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, Masque & Spectacle, 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!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Submitting Short Works

It can be a little scary and hard to submit short works to literary journals when you're just starting to do so. But it's so worth it when you get an acceptance among all the rejections you're sure to get as well. Rejections are part of writing. Everybody gets them because, let's face it, not everything can be published everywhere, and sometimes a piece needs more work before it's ready to go off into the world. Occasionally, an editor will let you know why your work has been rejected, and you can use this as a learning experience. It's free advice from an expert, so use it! But not all rejections let you know why you've been rejected. You're sure to get a lot of form e-mails (or letters if they're doing it old school); the journal you've submitted to might just not have the time to give everyone a reason and advice.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that you need persistence, patience, and a thick skin. You can't take rejections personally. You have to move on from them and keep submitting. A creative writing professor I had in graduate school suggested that we submit and forget it. I keep a binder of what I've submitted to where, but then after I submit, I truly put it out of my mind until I hear something one way or the other. And then, upon forgetting about it, I keep submitting. You've got to move forward. You'll never get published if you don't send anything out.

I've been trying to get members of my writers group, the CNY Creative Writers Cafe, to submit more work. We have some very good writers who should try to get their stories out there. Many of our members are submitting and getting published. It's very exciting! So take the plunge if you're a writer and you haven't submitted anything yet!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Update on My Memoir

I'm still working slowly but surely on my memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. It's difficult to write--not just about the rough times, but about the good times as well. Generally speaking, I've been having good times for about the past seven or eight years. I'm compliant (in other words, I take my meds as I'm supposed to). I have an excellent doctor and support system in my family and friends. And I have a wonderful husband and son who "get me" more than any other people in the world and always help to keep me balanced.

It's obvious why it's difficult to write about the rough times, but as I said, writing about the good times can be just as hard. I think it's because those of us with bipolar disorder are constantly working to stay balanced and avoid triggers that might cause depression or mania. So even when times are good, it can be difficult to convey to someone who's not in "the tribe" the challenges of everyday life. We have to learn to live and cope in certain ways through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) as well as other skills that we have developed along the way on our journey through this illness.

All this said, I'm glad that I'm "coming out" with this memoir, and even just with writing about it here. A big part of my goal in writing it is to educate and enlighten people about bipolar disorder and mental illness in general. I want to help remove the stigma of mental illness and demonstrate through my own example that we can be capable, productive, successful members of society. I also want to show that having a mental illness means that you have a brain disorder. The brain is an organ and a system in the body just like any other, so having a mental illness isn't all that different from having diabetes or multiple sclerosis or any other chronic condition that affects an organ or a system in the body. Mental illness isn't a character flaw. It's a medical illness involving one's biochemistry.

So this is my update on my memoir and some of the issues I wish to address within it. The writing is slow going, as one might expect, but it's fulfilling, cathartic, and therapeutic. I'm writing it for myself, but I'm also hoping that it might one day serve to do just as I've said above: educate and enlighten and erase the stigma.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Starting a Short Story

When I start a short story, I tend not to start at the beginning. I usually get an idea, a phrase, a scrap of dialogue, an image, etc. in my mind, and I start writing about it. I find this to be a much better way to start than to "begin at the beginning". So typically, my stories start somewhere in the middle, or even close to the start, but the actual start as well as the ending come after I've written a bit of the middle.

Sometimes I do start with the ending. I'll know what I want to say--what I want to close with--so I'll write that down and than essentially work backwards from there. But even that is not a steady progression. I'll write bits and pieces of the story and put them all together when I'm forming a first draft.

My recommendation to anyone who's starting to write a short story is to try not to start at the beginning. Sometimes when a writer does so, she or he can get so caught up in it "sounding just right" that writer's block might set in and the writer feels that he or she can't move forward.

I'm sure, however, that there are people who write short stories from the beginning, move to the middle, and then write the ending very successfully--especially if you really know what you want to do or if you've got the story outlined prior to starting. I'm just saying that, in my own experience, I find it easier to write in bits and pieces and then put it all together at the end when I'm ready to form it into some sort of coherent full draft.

