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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lawsuit Paranoia. You Talkin' About Me?

A couple days ago the editor from Beacon Hill contacted me regarding my book in process entitled Mothers & Daughters: Mending Strained Relationships and told me she was concerned that the book doesn't put my mom in a very positive light. The book, which is due out this spring, was written from my account of a strained mother daughter relationship. It was not intended to be a Mommy Dearest book, but rather a book of encouragement for other women who might struggle to have a good relationship with either a daughter or a mother. But like many editors, there are concerns these days over lawsuits by those who might recognize themselves. And this was at the bottom of the editor's motives in contacting me. She wanted to know if my mom would sign a release. But this isn't possible because my mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and we just moved her into assisted living. My youngest sister now has power of attorney. I told the editor I had written the book several years ago and had considered writing an addendum to the book talking about my relationship with my mother now. She felt that that might be a good direction to take. So, that is what I did, talking about how my mother's and my relationship has changed over the past year now that we are dealing with her aging. It has softened both of us toward each other. Will this be enough to satisfy the publishing house? I don't know. But it did bring up a problem many writers face. Often I want to write about someone or something but realize people may recognize themselves. I face this right now with a fiction work I am outlining. Though I've changed names, the location and some of the circumstances but my fear is it may be just too recognizable. I may have to disguise it even more. I recall a writer for the Saturday Evening Post sharing at a writer's conference about how she had written an article where she had interviewed a psychiatrist. I don't recall the exact topic now, but she had tried to maintain privacy of those discussed by changing the sex and certain circumstances. Despite that, one woman recognized herself and came back and sued the publication and won. It's no wonder publishers and writers are skittish. I only hope my reworking of this manuscript softens it to the proper level.


  1. for those of you who don't know - i'm usually "ron" in her illustrative narratives. ;-D

  2. Sheesh. I deal with this all the time in my fiction. Part of why every time I write a story--shazzam!--something happens in real life that sort of mirrors it. (I guess I have my finger on the pulse of my life.)

    Sometimes I think I need another "layer" of distance and by that I mean taking it into another time period or even into the realm of speculative. When you are writing nonfiction that becomes a difficult task.

    Maybe we should write about our dogs. Would they sue us? Even the dead ones?