StalePressed & A Reprise of My Song “More Than Bipolar”

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I read online that bloggers who maintain their blogging habit for more than a year are likely to stay at it for the long-term. (I believe everything I read on the internet – just kidding!) Seriously, today’s post is short; it’s not necessarily sweet, but I’d rather keep up my blogging momentum and publish this “StalePressed” post than skip a week.  If you want something brilliant, go see my friend Blahpolar Diaries. (I have many other blogs I could refer you to, but hey – it’s 7AM and I’m not awake yet! I’ll share those links in future posts.)

Blogging/writing is kind of like an exercise routine. (I was an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer for several years, so I can’t help but use an exercise/writing analogy.) Once you start playing hooky here and there from your workouts/writing time, hooky becomes every other day, and then every day. Before you know it, your routine that you worked so hard to get off the ground melts away.  

Writing, at least for me, seems to work the same way as exercise – I need to keep it going – even if it’s “only” blogging once a week or working out for a few minutes instead of thirty-sixty minutes. 

On a separate (musical) note, I’m re-posting my song “More Than Bipolar” just in case any of you missed it last week.  I promise next time (and there will be a next time – I’ve written four other mushy love songs that have nothing to do with bipolar. ) Lucy will have a stunning solo.

Lastly, I’d like to share a relatively new blog.  It was created by my former writing boss at Good Times/acclaimed author Greg Archer. (His latest book Grace Revealed  deserves to be on the New York Times Bestseller list, but sadly its rightful place is taken over by a Wrong Brothers I mean Wright Brothers-themed book that’s full of cliches and lies. Please see my husband’s book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West for a true take on aviation history.) 

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I digress. Sorry! Greg Archer’s writing is hilarious, insightful, hopeful, sometimes a little bit profane (which I love) and so much more.  Greg had the guts to upheave his life and move to the hideous  island of Maui for three months to babysit an olive grove. Sadly I couldn’t convert Greg to WordPress, so his blog “Know Place Like Home” is on Blogger. That’s okay. It’s worth the trip to this link – check it out:

http://knowplacelikehomeblog.blogspot.com

 

Be good to yourselves, eh? See you next week, my dears!

Much love,

Dyane

 

 

“More Than Bipolar” by Dyane Leshin-Harwood

I don’t know – why should I care? 

About all the times that life was unfair

It’s so different now, I need to let it all go

Or else I’m gonna blow

So don’t call me bipolar ’cause it’s not my name

Can’t you see I’m a person –  there is no shame

And we have stigma that’s to blame…

I’m more than bipolar 

I’m more than bipolar

It hurts sometimes

And I feel all alone

What can I do?

Don’t want to pick up the phone

Time to break a sweat, cause this mood’s not over yet

And all you need to know…

Don’t call me bipolar ’cause it’s not my name

Can’t you see I’m a person, there is no shame

And we have stigma that’s to blame

I’m more than bipolar

I’m more than bipolar

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, fingers & toes crossed, published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2016.

My Favorite Birthday Gift: A Book Deal with Post Hill Press!

Post Hill

Dear Friends,

This post won’t focus upon errant hamsters, dancing cows, or much darker thoughts. I have great news to share, and I hope you’ll understand why I want to sing it from the mountaintops! 

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After a nine-year-long labor, in Fall, 2016 (as long as an asteroid doesn’t fall on me), I’ll finally be giving birth to…drum roll please!

 

          Birth of a New Brain – Healing with Postpartum Bipolar Disorder                           

Last month on my 45th birthday, I woke up groggy as usual and made a beeline for the coffee machine. I trudged over to my laptop and opened up my email.  While sipping my beloved Steve’s Smooth French brew, I spotted a message from Post Hill Press and braced myself for another patronizing rejection.  As I scanned the lines, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  They read my proposal and were interested in speaking with me! Yes, it was the same proposal that was rejected by a mean publisher which I whined about here:

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

Over the past month I received a contract, successfully negotiated a few amendments, signed and mailed the blessed document back to them. Now my goal is to produce a manuscript I’m proud of, and that’ll sell more than three copies.  (To people I don’t know!) 😉

The brilliant Dr. Walker Karraa has agreed to write the foreword. She’s the author of the highly acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma, Healing and Growth (a #1 bestseller in the Amazon postpartum category) and founder of the wildly popular site Stigmama. http://stigmama.com./

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Now, many of the bloggers I read are absolutely amazing writers. (I bet you’re one of them!) There are numerous blogs containing writing that’s far superior to mine. So why did this deal happen if my writing isn’t National Book Critics Circle Award-worthy?  I’m stealing an answer from the talented author Kim Hooper. Hooper recently acquired a book deal with St. Martin’s Press for her book People Who Knew Me, and in her blog http://www.kimhooperwrites.com/she states,

“I still believe that getting a book deal is based less on talent than on luck and persistence.  I mean yes, you have to be a good writer.  But you have to keep trying, again and again and again.  And again.”

