I published another book! (though I didn’t write it)

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For most of this year, I have allowed myself to get sidetracked from my writing. After my semi-hopeless-sounding post last January (good heavens, 10 months!), I actually did finish the draft of my novel in February, and felt good about what I produced in the first several weeks of the year. And then, I was completely drained, creatively speaking. I made some efforts–and baby steps of progress–with my revisions in the spring and summer, but with far too many gaps.

And then, in August, at the annual Local Author Workshop at Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, I mentioned during one of the sessions that I’d published a book of poetry, was working on a novel, and hoped I might publish books by other people some day with my still-very-small publishing company. Imagine my surprise, during the lunch break, when I was approached by a gentleman who wanted me to publish his poetry collection. That’s right: my first client!

So, while a fair amount of time I haven’t spent writing, these many months, has been frittered away–and I did admit above that I’d allowed myself to be sidetracked–I’ve also spent a solid amount of time helping another writer to get his work into the world. I’m proud to “introduce” Remnants of a Life, a collection of poetry by Duane L. Herrmann, a Kansas native with the spirit of the Great Plains in much of his writing. At the moment, it is only available in paperback through Amazon (here’s the link!), but I expect to have the ebook done and available for Kindle within the next few days, and hopefully both paperback and ebook through other outlets soon after.

Finally, it is November, which is always difficult for me, but is also National Novel Writing Month. I went to a couple of pre-NaNo events at TSCPL in October, and my goal this month is to go back through the excellent feedback I got from my editors and apply as much of it to my manuscript as I possibly can, and get it into publishable condition. I just need to keep reminding myself: it doesn’t need to be perfect–and in fact, it never can be perfect–it just needs to be good, and done, and published!

I actually started another blog post in June that’s still in the draft folder, and there are a few other topics I really should have written about during this year. It occurred to me that, in the few years since I began writing more “seriously” and thinking of my writing as a potential product, instead of blogging regularly and maintaining “my platform,” I’ve actually written a lot less here than I used to. The draft from last June is a case in point: instead of just spending half an hour “chatting” about whatever’s in my head, I felt like I couldn’t post something short and quick, but had to plan something and take more time with it and make it l-o-n-g. So, it remains in my draft folder, for now.

As always, I will endeavor to be better…whatever that means! But at least I got one more book published, and it feels good. I hope it will be the start of a more productive and creative time for me, and though I don’t like November, NaNoWriMo will give me more motivation to write. Onward!

After reading comments from my editors…

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At the moment, the manuscript of my first novel has seventeen chapters. I’ve submitted most of it to my editing team, three or four chapters at a time, and most of their feedback has been fantastic, and just the right amount of pointing out confusing things or minor errors, and making good suggestions, without making me feel like I need to rewrite whole chapters. They gave me back their comments on chapters 13 through 15, and I reviewed them this evening (after working all day, having supper, and then relaxing a little while longer before getting online). I started writing a reply, babbled some, and then deleted all that and started again.

After writing most of my reply, I wasn’t sure whether to send it to them, because really most of it was stuff I probably should just tell my therapist, except that I took a break from therapy a few months ago–partly because I was in a fairly stable place with my depression, and partly to save some money. Anyway, it wasn’t necessarily stuff to just dump on my editors, who only know me through the emails we’ve exchanged and the draft (so far) of my novel. But it was enough about the tangled relationships between my writing, my life (both past and present), and my mental health (or illness) that I thought, Maybe this is a blog post. Sure; why not?

——————-

I just spent 15+ minutes trying to write you a message, having just read your feedback on chapters 13-15…and then deleted it and I’m trying again.

