Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lessons From 2014

Dear Lit Loves,

Well, here we are at the end of another year.  For me, 2014 was quite eventful.  I started the year as a resident of Duluth, Georgia and now reside in Morrisville, N.C.  I am glad to be back in the saddle once again in Tarheel territory I can tell you that much.  Henceforth are the lessons I took from my experiences in the year 2014.

Lesson One:  Metropolitan Atlanta Needs Big City Infrastructure

Since leaving Duluth, Georgia after thirteen years there and moving to  the research triangle park metropolitan area of North Carolina, I can see that Atlanta never planned for its infinite growth while metropolitan Raleigh and Research Triangle Park have.  Traffic is obscene in metro Atlanta because no one planned for the influx of folks especially those choosing to live in the suburbs.  Trying to get to Emory Hospital one morning for an appointment cost me two hours of sitting in traffic.  Toll roads and the peach pass for the fast lane do not help.  Proper planning could have helped, but no one bothered to take the time to seriously look at where the growth was happening and how to best build roads, bridges, mass transit, etc. to get people to their destinations without incurring serious down time.  Marta needed to be updated and revamped years ago.  And proper security needs to become a priority in the midtown Atlanta area especially near Georgia Tech.  It was ludicrous how many folks were stranded on Georgia roads and interstates due to a minor winter storm last January.  Kids stuck on school buses overnight, people abandoning their cars, and mass chaos.  It didn't have to occur.  The weather forecasters gave the warning; it was city officials and the governor who failed to listen and take action to support the residents of Georgia.

Lesson Two:  Literary Agents Are Not Always Able To Recognize The Next Bestseller.

Seriously folks, do you know the number of countless rejections racked up by some of our most successful authors?  Look at John Grisham, Stephen King, and especially J.K. Rowling.  It never should have taken so long for these fine literary talents to be discovered.  They had the content and skills to make the publishing industry a lot of money long before they actually did, but too many times each one was told "No" by the Literati.  Stephen King even nailed his rejections to the wall in his office.  This is who and what I think of each time I get a rejection.  Sometimes it's not you holding you back, it's the industry and the people in that industry. 

Lesson Three:  Some Editors Display Very Little Professionalism

I recently had a young, twenty-something editor take a look at a memoir manuscript and proposal on life adventures growing up with a vestibular/balance disorder.  Her response to my submission left me floored and disgusted.  According to said editor, no one cares about life's medical maladies.  Disorders and disabilities are not a subject any of us should concern ourselves with because it's not a reality many people currently experience.  Wow.  I want to speak with her when she's fifty years of age and has watched her parents suffer with stage four cancer, Type 2 diabetes, open-heart surgery,  and stroke.  Cause guess what?  You can't run from medical issues darling; they will catch up with you or someone you love.  And when they do, you'll think back and go, "Damn, there was a woman who experienced all this and wrote about it?  What in the hell was I thinking telling her this would never have a readership because it's not most folks reality?"  Live and learn people.

Lesson Four:  Cancer Is A Bitch

Yes, you read that correctly.  I've watched too many people battle many forms of this disease.  I've read about even more who have gotten in the ring with it.  I lost a close friend and colleague this year to neuroendocrine cancer once it returned six months after she was treated and declared in remission.  She wanted to live really badly.  She braved ugly forms of treatment for the disease and even worse side effects.   All this was to no avail because she died from the cancer anyway.  Such a strong person and incredibly talented teacher taken at far too young an age.  I miss her like nobody's business. 

Lesson Five:  You Can't Save Someone From A Bad Decision

I could speak to some friends, family, and acquaintances till I'm blue in the face and it will still never make a difference.  You can't prevent or save someone from the consequences of a bad decision.  You can only reach out to them in love and advise them of the pros and cons.  Whether your colleague is remaining with a man who is a meth addict and abusive or your friend can't extract herself from the grips of anorexia and depression, sometimes all you can do is give your best advice and pray for them.

Lesson Six:  Just When You Think You've Got A Grip On Life, Here Comes A Curveball

Honestly, I never thought my husband and I would have the opportunity to move back to North Carolina.  I'm a native North Carolinian.  I take pride in my southern heritage and my southern mannerisms and accent.  My husband works in the high tech industry and after thirteen years in Atlanta, we thought we would be there till kingdom come.  And then out of the blue, someone calls about a position and you get the offer of a lifetime.  Don't risk it by looking a gift horse in the mouth.  Embrace the change and opportunity and God Speed my friend.  Don't Look Back Either.

And that's a recap of some important lessons I've experienced this year.

Best Wishes For A Blessed New Year,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Relocation From Atlanta, Georgia To Morrisville, North Carolina

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings loved ones!  I'm sorry it has been a bit since my last post; however, I was in the midst of packing up a house in Georgia, having my belongings loaded on a United truck, having said belongiings unloaded at a town house in North Carolina, and trying to determine where the nearest grocery store is and what the code is for gate entrance into my new town house complex!  Oh, it's been a scream!  I've thoroughly demolished two pairs of shoes in this whole process which just gives me a valid reason to go shop all the after Christmas sales.  Thank God for my brother who assisted me in the unloading process as I would have had a nervous breakdown otherwise.  You try having four men pulling your belongings off a moving truck, yelling box number and colors, and then trying to direct them where to put your furniture and belongings! 

The second week I spent trying to acquaint myself with my new area.  This included finding a bank, a local post office, a Barnes & Noble, the driver's license office, a pharmacy, and a grocery store.  All was going well up until I fell off a step ladder while trying to put shoe boxes on a top shelf in the master bedroom closet.  I hit the floor head first and then realized I had either sprained or broken my ankle.  Needless to say, I wound up at a Duke Urgent Care center (even though I'm a UNC alumni) and had all sorts of x-rays done.  Good News!  I have great bones due to all the calcium supplements I've been taking since age thirty and I didn't break any bones!  The bad news?  My left foot began to swell twice its normal size and I was told to promptly stop unpacking boxes at a frenetic pace!  Fortunately, after about a week my left foot was back to its normal size; however, I am now sporting various shades of blue and purple across my left foot so at least the healing has begun! 

Next, I located an editor looking for a memoir writer who writes about unusual experiences with a strong female voice.  I had to spend a great amount of time on the chaise due to my foot injury so I spent a lot of time online once Time Warner connected me to cable, phone, and internet service.  I promptly wrote the editor and explained, "You Have Found Your Memoir Writer!"  She requested the book proposal and first fifty pages of the manuscript.  Next, I had two literary agents contact me about my work.  I sent them my query months ago and had basically written them off, but life can surprise you sometimes. 

Meanwhile, I have no idea where my Christmas tree is in the storage unit so I gave up on decorating anything but my front door and that was only after I found my Christmas wreath and bought a wreath hanger for the front door of the town house!  I've been enjoying Christmas trees at various restaurants and cafes I'm just now discovering in the Research Triangle Park area.  I finished my Christmas shopping on Monday so I can now relax and enjoy the holidays.  And that's what I'm doing now along with sending holiday cards and notifying family and friends of my new address and phone number.  You'll probably also find me at Nordstrom or Macy's after Christmas in the shoe department attempting to find new ballet flats and loafers.  Ya'll enjoy the holidays!


Thursday, November 20, 2014


Dear Lit Loves,

The big news is I AM MOVING FROM METRO ATLANTA, GEORGIA TO NORTH CAROLINA!!  Needless to say, my family and friends back in North Carolina are thrilled.  I'm looking forward to nice, friendly people, good southern barbecue, snow, expert medical personnel at Duke and UNC, a forty minute drive to my mom and dad's house, being around my extended family more, Tarheel basketball, a new town house to call home, and being a half hour from my brother.  I will miss the Atlanta Falcons (I'll still pull for them), the Atlanta Braves (why did you trade Jason Heyward!!), my stylist, Ms. Kimmie, an open primary state, having lunch at The Park Cafe, Houston's, Phipps Plaza, Pappadeaux, and Village Tavern, the extremely good folks at Emory Hospital, and The Lilly Pulitzer store at Phipps Plaza. 

I will not miss a hellish commute, insane traffic, rude and aggressive drivers, the humidity, and people telling me I'm not truly southern because I'm from "North" Carolina. 

I dearly wish I was able to write that I had obtained a literary agent, but alas, it has yet to materialize.  Where oh where is my elusive literary agent? He/she has to be out there somewhere, right?!!  I had an agent last week tell me that my memoir was well-written and entertaining; however, she could not offer me representation because she can't sell memoirs written by non-famous people.  I can do famous folks, but someone's got to be adventurous enough to go out on a limb with me first.  Publishing is a business of many valleys and few peaks so I persist in attempting to publish my work via the traditional route.  I've even finished my next manuscript.

For now, I'll sign off as I prepare for my move next week. Let us all pray me and my family make it to North Carolina in one piece with our wits in check.


Friday, October 24, 2014

What I'm Reading, What I'm Not Reading and Why

Dear Lit Loves,

If you go by the lead article on Publishers Weekly today, October 23rd, 2014, you would think the sky is falling when it comes to publishing.  No, it's not.  Amazon is taking losses because it's opening new distribution centers and brick and mortar stores.  Digital sales are on the increase over traditional print sales.  Now, this is a fact of life everybody needs to get used to, stop whining about, and get on board with it or get left behind, understand?!  I'm serious.  The state of publishing is in quite a disarray, but it will settle down everntually.  I'm not having a panic attack about it and I'm still in the midst of trying to find an agent and a book deal. 

