Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review: A Stitch Of Time: The Year A Brain Injury Changed My Language And Life by Lauren Marks

Dear Lit Loves,



Initially, a young woman named Lauren who is in the first year of a doctoral program in theater joins two friends, one of whom has written and stars in a play, on a trip to a theater festival in Edinburgh.  The author leaves her home in New York to travel to Paris to visit a former professor and then join her two friends for the festival and play in Edinburgh.  The three friends retreat to Priscilla's bar to relax and one friend signs both Lauren (the author) and Laura (the friend who wrote the play) to participate in a karaoke contest.  Lauren and Laura step onstage and begin to sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" when suddenly Lauren drops to the floor and falls off stage.  She is rushed to a hospital in Edinburgh where it is determined she has experienced a brain aneurysm whereby an artery wall in the brain weakens and ruptures causing internal bleeding.  A surgeon and other doctors rush her to surgery and place coils inside the area of the aneurysm to stop the bleeding.  This is a quite dangerous surgery resulting in its own serious side effects.

Once Lauren awakes after surgery she first notices a profound quiet.  People are speaking to her and about her, but she does not really understand much of what they are saying.  She picks up a magazine and realizes it is difficult to focus and recognize words.  This is when we learn Lauren is suffering Aphasia which is the impairment of language.  Aphasia affects a person's ability to produce or comprehend speech and quite often also affects the patient's ability to read or write.  Naturally, the two friends who accompanied her on the trip to Edinburgh are at the hospital with her and realize that something is most definitely not right with Lauren's speech, recognition skills, and comprehension ability.  Her parents soon arrive from California and remain with her for weeks as she works to heal not just from surgery, but also recapture her language and comprehension skills with a speech pathologist at the hospital. Eventually, her boyfriend who is on a wilderness trip in Alaska appears in Edinburgh and she does not know what to make of him or their relationship.  She also has difficulty intuiting what others might feel or think from their words or body language when she attempts to discern how her mother feels about Jonah, her boyfriend.

Eventually, the reader sees Lauren and her mom return to New York to retrieve some of her personal items and then Lauren goes to live with her parents in Los Angeles.  She begins by going to see a speech pathologist to help with her word recall, writing, and reading skills.  Being at home with her parents and her grandmother who lives in a house behind them proves somewhat overwhelming especially when her younger brother, Mike, returns home to celebrate his twenty-first birthday.  The abundant activity inside the house makes her yearn for the first days in the hospital when it was just quiet in her mind with no real way of expressing herself or understanding others remarks to her. 

Eventually, she begins to recall a few words.  Then she attempts writing those words and then reading them.  It is a tedious but rewarding process she builds upon by writing in her journal and via conversations and interactions with others.  She slowly but surely builds her vocabulary as well as writing capacity to be able to read an entire book.  Still, she often has trouble with idioms like "Don't burn your bridges".  The reader additionally sees her work to evaluate the previous status of her relationships with others.  Was Jonah a good boyfriend?  Were they in a relationship of content?  Why does it feel like her brother is interacting awkwardly with her?  In essence, she also has to learn to "read" people once again.

Upon Lauren discovering that her father has been sending emails to her friends, acquaintances, and family about her progress following the aneurysm, the reader sees that Lauren does NOT want her father speaking for her so she has him cease writing and sending email updates.  This indicates her previous status as quite an independent woman.  Later we learn that she had an apartment, life, and friends in New York and rarely interacted or visited with her family in California.  She had been enrolled in a doctoral program that came with a teaching fellowship.  When her mother begins to inquire about disability benefits for Lauren, Lauren learns a friend in New York had signed her up for unemployment benefits without her knowledge.  Lauren then receives a bill from the state of New York along with a letter saying she has defrauded the state of New York.  She gives this information to her mother who takes care of the issues. 

Six months following the initial aneurysm surgery in Edinburgh, Lauren goes to a hospital to have an angiogram completed to ascertain how well her brain is recovering.  It is here where she learns that the brain artery that ruptured is widening once again and the coils that were utilized initially to stop the bleeding are refilling with blood and will not completely keep her from experiencing another aneurysm once again.  The neurosurgeon during this visit recommends clamping the artery closed to prevent any further rupturing of the brain artery.  Lauren's parents accompany her for this visit and then insist they will get a second opinion from another neurosurgeon at another hospital.  That second neurosurgeon keeps the family waiting for over four hours and when he does make an appearance, he is brusque with a distracted attitude.  He tells Lauren obviously she needs another surgery to prevent another aneurysm and she should just go and book the surgery with his scheduler.    This experience leaves Lauren conflicted about which neurosurgeon to choose from at two premiere medical hospitals. 

