Starting to Freak About the Catamaran Writing Conference



Yes, I’m beginning to feel nervous about leaving my cozy comfort bubble to attend the 2015 Catamaran Writers Conference at Pebble Beach. I certainly won’t let my freakiness stop me from going to such an incredible-sounding event. But I’m definitely intimidated about hobnobbing with established writers, not to mention some famous ones. It’s not like I’m a writing neophyte. I have a book deal with Post Hill Press, but I’m not exactly Karen Joy Fowler (our keynote speaker and the winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction) either.

I’m daunted at the prospect of having my writing critiqued by a group, but that’s the primary reason I’m attending. I want a fresh perspective about my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder; specifically I want feedback about Chapter One, the material I submitted for our class to review. An acclaimed memoirist/memoir instructor, Frances Lefkowitz, will discuss her take on my chapter and I’ll gain insights from my classmates as well. 

The last time I was away from my family for more than a day was in 2013. That summer I was hospitalized three times after I slowly, slowly tapered off lithium and relapsed into bipolar depression/suicidal ideation. I admitted myself into Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, a.k.a. CHOMP. (I’ve always found that to be a bizarre acronym; CHOMP reminds me of a vicious shark – no offense to shark lovers!)  While there I requested bilateral ECT (electroshock treatment/electroconvulsive therapy) which brought me up to a functioning level. I have no regrets about ECT and consider it a lifesaver. However, my bipolar depression didn’t go away until I began taking lithium and my MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) Parnate that fall. 

Ironically CHOMP is located very close to the Catamaran Writers Conference site, but I’m determined not to darken its doors unless I suffer from severe writer’s cramp or the like. My meds are doing their job, thank God, and I’m still working out almost every day “Alsuwaidan Style“.  

I think that sometimes after we suffer so much trauma, it’s hard to fully accept the “happy stuff” that comes our way. A part of me feels that this conference is too good to be true. Moreover, thoughts of “I’m not worthy! My writing sucks and it’s not worthy either!” have floated through my mind.

I’ll do my best to let my negative perceptions pass through my brain, and focus on breathing in the fresh ocean air that permeates the campus. My past anxiety crutches of booze and benzos are no longer an option. As hippy dippy as this may sound, I’m going to turn to nature and sweat to help me grapple with my assorted heebie jeebies. There’s a gym I will use on campus, and there are group hiking activities and other outdoor field trips (i.e. to gorgeous Tor House, home of Robinson Jeffers, a John Steinbeck tour, and exploring sites that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson, i.e. China Cove and Pelican Point ) for the writers.

I can also blog about my angst to you, right? I’ll have my laptop  and WiFi by my side, and I’ll let you know how it all pans out.  🙂



p.s. It’s not too late to join me! August 1st is the registration deadline. Sign up at


Here are a few hideous campus shots! 😉



And the atrocious area of Pebble Beach & China Cove!




31 thoughts on “Starting to Freak About the Catamaran Writing Conference

  1. There’s a chocolate bar called Chomp here; it’s small and thin, but the ad during my childhood was a baby hippo desperately trying to get his jaws *creaky tree felling soundtrack* open wide enough to eat it. Its father said, “still not wide enough,” and ate the Chomp. Tragic. What does that have to do with your writing course? Sweet FA.

    • I want a Chomp bar from your land sooooooooooooooo bad! Have been craving chocolate all afternoon! I love the baby hippo ad you describe – what a mean, mean father! I might do a little search online to see if it’s around! And I love anything you write and I don’t care if it has to do with the writing course or what have you!

  2. Looks like a beautiful place. I would be too terrified to go even if I could afford it. Have fun and hope all turns out well for you there. xx

    • Tessa, you and I are way more alike than you know. I smiled when I read your comment because you truly “get it”!

      Terrified will be exactly how I feel, but I’m forcing myself because I got the scholarship (otherwise I couldn’t afford it) and I took that gift as sign for me to go despite the intense fears I’ll have.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting – you’re a sweetie! Sending you my love and a hug!!!

  3. You will be totally awesome. Have faith in yourself and believe. When the time comes, deep breath and then own the room/spotlight. *virtual hugs*

    • Awwww, Vic! You’re always there for me with words of kindness/empathy/encouragement! It’s a such a treat…and fat-free – woo hoo!

      Hope your training has been going smoothly (I hope I’ve remembered that right!) One day you’re going to be the top dog at that company! Or you’ll start your own!!!! 😉

      Virtual hugs right back at you!

  4. You go Dyane! We’re all behind you. It’s normal to be nervous! But it sounds amazing, all those famous names, all there to benefit you and your writing. You go girl! You deserve it and you belong there! Your writing is amazing, your vocabulary, your imagery, your witty and funny ways of getting your point across. They’ll love it, and even if they criticize, I’m sure it will be constructive and very helpful to you. And you will help others too with your intelligence and wit! Love and hugs and go there and be fearless! Xxxooooxxx

    • I’m just loving these comments, Samina – thanks from the bottom of my heart for yours and for the retweet of this post too! I’d seriously like to take every single one of you to crash my workshop and hang out with me in a gorgeous place….I’m not saying any of you *need* writing workshops, hee hee, but you know what I mean! Big hugs to you, my superstar! 😉

  5. It’s late. I’m tired, so this brief reply will have to suffice. I love you and am SUPER excited for you. Jitters are understandable. Harness them as energy. Put them into your writing. You can do it. You will do it. Love you!

