have the luxury of checking their quotes (goodness knows what other changes they might want anyway, so better not go there!!)