Rants/Raves | March 15th, 2013

LOVE/HATE: NO, MY WRITING ISN’T MY LIFE, IS IT? by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Yes, I’m a phone psychic who lives in Great Neck, NY, and Miriam Kaminsky, the heroine of both my novels, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) and Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012) is a phone psychic from Great Neck NY, but please don’t mistake me for her. Yes, like Miriam, my hair is reddish and curly and my eyes are pale blue and turned up in the corners like my Russian grandma from whom I inherited my gift, but I’m not Miriam Kaminsky. My novels are fiction, not memoirs. I just need the stability of a few “real” things to ground me so that my imagination can light up like a flicked Zippo.  No matter how much I try to explain that I’m not Miriam, people have begun to call me by her name and I’m so tired of correcting them that I have begun to answer to it.

But what about my daughter, a deeply private person, who feels as if my fiction has thrown her under a big wave and yanked her out to supposed safety onto a crowded beach with her bathing suit half-off?  Yes, my daughter is tall and willowy, and has long, dark, curly hair like Miriam’s daughter, Cara, and she went to an Ivy League school like Cara, but she isn’t Cara. She never ran away from home with a hoodlum when she was a teen as Miriam’s daughter in Miriam the Medium, and although she does have a daughter, my granddaughter isn’t psychic like Miriam’s. Yes, my daughter had terrible arguments with me about my being a psychic. Who could blame her? In elementary school, a kid swiped one of my business cards from my office, brought it to class, and my daughter had to deal with chants about her mother being a “witch.” Mostly she was upset when her friends would huddle around me to ask if a boy they liked liked them back. A daughter’s friends should just be interested in her, not her mother! She was the one who earned them, not me. My daughter is part of a big book club, but she’d never recommend my books.

“It’s my life in those books!” she says, even though it isn’t.

“It’s Cara Kaminsky’s life!” I argue.

“Well, nobody’s going to believe that.” she says, and they don’t.

I tell myself that mothers and daughters, each pressing for selfhood, would fight over something else if not writing. My proof is when my daughter’s toddler, who calls herself “the toddler,” screams at her mother for putting a diaper on her because even though she isn’t fully toilet-trained, she knows her older sibs don’t wear diapers or when my daughter has to put snow boots on her instead of the ballet slippers she’s devoted to. And as “the toddler” gets bigger, so will the rifts.

No matter what I tell myself, I still am bummed (and so is my daughter) that the core of my fiction springs from my psychic life and I would either have to stop writing or learn to accept this and trust that my daughter will as well.

One day she confided, “Mom, reading your books are just like talking to you. It makes me feel less lonely for you.”

Maybe, in my hereafter, instead of having to pay a medium to reach me, she’ll pick up one of my books. And wouldn’t that be the best legacy of all?

kaylee's ghost

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is the author of Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) and Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012.) She has chronicled her psychic work in The New York Times (Lives) and Newsweek (My Turn). Articles have been written about her gift in Redbook, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times Long Island Section and in the Dutch magazine, TV Gid. Aside from her psychic practice, she teaches writing at UCLA Extension. You can find her on twitter @rjshapiro.

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10 thoughts on “LOVE/HATE: NO, MY WRITING ISN’T MY LIFE, IS IT? by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

  1. Pingback: No, my writing isn’t my life, is it? | Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

  2. Lauren Cunningham

    It’s almost like your daughter is on a reality show, in book form! But it is kind of amazing she’s going to always have a record. I know I’d appreciate such a permanent memory!

  3. geri schwartz

    Your piece was very interesting and I suspected that people would think you were Miriam, however I imagined you got a lot of your material for your books from your own life, you made it very interesting by fictionalizing the rest of the story. Relationships between mothers and daughters always have an edge and source of conflict no matter what age. I have 3 grown daughters, 2 married with children and although they live far away, and there is lots of love, there still is always that conflict or memory from the past that haunts them about their relationship with me, their mom. People need to understand that all writers take information from their own lives, somewhat autobiographical, but add fiction to most of the stories they tell for added mystery, excitement, and interest.

    1. Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

      Hi, Geri, Thank you so much for your support. Tolstoy used his sister-in-law, Natasha, as a model for one of his characters. Most writers do draw on their own life. Telling your own story about the love and conflict that coexists between you and your daughters. And I thought that your comment about “a memory or conflict from the past that haunts them” is so important and relevant to my book. Because whether or not you believe in ghosts, everyone is haunted by something. Love, Rochelle

  4. Alli Berman

    we try to help our daughters (and sons) grow up, become independent self-reliant creatures. and then become confused when they listen to us and become those people! i know i did. and yet i was caught by surprise when each of them went on with their lives – a good part without me!! yet i am proud of their hard work, all of their many accomplishments. I know you only want the best for your daughter.

    i am a painter and paint my feelings and thoughts, so when i did abstract works that were titled by the name of my children, I felt correct in painting a connecting line or thread between the two of them – they are, after all connected to each other! and i left a small bit of their connection to me, abstractly indicating that a part of each of their umbilical chords would forever claim ME as their mother. the ME they rarely talk to these days. the ME that has moved on to my passionate pursuits – my painting. the ME that will always be there for them to share as they want to, help as they need it, and share fun and give love when it’s the right fit for their moment in time.

    but there is hope. my grandmother used to say, “you live long enough, you see everything…” like my brother who ignored my mom as a late teen, then tolerated her regular attention in his 20s and early 30s, then began to ask her how SHE was doing is his late 30s and finally began to call her regularly in his 40s and to this day, he speaks to her once or twice a week in his 50s…

    Rochelle, at some point your daughter will realize with pride all that you do and how accomplished you are, and I hope she will realize your wonderful books are NOT your personal diaries but rather, any likeness to your life (and HER life) is merely a tribute in a whisper of all you have been before and all you honor and love going forward.

    create your best day…all else will follow. Alli

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