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 a poem in The Poeming Pigeon, 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. My story "Santa Lucia" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I've written three novels entitled Purple Loosestrife, Hoping It Might Be So, and Dark and Bright, all of which are as yet unpublished. I'm working on a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. 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!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Writing and Meditation

I've been meditating regularly for several years now. I don't know a great deal about it as far as Buddhist and other traditions and practices go. I just learned simple mindful meditation and that's what I do.

I find that it helps me greatly with my writing. Because it's mindful meditation and I can let thoughts flow through my mind, I find that these thoughts often have to do with what I'm writing, or projects I want to write. I've solved problems and come up with new ideas while meditating. It also really helps to clear and calm my mind after I've been writing a lot and feel a little too jazzed up.

I recommend meditation to writers. A few books that I think look really good are one by Jon Kabat-Zinn and another by Thich Nhat Hanh (just click on the names to get to the Amazon listing of these books). I haven't read these books yet, but they're on my Amazon wish list because they look so useful. I plan to read them and then report later about them. A book I have read that was useful is Learn to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment by David Fontana, Ph.D.

So do consider adding meditation to your life. I think that once you get into it, you'll feel happy and fulfilled and find that it does help with your writing and creativity!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Two Most Important Days

I recently read this quote:
"The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." ~Mark Twain
The day I found out why I was born was the day my son, my only child, was born. All other accomplishments in my life pale in comparison to this, as will all future accomplishments. Someday I hope to get my novel published. I hope to get more than one novel published. And the days on which these events hopefully do happen will indeed be splendid, but they will be nothing like the day of Alan's birth. He is my most incredible creation, and even after nearly eighteen years, I find him to be a miracle. I know that most people feel this way about their children, but those of us blessed with children should always bear this in mind. 

We writers often refer to our books as our babies, and indeed they are, but it was my actual baby who showed me my reason for being on this earth.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Ribs" Is Available

My literary short story "Ribs" is available to read at Breath & Shadow. Just click here to go to the story.

I had a lot of fun writing this story, and I hope you have fun reading it!

My Very First Novel... So Bipolar!

My very first novel, which was tentatively called Broken Vows, was a bipolar disaster. I wrote the entire first draft while in a manic/mixed episode. I wrote this draft very quickly--often staying up all night to write. I was in a very bad place when I wrote it. It was about a love triangle that took place in the New York Finger Lakes region in 1910. Sounds like an interesting enough idea, but it was an incoherent, convoluted mess.

I've kept it, and it now collects dust in my study closet. I don't like to look at it because it brings up bad memories of that time, but nevertheless, I can't bring myself to throw it away. I edited it more slowly than I wrote the initial draft, but since it was such a mess, editing was essentially useless.

I'm writing about it now to show how important it is for me, as one example of a bipolar person, to be balanced while writing. I believe this to be true of bipolar artists in general. When you're in a manic episode, you tend to think that everything you do is brilliant and that all your ideas are golden. But they're typically not when you're in that state, and you see this when you're in a better place and not viewing the world, yourself, and your work through a manic lens.

One good thing about this very first novel is that I showed myself that I could write something novel-length. Up to this point, the longest work I had written was my master's thesis, which was 82 pages long. Another good thing is that I used the two male characters in the novel, Spencer MacGowan and Vincent Ravenaugh, as the two main characters in Purple Loosestrife, the novel I'm working on now. My novel now is contemporary so I updated Spencer and Vincent accordingly. The one thing I did a good job with back in the manic days was to develop them as characters. So I plucked them out of the disaster and put them into a new novel of their own. I think Spencer and Vincent are much happier now!

I suspect that a lot of writers, not just bipolar writers, have a profoundly bad first novels collecting dust somewhere. I think it's all part of the process of learning how to write a novel. So I don't regret this very first novel. I just don't think about it very often because of the negative time I associate it with.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bipolar Disorder, Creativity, and My Memoir

One need only do a little research to find that there is believed to be a link between bipolar disorder and creativity. As a writer with bipolar disorder, I can personally attest to this. As I've posted here before, I'm currently writing a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. It's very slow going, however, because there are naturally things that are difficult to write about. But there are also positive things, hopeful things, even funny things.

