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!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"The Tiger Earring"

I finished a draft of my story "The Tiger Earring" today. I call it a draft and not a final draft because I find it hard to ever consider a piece of my writing to be a final draft. I guess that once a story is published, then that's the final draft, but until then, I always feel that I could do more. What, I don't necessarily know, so I figure the story must be in pretty good shape, but I don't think that we writers ever have a sense of closure.

I have so far had my mom and my friend and fellow writer Kerry Miskovic read the story. Both of them loved it. Their kind and insightful words about it have made me feel very good.

I have put this story in the queue of submissions of the CNY Creative Writers Cafe so that it can be critiqued by the group. Once I get feedback from them and perhaps tweak the story a bit, I will send it out into the world for possible publication.

This story was interesting to write--an experiment really--because I told it in reverse. It starts in September of 2067 and ends in January of 1985. But despite incorporating the future into it, it's definitely not a science fiction story. I just needed to look ahead to the future of my character, and so to 2067 I went. It's a wistful, rather melancholy story, and my two "so far" readers found it very moving. It even made my mom want to cry. I love making my readers want to cry! I feel somehow that I've done my job well.


What Is a Brain Zap?

I've had people ask me what a brain zap is (see my February 25th post for some information about brain zaps in general). Well, a brain zap is very difficult to describe. They've happened to me with the antidepressant Effexor. At times when I had forgotten to take the medication in the morning, or when I'm going off it as I am currently, I've gotten brain zaps as one side effect of withdrawal.

Zaps tends to occur when I turn my head or move around, but they can also happen randomly when I'm just sitting still. A zap is sort of a noise inside my head that sounds metallic, but also a feeling of a surge of some sort going through my head. It's so hard to describe as you can probably tell from my word choices here. The noise sounds kind of like "ch-chunk"--like a piece of metal shifting. And with that shifting, I feel something akin to a shock traveling from one side of my head to the other. Zaps don't hurt, though--they just feel weird, and they can have a lingering effect of making me dizzy.

I'm currently off of Effexor because I've switched to Wellbutrin. I just stopped Effexor entirely after tapering off it (under my psychiatrist's care) for the past several months. I've switched because of some negative side effects I was having with Effexor that I don't have with Wellbutrin. Since I'm just off the Effexor, I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which include brain zaps, dizziness, headache, vague nausea, and tingling in my face and limbs.

I expect that these withdrawal symptoms will last for at least a few days, but the good thing about withdrawal is that it only lessens with the passage of time. Whatever the case may be, finding the right meds is integral to controlling an illness such as bipolar I disorder, which is what I have. I was diagnosed nearly eighteen years ago, and my meds still need tweaking at times. For anyone out there with mental illness, keep your chin up, take your meds, and always strive to find the right combination of meds to control your disorder. The meds I take now are Wellbutrin, Abilify, Lamictal, and Clonazepam. They're working, and I hope they'll work for a long while.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Brain Zaps

Ever have them? If you have, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. They're a symptom of withdrawal from certain antidepressants--in my case, Effexor. I've recently switched to Wellbutrin for my antidepressant, and I've been gradually going off my previous antidepressant, Effexor (under my doctor's care). Well, I'm at the point of being off of it altogether, and it's not pleasant. This is my first day without it.

I'm writing this post for anyone who would like to read it, but especially for those with mental illness who have suffered through withdrawal from medication--or any negative side effects of psychotropic drugs, for that matter. It's hard, but it's worth it in the end to find the right meds. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder nearly eighteen years ago, and I'm still switching meds sometimes to find just the right mix and balance. So for those of you out there and in the tribe, stick with it, take your meds, listen to your doctor. And be persistent about feeling well and finding the right meds.

I have been able to write today despite my unpleasant withdrawal feelings. In fact, writing has helped to take my mind off of how I feel. So if you're going through something like this, find something that you love to do and indulge in it. Unless you love riding roller coasters. No, I wouldn't recommend that. That would not be good.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

LinkedIn

For anyone interested, I can also be found on LinkedIn by clicking here. My LinkedIn profile is essentially an online resume.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise is very important to me for my mental well-being. Of course, it's also of great importance for my physical well-being, but my mental state benefits greatly from it and I'd be less mentally healthy without it.

My exercise of choice is running. The picture to the right is of me crossing the finish line of a YMCA-sponsored 5K that I did in the Rochester, New York area. I love to run, but recently I've had to walk due to some problems with my thyroid. I have hypothyroidism and I'm in the midst of getting my medication to the right dosage so that I have the energy to run again. It really sucks, not having the energy to run, but I know I'll get back there.

