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.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Lost A Friend Today

Dear Lit Loves,

I lost a good friend today
the kind that can never be replaced
she was a teaching partner and mentor
and an especially witty and strong lady.

I lost a good friend today
to the beast known as cancer
My friend put up a valiant fight
she wanted to live more than anything.

I lost a good friend today
she was like a sister to me
We walked through many battlefields
and she always had my back.

I lost a good friend today
and a darn fine math and science teacher
A good mom and a cat lover
She will be especially missed.

I lost a good friend today
she has finished her life's journey
and I must walk forward alone
Take good care of her God.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Loud In The House Of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl by Stacey Pershall

Dear Lit Loves,

This has been a particularly difficult week for me as my close friend and dearest teaching colleague is in the final stage of small cell neuroendocrine cancer.  And my colleague and friend put up such a valiant fight against the beast we all know as cancer.  I knew she would.  She helped me during my first year of teaching at an inner city middle school and she also was once in the military so she did not suffer fools as my mom says.  At any rate I started reading the memoir Loud In The House Of Myself:  Memoir of a Strange Girl by Stacey Pershall.  This story is about a girl growing up in rural Arkansas who suffers from not only bipolar disorder but also borderline personality disorder.  She also spirals back and forth between anorexia as well as bulimia throughout the book. 

The first symptoms that I noticed regarding bipolar disorder in this book was a seriously low self-esteem brought on by intense bullying at school and a mom that was hyperfocused on her second child, a son, as well as a dad who had definite rage and anger issues.  Because she doesn't seem to be able to be accepted by others, she often punishes herself.  The one thing she discovers she can control is her weight which fluctuates throughout the book.  Of the many people and students I've known with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, this is the first person who regularly wrote hateful things about herself on her body with a black, Sharpie marker followed by hiding in a closet for hours at a stretch. 

The second interesting point in this book is how this girl's mood swings are triggered by whether she is in a fulfulling relationship or not.  Seriously, you could almost see the euphoria in this girl's life when she was first falling for a guy and subsequently walking through a field of daisys.  The colors she sees are magnified as well as the sounds so no wonder she appeared to be walking on air during her manic episodes.  As soon as the relationship went south she spiraled down into a trench of depression.  And heaven knows this girl tried twenty four different drugs throughout her life attempting to find the combination that would keep her moods stable.  She did finally discover the three drugs that when taken together worked well for her. 

I think I was most disturbed by the girl's suicide attempts.  And when I say she would make these attempts on a grand scale, I am not kidding.  Many people with a bipolar diagnosis are quite self-absorbed.  If they get to a low point of thinking they're not good enough, people are rejecting them, and they're not worthy, it becomes all-consuming to end the misery.  It's scary, but very real.  The other interesting note of this particular book is how the girl starts getting tattooed to commemorate various points or phases in her life.  I wish the author had discussed in greater detail the therapy that eventually started working for her called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.  I was so confused about it and how it differed from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that by the end of the book, I googled it to determine how it is unique.  Mainly, the therapy includes more concentration on validation and changing behaviors.  Still, I would have liked to have seen a chapter written about how this therapy worked for her and others over the course of a three month period.

This book is still a good read.  If you have someone in your life that has wild mood swings and you can't surmise what's going on with the person, this is the book for you.  What works in terms of medication for persons with bipolar disorder varies from person to person.  For this author I think she must maintain a constant vigilance in order to recognize when she is in the midst of becoming a whirling dervish and when she is headed into trench warfare with depression.  I think she has learned to recognize the symptoms of each pendulum swing in order to know when she needs to get help for herself.  The tragic part, in terms of what I've seen and witnessed, is when people never get to that point.  Or worse, they think nothing's wrong with them; it's everybody else's fault.  You can't help yourself much less anyone else unless you learn to have a healthy relationship with you.

Till my next update,

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Victory Is SWEET!

