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. In December of 2016, The Mondegreen nominated my story "Santa Lucia" for a 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!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Drawing from the Past

I've heard it said to write what you know.  I both agree and disagree with this statement.  I agree in the sense that when we write what we know, we're in familiar territory which brings veracity to what we're writing.  But I disagree because writers have imaginations that can create whole worlds, beings, and events that don't actually exist.  But what I want to talk about a little bit here is writing what you know.

I'm working on a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder, and it can be both easy and difficult.  It's easy when I'm writing on a more technical, clinical level; it's difficult when I'm delving into experiences I've had, many of them unpleasant to say the least.  Drawing from the past is an interesting endeavor.  There's material like crazy.  There's so much from which to draw.  But choosing what to draw from is complicated.  I don't want my memoir to be an exercise in wallowing in self-pity, nor do I want it to be maudlin and melodramatic.  I want it to be honest, educational, enlightening, and accurate.  So to draw from the past, I have to pick and choose the right events, emotions, and information to succeed with my goal.  It's not easy, but I intend to give it my best try!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Alphabet Poem


I wrote the poem below as an exercise.  Each line had to start with the next letter of the alphabet, so if you look down at the first letters of each line, you'll be able to read the entire alphabet in order.

"To a Former Lover in the Present Moment"
By Emily Glossner Johnson

Aside from your silence,
Beside my crystal memories of
Cool September days,
Do you ever remember?
"Emily, forget them!
Forget what they say!
Go with your heart."
How inelegant your words, and yet
I believed you
Just as you believed in me.

Know this:
Love will haunt you;
Memories run strong and deep, but
No, I no longer love you,
Or wish to return to your shelf,
Put there for safe keeping.

Quiet your mind.
Rest easy in your
Silence.
Today I just happen to feel free.

Underneath the
Violet-shadowed pines,
Would you ever go there again?
X-ray my soul,
Your ground
Zero girl.

On a Roll!

Just found out this morning that I'm getting my short story "Vladimir Lenin Grown Weary" published in the summer issue of the journal Dinosaur Bees!  I'm having a very good weekend!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A New Publication!

I just found out today that my story "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" is going to be published in the June issue of a journal called Literary Brushstrokes.  "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" is one of my favorite stories, and I want to thank my cat Gretchen for inspiring it.  The story will be published online and in print.  I'll post more information about how to get it when I know more!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Writing Challenge

My close friend and critique partner, Michael Canavan, and I have challenged each other to write coming of age stories.  These will be our next stories and we will likely have them critiqued by our writers group, the CNY Creative Writers Cafe.  It's an interesting challenge about an interesting theme.  I've gotten started on my story but so for haven't liked what I've come up with. I need to keep forging ahead!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Upcoming Musa/Erato Publications

I have two stories that will be coming out this summer and fall with Musa Publishing in their Erato (GLBT) imprint.  I've written in this blog about both of these stories, and now I have dates for both of their releases.  "Honeymoon" has a release date of August 17, 2012, and "Arthur Cleary" has a release date of November 2, 2012.  Suffice it to say, I'm very excited about all of this!

Both of these stories are gay romances.  "Honeymoon" is a contemporary romance, and "Arthur Cleary" is a paranormal romance.  I want to thank my characters--Lee Mullens, Sanders Hamilton, Jake McAdams, and Arthur Cleary--for bringing these stories to life.  I realize that we writers give life to our characters, but it is a good character who gives life to a story.  And somehow a good character seems an entity unto himself or herself.  When I feel I've created a character who works well, it's as if I haven't done it all myself--it's as if the character himself or herself had a hand in it.  It's difficult to describe what I mean, but anyone who's a writer surely knows what I'm talking about.  There's just something magical about the creative process--something ineffable.  All that said, I'm looking forward to having readers get to know my characters and their stories come August and November!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Lonesome Tonight"

My first published short story, "Lonesome Tonight", appeared in the fall of 2005 in Lynx Eye, Volume XII, Nos. 3 & 4.  Lynx Eye is now defunct, and the issue in which my story appeared is not available on Amazon or anywhere else on the Internet, as far as I've been able to tell.  Thus, I've decided to post my story here on my blog.  So here for your reading pleasure (I hope!) is "Lonesome Tonight":

