Wednesday, November 16, 2016

On Realizing You Are Losing Your Sight To An Inflammatory Eye Disease

Dear Lit Loves,

I usually dedicate my posts on this blog to my creative efforts centered on the self-publication of my first memoir entitled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  And that part of my life is like a roller coaster.  One day I discover that an editor from a local newspaper is going to do a story on me and the book and I am beyond thrilled.  Then I learned that one reader who won a copy of my book and who I mailed a free, signed copy to assessed the book as a "2" on a scale of "1 to 5" on a literary site where readers and writers congregate.  And you most likely realize that a "5" book rating is the best and a "1" rating is not good.  Fortunately, I have received some stellar reviews on Amazon which I utilized to publish my book so this tells me as a writer that people either really like and identify with the book or they obviously feel the opposite which is okay as everyone is entitled to their opinion. 
     So after watching my book's sales, ratings, and reviews for a couple of weeks, I go for an appointment with a glaucoma expert at a major university glaucoma clinic.  I have an eye condition in my right eye called Uveitis and it is basically inflammation of the colored portion of the eye called the iris, the ciliary body behind the iris, and the choroid which lies between the iris and retina. This eye disorder has already caused me to have cataract surgery at age 32 and then three surgeries to implant a device within the right eye to drain the fluid from the eye and prevent the fluid from accumulating in the eye area and causing my eye pressure to sky rocket.  Those implant surgeries were performed when I was 39 and 40 years of age.  As a patient you always hope that you are getting the best care and making the decisions that will ultimately save your eyesight and prevent you from losing it.
    Yesterday, I went to visit my new glaucoma specialist at a major university glaucoma center now that I live once again in my home state of North Carolina.  And it was during my eye exam that I realized I could no longer see 20/30 in the right eye.  Now my sight in the right eye measures 20/50.  Fortunately, my left eye is not affected my Uveitis so it generally registers at 20/20 or 20/25.  The panic hit when I covered my left eye and the eye technician asked me how many fingers of his I saw when looking only from my right eye.  I saw absolutely no fingers when he was holding them up to the left of the right eye.  Zip.  Nada.  I suddenly realized I have lost that visual portion of my right eye.  Fortunately, I still have my peripheral vision in the right eye which is comforting.  When I was sent to take a Humphrey Visual Field test where you look through a lens and watch for a flashing light to appear, I knew I wasn't seeing the flashing lights as well when only viewed from my right eye because when my right eye was covered and I was told to click a device whenever I saw the flashing lights when viewed from just my left eye, I was clicking the button signaling a flashing light sighting many more times than I had clicked it when viewing those same flashing lights from the right eye only.  Fear started to set in and honestly, a stone cold sadness.
     And when I was called back for my test results, it was apparent that my optic nerve pictures showed thinning which means loss of vision and my Humphrey Visual Field Test demonstrated the blind areas showing up profusely in the right eye.  The good news is I can still see well enough to read, write, and drive.  I do not have any signs of the eye disease in the left eye which I rely on heavily for visual acuity.  It was deeply depressing to know that even though I have done all that I can to prevent vision loss in my right eye such as getting the best medical experts and going to the best hospitals, I am inevitably still going to lose sight in my right eye.  Fortunately, my glaucoma specialist assured me this blindness will progress slowly, but somehow I still had hoped to prevent this from happening in the first place and even though I did everything I could to obtain and receive the best treatment, the worst resulting symptom of this eye disease has started and I will not ever be able to retrieve that portion of my right visual field.  It's gone. It's sort of like the death of a portion of a vital organ of the body.  And the realization stings and angers me, but ultimately, I have to learn to live with this new reality and the uncertainty that comes with it.  So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am currently reading Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron.  I must say that I profoundly pray that book has some real words of wisdom and guidance on navigating this new reality.

Till my next post,
Grace (Amy)

Monday, October 31, 2016


Greetings Lit Loves!

Well, let me just say that I have completed author questionnaires and conducted phone interviews for several local newspapers recently and my tech guru husband handily pulled off a fascinating photo shoot of me for my publicity portfolio right in the clubhouse of our apartment complex!!  And what is all this hoopla for you might be asking?  Well, I, a non-famous yet sophisticated North Carolinian with a Midwestern accent just independently published my first book called Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.   I know, I know, what in the heebie-jeebies did I ever want to do a thing like that for at a time like this?  I thought I could add to the memoir genre as a writer from North Carolina who doesn't sugarcoat real life experiences and also forthrightly communicate some important life lessons other readers might find valuable as well.

It's like this:  I didn't grow up in a rich suburb and I very proudly claim to be from a small town.  I grew up with a set of parents who kept crayons, markers, pencils, pens, chalk, and all sorts of books right at my fingertips.  In elementary school, you could not pull me away from Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, or any book featuring Pippi Longstocking as the main character.  Upon arrival to middle school, low and behold I started reading O. Henry (pen name for William Sydney Porter).  O. Henry is from Greensboro, N.C. and he wrote short stories about people who were just average everyday Joes and Janes; many of his characters were extremely down on their luck.  I also discovered Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.  To be honest, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe never interested me; however, I absolutely loved Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  And I am most definitely not a Star Trek or Star Wars fan.  In high school, I thought Shakespeare was okay once I figured out what he was trying to say in his gussied up formal English.  Chaucer was definitely more my cup of tea.  Poetry was so short and open to interpretation I found myself sometimes taking my literature book, rereading a poem, and thinking, "Just plainly say what you mean already"!  I did find The Scarlet Letter quite fascinating and Edgar Allan Poe frankly just gave me the creeps.  Fortunately, I had started writing my own essays, thesis and research papers, and fairy tales by then so I became much more interested in fine-tuning my own writing style.

In college, I flew through most of my English classes.  I then decided to major in Middle Grades Education and specialize in Communications (aka Language Arts) and Social Studies (aka History).  And I did go on to explore the world of Education as a teacher's assistant and then a Middle Grades Language Arts and Social Studies teacher.  My first year of teaching was one hysterical scream after another and you will have to read Brave Soul Rising to discover why.  I survived my first year at an inner-city, middle school and then remained there another year as well.  I then taught in a private school which was a total 180 from teaching in a public, inner-city school.  All was right with the world there as I was mostly teaching grammar, literature, and writing.  Then the school administrators decided to assign me to teach a math class which was a quite foolish thing to do especially when I hated math, had no certification or degree in math, and in college thought any form of math should be banished from my degree curriculum.  Yes, that was a fun year.  And no, I did not choose to return to teaching following my year teaching in private school as my husband and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia for his work.   Learning to drive strategically in Georgia is an education in and of itself, let me tell you.  I did spend time tutoring some college students and editing thesis papers.  Due to the fact that I had by then been diagnosed with Uveitis, Uveitic Glaucoma, Meniere's Disease, and some unknown underlying autoimmune disorder requiring oral chemotherapy treatment, I took some time away from any form of teaching or tutoring.  When I read the memoir entitled Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, a fire was lit and I developed a passion for memoirs written not by celebrities but by everyday, regular people who had some extraordinary life experiences and lessons to share.  And that's when I also knew that I most likely had found my next potential venture in life:  writing, especially in the memoir category.

So for five years I wrote about pertinent and unusual life experiences I procured from my own existence and tried to communicate some seriously important life lessons.  I was determined to publish in the traditional manner at first which meant securing a literary agent and hopefully, a book deal with a big or small publishing house.  No dice.  It just didn't happen.  At the five year mark, I had written four manuscripts and decided upon my father's death to just take the bull by the horns and independently publish my first book via Amazon Publishing.  When I received the final version of the book, I literally sat in the floor of the living room and cried.  My dad had urged me once to take the new independent path to publication if necessary because it's not like New York and literary agents have the market cornered on the entire publishing process anymore.  On vacation with my mom and brother that same summer, my brother said, "You know, there are a lot of books that began as self-published works; it's a possibility, don't you think?" 

So there you have it.  I drafted the manuscript of Brave Soul Rising, hired a book cover designer who made my concept of the front and back cover come to fruition, and my husband assisted in the ebook version of Brave Soul Rising.  Now, I write about some tough issues.  My first marriage was at an incredibly young, naive age and was riddled with domestic violence.  I chose to leave that unhealthy relationship.  I put graduate school on hold and took a position as a receptionist/assistant in corporate America only to discover women can be and are treated in an often offensive manner there too.  I kept the faith and finally landed my first teaching position which is probably what ultimately saved me from giving up on life completely.  It certainly taught me the value of two key traits:  tenacity and perseverance.  And that is exactly what you will read about in my book, Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  I write under the pen name, Grace Sutherlin.  And you will find my book available for order in paperback or ebook version online at Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.  If you have a local independent bookstore and you request my book to be ordered, most stores will order it for you. I will go on record saying that many independent bookstores will not carry the actual book on their shelves because I published through Amazon Publishing.  I'm enjoying this revolutionary approach to publishing and will be keeping at it for some time to come.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cubs Need Revamp Before Game 2 Of World Series

Dear Lit Loves,

Hi.  Well, I don't normally blog about sports or baseball, but I am telling you the Chicago Cubs have got to revamp before game two of the World Series.  First, in my opinion it was a mistake to leave Jason Heyward out of the roster and place Chris Coghlan on the roster to take his place.  Why?  Here's the thing:  Coghlan didn't have the gumption or the power to put the bat on the ball in game one.  I'm serious.  Coghlan is six foot tall and 195 pounds.  Heyward is younger by 4 years, he stands
six foot five inches, has a hell of a swing reach, and is just downright more intimidating to a pitcher.  Case closed.  Second, the only Chicago Cub player I saw playing with a zest to win in game one of the World Series was David Ross, the catcher.  He is a veteran catcher and they don't make em' like that anymore.  Next, I thought it was just like grasping for straws to place Kyle Schwarber on the roster since he hasn't been at the plate since sometime in April according to the game announcers.  He did get a double, but there was no one behind him on the roster strong enough to put the bat on the ball to bring Schwarber home for a run.  And personally, I think Schwarber looked a bit rusty in terms of his swing. 

