Miami Herald meeting: part two

Candace calls herself a "visual journalist." When she lugged her video camera and tripod across the living room carpet like a Martian probe, I wondered what she had in mind. "No talking head interviews," she said, rolling her eyes. "Very little dialogue. Lots of tight shots, you know?"

I knew.

We spent the morning "talking it out." The process reminded me of writing a book. What shots did we want to include? What could we cut out? How could we tell a story in three minutes?

She hovered over my laptop. "I love YouTube," she said. "I'm such a geek." She showed me her inspiration--a video diary, In My Language, that presents a first-person viewpoint of an autistic mind.

"It's all about tolerance," Candace told me.

I stooped over the dining room table and doodled in my notepad. Candace filmed a close-up of my hands. I hoped she wasn't sweating buckets, thanks to the busted A.C. When she rolled sound, the cat decided to snack on a bowl of crunchies. At least we weren't outside battling the mosquitoes anymore.

When I dragged out my childhood journals (splattered with t-shirt paint and Lisa Frank unicorn stickers), Candace flipped through the pages as if searching for archaeological evidence. I never imagined that somebody would videotape stills of my Batman doodles and crablike handwriting. Candace said that the cartoons were "joyful."

I said, " Yeah. That's because I was in my head. The cartoons that I drew in my algebra books, on the other hand..."

I kept thinking about the signing I attended at Books&Books last week for my hero, John Dufresne. He talked a lot about art imitating life, how his protagonist, "Johnny," is just another version of himself. He said that novelists are forced to write about their lives and make it more interesting than reality. While working on a book, he often wonders: Is it a dream? Is it something I saw in a movie? Is it a memory?

"We pick at scabs," he said. "And we will until we die."

Working with the Miami Herald this past week, I met a wonderful cast of characters...from Patrick, the sharp-eyed photographer who perched me in the tree, thoughtful Laura, who listened and scribbled as I blabbed about my alter ego in cyberspace, and Candace, the former lit major who tells stories through pictures. I wondered what kind of portrait they would paint.