I remember being in the college library while I was going to Community College of Rhode Island, sitting in a study carrel, probably crying, probably because of Spanish class. (On second thought, it could have been Trigonometry.) And I remember thinking, “I don’t really have to go to a 4-year college”–or maybe something more like, “I won’t ever get to a 4-year college.” It was a dream I had — this fantasy that I could get a degree in English and maybe eventually be a writer — and the main reason I wanted to go to Smith College was because Sylvia Plath had gone to Smith, and I had ALWAYS loved books, loved to read, but it wasn’t until I read Plath’s poetry that… how to explain it? I felt like she had said the kinds of things I wanted to say, that she’d written the way I hoped to write. When I was a teenager, I wrote poems and kept a journal, because I couldn’t NOT write–maybe not even because I had a compulsion for the writing itself, but because I wrote to save my life.

Your feedback on this section was mostly spot-on, with good suggestions–as usual–and even the few things I might not agree with, I can see where you’re coming from. But by the time I finished reading through the comments, I thought, “I am just not good at this fiction thing.” I’ve been thinking for a while that one reason I didn’t try to write fiction for literally decades is because I’m so much in my own head, and my own experience, that it’s hard to imagine being someone else long enough to write believably from that other person’s perspective. If only I’d lived a few decades earlier, I could have been a confessional poet when it was cool.

As the much younger me, in the library at CCRI, felt beaten before she even got to a 4-year college, I feel beaten when it’s time to open my laptop, to get ready to write fiction. “I don’t really have to write a novel…”

—————–    [This is basically where I decided to stop writing my editors and just make it a blog post.]

I ultimately dropped Trig, but I got through the Spanish class. I eventually transferred to Smith, and spent five amazing and overwhelming semesters there, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English. Smith was a dream that became a goal, and I made it there, and I even finished. Writing this novel was a dream that has now become a goal, and it’s still taking me longer than I hoped, and a lot of days it’s hard, and then some days I just can’t even, but every week that goes by gets me a little closer to finishing it. If I can just finish chapter 17 (I can!) and get it edited, then I can look at all the feedback on all the chapters, and make the small and easy changes, and decide how much of the bigger stuff I can stand to revise (including if I’m going to insert one more chapter about three-quarters of the way through the book OMG I really don’t know if I can add a whole new chapter this book is taking forever OMG).

Big sigh.

Tonight was…not quite. But tomorrow, I’ll try again.

A little good (writing) news, amidst the usual chaos

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As the title says, I need to share some good news about my writing. I spent several weeks reading through the draft of my romance novel, making corrections, filling in gaps, and generally tweaking anywhere that tweaking seemed necessary. I decided I was about ready to contact an editor and cross my fingers that they might want to work with me. I had two different teams/companies in mind, and decided to try the smaller outlet first. We exchanged friendly and informative emails, and then I sent them about 20 pages for a sample edit. They got through 14 pages in that first hour, and provided good and reasonable feedback.

We signed a contract last week — YAAAAAY!!!!!!

I’m going back through the manuscript again before sending it to them–first, to rework some of the part that they read, and second, to take one more chance to smooth out any remaining rough spots before giving it to them. I said I’d plan to clean up the first five chapters, then send that to them so they can dig in. I’m currently into chapter four, and it’s Thursday evening, so I’ll be submitting the five chapters sometime this weekend.

They have assured me my writing is not garbage, and this has bolstered my confidence a great deal. I had hoped to publish by the end of the year, but I don’t think that’s realistic at this point. However, I fully expect that I’ll have the book done–at least the Kindle ebook posted on Amazon–early in 2019. I know it’s hard to believe me when I say that, since I’ve been working on this novel for-ev-ah, but one of the reasons I contacted an editing team is, even if I don’t have firm deadlines with them, the fact that we have a contract and an actual professional relationship will force me to prioritize my novel over a lot of other “free time” activities. It is already working, in that I’m watching less television: I’ve cut down on my cable news consumption somewhat, and I don’t think I’ve looked at any of this fall’s new prime time shows. Also, NaNoWriMo is coming in a few weeks, which means in-person writing events and online encouragement from other Topeka writers. Instead of trying for “new words,” I’ll be going full-steam ahead on my edits. I can’t wait!

