Hellooo

Well, it has been probably a year since I’ve blogged here, or anywhere for that matter. The short version is I went through six months of depression, one month of ECT, received a late stage lyme diagnosis and had heart complications over the summer. Things got better, but worse again (lyme) and I think I have a title for my next book:  “I’ve been Lymed”.  What do you think?  So now I’ve got the physical and the mental illness and it feels swell.

Sorry to bore you. I did have one fantastic month, July, where the antibiotic was kicking ass and I felt better than I had in probably two or so decades. It was glorious! I woke up at 6:00 or 7:00 am, after a perfect 8 hours, and walked 1.5 to 2 miles. I’d get a bunch of work done with the clearest head since I don’t know when. Thankfully, I worked hard because I applied for grants and got one. That is how I am now out of medical debt. Hallelujah! Now, if I could pay off the cars, the house and the credit cards, well that would be a miracle of epic proportions.

In the meantime, all the mental health holidays have whizzed by without any mention from me. It’s okay, right? I’m busy writing a book, a blog for BPHope and Huff Post and really trying to focus on DinerGirl.  My mom thinks I’m afraid of it because I’m a perfectionist. Well…I’m sure that’s part of it, but it’s a nightmare.  When I wrote INCJB, I had an intense, writer/editor boot camp style so once I had my first 150, the skeleton (with some meat on it), once I had that, it flowed nicely to finish in several months. The second book was a collaboration. So this one, this one will be a bear. Plus, I started it right before Hurr Sandy decided to level our area and office turned in to recovery and hotel bed and then 2nd book contract came. Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s hard to keep enthusiasm going for an Achilles heel type of book. I hope I get motivated again, and soon, because that is the book I must finish before I attack the others.

And I really want to write again…I’m not feeling the editing. Maybe I’ll divide my day so I can.

Anyhoo, aren’t you thrilled you tuned in? I’m so boring these days. My big excitement is that I started yoga again. *(Thank you, Groupon.)  I wasn’t in love with being six inches from all neighbors, or the Madonna infused soundtrack (what happened to calm music?) or the shouting teacher, but I kept saying ‘this class only cost $3.90.’ Again, thank you, Groupon. You rock. And so, I can try another place when I’m done. Damn Sandy literally blew through and out my favorite yoga studio in Sea Bright. (Even the post office never came back.) There’s finally some clothing store there but not Bhrama Yoga. I’m terribly sad and really noticing it now when I am trying to find a replacement.

Ah well, you can’t have it all. Right?  I’ll settle for good mental health…until winter comes. For now you better believe I’ve got my light box on!!!!!  🙂

 

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It’s SAD Time Baby, Get Your Light Box On!

It is that time of year when Seasonal Affective Disorder lands like an annoying fly just when I was on a roll. Funny enough, I am writing about it for my next book. After finishing that chapter I realize I have some information to share. That and I always blog about what is bothering me.

SAD Nov BP Hope blog 11-7-2015 1-28-15 AM

What I know, as many of us do, is that in four season climates in the U.S. it’s right now many people are struggling, simultaneously cursing those able to head to warmer climates. And I swear if I see one more Sandal’s commercial with happy couples walking hand in hand on the most gorgeous beaches or hear of another Christmas countdown I am going to run down the road screaming naked. (Don’t dare me.) Isn’t the Christmas count a little premature? For God’s sake we haven’t even come close to Thanksgiving!

Most of us also know the ideal remedy is a mix of sunshine, low stress, exercise and eating right in combination with our medication for those who aren’t medication resistant (which is 30%-40%). It’s the combo plan that is the most effective and this is what struck me over and over while researching for the book.

For those who can’t afford to pack a bag and head south we’re left with full blown winter blues or SAD and it sucks.

I told my friend Ann about my SAD story, how every winter both I go through it. (What a perfect acronym. Can you imagine if they named it HAPPY?) Ann said after graduating from Miami University she moved home to N.J. Once, while out to dinner with her parents and family doctor (they were close friends), he noticed Ann was not her peppy self. When the doctor made this comment and that she had a medical condition, Ann accepted it.

Can you imagine a diagnosis in your early twenties? The average age of diagnosis is thirty-one, not long after that I received mine. I can’t help but think how less I would have suffered had I only known earlier. Those were also the years I was in and out of the hospitals and attempting suicide. I really could have used light and other therapies to get through those horrible winters. In fact not all, but probably half, of my suicide attempts were during the fall/winter/early spring.

