Catamaran Writers Conference Friday: Amazeballs!

 

Pebble-Beach-California

Good morning everyone!

Yesterday it was another fog-free, gorgeous day at the Catamaran Writers Conference in Pebble Beach where I learned a ton and had some major writing breakthroughs. Plus I had a blast.

Yours truly, who usually goes to bed around 8:00 p.m., morphed into a poetry slam party animal and I didn’t return to my dorm room until 11:00 p.m. I wasn’t even this freaky when I attended U.C. Santa Cruz over twenty-five years ago.

Last night I was too exhausted to write, hence this morning post. 

Here’s what I did yesterday:

7:00 a.m. Inhale gallons of Peets Coffee and stare at this Nutella jar:

Nutella

8:00 a.m. Chatted with the friendly Food Services Director who told me that during the school year, the boys chow down hard on that Nutella. Ate breakfast of scrambled eggs, salsa, a slice of banana bread, fresh raspberries. Drank lots of Peets coffee. Yum yum yum. I love food.

9:30 – 12:30 p.m. Creative Nonfiction class with our teacher, the acclaimed author Frances Lefkowitz. She gave us writing prompts and our class wrote up a storm. (My writing was all bipolar-related, & I’ll share in a future post.) Next, each student silently re-read one brief section of our writing (in my case, it was Chapter Two of Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder). We then wrote three sentences explaining:

1) The plot arc of the chapter (Sounds easy, but it was HARD!)

2) What is the driving question found within the chapter?

3) How would that question be answered; in other words, what is the change that occurs from start to finish in Chapter Two?

We discussed each writer’s sentences, and before I knew it, it was time to skedaddle for lunch. I was too nervous to eat because I signed up for a thirty-minute, one-on-one consultation with the renowned Michael Larsen. Larsen is a literary agent who co-founded Michael-Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents in 1972. (I was two-years-old back then.) He and his wife Elizabeth Pomada also co-founded The San Francisco Writers Conference. (These two have “found” a lot!) I wanted to meet Michael to get to know him and pick his highly experienced brain about book promotion.

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It was an absolute joy talking with Michael, dapper in his white linen suit. He was encouraging, insightful, and hilarious. Michael put me at ease by telling writing-related jokes, but his advice wasn’t a joke whatsoever. He listened to me closely, and that thirty-minute session was worth its weight in gold…or chocolate. When it was time for me to go, Michael invited me to email him with any questions.

3:00 p.m. It was time for Heather Lazare‘s presentation “How A Book Editor Works”, which was uber-cool  – I learned quite a bit from the former New York editor, who now lives in Pacific Grove, California (a few minutes away from this conference) working as a developmental editor. For those of you writers out there, Heather recommended joining the online, subscription-only Publishers Marketplace ($25/month, you can sign up even for just one month) which offers all kinds of  groovy benefits such as see each deal what book deals are made, agent profiles, etc.

4:00 p.m. Nina Amir, a Bay Area writer/writing coach, spoke about her book The Author Training Manual. Nina is also quite pro-blogging – so much so that she wrote How to Blog A Book.  

4:45 p.m. Michael Larsen gave his presentation Thriving in the Golden Age for Writers, telling us that he truly believed that this is the best time to be a writer and explaining why. He’s a natural entertainer so it was like watching a gifted comedian from another time, like Jack Benny. Before I knew it, it was time to inhale more food at dinner. 

I was bummed I didn’t get a chance to go for a walk, especially since this is such a stunning setting, but I didn’t want to miss anything. These conferences have so much going on that if you’re a newbie like me, you need to learn how to pace yourself.

At least I wasn’t the only one feeling overwhelmed and tired – I kept hearing that other attendees felt the same way. What would have helped me get through the day less pooped-out was having better sleep the previous night (you all know the sleep hygiene rules) and forcing myself to skip an afternoon lecture for a nap.

After dinner (stir-fried shrimp, green beans, sauteed mushrooms and of course chocolate; in this case a chocolate-dipped vanilla cookie) there was a reception. I schmoozed my little heart out with more total strangers – it was fun!

An author named Thomas Christensen spoke to us about how book publishing and printing works – he’s the Catamaran nonfiction editor and has thirty years of experience in publishing.

Christenson also led the evening’s Publishing Panel that included Michael Larsen, Heather Lazare, Joe Shoemaker of Counterpoint Press and Mark Allen Cunningham of Atelier 26 Books. Each person explained his/her job and we had a general discussion + Q&A.

That’s a lot for one day. And there was more.