In summary, I think it's good to keep in mind that you don't have to start at the beginning. It can be tough to do so, so if you're having trouble with it, try jumping right into the middle! It might help the process to work much better for you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dreaming, Meditating, and Writing

I had a wonderful dream last night about a piece of flash fiction I was going to write. It was a great idea, and in the dream, I loved it. Upon waking up, however, I couldn't remember what the flash fiction was. I remember that it involved a fire truck and a balloon, but that's it. I wish I could remember it because I really do think it was a good idea--not one of those things that's only good in the world of the dream.

I sometimes dream about things that I later write, or dream about writing I'm currently doing. While writing my novel, I would dream of scenes and especially conversations between my characters. Sometimes they'd be disjointed and strange, but other times, I'd have breakthroughs in my sleep and get through a scene that I was having trouble with in the waking world. Other times, I'd just see and talk to my characters, and it helped me to get to know them better.

I believe that you can attempt to "direct" your dreams towards your writing. If you go to sleep with a question about something you're writing, or a scene in your mind, I do believe that you can find the answer or finish the scene while you're asleep. Of course, I don't think this always works, but it's occasionally worked for me. I also think that this doesn't work for everybody. If you're someone who doesn't remember his or her dreams, then it probably won't work. But if you dream the way I do--every night and very vividly--then it may just work.

Another thing I do is meditate about my writing. I got into meditation several years ago, and while I'm no expert, I do pretty well with getting into a "zone". I meditate about my writing by thinking of it when I'm starting to meditate and then keeping it on my mind during the meditation session. I do mindful meditation--in other words, I don't attempt to clear my mind of all thoughts; rather, I let thoughts drift through my mind, so it's okay to let thoughts about my writing drift by. I try not to let any one thought linger for very long. Instead, I let the thoughts move through my mind in the hope that, when I write, I'll write better stuff. I'm not sure exactly how this works--I guess that while meditating, I become more familiar with what I'm working on and hence do a better job when forming it into something coherent.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Michael Canavan's Publication

My dear friend and critique partner, Michael Canavan, is getting his story "Two of Us" published in the September issue of Literary Brushstrokes. Michael is an excellent writer and one of the hardest working writers I know. He puts his heart and soul into his work. In addition to this being an accomplishment for Michael, it's also yet another publication for the CNY Creative Writers Cafe, the best critique group on the planet.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Nukes

I have an intense interest in science in general, physics more specifically, and subatomic physics even more so. That said, I'm interested in nuclear weapons because of the science behind them. Don't get me wrong: I don't like nukes and I wish they were never invented. The world would be a better place without them. But since they already exist, I feel I can have this interest in their science.

I'm currently writing a short story called "The Adirondack Room"--a surreal, absurdist little tale. The interesting thing about this tale is that it began with a challenge that my critique partner, Michael Canavan, and I gave each other. I wrote about this challenge a number of entries ago. We were to write coming-of-age stories. Mine morphed into something very different, and I believe you have to let stories do this--you have to follow them where they want to go, and often it's in an entirely different direction than what you set out for. Anyhow, this story involves nukes in parts of it, and I wrote one passage I particularly enjoyed writing. Here it is at this point in time:


They’re still testing nukes in Nevada, and no one in the general public knows about it but me. I see them when I close my eyes: the mushroom cloud fiery red and orange, rising up, billowing out; the grey stem, the circle of ash and smoke around it; the shocking formation of a crater in the desert; lizards, birds, insects, and snakes gone—no remains; scrub bushes and tumbleweeds blown into the center of the whirlpool of toxic air; the rush, the wind, the silent radiation moving out at a speed I can’t fathom; the fallout forming quickly, ready to snow down as it rides through the atmosphere—an evil thing, an innocent thing, and finally, truthfully, an indifferent thing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Honeymoon", Etc.

Here is the final cover for my short story "Honeymoon" which will be released on August 17th, 2012, by Musa Publishing in their Erato (GLBT) imprint. I love the cover and I'm very excited about its upcoming release!

I've been working with an editor for the first time ever, and she's been so wonderful and helpful. Doing my edits has been a terrific experience.

It's funny how the more edits I do, the more I feel like I could do, but such is the nature of writing. I don't think writers ever truly feel that their pieces--whether novels, stories, essays, poems, etc.--are finished!

In addition to this news, I'd like to report that my story "Shadow People" is now appearing in The Linnet's Wings. And my story "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" is now appearing in Literary Brushstrokes. Both journals are also available for sale in hard copy form on their respective websites, which you will find by clicking on the story links.