When it comes to a pitcher like Corey Kluber, you have got to be able to rattle the cage.  Get guys on base, start stealing bases, make him think about more than just the batter at the plate, and thus, throw him off his game.  Furthermore, Cleveland did all the things I mentioned above to the pitcher Lester and subsequently, Lester was shouting at the umpire instead of remaining calm and focused.  And one last thing, all the players for the Chicago Cubs need to play like you will eat dirt and spit nails to win the World Series.  Complacency and a flat demeanor lets the Cleveland Indians know that you aren't willing to leave it all on the field for this World Series Championship and that's ultimately what each Cub player has to do in order to win against the Cleveland Indians and win the World Series.

And Fox Sports, thank you for utilizing John Smoltz to assist in calling the game. Down in the South we say someone like Smoltz knows how to get it done and get it done properly too I might add.   

Just sayin' folks.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

The First Three Months Of Life As A Self-Published Author

Dear Literary Comrades,

Greetings!  I must say that my life has been a bit frantic once I opted to self-publish my first book entitled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  Frankly, there have been moments of pure glory and times of deep despair.  It has been a lot like life itself which is often one hellish and screamingly fun roller coaster ride.

Initially, I saw my first sales figures one month after self-publishing via CreateSpace and Amazon Kindle and thought maybe I should just throw in the towel right then and there.  To my great delight, sales started picking up for my paperback and ebook once I hit two months post publication.  I was doing my own publicity and found that to be entertaining, exhausting, and frustrating.  First, I began by hosting a book giveaway on the literary site known as Goodreads.  Wow.  I had 616 entrants and gave away five books so that at least got my name out there in the publishing world.  Whew.  Next, I began contacting libraries and independent bookstores across the state of North Carolina and the entire Southeast.  Big Cheer when I was invited to speak and present my book at a beautiful library in Calabash, N.C.!  Thank you to each and every person who attended.  As a former teacher, it was good to once again experience the thrill of a captive audience.  Next, I received an invitation from my hometown library in Kernersville, N.C. to speak and present my book.  Kudos!!  And then I quickly encountered some independent bookstores that adamantly dislike Amazon and CreateSpace.  Seriously, a good fifty to seventy percent of bookstores will only place a self-published book on display if you sign a consignment agreement with a 60/40 split and that's after you complete an application for the bookstore owners to determine if your book is of high enough quality to warrant being on the shelves in the store.  And at one store they even wanted me to pay an application fee!  Wow.  I took a step back and a deep breath.  Then more deep breaths.  First, I wondered if the independent bookstore owners realize I think their policy violates the U.S. Antitrust Law which ensures consumers fair competition in an open-market economy?  Next I started feeling like a second class citizen in a third world country.  And yes, I will report that I truly felt that I was experiencing discrimination because I opted to publish via Amazon and its affiliates. I think bookstore policies like the ones I have seen are fertile ground eventually for a class-action lawsuit as I fully realize I'm not the only one to self-publish via Amazon.  Have any of these folks heard the saying, "Don't poke the beast"?  Or how about the one that goes, "If you can't beat them, join them"?? 

Next, I began to connect with other authors via the website known as Goodreads.  I particularly wanted to make connections with other first time memoir authors.  And I also thought, well, why not see if some of my favorite famous or bestselling authors have a profile on the site and attempt to connect with them as well.  I was elated when first time memoir authors wanted to connect with me on Goodreads!  Hey!  There are people out there just like me who are trying to get a foot in the ever revolving publishing door!  Thanks be to Mother Mary!  And then it happened.  I opened my email box one day and discovered that one of my favorite authors had actually connected with me on the Goodreads teeth almost hit the floor.  I sat there stunned surely for at least five minutes.  Two weeks later another famous favorite author of mine also connected with me via Goodreads.  Some people I know have each and every one of this author's books sitting on shelves in their home.  My dad loved this particular author, too.  So since I recently lost my dad to cancer, this connection was especially meaningful to me.  I had to text and call my teaching mentor, my brother, my mom, and my husband after this author connected with me.  Talk about the wind lifting your sails.  And man, did that connection come at an especially good moment.  Finally, a famous female author, who writes such amazing thrillers that I cannot be alone when reading one of her books, reached out to connect with me and I attempted cartwheels through my apartment foyer!  Fortunately, I didn't break anything or pull a muscle either.  Thank God there are bestselling, famous authors who still connect and are willing to extend a hand to a small, non-famous self-published author.  Bless you.

Where am I in the process now?  Still attempting to get the word out about my book; contemplating offering another book giveaway, and trying to get the attention of my small hometown newspaper so they might actually do a little ditty about my book.  Thus far the newspaper editor to whom I sent my book publicity kit says she never received it and would try to locate it and speak with the publisher of the newspaper about my story.  I let some time pass.  The editor never got back to me.  I tried emailing her once again only to receive a cursory reply email stating she nor anyone else at the paper had received my book publicity material and she forwarded my email to the paper's lifestyle editor.  This was not exactly the type of response I was hoping for seeing as I grew up in that little small town, graduated from a high school in that small town, attended and graduated college in a nearby medium-size town, and my mother has lived for forty-three years in that small town and still lives there to this day.  Oh well.  I think my book would have resonated with many readers in my hometown.  It's about a small town girl who marries way too young, realizes quite quickly that her marriage is riddled with domestic violence and she opts to leave the marriage and take life by the horns and make her own way in the world. Making her own way in the world meant taking a low-level job in corporate America with its own insanity and then finally getting to use her degree to teach in a volatile, inner-city middle school where no one thinks she will last more than five minutes.  Guess what?  She lasted more than five minutes in a chaotic and oftentimes violent school environment.  Actually, she went from being a timid, wind-swept daisy to a hardy steel magnolia.  And her story isn't finished yet.

Till next time,

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Will N.C. And Other Southern State Readers Empower A Self-Published Author??

Dear Lit Loves,

One of the questions I am most being asked by readers, librarians, family, friends, acquaintances, book club members, students, and others is the following question:  WILL NORTH CAROLINA READERS AND READERS FROM OTHER SOUTHERN STATES SUPPORT AND EMPOWER A SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR?

Initially, my first reaction is generally that I would not have worked to publish this book if I didn't think it had the content and relevance to appeal to everyday readers' lives, particularly women, and be embraced by the reading public, in particular, southern readers.  My specialty is communicating real life events in a manuscript format that is not sugar-coated and that speaks to many important issues (feminism, workplace inequality, domestic violence, and the reality of teachers working in public schools today).  I initially tried for five years to pursue publishing this book via the traditional route by querying agents, connecting with editors and other authors, and writing four other manuscripts during the quest to achieve publication in the traditional fashion.  It should be noted that I pursued both large and small presses in my publication efforts.  When I discovered the simple fact that primarily because I was not a partaker of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), I was also being disqualified from entrance to traditional publishing, I said, "Oh, Hell To The No".   I have seen Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter utilized on too many occasions to bully and ridicule people and cause students to feel so bad about themselves that they take their own lives.  I refuse to participate in most forms of social media.  And I have that right, folks.  My uncle and many others in the military fought and died for my right to live and speak as I choose. 

And because I chose to self-publish to get my work distributed to the mainstream reading community and because the method I chose to use to achieve that was Amazon, I am not going to apologize or be belittled for that choice.  So it is up to my core group of readers, most southern women, to rise to the occasion and evaluate my merits as a writer.  I wasn't given the opportunity to have Amy Einhorn as my editor nor do I know people in the movie and publishing business that would assist me in getting my book to market in Barnes and Noble, reviewed by The New York Times and other popular women's magazines, or have my first book made into a movie.    So I'm starting from nothing and that's perfectly fine with me.  I come from strong stock.  I've always had to be scrappy and pave my own road to achieve what I wanted in life whether it was an education, a better living environment, a more meaningful career, etc. so that's not new to me. 

So the answer to the question I am asked most lies with you the reader; you the independent owner of a small bookstore;  the members of various southern book clubs; librarians; book reviewers, feature writers for southern newspapers and magazines; and most importantly in my opinion, word-of-mouth recommendations of my book.  I'll promise to keep you updated as the coming months progress.  And if you have already purchased my book, thank you because I do appreciate where you choose to spend your hard-earned dollar.  If you wish to write me I will do my best to always answer reader email and represent North Carolina in the finest way possible as a writer.

Grace Sutherlin

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope by Tom Brokaw

Dear Lit Loves,

This was a difficult reading choice for me.  I almost didn't order Tom Brokaw's memoir entitled "A Lucky Life Interrupted".  Why?  Because I recently lost my dad to complications brought about by a new form of targeted infusion therapy called Adcetris utilized for my dad's third recurrence of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma  His newly assigned oncologist failed to take the proper medical precautions when it came to monitoring my dad for signs of infection and his long history of underlying heart issues while the new wonder drug known as Adcetris was administered.  The oncologist said what my dad eventually developed was "Just a lower lung infection".  She failed to diagnose him with a rapidly fatal form of pneumonia which also led to a collapsed lung and eventual heart failure..  I tried to get a hospital oncology administrator's attention and medical assistance for my dad by saying, "Hey, your newly appointed oncologist that was placed on my dad's case isn't doing an adequate job in terms of monitoring him.  She failed on the physical exam test, conducting the proper required diagnostic tests, properly diagnosing the fatal form of pneumonia, or getting him the aggressive antibiotic therapy he so desperately required. And was she even aware of his heart health history?"  You know what the oncology hospital administrator did?  He called to tell me, "It's over.  Your dad will never walk out of that hospital on his own accord as he did when he entered.  His body is done.  And no, I can't help you get a more experienced veteran doctor on the case". 