For some, like Ann, she slides by with “the winter blues” yet for millions of us, often with pre-existing mood disorders, we suffer from SAD. A small percentage end up hospitalized, attempting suicide or dead. It is very serious.

Here are some stats from Psychology Today:  

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect 10 million Americans.
  • Another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD.
  • SAD is more common in women than in men.
  • Illness typically begins around age 20.
  • Some people experience symptoms severe enough to affect quality of life, and
  • 6 percent require hospitalization.
  • Many people with SAD report at least one close relative with a psychiatric disorder,
  • most frequently a severe depressive disorder (55 percent) or
  • alcohol abuse (34 percent).
  • Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn’t start in people younger than age 20.
  • When it does affect children and teens, it is the first suspected one suspected by parents and teachers.
  • Risk decreases with age.
  • SAD is more common the farther north you live.

Now, let’s say to be politically incorrect –since there is a lot of that going around –that SAD sucks. Okay, that is out of my system.Luckily, there are things we can do, starting with a light box. The hardest part of light boxes are researching which one to get, paying for it and remembering to use it consistently and as directed. Other than that, it’s a flip of a switch. Staying on top of your meds and appointments helps as your doctor may want to add an SSRI, in particular, since our serotonin levels drop in the winter. Also, carbs call to us during SAD – and there is a long, medical explanation as to why – but resisting is difficult and requires replacing the cravings with produce and protein. SAD is rough but can be manageable. Right now I”m getting sucked under and that’s with a light box so I am going to use it twice a day and get a dawn stimulator because my sleep is all wacky due to Daylight Savings.

I can’t catch a break this year. I also took a few days off due to headaches and irritated eyes. That’s kind of a no-no but I was sitting too close and for too long.(Typical me, the writer, getting lost in time.) That’s when I have to pull back but even missing a few days can really set you back, i learned in research, and experienced firsthand.

Here is my list of my recommendations.

  • Get yourself a light box and consider buying a dawn stimulator and negative ionizer. (Don’t let the word “negative” fool you; it’s quite positive!) See the Center for
  • For lightboxes (and gadgets we have yet to purchase) we like Sunbox Co. and have their Sunbox Jr. Remember it’s like chocolate, all about size and quality, and plus we love their warranty.
  • Plug that baby in before you get depressed, don’t start right when you realize you are.
  • Once you get used to your seasonal patterns you will be able to start a few weeks ahead of time. My psychologist reminds me in mid-September to find it in the basement and plug it in because I start to go downhill in early October.
  • In place of a dawn stimulator – code for an alarm clock with “the rising sun” built-in – try putting a timer on your bedside light to help you wake up.
  • Remember placement for light therapy has a lot to do with efficacy so be sure to read guidelines. You’d hate to buy it and then not benefit because it’s too far away or out of range of sight, etc.
  • If you are experiencing side effects, headaches, itchy eyes (my side effects, for example), consult your doctor. Since I have already spoken my doctor and am used to my light box, I usually I do one of two things. I’ll cut back on the amount of time spent in front of it the next day or I move it further away from me by a foot or two.
  • Side effects vary per person (Nora has not experienced any) and for me, occur when I’m not paying attention to how long I have it on. I might skip a day but usually don’t skip two as even one or two days in a row can bring back depression, believe it or now. It has happened to me several times!
  • Work up to 30-45 minutes a day with your light box, ideally using it when you first wake up. Don’t use it too late or it could keep you awake, all you night owls out there. Um, okay, that includes me!
  • Light boxes are great for people doing 2nd shift or overnights too. It helps maintain circadian rhythm and ward off depression. The same suggestions apply, use it when you wake up.
  • See http://www.cet.org/, the top non-profit light organization, for light therapy guidelines. It’ll help describe light box guidelines, dawn stimulators, negative ionizers and more! No, seriously, that site is the bomb. I learned a lot there!
  • Enlist a friend or caregiver to get you out of the house when you feel you are getting stuck. This can work, except if you both have it, then a third person is necessary, as in our house! (Takers anyone? Accepting applications..haha.)
  • Try to get outside first thing in the morning unless it is raining.
  • Even putting your face towards the sun for twenty to thirty minutes is effective. Think, sun=real deal. If sun is not available, backup plan is light box, although I do both if possible.
  • Open all window shades and drapes when you wake up. It’s the very first thing I do even before taking meds, making coffee and feeding the kitties.
  • Keep your windows clean and branches trimmed so the sun is not blocked. (Yes, all the little things matter.)
  • Last but far from least, if you buy on-line make sure you receive the same warranty and return policy. Many times you only get thirty days to return it on Amazon, etc. versus buying directly on the manufacturer’s website. Besides the Sunbox company we mentioned, Verilux is supposed to be very good too.

