This is the kind of stuff I’m now cutting from the Moose manuscript.  All things analytical are driving me to ctrl + X.  I wonder if it’s the right decision.  I’m also cutting out tangents… this is a part where a very thin coworker of mine asks me for her help.  This is of course a flash-forward into my adult life.  It just can’t fit because it throws the reader off the path and point I’m trying to make.

In the weeks that would follow, she’d ask me to grocery shop for her.  “It’s just that Trey Beck is coming over, and you’re so good at all that domestic stuff.”  And?  “And, I don’t have time to do it all myself.  I have to go out and buy plates.”  Of course she didn’t own plates; she didn’t eat.  Still, who doesn’t have plates? I blinked at her.  “I have to put food in my cabinets, or he’ll think I’m a freak.”  You are a freak.  “Can’t you make me seem normal?”  It would be a miracle at the 34th street supermarket. 

I’d food shop for her apartment spending too much time analyzing.  What exactly would corn flakes say about her?  Wholesome, with an appreciation for the simpler things.  I walked amid the colorful rows of food products looking for other statements.  The red and navy canister of Quaker Oats declared that she had patience.  Microwave popcorn: the girl appreciates technology.  I added a pound of Bavarian old-fashioned pretzels to the shopping cart because girls are always snacking on pretzels.  LornaDoone shortbread cookies.  I paused.  No, men like Mallomars.  Impressive, he’d think upon seeing the yellow box.  I bet she likes sports.  I’d buy nothing low fat or low sugar.  She wouldn’t want him to think she ever thought about her weight.  Instead the goal was to wow him with her genes, a girl who can eat and still look like that!  A six pack of Dr. Pepper and a tub of Jif and I was done.

I retraced my steps to the LornaDoones despite deciding on the Mallomars.  Screw it.  I began to fill the cart with everything I wanted.  Pizza flavored Combos, potato skins, frozen miniature hotdogs, and a red bag of tater tots.  A jar of Cheez Wiz.  Tostidos.  A half-gallon of Moose Tracks.  A canister of Pringles.  The cart brimmed with all the things I could never have.  A tub of icing.  Now we’re talking.  A box of cake mix, no—not just cake mix.  Mix with pudding in the batter.  Ooh, what else?  How extraordinarily freeing.  Take that Dough Boy.  Oh yes I can! How delicious to pretend I could be this free from food.

When I reached the checkout counter, I began to pick at my nails.  People are going to think this is all for me.  Well it’s no wonder, they’ll think as they eye my arm lard.  What am I doing?  Just look at yourself.  You have no control.  But she gets to.  Yeah, but she doesn’t eat it.  She just uses it as decoration.  Go home to your husband, the one who thinks you’re too fat to fuck.  I abandoned the cart in the checkout line, pretending to double back for a forgotten yet essential item.  I left the store empty-handed. 

I went home and filled my empty hands with folded slices of white pizza.  I annihilated the pie and wondered how her date would go without the props that told the story of a life she didn’t live.  I couldn’t continue to live like this.   I too needed someone to make me normal.


  1. I find it interesting. I think, in this case at least though, it's condensed (because you understand it yourself) to a point where it's hard to follow for the reader. But I can understand not wanting to delve into long analytic passages; there was some of that with phone therapist in book one.

  2. I think you're on the right track. Better (more interesting) to lead the reader to ask that question or to make that observation than to spell it out for him/her. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. I personally believe it is better to simply present the facts and let the reader draw her own conclusions.
    Revisions suck. Good luck with them.

  4. Maybe you can keep an unabridged version as well. As I go through periods of stress or angst, I sometimes edit my life too, to get it into manageable portions. But I think sometimes the parts you cut out have the most flavor. Those flavorful bits are hard to swallow when life is spinning out of control – but they are often the juiciest parts.

    Hope things are better today – hugs to you and the babies.