So reading Mr. Brokaw's account of his diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of rogue plasma cells that proliferate in the bone marrow and attack the bone causing weakness, bone fragility, muscle weakness, and plenty of pain was a difficult read for me.  I also new Mr. Brokaw, a well-compensated former anchor of NBC nightly news had more advantages than my dad did when it came to access to the best hospitals, insurance coverage, monetary abundance, and the best doctors.  So I eventually picked up the book because my dad and I used to watch the NBC nightly news together each evening. Dad liked Mr. Brokaw because he was of humble origins. Dad said Tom Brokaw never came across like he was talking down to people, but rather like he was having an informed conversation with his viewers.   The other evening network news anchors at the time were, according to my dad, a guy who acts like he is royalty and one that tries too hard to be perfect and doesn't come across as human.

Initially, Mr. Brokaw notices some weakness in the form of falls,balance issues, weakness, and pain.  Since he is on the board of the Mayo Clinic he had access to a doctor there who completed some labs and found the multiple myeloma and then had an oncological guru confirm the diagnosis.  Mr. Brokaw was stunned.  I could tell from reading the book he had no earthly clue how his life was about to change.  He did have access to the best docs in the business who put together a treatment plan for him that was managed not at the Mayo Clinic, but Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York.  He started a drug therapy regimen and eventually realized this wasn't a disease that you overcome in two to four weeks. No, cancer becomes your life and it consumes the lives of your closest family members.  Fortunately, Mr Brokaw has a daughter skilled in emergency medicine so she was able to assist in translating a lot of what the doctors were telling him and advocate for him and his well-being.  I did this for my dad, too, but I didn't have the luxury of an emergency medicine degree so I had to take it upon myself to become educated about my dad's form of lymphoma, its symptoms, its treatment options, treatment prognosis/effects, and keep my dad up to speed with all that was going on with his health.  He and I battled that lymphoma for twelve years together through six rounds of chemo, an eight week hospital stay for a stem cell transplant, and finally, the targeted therapy of the new wonder drug called Adcetris. 

I realized quickly that my dad and Mr. Brokaw had one thing in common:  they weren't afraid of getting in the ring with an overwhelming,well-equipped enemy like cancer.  My dad had seen his brother die of leukemia after returning from Vietnam and being exposed to Agent Orange.  His mother died of breast cancer.  Dad didn't say, "Why me?"  Instead, my dad said, "It's my turn and I'm not going down without a fight."  Mr. Brokaw took the same approach.

Like our family, Mr. Brokaw quickly discovered doctors and specialists can be overly optimistic about treatment options, prognosis, and how the plan of attack on a disease like cancer will unravel.  Communication between oncology specialists is oftentimes non-existent at best; each cancer patient needs a well-informed advocate through the whole cancer process; and when it comes to major treatment decisions, it would be optimal if all medical personnel involved in a patient's cancer treatment were on the same page or better, in the same room, and making a decision together with the patient.  This rarely happens.

Mr. Brokaw gets the absolute best care and a drug that usually costs $500 a pill, he received a month's supply with a $15 copay.  This is not the norm, folks.  I watched as my dad's copay each time he had to be admitted to a hospital was close to $1,000.  A stem-cell transplant can run upwards of $150,000, and not every person has a hospital like The Mayo Clinic or Memorial Sloan as well as an oncology advisor from M.D. Anderson. 

I do think Mr. Brokaw started appreciating what he used to take for granted:  hunting, fishing, bicycling, jumping on and off planes to far off places, and being able to do small tasks like walking the dog in an easy fashion.  Cancer has a way of forcing what you used to take for granted to the forefront of your mind.  It makes you come face to face with the concept of your mortality.  It makes you appreciate others who have braved the course of cancer, whether they made it to the finish line or if they were taken out of the race altogether too early.  It absolutely forces you to realize that each day you are given is a gift.  Use it wisely.

Till my next read,

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Reflections On Dropkicking My Way Through Self-Publishing

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings fellow lovers of reading!  Yes, I just wanted to announce that my new memoir entitled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life written under my pen name of Grace Sutherlin just appeared on Barnes and Noble's online site for sale!  I was thoroughly ecstatic!  I thought about running around our apartment tennis courts screaming while waving a paperback copy of my book in the air; however, I didn't want anyone to call the police and then have to explain why I was acting insanely.  Truly though, that's how excited I was when this development occurred. 

And then someone recently made a snide remark to me about how I wasn't really "published" in the traditional sense.  This person had the audacity to say my work was not legitimate because it is/was self-published.  OH God, Please Let Me Not Get On My Soap Box And Seriously Give This Individual A Lecture On My Experiences With Traditional Publishing -  it was an excruciatingly brutal experience and I am a person known not to mince words.  So you know what my reply was?  "It's My Book And I Did It My Way. I Have No Regrets, Comprende?!"  And then I actually had a literary agent recently inform me that you cannot publish a memoir using a pen name.  Oh really?  Since when?  I write using a pen name because the first author I truly admired was O. Henry (pen name) otherwise known as William Sydney Porter (real name).  When I first realized he wrote using a pen name and the concept was explained to me by an English teacher, I thought, "Too cool!  I would love to do that one day, too." So I did.

Taking the self-publishing route was not an easy choice; however, when you have written four adult manuscripts and one children's manuscript and literary agents keep rejecting you not because you don't write well, but because you do not have the social media following of a Kardashian then there is something wrong or rotten in the halls of traditional publishing, folks.  So when an author friend of mine and another editor/vice president of a traditional publishing house suggested self-publishing, I took it as a sign from Jesus.  And I went for it.  People now ask me how to indeed self-publish so herewith is a list of the steps I took on my way to publishing Brave Soul Rising.


1)  Realize that not every literary agent recognizes a unique manuscript when it is given to them.  Honestly, Still Alice, The Martian, and Legally Blonde were all originally self-published according to my research.  That right there tells me that sometimes you are meant to captain your own ship and well, I've always been somewhat known as a loner so if the shoe fits darling, wear it well is what I say!

2)  Write an interesting, meaningful, and moving manuscript.  Personally, I have had so many absurd things happen to me in my life, it really wasn't that hard to get those specific times in my life down on paper.  And it definitely wasn't hard to elaborate on those same absurd life events.  For example, browse this entire blog site.

3)  Edit. Edit. Edit.  Okay, this was the hard part.  I honestly can't tell you how many times I edited my manuscript.  I'm a former English instructor so I knew the manuscript probably wouldn't be as perfect as I would like, but I was damn well going to get as close to a mistake-free manuscript as possible. 

4)  Build a writer blog and website.  Initially, I started with a memoir blog utilizing Blogger where I reviewed newly released memoirs and reflected on my experiences with the rejection process involved in traditional publishing.  Then I l reviewed the websites of some of my favorite memoir authors and I sketched what I wanted my author website to include.  I handed this to my husband (a tech guru) and his trusty and skilled software buddy.  And two weeks later, I was editing my new author website while giddy with pleasure that I even had a website.

5)  I continued to connect with other memoir authors and editors via LinkedIn to build my professional network.

6)  Research a book cover designer and obtain price estimates.  This part was scary.  Some book cover designers can charge such large amounts I felt they were probably guilty of highway robbery.  I kept searching.  And then I found the book cover designer who could take my image of what I wanted on the book cover, including colors and fonts, and translate that into an e-book cover and paperback cover.

7)  Decide on what company you would like to publish your book and in what formats.  I decided I wanted e-book and paperback versions of the book that were not outlandishly priced.  Next, I uploaded the manuscript and book covers.  I also ordered a proof copy of the book just to be able to have the product in my hand and ensure it met my expectations.

8)  Market the book.  First, I have a huge extended family so I am in the process of letting them know of the book along with friends, acquaintances, and anyone I meet who might be interested in the book.  I have business cards and I made my own book promotional packet.  I researched book clubs in five southern states because I knew I wanted those groups to know about the book.  I sent my promo material to newspapers, magazines, and even some independent bookstores.  I also had long ago joined an online site specifically for people who love to read, write, and review books.  I am still making connections on that site and offering signed copies of my book in an online book giveaway.

9)  Continue to write.  Continue to read in your particular genre.  Continue to connect with other authors.  And I am also choosing to submit my book in self-publishing competitions to gain more attention,

10)  Enjoy Being The Captain Of Your Own Ship And The Commander Of Your Book Publishing Career!

Till my next post......


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Yes, Gretchen Carlson, I've Been In Similar Circumstances

Dear Lit Loves,

Hi!  Greetings!  I am in the midst of launching the marketing campaign for my recently published memoir entitled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  Okay, I wrote it under my pen name of Grace Sutherlin because I've always wanted a pen name and I do like some inkling of privacy. It was absolutely fabulous to publish this book without any constraints or ties to an agent or publisher.  I was able to do the entire book from beginning idea, to rough outline, to chapter editing, to cover design, and finally now, sold book.  And yes, I did it my way!!  I should have done this years ago.  Seriously.