A couple quick notes about “the usual chaos” I mentioned in the title:

Kyle is in his first semester at Washburn University, and so far, so good; just ordered a calculator tonight that he needs before his math test next Tuesday;

Ryan is a junior, and has been running cross country, so his sports-related events are keeping us busy, of course;

Ryan had his last appointment today for his invisible braces, and they gave him his first retainer; I’m glad we won’t have any more dental appointments for him for a while;

October is open enrollment for health insurance through work, which of course means looking at all the different plans and vendors, comparing co-pays and deductibles as well as how much will come out of our checks every two weeks, going back and forth with Jeff about all the options, and ultimately making very similar choices to what we already have this year, but that feeling when I make my selections and submit them is like I’ve climbed a mountain and can finally rest;

and I could list ten or more other things, but instead I’ll just say that I am binge-watching a show for what might be the first time in my life, and it’s because Kyle got hooked on it and convinced me to try it, so now I watch it with him, and how can I say no when my child wants to spend time with me? It’s The 100, a show I’d heard of but didn’t know anything about. We’re four or five episodes into season three, and sometimes it’s confusing, with all the different characters and people switching allegiances, plus it’s set in the future–but I really like it. We’re going to watch our next episode tonight, as soon as I finish this, but then no more for me until I get those five chapters submitted to my editors!

In closing: be kind to yourself, because I’m sure you’ve earned it–and watch this space for more updates about my novel!

Where have I been? What the heck have I been doing?

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This is just a quick post to explain what I’ve been doing for the last six to eight months. This is a photo I took of my TV screen a week ago, of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and her now-famous wall-size display that lists all the people (by position, not personal name) who have either resigned from the Trump administration or been fired since he took office fourteen months ago. I feel it sums up where a lot of my time has gone, while I’ve been away from here.

 

In short, I have been wildly distracted by breaking news almost every day, and I’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time on Twitter (that’s the link to my handle).

One unfortunate thing is that my reading time has suffered, and one really embarrassing thing is that I’ve been writing even less than I’ve been reading. I realize that I need to seriously cut back on my news and media consumption if I’m ever going to finish writing a novel. If only this Dumpster fire of a presidential administration would be over, or if we could at least have maybe a full week without a new scandal in the White House or a high-profile firing or resignation, or without him saying and/or doing things that are spiteful and idiotic and completely unbecoming the office he holds. Just, ugh. So yeah, I need to get away from that somewhat, and soon.

Before I do step back, though, I’m planning to participate in a local event this Saturday, March 24, that’s part of the March for Our Lives. On Valentine’s Day, just five weeks ago, there was a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen people died, and about the same number of people were injured, some very seriously. A group of students who survived the shooting started talking to reporters, appearing on TV news shows, and giving speeches. Within days, they began to organize, to plan school walk-outs as well as a march in Washington, DC, and to spread their messages on social media. The primary message is #NeverAgain, because they hoped the Parkland shooting would be the last school shooting. (It wasn’t, but the subsequent incidents have been much smaller, and at least a couple were accidental.) I’m amazed at their courage and determination, and I’m afraid for my own children, so I support their cause 100 percent.

By next week, I will be getting back into the swing of writing, because dammit, my books won’t write themselves.

People are People (Thoughts on Charlottesville)

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From the moment I heard this morning that white supremacists carrying torches surrounded a church last night in Charlottesville, Virginia, I’ve been alternately watching the events unfold on TV, or checking Twitter or news sites to find out the latest developments. (Yes, even when I should have been doing other things, like at a write-in this afternoon where I wrote a grand total of 200 words. Only two hundred.) It’s frightening and unreal, and the fact that a woman actually died today, when a driver used his car as a weapon, and about twenty other people were injured. A handful of those people are in critical or serious condition. Others were injured, too, when the racists and counter-protesters clashed. In the afternoon, a police helicopter that was monitoring events from above crashed outside of Charlottesville, killing two officers, though I’m not sure if they were state or local police.

