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F is for Flexible Facts

"Just the facts, ma'am."

That's the line, isn't it. We just want to know the truth, the exact story. When we have that, we can create an opinion on it, right?

If only it was that easy. 

We all tell ourselves stories about our lives. We hold on to things we remember as kids, and develop our ideas about the world and maybe even our personalities based on these "facts."

This is how I remember certain events from my 1st grade year:

A bunch of us were in a kind of haphazard line waiting to go on the slide. I went in front of a boy named Bob. I don't know if I cut the line, or if I really thought it was my turn.

As soon as I made it to the bottom of the slide, Bob was waiting for me. He accused me of cutting. He punched me in the stomach. Hard. It didn't help that I was a skinny little thing. 

I couldn't breathe for a bit. It was like the time I was jumping on the bed at my friend Blake's house and I jumped too  high and landed on the floor. Wind knocked out of me. 

Back on the playground, when I could breathe again, I did what I thought was the right thing: I tattled. 

I plead my case to the teacher: "He hit me," I said.

"Oh, you're all right," she told me, "Boys will be boys."

(I added the emphasis because this told me so much.)(For years. Still, now.)

Later that night, I got up to use the bathroom. Something wasn't right. There was blood in the toilet.

My parents drove me to the emergency room.

For years, I was sure that the punch had somehow ruptured my bladder. I always thought of this kid Bob as a mean kid who sent me to the hospital.

Years later, at my 10-year high school reunion, I found out that Bob had lost his wife and child. "It was a horrible accident," some said.

It wasn't long before people started talking that it may not have been an accident. I start thinking back to that violent day on the playground. 

Bob ended up in prison later, after being found guilty of attempting to hire a hit-man to kill his parents. I found out most of the story, as well as the investigation into his possible involvement in his wife and child's deaths, from a Dateline story.

After one of the airings of the show, I was talking to my mom on the phone. 

"You remember that he was the boy who punched me in first grade, right? He sent me to the hospital."

"Well, I remember he hit you," she told me, "But that's not really why you were in the hospital, not completely."

I had had a severe bladder infection, and probably would have had to go to the emergency room that night anyway. 

I hadn't remembered any of that part of it. In my mind, for over 30 years, I remembered getting punched on the playground, and then having medical issues for about a year after that. In my mind, they were related. 

But that wasn't all the facts. Facts are flexible. Memories are malleable. 

And we're all human, just trying to figure it all out. 

Have you remembered something that changed your views and found out it wasn't true? Did you change your views again?



Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Experience

The popularity of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books is beyond extraordinary. What started out as a multi- rejected book idea has turned into a multi-million dollar book empire. More than 110 million Chicken Soup for the Soul books have been sold. Many of the books have been translated to 40 different languages. I'm proud that my personal essays have been included in some of these books, and I hope to continue being a Chicken Soup contributor.
My Story
I thought I would share a bit about being published in these collections. I'm very happy with my Chicken Soup experiences, and part of that may be that I went into it with little expectations at first. I started with them because I had a few stories that seemed to fit what they were looking for, and I thought I had nothing to lose. Unlike some of the other markets and contests I was looking at, submitting to Chicken Soup could be done at no cost to me, and I didn't even need to worry about a postage stamp, because they had a…

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Last time, I talked about people in our lives that are pretty sure they know how to be successful writers, because they spent much of their time reading. Sometimes their advice can be a blessing, sometimes just the opposite. It is the same with the plethora of advice available from other writers. Have you checked out almost every book about the writing process from your local library at one time or another? Are your shelves lined with your own copies of "the-perfect-writing-advice-that-will-get-me-published-once-and-for-all"? Are you a member of multiple online writing communities? Do you hold your breath just a little bit when waiting from the critique from that "certain someone" in your writing group?

Yeah. Me too. And I don't think that gaining knowledge is a bad thing. We just have to be careful.

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Is it Time to Disappear?  Why I Became a Ghost--and Why you Should, Too
I never intended to become a ghostwriter. After all, why would I spend months of my life toiling away on someone else’s book? No thanks. I only wanted to write my own books, and that’s what I did.
I soon found, however, that the life of a book author wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned. I was working long hours, yet making less money than I had before, when I wrote only articles. The reason was simple—the time I spent promoting my books left me less time to write articles and other books, which cut into my income.
            Fortunately for me, I was approached by a nutrition expert about coauthoring her book. I found I enjoyed collaborating with her, but the real payoff came when we finished the manuscript. As the author, she now had to start promoting it—but I was all done!
That was enough for me. I decided to pursue coauthoring and ghostwriting, and “my” next book was ghostwritten for a client. (Typically a “coau…