Is the Truth All It’s Cracked Up To Be? a guest post By Risa Nyman
“Three things cannot long stay hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” – Buddha
“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is a declaration we all know by heart. But if you aren’t on the witness stand, is that a motto you must live by? Are there any gray areas?
When we are children, adults pound it into our developing brains that the truth is sacrosanct. Recently, I watched a funny video of a cousin pressing her four-year-old daughter to explain the origins of some blue marker on a white counter, only to be told repeatedly by the little girl that “the dog did it.” That was her story, and she was sticking to it. Perhaps this sweet, adorable child is a natural born fibber or a natural born secret-keeper.
Then, we grow up, and a new paradigm emerges. We learn that honesty may carry unintended consequences that can take an emotional toll on both the truth-teller and the truth-hearer.
Should you tell Aunt Gertrude she got fat? Does your friend have to know the person she likes doesn’t like her? Or like the mother in my debut novel, can you decide to protect your child from the truth about how his father died?
The decision to keep a family secret is at the heart of my debut middle grade novel, Swallowed by a Secret (published January 21, 2020 from Immortal Works Press).
When twelve-year-old Rocky learns his mother has told him a bogus story about how his father died, he is gut-punched. His misery is compounded when his mother puts the For-Sale sign on the front lawn right after the funeral. She fears that if they remain in their town, someone will blurt out the truth before she’s ready.
Rocky’s mother is desperate to maintain control of the secret, because she knows that once you crack open a secret, it cannot be Humpty-Dumptied again. What she doesn’t anticipate is that Rocky will embark on a journey of risks, eavesdropping and snooping to discover the truth about the father he thought he knew.
In Swallowed by a Secret some of my own secrets are threaded through. As I wrote, I grappled with the knowledge that when this book is published, I would be exposing the hidden elephant crouching underneath the rug in my own life. I kept a visual of a fork in a road in my head that make the choices also clear. One side beckoning me toward the truth and the other to the vault where secrets are locked away.
My own decision to include some of my truths in my fiction piqued my curiosity about what other authors do. Memoirist Dani Shapiro says in her podcast, Family Secrets, that “writing about feelings that are weighing on us helps…it has physical benefits.”
The creation of the hashtag #ownvoices honors the works of so many whose writing is enhancing with the authenticity of their own truths. They demonstrate a commitment to sharing their heritage, ethnicity, disabilities, gender issues and more through their writing.
Real life joins fiction in a powerful way.
In a 2009 interview with Fiction Writers Review award-winning author Maile Meloy said,“I think you have to find an emotional connection to the story, to make anyone else care about it, but I would find writing only what I know to be limiting.”
Choosing to tell or write the truth isn’t always easy or simple, and sometimes not for the faint-hearted. And like Rocky, I have learned, along the way, that secrets are epidemic, and no one’s family is immune.
Risa has been an aspiring middle grade author for about six years after a strange event that involved three pennies led her to take a deep dive into creative writing, which is now a priority and passion ⏤ unless grandchildren are nearby. At other times, you might find Risa reading, exercising or doing therapeutic ironing.
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
SLJ Blog Network