  5. Cut it. It's interesting, but find a way to SHOW it so the reader figures it out for him/herself. Just telling it straight out isn't interesting because it's too easy. If you do the work for the reader, they don't have to be as engaged… but you're such a good writer, you know that.

  6. If that's what's being cut, I can only imagine how gorgeous the prose that is being left must be! Can't wait to read MOOSE!

  7. Something I've never understood about being a writer, do you have deadlines, timeframes, or can you cut and revise and rewrite, till YOU like it, and then they cut and revise and request re writes as well? I think THAT, would frustrate the hell out of me.

    As for cutting the analytical, are you writing as an adult looking back, or from a 15 yr old perspective? As an adult looking back, we pretty much live for the analysis of it all, don't we?

    FROM STEPHANIE: I do both. There are times when I write it from my 12/13 yr old perspective and other times when it's written from my perspective now. I balance the two throughout the book. And of course, the reason I chose to cut this is because I do show it but I don't even make a hint at pointing out the comparison, how differently we handled the same need. And yes, I have a deadline. The manuscript is due in full as of Oct. 1. Yikes. Then the editorial process officially begins, so I'll have time to edit, etc. after handing it in.

  8. Seems interesting to include it to compare you to your sister as a frame of reference as to why you had xyz relationship with food. But it's about you, right?

    How long after writing the book proposal til you got your first check? I'm starting a proposal and want to quit my job but don't know what the time frame realistically would be…

    PS – hope you and your family are doing well and hanging in there.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Every author, I assume, has a different payment schedule. For me, I got paid a large portion upon signing the deal. Then I'd get installments each time I handed something in… or for a milestone. Paid, for example, with acceptance of outline, for first chapter, for first half of book 2, for handing in full manuscript, for hardcover release, for paperback release, etc.

  9. I don't think it's overly analytical if it only represents a small portion of what you write. After all, this is a memoir & memoirs are filtered through our own thought processes, analyses & all. What does your editor say?

    FROM STEPHANIE: My editor has not seen the manuscript yet. She's seen the first half, accepted it, etc. But I've reworked it a few times, adding and subtracting.

  10. I wonder if you are removing the analytical bits now because of your child's health crisis? I lost a sister and a few weeks later, in the library, the site of some book for single guys "bachelors on life" or something like that– nearly made me throw up on sight. It seemed so indirectly related to what life is really about, and so deliberately evasive of the fundamentals– life, love, and health. I am just wondering if this crisis has made you too question the seriousness of what we wonder about before we face real crisis?

    FROM STEPHANIE: No, I cut that bit out months ago. But thanks for being analytical about my analytical.

  11. I always hate when people refer to the Pringles packaging as a "can." Thank you for getting it right. I have nothing else to add, as I am certain this is evidence that you know what you're doing.

  12. I just checked back and saw your expansion on what you wrote earlier. Now this is good stuff. I didn't know Gabe thought you were too fat to f*)ck – maybe its alot of NYers who are super skinny? It makes sense to keep what you had – it all plays into your food obsession / relationship – why it's been such a struggle and comfort.

  13. I have never noticed your replying to comments to the degree that you are today – are you trying to avoid doing something else. That is my approach, when a project is due, I have a tendency to suddenly want to clean out the drawers. Avoidance at it's finest!

    Good luck on all fronts. And I agree with one poster – don't say anything about the sister – I have two and they would not understand any reference to them that put them in a less than stellar light!!

  14. such a shame to cut out good writing. where do you put it? a special file for perhaps another book? i also am an overanalyzer, it creeps into my daily life and can cause anxiety or fights with my husband.

  15. I really admire you, I always have–but I have never been this AWARE of what is in my cart in the grocery store–and no slight intended, for that I am thankful. Even though I am a fat ass–or because.

  16. Stephanie I really liked what you wrote! I am notorious for telling great-albeit lengthy- tales, so I totally understand the need to tell the whole story! It's a problem for me in my own writing. I usually write it all down as it comes to me and then leave the story for a bit to give myself some distance. Then I come back and feel much better about cutting things that maybe I liked telling, but aren't really a pivotal part of the story. It sounds like this may be what you're doing, too, getting it all down and then editing the less important things out. I hope you are saving what you've written, though, cause this is good stuff!