I'm not overly enthused about the selection of books available in my preferred genre:  memoir.  I just saw where someone published a memoir entitled Diary of a Pissed Off Flight Attendant.  Well, okay I can understand the plight of flight attendants.  Planes are overbooked, nothing appears to ever be on time anymore, and heaven only knows, you might be flying with someone who might have exposed you to Ebola these days.  I totally understand the frustration.  Will I buy the book?  No, I'm just not in the mood for negativity.  Plus, I live in Atlanta with one of the nation's busiest airports so I see on a regular basis why flight attendants become perturbed.  And well, yesterday I had an appointment at Emory and fortunately, that hospital is getting the job done when it comes to stamping out Ebola. 

Okay, let me just get this out of my system:  NO, I AM NOT READING OR INCLINED TO READ LENA DUNHAM'S MEMOIR.  Yes, I realize it sold 38,000 copies in its first week, but Lena is a product of a completely different generation than me.  Generation X, my peer group, we're much more laid back about life.  We don't have to push our ideas and values in an "in your face" kind of manner.  It's not our style, or at least it's not mine.  So yeah, I'm skipping Not That Kind Of Girl.  I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO PUBLICATION OF AMY POEHLER'S MEMOIR ENTITLED YES, PLEASE!   Are you kidding?  Now, there's a woman who's lived long enough to experience a hard-earned lesson or two and well, she's a stitch!  So yes, I will be reading Amy's memoir. 

I did buy and read Not Fade Away:  A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found.  I found the story quite moving.  There were parts of the book where I thought the author got kind of "preachy" and Lord knows she's been through enough trauma in life to warrant being preachy, but I don't like preachy people or writing.  I thought some of the lessons in the book were cliche and bordered on being a bit Pollyannish.  I still feel for the girl though and respect the medical ordeal she's been through and is still living.  I suffer a similar fate in life so I can definitely sympathize.  I just want the opportunity to tell my story from a differing perspective and style.  Comprende?!

And then I just read that Reese Witherspoon is starring in the movie version of the memoir Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  Yes, I read the book, but no, I won't see the movie.  Honestly, there were significant parts of the book that were dry for me as I'm not big on flowery, poetic description.  And no, I would never even think of trying to take on hiking the Pacific Trail in order to find my bearings in life following some significant transitions.  No, I'm more likely to go down to The Caribbean and find a resort.  Maybe even swim with stingrays, but hike with a 100 pound backpack, in the woods, and sleep with the bugs and dirt?  Oh, HELL TO THE NO PEOPLE.  I didn't get the nickname "Dixie Diva" for nothing ya'll. 

And I almost forgot!  Oh Lord, lit loves, I'm reading a memoir right now which I won't name title, author, or publisher because it has so many errors in it that I've stopped counting!  Okay, I didn't stop correcting the errors because I am classically trained as an English teacher.  I was mortified.  And I have to say it made me not want to have a book issued by this publisher.  It just goes to show that when you do get published, you and many others better read the preliminary copies of the book just to make sure you get all the errors.  Or maybe that's just because I'm picky.  Still, if my name or pen name goes on a book, it needs to be of pristine quality.

Till next time,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found

Dear Literary Loves,
Oh my.  I just read a book that is similar in nature to my memoir about the big three in my life:  Meniere's disease, Uveitic glaucoma, and Cogan's Syndrome.  People have been asking me many questions while I've been reading Rebecca Alexander's book Not Fade Away:  A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found.  Did the book arrive? Did you start the book?  What do you think of her story compared to yours?  How is your book going to be different from hers?  What did you think of her narrative voice in the book?  Lord. Have. Mercy.  Okay folks, first the summary:

Rebecca Alexander's book Not Fade Away:  A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found is about how this young woman was diagnosed I think around age fourteen with Usher's Syndrome III.   Initially, she had noticed as had her parents that she was having trouble with visual acuity and general clumsiness along with a tendency to utilize her left ear for hearing.  Evidently, a specialist told her parents that she had Usher's Syndrome III which is basically a genetic disorder whereby a person slowly loses their sight and hearing, in both ears and both eyes.  Here's the kicker:  Her dad does not want to tell her about the disorder and her mom thinks they should tell her about the disorder.  They don't tell her.  Kids inherently know when something is wrong with them.  Trust me, I was trained and worked as a teacher.  The author is told explicitly what she has and the consequences of it when she reports to the health center on her college campus.  The doctor there just comes out and tells her in a frank manner.  I was stunned.  All parents have to make these decisions in some form or another.  I thought her mom was right and they should have told her about the disorder from the beginning.  Better to hear it from them than the way she did learn of it.  That's my opinion though. 

Eventually, her parents divorce, she's in a highly unusual accident (not giving it away), and she also begins to lose her hearing.  The accident forces her to learn to be resilient in the face of extreme physical and emotional challenge.  She goes to college, earns two master's degrees from Colombia, and is now a psychiatrist.  She discusses choosing to learn sign language, being introduced to walking with a cane, and also the entire process of becoming eligible for and obtaining a cochlear implant to increase her hearing ability.  It's an incredibly inspiring story and I felt for her when she was taking visual and auditory tests while also realizing you're losing your sight and hearing.  It's no fun being told you are continually going down in your test scores for sight and hearing.  People often take these two senses for granted.  I completely understood when she was trying to hear someone in a noisy restaurant and primarily having to rely on lip-reading or having someone else to relay to her what was said.  Being a person in the helping profession, the author will indicate to you time and time again that she realizes she had/has advantages most people facing this illness or something similar don't have.  And this is exactly where our stories diverge.

First, I don't come from a privileged family.  My dad's not an attorney.  I do have a rather unique sibling as most people know.  Intially, my Uveitis was diagnosed when I was sixteen and could not see the chalk board during my Geometry class. Neither my doctor nor my parents kept my illness from me.  In fact, I was by myself when my eye doctor first told me of my eye disease.  I developed Meniere's disease when I was eighteen and starting college.  Initially, I sought help from a local Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist and he referred me to a specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill.  No one there thought I could possibly have Meniere's disease because I didn't fit the textbook cases.  Guess what?  I have Meniere's disease.  When I turned thirty, I had my first cataract surgery because the drugs used to treat Uveitis cause cataracts.  Two years later, I was diagnosed with Uveitic glaucoma and I was sent to see a rheumatologist at Emory.  He diagnosed Cogan's Syndrome:  inflammation of the vessels, tissues, and nerves of the eyes and ears.  I began taking oral chemotherapy to keep my immune system from attacking my eyes and ears.  I've had four Baerveldt eye surgeries to implant a shunt into my right eye to keep fluid from building up and causing my vision loss to increase.  I am now participating in an experimental treatment for Meniere's disease with a specialist at Emory Hospital. 

Here's where our stories diverge:  I grew up in a middle working class socioeconomic family.  I didn't attend private school.  I am a product of our public school system and right proud of it.  I have one highly unusual and talented sibling.  We grew up attending a Methodist church.  I was not a social butterfly in high school; quite the contrary, I was a loner in high school.  I was utterly thrilled to get away from high school and move on to college.  My parents have been married for fifty years.  I have been married for seventeen years to a swell tech guru and love of my life.  Aside from my family, he is my rock and the only person beside myself I consult when making decisions regarding my health.  I have always felt that I could manage my medical conditions well alone with the assistance of some really fine doctors.  And I advocated for my needs right from the get-go; I didn't have someone in college to take notes for me or go with me to medical appointments.  The title bout between me and my medical conditions is primarily a daily grudge match featuring me versus Meniere's disease, Uveitic glaucoma, and Cogan's syndome.  I don't lean on anybody else.  My husband is my coach straddling the turnbuckle cheering for me, but I do these conditions alone.  That's just my nature and my way.  I haven't always received the best care or had insurance to help me with the costs.  No, my family isn't phenomenally blessed with monetary resources.  I don't expect the world to adapt to my medical conditions; I do my own adapting and I don't plan on sitting on the sidelines because I have serious medical conditions.  I am a forthright person; you always know what I think, mean, and where I stand.  I don't tend to lecture others on what's important in life.  Actions speak louder than words. 

What did I think of the book Not Fade Away?  I liked reading about someone else who is experiencing on a similar level what I myself experience.  There were times when I thought, "This girl knows exactly what I've been talking about for ages".   The author has paid her dues; she knows about that which she writes.  She and I just come from different backgrounds and approach our medical conditions differently.  For example, I could never have left a Braille instructor to fend for herself after coming to my home to teach me.  No way.  Won't happen.  My sibling would never get exasperated with me after repeating what was said at a table and then make a snarky comment.  That doesn't fly in the south.  People land on the floor, under a table, or worse if you pull that kind of stuff in the south.  And if there's one thing I don't do:  I do not live in denial.  I cannot and will not let myself take that route.  And I thrive on independence.  The only people I consistently rely on to help me with my medical conditions are my specialists.  It's up to me and them.  I do my own research, take my own notes, and explore what's new in treatment options.  For me, that's what has enabled me to survive and thrive.  Take no prisoners.  Bite it.  That's how I roll.

Do I recommend this book?  Of course.  Am I anxious for someone to publish my memoir?  Oh yeah, because I think the larger population and public can identify more with my background and my no-nonsense voice and style of writing. 
Till my next review,

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Dear Lit Lovers,

How's your fall going?  Mine's going well even though the leaves and cooler weather really haven't occurred down here in Georgia yet.  That's the part I miss about living in North Carolina.  I did order some recent memoirs to read and the review title of this blog probably grabbed your attention.  I ordered Working Stiff by Dr. Judy Melinek and T. J. Mitchell (her husband).  This author chronicles her experience working as a medical examiner in the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York.   Some people asked me upon hearing or seeing that I'm reading this book, if I just liked the macabre or do I like depressing reads.  Well, let me tell you that after seeing cancer at its worst in several friends and loved ones, this book was a breeze and quite informative.  I love medicine and I really found it interesting that a medical examiner can tell so much about a person's story (life experience) just from performing an autopsy!  I'm serious!  If you smoked every day your entire life, your lungs will be charcoal black.  If you were an alcoholic, your liver will not lie to the medical examiner.  And interestingly, it's amazing what a medical examiner can piece together from a crime scene by just doing an autopsy of a body.