Kim’s right.

For years I’ve searched high and low for a book depicting PPBD, and to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing out there.  Like every author who’s passionate about her book, I believe my topics are worthwhile, interesting, and unique. That belief keeps me going when I wonder why the hell anyone would read my book.

Life hasn’t been all wine and roses since I got my happy news.  I’ve woken up many mornings at the grisly hour of 4:00 a.m. in a panic, wondering if I can pull any of this off.  I’ve been heartened by the encouragement of bloggers including Kitt O’Malley http://kittomalley.com/ Blahpolar Diaries https://bipolardyke.wordpress.com/ , Genevieve Desrochers/ Birth of a Bipolar Mother http://www.post-partum-bipolaire.me/, Anonymous, https://hidinginthespotlight.wordpress.com/, L.E. Henderson http://passionatereason.com/ and Laura Droege https://lauradroege.wordpress.com/.

All of your comments have bolstered my spirits when I’ve felt like giving up! Thank you!!! 

I’m also extraordinarily lucky to have a writing mentor in Wendy K. Williamson. https://wendykwilliamson.wordpress.com/ and 

http://www.twobipolarchicks.com/

I discovered Wendy years ago through one of my first Kindle purchases. I bought her bestselling memoir I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar, never imagining that we’d correspond and become friends.

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Author Greg Archer (Grace Revealed) has also served as a magnificent mentor. The day Greg surprised me with a profile in the Huffington Post in which he praised my writing nearly made me keel over.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-archer/agents-of-change-5-inspir_b_5992870.html

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My husband Craig went through the publishing process for his award-winning book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West.  When it came to negotiating my contract, he helped me fully understand every item in the document.

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There’s a little more to my publishing journey that makes this “birthday gift” significant.

In 2013, I landed a book deal with another publisher. When I got my contract it was absolutely thrilling, of course! Unfortunately, a few days later I relapsed with bipolar depression. I was hospitalized three times within six weeks. When I was released from the unit the third time, I remained terribly depressed. I continued with the bilateral electroconvulsive (ECT) therapy I had requested as an inpatient.  ECT helped me out of suicidal ideation, but back then I couldn’t write a few sentences to save my life.  I had to back out of my contract.

I didn’t think I’d get a second chance at remotely feeling like writing a book, but maybe my Dad had a hand in this one. Finding a great psychiatrist and an effective combination of medication were essential.

 

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Richard Leshin, May 22, 1927 – January 6, 2009   How he loved reading!  

And Mom, you inspired me to read. Thank you for buying me wonderful books as soon as I could hold one up, and for always believing I was a writer. Xo

 

I’m excited to work with Post Hill Press, an independent, progressive publisher. www.posthillpress.com  The team I’m working with has experience at several “Big Six” publishers, and their list features 20 New York Times non-fiction and fiction bestsellers. Post Hill Press publishes books that I purchased long before I even wrote my proposal. (I took that as a good omen!)  

Thanks for reading, thanks for inspiring me through your blogs, and thanks for your “likes” and comments, all of which have motivated me to keep submitting my book proposal again and again and again.

(and again!)

 Dyane

 

Please “like” the Post Hill Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/PostHillPress

Follow Post Hill Press on Twitter:

@PostHillPress

I Love Having My Writing Rejected…

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Trigger Warning: Potty talk and scary photo

Not! 😉

I don’t like having my writing rejected!

My skin is getting a little bit thicker; it is, I swear. The encouragement I received after publishing my last rejection-themed post really helped give me an attitude adjustment. However, I still have room for improvement.

Case in point: Rejection #1

Yesterday I had a ridiculous hissy fit and it wasn’t pretty!