              Mr. Presley enjoys bacon and eats it often.  He gets up in the night to eat bacon, fries it in a large cast iron frying pan that has cooked bacon so many times, the congealed fat has become part of its tough black surface, a semi-slick rink of fragrant grease that sizzles and bubbles to life on the gas range.
              Lopita wears pink and yellow.  Her long black braid is a rope that swings away from her slender back.  On Tuesdays and Fridays, it is Lopita's job to put away the groceries:  eggs and milk, great cottony loaves of bread, molasses, lard, thick yellow bricks of cheese.  Today she works alone.  Miss Nicholson has gone to the hardware store herself, though Lopita offered to go.
            "SeƱorita Lopita," Mr. Presley says when he comes into the kitchen.
            "Hello, sir," Lopita says.
            "Say, is Miss Nicholson around and about?"
            "No, sir.  She is gone to buy mousetraps--"  Lopita stands very still while Mr. Presley rummages through the refrigerator.
            "Lopita bonita, a pretty, pretty lady," he says.  He peeks around the refrigerator door and beams at Lopita.  "I've got a star with your name on it.  I've got a Buick built for two."
            Lopita doesn't want to be famous, doesn't sing or dance, has no American plan.  Every morning she wears a brown dress to Mass and dreams of home.  "It is time for you to go from San Felipe," her great-grandmother told her.  Abuela spoke low and gummed sprigs of cilantro.  She kept dozens of mice in baskets and ceramic bowls and read the piles of tiny shits as one reads tea leaves.  "But you must go," Abuela continued, her voice rising.  "One day it will rain unlike anything before, the rain of a broken heart, of a lonesome eye unable to see."
            Manoj spreads mulch in the yard over the waxy stems of transplanted bulbs bulging from the ground like something that is almost obscene.  He works shirtless, his brown back curving over the earth, determined.  For lunch, he will stop and rest in the shade and eat strands of chicken stained red by acrid spices, a dish his mother in Calcutta used to prepare for him that he has offered to share with Lopita twice before, a small taste, a stringy clump.  Lopita declined each of his offers, yet both times Manoj held the meat out to her a moment past thinking that perhaps she might have been inclined to change her mind.
            Manoj stands upright as Lopita approaches.  "I buried a dead mouse," he says, gesturing to an unremarkable place on the lawn.  "Miss Nicholson found it in the pantry.  She said, put it in the incinerator, but here in the ground it will feed the grasses."
            Lopita nods.  She has come to the garden with her clippers and small metal bucket to cut fresh blazing stars.  The smell of bacon wafts out to her from the house, and the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.  There's something wrong this August in Memphis, organic butting up against inorganic with a sweet floury fullness and a weight of ozone and airborne lead.
            Mr. Presley enjoys peanut butter and bacon sandwiches on bread spread thick with butter and thoroughly fried in a crackling brown soup of bacon fat.  In Miss Nicholson's absence, or at night, on so very many nights, he prepares his own sandwiches, the kitchen walls anointed with the pork sweat and peanut oils until they glow in the electric light.
            When Lopita returns to the kitchen, Mr. Presley salutes her with the sandwich he's holding in his bloated fingers.  "Kingdom come, chica," he says.  In one moment, his face shines like a boiled dumpling, but then it is more like a moon coming too close, the balance of days and tides, of push and pull, askew.
            "Kingdom come," Mr. Presley says to the sandwich, peering at it closely.  Lopita's face burns; she rushes out of the room.  It's the last time she will see Mr. Presley alive.
            The ground buckles under Manoj with the force of the explosion.  He drops his rake, staggers back, then lurches forward to the house.
            What he finds in the kitchen, what he sees and smells--he will see it, smell it, remember it for the rest of his days, but he will never be certain if he can believe it, or believe that Lopita is running towards him through what moments before was a corridor--Lopita nearly stumbling in a sudden rain and hale, greasy pellets clumping around them and on their hair and skin and eyes.
            "The mister!  The mister, he has exploded!"
            In the silence of the days that follow, they are made to leave.  A bus travels from Memphis to Des Moines, another to Louisville, another to Atlanta, and Cleveland, South Bend, Sarasota, Houston.  Lopita wears grey amidst the landscape, the cityscape, the buildings, cars, faces, clouds and blue, somewhere, anywhere.  A breeze blows a newspaper along the ground past Lopita, headlines blurred, but Lopita knows what the newspapers say.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Publication of "Arthur Cleary"

I just found out today that Musa Publishing's Erato (GLBT) imprint has accepted my short story "Arthur Cleary" for publication!  I'm thrilled.  I'm very fond of the story, very happy with the characters and their tale, and happy that they'll be out there in the world.  When I know a release date, I'll post how and where to purchase the story.  Same goes for my other story that Erato is publishing, "Honeymoon".  That story's release date is August 17th, 2012.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Revisions, Revisions, Revisions...

Writing is rewriting!  Isn't that the truth?  I finished a rough draft of my novel, Purple Loosestrife, some time ago, but I've been working on revisions since.  I've already gone through it one time in full, and in parts many times, but I feel the need at this point to go through it in full again.  There are sections I know I want to revise in general, parts I'd like to reorganize and move around, and parts that need more development.  Writing a novel is a lot of work!  It's a joy to me because I love to write and revise, but it's hard work as well.

