Catamaran Saturday Part One – Wish You Were Here!


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Evidently Lucy had a puppy named “Joey” at Lake Tahoe while I’ve been down here at the glorious Catamaran Writers Conference.

I continued having fun, feeling excited, exhausted, anxious, scared, embarrassed and exhilarated yesterday at the Catamaran Writers Conference in Pebble Beach.

At least I woke up Saturday morning having slept much better than the previous night. That was a total miracle – 25 mg of Seroquel had something to do with it (a PRN) and I’m glad I had it with me. 

Upon waking up there was no lollygagging. At 7:00 a.m. I made my pilgrimage to the dining hall – that’s when they started serving Peet’s coffee. I didn’t put on a stitch of makeup, my hair looked like a bird’s nest, and I smelled like one who has sweated a great deal and really needs a shower. Keep in mind that at this conference I’m mingling with bestselling authors. But no matter – I let my vanity fall to the wayside and put on my favorite T-shirt perfect for this conference + jeans & flip flops:

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I plunked myself down at a table with two mugs of brew with a dash of almond milk. All for me. (The mugs here are pathetically lilliputian.) Another attendee joined me named Emily, a poet. She was one of the first people I chatted with on Day One at breakfast so she was a familiar face. After we ate, I noticed she was knitting a scarf with pretty, autumn-hued, multicolored scraps. When I commented on how cool it was and I inquired who she was making it for, she said, “I’ll make it for you!” I was floored. Here it is – sorry for the blurry photo: 

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Meanwhile, my girls and their best friends were at Lake Tahoe and along with a bunch of joke texts about poo, they texted me a photo of what they call The Lip. They use The Lip when begging me and Craig for candy and toys. It actually doesn’t pull at my heartstrings at all – I’m tough to manipulate…unless they threaten to do a public temper tantrum, but The Lip makes me laugh:

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I need to go shower now, so I’ll be writing Part Two (which will describe the reading I gave last night at the Stevenson School’s Big Theater in front of conference attendees and instructors/authors) later on, but I’ll close with a couple things:

One of my most spectacular cases of diarrhea mouth/sycophantism took place with my new favorite author,  Jane Vandenburgh. Check out her Wiki bio. When I looked at it I was a little impressed. Maybe you don’t know who she is either, but one of her closest friends (who she affectionately refers to as Annie) is Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird etc. For those of you who don’t know “Annie” – well, she’s ginormously famous in the book world and Bird by Bird is one of the most renowned writing books ever. She wrote the introduction to Jane’s new book Architecture of the Novel – A Writer’s Handbook.

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So yes, while I haven’t read Jane’s books yet (despite her being my new favorite author) take a look at the cover of her book The Wrong Dog Dream – a true romance. She had me at the cover. I bought it at the book faire.51L8kGRDNVL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Stay tuned on how I behaved in front of her when she signed this book for me. I’m glad it’s not on YouTube.

I can’t wait to tell you more about the day, but a shower/Peet’s coffee is more important right now. Excuse my typos – I’m not going to re-read this but just post it with all the boo boo’s intact. Forgive me.

Please know that I miss you & your reecnt posts, my beloved blogger pals. I still haven’t read any blogs you’ve written lately, very few tweets (right, V.?) and hardly any emails while here. This is shocking.

Your comments over the past few days have made me feel so good. A number of Catamaran attendees don’t blog, although in the p.r./marketing seminars the teachers are saying “You must have a platform for your book! You MUST blog! Blog, dammit, blog!”

I’ve shared with other attendees about how wonderful it is to have this blog because of YOU – your posts, your encouragement, the camaraderie between us all in the blogosphere. So thanks for reading, and I’ll “see” you soon. 

Wish you were here with me, maybe next year?

XOXO Dyane

Someone is having fun in Tahoe….