Two months ago I submitted a poem to our conservative mountain town’s annual poetry contest/public reading. This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library.  I used to work for another Friends of the Library organization, and I was also library clerk, so libraries hold a special place in my heart.  

Ellen Bass, one of our local big shot bestselling authors (The Courage to Heal), judged the entries. This year’s theme was “What Have You Lost?” My “Out in the Milkweed” entry delineates what I’ve lost due to bipolar disorder.  My poem reveals that I’m in recovery, so it’s optimistic. “Out in the Milkweed” doesn’t contain anything inappropriate (i.e. detailed accounts of suicide or cutting) for a public reading. It’s vanilla.

When I discovered last night that I was a big, ‘ol loser, I morphed into this:

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I spewed vitriol right, left and upside down as Craig watched me with raised eyebrows.

I made sure our kids were out of range as I ranted, “Ellen Bass is a fucking bitch! A snob!  I bet this rejection is about stigma towards those with mental illness!!!  A lot of people liked my poem! She could’ve accepted it, even as a “mercy yes” if she thought it was shitty! This small-minded, closeted community needs mental illness discussed in public and I could’ve done that!  I bet no one else contributed a poem about bipolar! I’ve lost all respect for Ellen Bass and the Friends of the Library! Assholes”

Then I sat in front of my laptop and wrote a bitter email to the contest sponsor and cc’d it to Ellen Bass.  I reproached them for their obvious stigma towards bipolar. After I wrote a couple paragraphs, ten-year-old Avi walked in the room and asked me what I was doing. I gave her a quick summary, and that awesome kid said matter-of-factly,

“Mom, c’mon, don’t send it!”

That’s all I needed to hear to shake off my rage, and I immediately deleted the email.  I knew if I sent it, my message about stigma wouldn’t be heard; they’d see it as a sour grapes/sore loser syndrome and lest I forget to add: a “crazy bipolar freak-out”. I’ve burned enough bridges around this town as it is so it’s good Avi was a sweet voice of reason.  

After I calmed down I looked at “Out in the Milkweed” again. Right after I wrote it months ago, I thought the piece was truly good. Upon reviewing it yesterday I knew it wasn’t my best work.   I actually felt embarrassed, since it was waaaaaaay too long and waaaaaay too wordy.  It would have been hard to read “Out in the Milkweed” to an audience based on its clunky sentence structures alone.  

What was the lesson I learned here? (Did I learn anything?) 

That it’s okay to be upset upon learning one’s writing is rejected, but I must limit the sulking time, I can’t fire off any emails written in fury, and I need to move on.  

 Rejection #2

I am proud to say I didn’t flip out upon receiving this rejection last Monday, but I was still really disappointed since it was for the Huffington Post.  Okay, so it’s not the New York Times. However, I don’t mean to sound obnoxious, but if my submission had been published, I know the information would help some readers as the Huffington Post has a large readership.  

Before I pitched them, I received awesome editing help and feedback from a seasoned HuffPo blogger/mentor. After receiving her notes, I spent a considerable amount of time improving the piece. I trust her with all my heart, and she wrote that my piece was good and worthy of publication.  She’s not one to offer praise unless it’s warranted, so when I sent the final pitch and the article, I was feelin’ pretty damn spicy.  I thought I had a chance.

Then I heard nada.

Last October I was profiled in the Huffington Post.  Greg Archer, a regular contributor, included me as an “Inspiring Agent of Change”.*  Archer gave me a ginormous compliment  in noting that my writing had a “smooth creative style…by sharing her vulnerabilities and truths on living with bipolar disorder, she captures attention and wonderfully lures readers into wanting to know more about the illness…this is one to watch.”  As cool an honor as that is, the Huff editors just weren’t into my pitch/article.

Boo hooooooooo!  They are meeeeanannnn monsters!

At least I didn’t become Linda Blair, or eat all the chocolate gelato in the freezer.  I knew that the HuffPo editors probably thought my topic wasn’t broad enough and/or they thought my writing wasn’t that great.  Who knows?  

I remind myself that Madeleine L’Engle recceived 26 rejections for A Wrinkle In Time. While I’m sure as hell not Madeleine L’Engle-caliber, I know I have some worthwhile writing to share. Gotta just carry on and keep the f-bombs to a low roar.  Maybe next time I shoot for the stars and pitch The New York Times.  

I have nothing to lose except my temper.