Interestingly, once she selects the surgeon to perform the next craniotomy, her surgery goes well but with some complications.  The neurosurgeon and his team not only had to clamp the injured brain artery but additionally utilize cotton balls and superglue because the artery had widened to the point where a clamp was not large enough to keep the artery closed.  We then learn that although Lauren was afraid of this surgery due to the risky nature of it, she does not lose the gains in language and comprehension she worked so hard to regain after the first surgery.

Eventually, Lauren returns to New York and realizes Jonah is not exactly truly ready to take care of her even though he insists he is.  She learns he was not always true to her when they were dating.  And she sees that the people subletting her apartment have essentially trashed it and it no longer feels like "home".  Also, she does not believe she can return to the pace of the doctoral program in which she was once involved so she and a friend box up her belongings from the apartment and ship them to her parents' residence in California.  She will leave her life that she once had in New York and go to reside with her parents in California. 

Ultimately, we see a young woman stricken with a critical medical issue most people encounter when they are much older.  We see her slowly scratch, claw, and push her way to regain much of the language and comprehension abilities she essentially lost following the aneurysm in Edinburgh.   What I liked most about what Lauren learns via this rare and ongoing medical issue is that the people who often say, "All is as it should be" or "Everything happens for a reason" to individuals who suffer a medical setback such as an aneurysm and aphasia are quite often the ones who have been spared from any form of unexpected, dire suffering.  And Lauren realizes that language became both her injury following the aneurysm as well as the treatment to recover from that injury to her brain.

I absolutely love the ending of this book, but will not give it away in this review.  I highly recommend this book as a fellow memoir writer and person who has been dealt her own fair share of unexpected and critical medical diagnoses.

Best,
Grace
(Amy)

Friday, October 12, 2018

And One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain - poetry


Dear Lit Loves,

It's been a difficult week as I heard from one agent that she thinks I have a gripping memoir; however, she cannot connect with my story.  Here is the point though, I did not write a memoir so you could connect with it; I wrote it so you could LEARN from it.  Maybe there is just no longer an interest on the part of literary agents and editors to promote the new "tough" living memoirs by little known authors like myself.  Maybe traditional publishing just does not like Southern writers.  I am beginning to wonder about the motivations of publishing as I have been at this endeavor for over ten years now.  Maybe traditional and small publishing contracts are decided based on an author's social media popularity.  If you are not a social media sensation then you do not get published.  That is shameful.  Maybe it is no longer about the quality of the content about which I write.  Or maybe agents and editors are after the quick buck and not the significance of an author's experience.  It is all a disappointment and frankly has caused me to be disillusioned with the publishing world entirely.  So I decided this week I will post some of my thoughts poetically.


"And One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain"

You, who have not walked in my shoes during my personal journey of medical hell,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, Who Dissed Me In My Time Of Pain From My Father's Death,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, who chose to not lend your utmost attention and medical expertise to my dying father,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, the medical guru who allowed my father to suffer due to your inadequacy and indifference,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, the hospital administrator who treated me in a cold, despicable manner while my father lay dying, One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.

You, who avoided seeing death when it was knocking at my family's front door,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, who stood in the receiving line at my father's funeral but were not there for the difficulties,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, who never bothered to stay in touch following my great loss,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, who did not bother to attend my father's funeral and pay your respects,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, who call yourself a Christian and yet verbally condemn me for another family member's life choices following my father's death, One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.

You, family members who are so self-involved you make decisions based on what is most easy and least stressful for you and not my widowed mom, One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, who critiqued me for "living in my own little world" and neglected to ask me why I chose to stay in "my own little world", One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, the faux Christians who claim to be so genuine yet wreak havoc with you snippy attitudes and your degrading comments, One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
You, who have subjected me to your ineptitude, crass behavior, and irresponsibility,
One Day You Too Shall Know My Pain.
Maybe One Day I Will Witness You Reckoning With Pain Similar To What I Have Known.
Then What Shall Be My Response?

Grace
(Amy)

Friday, October 5, 2018

An Emphatic "Hell No" To Kavanaugh For Supreme Court

Lit Loves,

I don't usually bring politics into my blog posting, but the behavior I am seeing exhibited recently by this country's representatives disturbs me to my core as a woman.  Brett Kavanaugh, candidate for the Supreme Court, obviously has a problem maintaining a cool composure when under fire for sexual assault allegations.  And I think he has a serious alcohol problem based on news coverage of people who went to Yale with him.  If that is the case then he has already lied under oath to a congressional committee and that should disqualify him as a potential Supreme Court Justice right there This, to me, means he cannot rule evenly, fairly, or even in a contemplative manner as a potential Supreme Court Justice.  He does not deserve to sit on the same court with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 


Orrin Hatch, senator from Utah, just told women protesting the Kavanaugh nomination to "Grow Up".  Excuse me?   No, you go get a clue Mr. Hatch.  Last time I checked we all have a right to free speech and if we do not like your stance on Kavanaugh we have a constitutional right to TELL YOU. So, "Go Read The Damn Constitution Mr. Hatch".

