About Me

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Hello! I'm a writer from central New York who has bipolar disorder. Among other topics, I write about mental illness and writing. I have short stories published in Lynx Eye, Lost Coast Review, The Outrider Review, Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Mondegreen, The Linnet's Wings, Cobalt Review, Breath & Shadow, The Round Up, Postscripts to Darkness, and several other journals. I have essays about mental illness in The Ram Boutique and Amygdala Literary Magazine, and an essay in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, a book that was published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. The Mondegreen nominated my story "Santa Lucia" for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. I've written a novel entitled Purple Loosestrife and a novel entitled Hoping It Might Be So, both of which I am submitting to agents and publishers. I'm working on a novel called Dark and Bright as well as a book called Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in English from SUNY College at Brockport. I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dark and Bright

I've started the new novel I wrote about in my last post. It's called Dark and Bright (from Byron's poem "She Walks in Beauty"). It's the story of Curtis Stanford, a twenty-eight-year-old former model now living in his small hometown of (fictional) Lawrence located on the shore of Lake Ontario. Curtis is anxious, depressed, and lonely, and looking to amend this situation. Other characters are Curtis's neighbors, Melanie Knapp and her twelve-year-old son Everett, a pixie-faced, trouble-making wise-ass. And there are David and Jessica Knapp, Curtis's friends from Manhattan who move to nearby Rochester. This is a novel about people--their relationships, joys, fears.

One thing I should mention is that Jesus Christ is a character in this novel. He visits Curtis fairly regularly, and whether Curtis is delusional and Jesus is a hallucination, or whether this is really happening, we don't know. Curtis is an atheist who thinks he's losing his mind, and yet Jesus helps him come to terms with struggles and anxieties.

This is not in any way a religious novel, however. No. Jesus is pretty much just another character whom only Curtis sees. Maybe he is a delusion... we shall see.

I'm already working on chapter six and, at this point, I've introduced all the main characters and some of their issues. It's been fun to write and I look forward to letting it unfold.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Uh, Oh... Another Novel?

So I wrote a short story called "The Best of Dark and Bright" and had my dad and my writers group read and critique it. One friend in my group said that it seemed that it could be developed into a novel, while my dad said that it was quite complex for a short story and that the characters were very intriguing. So now I'm looking at this story and thinking that perhaps it could be a novel. I've even written a few scenes and taken down notes about how I think this might be done. I rather love the characters I've created and would like to tell more of their stories. Am I ready to embark on a third novel? I'm working on getting the first two submitted in the hope of finding them homes. But I could certainly write a third novel while I'm doing this. I will think more about it and let it percolate in my brain.

There would be a number of characters I'd follow in this novel. Curtis Stanford is my main character. Curtis's neighbor, the pixie-faced twelve-year-old wise-ass Everett Knapp, would be an important character. Then there's David Cooper, his wife Jessica, and their baby Liam. And I think I'd bring Curtis's mother Linda and sister Crystal into it. I'd delve a bit into Curtis's childhood, but most of the story would take place in the present when Curtis is in his late twenties. I'm getting more and more interested in taking on this project.

On a different note, I'm currently reading and loving Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. I'm also reading Touched by Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison. I'm enjoying this one, too, and relate to it quite easily. Reading pieces of work that other artistic people with bipolar disorder have written makes me feel less alone and more understood. It's also a little scary... the way the feelings among those of us with bipolar disorder are so similar, and often so horrible.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Finally... A New Story in a New Year

I've finally come up with an idea and started writing a new story. It's called "The Best of Dark and Bright". I'm also continuing to revise "Dark Moon", a story I started before Christmas. Oh, and I wrote "The Spoon Man", a very tiny tale.

My writing is going really well now. I was distracted by the holidays, but now I'm back in my groove. I've gotten one rejection for Hoping It Might Be So, but I'm okay with it. It's all part of writing.

I read Shirley Jackson's novel The Road Through the Wall and loved it, as I love all her work. I'm now reading Ted Chiang's collection Stories of Your Life and Others. I'm really enjoying it and learning from Chiang's great writing. I've got a few nonfiction books going as always, which I'll report on as I finish them. I did finally finish Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. It was great, and it's rather timely.

Monday, January 2, 2017

No Resolutions

Happy New Year! I'm not making any new year's resolutions because I want to continue what I've been doing already. I want to continue getting into good shape, writing and submitting my work for possible publication, and staying as well as possible regarding my bipolar disorder.

I've submitted my second novel, Hoping It Might Be So, to a few publishers. I'm not giving up on Purple Loosestrife, my first novel--I just found some publishers that seemed as though they could be a good fit for my second novel and submitted to see what might happen. In 2017, I'll continue submitting Purple Loosestrife as well.

One of my Christmas presents from my husband is membership at my local YMCA. It's a new facility and just beautiful. I think it will make working out fun. And the pools are great. I'm looking forward to swimming laps again. I used to swim laps back when I belonged to the Y in the greater Rochester area and I love it as a form of working out. I find it quite meditative... something about the water and the repetitive motions of swimming. It's a tough workout, but also very calming.