I think the most difficult parts to read and understand for me in this book were when the medical examiner discusses having to do an autopsy on a person who commits suicide.  The author's father committed suicide when he was thirty-eight years old.  And I do think that played a part in why she chose to proceed into the field of forensic pathology.  If you've ever witnessed a medical examiner on the stand during a trial, let me tell you, they know what the dead person experienced.  They can tell you if the death was quick; they get to the bottom of what caused a person's death and how a person died; and what I liked most was the idea that this doctor felt that oftentimes, it was up to her to help speak for someone who may have died needlessly or in an especially traumatic manner.  Cause really, when it comes down to it, when a homicide happens only the victim and the assailant know what really happened until the body arrives to the medical examiner. 

It was also moving to discover that the author was one of many medical examiner's who took part in identifying the remains of victims from the 9/11 attacks on September 11th, 2001.  This woman was actually on her way to work the morning of September 11th and saw the first plane that hit the World Trade Center Towers.  She knew something was amiss because the plane was flying entirely too low.  She discusses how they had to basically set up an outside morgue under tents in their office parking lot and continually receive bodies from the trade center site in body bags.  And that often didn't mean receiving an intact whole body.  These folks were meticulously sorting through bones, muscle, teeth, etc. trying to find any sort of evidence that might be utilized to help identify an individual lost in this disastrous event.  And I had no idea of the enormous effort it took to do this job.  Those of us watching from afar or via television didn't see all the behind the scenes work that was going on to help identify all the remains left behind or help bring some peace to all the families that lost someone in this tragic event.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book.  You should definitely pick it up, not assume the worst, and give it a read.  I found it quite informative and I have a whole new profound respect for doctors of forensic pathology because of this book!

Till my next read!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Summary & Evaluation: Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher

Dear Lit Lovers,
Well folks, I had heard and read a lot of praise about the book I just finished reading entitled Madness:  A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher which has been out on book shelves since 2008.  It's usually listed as a highly recommended memoir so obviously I was anxious to read it and have my own reaction to it.  The book chronicles the author's early life experiences with bipolar disorder and it opens with a particularly gut-wrenching narrative of self-injury.  The author narrates her experiences with getting a correct diagnosis and treatment (or lack thereof) for what I know as manic-depressive disorder, also known as bipolar disorder.  Here's what struck me as interesting while reading this memoir:

1)  Ms. Hornbacher lives with a disease that causes her to vacillate between bouts of extreme mania or hyperactivity to bottom of the barrel lows or depressive episodes.  For many years because of a history of eating disorders, many doctors attempt to treat her for depression.  It was very obvious to me just from the way she wrote the sections about mania that she was enveloped in some time of overwhelming extreme euphoria.  Her rate of speech and writing was like rapid fire gunshots.  I could always tell when she was headed into a manic state by the fact that colors seemed more vivid to her, she was in a constant state of "need to go or be doing something".  And it didn't matter if what she was doing was hurtful to herself and others.  Drinking does not help this disease; I think it makes the effects of mania and depression ten times worse than it would be without getting inebriated.  There were times when the author would just disappear for a month at a time, drive recklessly, and not sleep for days.  Honestly, I knew she had to be exhausted from the mania because just reading about her exploits exhausted me and left me wondering:  would someone please prescribe this woman a sedative! 

2)  The hospitalizations the author receives in relation to bipolar disorder can be stretches of time that she doesn't remember which is truly scary.  Part of this memory loss is attributable to the electroconvulsive shock therapy she receives.  And it was truly fascinating the number of doctors she has seen regarding this disorder.  Some appear to understand the symptoms and treatment for this type of disorder better than others.  Usually, depending on whether she's highly manic or severely depressed, treatment involves adjusting her medications.  There are several occasions when she specifically tells a psychiatrist that she's in the midst of a hyper living mode and the psychiatrist just lets this information go in one ear and out the other while insisting on treating her for extreme depression.  Interestingly, the author generally knows when she needs help and what type of treatment is needed; however, there are times when a husband or friend has to nudge her gently to reach out for help. 

3)  There are moments when the author has total clarity about her illness.  She makes an appointment with a psychiatrist or willingly goes to the hospital for treatment.  Other times she decides that she will just stop taking her medication and self-medicate with alcohol.  Honestly, I think this would be an exhaustive to disorder with which to live.  And a patient never knows when their moods will suddenly swing one way or another on an emotional pendulum.  It was most apparent that folks with bipolar disorder appear to need and even structured daily schedule.  What appears most detrimental to their well-being is excessive amounts of free or unplanned time.  And then there's always the issue as I've seen with friends where an individual with bipolar disorder decides to not take their medications or worse, adjust the medications themselves by randomly increasing or decreasing their dosages. 

4) Are individuals with bipolar disorder more self-involved than the average person without the illness?  I would say so based on this book and the people I have known who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  It's almost like they have to be constantly on alert for mood swings or emotional triggers that might send them into a tailspin.  It was especially interesting to see the author not really have any compassionate consideration for her husband and his depressive episodes; however, she readily recognizes that he goes above and beyond the call of compassionate consideration when she's in the grips of mania or depression.

A highly interesting read.  I will definitely be giving my copy of this book to a friend who is living with a significant other with bipolar disorder.  What might be also entertaining is for a loved one living with a bipolar patient wrote about the disease from their perspective.  Just a thought.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Are You My Acquiring Editor?

Dear Lit Lovies,
 I'm waiting to see who is going to be my acquiring editor because I've written five manuscripts in three years.  And yes, you read that correctly.  I'm putting the final touches on my latest manuscript.  Which editor is going to find the diamond in the hay stack?  Will he/she be from Random House, Kensington Books, Simon and Schuster, or Globe Pequot Press?  Doesn't matter to me.  My priority is getting the material out there.  I write about life's sticky subjects:  domestic violence, secrecy, healthcare, rivalry, the tyranny of corporate America, life, death, and all those other topics of endless commentary and fascination.  I've got the next Tuesdays With Morrie that's geared for women.  Some lucky editor and agent will discover that this author is the exception to the rule or realize they have the winning lottery ticket.  Until then, I'm just being patient and getting my manuscripts scripted into the proper format. 


Friday, September 5, 2014

Vacation Blogging

Dear Lit Loves,

It's been four years, four manuscripts and now I am taking a vacation.  Me and The Brewster decided to reward ourselves after four radically tough years so here we are vacationing on Hilton Head Island.  I'm taking eight days to sit under an umbrella on the beach and read, spend my afternoons at the pool, and venturing out in the evenings for a decent place to eat. 

The trip to Hilton Head Island from Atlanta took about four and a half hours.  I did overhear a conversation at a nearby table last night in which a man bragged that he drove that route in three hours!  Where's the fire, dude?!  We stopped for lunch on our way here.  Upon arriving in the late afternoon we unpacked, toured the resort, and went to dinner at Marley's.  I had crab cakes and the Brewster had spiced salmon.  Honestly, Marley's might be the best restaurant on the island. 

My first day here, I blew out my flip flops.  Seriously, I was coming back out to the beach when the soles of my flip flops fell off and yes, the sand was mighty hot!  Wonder if this is what Jimmy Buffett is speaking about in his song "Margaritaville"?  The Brewster took a look at the flip flops; there was no hope.  Those babies were gone.  There wasn't enough super glue on the island with which to piece them back together.  So I went and bought me a new pair at The Westin hotel.  After accomplishing this, we made our way to San Miguel's for tex-mex.  Delicious, and we didn't break the bank either.  Plus, they have especially fresh salsa. 

The next day I found myself at the pool swimming laps and reading the book entitled The Cancer Chronicles when the Brewster appeared.  Lo and behold, the man's left flip flop was coming apart.  You know what an engineer does with a non-compliant flip flop?  He finds a rubber band to hold the parts together. We went to The Old Oyster Factory for dinner that evening.  My shrimp basket and hushpuppies were to die for, but the Brewster said his Mahi Mahi was way overcooked.  The view there is terrific by the way.  And then we headed to the local grocery store where the Brewster bought super glue and proceeded to fix his flip flop.  It worked.

I'm shocked at the number of people on their cell phones/smart phones while on the beach!  Yikes!  One man had his with him while jumping waves in the ocean.  And I'm seeing fifty percent of people reading with ipads/Kindles and fifty percent are reading the old-fashioned way like me.  Interestingly, some people like to sit or stand in the pool while reading their book/novel.  After getting splashed by several kids who decided to use the pool fountains at water cannons, there was no way in hell I was taking a book in the pool with me. 

Which brings me to going one evening to get pizza.  We went to Giuseppe's Pizza.  Good salads, outstanding staff, and extremely good pizza.  I highly recommend it!   On the flip side of this, we went to one local seafood joint on the harbor front.  Beautiful boats and scenery.  The Brewster said this place was well known and good.  The first issue was hearing a server converse with the woman sitting at the table behind me about how they were both from New York.  The next thing you know the server is making fun of southerners and the way we speak.  Not amusing.  I ordered a crab cake sandwich and the Brewster had the spicy sauteed shrimp over pasta.  Mine was nothing to write home about and no, I could not get sweet tea there either which didn't help matters. The Brewster said his meal was okay, but nothing to write home about so we have forever scratched that restaurant off our list of recommendations. 

Today, it started raining.  We opted not to be in the pool during a storm.  I made my way out to the balcony and actually saw several people in the pool during the storm.  Diehards.  I admire their fortitude, but wondered where there common sense had gone?  Perhaps on the mega pool slide?  When it rains, I go shopping.  So I visited the local Lilly Pulitzer store and found myself another pair of flip flops (seventy-five percent off) and a sundress (fifty percent off)!  Score!!  The Brewster and I then went to lunch at a place called Red Fish.  I definitely recommend the blue crab dip.  The Brewster had the spicy rock shrimp tacos with black beans and I had the Thai Chicken Salad.  Simply superb!  This made up for the previous night's major disappointment.

