“I left this page blank,” wrote Mim my editor, “for an epigram. That is, if you want one.” I e-mailed her back, “What is an epigram?” I felt foolish that I did not know. By the next day, not only did I learn what it was, I had several different choices for her and we swiftly decided on a suitable one.
When a manuscript is ready to publish small add-on projects can catch the inexperienced writer by surprise. With my first book Dogmeat, I worked on an Introduction as I wrote the book, the work more painstaking than any other section. But then, when ready to publish, I was surprised with a need to write an Acknowledgement section thanking those who assisted me with the project. I wrote one quickly. Then, another last minute surprise: did I want a Dedication? This took more thought, and I eventually came up with a poignant one.
This time around I presented an Introduction, Acknowledgements and Dedication, already well thought out, along with the rest of the manuscript. Then came Mim’s surprise request for an epigraph. This is a clever and apropos quotation often presented in the beginning of a book, before the main text.
I always thought that such epigrams reflected a higher level of erudition for the writer. He must be so well read, was a common reaction they evoked. Guess what? You don’t have to be.
After Mim’s request, first I Googled the word epigram and quickly figured out its meaning. I knew the kind of quote I wanted. It had to be about story-telling, since in my Introduction I indicated I have been a story-teller all my life, and the book about to be published, Appassionata, is my first formal book of stories.
I simply Googled epigrams about story telling. The first hit on the search page gave me 500 such quotes. It took about an hour to wade through them. Here are the ones that made the final cut:
“There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.” Doris Lessing
“The only way to live several lives in one life span is to write stories.” Vishwas Mudagal
“There is only Love — and Stories. All else is but a shadow dream.” Vera Nazarian
“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” Henry David Thoreau
“Listen, and you will realize that we are made not from cells or from atoms. We are made from stories.” Mia Couto
I liked the Thoreau quote. It reflected how tough it is to write a good short story. But when I presented these five finalists to Mim she said that this quote has been used frequently. Considering my day job, she thought the Mia Couto was more apropos.
And thus, in the time span of less that twenty-four hours I learned what an epigram was and how to select one. Now I will sit back and let my readers admire how erudite I am, Google be damned.