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!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Poem by Stephen Crane and Memoir Writing

This is one of my favorite poems. It's by Stephen Crane:

Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page.
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them.
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange 
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.

This makes me think of the difficulty of writing a memoir, which I am in the process of doing. It does feel as though I'm writing in red muck of things from my heart. I'm writing about my experiences with bipolar disorder, and while for the past several years, I've been doing very well, there were some dark times in the past that are very difficult to write about.

So how do you approach such things in a memoir? For me, I just free write and get it all out onto the page. I often do this free writing by hand and type it up later. There's something about the connection among hand, pen, and paper that helps me to fully explain and explore. When I then get this "red muck" typed up, I go over it and edit it--make it coherent, organize it, put it into the form of a readable narrative of my experiences. This is what I would recommend to anyone writing a memoir.

Another thing I do is write out of order. I find that I can't start with, say, 1995, and then write up to the present. I might arrange the memoir that way in the end, but while writing it, it's easier to jump around and write about whatever is on my mind at a given time. I also recommend this approach to others. Of course, it can depend on what sort of mood you're in. If I'm feeling a bit down, I don't want to write about darker things, so I might write about more recent years and some of my triumphs over the disorder. Whereas if I'm feeling good and happy, I might tackle some of the darker things because they won't be as likely to get me down and they won't be as hard to write about.

I find that writing a memoir is much more difficult than writing a novel. I got the rough draft of my novel, Purple Loosestrife, done in a few months, and I pretty much wrote it linearly. Not so with the memoir. I've got about four chapters of it written, and these have taken me about as long as did the writing of the whole rough draft of my novel. So to write a memoir, especially one which contains emotionally charged material, I recommend having a lot of patience and perseverance.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Friday"

My short story "Friday" has been accepted for publication by Cobalt Review!  It will be released in their September issue.  I'm very excited!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ordering Literary Brushstrokes

My short story, "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle", appears in the journal Literary Brushstrokes.  You can order either a hard copy or a digital copy of the journal by clicking here.  (If you order a hard copy, the digital copy comes along with it for free.)  I'm not making any money from the sale of this journal.  I'm just putting this out there so that people can read my story!  If you decide to order the journal, happy reading!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle"

My short story, "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" is available to read on line at Literary Brushstrokes.  Just click on the "Literary Brushstrokes" link to go there.  A print version of the journal will be available later in the summer!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Bittersweet Taste of the Uncanny Valley

This is a photograph of Repliee, a Japanese android.  She's very beautiful and quite amazing, if you Google or YouTube footage of her moving and speaking.  This is the sweet part.  The bitter part is the uncanny valley.  Look at her eyes and her mouth.  Something is just... off.  She's a little scary, though she's not meant to be scary at all.  She looks so close to being an actual human being, and yet she's not.  She's a bit, well, disturbing.  Androids have been compared to reanimated corpses.  Imagine the look of an embalmed corpse, and then look at Repliee.  The skin, the overall "look", the something that's ineffable but key to being an actual living, healthy human... the spark of life, perhaps, whatever it is.  It isn't there in an embalmed corpse, nor is it there in Repliee.  And yet she's extraordinary.

The Uncanny Valley

In 1970, Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori coined the term "the uncanny valley".  The uncanny valley hypothesis maintains that as a robot becomes more human-like in appearance, a human being's emotional response to that robot will become more and more empathic and positive, until a point is reached beyond which a human being's response rapidly becomes one of revulsion.  When demonstrated on a graph, the area of revulsion in the response of a human being to an "almost human" entity is called "the uncanny valley".  Because the response dips from highly positive down to highly negative, the graph contains a "valley"--the uncanny valley.

The uncanny valley hypothesis has fascinated me for years.  Robots, androids, computer-generated humans (i.e., in movies and video games), mannequins, dolls--all can fall into the uncanny valley depending on how close, but not yet close enough, they are to human beings.  Because of this fascination, I have written two short stories that, in roundabout ways, deal with the uncanny valley--a futuristic story called "Carlsbad Caverns" and a Cold War era story called "The Pattersons".