I have a couple more days here in paradise before I head back to HotLanta.  And Lord knows I could use some good news from an editor or agent right about now or anytime in the VERY NEAR FUTURE!  In the mean time, I'm meditating, living in the moment, napping and dodging small children as well as teenagers with shovels, water guns and water cannons!!

Til Next Time, May You Find Your Own Little Piece Of Paradise Wherever You Are!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Current Project: Helping A Friend Facing Death

Dear Lit Loves,
I'm the closest I've been to getting published in that two editors have my book proposal and man uscript entitled Riding The Spinning Teacups about life adventures with an inner ear disorder and all the strange ailments and medical encounters that accompanied that diagnosis.  The other day someone asked me what my current writing project was about and truthfully, it's a little difficult to talk about much less write about due to the heavy nature of the subject matter.  I must say though I haven't really read or seen a memoir manuscript that attempts to confront the subject matter of death via long distance communication, but that's what happened.  My current writing is about conversing with a former coworker and true friend while she was in the midst of coping with a terminal illness.  This lady was single with no family living near her.  When asked by her doctor about her support system she firmly told him, "You're looking at it."   She was a fiercely independent woman and one of the most dedicated instructors with whom I've ever taught. 

Let's think about it:  What would you do if someone called you and needed your long distance support while coping with a diagnosis that would eventually rob the person of his/her life in the next seven and a half months?  Would you hope the person finds someone else for support?  Stop answering the phone?  Let the answering machine pick up the calls and hope the person gets the message?  Or, would you answer the call each and every instance in which this person needed support and assistance while making the journey to heaven's door?  I took the latter road.  And I don't regret it because I tapped into a part of me that I didn't know existed and the whole experience forced me to confront the reality we all will eventually encounter:  mortality. 

At this point in the conversation about my current writing project most people are struck speechless, freaked out, or wonder how they would respond in a similar situation.  Others have honestly told me they encountered something similar and chose to not participate or rather, exit stage left.  I don't judge them because before Labor Day of last year I had no idea how I would respond either.  Which brings me to my current blog writing topic:

Why Writing About And Encountering Death Makes People A Little Uncomfortable

1)  It brings back the death of a loved one.  I'm not going to kid you here in that I've had a bit of experience staring down the grim reaper.  My dad survived quintuple bypass surgery, two bouts of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and a stem cell transplant.  When you encounter that degree of illness you definitely know there's a possibility that it's your "time".  I have to say though that seeing my dad face his own mortality helped me counsel my friend even though she eventually lost the battle against a debilitating disease.  I also had flashbacks to my grandfather's death and funeral along with my grandmother's.  With my grandmother, my dad had to make a decision about withdrawing life support and that's a whole other excruciating experience. But it makes you THINK, not remain numb. 

2)  It brings to mind your own mortality.  This is the first time I've encountered somone near my own age coping with a terminal diagnosis.  And as I witnessed her anger, denial, frustration, and surrender to death, it made me wonder if I myself was ready to "face the music" so to speak.  Do I live in fear of death?  Am I still living in my invincible teenage years when death happens to those "other" people who are older?  How would I react to a terminal diagnosis?  Would I run and hide?  Live as if it's not happening?  Or, take the bull by the horns and say, "Let's get on with it"? 

3)  It makes you assess if you are prepared for death.  Seriously, if you get advanced notice, as my friend did, that you've only got a finite amount of living left, you start wondering if you're prepared.  Do you having a living will?  Who do you want to make healthcare decisions for you if you can't make them yourself?  How about financial power-of-attorney?  And do you wish to be cremated or buried?  Do you have a will/trust or both?  Eventually, we're all going to come up against these type of decisions. The absolute worst thing is when a person dies and none of these decisions have been made.  It causes the people left behind to feel overwhelmed and bewildered.

4)  It forces you to become more aware of those around you making their final journey.  During my conversations with my terminally diagnosed friend, I became acutely aware after learning of someone else's death that he/she must have experienced some of what my friend was experiencing.  I began to read the obituaries in the newspaper and felt a particular affinity to those dying from a diagnosis similar to my friend's.  My family lost three family friends during this particular period and it made me think profoundly about what each of those people must have experienced.

5)  It makes you ask yourself, will I be ready?  I'm always reminded of the questionnaire on the last page of Vanity Fair magazine where someone famous is interviewed and asked, "How would you like to die?"  Most people say "in my sleep."  It makes you wonder, have I made my bucket list?  Did I accomplish what I wanted in this life?  Is there something I still need to do or make peace with in my life?  And it will really force many of us to ask ourselves if we believe in a higher power or not.

6)  We're all slowly dying once we're born.  I didn't used to think about it like this, but now that I'm in my mid forties, it has become readily apparent that I don't have the knees I once had at sixteen.  Heck, I definitely don't have the vision or hearing I once had either.  I'd rather go ahead and admit it as opposed to try and live in denial about it or God forbid, have plastic surgery and try and turn back time.  I'm not going to try and fool anyone about my age, least of all myself.

7)  Did I do everything I could to help a dying person?  After the experience with my friend, I now have started asking myself if, once I learn someone I know has a critical surgery or diagnosis, did I do everything I could to help that person?  Did they reach out to me and ask for my advice or help?  If so, did I give of myself such that I'm at peace that I did all I could to help someone make the best decision or get the best care they could?  I mean, how would you want someone to respond to you if you had a terminal illness or critically important surgery?  During my time helping my friend with a terminal diagnosis, I had another friend be diagnosed with a brain tumor in the frontal lobe.  She had been having health problems and finally, a doctor did a CT scan and found the tumor.  She called to ask me about the neurosurgeon she had been referred to and asked who would I have do this surgery if this were my diagnosis.  Well, I researched the surgeon who was recommended and discovered he had several malpractice suits against him.  Then I called one of my doctors at Emory and asked him who would he get to do the surgery if his daughter received this diagnosis.  He didn't hesitate with an answer and that's the surgeon who eventually successfully removed my friend's benign brain tumor.

8)  Who would be your support if you had advanced notice of dying?  Seriously.  Who would you call upon for help?  Could you count on that person?  Would you call clergy?  Would you hire a counselor?  These are all questions I've asked myself since my friend's death. Do I have a support cavalry?  If so, who is it and how many people are members?

9)  What's been your experience with death?  Were you present in the hospital when a family member or friend died?  Do you know what that's like?  Have you ever had to make a decision about someone's healthcare or whether to end life support?  Do you prefer a memorial service at a church or a celebration of life get together at someone's home?  Have you been to a graveside service or ever been the recipient of someone's ashes? 

10)  And finally, I think it's important to ask yourself, do I live in fear of death?  Am I at peace with my eventual mortality?  Or am I travelling along life's peaks and valleys preferring to think that death/mortality happens to "other" people and it's not something I have to consider until much, much later.  Well guess what folks?!  Sometimes much, much later is tomorrow, or a month from now.  You just never know.

That's it from the peanut gallery this week! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Top Five Rules Regarding The Query Process and Literary Agents

Dear Literary Loves,

Oh my, my!  It's been a dastardly week here in the deep south.  The heat and humidity are driving people to rage against anyone: note the driver who passed me in the median while I was in the left lane.  The Braves are on one major losing streak.  And why oh why are people making bomb threats against Emory Hospital for taking in the Ebola patients from Nigeria?!! 

And then I checked this morning as all new writers should be doing just to keep up with literary agents and what they are accepting and rejecting.  I did not expect to find writers making some really common errors in relation to their prospects as potential debut authors.  Lord. Have. Mercy.  I've decided to post my top five rules regarding the query process and literary agents.  For those of you who have no idea what the query process is allow me to introduce you:  It's when you construct a one page letter introducing your manuscript to a literary agent and grab their attention by the throat until they are screaming "I Must Sign This Writer Now!"  Comprende?!

Let's Begin.

1)  For heaven's sake, do not query a literary agent until you have researched what genres they represent!  This does not mean only one reference site because websites can be seriously outdated.  Check Google for the books they have represented over the last five to ten years.  Check the literary agent's personal website or blog.  Do check the literary agency website where the agent works.  Honestly, I read a lot of interviews with literary agents to get an idea of their likes/dislikes.  Let me tell you there is one agent who went off on a vile tangent in reply to one writer's query because he/she DOES NOT accept queries for the memoir genre and it's written in capital letters on her agency's website. Do your homework lovies!

2) If you query a literary agent and they turn down your query, don't get all huffy puffy about it.  There's more than one fish in the sea as my dad says so move on to query the next literary agent.  It's that simple really.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT reply to a query rejection with a nasty reply.  You do not want to burn bridges.  It's a small business and it could come back to haunt you.  Now, if one of your formerly favorite authors disses you as a new writer and you decide to go find the nearest trash barrel and burn all her/his books or donate the books, you have my complete sympathy. 

3)  Let's be polite and professional folks.  If you have met a literary agent at a conference and you didn't exactly become BFFs or you have knowledge of their office decor and it's lacking in your estimation, DO NOT post this on a query site, your blog, or anywhere else publishing folks and writers lurk.  Guess what folks?  The literary agents and their assistants read some of the same sites!

4)  Get the query right.  Honestly, it is hard to summarize a two hundred and fifty page manuscript in one paragraph, but give them what they want folks.  You've got to sell the manuscript in one paragraph.  And for heaven's sake, do not just rely on your computer's spell checker when editing your query.  Give it to other people and see what they find.  Better yet, after they read your query, ask them what your book is about and why a literary agent could potentially market it to a publisher.  If they can't answer those questions, the literary agent probably won't be able to either. 