Okay, now to my post for the day which relates to the news today that former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson is suing Fox News CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.  I've been in a similar situation on many an occasion unfortunately.  I worked at a company mostly comprised of men where a male employee organized a strip show for one of the company's founders.  It took place in the company lab.  It was interesting fielding phone calls while this was happening.  How to explain the whereabouts of most of the men on the staff was rather awkward as calls arrived with requests to speak to this employee or that employee.  When one male employee's wife called asking to speak with her husband I really wanted to tell her what the ignoramus was in the midst of at that particular moment.  Additionally, I had a male employee who actually arrived at my desk in the reception area of the company building and pulled the slit in my skirt apart to examine the height of the cut in the fabric.  Nasty bastard.  And when one of the company founders rubbed his hand all over my leg at the company Christmas party which his wife was also attending, I felt the urge to remove his hand and tell him that the only place it belonged currently was on his own body where the sun don't shine, buddy.  I kid you not.  I reported all this after I eventually left the company, but nothing (to my knowledge) was ever done to enforce consequences for this most unprofessional behavior.  Actually, the human resource representative I reported this delinquent behavior to who was also female actually stated, "Well, I know we would like to horse whip these men, but that's just not possible."   And I've also experienced an assistant principal and other male teachers make remarks about my clothing, shoes, and general appearance on regular occasions.  Why does this keep happening?  I mean, if you report it as I did it just seems to get swept under the rug.  Or maybe those that should be holding these men accountable are choosing to look the other way or continue to repeat the same old tired line of "boys will be boys".  Not Acceptable.

So I applaud you Gretchen Carlson.  Sue, sue, sue away and I hope you win because until a woman or women find victory in having men who harass women in the workplace held properly accountable, the rest of us females lower on the totem pole will most likely continue to be victims of this kind of vulgar and despicable behavior.  I say there should be zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace and it's about time for some accountability and major change in the work environment, ladies!  (By the way I detail some of what happened to me in my new book Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life).  Ladies, stand up to this aggressive, piggish behavior  and when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace say, "Not On My Watch!!"  

Till my next post.....

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dear Reese Witherspoon, Do I Have The Book For You?!!

Dear Ms. Witherspoon/Mrs. Toth,

Hi!  I have no idea how else to get your attention in order to tell you about my book.  Since I do have a blog where I rant and rave about my publishing journey and review newly-released memoirs, I thought I would just write an open letter to you on my blog.  I recently read that you have a book club via Instagram.  Okay, just between me and you, a blog and a website are just about as technical as I get without some serious help from my tech guru husband named Bruce.  I am a southern gal born and raised in North Carolina.  Currently, I reside in a little place called Morrisville, North Carolina.  I have my collegiate degrees in Middle School Education, but I decided six years ago to try my hand at writing about real life though I'm not famous or a well-known person.  I read a book by Will Schwalbe entitled The End of Your Life Book Club and it moved me so much that I decided to begin writing about my own crazy life.  In six years I composed four adult manuscripts geared to women and one manuscript geared toward finding happiness from a cat's perspective.  Relentlessly, I tried to find a literary agent, but was continuously rejected.  Finally, I wrote author and editor Will Schwalbe to ask his advice as my publishing dreams were going nowhere quickly.  He suggested I try self-publishing and so I have.  I just self-published my first book entitled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  I hired my own book cover designer and am in the midst of implementing my marketing plan for the book.  The book is available currently in e-book or paperback format online at Amazon.  Hopefully, it will eventually also be available online at Barnes & Noble.  Following this note is my book summary as well as my bio as I write under the pen name of Grace Sutherlin.  Here's hoping that you find it to be a good read!

Grace Sutherlin (Pen Name)
Real Name:  Amy R. Schmukler

Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life:  Summary

When Does A Woman Discover What She's Really Made Of?

At what point in a woman's life does she discover the values and characteristics that will truly define her for the rest of her life?  Grace Sutherlin will discover the answer to these questions when she is twenty-seven years of age, is married to an abusive con artist, and opts to leave this unhealthy relationship.  In order to support herself, Grace takes a low wage job as a receptionist in corporate America to make ends meet and subsequently finds herself in an abrasive, substandard working environment full of inflated egos and chauvinistic coworkers.  And finally when she is at her lowest depths both personally and professionally, she defies all the odds and accepts a teaching position in a volatile, inner-city middle school where in order to survive she must relinquish the timid, southern small town girl of her youth and become a battle-hardened, no-nonsense woman with the firm belief that no matter the depths of misery in which you might find yourself, you have a choice in defining the person you are and will be as well as the reality of your future.  Grace discovers the two qualities that will define her as an individual for the rest of her life:  tenacity and resilience.  Ultimately, this is a story of a brave soul rising above the fray and a woman who discovers the merits of having lived an uncharmed and unpretentious life.

Author Bio:

Grace Sutherlin is the pen name for Amy R. Schmukler.  She is a native North Carolinian, former middle school English instructor, and an avid reader and writer.  She holds both bachelor and master degrees in Middle Grades Education with a specialty in Communications from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  She has taught in both the public and private educational sectors.  She currently resides in Morrisville, North Carolina with her tech guru husband and their affectionate feline named Chewie.  You may follow her blog at or her website  She is currently at work on her next manuscript. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Observing Father's Day When My Dad Is No Longer Living

Dear Lit Loves,

Well, this is a somber weekend for me in some ways.  I have taken the self-publishing route with my memoir manuscript.  It is available via ebook now.  I am awaiting the arrival of the proof print copy of the book in order to give the okay for it to go on sale.  What is difficult for me now is that June 19th this year is not only Father's Day, but my dad's birthday.  Only he died of complications due to lymphoma on June 9th, 2015.  Last year on Father's Day I felt like someone had embedded an IED in my heart and it exploded.  I also fell apart emotionally in a Hallmark store last year after going to get a thank you card and getting bombarded with the Father's Day advertising.  I found myself leaving the store and sitting on a bench in the mall crying until I could pull myself together.

This year hasn't been easy either.  Just for the record, I bought all the cards I would need to send in the months of May, June and July during the first week of May.  I didn't want to experience the breakdown that I had last year in a Hallmark store.  This year I will remember the picture I have of my dad holding me outside he and mom's first house when I was just a baby.  I will remember him teaching me my vowels and reading to me.  He taught me how to swim, dive into a pool and body surf in the ocean.  He attended all my school performances and piano recitals.  He attended professional wrestling matches with me because I absolutely loved pulling for Ric Flair.  Usually by the end of the match, dad would be standing up screaming for Ric Flair, too.  I miss my dad when our family has a barbecue together as he taught me how to use the grill.  He also drew a picture of the writer O. Henry when I gave my first book and author presentation in ninth grade.  And he taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car.  I don't know who was more excited when I graduated from college:  my dad or me.  Man, he even came to observe me teach a class one day during my student teacher days.

 Dad was there for me when I found myself married to an abusive, manipulative con artist during my first marriage.  He helped me believe that as a woman I deserved better.  He encouraged my independent streak.  He protected my health by getting me to a doctor and hospital at age three when I contracted bacterial meningitis and was in the hospital for a month and survived the ordeal.  He was also the one that accompanied me to UNC-Chapel Hill hospital when I was diagnosed with Meniere's disease at age eighteen.  In later years, dad would come with mom and my brother to visit me for a week during my birthday so we could be together as a family unit once again.  We would often work on my home garden together and plant peony bushes and knockout rose bushes together.  He gave me my first jewelry box that plays the song "You Light Up My Life" when the box is opened.  Last year on my birthday I spent it with him in the critical care unit of a hospital where he was in the final stage of life.  We ate ice cream together because that was the only thing he would willingly eat at the time.  And I was holding his hand by his bedside at Hospice when he took his final breath.  Honestly, at the time I wished God would just take me too so I could journey with him to the great beyond. 

Today I still start sobbing when I see a father and daughter at McDonald's sharing a Happy Meal together as we used to do that as well.  Each time I see a man in his sixties driving around in a convertible Miata I silently say, "Hey Dad.  Miss you, man".  Once I was at a gas station this year and saw a man that looked a lot like my dad wearing an Atlanta Braves cap.  I couldn't buy my gas after that because it hurt so badly emotionally.  I had to get in my car and come back and buy gas later. Sometimes I just pray and ask dad to help me with a decision I have to make.  Anytime I hear an Elvis Presley song or an Alan Jackson song, I think of my dad.  I still hope my phone will ring and I will hear him on the only line facetiously saying, "Hey! This is Joe's Pool Hall and this is the 8 ball speaking.  How ya doin'?"  He was a character and a fine dadio.

So when you are out and about with your dad this weekend, remember he won't always physically be there to enjoy.  He won't always be able to call you.  He won't always be there for you to take him to lunch or supper or to enjoy a barbecue and baseball game with you.  This year on Father's Day and my dad's birthday, I'll just have to keep my dad in my heart along with all my memories.


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Anti-Social Media Memoirist

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings literary lovies!  Well, have you ever heard the song entitled "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister?  (Okay, if you are 35 years of age or younger I'll wait while you toggle through social media to find the song and listen to the lyrics).  It's absolutely one of my favorite songs.  And presently, I'm listening to it on constant rotation for a serious reason:  I had one too many literary agents turn down my memoir manuscript because I "don't have a national media platform and pre-existing audience in the tens or hundreds of thousands via social media."   So I finally have gotten fed up and am throwing down the gauntlet.  You know why I'm throwing down the gauntlet?  Because it used to be that a book was acquired based on the meaningfulness of the story and the strong writing.  Well as far as I'm concerned that should still be the case. 

And agents as well as other acquaintances keep asking me (pestering is more like it) with the questions:  Why don't you do Facebook?  Twitter?  Instagram?  Pinterest?  YouTube?  Tumblr? Flickr? Snapchat?  Simple answer:  I think all social media feeds narcissist tendencies and behaviors.  Truly, I don't want my life or the people in it displayed all over the internet.  If I wish to comment on an issue, I'll write about it via my blog, website or manuscript so I'm not limited to 143 characters.  I have better things to do with my life than tag pictures and people that I like.  That's observing life, not LIVING it.  And honestly, this Facebook thing with people being able to "unlike" you?  Puhleesse!  This is not junior high school, folks!  As a writer I will engage in having a blog and a website.  And that's more than enough to keep up with on a frequent basis.

