Monday, April 8, 2019

North Carolina Teachers: Here Is The Book To Read And Give To The N.C. Legislature On May 1st, 2019

Dear North Carolina Teachers,

Greetings all!  Just wanted to once again bring to your attention that as a former North Carolina teacher and current writer, I wrote a book entitled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From Trenches of An Uncharmed Life  under my pen name, Grace Sutherlin, which chronicles my journey as a first-year teacher in North Carolina at a public, inner-city middle school.  This book reflects on many issues you and your educational compatriots face each day as you walk the halls and stand in the classrooms of our elementary, middle, and high schools here in North Carolina.  From a lack of materials and resources and lack of timely discipline by administrators to "drop your teeth" school events and interactions, this is the book that all current and future North Carolina educators should read.  And it most certainly is the book that our North Carolina legislature members and school board members most likely have not read. If our North Carolina Congressional Members and our North Carolina School Board Members had read and understood the revelations in this book, they would have a detailed guide to what is wrong with North Carolina public schools and in particular, those same legislature members and school board members would have given you, without question in my opinion, the salaries, benefits, and resources you so richly deserve.

I would like you to know that I contacted each and every North Carolina School Board Member in 2016 to ensure the proper North Carolina lawmakers and officials knew about the issues addressed in my book, Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.   I heard back from only one North Carolina School Board Member and I seriously doubt he bought and read the book.  Upon my notification of our North Carolina School Superintendent about the book, I did receive a cordial email response.

Additionally, I would like it known that I emailed over 250 North Carolina teachers about the book.  I did not receive a response from any of those 250 teachers.  I estimate that I contacted about 100 North Carolina administrators about the book and did not receive a response from any of those individuals.  I emailed 60 collegiate educators in the state of North Carolina to encourage them to not only read the book, but also to utilize it as a resource in their educational classes.  I did not receive a response from any North Carolina collegiate educator that I contacted about the book.  So I ask you, who in the state of North Carolina really cares about the issues of North Carolina public school teachers?   EVERYONE RESIDING IN THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA SHOULD. 

North Carolina teachers, I expect to hear you ROAR on May 1st, 2019 when you march to our state capital to bring to the attention of our state leaders the VITAL and ESSENTIAL teacher and educational CONCERNS so immediately needing to be addressed in the state of North Carolina!!


 All My Best,
Grace Sutherlin

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Meniere's Disease And Me: A Chronic Disease And A Life-Changer

Dear Lit Loves,

Wow.  I am impressed to finally see that traditional and small publishers are opening their minds and including the thoughts and experiences of women who are writing in the narrative/memoir genres about chronic disease, illness, and in some cases, death.  Currently, I am reading The Unwinding of the Miracle written by Julie Yip-Williams regarding her experiences with stage four colon cancer.  I think it is high time that the world of publishing open its doors and windows to writers about these topics because let's face it, eventually, we're all going to face some sort of death and many of us will face a diagnosis at some point in our lives of a chronic, life-long illness.  And if you do not personally experience a diagnosis like this, I bet either a parent, sibling, friend, acquaintance, coworker, etc. will encounter a time when he/she is diagnosed with chronic disease.    I did.  And I was only age eighteen at the time.  Talk about feeling like your life is at the stage of :  GAME OVER.  Fortunately, for me, I never settled for the mindset of negativity once I received a diagnosis of chronic illness;  I decided the best direction and course for me was to learn how to ADAPT.

Yes, I was watching the North Carolina men's basketball team play Clemson on Saturday evening March 2nd, 2019 when the coach, Roy Williams, suddenly turned quickly and then immediately went down to one knee and then promptly took a swift dive into the lap of one of his assistant coaches.  I recognized what was happening to him.  It was VERTIGO.  I know because I have experienced these episodes on many occasions as I have lived with the chronic illness known as Meniere's disease for well over thirty years.

When vertigo overcomes your body it feels like everything in your visual spectrum is spinning as if you have suddenly jumped on the carnival ride known as the spinning teacups from hell.  In other words, for me, it is not that I am spinning, but everything in my visual field is spinning and continuing to spin at a higher and higher rate of speed.  So you know what happens?  You fall over, grab a wall, grab a chair, drop to the floor, or get to a seated position as soon as possible.  I was impressed Roy Williams was able to walk off the court with help from coaching staff as I would have been on my hands and knees crawling to the locker room, sprawled on the floor, and trying to find the nearest waste basket as vertigo usually involves regurgitation when it happens to me.

When I first began experiencing symptoms of vertigo and Meniere's disease, I had no clue what was happening to me.  Initially, I thought I was dying.  My left ear would have siren-like ringing, my hearing was off in the left ear for a few days prior, and then at some point I would find myself start sweating profusely and begin seeing the world in my field of vision begin spinning. I might be on the floor with a waste basket for ten or twelve hours just dry heaving or regurgitating what looked like anything I had eaten in the last week.  Eventually, the spinning would slow and finally stop.  I was so thankful when I finally received a diagnosis and medication for my vertigo episodes, I actually wanted to do cartwheels. 

Over the years, I have tried various medication regimens for the disease.  I knew that as I kept experiencing these volatile vertigo episodes I was losing the cilia in my inner ear that help me achieve balance.  Three years ago I was informed that 97% of the cells governing balance in my left ear are essentially dead.  Gone.  So when I stand anywhere I am essentially balancing myself via the near perfect hearing and balance that I have thanks to my right inner ear which has never developed Meniere's disease.  That was a shell-shocker when I was given that news. 

There are various surgeries a person can have to essentially bring a stop to any further vertigo episodes, but many of those surgeries and treatments often subvert an individual's balance ability along with the vertigo.  I chose to endure the vertigo and not have anyone deliberately incapacitate the cells that govern my balance.  And I have endured.  And now I have vertigo sparingly and when it does occur, I am maybe seeing my world spin for about thirty minutes and then the whole episode is over and I recover and continue on with my life.  My medical specialist believes that my Meniere's disease is in a dormant stage as I have had fewer and fewer episodes of vertigo as I have aged and lived with the disease.  I will tell you that the disease taught me to learn to adapt to the resolute possibility that my health can go plunging southward at a moment's notice.  The whole experience of this chronic illness has given me confounding and enlightening interactions with our medical system in this country.  And I know what to do if and when a vertigo episode strikes.  I'm always prepared as I always have my medication with me and some meds I take daily to prevent vertigo. 

The best part about Meniere's disease is that I learned how to advocate for myself as a female patient in what was an often patriarchal medical world.  That is swiftly changing now as more women are going into medicine than men.  I learned that I am the only one who can advocate for my health and the quality of healthcare I receive and from whom I receive it.   For me, respect is earned and not automatically given because hey, even in the world of medicine, not every medical specialist graduated at the top of their class and many medical specialists I have encountered have the interpersonal skills of a skunk.    Thus, I have also learned how to size up and evaluate each and every medical specialist I encounter even when it comes to one that is treating my parent or a close friend.

I would like to one day be able to share my experiences regarding Meniere's disease and two other chronic diseases I have with the reading public.  I hope traditional and small publishers continue to give individuals like myself an opportunity to do this as you would be amazed what you can learn from a person who has been there and experienced that when it comes to any disease or illness.  I am a person and patient who would rather know what I am dealing with as opposed to live in denial or submit to the concept that ignorance is bliss.  Knowledge is power, people.  Especially when it comes to your health.

Till my next post,

Monday, February 18, 2019

Lessons From Reading A Badly Written Memoir

Dear Lit Loves,

I tend to post reviews of books in the memoir genre that are outstanding or particularly well-written.  So it was with great surprise that I recently read a memoir written by a self-proclaimed celebrity that just went off the train tracks and never recovered.  The book dealt with the serious issue of chronic illness.  Since I had recently been diagnosed with a form of the autoimmune illness about which the book's author wrote, I thought surely the book I bought would help guide me on my journey with several chronic illnesses and especially the disease I share with the author.   I thought surely I would be able to identify and sympathize with the author, but no such luck.  Actually, I wanted to go get my money back after ordering the book via Amazon and thankfully, I did not pay the full price for this book at another book retailer.   After finishing the book, I was incredulous that it had been published after I have spent years writing manuscripts on some serious subjects that were never picked up by a literary agent or acquiring editor.  In this particular instance when I completed reading the book, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that publishing is most definitely not a fair game.  Frankly, I think publishing is more about who you know, what level of celebrity status you have, and how much of a social media platform you have obtained. 

Sometimes, in my own publishing journey, I have been enormously frustrated with literary agents, editors, etc.  who continually shout from the rooftops that they want diversity in publishing and more female points of view; however, if you query them as I have, you often receive no response or if you send them a small portion of the manuscript and a forty page book proposal they'll tell you to wait six to eight weeks and at the end of that time period you receive a one sentence email saying they have no idea where to place the book or that they could not connect to the material.  Upon reading this latest memoir, I wanted to hold up my latest regretfully read book purchase and say, "This is why the publishing industry continues to shrink and sales are sluggish.  If this is the best publishing can do by way of memoir, the industry may hit the skids in a New York minute."  And after I continually looked  pitifully at the book and carefully considered its contents, it finally dawned on me that by God, there really is something to learn from a quite badly written memoir. 

Lessons Learned After Reading A Badly Written Memoir:

1)  Solidly written memoir for me must contain authenticity of experience.  It's not about spouting off opinions in each and every chapter or demeaning a group of people or jumping from one topic to another with no interconnection.  

2)  Memoir should have a theme sewn through its pages. 

3)  Edit. Edit. Edit.   And edit once again after you receive an advanced copy of your memoir.  There is no going back once the official published button is pressed. 

4)  Not all literary agents, editors, or publishing houses are equal. 

5)  Check your arrogance as a writer/author at the door when it comes to memoir.  Memoir is about vulnerability and reality.  It is not the arena to act as a preacher or know-it-all.

6)  In my opinion, unless you are a well-known celebrity or a household name, I would not use a picture of myself on the cover of my manuscript or book.  Preferably utilize a symbol associated with the book's theme.

7)  Never include juvenile, inappropriate illustrations or pictures in a memoir as it just makes a writer look juvenile and unprofessional. 

8)  If you can't write about a serious topic in a respectful, informative, and meaningful manner then put down the pen or pencil and step away from the computer.

9)  Memoir is generally not the place to practice a comedy routine.

10)  For heaven's sake, at least be well-read in the genre you choose to utilize as a writer/author.

Till my next post,