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Anger

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Yep, gonna lose some followers.  I wish them well, and I completely understand if my foul mouth isn’t their cup of tea.  To be honest, “fuck this shit” is a phrase I have said many times, and cursing is a big part of who I am.  I swear like a sailor when the kids aren’t around; well most of the time I make sure they aren’t around.  Unsavory language has gotten me through numerous dicey moments, and it has prevented me from exhibiting dangerous road rage. There have even been impressive studies conducted showing the benefits of swearing! (I’m too lazy to cite them, however, but I believe it!;)

Some of you will be familiar with the famous poem “Children Learn What They Live“.  I grew up with a poster of that poem on the wall in our house.  Over the years I’ve found that Children Learn What They Live  is truer than true.  Both my parents cursed openly, and they were my primary teachers when it came to cussology.  

Last year I listened to a cassette tape that recorded my father playing his violin.  My Dad was a brilliant violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic/Fulbright Award Winner/Juilliard graduate.  While listening to the beginning of the tape I heard him tune up before playing a magnificent composition.  Imagine my reaction when I heard him muttering “Testing, 123, fuck you! Testing, 123, fuck you!” just before launching into a complex masterpiece on his Stradivarius.  Talk about a contrast from one sound to another!

Dad would have definitely liked the profane image of the serene guy flipping the bird gracing the top of this post.  The photo certainly made me laugh.  It felt good to chuckle, and I hope you giggle a bit over it too.  Life is serious enough as it is, and it’s healthy to make light of certain things now and then.

And now, moving right along, I’d like to write a bit about ANGER.

If you’re familiar with my writing, I’m sure you’ve noticed that many of my posts have been fueled by my intense anger. I was brought up by a rage-a-holic and an alcoholic.  Ever since I was a baby, I was around physical violence (which I observed; I was not physically abused, thank God.) and I grew up with verbal abuse.  

It makes sense that I too became a rager, and I was verbally abusive to people I loved, although I’ve come a long way in that area.  I’ve rarely been physically violent; the only time I can remember hitting someone happened when I was manic.  I’m surprised I haven’t been more violent considering all the fights I witnessed.  No wonder I have an anxiety problem! 

Anyway, despite some people thinking I’m “so nice”, I’m a very angry person and my anger grew much worse after I was diagnosed with bipolar one disorder in 2007.  Writing about my anger helps me.  

The addition of my Lucy puppy has been so good for me – she helps me to diffuse my anger in her magical canine way.  She mellows me out.  My daily workouts on my elliptical, in which I sweat so much I create a giant “butterfly” pattern of sweat on my ratty tank tops, levels out my anger too, but exercise is a temporary solution to a deep-seated problem.  

I’ve examined  my anger with my therapist Tara, but to quote Karen Carpenter, “We’ve only just begun!”  I need to discuss anger more with Tara because it continues to be a dominant part of my personality and I hate it!  (That’s a kind of oxymoron, I know!)

I realize that anger is a normal and healthy part of one’s makeup.  I can’t expect to eradicate anger from my brain.  I just need to bring this rage down a few notches…most likely even more than a few.

When I was young I learned that anger can be a positive trait in one of my all-time favorite books: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time.  The protagonist Meg Murry is one very angry teenager.  Her scientist father has mysteriously disappeared and there is “talk” in her village about him.  She’s unattractive compared to her stunner of a genius mom.  To add to the mix, Meg’s little brother won’t talk in school and he’s bullied by a bunch of his classmates.  

While on a search to find her father in another galaxy, Meg is instructed by three pivotal characters to use her anger as a “gift” when she faces the evil IT on the planet of Camazotz. Interestingly, Meg utilizes her anger in a unique, powerful way to overcome evil. 

I wish I could be more Meg-like when it comes to anger management!

What am I so angry about? you may be wondering at this point.  I have a hell of a lot to be grateful for, starting with you, my faithful reader.  I have my health, my family, a roof over my head, ice cream in the freezer.  (A lot of ice cream!)  Since I have all these fantastic blessings, why all the damn anger?

It’s a good question.  