About bipolar disorder and creativity, I feel that they come from the same or a similar place. But it's not as if I have to be having an episode in order to feel creative. I feel creative all the time, and my bipolar feelings can be all over the map or sometimes (often these days) just neutral and balanced. But I don't feel as though this balance affects my creativity. In fact, during hypomanic, manic, depressive, or mixed episodes, I believe that my creativity suffers somewhat. I write, but I write less coherently, more in a mishmash style that doesn't have enough organization and focus. So being balanced is a good thing. Anyone who thinks you have to be "crazy" to write well is wrong, in my opinion. To have bipolar disorder and to have it under control seems to be the key to the success of my writing endeavors.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Revisions, Revisions...

So I'm working on the editing of my novel, Purple Loosestrife, and as I go along, I'm finding little bits of wording that I'm reworking and redundancies I'm getting rid of. But I came upon one sentence that I contemplated for a long time. The sentence reads, "She turned off the light and closed the door behind her." I wondered, is it redundant? Is it stating the obvious? The part of the sentence I'm thinking of is "closed the door behind her." She wouldn't close the door in front of her when it's clear in the scene that she's leaving the room. So should I cut the "behind her"?

I finally decided not to. I realized that saying "closed the door behind her" is idiomatic. It is obvious that she would close the door behind her when leaving the room, but it's an expression that people tend to use, redundant though it may be. So I've left it as is because it sounds right to me.

I think sometimes we have to keep such figures of speech in our writing to keep it sounding authentic, to keep it sounding right in a way that can nevertheless be hard to define. Idiomatic language can be hard to define, I think. Just think of trying to explain certain idioms to a non-native speaker of English. But to cut all of it out of a written piece strikes me as extreme and inauthentic.

These are all rather small things, yet a written work is made up of a great number of small things, so everything counts. But it can be difficult to know what to do. At times, I think that going with your gut is the best policy, as well as going with your ear and sticking with what sounds right to you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy 2013!

It's taken me a while to post a New Year's greeting, but nevertheless, here it is. Happy New Year! Do you make New Year's resolutions? A good friend of mine says she doesn't make resolutions; rather, she makes goals. I like this. Somehow it has a more positive connotation, and a goal sounds like something you're truly driven to do, more so than a resolution that you've resolved to do.

So what are my goals for 2013? Well, by March, I hope to have my novel, Purple Loosestrife, ready to send out to agents. I'm working on it solely right now--editing, tweaking, adding, subtracting. I'm also retyping the whole thing in a font and format that works better. I'll keep you posted on my progress with this. The editing process is going along well and smoothly, so I do believe that by March, I'll be sending out queries.

I also plan to keep writing and publishing short stories in 2013, and perhaps publishing some novellas. I've got a few stories as well as novella ideas in the works, but I've set them aside while I get my novel polished up. As soon as that task is done, however, I'll get to short story and novella writing.

That said, I would like to start planning and perhaps drafting my second novel this year. It'll be another literary novel, and I've got an idea for it, but right now, it's quite amorphous. I have to come up with a solid synopsis and an outline and then perhaps begin writing.

I wrote the first draft of Purple Loosestrife in a month. I did a NaNoWriMo in July (rather than the traditional November). I did this with the help of The No Plot? No Problem! Novel-Writing Kit by Chris Baty. I highly recommend this. If you click on the link, it'll take you to the Amazon page where this kit is sold. I think I may do this again for my next novel. With Purple Loosestrife, it really forced me to get it all down and have something to work with. Writing is rewriting, so it got me to the rewriting stage pretty quickly.

Another goal I have for 2013 is to continue working on my memoir. I'll be happy if I can get three more chapters of it done. I never expected to write it quickly, which is why my goal is rather small. It's hard to write about my bipolar disorder. I'm doing very well with my illness presently and have been for the past several years. But even though this is the case, it's still hard to go back and dig into a past in which things weren't always so great. So if I can get several chapters down, I'll be happy. If I do more than that, or if I should happen to finish it altogether, I'll be really happy, but I'm not going to set the bar too high.

As far as happenings in 2013, I have my story "Ribs" coming out this month in the journal Breath & Shadow! I'll post here when it's available.