So here's the deal:  As far as the literary community is concerned I'm going rogue.  Yep, you heard me correctly.  I finished my manuscript, edited it, revised it, and now I'm taking the self-publishing route.  Everything's finished with the exception of the book cover and that's happening right now.  Eventually, you will have access to my books through paperback and ebook.  Now I'm not expecting Julianne Moore who appeared in the movie Still Alice which was originally a self-published work to call me, but if she does, I'll take the call after verifying it is actually her.  I'm not anticipating Reese Witherspoon to even hear of my book, read it or much less call me and ask to purchase the movie rights, but she did star in the movie version of Legally Blonde which was originally a self-published book.  If Reese calls though, I will take the call upon verification that it is actually her.  I'll be looking to hear her southern accent for sure.  My point is this:  sometimes you can't let your dreams linger in the closet or get stuffed in a corner.  No, sometimes you have to go make it all happen by yourself because even though no one else believes in you, it's enough that you believe in yourself and your work.  I'll be posting updates as the self-publishing process takes its course.  And I'll still be posting reviews of memoirs I recommend though I do not read celebrity memoirs.  I read books by real people with real lives and real issues because I like the average person, the underdog, and the alleged "nobodies" (literary agent term not mine).  We will all have to wait patiently and see what this nobody from nowheresville does, okay?  Can you say, MOTIVATED?!

Till my next post,


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Finally! An Outstanding Memoir About Living Cancer Free!!

Dear Lit Loves,

Lord. Bless. National Geographic Partners, LLC.  They along with a writer by the name of Mary Elizabeth Williams just published the outstanding memoir entitled A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles:  A True Story of Love, Science, and Cancer.  I pre-ordered the book as I was so impressed that there actually exists a literary agent, an editor and a publisher who all invested in a book about one woman's journey with stage 4 melanoma.  One too many times I've heard a literary agent (mostly), but occasionally an editor tell me, "Well, we can't sell a manuscript that has any kind of cancer story in it because it's considered a misery memoir."  God's honest truth.  Well, I would think to myself, one day when some form of cancer grabs that agent or editor or someone they love by the throat and drop-kicks them in the ring for the battle of their life, maybe they will get a clue about how important this subject is.  Because if you think for one foolish minute that just because no one in your family has ever had a cancer diagnosis that it won't happen to you, GET REAL.  Happens each day. 

This particular book relates Mary Elizabeth's recognition of melanoma which was initially located on her scalp.  She's a red head with fair skin just like myself.  Gals like us can't be too careful when it comes to skin cancer.  Mary Elizabeth's scalp was biopsied and the pathology report revealed stage 2 melanoma.  She had surgery to remove a portion of her scalp/head.  Fortunately, her husband and two girls helped her keep the area clean and sanitized once she was released from the hospital following surgery.  Then there comes an extended family tragedy and also, one of Mary Elizabeth's friends gets a cancer diagnosis as well so you see how they are both struggling with cancer at the same time, but with very, very different outcomes.  When Mary Elizabeth returns to the hospital for her rechecks on the melanoma, her scans show nodules in the lungs and that's when she learns that she now has stage 4 melanoma....what I call "the holy shit of cancer diagnoses".  How do I know?  I've had basal cell carcinoma myself and my dad died last year around this time of a rare lymphoma.  And oh yes, my mom survived breast cancer.  My uncle died of leukemia upon returning from Vietnam.  You could say I've had a bit of experience with the big "C".

Fortunately, Mary Elizabeth gets into a clinical trial of utilizing immunotherapy to harness the power of the immune system to fight melanoma.  Usually this type of stage 4 melanoma diagnosis also comes with the news that you only have months to live; not years, folks.  Mary Elizabeth begins immunotherapy treatment in a clinical trial of a drug now known as Yervoy.  How does it work?  Well, we all are usually blessed with T Cells in our bodies that help fight off infectious invaders including cancer.  Sometimes those T Cells have a protein on them that prevent the T Cells from recognizing a cell as cancerous.  Yervoy deactivates the protein on T Cells preventing our own immune system from recognizing and killing cancers.  Once that protein's power is disengaged, our T Cells can recognize and kill cancerous cells invading our body.  And the nice thing about our immune system is that it has a great memory so it continues to recognize cancer cells and kill them.  This drug doesn't work for everyone with melanoma though, but for Mary Elizabeth, it did.  The nodules in her lungs and one that appears under the skin on her back disappear.  Unfortunately, her friend's cancer is not able to be successfully treated and she is not able to gain access to a clinical trial.  What I think is important for readers to take away from this book is the following:  the six actions that enabled Mary Elizabeth to have an opportunity to survive an often vicious and fatal cancer.  Here are those actions:

1)  She recognized that there was something seriously wrong.  There was a bare spot on her scalp.  It was also tender.  She knew because of her fair skin she was more susceptible to skin cancer.  And she didn't delay seeking an answer for what was wrong; she went and found a surgeon who took her seriously, biopsied the scalp area, found the cancer, and operated to remove it.  If you listen to your body I promise it will tell you when something is wrong with it.  If you go see a doctor and he or she tells you, oh it's just early menopause or stress, then get a second or third opinion.  It could save your life.   Doctors can be hired and fired.  You do not have to accept substandard medical care.  If you don't think a doctor is taking your medical issues seriously; get another opinion.

2)  When Mary Elizabeth selected a doctor/surgeon she went to one of the best cancer facilities in the United States:  Memorial Sloan Kettering.  She made sure she had a darn good and experienced surgeon.  If you get diagnosed with cancer you should get the best doctor too because it's your life on the line.  Do research, ask for patient references, take a another person with you to question the doctor, and do whatever it takes to ensure you are getting a well-qualified, experienced surgeon and oncologist.  If at any time you sense red flags in terms of a doctor's competence, experience, character, or choice of treatment, it's time to find another specialist.  Pronto.

3)  Mary Elizabeth was open to volunteering for a clinical trial and she accepted the opportunity to participate in it.  And the drug that was being tested saved her life.  So many people get a cancer diagnosis and just give up, pack it in, and aren't willing to undergo the hassles and constant evaluations that are a part of a new drug trial.  If people hadn't participated in clinical trials of stem cell transplants, my dad would not have had the opportunity to participate in one that would add five additional years to his life.  So thank Jesus for people brave enough to volunteer for clinical trials of new drugs.

4)  Mary Elizabeth would not accept being examined any further by a substitute oncologist who treated her as if she were a lab specimen.  On one visit Mary Elizabeth's regular oncologist is absent and she sees another specialist who is taking his place for the day.  The doc walked in with his residents and treated Mary Elizabeth as if she were a tumor and not a human being.  On her way out of the hospital, she informed the folks at the front desk that she never, ever wanted to be seen by that doctor again.  Bravo.  Speak up if a doctor acts or behaves in an unprofessional or anal-retentive fashion. 

5)  Get regular rechecks.  Honestly folks, an oncologist or whoever is treating your cancer should always be checking your blood levels and scanning areas of your body where cancer may surface.  And it should be happening quite often and on a timely schedule.  I once lost a friend because her oncologist never bothered to inform her that once her cancer went into remission, she needed to come back every three to six months for CT and PET scans to ensure the cancer wasn't trying to resurface.  Better to find cancer early rather than late.

6)  Mary Elizabeth had a support system in terms of her husband, her daughters, her mother-in-law, friends, colleagues and she and her family all went to weekly sessions of a support group called Gilda's club.  Don't suffer alone and in silence.  Help and assistance is out there, but you've got to seek it out and you've got to accept it, okay?

This is a dynamite book.  Everyone should read it.  I know I'll be recommending it.  And I hope someday my book regarding my own journey and my dad's journey will touch lives as well.  Till my next read.....


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Memoir Review: Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder by Amy Butcher

Dear Literary Loves,

Greetings one and all.  I haven't written a memoir review in ages because I have been busy trying to take my own memoir manuscript  and transition it from its doc file and place it into a print publishing template.  I thought my nervous system might in fact leave my body, jump on a broom and take flight encircling my apartment complex while attempting to accomplish this task.  Next, I thought okay, sure, now I'll just take the manuscript from the doc file and transfer it to an e-book publishing template.  I tried reading the directions for how to accomplish this task and quickly started hyperventilating after the first three sentences.  Fortunately, my tech wizard husband noticed my crisis and assured me he knew how to take my memoir manuscript and format it to an e-book!  I've selected the cover art for the book cover and located an artist to complete the book cover so now I'm working on the marketing materials I will use to promote the book.  And people think the hard part of publishing is writing the book!  No folks, that part was easy; it's the formatting and cover art that is about to push me over the edge into a panic attack.  No worries though, I just ordered several newly released memoirs and decided to read them.  The first one I selected is Visiting Hours:  A Memoir of Friendship and Murder by Amy Butcher.

This memoir pricked my interest because it is based on a true story.  The author goes to college and meets a guy with whom she establishes a friendship.  They are both from small towns and they both attend Gettysburg College.  This is the college where one of the major Civil War battles was fought.  According to the author, the college site is where over 22,000 Confederate soldiers died along with over 17,000 Union soldiers.  And supposedly, some 6,000 dead soldiers bodies still lie underground where this college was built.  It gave me the creeps just thinking about it; I mean, excuse me, but's that a lot of souls and sacred ground.  Anyway,  the author's friend, Kevin, who she believes she has much in common with and who she spends a great deal of time with, eventually escorts her back to her apartment one evening and then returns to his own apartment where he then kills his girlfriend by stabbing her twenty seven times and then sits by her body for twenty minutes before calling the police for help.  I remembered hearing about this epic event on the news so naturally, I wondered what this author would say regarding what really happened to cause this friend of hers to essentially "lose it".  