Worth mentioning is Verilux’s “Happy Light” currently on sale for $140.00 until 11.11.15 @ 12:00 P.M. It that travels well and delivers the recommended 10,000 lumens. I might try that one if I didn’t have one. Here’s a picture of the “Happy Light”. Gosh, it sounds simple doesn’t it? Well it comes down to flipping a switch but more importantly remembering to do it and doing so consistently. I think that’s where people go wrong and then deem it (falsely) ineffective.

Here is the “Happy Light” on sale until 11/11/15 @ 12:00 P.M.

I remember looking at the Verilux catalogue back in 2005 trying desperately to get my insurance to cover it but to no avail. Back then they did not do it at all. Now, there are letters you can write and templates to do so. Look here and try it! What have you got to lose? A little time and perhaps frustration. Well, in the mental health field aren’t we used to that?

Verilux has been around or a long time – I believe the first in the biz – and have a great reputation. Studies at Columbia (the grandaddy of light therapy testing) uses Sunbox for testing. I see Northern Technologies out of Canada are also recommended a lot but I don’t know much about them. When I was shopping for light boxes they had the right specs and had high ratings but seemed pricier. (And P.S. no I don’t receive kickbacks from these, or any products in case you were wondering! I wish…I’d like a dawn stimulator!)

There you have it. If you have SAD, go get a lightbox and don’t forget to use it every day! Experts say even missing one day can set you back. I can attest to that.

Keep it to the sun (or your light box) my friends and tell your depression to simmer down. Spring will be here (gulp) hopefully before we know it. Right now I have to get out of this robe! Oh yes, SAD is here alright.

Check below….good luck…be well. Hey, ask for a gift certificate if you can’t afford it. Shop around but I highly recommend you stick to the companies below. Many that are offered on line don’t have UV filters, diffusers or guarantees. You should feel different after a few weeks. If by that point you don’t either one of three things are true: you don’t respond to light therapy, which over 50% do, you are not positioned correctly (which I wouldn’t suspect would be the case) or your light box is a piece of crap. If it is well under $100, chances are it is the latter.

Do I hear Chirstmas or Hannakah gift? It makes a great gift under the treee. (Doubtful it would fit in a stocking!)

If you’re wondering, I am writing a book on depression and had 30-40 articles on SAD. That’s how I could write this easily. My mind is exploding….next post will likely be jibberish on the holidays causing anxiety, or another chapter’s recap. Maybe TMS? That one has me all excited!!


Sunbox   We like Sunbox. Their boxes are metal,very sturdy…and while their designs are not as sleek as their competitors, at least their smaller ones are not, they do what they do very well. The dimensions are excellent for the price and while they don’t travel well, this one fits nicely in corners. I push it back in to the corner of my desk and it takes virtually no space and blends right in (at least to me). Cons: it does not travel so if you do, you may opt for a more compact design.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Light

Sunlight Jr ® Made in USA!

SB-682

$225.00$179.00

!Light therapy for SAD

  • SAD Bright Light

    Winter Blues Survival Package! (a great 1st timer deal)…. Expensive but better than buying everything separate…. in my opinion anyway!

    SB-833

    $427.95$240.00

OMG a visor, can you imagine walking around, undetected and getting your light? These babies are still high in price everywhere, but what if their design was so sleek that the light was undetectable? (I would have to try it out and have money to “throw away” but still….I am intrigued.) This might be a good idea in some situations but if you walk, theoretically you’re getting sun outdoors. I”m not sure when this would be helpful? Maybe for people who walk in malls and live in a cloudy climate?

  • Sale!FeelBrightLightVisor350

    Deluxe Feel Bright Light Visor

  • SB-809
    $198.00$148.00

This SunRay below looks like the MacDaddy of them all. Look at that surface area! WOW! How could this one NOT work? If I had the funds, I would purchase this one without any hesitation! Sun Ray=Real deal in my opinion. I think it closes to pack and would essentially look like a metal briefcase. Can you imagine going through airport security with that? Or customs? You can’t check it with the bulbs those things would smash in a second. I think you would have to leave this baby home and bring a portable. Maybe a dawn stimulator would suffice for on the road? A d.s. would also keep your sleep regulated.