  17. I disagree with those who say to cut such stories! I read your columns because you tell those brutally honest stories that we all go through, but most people never reveal in their attempt to keep the facade of perfection going. I always seem to connect to your stories because I share the idea that somehow, in revealing one's weaknesses, it actually makes you a much stronger person than most.
    I love the fact that this grocery store story was known only by you and could have remained that way forever. You didn't have to share such an insecure time with the world…but you know from your loyal readers that we all have felt the same way at some time or another. Thanks for writing so beautifully about the human spirit and all its beautiful flaws that we ALL share. Your columns give a sense of comfort knowing that someone out there has the same insecurities or issues…but who's spirit is strong and you know deep down she's gonna be alright – so we will be, too :)
    And prayers to you and your family…

  18. A few thoughts, for whatever they're worth. It's an interesting/enjoyable read(!) – so this is just some food for thought. (oy – I swear that wasn't on purpose). Talking about your sister here seems out of place to me (because it doesn't really relate directly back to you) and weakens your point about yourself. It also seems to me that that analytical graf you start with is getting at — in a less direct/interesting way — the same thing as your comment about "too fat to fuck" (and its implications for your self-esteem/-worth). It seems much more authentic when you say it there than in the first graf. I will also admit that I stumbled over that sentence a bit: "Fuck" seems to take away from the "love" you were looking for from sex particularly from a husband, and especially if you lose the analytical first graf. OK, back to work for me….

  19. I adore this snipped bit. Will you be posting more things that we might not get to see in the book on the blog?

    Hope things are getting better, by the way.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Thanks on all counts… and yes, I don't see why not.

  20. This reminds me of something – what ever happened to "Between the Sheets"(sections of Straight Up And Dirty that we never got to see)? After reading the above post, which makes me even more excited to read Moose, it also piques my curiosity about the parts that were cut from your first book.

    As always, I hope all is going well with Lucas!

  21. I agree with one of the posters above; the writing is so good, I'd hate to suggest cutting it. It's hard to know what to suggest without being able to see how it fits into the whole, you know? I really like the section. But I agree it may be best not to reference your sister's weight.

    As a somewhat "healthy" girl myself, I think I'd be kind of offended if a skinny counterpart asked me to food-shop for her. Why don't you ask me to, I don't know, make you some throw-pillows, or let ME buy the plates or something? Why ask the fat chick to buy the food?? I'm half-laughing as I write that, and I know it's all in the tone in which it's asked. But just reading it as an outsider, I think that would kind of irk me.

  22. Because I haven't seen any other part of Moose, I have no idea whether what you cut distracts, takes away from, or adds to what you are trying to say.

    I do know, though, that what you posted here, told a complete story with an ending that left me thinking, wow, that was good.

    I really, really liked it.

  23. Hmmm. . . you're one of my favorite writers, so I obviously trust your decisions, but I have to admit that part of me is upset that you are taking all of these "after-thoughts" out. Nevertheless, I'm still really looking forward to Moose!

    Speaking of which, I bought Kimberlee's book today- I've only read a chapter- but it's wonderful so far! Thanks for the recommendation. It took me forever to find because it was in the "metaphysical" section… and "Straight Up and Dirty" was in the "self-help" section at Borders. Is it just me, or is that a little odd??

    Thinking of you and your family.

  24. Bloody cheek if you ask me to request you to food shop for some beanpole to create what would be an artificial impression of her for some guy.
    Hows Lucas.

  25. Leave the stories — it's what you do best. CUT the analytical part (if your editor doesn't do it for you). It's clunky, self-conscious and difficult to read. Stick to that old saying of "show, don't tell". Do you have a pub date for MOOSE yet?