A book becomes your baby, and it's scary to think about sending it to agents and editors and letting it loose in the world.  I don't mind rejections of my shorter works, but I know that I'll take rejections of my novel harder because it is my baby and it's been with me for such a while now.  The characters are like my children (even though they're full-grown adults), and I know the plot backwards and forwards.  So I'll just keep revising and thinking about submitting.  I won't put off submitting for too long because there comes a time when you just have to let go and launch your baby into the world!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Haiku

Here's a haiku I wrote:

My wanderer, for
long days you've searched, but here find 
the shade of my vines.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Poem


"Home"
By Emily Glossner Johnson

I have lived in the wing of a cemetery angel,
Along rain-soaked wrought iron fences gleaming
In the grey light of September afternoon,
Piano music and yellowing leaves foretelling early November flakes of snow.

You have lived on nameless roads in ghost towns,
In the still space between ripples of water,
Illusory.

I have lived in the bare-wood sloping walls of a lamp-lit attic,
A taste of chocolate mint on my fingers,
Candies for the grown-ups who talk late around the table.

You have found me walking on arctic streets, purposeful, following the shape
Of a northern Jesus through my dreamland of glaciers and sapphire lakes.
I have listened to limbs banging and straining, voices cursing;
I have worn socks and hospital robes, and you have understood.

You have been a paradox of blood, breath, muscle, bone, and shadow.
A shadow of a bird flying over me,
I have lived in the branches of trees, the heady scent
Of spring earth, earthworms, and violets,
And the childhood cottony clouds on the horizon.

You are the birdsong, the axis, my reason and my way.
I am your arctic guide, a bonfire on an icy shore, your home.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Some of My Favorite Books

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite books (I say some because I'm sure there are some that I've left out for not thinking of them):

Thomas Mann's Death in Venice
Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot
Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Ernest Hemingway's Garden of Eden
Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain
J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction
David Eagleman's Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories
J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey
Shirley Jackson's The Lottery and Other Stories
Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales
Shirley Jackson's The Sundial
David Nicholls's One Day
Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms
David Leavitt's While England Sleeps
James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room
Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House
Stephen King's The Stand
Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild
Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles
Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises
Nevil Shute's On the Beach
Kate Chopin's The Awakening
Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale
Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
David Lindley's Where Does the Weirdness Go?: Why Quantum Mechanics Is Strange but Not as Strange as You Think
Simon Rich's Ant Farm and Other Desperate Situations

Not Knowing Where to Look...

Of course, this has nothing to do with writing.  It's just the thought of that awkward moment when you see a cat using its litter box...

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Memoir

I believe that it's important for people with mental illness to be cautiously open and "out" about their illnesses so that they can put human faces and human realities to illnesses that are so often stigmatized, ridiculed, and misunderstood.  I say cautiously open because it's still difficult and, sadly, perhaps even risky to be "out" at the workplace (in my opinion).  But in other contexts of one's life, I think it's good to educate and enlighten people about brain illnesses, which are medical illnesses not unlike diabetes or multiple sclerosis.  There is no cure for mental illness, just as there's no cure for many other chronic conditions.  People afflicted with mental illness have to learn to live with it, manage it, and be compliant with medication and treatment so that they can lead good, productive, fulfilling lives.

That all said, I'd like to let it be known that my memoir is about my experiences having bipolar disorder--to be specific, bipolar I disorder.  I was diagnosed seventeen years ago.  My aim is to enlighten, educate, and perhaps even entertain since there is some lightness and humor in just about everything in life.  I don't have a title for the memoir yet, and I'm writing it slowly since it can be difficult to delve into some of the darker times I've had, but I will finish it and see where it might take me.  I will on occasion write about my memoir in this blog, so I feel cautiously comfortable revealing my illness and letting it be known that I will be discussing it.

Several good websites about mental illness are the National Alliance on Mental Illness's site and a site called BringChange2Mind.  Very informative is the National Institute of Mental Health's site.  There is also the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance site.  So if you'd like to learn more about mental illness, please visit these sites, and keep up with me here as I occasionally post information about my memoir.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Submitting

I've been working all evening on submitting pieces to various publications.  I'm currently submitting a literary short story entitled "Shadow People" (I mentioned this story in a previous post--it's about a family dealing with schizophrenia).  And I'm submitting a piece of flash fiction entitled "Vladimir Lenin Grown Weary".  The latter is weird and, I think, a lot of fun and yet thought-provoking as well.

Of course I expect a lot of rejections, but they don't bother me.  It's part of being a writer.  You have to have a thick enough skin to withstand rejections because you're going to get them.  It makes it all the sweeter when an acceptance comes through!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

LinkedIn

I am now on LinkedIn. You can find me here.

Fleshless Robot Baby

This is a fleshless robot baby that was created in Japan.  In the original article in which it appeared, there's a video of it moving, and it moves eerily like a real baby.  Something such as this really stirs my imagination.  What if the fleshless robot baby started to grow?  What if it learned to walk?  What if it learned to think?

While I might not write a story specifically about the fleshless robot baby, my questions about it lead to other questions until eventually all my questioning leads to a story.  Or maybe even a few stories.  I'm fascinated by things that fall into the uncanny valley.