  • Best SAD Lightbox Therapy
  • SunRay ® ON SALE!!

    SB-558

    $399.00$349.00

I don’t know what the difference in between these babies (SRay & SRay II), but it probably comes down to design.SRII must be the “new and improved” but who the heck knows!

  • Sale!Sad Therapy Light

    SunRay II ®

    SB-717

    $449.00$369.00


Northern Light

*Free Shipping all orders

As you can see, Northern Light is pricey. One can deduce, or hope, it comes down to quality. I just read part of their equipment, boxes, bulbs, etc. is made in America, some in Canada. It’s kind of like the car thing, they call them domestic made but many parts are manufactured overseas. When they put it together in the U.S. and the company is U.S. it is considered Canadian made. But if you want to pay a little extra, they get good reviews too. I’m not sure if paying extra means it is better, but worth a check. Dr. Rosenthal who is the SAD founder & pioneer recommends them (and Verilux and Sunbox) so they must be good.


If you’re wondering if you have SAD, check out this confidential questionnaire here.

Center for Environmental Therapeutics

Cet.org is the best source, a non-profit, research based organization. It is the only one of it’s kind and has an advisory board of top docs from around the world. In fact, it’s the only one in the world of this caliber that I’m aware of. You can take their recommendations as gold.

Also, SAD leader is Dr. Tehran, the authority in research for SAD. He is the top guy at Columbia’s Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms. Check it out. Dr. Rosenthal has a wealth of information here too. You don’t need to buy his book, just comb his website.

Well, that’s all folks. Long post, thanks for making it to the end. Now, I’m off to working on another chapter on our book on depression and treatments for our next Two Bipolar Chicks book. Writing takes a lot of hours but for you? Anything, even a lack of social life…. Who am I kidding? With depression, what social life do I have? Things will get better, i know. For now, it’s me and my light box, baby!

🙂 Wendy

Jimmy Cliff and How He Saved Me

I have one horrible summer back in my teens…everyone does, don’t they? I was a teen, early teen, at summer camp. To be blunt I was raped by a fellow counselor I had a crush on actually and the rest of the summer was absolute torture as I stayed much to others confusion years later. (I didn’t dare tell a soul until nearly a decade later out of self-perceived shame.)

Anyhoo, the reason I write is not to purge or revisit those feelings today, rather to pay homage to the magnificent Jimmy Cliff. It’s funny; I was just sitting here also recollecting that the only writing I ever wished to do was to work for The Rolling Stone magazine. It was the only periodical I ever subscribed to well in to my twenties until alcohol and drugs took precedence and I gave up on my dreams.

Back to Cliff.

That summer I found extreme solace in “The Harder They Come” soundtrack. “I’d rather be a free man in my grave than living as a puppet or a slave” and lyrics like these rang true. “The harder they come, the harder they fall” had never been lyrics that had been seared in to my soul before with perhaps the exception of James Taylor and a few others when I was depressed and seeking understanding.

No one and no lyric since then had come close.

“Sitting here in limbo” was also another great one. I remember all of these songs cradled me as I grabbed my knees and hugged tight. There were no arms of my mother and I truly felt ashamed. “This little boy is moving on…” I may not have been a little boy, but I certainly was a little girl who had changed overnight from a little girl, a virgin I might add, to a bitter, surly girl whose “faith will lead me on” was definitely in question. I was holding on for dear life but “sitting in limbo” nevertheless.

Thank God for Jimmy who understood me. I had “many rivers to cross” not only as insight in to my impending future, but an immediate directive as well. It was all hurling at me like a deadly ball of fire which would stop and move slowly enough so I could examine it. I knew I had been altered – naturally not for the better.

It was also on “The Harder They Come” soundtrack where I learned that I must get my fight song. I learned that I could “Get it If You Really Want” and that meant me. I knew Jimmy Cliff spoke the truth “you’ll succeed at last” and that he was speaking to me too. And thank God for that. I was in need of dire help. But “you must try and try and try…you’ll succeed at last.”

Perhaps listening to that soundtrack until I burned down the motor on my Walkman gave me false comfort; maybe I should have left. Still, my decision stands if for no other reason that it’s what I chose. You see, I’m not one to back down and no matter how much he tortured me mentally afterwards, I had Jimmy Cliff cheering me inwards. Sure, there were ions of therapy sessions years afterwards and again, sure I re-write history, or counsel someone else, I would not suggest this path. It was simply mine.