I agree with many of the politicians and pundits who labeled the car crash as an act of domestic terrorism, if the investigation finds that the driver’s actions were intentional. Beyond that, were the people attending the Alt-Right rally (“Unite the Right”) encouraging domestic terrorism, even if they weren’t directly involved in any physical altercations? There have been so many mass shootings, and other acts of violence and hate — bombings of mosques and churches, stabbings motivated by extremist beliefs — in cities across the country, and around the world. Something about today’s events in Charlottesville feels different to me, though. It wasn’t just one person — a “lone wolf” who is either mentally ill or a radical extremist — or a small handful of people who espouse a hateful ideology. No. This was a group of people, perhaps hundreds of them, coming together to rally in shared hatred of people who are different from themselves. (If not actual hatred in the heart of every single participant, then at the very least a shared belief that they, white heterosexual “Christian” men — it had to be overwhelmingly men — are better than, more important than, and superior to, members of every other group and class of people.)

The media reported so many instances today of public figures denouncing not only the actions of the participants who showed aggression toward the counter-protesters and/or became violent, but also condemning the messages of hate, racism, and anti-Semitism these people were spreading. It wasn’t only liberals/Democrats; many conservatives/Republicans also issued strong statements against the ideologies of the rally participants. I truly hope today will be a turning point for our country. We have been divided for too long. Hate speech is not the same as free speech. Today’s rally wasn’t about a different point of view; it was a gathering of people who hate, and seek to oppress, people who are unlike themselves. I truly believe that most people are mostly good, and want to be kind to others. We must stand up for one another, and stand together against hatred, prejudice, and cruelty.

I thought of a song today that I can’t help sharing with you: “People are People” by Depeche Mode.

#Charlottesville

#LoveTrumpsHate

View “People are People” on YouTube

Touching base: writing update, audiobooks, and everyday stuff

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Just checking in on my blog/website for a little while this evening — after months of neglect — and found this paragraph on the “About” page:

Although the book I published is a poetry collection, I’ve turned my attention to fiction, and have spent much of 2015 working on my first novel — specifically, a romance novel. My primary goal for 2016 is to finish and publish it.

Soooo… oops? Life has a way of interrupting writing plans. I’ve tweaked that bit so it’s now accurate. As far as the status of that novel, it is much closer to being a complete first draft. Thanks to several weekend Write-In sessions at my local library, with other members of the area’s National Novel Writing Month group (who write and/or edit all year, not only in November), I’ve made solid progress in June and July. I’ve done minor revising of some scenes, major rewrites of other scenes, and have written a few new ones as well. I still have a few gaps in the story that require new scenes, and I’m not sure if my current “black moment” is serious enough. To top it off, I still need to decide how to resolve the main conflict and bring my couple together at the end. It sounds like a lot, now that I’ve spelled it out here, but I’m sitting at about 54,000 words now, and I feel really good about the revisions I’ve made and the parts I’ve added. Overall, it’s a higher-quality draft than I had three months ago. I just need to make some plot and character decisions, write out the results of those decisions, and find me an editor.

What else? I’m going through an audiobook phase at the moment, because once in a while, I can’t decide if I want a writing and/or publishing podcast, a book discussion podcast, or a political podcast. (I’ve also started tapering one of my two antidepressant meds, so that could be messing with my mood sometimes. Yeah, it probably is.) Anyway, way back when I found audiobooks, one of my earliest favorite narrators was Davina Porter. I listened to several mysteries just because she narrated them. Well, I’ve now listened to my first Agatha Raisin mystery by M. C. Beaton: Hiss and Hers. It was a pleasure from start to finish, not only because Davina Porter is a masterful reader (as expected), but because Agatha Raisin is a character you can’t help rooting for even as she drives people nuts. I understand now why Simon Savidge (UK blogger & bookish bloke, and co-host of The Readers podcast) loves this mystery series.