I should follow one of my favorite musician’s advice. The one & only Howard Jones advises us to “don’t try to live your life in one day” and he’s right.

Make sure to check out his 80’s hair-do’s! (Hair-don’t, really!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Eo1IHajGQ

I was ready for bed but couldn’t resist stopping by the fire pit to learn more about poetry slamming taught the AWESOME, enigmatic Kevin Delaney, owner of the Art Bar & Cafe in Santa Cruz.

This is no ordinary bar/cafe – they host Santa Cruz’s only weekly Open Mic Poetry and have this noble mission: 

The Art Bar & Cafe is meant to empower artists to create sustainable arts communities, education and arts practice, and outreach, specifically in the fields of youth outreach, community-building and arts administration.  

Each of us was given a selection of poems to choose from and had to perform it in front of the group following Kevin’s 4 rules:

  1. Pause.  Take one three-second (at least 3 secs) pause between words.
  2. Eye: contact: Memorize one line and don’t look at the paper; make eye contact with someone instead as you say the line.
  3. Diction/volume: Increase your voice’s volume to be over 80 decibels for at least one word.
  4. Choreography: at some point raise one of your arms higher than your shoulder in some way!

 

Although I was completely freaked out, I decided to participate in the evening’s poetry exercise. Kevin is the kind of teacher (like Frances) who genuinely wants to help you face your fear and do it anyway, whether it be improving your writing or getting up in front of a group of strangers in the starlight to not merely read a poem, but perform it! I chose Rainier Maria Rilke’s The Panther and I incorporated all four requirements, but there was plenty of room for improvement! 

It was scary and embarrassing, but super-fun! I admired the other students who took part, especially the ones who chose long poems.

You can imagine how my experience at Catamaran contrasts with the years I spent devastated (sometimes bedridden) with bipolar depression. If you told me I’d have as much fun as this by meeting incredible writers, making new friends who I’d like to keep in my life (!)  and chatting with talented strangers without feeling like a bipolar mess, I would have been VERY skeptical.

I love having my expectations kicked to the curb and replaced with thoughts such as, “I’m so, so glad I came here!” and “I feel like my old self again, but with the added wisdom that comes through getting through Bipolar Hell University”.  (Note I didn’t write overcoming bipolar; I’ll always feel like relapse could occur, but that’s being pragmatic, right?)

Now it’s Saturday morning, pre-coffee, and there’s another full day before us. I’ll take it easier than yesterday, and let you know how it goes tomorrow.

have a wonderful day, my friends!

Dyane

p.s. guess who’s having a jolly good time in Lake Tahoe?IMG_20150814_133839125

 

 

 

 

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I Can’t Forgive Those Who Abandoned Me During 7 Hospitalizations

 

TW/Trigger Warning: brief mention of suicide

Today’s post consists of my non-politically correct, extremely angry feelings which were stirred up last night. That’s when, sweaty from a 45-minute-long elliptical workout, I found out a family friend is being hospitalized for alcoholism-related illness. 

My hard-won endorphins didn’t assuage my rage or my trauma. 

I knew the compassionate, laudable thing to do would be to visit her, but after mulling it over during the wee hours of the morning, I realized I can’t do it.

Due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from multiple hospitalizations, I’m unable to enter a hospital unless it’s to visit an immediate family member or close friend.

I feel guilty about my inability to “get over” my hospital aversion. But it’s not simply an aversion. PTSD is real. My PTSD was even verified by a PTSD expert. I know in my heart that if this was my child who felt the way I do, I’d lovingly reassure her that she has the right to make her own choice about the hospital visit situation without any guilt.

The family friend I mention didn’t contact me during my seven hospitalizations, so why the hell am I feeling guilty? She has family support literally by her side in her hospital room- that’s a helluva a lot more than I did. So fuck it. Fuck my Jewish guilt that I’ve had festering since I was in utero. I’m sick of it.

Whenever I think of my hospitalizations, the same script plays in my head.

Here’s some of how it goes:

“To my relatives/friends who didn’t visit me, call/leave a message with the front desk staff, or send a card during my seven hospitalizations, I want nothing to do with you.

That’s right.

Nothing. Buh-bye.

Dyane”

For those who suggest, due to these non-politically correct thoughts I’m revealing, that I change my meds, step up the therapy, call my psychiatrist, start meditating, do yoga, CBT, DBT, chant, use medical marijuana, etc. to overcome such “unhealthy/abnormal” anger I have this to say:

It’s best that you stay out of my life. 