Thank you, Jimmy. I hope someday I can inspire someone, a little iota of a life raft to cling on to, as you have given me, countless times. Or, at least once would do.

God bless you, Mr. Cliff. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

-Wendy K. Williamson www.wendykwilliamson.com

Think Pink? How about Green!

Happy Mental Health Month!

You might be looking at your computers, iwatches, calendars or phones and noticing Mental Health Month is midway through. Sorry gang, I’ve been busy impersonating a nurse (*see Lyme blog). Yes, I realize this too, and I like to be more prompt, but as I said, I’ve been a busy girl.

So why a whole month for the mentally ill while some causes only get a day or week? For one, we need it, or at least, I know I do. Two, we get shafted everywhere else; it’s about time the scales were tipped in our favor somewhere. I don’t know about you, but I’m often exhausted. (*Except when manic, then I can fly!) And sleep is always at the top of my to-do list.

I mean no disrespect to our cancer friends, but I am sick and tired of pink. When will green matter? (*Please note I have had family members with cancer, one who died. Do not throw tomatoes at your screen you will only ruin it. Hate mail, I can handle that. Huff Post wouldn’t publish this.)

Now, I search for green or any mental health displays of affection but find no green in any of our communities during May (or at all). Will any town ever line their streets with green? I don’t know about your town but we go pink crazy here. Pink is everywhere and mental illness is no where.  I’m pretty has been around as long as cancer. Maybe in a few decades–when we get sick of pink–we’ll introduce it. Maybe one brave town will display green somewhere. By then I’ll probably be sucking on oxygen, have a pacemaker or be flying around town on one of those very cool looking scooters. (Or worse, be stuck in some home because I’ve lost all my marbles.) Hopefully though, I’ll be just fine, because I’ll have taken good care of myself.

Still, how about green bras hanging from roofs of local merchants? Have you ever seen those? The real estate agency down the road has pink bras hanging off theirs. Can you see it? Green banners? Anything? How about green bows and pens for sale to raise money for mental illness? How many do you think people would buy if the merchants would even accept them and put them out? How long would that take?

Again, no disrespect to cancer, breast or otherwise. (I can feel the hate mail coming.) I have lost loved ones to cancer so I am not ‘anti-cancer’,don’t put me there. Forgive me, I have to stand up in every article for my peeps. And we, too, deserve the same respect as any other illness. How long will that take? We have the whole month to get your attention and I often wonder if anyone outside the mental health community cares.

As I drive alongside the pink line in the road – yes they paint them here – I can’t imagine green. The only green in town is our lawn, finally, and our neighbors’. (I live in New Jersey, not California or Colorado.) Celebration, in addition to advocacy and anti-stigma, is to feel good about yourself. If we felt any of this from our community, I would feel better. It’s a good thing I have so much of myself, mental health and work to focus on.

I want to paint the town green, paint my nails green (though how long could I take it, that I wonder) and maybe spray paint some shrubs. Wait, they are already green. Okay, I’ll think of something. Maybe I’ll spray paint the caution tape we have around our new grass, though something tells me people will not make the correlation. They would simply pile it on to the other reasons why their new neighbors are odd.

We’re still new in the neighborhood, and I don’t know how fast it has spread that there are two mentally ill girls on the block. (I told my neighbor I was a mental health writer and you should have seen his eyes! And I thought ‘health’ was a good spin.)

Maybe one May I’ll be doing running leaps up and down our street at our town’s announcement that we’re honoring Mental Health Month in some fashion. I’ll take a green sticker somewhere or an acknowledgement in the monthly newsletter. I’m easy. I’m not suggesting lighting the school tower in green – though one night would be cool. We could postpone it to December and make it blend in for the holidays. I’m not even demanding a green stripe downtown. (Although, a nice, lime green alongside the pink would look lovely; I’m willing to share.) Besides, this is a preppy town and wouldn’t they look nice together?  I’ll even settle for a sticker at town hall. We could squeeze it into a shamrock, put it up in March and take it down in June, kind of like a lingering St. Patrick’s Day spirit. Something, geez.  Anything!

I did a little digging, a little, for some stats just to back up my blog here.