 

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-archer/agents-of-change-5-inspir_b_5992870.html#es_share_endedHAAwards

Let’s Play the Schadenfreude Game! (A Writer’s 1st Rejection)

Maybe

Schadenfreude.…what a word.  

It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue unless you’re German, perhaps. I’ll have to discuss how to pronounce it when I meet with my German-born therapist. Dictionary.com’s definition of schadenfreude is “satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.” The word’s origin comes from “schaden,” meaning harm, and “freude,” which means joy. Ever since I began blogging, I’ve noticed that my posts with alarming titles which contain the most angst (another word of German origin) have received the most views and comments. I’ve observed the same phenomenon with many others’ blogs as well. Welcome to Schadenfreudeland!

What does schadenfreude have to do with this post? You’ll see. Well, you may be wondering what the writing rejection is all about. Let me back up to last November…take a breath, this is quite a spiel.  

In the chilly fall of 2014, I was hard at work writing my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. While I knew it wasn’t the next Whitbread Book of the Year, I believed my concept was unique in that no other published book (to my knowledge)has focused on childbirth-triggered bipolar disorder.  

My original plan wasn’t to even think about searching for another publisher until I had a complete first draft. “Another publisher” isn’t a typo.  In 2013, during the beginning of a hypomanic episode, I submitted a book proposal and secured a book contract with a health publisher. I canceled the deal because I relapsed while tapering off bipolar medication. (Never again.)

“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could have been somebody!”

Marlon Brando as “Terry” in “On The Waterfront”

After that mess, I wanted a fresh start with a more established publisher.  I was familiar with New Harbinger Publications, a publisher founded when I was three-years-old. New Harbinger has published books about bipolar disorder and bipolar memoirs, right in line with my material. I owned a few New Harbinger titles such as The Tao of Bipolar, Back from the Brink, and Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder.   Months before I had remotely considered pitching New Harbinger, they published Dr. Ruth C. White’s excellent book Preventing Bipolar Relapse. At that time I was writing book reviews, and I connected with Dr. White because I wanted to review her book for my International Bipolar Foundation blog.  

I was so impressed with Dr. White’s philosophy that I offered to help promote her book any way I could through social media and blogging.  She put me in touch with her New Harbinger publicist to help get the word out more effectively. When I decided to check if New Harbinger accepted unsolicited book proposals, I examined their website for submission information. It turned out that authors could submit a proposal without an agent, so I carefully reviewed their particular guidelines a zillion times.

I already had a completed book proposal but I had to tailor it to New Harbinger’s specifications.  Believe me when I tell you that I worked my ASS off on the proposal.  My husband Craig, a published author of the successful, critically acclaimed book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West, reviewed my work and gave me great feedback.

Aside from Craig and my writing muse/puppy Lucy, I didn’t breathe a word to anyone about my plan in case my proposal was rejected. The New Harbinger website’s book proposal guidelines state, “Due to the high volume of proposals we receive, the evaluation process typically takes two to three months. In all cases, we will get back to you as quickly as possible with our publishing decision.” I assumed their staff would notify me whether or not they accepted my proposal as a courtesy and also as a confirmation that they received the proposal in the first place.  

I waited the requisite three months. I didn’t hear a peep. I knew that definitely wasn’t a good sign, but I told myself,  “Surely they’d email me a form letter letting me down!”  I also felt uneasy as I wasn’t 100% positive they got my proposal and reviewed it.  I wanted confirmation and closure so I could move on. I waited another month. Then, I emailed them inquiring about the status of my proposal.  

Crickets.

I decided to use my “connections.”I searched for the email correspondence I had with New Harbinger’s publicist and found it, complete with her direct phone line. I figured I had nothing to lose at that point except some dignity, so I emailed her asking if there was a chance she could check on my proposal status.

When I helped her promote one of her authors, she got back to me right away, but when it came to me, I didn’t receive a reply. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised, but I had to give it the old college try. As I inwardly cringed, I left her one brief, professional-sounding (i.e. not too desperate) voicemail message.

Chirp, chirp.