When a person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she sometimes feels anger at God for “giving” her the illness, and/or anger at a parent for passing along the genetic predisposition.  I went through a phase in which I was angry at God, but I no longer feel that way.  I believe the reason I relinquished that particular anger is because I’ve reached the beginnings of my recovery over the past year. 

But despite my blessings, the anger still festers.  

It’s based on the fact that most of my family members and friends totally bailed out on me when I relapsed with bipolar depression exactly one year ago.  There’s a lot more to it than that single sentence, of course.  But that’s the gist of it.

In July, 2013, I was hospitalized forty minutes away from home for almost three weeks.  I had slowly, methodically tapered off my bipolar medications for over twelve months prior to my relapse.  At first I was manic, and then I became depressed/suicidal, hence my admission to the hospital’s mental unit.  It was euphemistically named the “Garden Pavilion”.  (Ha!  There was no garden to be seen there – not even a single nice plant or window overlooking a garden!)

In that hospital, I was forgotten.

The thing is…I needed visitors at that hellhole more than anything.  I was the only patient who didn’t have visitors apart from my husband and children.  My sibling, who lives just minutes away from me, didn’t visit me.  My mother didn’t visit me.  My husband’s family didn’t visit me.  My closest friends didn’t visit me.  I didn’t receive any cards, plants, flowers, chocolate, books, phone calls you-name-it.  

I can’t tell you how much this unit sucked. To top things off, I was never taken out into daylight the entire time I was there.  That in itself is enough to make any sane person a little batshit crazy.

Now, some in my circle will totally disagree with me about my perspective about what happened last summer.  In part, I blame our society for its lack of mental health education for people staying the hell away from me.  But I remain baffled about what took place last July.  If I had cancer you can bet your ass I would have had visitors.  

So you can see I’m still really pissed off – my counselor believes I have PTSD from that ordeal – she doesn’t use that term lightly, and I totally agree with her on that point!

The first word that comes to my mind in this moment is “forgiveness”.  

I have to let it go (dammit, “Frozen” ruined that phrase for me!) and forgive my family and friends, but it’s reallllllly hard to let that all go.  I am hoping that time serves as a panacea to this dilemma.

If you were in a loony bin for three weeks and no one visited you or called/sent you a card except your partner, how would you feel?

 

 

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Madeleine L’Engle Inspiration on Writing and Marriage

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The author of A Wrinkle In Time Madeleine L’Engle with her devotee Dyane Harwood at the Mount Calvary Benedictine Monastery in Santa Barbara, California.  I love this picture even though I have a triple chin.  I got that chin in part from eating lots of the delectable, freshly baked cookies made by the monks each day – it was all their fault.

 

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” 

― Madeleine L’Engle

Writing, writers and books are on my mind much of this week while I’ve been primarily homebound with my two sick little girls. (They are getting much better, by the way!)  While I’ve been used to the luxury of being alone while my girls are in school, this week I was faced with the challenge of writing with extra distractions, i.e. the Spongebob Squarepants oeuvre, that set my teeth on edge.

Despite Spongebob’s maniacal laughs, I’ve plowed forth with daily writing because writing has become an ingrained habit.  I feel better when I just do it.  (Ah, Nike, I blame you for planting your smug, little tagline in my brain!)

There have been periods in my life when I wrote all the time, such as my four years majoring in English/American literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  Conversely, there were many months in which my bipolar depression prevented me from writing a single word.  While daily writing can seem rather extreme, my rule is that as long as I enjoy it and I pay attention to the other key areas of my life (kids, husband, laundry, and the like) it’s fine.

I also take comfort in the fact that I’m following the advice of Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favorite authors.  She asserted, “Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.”  (hmmm, perhaps I could get that tattooed on my writing hand to remind me!)

During my most severe bipolar depressions, one of the few things that took my mind off my mind were the Madeleine L’Engle’s books.  I continue to read her books periodically without experiencing any boredom.  With each re-reading I notice details that slipped by me in the past, which is always fun.