5)  Remember it's all subjective.  Some folks just don't connect with a book that shares five points of view while telling a story.  Some people will scream if they come across one more book containing a vampire or werewolf.  And some folks will say they cannot connect with your main character even if the main character is you as is the case in memoir.  It's just personal preference.  I like Tuesdays With Morrie and you like Divergent so we'll be on opposite sides of Barnes and Noble.  You like to read on a tablet and I like the old school printed version; it all just boils down to personal taste. 

Now, I'm off to break for lunch, contemplate my next query targets, and reach out to some editors.  And BIG CONGRATS to my stylist brother on getting to cut and style the hair for Gavin DeGraw and his band; you really rocked it backstage bro! 

Later Lit Lovies,

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: Now I See You: A Memoir by Nicole C. Kear

Dear Lit Loves,

Well, I'm still in the holding booth in terms of acquiring a literary agent; but, I'm making friends with editors at the big six publishers that buy memoirs like those I write.  In the meantime, I'm getting on with my summer reading.  This week's choice was Now I See You:  A Memoir by Nicole C. Kear.  First, let me say, I picked up this memoir because it's about a woman who chronicles how her life is affected by the degenerative eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa.  You know I'm interested because I've lived since age sixteen with Uveitis.  And around age twenty-eight, I started to develop Uveitic Glaucoma along with a whole host of other weird, rare, and high unusual issues.

First, let me say, though the author comes across with a strong voice in this book, it's not one I found informative or enhancing to what she's trying to communicate.  She chooses outright flippant humor as the primary voice in this memoir.  Sometimes I was just generally put off by the language she used in the memoir; you don't have to be vulgar and categorically gross to engage readers in a good memoir.  The author discovers at an early age that she has retinitis pigmentosa which basically will rob her of her eyesight in what her specialist tells her will be ten years.  At this point in time, there is no effective treatment for RP.  The route the author takes is not one of pro-activity.  She basically does what most typical nineteen year old individuals would do:  activate extreme denial.  And this leads to living in the moment by traveling places, having as many romances as possible, and living on the edge.  I do support the author not tolerating lackadaisical bedside manners on the part of specialists; one specialist basically blows her off following diagnosis and the other specialist becomes highly judgmental.  I have zero tolerance for either of these behaviors in my medical experts.

Eventually, this book explores what the author's life is like once she becomes a mom and has an eye condition that she keeps hidden from virtually everyone except her immediate family and her husband.  When you're losing your eyesight, the usual first part to go is your night vision and your peripheral vision.  Eventually, the author has a humorous time attempting to keep up with a four year old and one year old when her window of vision is getting smaller and smaller.  She runs into fire hydrants, dogs, and theatrical props.  I think the biggest shock for me as a person also having a disease that will take my eyesight is that the author didn't take a more proactive stance when it comes to finding a university research specialist to treat her disease earlier in her life.  It's not until the last third of the book that she readily admits to the state of New York that she needs serious help for the visually impaired.  Also, she was rather late to the support group meetings.  And what kind of relationship transpired between the mom she finally meets who also has the same eye disease?  There was no exploration of that friendship than their initial meeting. 

In the end, the author makes a decision that she says is one of the first she made without fear.  I have to say, I don't think that just because I chose not to have kids means I'm making decisions out of fear.  My priorities are far different than this author.  My life does not revolve around being a mom.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching middle and high school students.  I've saved myself a great deal of stress, worry, and anxiety by having the assurance that I am the only person afflicted with my ailments and my happiness is totally up to me.  True, part of the reason I chose not to have kids is because I don't want to pass on Uveitis, Uveitic Glaucoma, Meniere's disease, etc., but that doesn't make me a person making decisions due to fear.  That makes me a woman, patient, and writer that makes decision because she knows herself well and how best to achieve personal happiness.  My memoir (that will hopefully be published) will show how I chose a different road than this author and still achieved effective treatment for my eye disease and personal fulfillment.  Can't well to tell the world how I did it.

Up next is Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Dana.  The title is intriguing enough and I'll let you know soon enough what I think about the book's narrative.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Publishing Update and Review of Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Dear Lit Loves,

Oh wow.  What a three weeks it has been since I last wrote!  Currently, several literary agents have my book proposal and manuscript for the memoir I wrote about life adventures with a balance or vestibular disorder.  I started my next manuscript about climbing the staircases of heaven with a close friend during her bout with a terminal illness.  And special thanks to all the individuals who signed up to follow my blog!  I had a friend ask me recently why in the world it matters how many blog followers you have when it comes to writing and publishing a good book.  It's insane, I know.  No one had to go to these extraordinary lengths fifteen years ago, but social media is such a big deal to the publishing community.  Fortunately, my publishing friend who is an executive vice president at a major publishing house keeps sending me emails to swing for the fences or I might have developed several stomach ulcers by now! 

In the meantime I decided to read Poser:  My Life in 23 Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer.  I'm not a yoga person.  I'm a get on the treadmill and interval train person.  Or better, get on a bike and go enjoy the outside world.   I always thought yoga was just a warm up exercise for the nitty gritty stuff of real exercising.   In Ms. Dederer's case I think she utilized yoga intentionally or unintentionally as a means of facing issues she had long been avoiding and also t how to learn how to remain in the present moment without running from it in a panic.  The author grew up in a rather radical home.  Her parents separated when she was very young, but they never got around to divorcing.  It was the 70s and her mom just took off with the kids and basically decided to take up the cause of feminist liberation by leaving her husband and building a life with a much younger boyfriend.  And the weird thing about the whole situation is that no one ever really addressed the fact that her mom and dad stayed married, had get togethers, and generally kept up a relatively decent family life despite not getting divorced.  Even when the author is in her thirties and has her first child, her parents still have not officially divorced and her mom is still with the hippie boyfriend.  Wow.  Talk about living in denial. 

 The interesting issue for Ms. Dederer is that she has grown up learning how to pretend everything is perfect when in fact the crap is hitting the fan.  She lives in Seattle with quite a few liberal parents that believe in organic diapers, organic produce, and some kind of interesting school that's called a co-op which to me sounded like a Montessori school.  She becomes overly concerned with raising her child perfectly according to the standards of others.  Therein lies the problem.  Additionally, her husband is a freelance writer who has a tendency toward depression when it comes to financially taking care of his family because he is in a profession that doesn't pay well and is also real short on job security.  The author is also a freelance writer.  The more devastating problem comes when neither the author nor the husband directly addresses their issue; they just go on pretending everything is okay.    Ms. Dederer takes up yoga because she believes it is a way of becoming a good or more perfect mother, but what is really happening is that she's looking for a way of escaping her reality.  Here's the funny thing:  Yoga forces you to live in the moment and "feel"reality.  And that's exactly what happens.  Not surprisingly, the author takes up more and more challenging forms of yoga. 

Eventually, life in Seattle gets entirely too overwhelming.  The couple moves with their two kids to Colorado.  They rent a house, the husband takes up a fellowship post at the local university and Ms. Dederer begins to enjoy life.  She starts hiking and spending time at a Buddhist university.  She
even takes up hiking and doing yoga with one of the leading gurus.  Her relationship with her husband becomes more fulfilling.  Her kids go to public school.  She becomes a book reviewer and the family decides to stay on another year in Colorado.  Eventually, what Ms. Dederer learns is how to be mindful of her present circumstances in all their imperfectness and not try make everything appear perfect.  There is no perfect.  We're all just stumbling along trying to find our way.  Yoga is what forces Ms. Dederer to let go of the living perfectly concept and go with the flow.  It's not about the perfect pose for the longest amount of time.  It's about knowing yourself, realizing your imperfections, and not running from your circumstances like your hair's on fire.  And what does she eventually do?  She realizes she just needs some space between she and her parents.  She can find contentment and fulfillment even during the most absurd moments in life.  Interestingly, it's almost like she has to run away from her former life in order to get to this life truth.  Life is messy people.  You've got to remain focused on your happiness and well-being regardless of what insane decisions other people and the rest of the world are making.  And for heaven's sake, at the end of the book I just wanted to shake the author and say, "Keep the yoga girlfriend!  Forget Perfect!  Embrace the messiness of life!  That's the only way to keep your head above water, you know?!"

Okay lit loves, I am off to read Now I See You by Nicole Kear.  I'm also about to read Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Dana which just the title intrigues me.  Till next time!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?! by Maria Semple

Dear Lit Loves,

So for some odd reason a huge number of people that I've come across lately were all hysterically jumping up and down about the book entitled Where'd You Go, Bernadette?!   And maybe if you like your books on the satirical side, this might be the book for you.  Honestly though, people know I live and breathe memoir so I HAVE NO IDEA why they recommended this book to me.  Maybe I just wanted to see what all the fuss is about?  To clarify, I never read memoir by famous people.  I like the memoirs by real people with real lives and real problems thank you very much.

Basically this novel follows a family where the dad is a scientific genius and the mom is a one-time brilliant architect who won a MacArthur award.  After something terrible happens in relation to the mom and the dad has Microsoft buy his company, the couple move to Seattle.  They buy a home that used to be a home for abandoned or runaway girls which is in complete disrepair.  They have a daughter that they send to a private academy.  And the mom basically checks out of her life.  No, seriously, she doesn't repair the home; she rarely goes outside the house; she appears to hate people or maybe just the people in Seattle (I couldn't totally tell).  The dad appears to be working 24/7 at Microsoft and loving the Seattle tree-hugging environment.  Eventually, the dad discovers just how wayward and lost his wife has become and let me tell you it's because she's an artist and she has stopped creating.  That's what this whole book is about:  Do not check out of life if you are in an artistic field!  The dad tries to have the mom committed.  Meanwhile, the daughter Bee appears to be a well-adjusted thriving middle schooler even though her parents have little if any contact with the school she attends or the community.  The mom, Bernadette, goes missing.  The remainder of the book involves the dad and daughter trying to piece together what in the world happened to Bernadette.  And let me tell you, there were so many points of view in this book I almost couldn't keep up with them.  The story is told through emails, notes, and transcriptions of phone calls.  Which brings me to the one part that really bugged me:  I wrote a manuscript in diary form and had a literary agent just shred it due to the "lack" of structured chapters.  Well, I can tell you, this book is not organized into chapters; it's barely put together in parts. 

