Memoir, misery lit or clickbait?

That time my story was butchered on a podcast

Heather McLeod

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(Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash.)

I submitted one of my stories to a small podcast this spring, and it was accepted, which meant that a volunteer performer would read my story aloud on an upcoming episode.

How exciting! I was grateful for the head pat. Especially when working on big, long-term projects (my novel), it’s nice to have a little encouragement and validation as a writer along the way.

The episode was released a few months later, and I listened eagerly.

I was so very, very disappointed.

I’m sure the podcast producers and actress did their best: their handling of my story, which is about my husband when he was living with terminal cancer, was respectful.

But the actress really got into the role of a grieving widow, shaky voice and all. It’s melodramatic. And she stumbled over some of the words, so it’s clearly not her story. It all sounds staged and artificial.

Ugh.

I couldn’t listen to the whole thing.

I couldn’t share the link around, as I’d planned, because I honestly didn’t want anyone listening to it.

Lesson #1: tone matters

This experience taught me that not everyone reads my stories as I do.

When I read my stories out loud, I’m not a shaky voiced widow. Things happen in a story: first A, then B.

A matter-of-fact tone gets me and my listeners through the sad sentences, just as a matter-of-fact approach got our family through the sad moments.

For stories about those zombie-autopilot years of caregiving and mourning, weepy melodrama just isn’t accurate.

Of all the comments on my Medium stories and website posts over the years, one that has stuck with me since 2017, from my friend Ramona, says:

Your ability to articulate your thoughts and emotions without being maudlin or sentimental slays me.

This is what I strive for: to explore and explain my experience with grief without being melodramatic. Which is why I was so disheartened to hear a different interpretation of my voice on the podcast…

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