Dear Lit Loves,
Greetings!  And I must say that for my 100th blog post I am happy to report that I have finally won a major victory:  I fought my health insurance company for coverage of my name brand migraine medication and WON!  This has been an ongoing battle since January 1st, 2014.  And it is not a trivial matter by any means.  First, the only migraine medication that has ever worked for me has been and continues to be CalanSR 240mg.  No other name brand migraine drug or generic migraine drug works period, end of discussion.  When I went to pick up my prescription in January 2014 for CalanSR I almost fainted when the pharmacist informed me my insurance would not cover it and it would be $250 a month!  What did I do?  I paid for it and then went to work battling for coverage.

I enlisted my neurologist because he prescribes it and knows my medication history.  He agreed, the non-coverage was definitely unfair.  I was willing to cover fifty percent too.  So I had to get my neurologist to appeal the non-coverage of my migraine medication to the health insurance company's pharmaceutical board.  Seriously, this took a month.  I was denied coverage.  My neurologist and his very kind assistant Kristin filed another appeal.  I called the pharmaceutical board myself and gave my reasons for requesting the medication to be covered.  Meanwhile, I paid another $250 for another month's worth of CalanSR.  And you know I'm thinking at this point how many Lilly Pulitzer Spring dresses I could have bought with the $500 I've already spent.  We were denied coverage a second time.  Finally, we filed a grievance appeal which after being on the phone on hold for an hour and change, I learned is when you believe your life is compromised to a significant degree by being denied coverage of this medicine.  Well, yes, that was the point.  So my neurologist wrote a dissertation, sent my medical files, and we waited.  Meanwhile, I called at the end of each week to inquire about the status of my appeal.  This went on until last Friday (three months) when I was happy to learn that I've been granted 100% coverage for my name brand migraine medication.  If there is one thing at which I excel it is persistence.  Damn, I feel l like I just won mandatory equal pay for women or something.  So I'm taking myself out to lunch to celebrate.  And yes, I'll be taking my most effective CalanSR medication with a glass of sweet tea today as well.  Victory is SWEEETTTTT!!

Till next time,

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Medical Extremes And Looking For A Literary Agent

Dear Lit Loves,
Greetings Book Lovies!  No, I'm not reviewing a memoir manuscript for today's post.  Actually, I'm not really thrilled with any of the memoirs being released as of late.  I think there are entirely too many memoirs on the market dealing with war, being in the military, getting kicked out of a religious community,  going from being a city mouse to a country mouse, and celebrity memoir.  I yearn to see more memoirs dealing with the nitty gritty in life.  I've been dealing with a great deal of medical extremes my entire life so naturally I enjoy when people write about navigating the crazy world of medicine, specialists, hospitals, and oftentimes strange and unusual ailments.  Speaking of strange and unusual ailments, that's the core of my latest manuscript.  Lord knows I've dealt with my fair share of medical abnormalities:  Meniere's disease, Uveitis, Uveitic Glaucoma, and Cogan's syndrome.  Sometimes it's not what you plan to do with your one wild and precious life, but the unplanned and downright confounding that define you as a person and what you make of your life. So we'll see if there is a literary agent that can handle this most captivating manuscript.  The querying process isn't easy.  Actually, in my opinion, querying is the difficult part of the publishing process. It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get. 

The crazy and insane happen each day.  Most recently I've lost a woman who was like a great aunt to me when she was admitted to the hospital for blood pressure that was too low.  The hospital stabilized her and then her blood pressure started falling again while she was being released.  She never left the hospital.  She wound up in the ICU and her organs began to fail.  Six hours later she was gone.  I was shell-shocked.  Still am.  And I also have a former colleague and friend battling a rare and aggressive cancer.  I actually wrote a contemporary women's fiction manuscript and dedicated it to her.  She's one tough cookie.  To see her ravaged by cancer is just mind-boggling.  I keep thinking why her?  why now?  Sometimes we don't get to pick and choose our battles; some battles arrive knocking at our front door unexpected and unannounced.  Yeah, you could not answer the door and hope the little bugger goes away, but I've always found that it's better just to look crisis in the eye, open the door, let it make itself comfortable and then get up close and personal with it just to see what you learn from it. 

Till my next post,