The Writer’s Lie-ography: Why Your Autobiographical Bits Should Be Fiction
Also included in this post: The Laughing Coyote Cocktail Contest
Historiography of the Lie-ography
The Lie-ography cannot be adequately understood without reference to its origins, so I am going to return us to the recent distant past (March 21, 2014) and my original post “Why Writer’s Should Never Introduce Themselves,” in order to jump back aboard my ridiculous line of thinking and explain how I developed the idea of the Lie-ography as a replacement for the more or less truthful author’s biography that most writers employ, probably because they just don’t know any better.
Writer’s should lie as often as possible, especially about themselves, and I’m here to explain why. To do that, I have to tell you a story, a highly suspicious maneuver, I agree, but then again I’m a writer and can’t help myself on so many levels.
As you may or may not recall, I hate introducing myself, whether it’s online, on a book jacket, on a date, or on The Colbert Report (but since Stephen doesn’t listen to me anyway, it’s not such a problem).
Other than the fact that my introduction is completely epiphenomenal in relation to whatever I’m writing, there’s another reason I hate explaining who I am: What if I get it wrong?
Yes, you heard me. What if I’m mistaken? Research has shown that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. How many of us could really pick ourselves out of a line-up?
What if I tell you some things that don’t turn out to be true? Won’t you just hate me then? Or think I’m really stupid when I say, “Honestly, I didn’t realize I was that misinformed! No I wasn’t lying! I was just wildly inaccurate!”
And what if you dislike me based on what I tell you, but what I said was wrong, and you actually like me tremendously because I’m nothing like what I said I was?
Or worse: what if you fall in love with me based on what I told you, but I was incorrect and now you are in love with a False Me? Are you really prepared for that? Am I?
Autobiography is notoriously untrustworthy.
(I think, really, people, if you think you want to know me, or date me, you should spend time spying on me first. That’s what I’d sincerely recommend. For all you know I sent a body-double on that date with you in the first place and I hired someone else to do this blog for me. So, you may have already fallen in love with Psuedo-Me. Yes, I’d recommend spying. Really. Just disguise yourself as a cat and you’ll be fine.)
God gets involved in the Lie-ography
Then there’s the Other Reason I don’t like introducing myself. This requires more story.
One day God pulled up in his vehicle right beside me on Cerrillos Road (which is another reason to hate that thoroughfare) and handed me a note. But this time, I had to concede that he might be right, plus he was driving a black Toyota Tacoma that made me drool, and I thought maybe he’d sell it to me one day if I just believed him once.
I read the note out loud. Actually, I shouted it because Cerrillos is the kind of road everyone feels obligated to drive on all at the same time, so there’s never any room or quiet, so that you can’t concentrate while trying to discern if that’s a left turn lane or the WRONG WAY LANE, nor do you have peace of mind to figure out if that left turn arrow on the horizontal traffic light placed all the way to the right refers to you, or to someone all the way over in the right turn lane, or perhaps someone in the middle of the road who has no desire to turn at all, or to pygmies in Africa who don’t drive.
Ugh, where was I? Oh yes, God giving me notes.
The note went like this: It’s possible I hate telling people who I am because I don’t like myself.
For a moment I thought: Wow, God doesn’t like himself. Maybe we have more in common than I thought and then I realized that the I in the note was the I in “me” (that isn’t literally there), AND that God was writing about me in the first person: what an imagination he has.
Ding ding ding ding, said God, and then he peeled out, the local country station booming out of his open windows vibrating his gun rack and his fish-shaped government license plate. He ran the red light.
I was instantly peeved so I yelled, “It’s not that I don’t like who I am, but I’m just-this isn’t what-I’m just so disappointed….MY BIOGRAPHY DOESN’T DO ME JUSTICE! It isn’t who I am, isn’t who I want to be! Why do I have to use it? It’s the existential equivalent of me wearing a dress, balancing my checkbook and driving a Prius! If I write this down, everyone will see the cage, not the roaring feline linguist inside it! Raaaraghhhhhh!”
Startled motorists looked at me. The light turned green, the wrong way turn lanes straightened themselves out, and the left hand turn lane arrows on the right side of the traffic apparatus looked up in guilty shame, and slunk over to where they should be: The Left.
Ha! God runs the red light, but it’s the woman screaming her lungs out in the cab of her pick-up that actually makes the lights turn green, and re-engineers the road for safety, not just for herself, but for everyone because I can assure you that every time I get on Cerrillos Road the entire population of Earth does too.
You know I never thought they might be there because I am. Could it be that I never noticed that I’m popular?
“This is America, idiot,” I said to myself. “At least for the next five minutes until the rest of the Liturgy-of-the-Tea-Party-as-a-Distraction-from-Wall-Street gets elected. So if you don’t like who you are, Miss Jaguar in the Car, who do you want to be?”
The wild part of me perked up. The vocabulary stood at attention. The left turn arrow vowed to never move to the right again.
“And can I do a biography of her instead?”
The motor roared.
I smiled, “Now we’re talking! But would that be interesting or just pathetic?” I said to the Jaguar who had just materialized beside me. He put his paw on my leg.
“And would it be a biography or autobiography?”
Enter the Lie-ography.
“And what would it sound like?
In my rear view mirror I could see a Coyote laughing as he danced back and forth in the bed of my pick-up. The Jaguar indicated it was time to turn left. The green arrow waved at me as I rounded the corner.
The Full-On Lie-ography of Laughing Coyote
My name is Deborah Stehr.
I wish my name was Laughing Coyote Goddess. Well I got that kind of right.
My full name, Deborah Ann Stehr, when said full force, sounds a bit like someone who should belong to the local Gestapo. (No offense to any local gestapos.) Neither of my parents had any self-esteem, so they made sure I sounded like I had some.