Her books give me a satisfaction akin to easing into a warm, fragrant bath, and I share my appreciation of her work with millions of her other fans of all ages.  It truly amazes me that L’Engle’s classic, Newberry Award-winning book A Wrinkle In Time was rejected so many times by publishers before it made the big-time.

In some of her non-fiction books  L’Engle recounted her decade of writing rejection in which she felt so down that she contemplated giving up writing altogether.  But when she came to the brink of carrying out that momentous decision, her heart and faith (she was highly religious) kicked in.

This revealing quote explains her perspective when she wasn’t a famous writer:

“If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing.  I’m glad I made this decision in a moment of failure.  It’s easy to say you’re a writer when things are going well.  When the decision is made in the abyss, then it is quite clear that it is not one’s own decision at all.”

― Madeleine L’EngleA Circle of Quiet

Apart from her writing advice, L’Engle’s marriage to her husband Hugh Franklin as depicted in her book Two-Part Invention has influenced me deeply.  Two-Part Invention is one of my favorite L’Engle books, and I have probably read it at least twenty times!  The structure of the book starts with present day, in which L’Engle’s husband of forty years is dying from cancer, and shifts to the past revealing how they met and developed their relationship.

Back and forth the narrative flows, in a seamless, beautiful way.  Their marriage most definitely wasn’t without numerous terrible times, many of which were not included in the book, such as the death of their son Bion.  If you haven’t read this book yet, you are in for a treat.  Her “story of a marriage” will make you appreciate your own relationship whether you are married or not, and it will allow you to observe love in action during one of the most difficult times of life: witnessing the death of a beloved.

If you’ve never read one of Madeleine L’Engle’s books before, I strongly encourage you to do so!  A Wrinkle In Time is a great start (billed as a children’s book, but appropriate for all ages) and aside from Two-Part Invention I highly recommend A Small Rain (the first of L’Engle’s books, and semi-autobiographical) and A Live Coal in the Sea.

Happy Reading!

 

“The growth of love is not a straight line, but a series of hills and valleys.”

― Madeleine L’EngleTwo-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage

“Love of music, of sunsets and sea; a liking for the same kind of people; political opinions that are not radically divergent; a similar stance as we look at the stars and think of the marvelous strangeness of the universe – these are what build a marriage. And it is never to be taken for granted.”

― Madeleine L’EngleTwo-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage

 

This blog post is dedicated to my husband, the author Craig S. Harwood, pictured on the left with his co-author Gary Fogel.  Together they wrote the award-winning book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West.  I am fortunate to have a husband who encourages me to write and gives me writing/publishing advice when I ask for it.  (And sometimes when I don’t!)

Barnes-Noble book signing copy

 

 

 

To read more Madeleine L’Engle quotes about a wide range of topics, visit: 

395 Quotes of Madeleine https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/106.Madeleine_L_Engle

The Nasty Bits of Envy

searchAs I write this today, I’m in a bit of a funk.  Nothing too alarming, mind you.  In my true “T.M.I.” fashion, despite turning forty-four on Tuesday, I’m not hitting menopause yet. Hence, my monthly “adventure” is on its way.  Apart from that, it was a rough morning dealing with our kids.  They clearly woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  After dropping them off at school, I stepped in a small mountain of chicken poo and I tracked it all over our floors until I finally noticed it.  On the brighter side of things, it’s helpful for me to blog while crabby, as writing is such a great catharsis.  Plus I don’t have to cut a chunky check to either a psychiatrist or a therapist.

Anyway, these things I mentioned above are small matters.  Whenever I glance at the news, I am reminded that life could be much worse.  The fact that I’m keeping bipolar relapse at bay is enough of a cause for daily celebration.

So, what are the nasty bits, exactly?  Well, I must begin with mentioning author Anthony Bourdain. One of his many books is titled The Nasty Bits.  While his title refers to the edible parts of animals that most North Americans would never eat in their wildest dreams (tete de veau/calf’s head, anyone?), I thought of the title in relation to my pesky envy problem.