  26. Hi Stephanie,
    I have just bought your book… I waited for the italian translation ;)
    I just want to leave here a big hug for you and your babies. I don't use to comment much, but I read you almost everyday.

  27. I agree that the analysis should be cut. I'm sure you have volumes of beautiful writing that could be included, but it doesn't mean that they will serve the purpose of telling the story the way you want to tell it.

    I actually just finished reading "The Glass Castle" by Jeanette Walls and the thing that kept me glued to the book was that it was written from her perspective as a child. Since the book tells her story from about age 3 through adulthood, you can actually see the perspective mature as the book progresses. It was an incredible read. I think that telling stories from childhood through the eyes of the child is a really powerful way to get the message across. It also keeps the writer true to the story.

    I loved "Straight Up and Dirty" and I cannot wait for "Moose" to come out. It sounds like it is going to be great!

    Much love to your family.

  28. i have to know if t.b. is a real name. i think i used to work for his mother in houston. love to the beans.

  29. Keep in mind I suck at revisions….

    That said, I love everything about the entry. I Mean I liked the bit about your sister too but I think you're right. If you're trying to keep that youthful sense of self…and be true to Moose…you don't want to be too heavy or analytical.

    I know the rule of thumb is 'show. don't tell.' But some people can do more with the 'telling' than others can with the 'showing'. And I think you're one of them.

    That's not me being cheesy or saying things just to be nice. I love it and I get it (I SOOO ABSOLUTELY get it) and it did more than enough to engage me and make me want to read more.


  30. ah, the familiar worry about people scrutinizing your shopping cart! Been there…felt that. As a former fat girl, that post cracked me up.

  31. Stephanie I have one question and I hope it doesnt seem weird to ask…

    Have you been watching Howie on Top Chef? I wonder (when I am watching) of what your reactions are to him on the show. Do you compare the Howie of old to the new? Is he the same?

    my thoughts are with you and your family –

  32. Just curious… on any level, did you think that her real problem wasn't what to fill her empty cabinets with, but WHY she felt the need to do that in the first place? That seems like a LOT of work to construct a false image!

    Your shopping trip for her just seems kind of enabling and feeding into the whole idea that what this guy thinks is more important than her simply being herself. Did the "real" her eventually emerge in that relationship, or were she, and her friends, consistently able to disguise her issues behind boxes of carefully chosen cereal, etc?

    If a friend ever approached me with this request, I would have a very different response, and be more concerned for her self-image than for her getting a guy to think she's "normal."

    I liked the post and the writing though — thought provoking.

  33. I would have bought the super sized heavy flow mxi pads and left them on the counter.

  34. Stephanie, I completely relate to the embarrassment of having a shopping cart full of food and being overweight. Even if the food is not for you, you think that everyone THINKS it is. And that makes you feel even fatter and more insecure – until you are years away from being overweight and realizing that you were actually invisible. I remember that feeling well. 40 pounds later I still feel that way sometimes when I throw a half gallon of ice cream in the cart.

    Can't wait to read the book.

  35. I love the story about shopping for your thin co-worker! I'm not sure what chapter you're cutting it from, but it definitely is telling about your struggles with food, your past perceptions about others' lack of struggle with food, and women and food in general. I don't know…but at least we'll get to read the entertaining bits that don't make it into the book here.

    Hope you and Phil are doing well!

  36. i find in my academic writing (well, in my other kinds of writing too) that it can be tough to stay on track and keep the tangents at bay, but i keep on reminding myself that this isn't the last thing i'm ever going to write. if i like something i wrote enough, and it's important enough, it can find a home where it fits better in another project – not unlike reminding yourself when passing your favorite bakery that you do not HAVE to get a pastry, this is not the last time cupcakes will be availabe to you, why not wait til you truly crave it and it will be most appreciated. both easier said than done.

  37. Stephanie, i'm so amazed by your strength. You and Phil and Lucas and Abigail are going through so much, but I am confident that you will hold your family together. I hope that Phil — or somebody else! — is taking care of you.