Cancer Statistics:

In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease. … The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 171.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2008-2012 deaths).Mar 22, 2017
Bipolar Statistics:
Again, I know comparing illnesses is dangerous ground. I once did this with my friend who has M.S. She was very gracious but I learned no one has it better; each illness is it’s own torture. I will never do this again. Bad, bad, bad, bad.
On a positive note….

I hope your Mental Health Month is a good one, both mania, depression and hospital-free. No major trouble here for me, so far, and I hope there hasn’t been for you, my friend.   (I haven’t been up all night or run up the credit cards, so not manic here!) If you are manic, slow down, do what you need to and get your sleep. Keep up with your meds and appointments, be a good bipolar. If you’re feeling depressed, I understand, a wee bit down myself. Keep your chin up and remember tomorrow is another day, one that just might be better than today.

And, THINK GREEN!!!  Paint your nails green. Men, you could, that’s a choice. But ladies, how about it? That reminds me, I have to go out and buy some so when anyone asks why green?…

I can say, “Because it’s mental health month!”

Cancer peeps, we love you. Uncle Rick, I miss you.  You would laugh at my absurdity and probably agree, I know.  You’d probably laugh at the pink line in your downtown. Maybe you’d help me go out and paint the other side green.

Pink & Green, perfect. We just need more green love.

Writers Residency @ the Vermont Studio Center, Pneumonia and Me

I couldn’t believe I was accepted in to the Vermont Studio Center for a one-month residency! If you ever want to get a lot of work done, just go to a residency and…oh yes…get sick. Sick enough to function, but sick enough to decline the evenings social happenings and that’s where you’ll find yourself, exactly like me, and my April 2015 writers residency at the VSC.

IMG_3464

I cannot believe how seemingly overnight, spring has peeked from beneath the sheets like a wide-eyed kid at 5:00 A.M. on Christmas morning and announced it is here!  While I was freezing my ass off one hour from Canada – with pneumonia I must add – the slush, mud and snow of the northeast had cleared completely down in New Jersey. I came home to birds in full chorus, flowers bloomed in zest, and even a slight fuzz of new grass from the tiny layer of seed my partner had thrown down haphazardly while I was away. I must say though, bad weather and all, I miss the Vermont Studio Center immensely.

door

Gosh, it’s good to be back though too. My own bed, my girl, cannoli’s upon return. Mmm, there is no better place than home base. I just fished out my laptop after a solid week in an unreachable spot underneath my couch. I can’t remember the last time I took a week off; it had to be a year ago. That’s right, before we bought our house, just after the deadline for my second book, a perfect time. Ah, the blissful ten days off, that was. This experience has made evident one thing:  I am the WORST BOSS!

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind being sick since I was living my dream; the utopia of being surrounded by only writers and artists, where the buzz at all meals was creative talk; where you were inspired by the person touching each elbow wherever you sat. Pure heaven, I tell you. And I would do it all again, yes, even in the winter, even close to freezing, in the split second of a heartbeat.

Ah, I miss it.

What I do not miss is the absolute insane pace and near-impossible goals I set for myself. It was near back-breaking. I may have taken a few afternoon hours off, once to have a meal in another town and once or twice where i took a cat nap at the studio, but I hadn’t taken a day off until the third week.(When my mom picked me up she said “great” to that news. Now I know where I get it from.)

Still, I’m grateful for this work ethic; you can’t complete books without it, much less be a success at anything you do. Thanks Mom and Dad. And, thank you for giving me a loan for the balance after the fundraising, the merit-based grant and work-based grant. After my dog sitting stint this week (and the longer one in August), I’ll be down to just under one thousand dollars. And that’s a loan I am glad to pay back. With pride. I am eternally grateful to the village who got me up there (thank you, Jayne!) and donated on Go Fund Me.

Ah, yes, Hillary, it does take a village, without which, I would be at least a book behind. Or two.

Final word counts.

zDiner Girl  Cover thumbnailDinerGirl = 105K; DinerGirl Too=28K; The New Writers Manual to Success Volume I: From Start to Self-Publishing (*working title)= 101k; The New Writers ”    ”    ”   Volume  II (*working title)= 64k;

Proposals:  Two Bipolar Chicks Proposal:ABCs of ECT, TMS, SAD and PPD=3,300. Writers book Volume I: 8,500.

Grand total = 309,800. This is not to say I wrote 309,800 words. Oh no no no. This total is not accurate because I came up with DinerGirl and the writers book already started.  I would say I wrote 180,000-200,000 words. DG TOO is all new, as is the 2nd writers book. The proposals are almost done, in time for my self-imposed, pre-camping, Memorial Day Weekend deadline, As I said, I am the toughest boss. Equally as tough is our agent, though not specifically to us. “This is a business” as Corinda our agent says. OH yes it is and our cupboards tell the story.