And then there's preachy Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina, who following the Dr. Ford testimony emphatically insists to the press that "She (Dr. Ford) needs help".  No, Mr. Graham, unlike you she came forward in a composed, civil, and respectful manner to tell you and other committee members about character traits and behavior displayed by Brett Kavanaugh that she felt the judicial committee needed to know before you make a decision on Brett Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court Justice.  And she deserved a full and thorough FBI investigation in which agents spoke with her and others who have knowledge of Mr. Kavanaugh's character and behavior.  Sadly,  Dr. Ford and many others were never interviewed by the FBI.  The only sham here is the rushed FBI investigation and senators who say they represent women's rights and the rights of female sexual assault survivors, but who evidently do not based on the vote they make about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice.  It is my recommendation that females hold their state and national representatives accountable for how they vote on critically important appointments such as a Supreme Court Justice.

Lit Loves, here are the key votes to watch for in this Supreme Court nomination vote:

Susan Collins, senator from Maine
Jeff Flake, senator from Arizona
Lisa Murkowski, senator from Alaska
Heidi Heitkemp, senator from North Dakota
Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia

If senators vote to confirm Kavanaugh then you can bet your bottom dollar women and their rights, equality, and value will never receive proper representation by the majority of our justices on the highest court in our country.  In that event, you will know what to do at the polls on November 6th, 2018.   I know I will be sending my local, state, and national representatives a message about the value of women on November 6th, 2018:  "Hell No, I Am Not Gonna Take Your Dismissive Attitudes Or Behavior Toward Women In This Country!" 

Best,
Grace
(Amy)


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

When Will Publishers And Literary Agents Discover The Value Of Memoirs Written By Relatively Unknown Writers??

Dear Lit Loves,

Ah well, I am beginning to discern that publishers (traditional and independent) do not see any value in publishing memoirs written by female writers who are not social media powerhouses or celebrities.  It's quite disappointing; particularly, when you have friends, book club members, medical specialists, and acquaintances ask you about how the publishing quest is progressing and as a writer you want to say, "Maybe it is just the sad reality that publishers and literary agents just do not place a priority on books that communicate the often valuable experiences of everyday women."   There are most definitely literary agents making requests for memoirs, but only IF you have a GINORMOUS platform.    Platform meaning you are a leading university professor, medical specialist, award-winning journalist, or have somehow amassed a gazillion social media followers.  When did this become the manner by which literary agents and publishers decide who does and does not get their book published?  I mean, do any of these folks remember that memoirs were once published and many did exceptionally well when we did not have any forms of social media?  For instance, when Mitch Albom published Tuesdays With Morrie and Jeannette Walls published The Glass Castle - they were not social media stars.  I know we did not have the too numerous social media networks we have today, but those books did really well and someone did see potential in those writers and their material. 

Today, as a writer you will rarely receive a response from a literary agent if you are not a highly acclaimed professor, a celebrity chef, a spiritual guru, or someone who has amassed the abundant attention and following of individuals due to Youtube video makeup tutorials or crazy stunts involving having someone make a video of you jumping out of a car and trying to dance while the car is still in "Drive".  Let us all be real here:  ignorance is not my jam.  Honestly, I do not participate in most social media because frankly my dears, I do not want people all up in my business, stealing my personal information, or harassing me by wait for it - "unfriending me".  Are you kidding? This is not eighth grade, folks!  Nor do I trust Mark Zuckerberg to not sell my personal information or prevent unknown entities from sending me political propaganda.  Seriously?!  You might locate me on the book fanatic site known as Goodreads because I like books, majored in teaching writing, love the book giveaways, and am delighted to discover other new writers, authors, and reviewers.  Does this mean though that my manuscripts about surviving domestic violence and thriving as a teacher in an inner-city school or navigating our discombobulated medical system are not valuable, informative, and entertaining?  Heck no.  To me it means someone has yet to uncover the diamond in the slush pile.  It means the publishing powers are putting too much of a priority on the number of social media outlets authors utilize and not enough value on the content, voice, and craft of the writer and his or her ability to connect with readers.  And that is a sad reality for the world of publishing presently. 