I have nasty bits of envy rising up frequently.

Over the past few months I’ve returned to writing regularly,both  as a hobby (this blog) and for work (my book).  While writing has been gratifying, I’ve become too caught up with author comparisons.  Comparisons can be odious indeed.  (I wish I could take credit for coining that phrase, but alas, it was created circa 1440 by John Lydgate.)

At least I’ve come to terms with the fact that my book, once published, will not become a bestseller.  The subject matter I’m writing about isn’t mass market material, and I can accept that.  I am writing the book that I wish I had when I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder, plain and simple.  If it helps only a handful of readers, I’ll be totally thrilled!

I had a junior high school friend who went on to become a bestselling writer, a highly respected professor, and a winner of numerous mega-prestigious writing awards.  Her fan base is massive and almost cult-like.  One of her books was even made into a feature film with a “big name” star.  While I’m happy for her, I’ll admit I’ve had pangs of green as well.  I’m not going to name her because after my botched-blogging (discussed in yesterday’s post), I’m sure she would find this comment and rake me over some coals.

I keep reminding myself, “You are writing first and foremost for yourself.  You are not writing to win a Pulitzer Prize.”  One of my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle In Time) comes to mind.  Wrinkle, which has had phenomenal success over the decades, was rejected by many a publisher until it found a home at Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  L’Engle even had an entire decade of rejection and almost gave up writing when she hit forty.  That kind of brutal rejection has occurred with many other famous authors as well.

Meanwhile, my husband’s book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West has won many awards of its own!  In fact, this weekend he’s being honored  in Hollywood, Los Angeles.  Quest for Flight won the Great Southwest Book Festival’s Regional Literature Award.  I ‘m proud of him and also genuinely thrilled for him – and I only have a smidgen of envy regarding his accomplishments, which I joke about openly with him.  I called his book “the other woman” during his years of writing it, and he was able to take that in stride.

Fortunately my love for him overtakes my envy and smushes it.  He has always encouraged me to write during the fifteen years we’ve been together.  Craig even calls me the “real” writer in the family, as I was making money from my articles long before he received his first royalty check.  It has also been awfully convenient that he can give me advice culled from his seven-year-long experience writing his book and working with the University of Oklahoma Press.

While blogging has been a surprisingly fulfilling way to write, I’ve gotten way too caught up in the blogging popularity game. (blogularity?) WordPress makes it easy to spend all day analyzing  your blog statistics, which can be fun, but it can also be discouraging.  When I discover a brilliant blog with twenty thousand subscribers in comparison to my eighty-seven followers, it takes the wind out of my sails.  Let me re-phrase that: I allow the mega-blog to take the wind out of my sails.

Yesterday I was Facebook surfing and visited a page belonging to someone with a fulfilling-sounding life that many people would give their eyeteeth to enjoy.   She’s a beautiful person, inside and out.  She wrote a comment that gave me pause; however, writing to her friends that Facebook had a tendency to make her feel “less-than” rather than good enough or even great.  

I thought, “No way!  If Facebook affects her like that, then what can it do to the rest of us?”  

I’ve already won the only prize worth having as far as I’m concerned: my family & stability despite having my insidious bipolar disorder.  There is no need to get caught up with the “not being enough” syndrome.  I’m about to have a session with my counselor, and now I know what to bring up with her today.

She’s not a blogger, nor on Facebook.  (Ah!  The horror, the horror!)  But she does all kind of other cool things, plus she’s a wife, mom and therapist.  My counselor has been totally supportive of my writing and she believes that in sharing my experiences through a book, I’ll  definitely help others.  She’ll be able to shed light on my feelings of envy and insecurity – she knows me very well.   After our meeting, my face will turn from green to rosy pink, and I’ll keep you posted on how I handle my envy  in the months to come!

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