When they would call me out of the yard—well it was really only my mother. I’m not sure my father ever used my name, although he did give a nickname, The Slobovian, and because I completely failed to be as anal retentive as he was. Anyway, when my mother would call me out of the yard—Deborah Ann Stehr!—it would startle me and I’d look around and think, a little scared, who the hell does she think I am? I would swivel around looking for someone with that name, engendering perhaps an entire lifetime of looking for myself.
( The last name rhymes with “stare.”)
I’m 47 years old.
I wish I was 35. Not the 35 I actually was when I was 35, but the thirty five I would be if I was 35 now with 47 years of experience. (Why it’s good to have experience being me, I’m not sure. It’s not like there’s an employer out there looking for a Deborah with 47 years of being Her. Well we did hire a younger Deborah, but she lacked that essential last ten years and, wow, well, eventually, we just had to let her go. She was young, nubile and orgasmic, but definitely did not have the forty-seven year old skill set we needed.)
So let us review so far:
Hi there, my name is Laughing Coyote, LC to my buds, and I’m 35 on the outside and 47 on the inside…why yes, my soul is older than my body. Heh heh heh.
Unfortunately right now it’s the reverse: I’m 47 on the outside and around 25 on the inside, and I occasionally take a foray back to high school because I came out late. Not as middle-aged, as gay.
I wish I was a double….yeah, don’t know what that means either, although it does make me sound a bit like I might fit in a shot glass, which I definitely wouldn’t.
“Laughing Coyote?” says the bartender to the young woman at the bar, “You want The Laughing Coyote? You sure?”
The young woman nods, quickly, her fists clenched, perhaps inadvertently asphyxiating her resolve.
“With or without Goddess?” asks the bartender.
Her forehead frowns for her. She looks nonplussed.
The bartender says, “You didn’t know the full name of The Drink (yeah, I’m the kind of woman people refer to in italicized breathless capitals) you are about to ingest?” The bartender has been to college and enjoys teaching English to the drunk and soon to be inebriated.
The young woman looks uncomfortable and is about to give up her authentic empowered future and just order a wine cooler, but she sucks it up and says, “Give me a shot of that Laughing Coyote Goddess.”
(Ha, there’s more than one way to inhabit younger body!!! I so love the lie-ography! I slide down into her insides, satisfied. Wow a stomach that works and a liver too!)
Her life will never be the same. The transformative powers of the Laughing Coyote Goddess are second to none. And as for me. . .
Who knew? See ladies and gentlemen this new kind of autobiographical bit has legs. I am now a thirty-five year old queer woman with a 47 year old soul named Laughing Coyote Goddess, and you can drink me up at a shot glass at a bar! Damn! I am so cool after all!
The Laughing Coyote Cocktail Contest
For ideas of what ingredients should be in an alcoholic Laughing Coyote Goddess drink please comment below. My editorial team will then engage in experimental research. The winner will get promoted, if he/she wants that, on my blog and get free tickets to an upcoming show and, after signing a waiver and donning appropriate protective gear, can talk to me in person.
Please note that “upcoming” denotes some undetermined time in the future. If I could send you back to the past for a slam bang performance I already did, I would, but my Time Machine was stolen last Thursday, and that last time I tried to transform temporarily in my Transmogrifier (donated from Calvin and Hobbes out of pity), everyone around me spoke backwards for a week.
What You Wouldn’t Know If I’d Stuck to the Simple Truth
Now if I had stuck with the chronological narrative: that I grew up in Oklahoma, went to undergraduate school in Texas (which I liked, the school, not The Texas), and then attended Duquesne University in the 1990’s, and a decade later emerged with a Ph.D. in existential-phenomenological clinical psychology, you wouldn’t know that I have a sense of humor and can be consumed in a shot glass. And spend most of my time next to other forms of alcohol that went to graduate school and can spell inebriated, while never forgetting that the truth can be transformed into something better.
And now for this last bit: I’m an academic psychologist. I wish I was a writer.
Actually I am a writer.
I write, therefore I am.
It’s true and is the one thing I do not quarrel with in myself. It may very well be the one thing I’ve told you that is absolutely true. There’s the sunrise every morning; there’s the certainty of death; there’s the fact that this 113th congress has passed less legislation than any other U.S. Congress in the history of the world, and there’s the Deborah Stehr is a writer thing. Holy Shit. The Lie-ography is just another way to tell the truth!
I write blog posts, stand-up, short stories, rants, essays, poetry, and chapters from books that I haven’t published yet, and I wrote a breathtaking 300 page dissertation entitled The Experience of Premenstrual Syndrome as Paradoxical Feminine Subjectivity, that simulated a car chase, and essentially serves as a warning to other young women who want to write a dissertation about the social construction of hormones. It’s not really very funny, although I do think the comic book version of my dissertation does have possibilities. We have plenty of comics about violence. Why not some about periods and “menstrual preparation time” otherwise known as PMS? And then a movie deal entitled: The Wrath of Pam?
As a result of all this rampant scholarship, I now will no longer write academic papers and this is the main reason I’m not a full professor somewhere. I’m a partial professor in a lot of places instead. Or as I call it: An Itinerant Teacher. Pays just about as well too. And the added bit of no health insurance, so every day in a body is an adventure. (I am approximately one fourth of one professor for those of you who like measuring things.)
How I became a writer is only slightly interesting. How I became a psychologist instead of a writer is marginally tragic, but has its funny bits. It’s amazing how many things one can become while one is trying to be something else. What might be more fascinating is how I became a certified Transmogrifier Operator and how I grew to understand the difference between its magical properties and another tried and true method of transformation used by Coyote called Instant Hole.
But that is a tale for another time. My attention span has dissipated showing that even my own self-absorption has limits. What a relief!
Until next time,
The Laughing Coyote