And then there is the truly hysterical part of all this publishing chaos my friends.  Most of the memoir writers that are being allowed through the holy gates of publishing DO NOT EVEN BOTHER TO RESPOND TO THEIR READERS.  How do I know this?  I read non-celebrity memoirs quite often and when I write or email these authors, many do not respond.  On the Goodreads book site about fifty percent of authors will reach out to you, but the sad reality is that many do not.  And believe me when I say if an author is not willing to respond to a reader's inquiry or connect with a writer colleague professionally then I will not buy that author's book.  Or if I receive a review copy of that author's memoir and I have expressed an interest in their book via email, Goodreads, or LinkedIn and that author has not bothered to even respond then when I go to review the book on a five star scale, the book is already diminished.  And that my friends is what is eluding many a literary agent and publishing house:  The author they chose to represent and publish is not doing their part to respond in a genuine way to their readers which means I most likely will not buy any of that author's future books much less recommend it to the book club I attend or librarians who ask my opinion of the book.

So here is the real deal:  when it comes to memoir the evaluation of the author and the book should be based on content, voice, craft, and responsiveness to readers and NOT ON THE NUMBER OF SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS UTILIZED OR THE NUMBER OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS.

And besides, I am way too busy writing, editing, reading and living to spend my time worrying about how many social media outlets I have utilized or how many people are "following" me.  I associate following me with potentially stalking me, but maybe that is just due to me being a part of Generation X.  As a proud member of Generation X, I can honestly say that I am SOOO glad I did not grow up with a cellphone practically becoming a permanent attachment to my body.  And I am really glad not to have grown up in the age of social media where everyone and anyone feels entitled to give their two cents about every little aspect of life when it most likely does not amount to a heal of beans anyway.


Till my next post,

Grace
(Amy)



Thursday, August 23, 2018

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, You Can Fire A Doctor Or Other Medical Specialist

Dear Lit Loves,

Oh wow, am I reading the best memoir presently about an ordinary woman who was going about her day.  She had the flu, was in the midst of a divorce, and rushing around trying to make a brunch date with a friend in New York when she crossed the street and had a McDaddy coughing spell that caused a tear in her dura mater (membrane surrounding brain and spine).  Guess what?  She then starts having excruciating headaches to the point that she is unable to sit up straight for five minutes at a time.  What was the cause of all this?  She had a tear in her dura mater in the spinal region and her cerebrospinal fluid was leaking into her body.  Upon having this medical matter investigated, she was given tests, seen by a neuro-opthalmologist and referred to an Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon.  The ENT surgeon was only trained and skilled in treating cerebrospinal fluid leaks that occur in the nasal and head area. Spontaneous cerebrospinal leaks can happen not just in the face and skull, but also in the spine.  When the ENT surgeon entered the examination room and found this woman lying down, he told her to "Get up."  Then he proceeded to belittle her symptoms, tried to get her to lean forward to obtain any cerebrospinal fluid leakage from the nasal area, and thought she must be making up this medical issue because he could see no signs of the type of spinal fluid tear he treats.  He did not admit that there are other locations where a tear in the dura mater can occur and that a tear in the spinal region of the body would cause a patient to exhibit the symptoms this nice woman was trying desperately to explain to him.  In fact, he did not even treat her respectfully until her husband, who is an attending physician at the same hospital, entered the exam room and started debating him about his wife's medical symptoms. 

Oh law, I know how this feels.  And let me tell you that just because someone has an M.D. beside their name and a business card with a medical specialty written on it, does not mean they graduated best in their class nor does it mean he/she is a doctor with a professional bedside manner.  Trust me, I have come across plenty of chauvanistic, arcane, and highly suspect medical specialists.  I sometimes think they make a beeline straight for me. 

For example, all of a sudden my migraine neurology office coordinator calls to inform me that the neurologist I had been seeing for my tension migraines no longer works at the facility.  No explanation whatsoever.  Then I find that I have been reassigned to another neurologist in the same practice.  The red flags are already waving for me medically and personally.  I figure I will give the new neurologist a try while I attempt to discover why my previous, well-qualified and highly professional neurologist is no longer at the facility.  So I go see the new neurologist who happens to be Chief of Migraine and Pain Management.  I wait fifty minutes and the man enters the exam room, does not introduce himself, sits down at a computer, and proceeds to stare at the computer and ask me about my medical history.  He then says, "I don't really treat migraines."  

Hold up, buddy.  I am now just down right flabbergasted.  "Wait," I say rather calmly I might add, "you are the chief of migraine and pain management and you don't treat migraines?"
"No," he returns,"I rarely deal with migraine patients."
"Well," I reply, "if YOU don't then please tell me who does so I can stop wasting my time here."
"Oh," he replies, "I've seen enough cases and talked with enough migraine specialists that I can probably help you."  So he changes the dosage of one of my two migraine medications, finally turns around to address me face to face, compliments my dress, and then leaves. There was no physical exam performed whatsoever.  I know what you are thinking because it most likely is exactly what I was thinking right then:  What the hell?!!