Then, for the hell of it, I emailed New Harbinger the proposal again.  Infantile, I know, but three days later I finally got a reply:

“Dear Dyane, Thank you for sending us your proposal. After careful consideration, we must, unfortunately, decline the privilege of publishing your book because it does not fit our editorial needs. Most of our books are step-by-step self-help guides. We publish very few memoirs. That said, we recognize that your book has the potential to help many people who have faced a similar situation, and we wish you the best of luck in locating just the right publisher. Sincerely, The Acquisitions Department New Harbinger Publications Proposals@newharbinger.com

YUCK! Their email noted, “We publish very few memoirs.”  Uh, duh! Before I ever contacted them, I gleaned their memoir listings.  While they were obviously trying to lessen the blow of rejection, I thought they came off as patronizing. I didn’t really care how many memoirs they published; it was a moot point, as I still believed they should have published mine!  My memoir wasn’t even a pure memoir, as I explained in my proposal, but a memoir with a separate section designed to help the reader with resources and other lovely bits.

While some of the New Harbinger memoirs looked good, other titles did not impress me at all.  “My writing and my concept is as good as some of their books!” I muttered in a futile attempt to bolster up my ravaged writer’s esteem. That’s the thing with rejections. Even if your writing is good or even excellent, a rejection will make you feel deeply insecure about your writing quality. I shouldn’t speak for everyone, but having my writing rejected made me feel like shit. Then anger and defensiveness washed over me…

F*ck THEM! I thought. It’s THEIR loss!  I discussed this situation with a sympathetic, tolerant Craig.  I explained to him, “I looked at their job listings, and they’re advertising for an Acquisitions Editor and a Senior Publicist, so something funky is going on there!  They obviously don’t have their act together!  I didn’t even have a person sign my rejection email, but a ‘department’.”  He listened to me patiently, agreed with me, and then ran away.

When I received the New Harbinger email, the timing was pretty rotten. I got it the night before my first support group met. That evening I was exhausted from a day filled with cleaning the house and firming up last-minute details. I had already known in my heart that my proposal was a no-go with New Harbinger, but to look at their email took the wind out of my sails.  

Then, I took a deep breath.  I remembered how my favorite author Madeleine L’Engle received so many rejections that she almost gave up writing when she hit forty! I knew that my sulking time with New Harbinger was now officially over. I had a brand-new support group to focus upon, and while I was nervous as hell about it, I was also very excited. Being rejected happens to every writer. No one was taking away my ability to write. Hell, I was even opening up to the idea of self-publishing someday!  It was helpful to get the closure I needed from New Harbinger, and it turned out the following day that the support group’s energy was the best way to soothe my wounded ego.  

As my extraordinary friend Greg Archer, a gifted author of the memoir Grace Revealed says, “ONWARD.”

Here I am with my first publishing contract – while it’s null and void,

I keep it to remind me that I have the potential for success, and that my writing doesn’t suck!

Photo on 2015-03-06 at 08.32 #2 “I coulda been a contender, people!”

p.s. This meme made me laugh, although I think it’s kind of stretching it a little when it comes to the schadenfreude concept. And are you wondering how schadenfreude relates to my tale of woe?  I almost forgot to explain how that fits in here, but you’ve probably figured it out!  I’ve always been fascinated about other writers’ experiences of professional rejection of their work.  I admit I undergo schadenfreude during those times – I feel like I’m not the only rejected writer on the planet. That comforts me.  While I’m not a total sadist —  I’m not happy about another one’s misery — I feel less alone in our shared experience of rejection.  

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“Gott sei Dank, es ist Freitag!”

Lack of A Writing Routine Messes Me Up!

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Yep, it’s true.

After two weeks out of town (during which I was sick with a hideous cold for most of it), I came home exhausted, overwhelmed, and negative.  I realized that my decision to suddenly free myself from the internet was too extreme.  A few days would have sufficed in order to give me the healthy ‘net break that I needed.  Moreover, it didn’t help that soon after our return it was the anniversary of my Dad’s death.  While fortunately that didn’t trigger a depression as it has in the past, I still felt bereft and like crap.  

I wanted to sink back into a solid writing routine to ground me and give me a sense of purpose apart from being a mother and wife.  As simple as that goal may seem, it hasn’t been the case.

I’ve been tempted to sit on my derriere and watch recorded reruns of “What Not to Wear“, “The Long Island Medium” and even, gasp, “Lotto Changed My Life“.  (I haven’t actually watched any of them yet, but the craving has surfaced.)

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I love you, Clinton & Stacy! 

This is not good.  