At times I felt sorry for Bernadette because of what happened to her before she left California.   At the same time, she brought A LOT of the insane stuff that happens to her on herself.  I mean, who the heckfire is so lackadaisical that they never cook, only order takeout, and then instead of washing the dishes, just throws them in nearby bureau drawers?!  And how do you buy a ginormous home, leave it in complete disrepair, borderline condemnable?  And you call yourself an architect by trade?!  And honestly, I thought Bernadette should have stayed at the port where her daughter eventually finds her especially if she was just going to barely exist in life and not grab life by the horns and ride that bull until it screams Uncle baby! 

But you know me, I'm never at a loss for an opinion.  I do memoir so naturally this book didn't grip me and make me think about the larger issues in life so I'm not going to be gung-ho about recommending this book; however, if you like and thrive on reading about wealthy folks who definitely need to grow up and get a real life, then this book might be for you.  I'm off to read true
memoir in the form of Poser:  My Life in 23 Yoga Poses and Now I See You.  Will be back shortly lit lovies!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Critical Care by Theresa Brown

Dear Lit Loves,

While I'm patiently waiting to hear from literary agents and publishers, I'm continuing to read widely in my preferred genre of memoir.  Last week I read Critical Care:  A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown.  I really like to read about all things medical as I've had a vast amount of experience with the medical industry over the course of not only my life, but the lives of my immediate family.  This book was a very fine read about a woman who was once an English professor at Tufts University when one day she decided she wasn't doing what she wanted to do with her life.  Happens to quite a few of us.  She decided to return to school to become a nurse and this book chronicles her first year of nursing on an oncology ward. 

One of the first nurse responsibilities Ms. Brown chronicled was when to call a "Condition A".  A "Condition A" means a patient has crashed or arrested.  I had always assumed it was the physician that made this call, but no, nurses make the call especially if you are in house at the hospital and not arriving via ambulance.  When a nurse makes this kind of call, it basically means all hands on deck; we've got a patient in serious distress and on the verge of death.  In this particular case Ms. Brown encounters a woman who had been admitted after a CT scan showed profuse amounts of lung disease and the patient was having trouble breathing.  When her heart rate went to 160 beats per minute the all hands on deck mode went into effect whereby adenosine, a medication to regulate heart arrhythmias, was administered.  This caused the patient to experience a kind of shock, but it also stabilized and returned to a regular heart rate.  Two weeks later Nurse Brown returns to see this patient once again on her rotation, but the woman is near death.  Her body remains, but she is unaware.  She was having such a difficult time breathing that she was experiencing air hunger where the patient is grasping physically for air.  The family of the patient asks Nurse Brown to assemble a priest to administer last rites.  Later, after family members have expresses a desire for the patient to no longer suffer, Nurse Brown removes the breathing mask and gives the patient morphine.  The patient passes.  This is Nurse Brown's first experience with patient death and she learns that she must call the funeral home and the funeral home prefers to pick up patients with no family members present. 

It was also interesting to me to read about a nurse's first year experience on an oncology ward for cancer patients as I've spent much time on one.  My dad has anaplastic large cell lymphoma that has relapsed twice and he's also had a stem cell transplant.  Additionally, my mom has endured breast cancer.  And my dad and I have both been treated for skin cancer.  An oncology floor is challenging, but it's not without its victories as when Nurse Brown stands up to a pre-op nurse in order to make sure one of her sickest cancer patients gets his Hickman catheter so he can begin receiving his chemo treatment.  Cancer doesn't take a vacation and the longer a patient has to wait for catheters to be embedded in the body, the more time the cancer has to spread.  Nurse Brown thinks like this and she wasn't scared to stand her ground against another more experienced nurse in another busy department of her hospital. 

And nurses are also the folks who have to deliver news of death to a family member.  This happens when a patient assigned to Nurse Brown is sent down to the basement area of the hospital for a radiation treatment.  His wife chose that time to go to lunch or run an errand.  Later, Nurse Brown receives a call from radiation informing her that her patient down in radiation has coded and since he has no "do not resuscitate" papers, the medical team is continually trying to revive him.  Nurse Brown has to be the one to give this news to the patient's wife upon her return, but the wife must go down to radiation and give the crash team permission to stop trying to revive her husband.  And only then can the medical team pronounce the patient dead.  My advice:  Have the living will done, get the healthcare power of attorney form completed and signed by a notary, and don't make your family have to make these kind of awful decisions when something dire happens to you.

And who even knew that bullying exists even among the nurses at a hospital.  Sure enough, Nurse Brown experiences brushes with nurses who critique her patient notes and those that just plain want to point out her shortcomings in front of all the people on the oncology floor.  This made me furious because honestly, there's no time for this type of juvenile behavior on an oncology ward.  So I was glad to learn that Nurse Brown moved to an adjacent oncology floor where stem cell transplants and bone marrow transplants take place.  There's no shouting at staff, no staff belittling one another, and  better still, the oncology staff works as a team and takes up for one another.  This is as it should be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, learned quite a few things in the process, and overall felt satisfied I had come away from the book knowing more than when I first read the back copy.  It's excellent and you should read it.  Until next time,

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy National Lilly Pulitzer Day!

Did You Find Your Lilly For This Summer?!  I've Got Mine!
Lemonade, Sea Shells, and Sunshine.......Summer Spells Lilly Time!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Ladies! You Must Know How To Cope With The Unimaginable

Dear Lit Loves,

It's been a trying week in my efforts to inject myself into the publishing community.  Most everyone who knows me can tell you that I write about facing down unimaginable health issues:  chronic, rare and perplexing disorders and diseases.  I've been doing this since I was age three and contracted a form of bacterial meningitis from a preschool classmate and wound up surviving.  Why is that so unusual you ask?  Because the year was 1972 and no one survived it back then without suffering major bodily damage like going cross-eyed or not being able to walk.  I then was diagnosed with Meniere's disease at age eighteen.  You know, the inner ear disorder where fluid builds up inside the cochlea and vertigo ensues.  Eventually, you lose your balance, hearing, and oftentimes your dignity.  Yes, I've dealt with that since 1988, age eighteen.  Then in my late twenties, I developed the chronic form of an eye condition called Uveitis which inflames the eye and causes vision loss.  And obviously, this led to Uveitic Glaucoma for which I've had five surgeries to implant a shunt to drain my inner eye fluid and save my vision.  Plus, I was also found to have an underlying autoimmune disorder called Cogan's syndrome which causes my immune system to attack my own organs and damage them.  I regularly take chemo to keep that from happening.

And heaven knows I've dealt with facing the grim reaper when it comes to my family.  My dad has had quintuple bypass surgery along with two bouts of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma along with one stem cell transplant.  My mom has endured breast cancer and I just recently watched a fellow teaching colleague battle a recurrence of neuroendocrine colon cancer which by the time it was found, had spread to her brain and liver.  No one avoids the unimaginable or the grim reaper so if you think you will, you are sadly mistaken. 

It came as a bit offensive to me this past week when a literary agent who had requested an adventurous, inspiring memoir rejected my book proposal and manuscript "because it didn't quite pique her interest enough".  Short of jumping on a broom and flying to New York to stand in my Tory Burch heels to whack my broom on her desk while yelling "What the hell is your problem?!  I wrote this for women who need to know how to deal with the healthcare system!  I wrote this because I'm a firm believer in being your own patient advocate!  I write to enable women to come to grips with the reality that you can't run from adversity sister; you can live in denial all you want, but everybody faces the pied piper one day or another!  So you've got to put on your big girl Spanx and understand that in this healthcare system we have today, whether it's you, your dad, or your best friend, you better know how to deal with discrimination, sexism, negligence, asinine surgeons, cash-strapped insurance companies, and how to research and receive the best care possible or you are quite simply Up A Freaking Creek!  Do you understand me?!"  Cause what I'm saying sister is that this material may not pique your interest today for whatever reason, but one day, when you're the one receiving the grim diagnosis or waiting in the pre-op holding area for that life-saving surgery, you're gonna think back and go, "Damn, wonder what that gal who wrote about all this really had to say; what had she learned that might have helped me now?"  So even if I don't pique your interest right this second darling, one day you will think back and remember that I truly had the valuable insight to share; I have the experiences and an up close and personal relationship with the ugly, badass diseases and disorders that will one day invade your life; well, damn, you'll think, "she knew how to cope and deal and resolve, but it didn't pique my interest then, but it does now because the unimaginable drop-kicked down my front door and decided to set up its next residence in my living room."   And you know what I'm going to say sister, "I tried to tell you; I tried to help you; I tried to enlighten you. BUT it didn't pique your interest, till now." 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: Shouting Won't Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can't Hear You by Katherine Bouton

Dear Lit Loves,

As promised I read Shouting Won't Help by Katherine Bouton as my next narrative nonfiction choice.  I chose this book because Ms. Bouton relates her experiences as a person who has, like me, suffered sensorineural hearing loss.  Please understand that when I read a book like this I am reading it from the standpoint of a patient that was diagnosed with Meniere's disease at age eighteen.  Ms. Bouton worked at The New Yorker as a journalist when she first realized she had hearing loss that was putting her job in jeopardy.  She goes on to relate to the reader, in an oftentimes highly technical manner, how she came to recognize and accept she was profoundly deaf in her left ear and headed that way in her right ear as well.  I mean, when you have problems hearing people over the phone and have to ask them to write you a memo or send a summary email about that which you discussed on the phone, you have some serious issues.  Like the vast majority of people, Ms. Bouton lived in denial for a long time about how badly she needed to get help for her hearing loss.  There are several chapters where she discusses the stigma associated with hearing loss being age-related as well as hearing loss being an invisible disability.  This proved interesting to me because I never really lived in denial about my own hearing issues; when you have vertigo in which you spend eight or nine hours on the floor regurgitating and it's due to fluid buildup in your inner ear, you tend to seek help immediately.  I viewed my vertigo and hearing loss as an emergency.  Maybe it was because I was so young in comparison to when Ms. Bouton began to lose her hearing in her thirties and forties.