Eventually, the reader learns that the author, Amy, stays in contact via letters with her friend Kevin who just murdered his girlfriend.  None of the other friends in their cohort remain in touch with Kevin, but this girl does.  So the question I begin to ask myself are why would she remain in contact with him and what caused this guy to become so broken-minded that he kills his girlfriend?  Amy, the author, appeared to have grown up being quite a compassionate individual.  Even during national tragedies like Columbine and Matthew Shepard's death, she would write sympathy notes to families of the victims.  Since Amy grew up in a small, isolated and rural town, she never really knew violent tragedy and she has a compelling need to comfort others.  I believe she also wondered if whatever caused her friend Kevin to "lose it" could also cause her to also lose control as well.  As a result of the tragedy, she loses trust in men, experiences post traumatic stress disorder, fears for own safety, and wonders if there was anything she or their group of friends could have done to prevent Kevin from murdering his girlfriend. 

The reader eventually learns that Kevin had attempted suicide during a semester when Amy was a foreign-exchange student.  Kevin is hospitalized and diagnosed with major depression with suicide ideation.  The author learns this from a peer that goes to college with her and Kevin and who sends her an email to inform her of the situation.  When she returns to Gettysburg College, she and Kevin never discuss his attempted suicide or depression or mental illness.  And really, as far as I can tell, none of their peers discuss the matter with him either.  It leaves the author wondering if she should have seen what was happening to her friend, spoken with him about what he had done and about his depressive state.  And she often wonders, how come he didn't kill her that night, but instead later killed his girlfriend?  What the author didn't know is that her friend Kevin had been taking a significant dosage of the antidepressant Sinequan and because he didn't like the way it made him feel, he decided to suddenly stop taking the drug cold turkey.  This can cause a person major anxiety, agitation and can potentially lead a person to become manic and prone to suicide as well as violent behavior or at least that's what I gained from reading this book.  Kevin was actually going to kill himself that night, but his girlfriend tried to stop him from stabbing himself with a kitchen chef's knife when he suddenly turned the knife on her.  Interestingly, there was never a trial.  Kevin pleaded guilty and took a plea deal to eliminate the possibility of life in prison and instead the plea deal mandated he serve twenty seven to fifty years in prison. 

This whole ordeal leads the author to question if you ever really know someone as well as you think you do and also was there anything that could have been done to prevent this tragedy from happening?  Personally, I thought there were some signs he might have some kind of potential problem.  He certainly was fascinated with the violent history associated with Gettysburg College.  At one point he refers to the coffee in nearby Lincoln Diner as tasting like death. (At this point as a reader I was thinking, how does he know what death tastes like and why would he refer to the coffee tasting that way?)  Also, he brought his PlayStation gaming device to college and engaged in violent video games. And at one point when the author is living in a house on campus where people reside who have dedicated whole rooms to symbolic folks of the Civil War, Kevin actually picks up a bayonet and "plays" as if he is going to stab the author with it.  These would have all been red flags to me along with the suicide attempt. 

I don't know if anyone could have prevented Kevin from deciding to stop taking his medication and if he knew about the accompanying side effects of ceasing the medication abruptly.  I do wonder what doctor was monitoring him while he was taking this medication and was he assigned a doctor to work with after his suicide attempt?  Was there a doctor on campus that was following his case?  It all just goes to demonstrate that mental illness is a rampant problem in this country and there are many folks around us who suffer with a form of mental illness and we don't even know it.  It's also a powerful reminder to watch the actions, attitudes, and interests of those around us because those can be indicative of a person's nature, focus and intentions.  Or at least these have proved invaluable to me when it comes to who I hold close in my life, who I keep at arm's length, and who I won't have anything to do with period. 

Till my next read.



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How To Know When To Fire Your Doctor Or Medical Specialist

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings fellow lit loves!  The latest newly released memoir in my reading queue has not arrived yet; therefore, I had a request from a supporter to please write a blog post about how to know when it is time to fire a doctor or medical specialist since I have immense experience with the medical profession as a patient and patient advocate.  No problem.  This one is right up my dirt road.

First, it should be noted that I have medical specialists for gastrointestinal issues (colitis), eye problems (Uveitis, Uveitic Glaucoma and Retina Swelling), inner ear disease (Meniere's disease), skin issues (Basal Cell Carcinoma), a neurology disorder (tension migraines), autoimmune disorder (undetermined but treated with an oral chemo drug) and I'm seen regularly by a medical specialist who treats me for anxiety, insomnia and post traumatic stress disorder.  Additionally, I also was my dad's health advocate through CHOP chemo, a stem cell transplant and monoclonal antibody therapy utilized to treat his diagnosis of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma CD30+ and I also assisted my mom with her treatment for breast cancer.

After more than thirty years of being treated for one unusual illness after another, I've learned when I need to stop seeing a medical specialist and find a new one.  For instance, let me explain my most recent experience when I moved from Georgia to North Carolina and was referred to a medical specialist that obviously did not have my best health interests in mind.

Red Flags That Indicate You May Need To Fire A Doctor And Find A New Medical Specialist:

1)  First, I arrived at the office of a specialist I was referred to by a doctor who treated me in Atlanta.  When I arrived at the office front desk, the staff was entirely "off task".  In other words, instead of checking me in as a patient, they were especially enthused about the Carolina Panthers and their success in the 2015 NFL season.  Finally, a receptionist got around to addressing me as I stood there waiting to write my copay and confirm my appointment with the doctor.  It was also interesting that the receptionist handed me paperwork which should be filled out prior to my appointment with the doctor.  This paperwork would take about twenty minutes to completely finish.  I asked why this questionnaire hadn't been sent to me in the mail prior to my appointment, but the receptionist had no idea why I had not received it earlier.

2)  I never had time to complete the medical questionnaire because I had only arrived fifteen minutes prior to my appointment time and it would have taken me twenty minutes to complete the questionnaire.  No worries.  A nurse called me back for my appointment and took the questionnaire even though I informed her it was not completed.  And I never got the chance to complete the forms. So I guess that information wasn't important or was not pertinent to my case? 

3)  The fellowship doctor who arrived in the patient room to see me first had no information on my patient history nor did she have any of my medical records from my previous doctor.  She had the form I faxed to the doctor in Atlanta who obviously had at some point done her job and faxed the new doctor her notes on my case and my test results; however, the fellowship physician could not locate those notes or test results.  She actually said she thought they had most likely been misplaced or lost.

4)  The new physician arrives to examine me and does not really adequately know my medical history because she had not already discussed my case history with my previous doctor.  Nor had the physician bothered to locate the notes and test results that her office had misplaced.  The doctor listens as I tell her I've been successfully treated for my illness for 28 years via medication, but then tells me her preference for my treatment would be surgery and shots to the inner ear.  (In my opinion if the medication I'm taking has worked for 28 years why would you fix what obviously ain't broken, you know what I mean?)

5)  Though I reviewed with the new physician my medication regimen that has been successfully keeping the illness under control, she dismisses the treatment entirely and believes her treatment plan of surgery and shots is the best treatment option for me.  That might be the most expensive option and highest reimbursement option for her, but it wasn't the best treatment regimen for me.

6)  The new physician refuses to refill any of the medications the previous doctor had me taking.  If some of the medications were stopped completely and without tapering, I might have suffered serious side effects which would have left me in a very bad condition.

7)  The new physician sends me to her audiology department for $1500 worth of hearing tests, but then says she cannot go over the results of those tests with me today as she's too busy.   The doctor then says we will go over the hearing test results during my return appointment IN SIX MONTHS!

8)  It is also especially disrespectful if a doctor does not take the time to sit with a patient, look them in the eye and have an open discussion about the patient's illness.  I had a doctor get up during my discussion with her and begin to locate her medical instruments she would use to check my inner ear so in essence her back was to me while I was attempting to have a conversation with her.  This says to me that she doesn't not believe I am an important patient nor is my case.

9)  I always take someone with me to most of my appointments with a new doctor because I like to have someone else's opinion regarding what he/she thought of the doctor and his/her behavior, comments and efforts to help me.  The person I took with me to see this particular doctor felt as I did that there was a definite lack of adequate follow through regarding my case history and the doctor conducted the appointment in a hurried manner.  Plus, the doctor left me without the ability to obtain refills for medications I had been taking for several  years and did not go over my test results with me.

10)  I often ask a doctor or specialist how they feel the doctor/patient relationship works.  The best possible scenario is that a doctor collaborates with a patient on their treatment plan and doesn't assume he or she is the guru and you as a patient just follow her orders.  It's a two way street in my opinion.  We both should be working together to design an optimal treatment plan for my diagnosis.  If this isn't the case, I leave and know it's time to locate a more qualified and respectful specialist.

Here's wishing you good health along with the patience and good fortune to locate the best doctor
or specialist you can.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Out With NC House Bill 2 And Out With Gov. Pat McCrory

Dear Lit Loves,

Well folks, this is not going to be a post about the latest memoir book release.  This is about NC House Bill 2 which NC Governor Pat McCrory and our lawmakers pushed through the legislative branches of our government in a single day.  It's a ludicrous bill and it discriminates against the LGBT community.  It basically says that a transgender person must utilize the restroom of the gender on their birth certificate, not the gender with which they identify.  And supposedly, this law is for the safety of children. I don't have children, but I would be more worried about protecting them from pedophiles which most law enforcement profilers describe as generally middle to upper class white males.  Folks, this mess of legislation is against the law.  It promotes and sanctions discrimination.  Last time I checked, that's illegal.

Recently, on my local NC evening news television station I saw one set of people protesting peacefully against the HB2 law in downtown Raleigh and then I saw what appeared to be evangelical, conservative so-called "christians" standing at a podium yelling their endorsement of this HB2 bill.  How hypocritical!  And worse, I next saw a person who was part of the group endorsing the law walk over and get in the face of the folks peacefully protesting against the law.  See who exactly was the aggressor in this situation?  Let's apply the christian motto of "What Would Jesus Do?" right here, right now.  I don't think Jesus or at least the one I came to know as a Methodist would endorse this law and I know he would not have been trying to pick a fight with a person peacefully protesting against the law in downtown Raleigh, NC. 