I finished the M. C. Beaton last weekend, and started my next audiobook two days ago. It’s a historical romance by Tessa Dare, called Romancing the Duke. I don’t remember the reader’s name off the top of my head, but she’s doing a really good job. It’s between eight and nine hours, and I’m about halfway through. It. Is. Awesome. I’m planning to listen to the rest of it on Sunday while I do housecleaning. Sunday is my birthday, and we’ll have family over that evening for my birthday supper, but I don’t mind spending a good chunk of the morning and early afternoon cleaning if I can listen to this wonderful and entertaining story with minimal interruptions from other humans (and also pets).

Most evenings, in recent months, I spend too much time watching news programs and/or reading news online, often with Twitter open on the phone I’m holding. I can’t believe we have a narcissistic dumbass in the White House. I think I appreciate journalists and TV news reporters more now, and in the last six months, than I ever have before in my life.

My younger son made the freshman baseball team this past spring, and then he played with his regular team from late May until this year’s last tournament, two weeks ago near Norman, Oklahoma. (They finished fourth of fourteen teams in that tourney — not too shabby.) Then, the coach wrote to us three days ago to say that his kid has another opportunity for next year, and a few other kids are looking at other options for next year, so obviously he won’t be coaching, and basically we don’t have a team. Jeff is a little stressed because instead of being all set for baseball next year, we suddenly have no plan, and Ryan might need to try out for other teams in the very near future. I’m disappointed, because I loved this team, and really felt it was where we belonged, but as far as what happens now… that’s just not my department.

Work is mostly the same, and keeps me busy and tired. (The Oklahoma trip was the closest we got to a vacation this year, with two days off before, then Monday off to recover back at home, after not getting home until very late Sunday night.) I’m taking a day off this coming week to get the boys registered for school, and hopefully do a little more writing or revising. Then, only a couple weeks until they go back to school. The roller coaster might slow down a little, once in a while, but it never stops.

A Family’s Fences

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While I was at Smith College, probably in the spring semester of 1994, I took an American Theater class. It was there that I first heard of August Wilson, and read his award-winning play, Fences. I don’t actually read too many plays, but I’ve always enjoyed attending the performances. (Thinking back, at this moment, it’s clear I haven’t seen enough of them. I ought to try to see more — maybe, sometime.) Occasionally, though, even when it’s on the page instead of a stage, a play’s power and brilliance is clear to me, and I can see and hear it in my imagination, and it thrills and moves me. This is what happened when I read Fences for that literature class. I didn’t need to see the play performed to know it was amazing.

Near the end of the semester, everyone had to research a topic related to something we’d covered in the class, and write a paper. I tried to do that, but hit a wall. However, before having a meltdown, I had a new idea, and thankfully, when I pitched it to my professor, she said I could try it. Instead of doing a paper, I wrote poems inspired by and/or responding to most of the plays we’d read that semester. They weren’t my best work, but they were an honest attempt to express some of what I’d learned from the variety of plays we’d covered. In her notes on the packet I’d given her, my professor actually thanked me for suggesting the project, saying she’d enjoyed reading the poems, especially the one about Fences. I was pleased by that, because I also felt it was the best one in the bunch.

Last weekend, before the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony ended with a brief mix-up about which film actually won Best Picture — which was apparently like the three most confusing minutes in Oscar history, and which dominated all the post-awards discussion — the moment that brought me to tears was the speech by Viola Davis, who won Best Supporting Actress for her work in Fences, playing Rose. I haven’t seen the film yet, because we so rarely go to the movies, but I definitely will see it. And I will love it.

 

A Family’s Fences

The years pile up, link
together the wants
and defeats
of one and two people,
or three, who think
that being family
is all you need to love.

The roof is leaking,
walls fall off slowly,
and the fence
cannot build itself.
A family cuts its own ties
with its bare teeth.
All leave the yard bleeding.

You cannot forget this:
after all the reaching
toward a television harmony,
death will rush up
and take you on the left.
No fence will be so honest,
then, as your memory,

dressed in blue, waving to you.