Unless you’ve been through my Hell – unless you almost hung yourself with your bathrobe belt with your baby and toddler in the house – unless you spent weeks and weeks and even more endless weeks of your life locked up with fellow crazies – just stay the fuck away from me, okay? 

You might be thinking,

Dyane, shouldn’t you be able to forgive all these people by now?  Shouldn’t you release your anger, especially if you’re “stable” and a “mental health advocate”?

You know, my honest answer is that I wish I could forgive these people, but I can’t.

Not yet.

Dreams, Toxic “Friends” & Facebook Freedom!

What DreamsWhat Dreams May Come

I love this image so!

The first time I saw the 1998 film What Dreams May Come I didn’t connect with it although it starred some actors I adored including Robin Williams, Annabella Sciorra and Cuba Gooding Jr. Then, many years later, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and my beloved father died.  Those two momentous events were responsible for my change of heart regarding this film. After I gave What Dreams May Come a second chance, I fell head-over-heels in love with the story (which concerns mental illness, death and the afterlife), the acting, and its magical, state-of-the-art “painterly” special effects which won an Academy Award.

It was directed by the acclaimed New Zealander Vincent Ward. Some of you know I have a New Zealand obsession, so I appreciated having him at the helm.

I’ve cried every time I’ve seen What Dreams May Come since my 2nd viewing, and despite its triggering subject matter (depression/mental hospitalization/suicide) the movie gives me hope!

I love the image of a joyful Annabella Sciorra shaking off a crimson cloth in Switzerland. The scene plays a special role in the film, and thinking of it evokes a sense of wild abandon in me…of freedom from life’s worries, i.e.

Freedom from stupid-ass Facebook rejections!

Last Friday I published my post about how I felt being unfriended on Facebook in a very unfriendly fashion. I felt SO good after receiving such great feedback from followers. (Thank you!!!) I let that Facebook incident go for the most part, and I only thought of it a little bit. I carried on. With two young girls, a husband, two hyper Houdini-hamsters, and Miss Lucy the Canine Wonder (and tapering off Seroquel – more on that in my next post) I had enough on my plate…

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It’s not my favorite day – it feels like a contrived holiday, unlike the best holiday of the year: Halloween. 😉 Through a serendiptous series of events I found out I had been unfriended on Facebook AGAIN!  But instead of the Unfriender living thousands of miles away from me, this time I was unfriended by a neighbor living one mile away. I had always been kind to her, just as I had behaved with the fellow I wrote about last week.  

Long story short: my unfriendly neighbor has clinical depression, trauma, and some deep-seated personality disorders. Her unfriending me had much more to do with her issues than to do with who I was as a person, or with anything I had done. Despite my knowing all that, something in me snapped harder than it did last week.

Once again I thought,

F*CK THIS SH*T!!!!

One can’t get through life without rejection. We all know that. As much as I’ve loved using Facebook, yesterday it was clear it had become a channel for weird, toxic rejection. Two unfriendings in one week, even if they were not bosom buddies, was too much for this ultra-sensitive soul. Plus I have a book I need to focus on completing, which is all the more reason for me take a Facebook vacation. 

Last night I knew what I needed to do. I took a paltry thirty seconds and deactivated my Facebook account. It was a bittersweet moment, but it felt very empowering as well. I’m not sure how long this break will be, but I already feel more free! I have more time to write. It just feels healthy all around.

At least now there’s one less way for me to be triggered by those who don’t want me in their lives. As my seven-year-old girl told me while we played SmashBall last night, “They’re missing out on a opportunity, Mommy! You’re wonderful! I love you!” 

I love that kid.

Here’s the trailer of  What Dreams May Come – I can’t resist including it here after my glowing plug!

I Love You Goodbye

Thomas Dolby singing “I Love You Goodbye” from Astronauts and Heretics,one of my all-time favorite albums.

Yesterday I woke up bright and perky only to find a bummer of a Facebook message in my in-box. It was from someone I had been virtual friends with for the past year. She lives with bipolar disorder, and for months I encouraged her from afar with tweets and Facebook messages, sometimes on a daily basis.  I took time to cheer her up by attaching photos of her favorite rock band U2 that I knew she’d enjoy.  

She messaged me, “As I’m sure you’ve noticed, you’re not on my FB or Twitter anymore. You have done nothing. I tend to take things too personally when I shouldn’t and just cut people off. I am struggling quite a bit right now. I’m just backing off of everything at the moment. I’m not expecting forgiveness or even friendship. I just felt the need to explain.”