This HB2 law is going to hit North Carolina in the wallet.  Oh yes, businesses are already pulling plans for job growth in North Carolina; musicians are cancelling concerts; conventions that were to take place in North Carolina, mark my words, will be cancelled and rightly so.  The backlash is just beginning.  I foresee federal funds being taken away from NC secondary and post secondary schools.  So you know what I'm going to do in November?  I am voting out Governor Pat McCrory and any NC lawmaker who voted to pass this legislation cause the last thing we need more of in this state is more Bigots.  I don't know about you, but I'm not going to allow ignorant and intolerant lawmakers cause North Carolina to become known as the "backassward" state.  No, not on my watch.

And to the folks of in Oriental, North Carolina who supposedly created this satirical blog piece depicting a woman in a white lab coat wearing blue lab gloves and wearing a "gender compliance officer" sign, let me say this:  I didn't find it funny; I didn't find it amusing; I found it insulting.  And by the way, the woman in the accompanying blog picture who was posing as the gender compliance officer?  Grandma from The Beverly Hillbillies just called and she wants her hairstyle back and I found your blog post about this law grossly repulsive and repugnant.

Amy (Grace)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Wrestling With Rising Strong By Brene Brown And Berkley Publishing Issues

Dear Lit Loves,

Recently, a doctor of mine who knew of the grief I had been experiencing over the death of my dad, recommended that I check into books by Dr. Brene Brown, a researcher who works in the Graduate College of Social Work at The University of Houston.  The only information I had on her at the time is that I think I had seen her in a copy of O, The Oprah Magazine.  I was under the impression that she writes about vulnerability, courage, and how we become better people after processing a failure or loss.  I chose to start with her latest book entitled Rising Strong:  The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.  There is a short note under the title saying, "If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.  This is a book about what it takes to get back up."   After examining the book at Barnes & Noble, I thought I would give it a whirl.  She's a Texas southerner.  I'm a southern North Carolinian.  We probably have something we can learn from each other and maybe a few things in common.  I was fine and in agreement that owning our stories and examining them lead us to learn more about ourselves and quite possibly empower us as human beings.  All good.  And then I readily identified with her after she discusses a roommate she was stuck with at a hotel while speaking at a conference.  The roommate, in my opinion, was brash, inconsiderate, and gave the bird to the hotel rules and policies like not smoking on the property.  So Dr. Brown goes to visit her counselor still fuming about the incident.  And her counselor explains that maybe the roommate was doing the best she can or at least that is what she chooses to believe about most people.  Like Dr. Brown, I thought to myself, there is no way on God's green earth that I believe everybody is doing the best they can!  Are you freakin' serious?!! 

This leads me to put down the book and think about what I believe regarding this statement.  I'm still thinking about the statement as I drive to the pharmacy to pick up my medication refills.  I back my Mustang out of our garage and look at the apartment recycling center at the end of the road.  It's overflowing with recyclable goods, some looney tune has thrown his moving boxes over the sides of the gate surrounding the container because there is no more room to put them inside the recycling receptacle, and two people drive up and just throw their plastic trash bags of recycling all over the pavement beside the recycling bin.  Are these people doing the best they can I think to myself.  Hell no is what I think.  First, the property manager should have recognized a long time ago that the complex required another recycling space and receptacle or he should have the recycling picked up more often.  The guy who threw his moving boxes over the fence without breaking any of the boxes down first and just letting them land all over the place and create a junky environment?  No, he's not doing his best.  I think he's just lazy and probably lives in a cluttered environment.  And the two tenants that just threw their plastic bags of recycling over the fence obviously not caring that the bags burst or opened and the contents were sprayed all over the pavement?  Were they doing their best?  Oh, hell to the no!  Honestly, I think they just didn't give a damn and were also guilty of littering. Maybe I should call the police or take down their license plate numbers.

Upon arriving to the pharmacy I encounter a line of people waiting to pick up prescriptions.  I take my place as third in line.  I notice that a clerk is helping people pick up prescriptions at the drive-thru, but no one appears to be helping any of us standing in line inside the store waiting to pick up our medications.  When the clerk finishes assisting the pharmacy drive-thru customers, she returns to a computer and never glances at those of us still standing in line.  Finally, the pharmacist asks the clerk who was working the pharmacy drive-thru to assist those of us inside the store waiting to pick up prescriptions.  Is she really doing the best she can I begin thinking to myself.  No.  I think she's ticked off at having to attend to those of us inside the store as she had asked if anyone else was available to help us before taking on the job herself.  I then notice she appears especially friendly to the two elder folks in front of me when she helps them.  When it's my turn at the register, she is gruff, not at all friendly, and after I hand her my check she begins waxing on and on about how check payments are archaic and no one really uses them to pay for anything anymore.  Oh For Christ's Sake!  Now I'm just standing there giving her the Darth Vader stare and my nostrils are flaring.  I mean, even if you hate your job, is it really necessary to insult the manner in which a customer chooses to pay for their prescriptions? 

I return to my apartment complex and have a woman waiting behind me in a Honda and perched on my bumper.  We live in a gated apartment community and I have to scan the key card to open the gates in order to enter.  Once I do, the driver is riding on my bumper.  I come to a speed bump and she actually pulls her car around mine and also drives around the speed bump and then tries to zoom ahead in front of me.  But wait! Now I've driven over the speed bump, am blocking her path, and literally sitting in my car giving her my laser stare of death.  She doesn't proceed.  Good decision.  People are truly wacko I think as I'm shaking my head and wondering how in the hell anyone can go around thinking that in general, people are trying to do their best.  You know what I think?  I think most people are doing what's in their interests at that moment.  I think they are deciding what will give them the greatest gain toward what they wish to achieve at any given moment.  Now, according to Dr. Brown and her research, the people who answer yes to the idea that people, in general, are just trying to do their best are wholehearted and believe in being vulnerable and value their self-worth.  Those of us who don't believe that in general, people are doing their best have issues with perfectionism and are possibly less compassionate and may not set boundaries well. Okay, at this point I was about to grab a broom, wave an imaginary wand over it, hop on the handle and fly around the room.  SAY WHAT LADY?!  No, No, and No.  First, I used to have a problem with perfectionism until I realized no one would ever meet my own standards so why set myself up for disappointment?   Quickly abandoned that concept.  Point two, does that make me a less compassionate person?  No.  It makes me selectively compassionate.  People can be con artists, abusive, ruthless, greedy, and indifferent.  If a person demonstrates this, I'm probably not going to have a lot of compassion for him or her.  It's that simple.  Point three.  Do I have a problem with setting boundaries?  Laughing hysterically and almost to the point of hyperventilating and rolling off the chaise lounge in the living room, my husband walks into the room.  He asks me what's up.  I ask him if he thinks I have problems with setting boundaries.  His answer, "Christ no.  If anyone has a question on where you stand they either have to be deaf, blind, or incompetent." Thank you.  I rest my case.  I did finish reading the book, but I kept thinking that you know, Dr. Brown, there are exceptions to the data and research.  And I'm probably an exception.  It's okay.  We'd probably have great dinner conversations and debates, though. 

And finally dear literary loves, I noticed that Berkley Books is having problems.  First, Berkley was combined with NAL and Leslie Gelbman was removed.  Almost a month later, I'm reading that though it hasn't been confirmed, Berkley is now being combined with Putnam and Dutton and possibly four more editors were let go.  Hmmmm.  I look back over what memoirs were published by Berkley Books last year.  There was one that I read about a guy who survives the UCLA paramedic program.  I read it because I'm fascinated by medical issues, but the vast book buying public is made up of women and I don't see them having a whole lot of interest in the book.  So I try to find what memoirs Berkley Books is getting ready to release in the near future.  Well, there's a memoir getting ready to be released about a couple who undergo forty tasks to determine if they are marriage material and if they can't pass the tests then the wedding is off the table.  And some of the tasks they endure include swapping credit cards, speed dating (why?), having lunch with their exes, spending twenty-four hours handcuffed together, and trying to imitate famous television/movie sex scenes.  Are these people for real?  You're kidding me, right?  Wait, are these two millennials? That would potentially explain a lot right there. I'm tired of these gimmicky memoirs.  I know what it takes to find the right life partner as I've been married eighteen years and when you've been through job loss, interstate moves, skin grafting surgery, caring for elderly parents, losing vision to glaucoma, family quarrels, and the death of your parents then talk to me about how you go about determining if someone is marriage material.  Otherwise, I won't bother buying your book because I don't find it interesting, funny, enlightening, or worth my hard-earned dollar, okay?  Berkley!  Call me!  I've got the riveting manuscripts!   If not, it's okay.  I'll self-publish and go my own way because I know my genre, target market, and I know what sells. 

Till my next post,

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

When You Are Unable To Find A Literary Agent, Become A Red-Headed Renegade Writer

 Dear Lit Loves,

Well, along this journey to score a traditional publishing deal, it has become sharply apparent to me that maybe I wasn't meant to secure a literary agent.  I've always been a radical independent soul.  Some would even dare to call me a loner and I wear that with a badge of pride.  I don't like city living (too many people).  I like the open country and two lane winding roads that just might end in a bean patch.  Seriously, you can ask my husband; this happened on one of first vacations together.  That's probably why I'm heavily drawn to Chapel Hill and blue heaven as opposed to Raleigh and its often rude, obnoxious, and non-law-abiding citizens.  I'm specifically speaking to the guy who almost ran me over on a two lane road in downtown Raleigh where I was observing the thirty-five mile per hour speed limit in front of a school.  The same driver yelled obscenities at me once I turned off the road and he promptly sped off to his obviously more important life than mine.  Now that I think about it, he most likely was a Millennial as I'm good at judging a person's age and he also seemed to have a cell phone attached to his face.  Puhhllleeessseee, don't get me started.