 

This poem appears in my poetry collection entitled Happenings, Heartbeats, and Mental Breakdowns, published in 2015. It’s available in print through Amazon, and in ebook through the other major vendors as well. It’s reasonably-priced, and it’s a pretty good collection (she said modestly). Click here to find it at your preferred vendor.

The last time I tried to do NaNoWriMo …

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… I basically crashed and burned. It was last year, November 2015. I started out fairly well, as far as my word count and trying to do some amount of writing every day. I started writing the second book in what I’m hoping will be a three-book series. I had been trying to write the first book in said series from late March through October, with sidesteps to put together and publish (at least in ebook format) my collection of poems, and the kind of delays that one encounters when one also has a family and a full-time job. To do National Novel Writing Month “correctly,” the writer can do all kinds of planning before November, but no actual writing until November 1. So, I put aside my work-in-progress and started writing the follow-up. At the end of November 2015, I had two incomplete novels instead of only one!

What happened last year was basically the same thing that happens to me every November: I had several days when I was seriously depressed. Don’t get me wrong: depression can hit me any day or week of the year, in any kind of weather, with no regard for whatever else I might have had planned. But for many years, perhaps as far back as my teenage years, November has been my most difficult month.

The following paragraphs are what I posted on Facebook (where I’d also been posting updates about my NaNoWriMo efforts) on November 22, 2015.

If you don’t like to think about depression, just skip this one.

I had planned to go to a write-in yesterday afternoon at the library, to try to add a few thousand more words to my November work-in-progress (for National Novel Writing Month). A lot of the morning and early afternoon, I was roped into trying to fix Ryan’s laptop — which had frozen Friday night, but had also just been returned to us Thursday before last with a brand new hard drive. Seriously, EIGHT DAYS after getting it back, it has some DIFFERENT but still MAJOR problem that makes it unusable??? And I don’t know a lot about fixing computers, and no matter what I tried it didn’t work.

A little before 2pm, instead of getting in the shower, I got into bed. (I was still in my pajamas.) Before long, I was crying. I cried off and on for the rest of the afternoon and evening. I got a headache that wouldn’t quit, and my eyes were sore. Much like last Sunday, not only was I too depressed to write, I was too depressed to read. I watched some Hallmark Channel in between bouts of crying. Later, the four of us watched an episode of The Middle, but I quickly started to feel sick. I felt sweat all over me — my arms were resting on the table, and the table was noticeably DAMP under my arms, it was wild. I tried hard not to vomit, but it didn’t work. I’ve continued to be intermittently nauseated since then, but only threw up the one time, thank God.

So, the headache. It’s only the last couple hours that it seems to be gone. The headache and my busy crazy mind kept me up most of the night. I didn’t go to sleep until between 10 and 11, but I was awake again by 1230am, and slept little from then until 630 or 7am. I ate a little, drank some water, took Tylenol for my headache, and read this old novel I had read as a teenager and just recently figured out the title and author again. I couldn’t sleep, but at least I could read.

I recently started reading the new book by Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: a Funny Book about Horrible Things. I won’t finish it soon: it is due back to the library today, but since I am *still* in my pajamas, it might be slightly overdue. Anyway, Lawson is mostly very funny, but a lot of the book (based on my understanding of it, and the little I read) is about her experiences with depression and other mental illnesses. There’s one sentence in the Author’s Note that particularly struck me: “Imagine having a disease so overwhelming that your mind causes you to want to murder yourself.”

If you want to read that last sentence again, please feel free.

And yet, so many of us also feel ashamed, a sense of personal weakness and failure, and hopelessness. I’m not supposed to be writing any of this, right? I’m not supposed to admit that I feel like garbage sometimes, that 30 years after I spent a couple of months in a psychiatric hospital, I *still* think sometimes about hurting myself, and wonder if I have the strength to go on.