Ms. Bouton never truly gets an answer for what caused her sensorineural hearing loss.  Sensorineural hearing loss is when the hearing loss results from aging or noise exposure and it's particularly when the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged.  Worse, you can also suffer hearing loss due to damage to the auditory nerve which is responsible for carrying sound to the brain.  The other type of hearing loss is conductive and it mostly occurs in children.  Conductive hearing loss is when ear wax impedes sound and causes hearing loss or you have a structural anomaly within the ear causing hearing loss.  In Ms. Bouton's case, she eventually believes her hearing loss was due to a trip she took to Turkey to help in an excavation process.  She became profoundly sick during this trip and believes a parasite or virus is what eventually caused her loss of hearing.  She was tested for Meniere's disease by doctors, but I could tell by the way she glossed over the ENG test used to diagnose Meniere's that there was no way she could have this disease.  An ENG for me, an actual Meniere's patient, is more like getting a root canal and then being hit by a semi.  It ain't fun and no, I do not indulge my doctors in the results for an ENG except every ten years.  Ms. Bouton's vertigo experiences were extremely mild as well and held no comparison to those I suffer.  She did opt for hearing aids and a cochlear implant to  help improve her hearing.  The hearing aid proved difficult for her because getting the correct fit seems near impossible.  The cochlear implant proved somewhat beneficial for Ms. Bouton.  When you get a cochlear implant your neurosurgeon goes into the inner ear via the skull.  He drills a tunnel from the mastoid bone toward the cochlea in the inner ear.  The neurosurgeon then places the electrode into the cochlea and reseals the area with body tissue.  Because inevitably some of the inner ear fluid inside the cochlea can leak out, a  person will experience balance problems after surgery until the site heals and the fluid equalizes.  (This was a very technical part of the book so I'm doing my best to keep it as simple as possible; however, even I got confused while reading about this).  Now, here's the real kicker of cochlear implant surgery:  the device can't be activated until a month after surgery.  Once the implant is activated a patient can expect to spend many an appointment with an audiologist trying to adjust the software within so the person actually can recognize incoming sound as words.  Honestly, the difficulties this caused Ms. Bouton and the highly frequent visits she had to make with her audiologist made me think it would have been better to lip-read or pick up sign language because that's how frustrating I found her experience coping with a cochlear implant to be. 

Now, the author does discuss all sorts of other technology that can be used along with cochlear implants and hearing aids to assist people in hearing from cell phones, in theaters, etc., but honestly I have to say, it all sounded like Greek to me without any sort of diagrams or pictures of the actual technology to help illustrate this kind of advanced technology.  Ms. Bouton does a good job describing what it feels like to have Tinnitus or ringing/buzzing/ humming in the ear.  It can be annoying and I've learned to ignore my own bouts with tinnitus or at least not have a panic attack when it sounds like an ambulance siren going off inside my left ear.  I was given Antivert for bouts with tinnitus which basically soothes the nerve endings inside the inner ear which alleviates my tinnitus.  On a daily basis I use a variety of drugs for my Meniere's disease including a diuretic, anti-anxiety medication,  and an anti-depressant.  For bouts with extreme vertigo, I utilize Valium which has greatly shorten the length and severity of my attacks. 

Ms. Bouton touches on some advancements in the pipeline for persons with senorineural hearing loss especially the regeneration of inner ear hair cells.  This is still in the pipeline though.  The military is actually working on a pill to assist with improving hearing loss as well as helping to prevent hearing loss in the first place.  I found this part of the book most interesting as this is cutting edge to me.  I'm not sure how realistic it is to regenerate inner ear hair cells.  Maybe it can be accomplished with stem cells, but I still think it will be a long while before we see that capability.  I think it's more feasible to find a pharmaceutical agent that eventually helps those of us with severe hearing loss.  Do we need to use earplugs and turn down the volume on the ipod?  Definitely.  Will teenagers do this?  I seriously doubt it.  I listen to Aerosmith sometimes at loud volumes and I have Meniere's disease.  Sometimes I just want to rock out while driving my Mustang.  Admittedly, I do this a lot less these days, but teenagers feel and think they're invincible so let's all be realistic. 

All in all, I was satisfied with this memoir about hearing loss, but I wasn't jumping up and down about it and recommending it to all the members of my Meniere's disease support group.  I think this book frequently was way too technical.  And I kept wondering why Ms. Bouton, after spending so much money on hearing aids, implants, and other tech devices, didn't go ahead and begin auditory and speech therapy long before she did.  Yes, it's frustrating having hearing loss that cannot be reversed and for which there is no cure.  I will say that Histamine injections once a week have certainly helped me which was a treatment Ms. Bouton did not discuss in the book.  I think there definitely needs to be a book about sensorineural hearing loss due to other causes, and I think another book needs to tackle the issue in a simpler, more personable fashion. 

Till next time,

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

Dear Lit Loves,
I had seen this book entitled Heaven Is For Real everywhere recently.  I would look at the cover with the little blonde, blue-eyed boy and think, "Well, Duh!  Of course it is!"  Now you have to understand that I've had my own experiences with unusual medical conditions, family deaths,  and my dad surviving lymphoma twice along with a stem cell transplant and heart bypass surgery.  Not to mention my mom has survived breast cancer.  And recently, I had a friend and former teaching colleague who was undergoing more treatment for a relapse of small cell neuroendocrine cancer with a terminal diagnosis.  I've encountered people who have confronted death as well as folks who have had near death experiences so I have to say by nature, I'm suspicious of supernatural experiences.  I think they do and can happen particularly when people who are near death suddenly describe visits from relatives that have passed before them.  This particular book had my warning antennae up from the get-go because a four year old child had an experience visiting heaven.  I don't know about you, but I've been around four year olds and they like to embellish and they really like to keep an adult's attention so I started reading with a skeptical frame of mind.

In this book the four year old boy is the son of a small town Wesleyan minister in Nebraska.  He has a sister than is about two years older than him.  His mother teaches part-time and his dad supplements his pastoral salary by being an assistant coach, a volunteer firefighter, and the parents have a garage door business.  The family is visiting another church with a bigger membership when the four year old, who had been diagnosed with the stomach flu days before, starts having abdominal pain and throwing up every half hour.  The first think I found strange in this book is why the parents insisted on going back to Imperial, Nebraska for their son's treatment.  It was obvious to me that the folks with whom they were staying thought the boy's condition was serious enough to warrant going to a nearby emergency room.  The family has a health history of appendix problems.  Why journey three hours back home when the kid is in obvious pain and needs medical attention?  Then, they decided to take the boy back to the same doctor who had diagnosed him with the stomach flu!  The doctor was still clueless about the boy's appendix being ruptured even after xrays.  The parents even allowed the doctor to admit the boy to a hospital and start fluid and antibiotic therapy when it was apparent to me they had serious doubts that this was a simple case of the stomach flu.  Unfortunately, not until the little guy was near death did they decide to take him to another hospital and get a second opinion. 

The next doctor certainly figured out the problem was a ruptured appendix and immediately went to surgery letting the parents know this was gonna be a close call.  At this point the child probably had sepsis and was severely dehydrated.  The surgery was sucessful and there was later a second surgery to clean all the debris from the child's abdominal area.  Eventually, Colton is released and all returns to some semblance of normal with the exception of the mounting medical bills the family faces and Colton beginning to tell his dad and mom that he has visited heaven and seen both God and Jesus.   We later learn the gates of heaven are like the colors of a rainbow, God has a throne, Jesus sits to the right of God, there are animals in heaven, the angel Gabriel sits to the left of God, and everyone the boy encounters in heaven is in their prime with no ailments.  Additionally, Colton begins critiquing various artist portraits of Jesus as being either authentic or not even in the ballpark.  Supposedly, there is another four year old girl of Lithuianian-American descent, living in Idaho, who also visited heaven and Colton approved her drawings of Jesus.  The father goes on to recount that Colton was able to observe his surgery and observe what his mother and father were doing while he was in the midst of surgery.  Interesting, right?

It gets even more detailed.  Colton is able to recount a visit with his great-grandfather, encountering a sister who was miscarried by his mom, and that there is going to be a great war when Jesus returns; a war in which he sees his father fight Satan and his cronies.  Colton also ventures forth that God shoots down power in the form of the Holy Spirit when his dad is preaching to assist him with his message to a congregation. 

I have to say that I did not sit down and read this book in one extended time period.  I started thinking that the dad who is telling the story was quite frankly embellishing his son's actual experience in order to bring more people to Christ.  It wouldn't be the first time someone's done this.  And then there was the financial difficulties the family was having.  If you wrote a book and claimed something like a four year old visiting heaven, you're going to raise some eyebrows, get some attention, and make money.  And I'm an educator, I've been around kids in the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  I have never witnessed a four year old be this verbally expressive or have this kind of memory capacity.  And it sounded to me like we're all going back to the days before women's liberation because in terms of what Colton says, in heaven there will come a fight with Satan and the men are going to fight and the women and children are going to stand back and watch.  Say WHAT?!
Is God going to endorse only the maxims of the extreme Christian right in heaven?  Is God gonna get  political in heaven?  I mean, I remember from my sunday school lessons about everybody being equal in heaven.  So, some of this book definitely does not add up in my opinion.  Can people have near death experiences?  Yes, I've talked to several of these folks and they've never given the details this young boy has and two of them were declared clinically dead before coming back to life!

