My 1st Fellowship Award! The Catamaran Writing Conference




On Tuesday I was awarded a Fellowship to study Creative Nonfiction and Memoir with Frances Lefkowitz at the 2015 Catamaran Writing Conference. 

I still can’t believe it!

A little backstory: in 2012 I read about the new, local Catamaran Literary Reader. Each issue was filled with first-rate writers. Many of them had received the highest writing accolades possible. I never dreamed of submitting my writing to the editors, especially since my unrelenting bipolar depression got in the way.

In 2013 after a seven-year-long search, I finally found a medication combination that alleviated my paralyzing depression: lithium and an MAOI. I started this blog and returned to work on my partially written memoir Birth of a New Brain.

Fast forward to last month. I wanted to attend a writing workshop that could help me improve my first draft. Through a Google search I found the Catamaran Writing Conference. This annual event is held at a beautiful Pebble Beach campus complete with field trips. It sounded like a glorious summer camp for writers!

I looked at the cost and gulped. No way, I thought. Ain’t gonna happen. 

However, I couldn’t get the conference out of my mind. After three cups of Steve’s Smooth French coffee (for the record, the coffee mug was small!) I wondered if scholarships were available  I emailed an inquiry to the Catamaran office and got on with my day. Within hours the conference coordinator emailed me,”Yes, we offer several fellowships, and here’s the link to apply.” 

Why the hell not? I thought.

Some of you know I’ve been through plenty of literary rejection that brought up slight 😉 anger and insecurity issues. See this link for the gory details:




To get fired up to write my application, I re-read the description of the Nonfiction Workshop I wanted to take. The teacher, renowned writer Frances Lefkowitz (author of To Have Not, a highly acclaimed memoir about growing up poor in San Francisco), seemed like she’d be an ideal guide. Lefkowitz has led numerous memoir workshops. She won a grant to teach free memoir workshops at libraries – how cool is that? (I’ve worked for the Santa Cruz Libraries and Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries; I’m a bit of a library fan.) Participating in her workshop would be a unique opportunity, bar none.

Moreover, Frances Lefkowitz has the same first name as my beloved Granny who was also a gifted teacher. I blogged about my remarkable grandmother for the first time last week. The name coincidence and timing seemed like a good omen that tickled me in the face.

Still, I knew that it was highly unlikely I’d be awarded a fellowship. Surely the staff received a gazillion entries from outstanding writers with talents far superior to mine – writers who were destined to win oodles of Pushcart Prizes and PEN Literary Awards. 

On Tuesday morning I sat in front of my laptop, perplexed. The past month I’ve gone through an awful writing block. I’ve worked on my book here and there instead of during every precious child-free opportunity that I’ve had. (I suspect that my Seroquel withdrawal has had something to do with my struggle.)

My dog Lucy sat on my foot, her warm, furry flank reassuring me of her affection. I began to sob with frustration. Lucy immediately jumped up in alarm and licked my face. As soon as I dried my tears, I noticed a new email had popped up in my in-box.

It was from the Catamaran Literary Reader.

I stared at my in-box. I felt slightly sick to my stomach. I wanted this fellowship. Ever since I emailed my application I wrote nightly affirmations stating I’d receive the award. I furtively placed these slips of paper under my pillow. (This is hippie-dippie Santa Cruz after all, and in twenty-seven years of living here, I’ve never written positive affirmations!)

Despite my pillow plea to the Universe, I knew that the email was likely to be a rejection. Before opening it I braced myself. I took a deep breath. I opened the email and read, ” The editors have chosen you to receive a Fellowship Award to study Creative Nonfiction and Memoir with Frances Lefkowitz during the 2015 conference.”

I let out an enormous, happy scream. Poor Lucy. She barked madly while I danced around in circles like a freak. I’m so grateful for this beautiful award, and I’m honored that the Catamaran editors were “impressed” with my submission!

Since then, I’ve been absorbed with reading my teacher’s memoir; it’s not required, but after reading its rave reviews and spotting its $2.99 cost on Kindle, I was compelled to buy it. I’ve read the first few chapters and it’s incredible. My good friend/blogger Kitt O’Malley ( noticed my enthusiastic tweet about this book and she also bought it. I know she’ll find it a riveting read as well. 

I’ve checked out Lufkowitz’s blog Paper in My Shoe and some of her interviews to get a sense of her teaching style and philosophy. All of these interviews contained excellent writing advice.

Here’s one piece of wisdom she shared on the Fictionaut blog that many of us bloggers/writers can utilize.

What’s the best writer’s advice you ever got?

Frances Lefkowitz: When submitting stories to publications, always keep several pieces in circulation, so when one comes back rejected, you still have the others keeping hope alive. Also, for the same reason, send that rejected one out immediately to another journal. This advice came from the wonderful Pamela Painter, who taught me fiction at Harvard’s night school.

It’s not too late to sign up for the conference! Details are posted below. 