And November is THE WORST. The idea that I would try to write a novel during November, when really, any day that I shower and get out of the house should count as a damn victory in my personal battle of life, is basically a fantasy goal that is doomed to fail. (The only time I didn’t have episodes of Seasonal Affective Disorder during November was when I lived in Arizona. I might win NaNoWriMo someday if I live in AZ again.) I’ve accepted that, and I don’t plan to write today. I will keep writing, but not to that November deadline. I just can’t deal.

Ryan’s laptop. I don’t know. It ain’t happening today.

Today. Today, Jeff and I have been married for 18 years. We were supposed to have some kid-free time today, to probably go out to dinner, maybe watch a movie. Did I mention that I’m writing this in bed, and that I haven’t showered all weekend?!? Jeff has been so helpful and sympathetic since my mood went south yesterday. I know I’m not easy to live with a lot of the time, and yet he keeps me around. He’s also encouraged the boys to behave themselves, and not add to my stress level, and they’ve mostly complied. For these things, I am thankful.

I hope your weekend has been better than mine. I hope tomorrow will be better for me, too. I hope I can sleep tonight. I’m looking forward to the long Thanksgiving weekend … and soon after that, to the end of another November.

Happy holiday week. May you all have reasons to smile. If you can’t think of any, then you might want to read some Jenny Lawson.

[And now, back to the present day, when I remember that my blog doesn’t have enough photos. Here’s the profile picture that accompanies that Facebook post. It is me with my late cat Mia, taken an incredibly long time ago, but even though Mia’s been gone over two years now, I still haven’t wanted to change my FB photo.]

marie-and-mia

This year, my only goal for NaNoWriMo is to finish a mostly coherent draft of that ever-changing first novel. I’m only counting my “new” words, but instead of 50K, I only need to write 15-20K. I’m currently at 6578, and I’m off from work tomorrow, and the marathon write-in is the day after that. Tomorrow, I’m going to get my existing scenes in order, and make a short list/outline of the scenes I need to write to finish a solid draft.

But also, you might be wondering, how is my mood? It seems strange to say, but … and I don’t want to say it too loud … it’s not too bad. Actually, for November, it’s been pretty great — knock on wood! The first couple days of the month were kind of blue, but other than that, it’s been okay. (I will not talk about the election, and other signs that the apocalypse might be coming sooner than we thought. Sometimes, having an entertaining fictional world as a retreat is a real blessing!) I’m not sure why it’s been easier this year — though probably our above-average temperatures have played some part in it — but mostly I want to enjoy it, and be as productive as my mood lets me be.

Onward, and maybe upward!

Help me support a worthy cause

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[TL;DR: I’m donating a portion of the sales of my poetry book, from now through the end of the year, to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. There’s more info about them, and links, in the post below. My ebook is only 99 cents, a small amount for most people, and the more copies I sell, the more money I can donate! Whether you get ebooks from Amazon, Apple’s iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords, just click here, and then choose the link to your preferred vendor from that page. Thank you!]

Part of the description for my poetry collection (titled, appropriately enough, Happenings, Heartbeats, and Mental Breakdowns) states that the book might bring comfort to people who have suffered from depression or another mental illness. This is because I’ve struggled with depression since I was about ten years old, and I’ve been in counseling off and on since I was twelve. A lot of my poems have dark undertones, and explore the shadowy places that will be familiar to many people who have battled depression. Some of them include signs of hope and light, but there are a couple that really don’t. Still, I remember that quote from the movie Shadowlands: “We read to know we are not alone.” One takeaway from even my darkest poems is this: if you’ve ever felt hopeless, if you’ve experienced despair, if you’ve lost someone you loved and thought the grief would swallow you whole, You Are Not Alone. I have been where you are, and there are many others who have been there, too, and might be there today.

The second takeaway: I am still here. Some days I want to give up, and other days, I can’t even GET up. But a little time passes, I gather as much strength as I can (and I probably grab some caffeine and/or chocolate), and I face another day. I am alive, I am employed, I have a family, and I’m still (albeit intermittently) pursuing my goal of becoming a better writer.

