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!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Akathisia, Hypomania, Mania, and Writing

One of my bipolar medications can cause a side effect called akathisia. Akathisia is a feeling of inner restlessness and an inability to sit still or remain motionless. I had been having slight feelings of akathisia caused by my medication Abilify, so my psychiatrist lowered my dosage with the intent of getting rid of these feelings. So far, it's working.

You would think that something like akathisia would be good for a writer, that it would mean boundless energy and being constantly in motion, getting work done. But this is not the case. It's a highly unpleasant feeling, even when it's as mild as what I was experiencing.

Hypomania (a lesser form of mania) and mania are the same way. During episodes of hypomania or mania, you feel as though you're tremendously productive, creative, wondrous--a genius. You feel as though you're getting so much done. Well, maybe you are, but the quality might not be what you think it is when you're in that state. I've written while either hypomanic or manic, and when I look back on some of that writing, I find that it ranges from mediocre to downright bad--incoherent, disorganized, lacking in real creativity. Unfortunately, however, sometimes what I produce in these states is good, and herein lies the danger of bipolar disorder and a reason that some people go off their medications. They want to grab those good moments and fly with them. If they're some kind of artist, they want the high and the art that it can produce.

But I won't go off my medication for the possibility of a few good pages. It's not worth it and, as I said earlier, it's dangerous. As for akathisia, while you may feel an inability to sit still, you can't really work because you can't sit still. If a person on an antipsychotic is experiencing akathisia, you want it to stop. You want to get back to the ability to relax, be still, and accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scott

My current obsession is F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read The Great Gatsby back in college (though I should read it again), and I recently read Tender Is the Night. I loved the latter; in fact, I loved it more than Gatsby, of which I am very fond. I'm now reading This Side of Paradise. And I have a bunch of other of his books in my queue. I'm also reading a biography of him by Jeffrey Meyers called Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography. This was written in 2013 and sounded good in the description on Amazon and in the author's preface (he describes what he concentrates on the most, and it's stuff that I want to know about--for example, Fitzgerald's drinking, Zelda and her illness).

I tend to do this with various famous people--I get interested in them and then read a great deal about them. A few years ago, I was obsessed with J. Robert Oppenheimer and read a number of books about him and the Manhattan Project. There are still books about him that I want to read. I'm consistently obsessed with Shirley Jackson and still reading my way through her body of work and planning to read books about her as well.

I'm not sure why I get obsessed with the people with whom I get obsessed. I guess there will just be something about them that draws me to them. Often with writers, it's that I love their work. But with someone like J. Robert Oppenheimer, I guess it's what he did and how it ended up. I'm interested in all things atomic and nuclear, so obviously I'm interested in the Manhattan Project. But upon finding out more about Oppenheimer and his post-war activities, I had to learn more. As far as F. Scott Fitzgerald goes, I'm fascinated that much of his work came from his life, and it was an interesting life which contained success, failure, and tragedy. I'm sure I'll know much more about all of this once I've read his biography.

By the way, I'm still reading Eric Schlosser's book about nuclear weapons--a very long and dense but excellent book that I will be reading for another few months.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My June River Ram Press Blog Article

My June River Ram Press Blog article has been posted! You can see it here. It's about the wonderful literary journal Breath & Shadow and the opportunity it provides writers with disabilities. It's a terrific voice for the disability community!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Getting Up When Down...

Bipolar disorder can be so unpredictable. Sometimes I'll feel down for no reason at all, and it will come on with no warning and (hopefully) leave as quickly as it came on. Feeling down is different from depression, even mild depression. It's just a feeling of sadness that I can't shake, and it comes with a bit of fatigue and lethargy.

So I've felt this way today--mostly this afternoon. I wrote for a while and that helped. I actually worked on my memoir, Violets Are Blue: A Memoir of My Bipolar Life, and surprisingly this lifted me up a bit. (It comes as a surprise because I was working on some darker stuff.)

Something else that lifts me up is looking at photos, especially old photos. I love to look at my son's baby book, for example. And I have a few pictures that I've put here that cheer me. One is from 1981 and is of me in the Fairport Historical Society fashion show in Fairport, New York. We wore actual vintage dresses that the historical society had. The one I'm wearing was from the 1920s.

The other picture is of me and my sister when we were very young. This picture strikes me as especially appropriate for the present day because my sister is a professional genealogist. She runs a business called Family Sherlock. So to look at us in the late 1960s and to think of all the ancestors who brought us to be in that moment excites me.

So anyhow, I'll keep chugging along... the little engine that could... and finding a way up from down. I can do it. I already feel better just having written this blog post and having shared my feelings.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In Between

I haven't blogged in a while and I've missed it... and you, dear readers.

I think there are a couple of reasons for my hiatus. First would be springtime. With a somewhat large yard that contains many gardens (put in beautifully by the former occupants of our house), there's a lot of outdoor work to do. I love gardening, though it does get overwhelming at times. But I try to keep myself together and break it down into manageable bits. I'm not always entirely successful, but I figure as long as the front yard looks really good (since there's a stockade fence around the backyard), then I'm doing fairly well.

A second reason for my hiatus would be, I'd have to say, the work I'm doing right now. I finished up "You Kill Me", my story about washed-up rock star Jimmy Gemini, and brought it to my writers group where I got excellent feedback. I'll work on it some more, and then begin submitting it.

I'm also working on my bipolar memoir, which I've decided at this point to call Violets Are Blue: A Memoir of My Bipolar Life, and I've finished one chapter called "Infidelity". I'm now struggling to write a chapter called "Childhood Is the Kingdom", which is, rather obviously, about my childhood and what I believe to be early signs and symptoms of my bipolar disorder. But it's going very slowly and it feels as though there's so much I could write and get into. I have to find some sort of theme or focus, otherwise I'll just be floundering. In fact, floundering is exactly what I'm doing right now.

So I'd like to write another story and leave the memoir alone for just a little while. And yet I feel torn about this because I've been on a good roll with the memoir. I'm not sure what to do. Maybe I should just work on both--alternate between them. This is what I did while working on "Infidelity" and "You Kill Me", but "Infidelity" came to me much easier than "Childhood Is the Kingdom" is.

I guess I just have to keep thinking and having "Childhood Is the Kingdom" in the back of my mind while I find a focus. And meanwhile, why not start another story and keep submitting stories? Sounds like a plan to me!