I am utterly constipated, literarily-speaking.  I keep telling myself “I’ll start writing again tomorrow” and then SHAZAM!  Something happens to prevent my writerly aspirations from becoming more than just lip service.  Last week it was one of my kids staying home sick.  This week? Well, nothing happened except for total laziness and writing blockage.  Yuck.

It occurred to me that I needed a dose of Greg Archer wisdom.  Greg Archer is one of the most prolific, gifted, real writers I know.  I met him while writing freelance articles for our local weekly, the Good Times.  Greg was Good Times’ uber-popular editor-in-chief for fourteen whopping years.  Not only did he write hundreds of excellent articles, but he was in charge of overseeing a staff of impressive writers – talk about pressure!  :0

Greg’s second book Grace Revealed: A Memoir was just published, and it’s getting fantastic reviews.  As you may have noticed, the cover alone is spellbinding.

Check out his book trailer video – it’s awesome:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbxpaZiDod4

On Monday I emailed Greg for advice about about my writer’s block rearing its ugly, pus-filled head.  I confessed that I’ve felt like throwing in the towel on the whole damn project, despite almost 80,000 words being written to date.  More importantly, despite feeling in my gut that I NEED to write this book.  It’s not an option!

He sent me back some words of wisdom that were from his heart and potent:

“I want to encourage you to

LET GO MORE

You can only do what you can do…truly…
Show up…give the book some time each day…and that’s THAT.

 OH___ ADVICE>>>> WRITE THREE PAGES OF WHATEVER…. every morning… and then go to the real WORK… get something out of your head.

And then… comes the sending it OFF…. and then comes to LETTING GO… and then comes the LETTING GO MORE… because we want a kind of validation … that what the hell we went through meant something/will touch people//but what I am seeing now… is that… yeah, that’s normal to focus on…but if we can direct our energy to something more creative… other work; other expressions… it’s probably much healthier…We’re so complex

And beautiful

KEEP GOING..."

So I'm going to do just what Greg suggests that I do, especially the
  
"Keep going!" part.

Do any of you have advice to share about your own writing blocks?  
I'd love to know the gory details!  As always, please comment to your 
heart's content.

And have a GOOD weekend!!!

love,
Dyane

p.s. for more information about my extraordinary friend, please visit 
www.gregarcher.com

 

 

The Queen of Mediocrity

 

 

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007 at age 37, for most of my life I thought of myself as the “Queen of Mediocrity”.  I felt this way early on as I never accomplished anything of merit compared to my parents, who were both prodigies in their chosen fields.  I considered them to be truly extraordinary and so did many other people!  

Dad was a world-class violinist who played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for thirty-nine years!  He was the youngest musician ever to be admitted into the super-competitive orchestra. Dad was a Juilliard-trained, Fulbright Scholar who lived an incredibly full life despite having bipolar one disorder.  My Mom was an award-winning actress-turned speech pathologist and a loving hands-on mother.  Mom taught speech therapy to special needs students in the public schools.  She developed a unique rapport with both her students and colleagues, and she did an outstanding job.

I considered my graduation from the University of California at Santa Cruz and my A.C.E. (American Council on Exercise) personal training certification as hard-won achievements. However, I didn’t attend an Ivy League university like many of my classmates did.  My job as a personal trainer didn’t command great respect either.  

Aside from personal training I worked at the gym’s front desk to make ends meet.  At the counter I handed towels to members who usually treated me as the lowly “towel girl”.  Most of these members had no idea that I had a college degree.  When I handed a towel to the high-powered local newspaper editor-in-chief, or the future billionaire/founder of Netflix, I’d inwardly sigh and feel a bit of humiliation! 

At long last, I’m happy to report that my mediocre self-image is starting to change, slowly-but-surely.  In the space of just a couple weeks I’ve had two wonderful, totally unexpected things happen.  These serendipitous events have boosted my confidence even more than a makeover on “What Not To Wear”!  

Ted

I miss that show, especially stylist Ted Gibson who charges only $1200 for a haircut! 😉 

Two weeks ago I received an email informing me that I was nominated by the bestselling author/mental health advocate Wendy K. Williamson (“Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival” and “I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar”) for the WEGO Health Activist “Best in Show Blog” award.

