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written three novels entitled Purple Loosestrife, Hoping It Might Be So, and Dark and Bright, all of which are as yet unpublished.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!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Flash Fiction: "Tom Cruise Doesn't Give a Damn"

Tom Cruise Doesn't Give a Damn

By Emily Glossner Johson

            Tom Cruise enters the Target store in the town of Clay, New York, with his bodyguards and entourage. Everyone in the store pretends not to notice. There’s no telling why Tom is in Clay, New York, and at Target specifically. Perhaps he sensed that the good people of suburban Syracuse would generally let him be. And they do.
            Initially, Tom and his posse sweep up and down the aisles at a fast pace. It’s natural for Tom to walk briskly—it’s his usual gait. The entourage—all male and eager, earnest, clean-shaven—has to rush to keep up with his stride. The bodyguards remain a bit ahead of him to the left and the right. Tom wears a leather jacket like he did in Top Gun, a pair of jeans, and black cowboy boots. What would it look like if he tucked his jeans into his boots? Would it start a trend? His posse would surely follow suit. They all wear cowboy boots, too, and surely the group of them would tuck their jeans into their boots if Tom did. But as it is, the bottoms of Tom’s jeans rest easily around the boots with perfect creases.
            Eventually, Tom’s pace slows and he stops to look at various items. He stops at the end caps where the bargains are. He doesn’t need to buy bargains, and he doesn’t particularly like doing so, but on this day, he lingers at the end caps. He finds a large, three-wicked vanilla candle marked down to $4.79. He gives it to a young blond member of his entourage to hold. He finds several binders marked down to $3.34. He gives three of them to another of his willing people. In the automotive section, he browses the car air fresheners. He doesn’t need one, but still he picks one out. It’s in the shape of a pine tree and smells like strawberry. He hands it to a youthful red-haired fellow in his posse.
            He wanders through the clothing for little girls. Suri wears designer dresses, expensive pants and shirts, designer shoes. She carries tiny designer bags. But still Tom finds several sequined blouses and shoves these into the arms of another fervent follower.
            He picks out computer games that are $9.99—their regular price. Mahjong, bingo, a horse racing simulator. He shows no emotion as he picks up one after another. These he tosses to one of his bodyguards—a big man now relaxed, aware that nothing untoward is going to happen in the store, that people are only glancing furtively at Tom and looking away when he looks up.
            At the end of the shopping excursion, Tom and his entourage and body guards go into the snack bar. Tom demands popcorn all around for his people. He himself gets a big soft pretzel. He asks for mustard and then struggles to open the little packets to no avail. He finally gives up and slips the packets into his jacket pocket.
            There he is, eating his pretzel, surrounded by people who will do his bidding in a heartbeat, who hang on his every word. He is a man who jumped on a couch for the world to see, and a man who counts Scientology leader David Miscavige among his best friends. He knows secrets and has risen to levels of which he’s proud. He has millions of dollars available to give to his church, and he gives his money freely. He is awarded medallions in fancy, glittery ceremonies.
            Tom is in the small crowd of his associates, standing there, eating his pretzel, unable to open the mustard packets. He’s in Target in Clay, New York, surrounded by his people. He doesn’t smile his famous smile. He is wearing a black t-shirt underneath his leather jacket. His black cowboy boots gleam. Occasionally he glances around as though looking for something or someone, but most of the time, he keeps his head down. Tom Cruise doesn’t give a damn.

My Latest River Ram Press Article

My latest River Ram Press article has been posted on the River Ram Press Blog. It's about creating characters with mental illness from the perspective of someone (me) with bipolar disorder. Please do read it and comment freely. I'd love to get the responses of writers and non-writers alike.

Writing about characters with mental illness is something I do often and is near and dear to my heart. I love all my characters, even the ones who misbehave or act downright heinously, but I have a special place inside for my characters with mental illness because I know how they feel and I understand the struggles they go through.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, beloved readers! I am 1/16th Irish, which I know from my genealogist sister who runs her own genealogy business, Family Sherlock. Despite being only a wee bit Irish, I still celebrate St. Patrick's Day by having something for dinner that seems appropriate, plus this year, I made frosted shamrock cookies.

Part of why I love St. Patrick's Day is because my favorite color is green. And because it seems to herald spring, which is in just a few days. Here in upstate New York, it's not at all spring-like yet, but it'll come. It always does.

On a different note, what am I currently working on? I wrote a chapter of my memoir called "Flowers and Psychosis" which took off from my blog post called "Flowers and Bipolar Disorder". It's longer, though--it's about eight pages long. I've also been working on submitting short stories. I have "Obituaries", "The Tiger Earring", and "Under the Bookcase" out there. I look at Submittable with regularity, which can kind of drive a person mad, but it's hard not to look. Then there are the submissions that don't use Submittable, and I have no idea what's going on with those. Oh, well. Waiting is part of the process. One must be patient.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Flowers and Bipolar Disorder

My early childhood consisted of flowers, the memories of which are among my strongest and most vivid. We lived on Arbordale Avenue in the city of Rochester, New York, until I was four years old. There were two old women who lived on our street who had beautiful gardens--so lush and enchanting and magical. My sister and mother and I were in their gardens once, their white cat lurking, and I smelled their roses. The smell of roses continues to take me back to that precious, fleeting, summer day. And then there were wild violets in my aunt's backyard under a pine tree. Beautiful and mysterious, they grew in shade, the smell of them with me still. I can't look at or smell a wild violet without going back.

I always want flowers. I would have fresh cut flowers in my house every day if that wouldn't become too expensive. And I would have more flowers growing in my yard than I have these past springs and summers since we've lived in this house. But I'm not very good with them--they don't seem to flourish.

It strikes me as being like bipolar disorder: the mania of a profusion of fresh cut flowers, flowers every day that cost more and more, and the depression of flowers outside not flourishing. Perhaps this is why I hang on so tightly to my memories of the old ladies' roses and my aunt's wild violets. These memories remind me that thriving is possible even in the darkest times, and that fresh cut flowers can come from one's own yard--perhaps not in manic profusion, but in simple, lovely bunches, balanced and good.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Influence of Mister Rogers

I hope that you'll remember
Even when you're feeling blue
That it's you I like,
It's you I like, it's you,
It's you... I... like! 
                       ~Mister Rogers

I grew up with Mister Rogers and was heartbroken when he died too young a number of years ago. Mister Rogers taught us about kindness, acceptance, friendship, and love. He influenced me significantly, and he continues to do so in my writing. It's not in ways that are obvious to me while I write, but in my whole approach to developing characters.

I think what it comes down to is that I love my characters and accept them for who they are. I try to be kind to them, even if I'm killing them off or making them behave heinously. The general point is, I try to treat my characters in a realistic way, and I hope this makes them as believable as possible and helps to get my readers invested in them. This is not to say that all my characters are worthy of love, or lovable, or good people. Some are none of these things. But when I treat them kindly while creating them, I feel that I create more thoroughly developed, multidimensional characters. It's difficult to love and care about a cliche or a cardboard cut-out.

To forget to love the character as simply one's own creation, the way a person might love his or her own child, I believe keeps a writer from fully developing that character. So think of Mister Rogers when you're creating your characters. Accept them, love them--they're your own and nobody else's. And be proud of them. I have a feeling that William Shakespeare was probably proud of Lady Macbeth. Perhaps not proud of her actions, but proud of the mere fact of creating her, of bringing such a memorable, significant character into existence.