The VSC was a beautiful place to work…All the writers had a view of the river. The artists occupy many buildings (at least five),the largest, Wolf Khan, a stone’s throw across the river from us.

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IMG_3457 IMG_3449

Maverick Writing Studio       March 2015

DO you like my studio? This is a very neat day. Picture day! 🙂

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I was the paper recycling queen!

(This is code for a lot of mistakes, or lots of editing to be kind!)

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By my second week in, I could identify who my roommates were. I began attenting the artists open studio nights and the writers open speakers nights too.

One of the most valuable parts of a writers residency is the visiting writers who advise you. For the prose folks, ours was Ann Pancake and she was amazing. She read fiften pages of my introduction and first chapter, my very rough draft of DinerGirl and told me – along with many other writers and artists there – that it read more like a memoir. That’s a relief because it truly is. I think I was trying to make it in to a novel, but it itsn’t one. Dinergirl Too is, because all kinds of fictional plots have come to me.  There is a big difference, I realize now.

Another memoir, yep!

My neighbor, Wendi, from Vancouver was a very talented, vivacious artist who organized the easter egg hunt. Love her. She was one of the other three other women in my same residence,  Mason House. The other two women were Laurie, a very talented poet and photographer from Reno, NV, and Laura, also a gifted painter, working on a series of enormous ships from Florida. I wish them all continued success, but it is evident they don’t need any well wishings from little ‘ole me. In hindsight, I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, except made more meals and gotten to know people more. The people made that residency, what an amazing bunch from all over the world! Wow! I doubt I could ever find such a special bunch again. Ever.

Even if I went to a couple of residencies a year, this type of cohesive, all-for-one artistic residency could not be duplicated. Sixty artists and writers had a unique blend, a special sauce, a dyacism, while compatable, each with thousand old artist souls. We collided amidst determination, frenetic pace and formed in to an unexpected, effful dance.

To all the writers out there, please do yourselves the greatest favor to your soul and apply for writers fellowships. I sugest you mark that you will accept financial aid if you don’t receive a fellowship becasuse the fellowships are very difficult to get. You can get a grant, work study (how hard is it to vacuum ?? and run a Kickstarter, etc.) Pretty son you’ll have it all together and you’re on your way!
Good luck and I hope you apply someday. The VSC was amazing and I highly, highly recommend it. (Yes, even in the winter! They have more money for fellowships, by the way from November to April!) If you go in the winter, remember to bring a down coat and down blanket. (Even if you have to ship it!) It was a life saver!

Still, soft voices…

I normally don’t re-blog but this hit home. Haunting, brilliant and I can relate a little too much. Thank you David Stone @InkedDadBPD and thank you, my angels.

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The engine shuts off. You look in the mirror to see your faint reflection looking back at you through the soft glow of light rising up from the dashboard. You see those eyes. Dark. Empty. Emotionless.

You sit. You stare. A still, soft voice rises up from your heart. It enters your mind begging you to just start your truck and go home. you stop for a moment to acknowledge it. It brings with it photos in the form of memories trying to sway your decision and alter your outcome. It pleads, it begs. But it gets ushered out of your mind by the demons, leaving broken and rejected in the form of a tear.

The faint lights go dark. The music goes quiet. You, for the first time absorb in just how dark it really is. No moon. No stars. Complete silence. Your thoughts can speak clearly now… clearer…

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The Artistic Bend, Changing of Tides, Hair Salon (yes, really!) and YOU!

I wrote this while on a cruise… I can’t explain why, per se. But as I sat writing long-hand, my practice shall we call it, daily typically though while on vacation only when motivated, this is what came out. (Two hours later I was so mesmerized by the sea and my own b.s. that I had gotten in to a tif with my girl because I was, once again, lost in my world, my writer world, where the outer world moves and I stay put in mine.)  The trip ended quite badly actually as I was oblivious I was on a trip with anyone else buy my pen for a few hours.  Ah, we live and we learn.

So while seemingly harsh, and the start of one very unfortunate last-night-of-the-vacation fights, this is one of my most favorite little blips about writing in a while. Please don’t misread me or it, (I’m not really a hard ass!) And I don’t mean to rant, though that happens..and more in the spring when I bloom like the flowers. Only my bloom is lightening fast as i get manic and fly out of my seed. This is merely an echo of sentiment from the very first speech, from the very first author, who I heard; and how it resonated with me.