    • Any reply from you, my sweet, is lovely – even if it’s “just” two words! Every word counts. Plus your response was perfect and made me happy – no need to make any comment a novella like those ones i used to write. You and I are busy, ha ha!

      I hope you got some decent sleep last night. At least you were winding down before midnight – that’s good, right? I love you too!!! So great to hear from you – your words always lift me up. Hope you have a fab Friday! XOXOXOXOXOOXOOOXOOXOOXOXOOX

      • Right back at you. Went to a fundraising shindig last night. Had fun. That AND volunteering at NAMI! I’m a bit exhausted. Just got off phone with Adam Lennon of He, too, lives with bipolar. He and his wife film and podcast stories of people touched by mental illness. He had to attend to someone. Don’t know when he’ll call back. He and his wife have three kids, plus they are trying to make one of the stories into a feature film. Wish them success.

      • Wow!!!! I cannot believe how much you’ve done lately!!! I couldn’t keep that pace unless I drank 10 Red Bulls! No, really, I’ve been having to lay down around 2-3 p.m. most days for a 1/2 hour, which I hate, but it’s not an option. Adam Lennon sounds pretty extraordinary – I’ll check out the website. I’m glad you two connected….you never know what will come out of it but it sounds like it would be cool.

      • I’m going to post our preparatory Q & A. He’s newly diagnosed, having triggered bipolar after a general practitioner prescribed SSRIs a year ago.

      • Yes, I read his bio on his website about how if he had been given a mood stabilizer at the same time as the SSRI, things would have been *much* different! Can’t wait to read the post!

      • Just reread your post. You covered so much in this post. I believe it bodes well for your upcoming experience at Catamaran. You are focused. You are going to have a wonderful time. Deep breath. You are worth it. Enjoy.

      • At this very moment, Avonlea is looking at your high school photo and just said “Wow -she’s beautiful!” 🙂

        Thanks for re-reading my post and for your valued perspective!!!

        p.s. I think I’ll be much more focused once I’m @ Catamaran because I wrote this post when I was very upset & scattered/unnerved/humiliated and more. It was about something I *wish* I could blog about, but must keep private. (I’ll fill you in about this offline…it’s something that has been a problem for over 3 decades, so I’m well-acquainted with it, but it still continues to suck.)

  6. Deep breaths.☺Relax. There are no accidents. There is good reason why you were selected for this conference. Of course you will feel not worthy, it’s just part of the illness, we all have those self doubts. You can overcome the feelings, replace them with joy, and a sense of accomplishment. Wishing you the best. You deserve it, we all do, and we will cheer you on !! Van

    • Van, between your comment and (self-proclaimed psychic) Yve’s, I’m feeling better already. Thank you for your wonderful reminders – they are *exactly* what soothes my heebie jeebies! :))) love to you!

    • I hope you’re right, my dear one!
      II’d love to send you a private jet so I could have you join me at this thing along with Kitt – all of it would my treat, of course! 😉 How I wish!

      Thanks for your steadfast support – I love it; I’m grateful for it!
      Hope your day/evening/night is going well!!!!!

  7. Totally right… looks hideous… Don’t have a good time… please! 😉 Enjoy yourself Ding Dong! You deserve this sooo much!!!

    • I think *you* will understand that one of the hardest prospects about this trip is leaving Lucy! (and um, my children and husband!!!!!!) I wishI could take her as my emotional support animal!

      p.s. I used to eat Ding Dongs like crazy – check this out!

      • I understand that completely! Just leaving alone is rough sometimes. Lol. Maybe she could qualify as a service dog??? Will she wear a little vest? :). I took my kitten with me once when I went to a teacher convention. They are much easier to hide. Lol. Love ding dongs!

  8. It’s gonna be great! I’m so glad you’re going. We need to make a coffee date sometime soon too!

    • Hey cool cat, thanks so much for your encouragement – I love every bit of it!

      Let’s definitely have coffee (and chocolate needs to be there too!!) after I get back from the conference so I can share some fresh observations with you.

      Actually, could I pack you in my duffle bag and sneak you in? Heck, I could see YOU speaking there and it would be one of the best talks. I bet you that barely any of the attendees or speakers have been published in the NYT, ahem! I still think you need to get a tattoo stating that fact! 😉

  9. Lady, I am stuck in Casablanca where I for no apparent reason missed my connecting flight. I don’t have a good connection and the wifi here isn’t free nor stable. Yet I wanted to leave a comment on this post which I haven’t been able to read to the end. I however read that you were determined to disgrace those naysayers in ur head and wherever, and go have a wonderful writing retreat. Would you want me to light another candle for you on the first night of the retreat? Just ask and send me the date via twitter. Loads of love, go girl and find that strength in what remains – Yes you sure can big style 🙂

    • “Stuck in Casablanca” sounds like a movie title, my dear! I hope you are safe & sound right now. I would be SO SO SO grateful to you if you could light a candle for me, only if convenient!

      I’ll look at the conference dates and send you a Twitter message this week. I’m taking a Twitter break, although I pop on every now and then and my WordPress posts automatically get tweeted over there. But yes, I can’t tell you how much your kindness means to me and knowing you’re out there with one of your Magic Fairy Godmother candles would be tremendously helpful! More soon!!!! Thanks so much for battling the iffy connection and dealing with $$$ & unstable Wifi to take time to write! XOXOOXOXXOXO

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