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I thought the email was a joke!  Then I read Wendy’s nomination blurb on WEGO’s website: 

Dyane’s site is the best out there.  I love that she tells it like it is and supports her fellow followers.  A gifted writer, she clearly conveys through humor and honesty what is happening in her world and the world around us. Dyane taps in to our feelings beautifully, saving us from emotional isolation. Activist, champion, Dyane is both and more.  — Wendy

As you can imagine, I was absolutely blown away by Wendy’s generous praise.  Out of curiosity I checked out the other nominees’ profiles in my category.  Every single one was impressive.  I automatically thought, 

There’s no way in hell I can compete with these people.  I’m not good enough.

I felt tempted to withdraw from the competition, but I didn’t want to let Wendy down.  It simply wouldn’t be cool to offend her, especially since she had become my incredible writing mentor.  I told myself I could be a “loser” and leave it at that.

I’m not sure what happened next, exactly, but I had a change of heart.  

I realized that seeing myself as a loser was not how I wanted to play this game!  I could at least stay in the running and promote myself, a necessary task in order to place as a WEGO finalist.

I’ve spent my life promoting other people’s causes and passions.  I’ve worked at four non-profits where at an average of $10/hour, I worked my ass off to publicize other people’s missions and events.  My first full-time job was at a Silicon Valley special event production company.  I promoted a myriad of events and I dealt with the media all the time.  I knew what I needed to do in terms of my own promotion.

My defeatist thinking changed to: 

I’m going to give this shot & try to win this WEGO, or at least place as a finalist!  

Then the second surprise happened.   But first, here’s the long-winded backstory…bear with me!

Long before I was diagnosed with bipolar after Rilla’s birth, I had a series of unfulfilling administrative  jobs.  I wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old, but I wasn’t writing anything except for work-related projects.  In 1997, in addition to my day job, I finally began writing freelance magazine and newspaper articles.  

My first magazine article was for “Fit” which unfortunately no longer exists.  I loved “Fit” because its content was deeper and more interesting than other fitness magazines.  Although “Fit” had a air-brushed celebrity on its cover every month, I let that slide because the celebrities they chose seemed more circumspect than the stars featured on other magazine covers.

I pursued the editor to give me a shot at writing an article.  At that point I was twenty-seven and I had already experienced clinical depression.  Using “write what you know” as my motto, I wanted to write an article about women, depression and exercise.  After an enthusiastic phone pitch to the editor, she gave me the assignment!  Landing my first national magazine article was a major thrill, and I knew I needed to do my best to get off to the write right start as a freelancer.

I compiled a list of people who I wanted to interview for my piece.  My first interviewee was Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.  I was astounded that I was able to get ahold of the bestselling writer of “An Unquiet Mind”.  Ironically when I called Dr. Jamison I had no idea I’d be diagnosed with bipolar myself a few years later.  I interviewed another doctor I admired: psychologist/author Dr. Martha Manning, whose profound book Undercurrents detailed her experience with depression and ECT.  I hadn’t a clue that one day I’d have electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) just like Dr. Manning did.

Next I questioned several young women who suffered with depression, and I spoke with assorted exercise experts.  After submitting my article, my jaw dropped when I got a paycheck for doing something I loved to do.  

I wrote several more articles for “Fit” and was told I’d become a regular contributor.  I was over-the-moon about having a regular writing gig!  Unfortunately the New York media group that owned the magazine called it quits and my job opportunity vanished.  

My “Fit” experience was a propitious start to my freelance writing career.  With my confidence level high,  I approached my favorite local weekly paper “Good Times” helmed by editor-in-chief Greg Archer.

I had been a faithful “Good Times” reader for years.  I admired Greg’s vibrant, top-notch, often-hilarious writing – I was jealous of his talent!  I contacted Greg’s managing editor about some of my story ideas.  I suggested that I interview a writer who wrote books I picked up and couldn’t put down – the one and only Anthony Bourdain.  Bourdain was slated for a book event in our town, and my timing was right.  I was given the job and I turned in a solid piece.  I wrote two more articles for “Good Times” about another favorite author of mine called SARK.  Once again it was awesome to have the chance to interact with one of my writing heroes and get paid for it.  

As you can imagine, my freelance writing career went down the drain after my bipolar diagnosis. I couldn’t do anything, let alone write.  But some of you know that I came back to life a little over a year ago thanks to my new medication combination of lithium and the MAOI drug Parnate, plus exercise, good quality sleep and finding a good psychiatrist.  

