Don’t Let Society Define Your Worth

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Laura Droege is such an insightful writer and prolific as well – she has written several novels and has one currently in the works. I’ve been following her blog for over a year. The one & only Kitt O’Malley referred me to Laura – that gal has good taste as many of you know.

Laura lives with bipolar disorder, but she definitely doesn’t let it define her, and I find that inspiring.¬†I was very honored Laura shared my song “More Than Bipolar”with her followers. I’d encourage you to follow her because she writes with conviction, faith and humor. Moreover, her posts will expand your knowledge of literature, even if you have a literature degree like I do! ūüôā

Speaking of literature, I’m off to the Catamaran Writing Conference on Wednesday and I’m sure I’ll return with tales to tell. Writer catfights and such. (Just kidding!) I’m scared about sharing the first chapter of my memoir Birth of a New Brain¬†with seven strangers, but I also know it’s exactly what I need to do. If the feedback gets too bad I can always burst into tears, bolt from the classroom, and scream “Die, you elitist literary snobs, die!” as I run out of the building.

It’s important to note that¬†this conference offers free coffee all day long, but there’s no chocolate to complement all that java. This is a serious problem, so I need to go buy some Dagoba milk chocolate bars and a couple other ridiculously expensive brands, as without chocolate I simply cannot write. I’m sure you understand the gravity of this situation.

Until next week, please take care everyone!
Xo,
Dyane

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 ūüėČ 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. ūüôā¬†

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.¬†