Paula Chinick, who wrote a mainstream short story called “Hidden Discovery” in my anthology, Written Across the Genres, used diary entries between narrative paragraphs. Jean, the protagonist, talks in first person about finding her mother’s diary after she died.
“I found it a few months ago while forced to go through her things alone. Alone, because neither my brother nor sister would help. Big babies, I never can count on them when things get tough. It’s taken me this long to muster the courage to open it.” I flip open the cover than slam it shut. I take a deep breath, open it again, and read:
December 25, 1970
Isn’t that how you start these things. Sounds idiotic. But since it’s in ink I can’t scratch it out and start over. I’ll never use it again.
I received this journal for Christmas from my father’s mother, Nana. I’m not her favorite. Last year I received a blue-haired troll doll, a fad from the 60’s. New motto: Make lemonade out of a turnip.
I’ve decided to record meaningful events in my life. When I’m grey and wrinkled, I will reflect on whether my life held significance.
First entry–Got engaged Christmas Eve. At eighteen, is anyone ready for marriage?
January 2, 1971
Eloped! Never thought I’d go through with it but he’s a good man.
Out of the few who didn’t get drafted and sent to Vietnam.”
When Chinick submitted this story I believed it was true. I asked her about putting it in the Memoir section and expressed how touching the ending was for me. The voice of the mother in the diary entries came through in strong contrast to Jean’s narrative. I believed that Paula changed her name to Jean to tell this amazing story. Chinick laughed and said it was all fiction.
How wonderful to unintentionally fool me into thinking it was a true story about her mother. When readers believe fiction is real, that is a sign of a successful writer.
To read Chinick’s story, you can order Written Across the Genres from you local book store, from Amazon, or on Kindle.
Paula Chinick published a thriller called Red Asscher–Living in Fear, available at Amazon and on Kindle: