Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner

Dear Lit Lovies,
I am waiting to hear from literary agents and a publisher so in the meantime I have stocked up on my memoir reading library.  I just finished reading Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner yesterday evening.  I read this book, about three generations of women trying to coexist together after a history of bitter family turmoil, with intrigue.  I had to put the book down on several occasions because I kept getting disgusted with the major players in the story.  First, I have to say it's a gutsy move to attempt having your mom live with you and your teenage daughter.  In my experience, I have never seen this dynamic happen at any time in my life without disastrous consequences.  Given the author's erratic history with her mom, I have to say I thought her decision to invite her mom to reside with she and her daughter to be generous, but irrational.  The interesting and often hysterical parts of this book occur when the author and her mother both attempt to achieve a sense of peace by going to therapy.....................together.   It was at this point in the book when I said to myself this is not going to end well.  I found the author's upbringing to be tragic.  Her mom came across as quite self-absorbed and that's putting it mildly.  The father who I believe was a college dean appeared disaffected by the whole concept of family.  He is a college dean, but when it comes time for his daughter to go to college, he vows that he doesn believe in college.  And he surely doesn't want to help pay for the college education of his two daughters.  Honestly, I don't know why the author even tried with either parent after she became an adult.  I would have high-tailed it away from both parents and never looked back.
I felt the most sympathy for the author's sister who appears to have fallen through the cracks in life and no one bothered to care, much less help her.  This sister was probably bipolar even though the author never identifies it as such; however, given the nature of her upbringing I am surprised that she coped as well as she did.  I absolutely could not stand the doctor who the author is dating.  Yes, he listens, has dry humor, and makes a decent living, but as soon as I found out that he kept spreadsheets on each of the women he dated in order to obviously keep them straight, I was seething and pronouncing him an anal-retentive jerk.  The author's daughter appears to be initially put in the middle of a war zone and she wisely makes the decision that she will not engage herself in the passivie-aggressive battles going on between her mother and grandmother.  She does do what many teenagers are very good at doing and that is pulling the wool over an adult's eyes. Forgive me, but I saw a lot of teenage surprises coming before the mother ever did not because I am a mom, but because I have taught teenagers.  I was left wondering though that even eight years after her father's death if she had really dealt with the bitter reality of what losing him cost her.  I kept wondering if, after this author did not have the opportunity to benefit from psychotherapy during her precarious upbringing, why did she not go get the best psychotherapist for her daughter?  The ending of the book left me with more questions than answers so if you are expecting a tidy closure, don't hold your breath. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Publisher Requesting; Agent Yet To Be Found

Dear Lit Loves,
Wouldn't you know it?!  Here's my luck:  I have an editor from a New York publishing house requesting both my memoir and my latest women's fiction manuscripts and I have yet to be signed by an agent.  Editors and I get along like bread on butter because well, I was an editor.  After you've taught The Writing Workshop with almost 130 students for several years, trust me, you know how to edit.  So I'm sending out the book queries and champing at the bit to get this show on the road.  If you know of any literary agents that are hungry for the next big southern writer, please send them my way.
Grace (Amy)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Yes, Publishing Is Tough; However, You Don't Just Give Up

Dear Lit Loves,
Oh Lord.  I am telling you it is a godsend that I have not lost my mind during the endeavor to become a published author.  Seriously.  What's happening as of late?  Well, yesterday I had an agent respond to my query with the notice that this is a tough book and she's a small outfit so she'll pass.  I'm not sure if she meant it is a gutsy book?  It's a book with a female hero?  It's a book that addresses some tough subjects in society today?  Well Hell, yes, yes, and yes.  By the way, have you met a truly feminist southern belle?  If not, welcome to my blog!  We do tough around here and we do it well.  If I gave up on every endeavor of mine that was tough, I would have been gone a long time ago.  What makes me so assured about my ability to shake my fist at the world you ask?  Well, let's see.  I survived bacterial meningitis at age four while the friend I contracted it from died.  At age sixteen, I was diagnosed with uveitis, an inflammatory eye disorder that can lead to blindness.  At age eighteen, I was given the diagnosis as the youngest Meniere's Disease patient ever seen at a major university hospital.  They also told me I would probably be deaf by this point in my life.  I assure you that I am so not deaf.  I rather enjoy listening to Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones cranked up on my Mach stereo system in my vintage Mustang thank you very much.  I developed glaucoma at age thirty-two and survived seven surgeries.  Guess what?  Just got back today from seeing my glaucoma surgeon and we are doing well my peeps.  I also have Cogan's Syndrome, an inflammatory autoimmune disorder that gives rise to both glaucoma and Meniere's Disease.  My dad has survived Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma twice, and most recently with a stem-cell transplant.  My mom is a breast cancer survivor.  Aside from my husband, I am the only person I know who heralded their way through six years of college with an "A" in every class with the exception of College Algebra.  And College Algebra doesn't count in my opinion because I have never used it one blasted time in my life.

Now look folks, I've taught inner-city middle school and Catholic middle school.  It was no cake walk I assure you because for one I am a five foot two, 110 pound ball of fire and also, my motto can often be summarized as Long Live The Protestant Reformation!  So here's the raw deal; the short and dirty version:  JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS TOUGH DOES NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO NOT PURSUE IT!   Are we clear lit loves?  I've been to hell and back in my lifetime and I am telling you I am here to get published; therefore, GET WITH THE PROGRAM!
Over and out literary troops and carry on!
Grace (Amy)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Still Pitching With Intestinal Infection

Dear, Lit Loves,
Oh Lord, let me tell you that you know I'm a dedicated writer when I keep pitching my multiple manuscripts while in the midst of being tested and treated for an intestinal infection!  No kidding. The last time this happened to me (the intestinal infection and not the pitching), I landed in Emory Hospital for ten days.  That stay included antibiotics, steroids, blood draws, and barely being able to eat.  In fact, when I was released from the hospital I had dropped 11 pounds from when I was admitted.  So today I call my gastrointestinal specialist because the symptoms of colitis/intestinal infection are back.  I get a call from her nurse who tells me I have to get in ASAP, but first, I have to call my doctor's secretary to get an appointment.  Guess what?  The dude gave me the fax number and not the phone number!  So then I called the appointment line and informed them the nurse asked me to call the doctor's secretary for an appointment ASAP, but he gave me the fax number and not the phone number.  The appointment receptionist says "Yes, well, I can't give out the phone number".  At this point I ask her can she get me an appointment.  She can't get me in for a visit until three days from now.  I informed her by then I will be completely dehydrated and in an emergency room  She says that is the best she can do!  So then I get crafty and use the fax number to send a message (in all caps) to my doctor and her secretary that reads:  SOMEBODY NEEDS TO SEE ME AS I NEED TO BE SEEN ASAP ACCORDING TO THE NURSE; HOWEVER, NO ONE WILL GIVE ME THE PROPER PHONE NUMBER TO MAKE THE APPOINTMENT.  THE NUMBER I WAS GIVEN IS THIS FAX NUMBER.   I WILL HOLD ALL PARTIES RESPONSIBLE IF I WIND UP SUFFERING ANY INTESTINAL DAMAGE BECAUSE OF THIS DELAY.
Two minutes later, my doctor called.  She got the fax.  She was ready to see me today at 1:30 p.m.  Then not two minutes afer hanging up the phone, the doctor's secretary rings and asks can I come in at 1:30 p.m. today.  Um, yeah. 
I go in and give lab samples along with a lot of other samples and am now waiting to get the results; however, according to my doctor, it appears my colon is not inflammed and she thinks I have the intestinal infection caused my C.Difficile bacteria.  We will not know until tomorrow when all the results come in and it is determined whether I need fluids in house and a boatload of antibiotics.  Joy! In the meantime, I'm still checking my email, getting emails and manuscripts to agents and editors.  I just want the publishing community to know:  I AM DAMNED WELL DETERMINED TO GET MYSELF PUBLISHED COME HELL, HIGH WATER, BACTERIAL INFECTION, OR HOSPITALIZATION!  Somebody, please send me some good news so I can at least enjoy that because I can't eat anything at the moment!
Grace (Amy)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

Dear Lit Loves,
I'm in the midst of a major reading holiday as it appears the entire publishing population is on vacation.  So I ordered a bunch of books, mainly memoir, because as I tell my husband when he wants to order the movie Avatar from Blockbuster online:  I deal in reality and I don't do blue people.
Just now I finished reading The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne and I am now more
confused about the concept of Tourette's Syndrome than before I read the book.  Essentially, the memoir revolves around this man's experiences with Tourette's, how he learns to cope with it, and how it affects every aspect of his life including the milestones we mark in life like marriage, kids, career, etc.  Initially, I was dismayed that even though there is not a cure for Tourette's, why didn't he or his parents keep investigating ways to alleviate/moderate the tics?  Maybe I'm just incredibly inquisitive when it comes to rare diseases for which there is no cure ( I have three of them by the way); however, I would never not go to the best institutions and researchers in order to get suggestions on remedies.  You'd be surprised what you could gain from entering a clinical trial; trust me, I have.  Did none of the suggested drugs for Tourette's work?  Did he choose not to try them?  There is no extensive information on that part of his experience.  The one thing I noticed that did work for this writer was that when he was engaged in activities that had his full focus whether it was music, weight-lifting, reading, writing, etc. his tics appeared to be less of a problem.  It would stand to reason that if you are engaged in activities that keep you spellbound and engaged, then dopamine levels would be increasing.  Did he ever try any medication that increased dopamine levels?  I don't know because again, there was very little information about his inquiry in that area of treatment. 
What does appear to work for him in resolving the tics is getting his breathing under control which is interesting because at that point I kept wondering, dude, why not try yoga?  Why not go the meditation route?  I noticed that his Tourette's symptoms were aggravated whenever he was in a time of high anxiety or distressed about what was happening around him.  I wanted to know why he didn't seek out several neurologists and why he attempted to cope with all this independently.  There were honestly times when I wanted to give him the name and office location of a friend of mine who is a psychiatrist. 
The one point of agreement I had with him was regarding religion and his questioning of it.  There are people who know/believe and there are those of us still wondering/questioning.  I get where this author is coming from here.  My dad has faith like a rock; he faced down a stem-cell transplant with a firm conviction and faith.  I  went through the stem-cell transplant with him going what the hell are we supposed to learn from this?  Why is this happening to our family?  Let's put it this way, I can really wrestle with God to put it mildly.  Honestly, I don't think if you are questioning your beliefs that you don't have them; I think it's part of the process of building what kind of faith you have.  I certainly don't think it means you have turned your back on your religion.
And I don't think libraries are doomed.  I can assure you I will not be reading books via tablet any time soon or in the near future.  It's just not the way I read or roll. I do think libraries need to do a better job of reaching out to the community and its needs.  For example, there are so many folks in my neck of the woods that have problems speaking English; there are going to be vast groups of people in the last part of the year trying to figure out how to apply for the new healthcare plans online; and would someone please answer why our local libraries do not offer or host book clubs?
If I want to join a book club I go to or Barnes and Noble when the most obvious place it should be held is at a library.