And getting back on a literary track, I must say I haven't corresponded with any literary agent who I felt truly understood and connected with my writing.  I've corresponded with one who wanted me to write more like Joan Didion.  Say what?  Lady, I'm most sure Joan Didion and I live on entirely different planets.  Plus, I like my own style and manner of writing and as I've always advised my writing students, Don't Be A Copy Cat!!  Next, I had a literary agent who basically said she didn't represent memoir authors who don't have a national platform.  Basically, I took this to mean that I'm not Meryl Streep, a renowned academic, or a magazine journalist.  Talk about taking body blows to your self-esteem.  Well, if the agent wants to wait around for Meryl Streep to call and offer her a chance to represent her memoir, I guess she can afford to wait till hell freezes over, but I can't.  And by the way, Meryl will most likely utilize a literary agent from a ginormous famous agency who is really going to fight to get her a damn good deal because she's that good and she has those kind of connections.  I would if I were her.  And here's a news bulletin/flash:  academics and journalists do not necessarily have the market cornered on readily being able to connect and identify with the everyday or more independent-spirited women in the world.   And finally, there is the literary agent who informed me she wanted to represent quirky memoirs.  She really didn't want to tackle a memoir author who addressed serious women's issues such as domestic violence, chauvinism, corporate inequality, counseling a friend through a terminal illness, or tackling caring for elderly parents when you are their healthcare power of attorney.  A memoir addressing serious women's issues of the everyday variety?!  Oh God!  Let's all run for our lives or hide!  Yeah, that's going to get you places fast my little literary friend.  Lord. Help. Me.  I don't have the patience for this, I swear.

So, I thought about these recent exchanges and correspondences.  And I said to myself, "Oh, The Hell With You!  I'll Just Go Damn Well Do It Myself!"  And that's just what I plan to do.  And as my husband says, "Watch Out For That Red-Headed Renegade Writer!  She's chewing nails and spitfire mad!"

I'll keep you updated,

Monday, February 22, 2016

Maybe Self-Publishing Is The Way To Go??

Dear Lit Loves,

You know, I just read an article about books whose authors gave up on trying to find a literary agent and just took the bull by the horns and self-published their book.  Heck, Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice, said she finally gave up pursuing the traditional route to publishing after she spent a year querying literary agents and only received rejection after rejection.  Wait a cotton-pickin' minute!  Wasn't that the movie for which Julianne Moore won a Best Actress Oscar?!!!  Also, I've just learned that Legally Blonde, which most of us know as the Reese Witherspoon movie, was originally a self-published book by Amanda Brown.  Hmmmm.  Interesting.  E.L. James originally self-published Fifty Shades of Grey before it went on to be traditionally published and also made into a movie.  Mother Mary Help All Us Striving And Starving Unknown Writers!  There might be hope for all of us yet!!  Maybe literary agents really do not know what the public has a hankering for these days??  Also, The Martian by Andy Weir was originally self-published and now it has been made into a movie that just grossed 300 million.  And then more recently, my brother informed me that the book we found quite deep and revealing titled The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield was originally self-published.  In other words, just because a literary agent doesn't recognize what will fly off the shelves doesn't mean you the author don't know your genre well enough to recognize that what you are writing just might be the next big thing. Maybe what you are writing is needed in your genre of choice.  Damn, it really makes you think about the possibilities doesn't it?!!  And last point,  I just want to say that I know many of these writers did not have access to Twitter and Instagram because it wasn't even around when they self-published.  So my question for today is this:  why are the literary agents or literatti as I refer to them, missing so many big publishing hits???  Damn, we unknown writers might have more opportunities than we think we do.  Very telling, isn't it??  Just my nugget of wisdom for today.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Goodbye Traditional Publishing....Hello Self-Publishing

Dear Lit Loves,

Well folks, it's been a long haul.  I've been searching for a literary agent for years now to no avail. And to those that haven't been exposed to the world of traditional publishing, here's the problem:  without a literary agent to represent you as a writer, you really aren't able to get your foot in the door of the "big" publishers such as Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, etc. etc.  In essence, this makes literary agents the "gatekeepers" of the publishing industry.  You don't get a foot in the door unless they say so, or that is, until now.  These days, if you are unable to lasso a literary agent you have the additional route of what's called "self-publishing".   Now, let me make it abundantly clear that as a well-educated, former English instructor, I tried moving heaven and earth to obtain a literary agent and hold out for a traditional publishing deal.  Then I realized that if I wait to locate a literary agent who's invested in me as a southern writer, identifies with the genre in which I write (memoir), and advocates for me as an author over the long-term, I might just be waiting until I find myself becoming a bag of bones.  So I decided to write on this blog why I am most disappointed with the traditional publishing industry and I think my explanation virtually paints a picture for you of why I am taking my work and finding my own publisher.  I don't even care if I have to hire a graphic artist to do a book cover, get assistance formatting my manuscript to fit an e-reader, or do my own marketing campaign.  This train is leaving the station so get on board or quite frankly, get the hell out of the way.

Reasons I'm Saying Goodbye To Traditional Publishing And Why I Believe More Writers Will Do The Same:

1)  Literary Agents:  There are a handful of literary agents I can vouch for and say they were professional, helpful and truly commit themselves to advocating for the writers they sign.  Most literary agents I've come across as an unpublished memoir writer who focuses on writing in a candid manner about the big issues in life as I've experienced them, will tell me, "Oh God!  This is seriously deep stuff.  Somebody else would be a better fit."  Or they may say, "Well, I really am unable to connect with your voice or the narrative voice of your work."  My response:  Well, fine.  I write for the average Jane or Joe; I'm not writing to go win a prize or be voted the best memoir writer ever.  And also, I just want to say that just because a literary agent is unable to connect with the memoir writer's voice doesn't mean that all readers won't be able to either.  Then, there are the literary agents who just bluntly send you a reply of "You're not famous, you're not an academic, journalist, television host, etc. so you don't have a lot of people who have automatic interest in your work; therefore, he/she can't represent you."  Wow.  I know I had never heard of J.K. Rowling before the first Harry Potter book or Cheryl Strayed before she published her memoir entitled Wild, but hell, both of them found their audiences or at least I think they did.  And many literary agents (not all) that fall under the generation termed "Millennial" appear to be under the illusion that serious life matters or serious women's issues will not happen to them.  Life happens, people.  You can run from the grim reaper, catastrophic illness, parental caregiving, and even death, but eventually life happens to all of us.  Also, let me go on the record saying I think Facebook is a complete waste of time.  I view it as a Brag Book and well, my work and actions speak for themselves.  And I think the whole Facebook concept is a complete waste of time and juvenile.  Twitter is just as insane.  First of all, I can't say anything in 143 characters (ask my professors and former students) and well, who the hell cares what somebody is watching on television or what they think of Superbowl 50 or what they are having for dinner, for crying out loud people!  Get A Life!   And for those agents who would judge a writer by the first ten pages of a manuscript, my question is how would you like it if I judged you as a person based on your high school senior year book photo??!!  Didn't think you would like that too much either.

2)  Editors:  Believe it or not, these are the folks in publishing with whom I get along best probably because I'm a former English teacher and I know what it's like to have to correct someone's 500 errors in a thesis paper.  Editors appear to know how difficult getting a literary agent can be which makes me wonder how happy they are with the ones they know?  Editors, to me, don't want to judge you personally, they want to sincerely help you make your manuscript the best read it can be.  And here is a shout out to all the editors who have connected with me even though I am not represented by a literary agent- I admire them.  They are not afraid to take a risk to find the next in demand writer or manuscript so KUDOS to them! 

3)  Traditionally Published Authors:  I've reached out to a multitude of previously and currently published authors.  I've only received responses or replies from three.  And those three authors have been communicative, supportive and appreciate that I buy their books.  These three authors tend to know the concept:  Do Not Bite The Hand That Feeds You!  The vast majority of published authors do not even bother to respond to their readership.  And if you don't respond to me, I no longer buy your books and I definitely do not endorse them to my book club, students, friends, acquaintances, etc.  And then there's the one major fiction writer who I wrote and she sent the ugliest reply back to me and even implied she didn't think my manuscript sounded like it actually happened!  A very bad decision on her part as I then utilized all her books in my possession as kindling to build my next fire.  Talk about not appreciating or even respecting your readership.... and then there are those authors who write in their books about the readers who write them and that's where they give their replies to these readers which in one case I discovered involved an author mocking the queries she had received via email.  Yep, you guessed it.  I shredded every paperback book I had that was authored by her. 

4) Small & Medium Publishers:  Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say that I gave two of these type of publishers every chance in the world.  There appears to be a backlog of books they need to publish or they've published a book that is very similar to my manuscript; therefore, they must decline.  And then there was one publisher whose chief editor consented to publish a book somewhat similar to mine and when I asked about publishing a book on the medical subject matter from an actual patient's point of view and not a journalist's or bystander's point of view, she had the audacity to tell me that my book didn't fit with their publishing objectives.  What publishing objectives??  The ones for well-known journalists or the ones that don't appear to apply when an undiscovered writer hits on the same subject matter in a better way with first person experience? 

5)  Literary Scouts:  Where in the heck fire have you been?  You found John Grisham's work, were able to get it to a movie producer who wanted to produce it and your efforts assisted Grisham in getting a publishing deal so where have you been when it comes to my work and manuscripts?  Holy Fire, don't even get me started.

So there my literary loves is why I have lost faith in traditional publishing.  You can only slam the door shut in my face so many times.  Maybe you've overlooked one too many an unpublished writer.  It's okay, this southern gal knows how to drop kick down most doors that impede her efforts.  This memoir writer comes from damn good stock.

Till my next update,