Don't get me wrong, I think people can and do have near death experiences.  This kid was never declared clinically dead during his surgery; there are no reports that he stopped breathing during surgery or that his heart stopped.  That's what bothers me.  The technical aspect that the boy never actually "died".   Now, maybe this story is all true just like his dad reports it, but I just helped a close friend walk through the shadows of death.  When she called me and said she was visited by her deceased father, grandmother, and a former cat, I didn't doubt it.  I didn't doubt it when my father-in-law had these same visits before his death.  I assured my terminal friend who was scared as hell of dying that no, as far as I know, dying does not hurt and going to Hospice actually makes the dying process a lot easier.  My friend died last month after suffering from a deadly, rare form of cancer that had spread throughout her entire body.  Do I think she's in heaven enjoying her dad's company and hopefully watching over me as a guardian angel:  You Bet Your Life I Do.

Next up on the review docket:  Shouting Won't Help:  Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can't Hear you by Katherine Bouton published by Picador Books in 2014.

Till next time,

Friday, May 9, 2014

Review: Sum It Up by Pat Summitt with Sally Jenkins

Dear Literary Loves,

Oh my beejeeesus!  You have to read this memoir about Pat Summitt, the former head coach of Tennessee's women's basketball.  Frankly, it should be required reading for every education major in the country because it's really a meditation on how to teach effectively. 

First, I liked this woman from the get-go because she's southern.  That means that she doesn't put up with a lot of nonsense and she says what she thinks with a no holds barred attitude.  She grew up with several brothers and played basketball with them which undoubtedly is why she was such a good defensive player.  She didn't grow up with riches either.  The family lived and worked on a farm.  This is a woman who regularly raked hay into bales, drove a tractor, planted the garden, and milked the cows.  I know some semblance of what this is like in that I spent almost six summers on a tobacco farm during my teen years.    Her father moved the family across the county line in order for Pat to be able to attend a high school where she could play women's basketball.  Interestingly, at one time, girls only played half court basketball; people didn't think we were strong enough to play a full court game.  Well, it was Pat's mission to put an end to that and she did.  She additionally played women's basketball at The University Of Tennessee at Martin and went on to play for the USA women's Olympic basketball team.  At the age of twenty-two, she was recruited to coach women's basketball at The University of Tennessee. 

The job of being a basketball coach really came somewhat naturally to her:  she held all her players to the same high standards she set for herself both on and off the court.  Did she learn skills from more veteran coaches?  Of course, but sometimes, what you do in life is in your blood and that was the case for Pat Summitt.  When she first started coaching the women's team was still playing in the university gym while the men's team played in the arena.  I mean, she drove the players to other schools for their games!.  And it was never a jolly ride home if the team lost because Pat really hated losing.  She did learn from her losses though which is always the sign of a first class teacher.  There were so many players that she discusses with so many different idiosyncrasies.  Some players made it under her and if you couldn't take the heat or buy into the first class program she wanted to build at the university, you left.  And she held her players to high standards off the court as well.  She didn't like it when one group of players really liked to go out drinking the night before a practice.  It didn't set the image she wanted to build of a first class women's program.  So when the players showed up the next morning for practice, Pat had put trash cans in all four corners of the basketball court and she ran those players until all the liquor and beer came right out of them.  I'm serious.  What a way to remind kids of the bad health effects of drinking.

Pat also brought former players back to the university as assistant coaches.  Lord, if they had met her standards as a player then you know they would make it as an assistant coach.  Sometimes, the assistant coaches could provide the motherly touch that Pat couldn't provide and still maintain control and respect of her team.  Eventually though, after the birth of her son Tyler, she learned to develop personal relationships with her players such that they didn't want to disappoint her.  She held her players to a higher standard when it came to academics and basketball which is the highest compliment a coach can receive.  There were times when Pat came across other coaches getting in her face or coaches that attempted to sway potential basketball recruits by putting the Tennessee basketball program down, but she didn't return the favor.  She didn't stoop to low levels.

Eventually, Pat Summitt developed rheumatoid arthritis along with an Alzheimer's diagnosis.  She hung in there, kept her job, got the best medical minds working on her case, and took care of herself as well as her basketball program.  She would later turn some duties over to her assistant coaches and she eventually turned coaching duties over to a former player and longtime assistant coach.  She didn't leave the Tennessee basketball program though because she continues to contribute in any motivating way she can.  What a woman.  What a coach.  And what a seriously grand teacher.  I highly recommend this book.  It would be required reading in my classes and really should be for anyone wanting to eventually become an educator.

Till my next post,

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Praise God! The 2014 Summer Lilly Pulitzer Collection Has Arrived!

Dear Lit Loves,

I will now be leaving for heaven to shop my cares away in the nearest Lilly Pulitzer boutique!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What's Needed In Memoir: A Commoner's Touch

Dear Lit Loves,
I stopped by my local Barnes & Noble yesterday and it was eerily quiet in the store.  Granted, a lot of folks around my city are on vacation due to it being the week of/after Easter so I tried not to panic.  The manager of the store, who knows I'm actively attempting to get published, asked me about the latest in publishing.  I told her I haven't been buying anything in my own preferred genre (memoir) lately because I'm not seeing any enticing subject matter.  Seriously, I am not looking for trendy memoir such as how my family and I lived without bread for a year.  Honest to God, sometimes I pick up a book and say aloud, in the store, "How in the HELL did this get published?!"  And no, I'm not likely to read someone's travel memoir about how he/she is phenomenally wealthy and uprooted the entire family for a year to go live in Bulgaria.  WHO does this kind of thing?!  And even though I like mental health memoirs because I have an insanely complex extended family and the Tea Party truly leaves me speechless, I haven't been buying those type of memoirs because many are too similar to Girl, Interrupted.  And God help me if I see one more memoir about some girl/woman who decides she is done with the city and is going to live the simple life on a farm.  Pleaasssee!  Why do the authors of those memoirs often insult the very people with whom they share a community?!  I was reading one memoir, very much like this, and I became so mad at how insulting the author was toward southerners that I literally burned the damn book.  Sorry, guess it was a bit of an emotional reaction.  As we say in the south, "HEY!  INTERSTATE 85 RUNS BOTH WAYS, TURN FREAKIN' NORTH!"  You know what's needed in memoir right now folks?  A commoner's touch.  That's why memoir became popular.  It was due to average joes/janes with seriously compelling stories like The Glass Castle and Liar's Club. 

The Barnes & Noble store manager thought I had some legitimate points.  And then she asked me about the query process.  Oh. Lord. Please.  I recently went to lunch with a group of tech folks that my husband knows.  One marketing rep tells me he is writing a crime saga.  I'm describing the process of how to get an agent and he drops this bomb, "Currently, the manuscript is over five hundred pages."  I almost choked on my sweet tea.  I just wanted to tell him not to even bother with an agent.  Just go directly to self-publishing because I don't know of any literary agent who is willing to take on a new author whose first novel is over 500 pages.  Now, if the guy had been Stephen King- no problem.  My experience with agents has just about sent me over the edge a time or five hundred.  On the writers often have already formed an opinion of an agent just based on the type of rejections he/she sends or lack of rejections.  It's never encouraging to not receive a response from an agent.  You think, "Well, damn, I wasn't even worth a response."   I know who those agents are and avoid them like the plague.  Then we have the writers who no longer post the actual rejection from the agent.  They just write, "Received the dreaded four words."   And we all know what this means.  It means the usual rejection the agent sends all writers which encompasses the following, "Sorry, not for us."  I stopped sending queries to those agents eons ago. 

Recently, a literary agent wrote on his blog that he feels incredible sadness when he goes to literary conferences and authors pitch memoirs to him.  He said he feels bad that he hurt the author's feelings with his rejection.  And I immediately thought, "Oh, Who The Hell Are You Kidding?!"  You aren't worried about the writer's feelings!  I know, I received a rejection from the same agent to the tune of the following, "I'm sorry, you are not famous; therefore, no one knows who you are.  And since no one knows who you are, I can't represent you."  Does this sound like a person who regrets sending me a rejection?  I THINK NOT!!  Through the agent's writing I finally realized the man truly does not get the memoir genre.  He doesn't even like the memoir genre; therefore, he won't represent the memoir genre.  And He Has Never, Ever Sold A Memoir Manuscript!  Oh for the love of Mother Mary, just stop lising memoir as a genre that you represent.  Easy peasy, dude.

Finally, I tell the Barnes and Noble store manager about my experience with the editors of one particular publishing house.  It was God Awful.  I finally sent an email to the head of the publishing house asking essentially, what gives?  I hadn't received a response from one of his editors in well over five months and another editor had a manuscript of mine for two months and sent a two line rejection.  Yes, this all happened.  TEN MINUTES LATER, I RECEIVE A RESPONSE TO MY QUERY FROM FIVE MONTHS AGO.   Wonder how that happened?!.  It was quite rude and to beat it all, the response did not even address the correct manuscript.   So, no, I'm no longer buying any books from that publishing house.  Nada.  Zip.  No freakin' way.  Take a course on tact and manners  would be my advice, but I won't be buying or endorsing any books from said publishing house. 

Let's hope the news gets better soon because I'm beginning to completely understand why writers are turning to self-publishing and why Amazon is scaring the bejeesus out of the publishing community.