So I give this neurologist one more chance.  At the next year's annual appointment I wait for an hour and twenty minutes.  Nurses and technicians keep coming to my exam room saying the neurologist is having difficulty with the patient ahead of me.  Finally, the neurologist's resident strides into the exam room, asks how I am doing, sends refills of my migraine prescriptions to my preferred pharmacy, never does any kind of physical exam, and then walks with me down to the copy machine room to retrieve my visit summary notes.  Guess who is sitting in the copy machine office with his feet up on a desk and hands behind his head?  The neurologist that was supposed to be examining me and performing my annual migraine exam.  The resident informs him that she has taken care of my appointment today.  He does not acknowledge her nor does he see that I, his former patient, am standing right there behind him.

So I called the facility's patient advocacy department, inform them of this doctor's extreme negligence, and complete a complaint summary which I then email to the patient advocacy coordinator.  I also detail that I am firing this neurologist and give a list of reasons why.  Luckily, my previous neurologist who DOES treat migraines has now opened her own practice.  I obtain a referral to her and am once again in great hands when it comes to my migraine management and treatment.  But heaven help the suckers who continue to see the neurologist that I wrote a complaint about because hi is still practicing at the same facility.  And to my knowledge, migraine patients continue to be referred to him to this very day.

Ladies and gentlemen, do not accept substandard care from anyone in medicine.  If they belittle you, disrespect you, give you a reason to doubt them, or act like they are God's gift to the universe, my advice is to GET THEE TO ANOTHER MEDICAL SPECIALIST QUICKLY.  And do not be afraid to report any kind of mistreatment or negligent care on the part of any doctor or medical specialist when it comes to your medical care or the medical care of a family member, friend, or acquaintance.  Your life and someone else's most likely depends on you being the best medical advocate possible. My advice:  ADVOCATE LOUDLY AND OFTEN!!

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What It Means To Me

Dear Lit Loves,

I just wanted to give my heartfelt admiration here online to the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.  I was just informed she has died at the tender age of seventy-six.  She was the first woman inducted into the Rock n'Roll Hall of Fame.  She stood up for civil rights and feminists with her song, RESPECT.  I remember singing it as a little girl with my best friend;  we were inspired and fired up.  And frankly, I think respect is what most of us are looking for these days when it is so hard to come by with all the vitriol and hatred in the world today.  I hope I do as much as I can to spread Aretha Franklin's message.  And I urge literary agents to also give new writers a chance to earn a little RESPECT by signing a little-known writer who could perhaps continue to carry on a legacy of teaching RESPECT in a world gone wild.  Rest in peace, Aretha Franklin.  I will always remember you and your inspiration.

Best,
Grace
(Amy)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Dear SIBA, To Boost Profit Get Behind A Debut Southern Author With A Damn Good Yarn

Dear Lit Loves,

   Oh Lord, my literary loves, the end may be nigh!  I read today on the Publishers Weekly Web site that SIBA's or The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance's executive director wants to boost profit margins for independent southern bookstores by investing in a non-book product that will sell often and well.  And the examples of potential non-book products listed included notebooks, coffee mugs, and chocolates. Say Whhaaattt?!!

After picking my jaw up off the floor, getting a tension migraine from the sheer ridiculousness of this idea, and additionally becoming steaming mad, I decided to write this blog post.  Now, I AM NOT a marketing specialist and I do take pride in saying that I did not major in marketing, but let me just say it does not take a rocket scientist to determine that what is needed here is not a non-book product; what is needed here is an entity that gets behind and supports a fledgling, struggling, southern writer with a good yarn to spin who needs a literary agent and a book deal.  Seriously folks, new blood is needed within the ranks of southern writers.  AND HELLO!  I HAPPEN TO BE ONE OF THOSE FLEDGLING, STRUGGLING SOUTHERN WRITERS who gives a damn about writing a book that is informative, entertaining, and is geared toward a female audience because let us all acknowledge this one truthful, research-backed statement:  the vast majority of individuals who buy the most books are WOMEN LIKE MYSELF. 