    I just wanted to comment because i've been reading your blog for a long time now, and bought and read your book right when it came out. I cried the whole way through it, because it made me realize that I needed to end my now-four-year relationship with my boyfrend. today is actually our 4 year anniversary, and last night we made the difficult decision to break up. It is a friendly breakup, but we're just not right for each other, and have been trying too hard to force something that doesn't fit. Your words about "my whole life I was told I could do whatever I wanted, be whatever I wanted… as long as I tried hard (paraphrasing)" rang so true to me that I repeated them back to Chris last night, in the midst of our tearful decisions.

    Anyway, I just want to thank you for being so brave as to share your story with us. You've empowered a lot of women to stop settling for mediocrity and boldly reach for the lives they deserve (myself included).


  38. Cut the entire passage. Why on earth would you shop for your crazy, anorexic coworker just so she can appear to be normal for a date? Why did you even make that your problem? This passage made me want to slap you across the face to bring you back to reality. I can't believe that your self-esteem was so low. Also, the analysis behind all the food is too excessive. Did you really think that a man really cares about what food a skinny woman has in her apartment? He's there for one reason – to screw her skinny ass. That's all he cared about. The only part of this passage that really grabbed my attention was you describing your fat arms in the checkout line, knowing people would assume that all of the food was for you. I think you were too hard on yourself. I literally thought, "Stop being so mean to yourself, damn it!" I felt your pain in the lines you wrote about your husband not wanting to have sex with you because you were too fat. Sometimes we go over and above the bounds of duty because we're too eager to please. It can be embarrassing. It can also be tedious to read. Leave it in the past. Good luck with your newest novel! You are doing a wonderful job.

  39. As Lea's secret admirer from Camp Colang, aka Fat Camp, I must let you know that your analysis of your sister is very mean! I hope she didn't read it! Imagine if you had decided to keep it in the book, ouch…

  40. Question: do you give your family members power of veto? Are they permitted to read your work before it is published?

    Maybe they are quite fine with it, but I would be quite hurt if someone in my family wrote something approaching the above about me and sent it out in print (or the web, actually).

  41. I read this post yesterday, and had yet to find a moment to respond. Today, I see that you cut the part about your sister. No matter what ends up in your book, it will be YOU and that is what counts. I wont go into the whole "you are too hard on yourself" stuff. I am the same way; many of us are. And NOTHING anyone says can change how we are to ourselves unless WE make the change. I'm 35, pregnant with my first child, married to a good man, an attorney, etc. ON the outside, it might look like i'm living a good example of the "perfect life", but come on…is ALL a crap shoot, and all I can do (all ANYONE can do) is take it day by day, try not worry everything to shreds (THAT is sooooo me right now, no matter what!), and enjoy what we have. Life, like love, can really stink at times (yeah, yeah!!). But, then there are those beautifully perfect days of sheer simple bliss that makes it alllllllllll worth while. Thinking of you at this difficult time in your/your family's life. Best to little Lucas.

  42. I cut the part about my sister here on the blog, and also in the book… but for different reasons. I just pulled it from the blog because people were stating that it seemed mean. I don't ever want to do anything to hurt my sister, and honestly it was an observation she and I have both shared and discussed and agreed upon at length. So I know she gets it and agrees. However, in the book, it would have been obvious and understandable, not mean. But here, I can see how it might seem so, so I've yanked it.

    As for Lucas update… we'll know more this Thursday when we hear back finally (I hope) from Boston. The neurosurgeon here in Texas wanted to operate on Lucas this Thursday, but we're holding off until we get those second and third opinions.

  43. I had commented with some questions about how you handle writing about your family, like do they get veto power, do they get to preread, but I see now you have cut out the bit about your sister.

    I can't imagine how you balance being all out there and with giving family members their own privacy. I would bet it's difficult, if not nearly impossible.

    So now I guess my question is, have you ever published something about a family member that you later regretted? That in retrospect was not yours to publish? (Other than in this post, I mean.)

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