Only, this is my version. The Wendy one. I cut and pasted it from Good Reads which is where i origionally posted it. Then I took it down and thought ‘Oh my God, what ARE these people going to think of me, anyway?’  Well, I should be thinking more of ‘Oh my God, why couldn’t i SHUT-UP at the hair salon today?’ And it was a new one, one I liked. One I’m almost too embarassed to go back to. I think she mistook my depression for the wrong reaction of ‘I don’t like your work’….which is 100% the opposite. I lOVE what she did. And I think she took my manic babble as I am doing well, or cheery, and therefore should have been bubbly so I must not have liked the cut/highlights because I clearly wasn’t jumping up and down like the teen before me – with her mom no less.’  Geez. Or I could be way off and she got a text from her new hubby and had to run off. Or go to the bathroom. Either way, it DID NOT END WELL. I love my haircut though; it beats my frayed ends stabbing me from all angles.

Oh, right, my reason for this blog. (Sorry to bother….)

“The artistic bend is a sell-out. It’s all truth, or it’s no good. EIther write what’s in the heart, all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the uglier, the privat and even more private and it’s a book worth reading. Not willing to go there? Do yourself and the world a favor: Don’t write it until you’re ready to do so. Only then is it your truest artist being heard. And only then will the world want to hear what you have to say.”

I hope that you are nodding and not throwing food at the screen. Not ready to spill your guts? Wait, I say. At least until that person dies or you get over your pride. Screw the world anyway. WHo cares?

Rock it!  And let us read it. Warning: writing and producing a book is a Bitch! But if ink runs in your veins like blood, you’ll know it and have no other choice.  Wish me luck on sanity. I can already feel the changing of the tides. Gulp.

Go Ahead Writer

                                                          Dear Writer,

“Happiness for me, or I suspect any writer, is plenty of paper and plenty of pens. Isn’t that such a simple concept?

Yet, for a writer, anyone who measures their calling as a heartbeat, a desire, a burning or ringing, whose only way to turn it down, drown it out, is to pick up that pen, open up and power on their laptop and squelch the burn with the begin to the begin.

The paradox is wrapped up with passion is its ugly companion fear. This fear keeps us locked in between these two worlds, trapped in the invisible walls of one who can see, hear and feel this call, whose words echo and pulse shoots in our veins, and the mysterious fear that lives alongside our ideas, our need to tell the stories we’ve fabricated or poems we’ve written or stories we have lived or studied. It is living between these two worlds – of regret, fear, rejection, self-doubt – that we know what reliance on self can do. It can literally kill brilliant stories before they’ve begun.

And worse, reliance on those around us, if we listen to them, could stomp out the most brilliant in all of literature. For our modern day Shakespeare equivalents are being born as we speak, they are in school, or in retirement, considering writing that crucial story that will serve as a model in future English courses decades down the road. The truth is that we must not listen to the world around us and all their opinions and reasons for why we mustn’t write.

The absolute truth is we owe it to ourselves and those in our community and our generation and those beyond, to keep the story going; to tell the accounts of our soldiers, our mothers, our lovers, whatever is inside us; to preserve, pontificate, project, propel us forwards with that tiny voice inside that says do it, rather than cave and halt, conceding to the many more that say don’t.

Who am I to tell this story I have? Why me? I haven’t got an English degree. When I posed this question to my friend – with an MFA in painting – she said “so what, you think I have a degree in graphic design? And yet, here I am doing it!”

It doesn’t require a degree. You needn’t have read a thousand books. The worst read member of our writers group writes some of the best stories. If it’s in you, it’s in you. Pick up the pen and let the story unfold. Power on your laptop and show up to the adventure.

There will be hours, days of rough spots when doubt will creep in. ‘They were right, this is a horrible idea!’ Then you’ll have glorious sprints, spurts of six thousand word days where you’ll feel more alive than when you had your first kiss or felt your heart thump in love.

Welcome, writer. The world is waiting for you. You needn’t be rid of fear – I don’t think it goes away for any of us. Don’t let your fear sweep you out to sea forever. Plant your feet deeply in the sand and stake your claim.

Get going, tell us. Even if it takes you a decade, ten minutes a day. Everyone has ten minutes a day.”

-Wendy K. Williamson
12/31/14