Once again, I am an education major and not a marketing specialist (Hallelujahs are presently emanating from my tech guru husband who equates most marketing folks with scum) .  I am not a social media brand or expert and I am DAMN proud of it.  Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. do not appeal to me.  I think those mediums are a way of spreading useless, pompous, and self-aggrandizing information.  I am a Generation Xer.  We do not flinch when our cell phones suddenly freeze and stop working.  No baby, I rejoice when my phone is off because frankly, texting and emailing are no way to attain or sustain any remote quality of interpersonal behavior or skills.  I mean when my cousin recently informed me that he sleeps with his phone, I was overcome with horror and chills.  The first thought that came to my mind was, "Have you lost your friggin' mind, dude?!  Get WOKE and get a life outside your cell phone." Generation Xers like myself, we can handle the truth and we know how to live well and happily without cell phones or any form of social media.  I get tickled pink and start singing Bon Jovi songs when I remember how much I enjoyed and embraced life before the era of social media!  Long Live The Anti-Social Media Revolutionaries!!

Now SIBA executive director, Wanda Jewell:  Here is a well-known fact especially among my peers.  Me and my well-read female peers, sisters, and goddesses are annoyed as hell when we walk into a Barnes and Noble and see all these non-book products like toys, hand soaps, quilts, puzzles, board games, etc. etc.   We go to a bookseller for, wait for it, BOOKS by our favorite authors and some new authors we have yet to discover.  So my opinion is this:  why not give a helping hand to a struggling SOUTHERN writer who truly wants to be published and has a strong book proposal and completed manuscript that both booksellers, publishers, and the struggling SOUTHERN writer can get behind and potentially witness copies fly out of SIBA doors?!!   Wow!  There's a winning idea!

Best,
Grace
(Amy)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It's Going to Take A Gutsy Literary Agent And Editor For This Writer

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings!  Well dear readers I am querying, querying, querying my life away, looking for a better day, and doing everything except attempting a back flip off the roof of my house to obtain literary representation.  Seriously,  it has been a heck of a week in the literary world for this writer. And to top it all off I discovered over the weekend both my ears are infected and the I additionally have the sinus infection from hell which has additionally caused my throat to feel like its on fire.    In the meantime, publishing imprints are shuttering, some new imprints are emerging, and everyone appears to be holding their collective breath to see if Barnes and Noble can indeed keep its doors open.  What happens when this kind of collective fear takes hold of an industry?  The powers that be in that industry begin to think:  Okay, let's stay with the tried and true authors who are bankable and God forbid, do NOT let any new writers/authors even approach the door much less allow them to enter and stride into the lobby of a publishing house. 

And this kind of fear of the "new"in publishing breeds a total shutdown of new voices, varying prose, relatable subject matter becomes overlooked, and all the prospective talent never gets a chance to even get to a starting line with a pen and a damn good, real story.  Hello?  Ring any bells??  Even the small presses appear to be hunkered down and no longer answering the door.  I mean, seriously?  One small press in the last two months has never even bothered to answer emails that I have sent to their sales department and founding publishers.  They say they want the bold, the challenging, and the empowered women writers, but um no, they really do not because well, no one appears to even be commanding the ship.  For crying out loud, get out from behind the damn rock and try discovering the talent that is standing right before you!

And would someone please enlighten me about when there became a rule that editors at big traditional publishing houses or editors at small to mid-sized publishing houses could not connect or consider speaking with or acknowledging potential new writing talent?  Sometimes when friends, acquaintances, or book club members ask me about the publishing process, I feel like saying it's a knock down, drag out, no-holds-barred cage match.  And for those that ask me about potentially seeking publication, I am almost scared the truth of what I am witnessing would cause them to run in the opposite direction screaming.

And furthermore, let me go on the record saying that if you are a published author, particularly in the genre in which I focus my efforts, and I reach out to connect with you via Goodreads, LinkedIn, etc. and you do not even acknowledge me, I will not buy your book and well, when other readers ask me about you as a published author, I am not going to be shy about your lack of a helping hand or ability to be professional and personable.  For heaven's sake, Karin Slaughter's books scare the hell out of me, but she gets props for being supportive and open to those of us who are trying to achieve a tenth of what she has achieved.  So yes, I regularly read Karin Slaughter even though I know I may be scared out of my wits because I have immense respect and admiration for her as she gave me a welcome handshake and not a rebuff and cold shoulder. 

Oh, and let me just say a huge thank you to this new author whose memoir is going to be published in January 2019 called MAID.  Her name is Stephanie Land.  Compatriot, I shall be there rooting for you any and every day of the week as you were a welcoming soul to a struggling writer.   And where are the many others in the publishing world like her??  Which rock are you trying to hide behind, eh??