I’ll be back next week with an update on the Seroquel withdrawal blues, which was meant to be today’s original topic until I got this lovely conference news. 🙂 

take care, and have a wonderful weekend!

love, Dyane


To buy To Have Not go to :


Frances Lufkowtiz’s cool website/blog Paper In My Shoe


For information about the 2015 Catamaran Conference in Pebble Beach this August, visit:


Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2016. 

45 thoughts on “My 1st Fellowship Award! The Catamaran Writing Conference

    • Thanks so much, Sharon! God willing, fingers & toes & eyes crossed, my book is not coming out until Fall, 2016, but of course I’ll remind you via this blog! 😉

      Take care and have a great Friday!

  1. Oh wow! Congrats my dear. We are all soooo happy for you and super proud. It is most definitely well deserved. 🙂 Don’t ever doubt that.

    I would have screamed just as loud. Lol.

    PS I have similar news to share….. but I’ll email you about that. Wink wink nudge nudge.

    lots of love and sunshine your way!

    • ***Thank you***!

      I had second & third thoughts about posting this news. I didn’t want to sound like I have a big, ‘ol head (it’s chubby these days, ha ha!), but I couldn’t keep this one under wraps.

      Speaking of news under wraps, whatever great news has happened, yes, LEMME KNOW!!!!! I want details! And most importantly, as your longtime champion, I’m thrilled for you!!! XOXOXOXOX write soon!!!!!!

      • Oh my Lady, ain’t I super proud and excited for you? You see how there’s a silver cloud always? If you hadn’t dared2dare as I sometimes put it, who were you gonna blame or what now? Hmm, more is gonna come and you keep affirmining such to yourself. I can tell you some about the power of self motivation and you sure know that right sweet? Whoop whoop whoop, let Lucy bark 🙂

  2. Dearest one, fabulous, wonderful news!! You’re going after your goals and reaching them! I’m so proud of you and you’re in my thoughts always. Big hugs!! Nina.

  3. Yay! So happy for you! (“precious child-free opportunity” – that made me laugh). Can’t wait for next week’s post. My Dr. has me back on Seroquel. Anyway, God bless, and I hope you get a lot from the conference!

  4. How great is that !! Congratulations on a great opportunity,Dyane; I haven’t known you that long, but I’m genuinely excited for you. Go for it. ☺☺☺ Van

    p.s. I did appreciate the post about your grandmother…perfect timing and maybe a sign. And I have a younger sister named Frances. 💕

  5. Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! I checked out the conference. It looks idyllic. Even considered going myself briefly, but I’m not ready. My OC Writers group has a highly rated critique group. Maybe this summer, I will go start attending that group. I want to go to NAMI CA conference in August in Newport Beach (driving distance, as you know). NAMI’s national conference is in SF July 6-9, but I’m going to be taking Matthew to MD appointments then (and recovering from vacation in Oregon previous week). Always must recover when return from vacations.

    • A belated thanks to you, Kitt! It sounds like you have a full plate this summer, otherwise I’d pack you into my duffle bag and sneak you into the Catamaran conference! 😉 On a serious note, perhaps we could go together next year! And yes, recovery post-vacation/post-conference is essential! XOXO

      • I thought about going, then decided to stick to local NAMI conference in August. The conference is expensive and my husband’s pay may disqualify me for a scholarship. Besides, I’m not ready. Feel a bit intimidated, quite frankly. Do want to do a fun weekend sometime, though.

  6. So wonderful Dyane!!! I am so excited and happy for you! Hope you have a wonderful time and learn everything you can at the conference and share the writing tips with us as well 🙂 Love and many, many hugs!

    • A belated mega-thank you, Samina! Your support has been so wonderful this past year, and yes, I’ll definitely share the tips I learn with you. Much love!!!

  7. You are so awesome Dyane! I meant to say this earlier so I am going to say it now: Woooooo-hoooooooh!!!!!! Congratulations!!!! You deserve this if anyone does, and I’m so proud of you!!! 😀

    Thank you so much for the awesome messages! I love them and will respond soon! 🙂

    • Thank you Lisa! You’ve given me so much encouragement, great writing advice, & true friendship in addition to the wisdom in your fabulous book – I’ll never forget how I felt that I “scored” in finding an excellent book about writing and creativity (and the dreaded writer’s block) by someone with bipolar. You’re a true blessing in my life!

  8. Congratulations Dyane upon winning your scholarship to the writer’s workshop. What an honor and what a beautiful place to study and write . Wishing you a glorious time and inspiration to continue on your path to publishing your book.

    • Thanks a million, Vic! :))) hugs from your fan! (I’ve been reading all your posts & will catch up with leaving some comments soon. You know how I get…) You’re awesome!

  9. Oh my G I am sooo happy for you! I just stopped by during a writing break to see how my awesome friend D is doing and check you out – a fellowship winner. WOW!!!! The writing of this post gave me goose bumbs LOL. Huge hug and can’t wait to hear how it goes, will be fun no matter what I am sure.