I haven't written enough during the holiday season. I need to write a short story but so far nothing coherent has formed in my mind. The holidays were certainly a distraction; now I've got to get back to work.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Holidays

(Please note: I've written this mostly about Christmas, but I hope my information can apply to any holiday you may celebrate.)

The holidays can be difficult for many people with mental illness. The stress of it all--even the good stress--can be daunting. Fortunately, however, this is not the case with me. I love all the holidays. Now, at least. For a long while, I would get very depressed during holiday times. I felt that there was undue pressure on me in the circumstances of my life at those times. I felt joy in the holidays for my son, but for myself, I felt despair and dread.

Yet when I changed my life in the early '00s and then reconnected with my future husband in 2004, the holidays took on a whole new meaning and feeling. I'm now happy during them, and I jump in with both feet. I decorate excessively for both Christmas and Easter, and even Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. And I celebrate because for so many years, I felt I couldn't.

I wish I could pass these feelings along to people who do suffer at holiday times. I suppose I can at least explain what I did for these changes to occur. First, I changed the circumstances I was in and found a life partner in my future husband who understands me, makes me happy, and supports and brings me joy all the time. And I found a new psychiatrist with whom I have developed a wonderful relationship and because of whom I'm on a successful mixture of medications. Then I began to use skills I learned from my psychiatrist (dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT skills), which help keep me on track. (Just a side note: I believe that no one should stay with a therapist or doctor they're unhappy with. If you're not getting all that you want from a therapist or doctor, leave and find someone else. It can be difficult to find just the right fit with someone, but trust me, it's worth it.)

I also work hard to alleviate stress on holidays. I celebrate with family and close friends. I do my Christmas shopping early to avoid feeling rushed. And I try to have fun with it all, as you can see from the picture of my nativity scene. I also find that watching my favorite movies helps keep me balanced. I recommend Christmas StoryLove Actually, and A Christmas Carol (the British 1951 version with Alastair Sims). I have artificial Christmas trees because of my cats (then I don't have to worry about them). I no longer send out Christmas cards but rather rely on e-mail and Facebook to send cheer. And perhaps most importantly, I try to get as much sleep as always. I've worked hard over the years to develop a good sleep routine, and when you have a mental illness, it's so important to have this. In fact, it's important to stick as much to your daily routine as possible. Medicate at the same time(s) every day. Eat three meals a day at generally the same times if possible.

I know that if you're ill and you're suffering, some of what I've written may sound trite. I know that watching a certain movie isn't going to make the pain go away. So try to reach out to people you know will help you, support you, and listen. And please get help if you really feel desperate--the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. I send out good vibes and positive energy to you all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Loss of Time

With mental illness comes a loss of time. I have lost days, weeks, and months to my bipolar disorder. But I try to look at what I've gained through these losses. Strength. Determination. A fighting spirit. Wisdom. But nevertheless, it's difficult to think of the times when I couldn't get out of bed, or when I was manic and out of control, and I missed out on "normal life", for lack of a better phrase. I had about eleven years (1995 to 2006) during which I struggled and lost time. But I try to look back on the good things that occurred during that time. Even though there are black holes of loss, I had my son, and he kept me going and always brought me joy. I had family and friends who cared deeply about me. From 1995 to about 2001, I had a wonderful psychiatrist. I had the most trouble from 2001 to 2003 and landed in the psychiatric ward four times, including in 2003 with a severe manic episode. But then I broke free in a number of ways and changed my life. I would still struggle until I truly came to terms with my bipolar disorder and until I found the awesome psychiatrist I presently see.

I'm not saying that everything became magically better in 2006. I still have ups and downs and difficult times. But overall, I have learned a lot about coping with this illness and about what to do when episodes begin to come on. I've learned the skills of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and these have helped me tremendously. I've also become an advocate for mental illness and try to educate and enlighten others about these conditions. This helps with my own condition.

So while I've lost time, I've also gained. I guess you can't dwell on losses. We all have loss in our lives due to one thing or another. I just happen to have specific losses because of a mental illness. But it's taught me to value time and revel in good times. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nomination

The Mondegreen has nominated my short story "Santa Lucia" for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. I am so honored by this, and while this may sound like something you hear a lot around Academy Award nomination time, it feels great just to be nominated. It really does.

I enjoyed writing this story very much. My Italian Catholic grandmother used to tell me about St. Lucy. If I remember correctly, she had a statue of St. Lucy holding her eyeballs on a plate, or at least a holy card which portrayed this, so I feel the story has a connection to Grandma Mary. I don't know if she would have appreciated this story--it's a little gruesome--but she was always proud of me and her many other grandchildren. When I was a kid, she would ask me to play "Santa Lucia" on my cello, but because I didn't know the song, I'd play another favorite of hers, "You Are My Sunshine". Nevertheless, I can still hear her singing "Santa Lucia" in an attempt to teach it to me. So here's to you, Grandma Mary. And thank you so much to The Mondegreen.