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Meniere's Disease And Me: A 30 Year Ride On The Merry-Go-Round From Hell

Dear Lit Loves,

Dear book loves, I am diligently attempting to locate a literary agent for my manuscript about discovering empowerment and healthcare advocacy through my experiences juggling four chronic conditions beginning from age sixteen.  One lesson I have quickly learned is that just because a literary agent professes to be hunting for narrative nonfiction that changes lives or makes a difference does not mean that there are not strings attached such as demanding a ginormous platform (aka you are a household name), you have an MFA from Harvard and you've written for esteemed publications, you currently write for The Times, you blog daily and have ten millions followers, etc. etc.  One essential point keeps running through my mind and that is this:  even before social media unknown writers were writing memoir and narrative nonfiction with success.  Not every writer who holds an MFA is able to write a memoir that a good majority of readers can relate to and walk away from having learned something new.  I am losing faith in publishing, particularly traditional and independent (small or medium) presses.  Literary agents are not at the top of my most loved list as many of them do not even bother to respond to a writer's query or book proposal.  It is truly becoming a sad state of affairs. 

To continue my efforts to educate and explain the various chronic illnesses with which I have been blessed or cursed depending on your perspective, I have decided to write about my thirty plus year journey with an inner ear disorder known as Meniere's disease or technically, Endolymphatic Hydrops.  When I was eighteen and skipping joyfully away from my high school locker for the last time as I was more than ready to leave high school in the rear view mirror, I proceeded down a school stairwell and promptly watched my entire surroundings begin rotating.  Not me rotating, but the stairwell, the steps, the walls, the railing, other people, etc.  Grabbing hold of the stairwell railing in an extreme panic as I tried to steady myself, I actually had no choice but to drop and sit on a step as there was no way I could continue walking without falling down two sets of stairs.  I sat on a stairwell step, clutched my backpack and purse, and closed my eyes.  Surely, I had stressed myself to the max and this was my body's way of revolting.  Fellow students were whining about my sudden stop, but they had no idea what I was experiencing.  After sitting for a couple of minutes with my eyes closed and trying deep breathing exercises, I opened my eyes and the rotation I was seeing began slowing and then stopped. 

Little did I know at the time, but that was my first experience with Meniere's disease.  As I proceeded to my freshman year of college, I found myself having these same dizzy experiences while I was driving my 1981 Camaro which landed me in a ditch on a two lane road until the spinning surroundings in my visual field ceased and I could find some help. (We didn't have cell phones back then).  I would be in the middle of a class and the dizziness would commence suddenly.  Naturally, I tended to panic when this occurred thanks to high anxiety and would often try to clutch the sides of my desk until the spinning ceased once again.  Next, I realized that I was beginning to notice the hearing in my left ear would suddenly diminish.  I would occasionally hear shrill buzzing in the left ear and often my left ear would feel like someone had stuffed a water balloon inside it. 

The dizziness only became worse as time progressed.  One afternoon I had just returned home from my college classes for the day when I realized my hearing was off in the left ear, the ear felt full like it was swollen, and I suddenly broke out in a cold sweat with goosebumps.  Oh God, I remember thinking, what the hell is happening now?  All of a sudden as I sat on the couch my surroundings began slowly rotating and then the rotation became faster and faster until I stumbled back to my bed, grabbed a trash can, and proceeded to regurgitate through my mouth and nose.  This definitely had not happened before as I retched for ten hours.  My parents arrived home, became alarmed, and I informed them I thought I had a serious case of the flu and would see a doctor once I survived this hurricane force episode of dizziness.  Ten plus hours later, the room had stopped spinning, I had nothing left in my stomach, found myself to be quite pale and realized I had nose burns from regurgitating so often.  On top of all this, I was extraordinarily weak and profoundly scared witless. 

I called my aunt who worked as a nurse in pediatrics at a local hospital, discussed my symptoms with her, and she referred me to her ear, nose, and throat doctor.  After my appointment with the ENT specialist, I was even more freaked out as he wanted a CT scan completed to rule out a brain tumor?!!  And back in those days, most places including some hospitals did not even have access to a CT scan machine.  So I waited for the mobile CT unit to arrive in the parking lot of the medical village where the ENT specialist was located and kid you not, it was an 18 wheeler decked out with a waiting room, a CT scan machine, and a technician.  This was one of the worst medical experiences of my life essentially because the scan technician had virtually no experience with obtaining a vein from a person who has very little veins and veins that tend to collapse.  It actually took as much time for the technician to obtain one vein in my left arm as it did to perform the CT scan.  I think the guy stuck me six times before getting a vein on the seventh try.  At that time there were no open CT scans, they were all enclosed capsules and I am claustrophobic, but I had experienced so much trauma leading up to the scan I finally just tried to relax, endure the scan and its loud banging noises along with having contrast fluid injected into a vein, and then get the hell out of the truck.  Results?  I had no brain tumor thankfully, but the ENT specialist thought I had an inner ear disorder he had never seen before but had read about called Meniere's disease.  At the time I thought he was full of it, but he insisted I see an otolaryngologist at a university hospital an hour and a half away from his office.  We did not have the internet back then so I had no idea what the ENT specialist was referring to as I could not just go home and google "Meniere's disease". 