After I recovered from a bipolar depression relapse,  I invited Greg Archer to a delectable Italian lunch to learn more about his writing philosophy.  We became friends and I hid my jealousy of his talent well.  😉 I felt instantly comfortable with Greg as he reminded me of a close friend I grew up with in Los Angeles. It was a joy to be friends with another writer who I looked up to as a role model.

The longest backstory ever is now complete! 

Last week Greg emailed me to ask if I could send him a photo of myself for a future article that I assumed had something to do with bipolar.  I was out of it and didn’t ask him for details.  To my chagrin, I emailed him a blurry selfie but that’s all I had.  Then I got distracted by my girls and forgot all about it.  

An hour later I got a brief email from Greg simply saying to visit the link copied below.  

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-archer/agents-of-change-5-inspir_b_5992870.html

I thought it was his recent Huffington Post article that profiled 5 inspiring men.  

After opening the link I spotted my photo I just sent him and I almost fell off my chair.  The photo was accompanied by Greg’s beautiful description of my writing and how I’m “one to watch” in the mental health advocacy movement!  I was part of a group of 5 “inspiring agents of change” including Kathleen Turner, for God’s sake!! (I loved her with Michael Douglas in “Romancing the Stone”!)

I thanked Greg profusely and then I emailed or called everyone I knew to tell them my happy news.  The fact that my Mom shared the Huffington Post article link with her friends, relatives and her Facebook network was especially moving.   It was such a lovely moment for me to hear pride in my mother’s voice when called to congratulate me.

I’m no longer feeling all that mediocre.  Don’t get me wrong – insecurity still lurks within my psyche each and every day.  I’ll keep plugging away to repair my damaged self-image with therapy – that’s all I can do right now.  

In the meantime I want to thank you so much for reading this lengthy post.  I’d like to send a special shout out to my writing gurus Greg Archer and Wendy K. Williamson!  

I encourage you to read their books.  Soon I’ll be sharing some information about Greg’s second book “Grace Revealed”, a fascinating memoir to be published in January, 2015.

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http://www.gregarcher.com


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http://www.wendykwilliamson.com/

p.s. I’d be grateful if you could endorse me for the WEGO Health Activist Award – it’s easy & takes 20 seconds!  

Visit:

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811

Hitting HUFFPO as an “Agent of Change”!

Mara hair

I’m in shock as I hurriedly write this, but I wanted to publish this post right away because I’m so thrilled!  There will probably be typos and syntax errors, but I’m so over-the-moon I don’t care!

I had no idea that a brilliant writer/editor friend of mine, Greg Archer, was planning to include me in his regular Huffington Post Blog column called “Agents of Change”.  

This afternoon Greg casually asked me via Facebook if I’d be interested in participating as an “Agent of Change” subject, to which I answered “YES!” in no uncertain terms.

Fast forward an hour later.

I found a link in my email in-box from Greg leading to the Huffington Post.  After opening it I scrolled down a bit, spotting a selfie I took after visiting my friend Mara at her awesome, certified-green The Green Room Salon.

Yep – there I was in the Huffington Post alongside four incredible, inspiring women!

I can’t tell you how moved I am to be profiled about my struggle with bipolar in any publication, let alone one like the Huffington Post!  As soon as I realized this article was live, I emailed my husband Craig and my mother with the link.  Craig is usually verrrry mellow, but he called me right away to congratulate me and I could hear pride in his voice.  Two minutes later my Mom called.  While we’ve had some differences when it comes to bipolar & stigma, she too was so proud of me that she wanted to share the article with her friends on Facebook!  

I was astounded.  

At the end of the day I’m grateful…grateful that someone who I respect immensely found my story relevant enough to share with an audience, and I’m thankful that the people I love are happy for me.

Here’s the link to the Huffington Post article: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-archer/agents-of-change-5-inspir_b_5992870.html#es_share_ended

Thank you for reading!!

Wishing you all happy surprises when you least expect them…

Dyane

P.S. I have favor to ask!   I was nominated by the bestselling author Wendy K. Williamson (“I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar”, & “Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival”) for the WEGO Health Activist “Best in Show” Blog Award.  I need your endorsements to win!  Just visit the below link, select the purple tab that says “Endorse Dyane Leshin-Harwood” and go from there – it takes only 20 seconds to endorse me.  Thank you so much!

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811