I'm still working on "Carlsbad Caverns", whereas I've sent "The Pattersons" to several journals and have received rejections in return.  I think I'd like to take a new look at "The Pattersons" and tweak some things about the story, hence making it a work in progress as well.  I'd like to get these stories finished and out there for anyone who enjoys subjects dealing with the uncanny valley as much as I do.


Friday, June 8, 2012

First Ever Edits

I've gotten my first edits for my short story "Honeymoon" from Megan Embry, my editor at Musa Publishing/Erato (GLBT) imprint.  This is the first time I've ever worked with an editor on edits I need to make, so it's pretty exciting.  My other short stories that are being published this summer ("Vladimir Lenin Grown Weary", "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle", and "Shadow People") will be published as I've submitted them.  But Musa treats everything, including short stories, like books.  I'll even get covers for "Honeymoon" and "Arthur Cleary", my other short story that's to be published by Musa/Erato in November.  It's neat to be experiencing how the whole process works.

"Honeymoon" is due to be released in August of 2012.  I can hardly wait to see it in its finished form!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Publication Again!

I just found out that my story "Shadow People" has been accepted for publication in the Irish literary journal The Linnet's Wings.  I'm so excited!  It's due to be released this summer of 2012.

Matthew McConaughey's Older Brother


Below is a silly poem I wrote called "Matthew McConaughey's Older Brother":
 
Matthew McConaughey has three brothers,
The oldest one is named Carruthers.
Pale and plain with a balding pate,
Patient with Matt when he shows up late.

He wears a t-shirt on the beach,
Six-pack abs are out of reach.
Matt plays bongos in the nude,
Drinks his beer, calls everyone "dude".

Tan and smiling, there is Matt.
Who's that hiding in the baseball hat?
In the background stands Carruthers,
The flabbiest of the McConaughey brothers.

An accountant by day with a quiet wife,
He lives an ordinary life.
No fan sites, no starring roles;
On Tuesday nights, he likes to bowl.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Few Tips About Creating Characters

A few tips about creating characters that happen to work for me (not an exhaustive list--just a few things off the top of my head):

  • Give your characters birthdays.
  • Write notes or passages about their childhoods, even if they won't appear in the story or novel.
  • Think about their ideas on faith, the existence of God, and the afterlife, even if these aspects of the characters won't appear in the story or novel.
  • Think of what book(s) they're reading at the time of the story or novel--again, this need not appear in the story or novel, but it can give you an idea about the personalities of your characters.
  • Think about their political views.
  • Ask yourself, what are my characters' favorite foods?

Again, this is not an exhaustive list--these are just a few of the things I think about when I'm creating characters.  I want to know my characters very well, including things about them that may never appear in the work itself.  I think that knowing things such as these helps to make them multidimensional on the page.  For example, if I know that a given character is a liberal Democrat who's agnostic, these aspects of him may not appear in the work, but they may affect how he reacts in a given situation.  If my character loves seafood and is reading The Grapes of Wrath at the time that I'm telling her story, this will help me know her better.  These aspects of her may be irrelevant to her story, but I believe that my knowledge of them will show in the work.

Happy writing!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Changing Goals

A few weeks ago, I posted about a writing challenge my critique partner Michael Canavan and I gave each other.  We were both supposed to write a coming of age story.  Well, we've both gotten away from that goal, but I think that's okay.  Michael has moved on to a new story idea that struck him that he really wants to write, and my coming of age story has morphed into the story of a man and a woman over the span of over two and a half decades.  My story is entitled "The Tiger Earring", and I'm having a lot of trouble writing it.  I'm hoping that blogging about it, and remembering my original goal with Michael, will help me get through a rough draft that I can then work on revising.  And I hope that Michael will have good fortune writing his new story idea.

I think that sometimes setting a certain goal and then having it morph into something different is not only okay, but beneficial.  The original goal gets you thinking and writing, and then letting it go where it wants to can turn it into something better than what you originally thought you'd write.  In my case, I just have to keep moving forward.  There will be a certain coming of age element in my story, but it's gone beyond that into something more... I don't even know exactly what!  This is why I'm having trouble writing it.  I think I have to get my brain wrapped around a theme and then take it from there.