It’s true that novels generally sell better than short stories. I don’t have numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if story collections, in turn, sell better than poetry. Yet I can’t help thinking, my poetry collection is pretty good, and there are potential readers out there who would enjoy the book, and see themselves reflected in some of the poems. And a few days ago, I had this idea: instead of only promoting my book, I could “pay it forward.”

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From now through the end of this year, I’ll donate 25% of the net sales of my poetry book to a non-profit organization that helps people who have depression or a similar mental illness. I am leaning toward the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, which I had heard of, but I honestly didn’t know anything about them. When I started looking at their website, the thing that impressed me first was reading this statement on their “About DBSA” page, in the section about what makes them different from other mental health-related non-profits:

Peer-led: More than half of the DBSA staff and board members live with a mood disorder and all DBSA support groups are facilitated by peers
And I thought, Wait a second … a lot of the people running the organization and employed there are fighting the same battles as the people seeking help. Hmmm. As I continued clicking around, I found a Media Kit, and an information sheet about the current president of DBSA, Allen Doederlein. He is introduced with this:
Allen Doederlein has been president of DBSA since 2011, an executive with the organization since 2009. Doederlein first experienced a mood disorder at age 17, the third generation of his family to do so.

My father told me that he had his own “nervous breakdowns” at ages thirteen and seventeen. He was diagnosed as manic-depressive (i.e. bipolar) during or soon after that second breakdown, circa 1959. He had some number of shock treatments during that time period, long before I was born. When I was a teenager myself, already struggling with depression, it sometimes felt like I had two different fathers: my “regular” dad (to be clear, I wouldn’t really call him “normal” even then), and my “manic” dad. It wasn’t just his behavior that changed, or the fact that he wouldn’t stop talking; even his voice was different. Anyway, supporting an organization that focuses on depression and bipolar disorder would honor my dad’s memory, and help others with the same condition, as well as people with depression.

The other thing that pointed me toward DBSA is their high ratings on Charity Navigator (four out of four stars, overall score of 93.83 out of 100) and on GuideStar, which identifies DBSA as a “Platinum-level” organization. These rankings have convinced me that not only is this a legitimate non-profit organization, but it’s committed to doing good, to helping people who desperately need it. They stress the importance of the “lived experience” of people living with mood disorders, as well as a commitment to helping the family members of people battling these illnesses.

My book is very reasonably priced, and from now until the end of the year, I’ll give 25% of my net profits to a worthy non-profit — probably DBSA. (You know, unless there’s some terrible news about them between now and the end of the year, courtesy of WikiLeaks or an old Access Hollywood recording … please Lord, don’t let anything like that happen!) With this one link, you’ll find a landing page to choose your preferred ebook vendor, and click through to buy Happenings, Heartbeats, and Mental Breakdowns. If you want a print version, that’s only available through Amazon — again, same link. If you want to buy a signed copy directly from me, please email me at lightedlakepress (at) gmail (dot) com to find out more!

My poetry book is available through Overdrive!

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For many devoted readers of ebooks, the only thing better than being able to purchase an ebook and download it to their device almost instantaneously, is being able to borrow an ebook from their local library, for free, and download it immediately to their device. Books in any format can be expensive, and sometimes it’s harder to justify buying an ebook because you don’t have an actual physical thing. (Or maybe that’s my age talking. And also, who am I kidding? Pretty much everything is expensive. Life is expensive, dammit.)

As a lifelong fan of libraries, and as a librarian, it was always my goal to have my book available to library users. I’m thrilled to tell you that the ebook of my poetry collection, Happenings, Heartbeats, and Mental Breakdowns, is now available to libraries through Overdrive! You can see more information right here.

If your local library provides access to ebooks using Overdrive, please consider letting them know about my book and asking if they’ll purchase it for the library’s ebook collection. I think it only costs them a few dollars. (Even better for you, Dear Reader, is that it costs you nothing!) Thank you very much!

As always, happy reading!

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