First thought: F*ck this!  

Following thoughts: I knew all along she has been mentally unstable. I need to be compassionate and not take one bit of this personally!

I wrote her back a brief message and wished her well. I added that I’d be open for re-connecting in the future. (As I typed that line, a tiny red flag popped up in my people-pleasing brain and I thought, Whhhaaaat? You don’t want to be friends with this person! Ever! But I didn’t delete that line like I should’ve.)

I called a wonderful friend and she was willing to hash it out. She gave me tons of good advice, namely to let the whole thing go and it wasn’t about me. Because of that key conversation I was able to actually stop thinking about it the rest of the day. I thanked my lucky stars for this friend.

This morning half-awake, the aggravating Pisces/uber-sensitive part of me started ruminating about what happened the day before with the unfriending. I realized I DID take her actions personally – I wasn’t a robot, dammit! I had been kind to this person. 

The fact that I woke up upset by this crap is not good for me.  Sometimes we can’t predict another person’s toxic behavior and how it’ll affect us – I know I can’t. After mulling it over, I decided to block her on Facebook and Twitter so in the unlikely event she wants to be in touch again, I don’t get triggered down the line. It may sound selfish, but I would never feel safe with her after this, and let’s face it -s he’s “just” a virtual friend who lives thousands of miles away.  I’ve never even heard her voice.

There’s no happy way to end this post, so I won’t even try. But I’m going to go work out because I know it will make me feel better! 

Xo

Dyane

So Many Amazing Blogs….

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After two looooong weeks without reading your blogs, I suffered the malady known as SBWS, a.k.a. sudden blog withdrawal syndrome.  I returned to catching up with your lives this past week, and what a relief it was!  I cared about how each of you fared through the holidays, and for most of you it was rough – I wished I could have offered you some lovely “likes” and/or comments of support sooner than this week.  Better late than never, right?   In hindsight, to go from a daily routine of reading blogs to nothing overnight (due to no internet access at our remote spot) was way too extreme.  I certainly won’t let that happen again!      Upon my return home, I savored the unique sense of connection I felt after reading each post.  I was reminded of how lucky I’ve been to tap into a world where I’m understood, and where I don’t have to prove myself or attempt to act “normal”.  I also was once again blown away by all your writing talent featured in every single post.  Recently I read that a large percentage of professional writers have bipolar disorder, and I’m not surprised.  I didn’t make any hard and fast New Year’s resolutions, although I have a “soft” intention on my mind.  In my day-to-day life I seldom interact with anyone who’s a member of The Bipolar Club and I would like that to change this year.  

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I know it’s up to me to do something about it.  Yesterday I daydreamed that I won the California SuperLotto Plus jackpot, and I flew everyone in my WordPress Reader here for a beach party extravaganza.  (Don’t snicker too much – someone won $50,000 at the spot where I buy my lotto tickets! 😉  I wish!  Then again, you never know.  I watched an inspiring episode of “Lottery Changed My Life” ( yes, I watch the vacuous TLC channel :0 ) and the winner was surprisingly philanthropic with his loot – sure, he bought a fancy $100,000 sports car, but he helped others as well.   Interestingly, I received  a flurry of phone calls about bipolar support groups in my area just before the New Year arrived.  I haven’t gotten any similar calls for many, many months.  My contact information from my defunct support groups still floats around on the ‘net, and these people found it.  Craving in-person support with others living with bipolar is in the air.  There are no support groups in the valley where I live, but I’m not quite ready to form a group again. Maybe in the spring…in the meantime, I called everyone and I referred them to the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter in my county, which offers a consumer support group.   You might wonder why I don’t attend that group.  Well, it has a Christian-focus (I’m a Jewish-born agnostic, and I’d prefer there to be no religion connected with a bipolar support group).  The meeting takes place at night, when my energy level is low.  Lastly, it’s a forty-minute drive each way and I want a group that meets closer.  Yes, I’m a bit picky, but hey – I want what I want! And now, back to YOU….what I REALLY want is to thank you all for continually baring your souls through your words, and for what each of you add to our virtual community.  You help me, along with countless others, more than you know.     Love, Dyane p.s. I encourage you to check out Broken Light: A Photography Collective and apply to them if it appeals to you. Their blog has almost 15,000 followers!  I contacted them last year, and I was excited to be selected.  Here’s the link to my profile and you can find their contact info. there too: http://brokenlightcollective.com/2015/01/04/pursuing-my-dream/