My 1st Fellowship Award! The Catamaran Writing Conference

 

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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: https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/lets-play-the-schadenfreude-game-a-writers-1st-rejection/

 

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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 (http://kittomalley.com) 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. 

http://fictionaut.com/blog/2012/04/11/fictionaut-five-frances-lefkowitz/

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

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To buy To Have Not go to :http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003GDIA32/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0434WR0JN7PNWSVJ7ACW&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop

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

http://www.franceslefkowitz.net/blog/

 

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

http://catamaranliteraryreader.com/conference-2015/

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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. 

Readers, I adore you! (Yep, another thank you.)

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This week I was way more isolated than usual since I’ve been holed up at home caring for my two sick little girls.  Thankfully, today they are doing much better, and I’m surprised and grateful that I haven’t picked up their nasty bug yet.  (I pray that I don’t!)

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Last week my blogging served as a verrrry welcome break from wiping runny noses, administering cough medicine, and mediating fights.  (Two cranky girls with misery-inducing colds do not make for a peaceful household!)

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve loved reading comments submitted by readers expressing how they’ve appreciated my sharing my experience with bipolar disorder.  When someone writes that he has been inspired by my post, or that she feels less alone with her struggles, I eat up these words as if they were a double chocolate brownie.

I don’t require loads of appreciative remarks – one juicy line or two will keep me floating for a while.  Sometimes I get such a thrill that I practically morph into Julie Andrews singing as Maria in “The Sound of Music”.

 

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Last fall, I thought the ultimate blogging prize would be having a huge readership, getting forty comments a post, and making money from blogging.  Then I realized as fabulous as those things may sound, if it all happened to me, I’d feel completely overwhelmed.  I enjoy responding to comments, and if my blog became uber-popular, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the unique give-and-take between blogger and reader that I find so gratifying.  From this point on, I’ll be happy to gain a few followers a month, but there’s no need for me to be greedy by aggressively seeking more followers.  Fixating on numbers would rob the fun out of blogging – at least it would for me.

To make a blog into a job has never been my goal, but  I’ve been tempted by the allure of making money from blogging.  I live close to Silicon Valley where the first BlogHer conference occurred ten years ago.  I’ve watched the blog craze take off over the past decade, and I can see why the blogging phenomenon took off the way it did.  I’ve read some of the success stories.

Out of curiosity, I visited the BlogHer website.  A full conference pass for the July 2014 BlogHer conference costs $400. Wow!  I’m sure that BlogHer will offer its attendees a wonderful,valuable experience, but even if I did have that kind of money to spare, I’d rather invest it into a writer’s workshop or a perinatal conference.  My top priority is completing my book about postpartum bipolar disorder, not (sniff, sniff) my beloved blog.

It’s not late November, but I’m in a thankful mood this month.  Also spring has cheered me up, although it hasn’t propelled me into hypomania or mania like it does for some people with bipolar disorder.  Recently I wrote another post of thanks containing a few of the topics that I discuss in this post; if you want to take a peek, here’s the link:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/a-heartfelt-thanks-a-writers-retrospective/

I’m being a bit repetitive today, but it’s all sincere, and it’s all good.

Thanks for reading this, and have a wonderful weekend!

Dyane 🙂

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