Sunday, June 27, 2010

Idea Garage Sale: Somebody Else's Title

A few years ago my husband and I were in Austin - I don't remember if this was in conjunction with a writing event or Melissa Etheridge's last tour - and he wanted to eat at Clarence Stubbs's Barbeque Restaurant. This is my fault because I'm the one who introduced him to Stubbs's sauce (the trick to finding good commercial barbeque sauce is simple: examine the ingrediant list. If it contains the words "high fructose corn syrup," don't get it.). He doesn't often get to eat at barbeque restaurants with me because they're such a waste of time for vegetarians, but I can eat anywhere that serves a baked potato and I'm usually the one choosing the restaurant in Austin, so we went.

Stubbs's has a stage in the basement and is one of a number of establishments that hosts a Gospel Brunch on Sunday mornings. We weren't there for that, but the restrooms are also downstairs, so I went down and saw the stage. It's a nice rustic-looking venue; no idea what the acoustics are like. And in the stall I read the words: "I am an athiest at the Gospel Brunch."

Which is a perfect title. For a memoir. For someone in the music industry (probably Our Lady J); or someone who has done her best to pursue her own identity while not cutting herself off from the family and friends whose identities are publicly perceived as inimical to hers; or for the person who wrote those words. Who, if you run across this - c'mon, write it already!

Except she was probably 18 when she wrote the graffito and too young for memoir. Twenty, thirty, fifty years from now, though, she has the title all ready to go.

It is not unusual for writers to have to deflect people who approach them to "collaborate;" who, by "collaborate" do not mean "we write the story together" but "I give you the idea, you do all the work, and we split the profits 50/50." Anybody who has read a few of these garage sales understands now why this doesn't work. We all have to work out our own ideas and don't have time or energy to deal with anybody else's. But when you're in idea generation mode all the time, tripping over them every time you go to the restroom, some of the ideas you have aren't your own.

I'm not in the music industry. I'm not an athiest - and "agnostic at the Gospel Brunch" doesn't have anything like as good a ring. I can't imagine I'd ever write a memoir. A life spent reading, writing, and doing house and yardwork isn't memoir material. So this is somebody else's title and I can't do anything with it, but pass it on and hope the person who belongs to picks it up eventually.


  1. I can't use it either, Peni, but I second the statement it's a great title. Love that you happened upon it and it's stayed with you all this time.

  2. I think it's a matter of open chemical bonds. Faces, names, numbers, sources, where I left that book - all that flies out of my head. Titles and story connections and so on stick like ticks.