    • A zillion thanks, Molly!!! I appreciate your taking a moment to comment so much – I will definitely report on how the conference goes. I’m nervous as I’ve never been in a small writing group in which we get feedback from one another + the teacher (who’s a kickass writer; if I think about that too much I get totally freaked out)….it’s going to be a huge challenge and not a vacation! 😉 But I am going to do my best to rise to the occasion and not get angry if some of the fellow participants say my writing sucks! 😉 (In nicer terms, of course, LOL!) Thanks again for your encouragement, and I hope that you’re having a fabulous day!!

      • No matter what it will be awesome – just getting the time and space to be with others who share your passion (and talent) will be of value no matter what. Don’t stress over it!!! And remember – in all honesty – you probably want the ‘helpful’ criticism of these talented folks than much praise – it will be of more value in the long run, help push you to be a better writer.

        The fact you were given the fellowship is praise enough. Now if it were me I would actually seek out critical feedback… what we nicely like to refer to as ‘constructive criticism’ 🙂

        Excited for you – for me would be probably way stressful, I am loving my alone time/writing time. I’ve done a NEW version of book (I know, will it ever end, please don’t let that be you LOL) with new chapter on depression and some fun stuff thrown in to fill it out more, was definitely short.

        Paperback done soon. Thought: I should send you a few copies after and maybe you can share with others?

        Gotta get back to editing, hugs

    • Molly, thanks for your last comment – sorry to lag on my reply! Good for you for refining your book and making it even stronger as a resource!

      Thanks also for your wonderful, generous offer to send some paperback copies my way. I’d love to be able to make them available to members @ my support group for women with bipolar! No rush…I’ll email you the best address to use.

      Thanks again for your encouragement & excellent advice about asking for constructive criticism @ the conference rather than shoulder pats & “good jobs!”. I’m definitely going to do that because that’s the reason I’m going.

      I have one shot at submitting my manuscript to my publisher, and it needs help. I won’t let my ego stand in the way of making the draft a better read. :)))

  10. Yay so happy for you!!! 🙂 Sounds like an amazing experience awaits you. Much love!

    • Thanks so much, Adina!!! I’ll let you know how it goes!:) I hope your summer is going well and I send you my love.

    • Thanks so much, Nicole!!! I don’t know about the deserving part, I have trouble with that although I need to cut it out…and I try to remind myself that the more books which exist to help moms with bipolar disorder feel less alone with their struggles, the better!! XOXO

    • That would be cool to sail on a catamaran – as long as the sea wasn’t choppy, heh hehe! My Dad had a small boat called “The Glissando” in L.A. & it was next to a big, ‘ol catamaran. I never went on one though. Maybe someday! I’ll come to S.A. and we can go on one if I win California SuperLotto Plus and win more than $2.00 XOXOXO p.s. so happy you’re back!

  11. This is fantastic news!! Congratulations, Dyane!! Oh, I’m so happy for you! Well deserved, indeed. Be proud. Be very, very proud. 🙂

    • Thanks so SO so much, Sweet Sue!Sorry to take a while to respond – sometimes I’ll reply within 24 hours to comments, other times I’m a lazy ass, pardon my French. I’m still amazed about the Conference award. Unfortunately there have been some mean thoughts lurking in my brain that say, “Oh, they’re just giving it to you as a charity case and they don’t really think your writing amounts to much”, but gosh darn it, I stomped those bad thoughts out because at the end of the day, I’m going to the conference!!!

      No one can take that away from me, right?

      High Fives all around!

      • No worries whatsoever, Dyane! I completely understand. Sometimes I’m a lazy ass too, haha! And sometimes it just slips my mind. It happens. 🙂

        I’m so happy for you!! Keep stomping out those mean thoughts because YOU DESERVE THIS! You earned it! And you’re absolutely right – NO ONE can take this award away from you. EVER!

        I’m so with ya – high fives ALL around! This is so wonderful, my dear… And well deserved! BIG hugs to you! ❤

  12. That is fantastic news! I’m sure it will be a great experience and help light the fire under your feet to finish writing your memoir, which I can’t wait to read!! Congrats!!

    • Thanks so much, Madame C!

      Yes, a fire is exactly what I need under my feet to spur me on. I’m excited about the conference, but I’m also nervous because I’ve never been to this kind of event before. I used to work in special event production of a completely different kind: giant music/arts & crafts festivals in San Jose.

      As long as they have coffee and chocolate available @ the campus, I’ll be good. I just wish I could take my “emotional support animal” Lucy!!! 😉

    • Thanks so much!!! As I shared with my other friend Madame C ( I know you’ll truly understand/appreciate this…) I wish I could take my dog Lucy with me! Too bad the conference isn’t in a dog-friendly place like France. 😉

  13. I’m so happy for you, I could wag my tail (I expect your pup already did that). Such good news. I look forward to reading about the conference next month.

    • Thank you so much, Jacqui!

      Yes, Lucy wagged her tail after her initial fear upon seeing her “mom” scream with joy upon reading the acceptance email.

      I’ll definitely want to share about the conference after I return. I’m so glad I came across your blog – I’ll use your awesome tips @ Catamaran! :)))

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