Running, for me, is not only mentally and physically healthy, but a chance to think about my writing. When I run, I get into a kind of meditative state. In this state, ideas often come to me, or I work though problematic ideas. It's pretty awesome. I can do this when I walk, too, or engage in other exercise (swimming, for example, which I really enjoy). I think it's running that gets me into the most meditative state, however.

I'm not suggesting that every writer who reads this take up running. It's not for everybody. Some people just plain hate it, while others may have physical issues which prevent them from being able to run. However, I do suggest taking up some form of exercise if you don't exercise already. It's amazing how much it can both clear your head and fill it with ideas at the same time. And the endorphin rush you get at the end of a good workout is amazing. It makes me want to write and create and be productive in any capacity.

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Current Quotation

I presently have as my quotation at the top of my page the following:

"I'm sad, but at the same time, I'm really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It's like it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. The only way I can feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before, so I have to take the bad with the good. So I guess what I'm really feeling is like a beautiful sadness." 
 ~Leopold "Butters" Stotch, South Park


Yes, this is from South Park, and it moves me every time I watch the episode in which Butters says it. I should make it clear that I'm not really sad at this moment, nor do I foresee being sad in the near future, but this quote about "a beautiful sadness" sums up the way bipolar disorder can often be, or the way life in general can be. We have to take the good with the bad, and the bad can show us how good the good really is.

For writers, it goes along with the submission process. You're going to get rejections, and those feel bad, but that one acceptance among a few rejections can make you so happy that you see that it's all worth it. So a rejection can really be seen as a beautiful sadness, because an acceptance may have already come for another work, or may be just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Music and Writing

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't listen to music while I write. I can't. I have to have it quiet while I'm writing, although background noise such as my son or husband playing music in a room away from me, or the sound of my son playing video games, is okay. That turns into white noise for me, which is fine. I'm able to tune that out. But actually having my own music playing while writing is something I just can't handle. It's too much stimulation and also a distraction. Perhaps it's my bipolar brain, which is constantly moving and racing and thinking on multiple levels as it is, that keeps me from being able to focus well while listening to music.

I know that music inspires some people, and I imagine that some writers have music they really enjoy listening to while writing. Are you one such writer? What music inspires you?

I am inspired by music when I'm not writing, and I can think of songs in my mind that have inspired me, which can help to write a scene. I can also occasionally listen to classical music (no singing in it, though, such as opera) while writing. I have to be in a certain mood to do this, however, and it usually works best for me during the editing stages rather than the creating stages.

My opinion on whether or not to listen to music while writing is this: It's entirely up to each and every individual writer. If it works for you, then more power to you. If you find that it's causing your mind to wander and your focus to wane, then you might want to rethink doing it. But don't get me wrong when it comes to my opinion on this--I love music and enjoy it tremendously in many other contexts. There aren't many genres of music I don't like, and when I sing along with favorite songs, I like to pretend I have the voice of an angel!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Novella

Two of my favorite works of literature are Death in Venice by Thomas Mann and Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx. I consider both of these excellent works to be novellas.

It seems to me that the e-book publishing industry has made the novella quite popular, and I'm glad this is the case. I think it's a great length for a work of fiction. You can read it in one sitting if you so choose, or you can pick it up and put it down at your leisure--the chapter breaks that many novellas have make it possible to find good places to stop and then start again.

As a writer, you have a good amount of time to develop your characters and theme, but you obviously have a shorter story than you do in a novel. Since there's less to write and edit, you can potentially write a novella faster than you would a novel. However, I don't imagine that this is always the case. I've had short stories that I've labored over for a long while, so I could see taking a lot of time to develop and finish a novella. I think it all depends on your story and how you work as a writer. Further, I don't think a novella, just by virtue of being shorter than a novel, is necessarily easier to write. You don't have as much time and space to do what you want to do, so you have to be economical and yet thorough and complete within a shorter span. Knowing what to put in and what to leave out is very important. You have to be willing to kill your darlings when you're writing a novella.

I haven't yet written a novella, but I'm thinking of doing so. I have an idea that's floating around in my mind that I think would make for a good novella. I don't pretend that it will be easy to write, however. Not the way I work. I'm neither a particularly fast writer or reader. I labor over things I write and read. You can take the girl out of the undergraduate and graduate programs in English, but you can't take the undergraduate and graduate programs in English out of the girl! I write and read much like I did as an English student getting my B.A. and M.A. degrees. I write and read as though I'm going to be graded on what I'm doing, so I really put my all into these activities. Hence, writing a novella should be as much of an adventure as writing anything else. I have a feeling it will go faster for me than writing a novel, but probably longer than writing a short story.