So I promptly went home with a copy of my CT scan and medical file from the ENT specialist with a referral to the next specialist I would see at a major university hospital.  That would eventually lead to me and my dad driving to see one of the up and coming medical gurus who had seen and treated patients with Meniere's disease.  And it would also be the beginning of a lifelong need for the best otolaryngologists throughout the course of my life. 

I'll never get all my experiences with Meniere's disease documented in one blog post so until my next uninterrupted period of what I call free-writing, I will close for now.

Best,
Amy
(Grace)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Uveitis: Inflammatory Eyes Are Watching You

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings literature lovies!  Well, I keep rambling about how traditional publishing needs to get with the program when it comes to the memoir genre and start locating some bravery and publishing those of us with patient narratives regarding unusual chronic illnesses.  Truth Be Told:  I think traditional publishing is timid and scared to take on any narrative/memoir author who is NOT a Kardashian or Trumpster so I have decided to just go ahead and relate some of what is inside my memoir manuscript of chronic illness here on my blog.  Until I am able to uncover a literary agent with enough intestinal fortitude to sign a relatively unknown Southern writer, this is the only way I have of getting my story to the world at large and hopefully helping people who may discover that they have the same chronic conditions I have.

So today, let's discuss Uveitis.  Say What?!  Specifically, I have an eye inflammation disorder named Uveitis and so far it has only occurred in my right eye.  My left eye is completely normal.  Stone cold truth.  The part of my eye that has chronic inflammation in the right eye is called the uvea which is the middle layer of the eye between the retina and the sclera (white portion of the eye).  And here's the real fun part:  I never really know when Uveitis is going to decide to become active, but I most definitely know when it is quiet and not creating havoc with my sight.

I first discovered I had Uveitis when I was sixteen years old, sitting in the back of my Geometry class and suddenly I started seeing black squiggly lines, dots, swirls, curlicues, etc. in my line of vision. Plus, my vision became blurry.  So I was able to see an opthalmologist in High Point, NC who had studied at Johns Hopkins.  He was the most laid back yet gifted eye specialist with whom I could have gotten an appointment.  I explained to him what was happening with my vision and even drew a picture for him of all the strange lines, swirls and dots I would occasionally see.  At this point, my right eye had turned red, it ached, the vision was blurry and whenever I went outside my right eye would become watery and I would don a pair of sunglasses.

This eye specialist and surgeon dilated my eyes and inserted numbing eye drops.  Fifteen minutes later he arrives back in the patient room to examine my eyes.  I heard the following, " Uhhh  humm. Okay."  Then he took a look in the left eye and immediately reverted back to analyzing the right eye.  Suddenly he slided backward in his rolling chair, pushed away the eye examination instrument panel, and said, "You have Iritis or what's technically known as Uveitis.  The interesting news is that it only appears to be occurring in the right eye and not the left eye." Then he showed me a picture of the inside of the eye and pointed to the uvea which is the portion of my eye that was inflamed.  He assured me that I was not losing my mind or hallucinating.  He explained that this chronic eye inflammatory disorder is usually first seen in people older than me; however, I should not worry because it was a treatable condition.  Whew.  So the eye specialist started me on an eye drop called Prednisolone Acetate !% whereby I was to place one drop in the right eye four times daily for the next month.  In addition, to soothe the eye he prescribed an eye drop named Atropine whereby I placed one drop of it twice a day in the right eye.  Fortunately, after a month of extensive eye drops my sight was back to normal; however, I could not just stop the eye drops instantly.  Both eye drops were tapered back over several months time.

Now here's the interesting part:  there is no cure for Uveitis.  It flares up when it chooses.  Most of the time, my Uveitis flares when I am stressed, sick, or have just had an eye procedure or if the eye is injured in some way like when I stepped off the school bus at my high school one day and two males were throwing a football back and forth and the football hit me above my right eyebrow. Did I ever mention I did not attend school with some of the brightest people in the world?   Inflammation overload began almost immediately.  Each time the Uveitis condition would become active, I would generally be prescribed the same steroidal and dilating eye drops.  Here's the part that is intriguing:  the eye drops used to treat Uveitis cause development of cataracts and eventually Uveitis also caused me to develop Uveitic Glaucoma in my right eye.  At the age of thirty-two I had surgery to remove a cataract from my right eye and insert a new lens.  At the age of thirty-five I was informed I had developed Uveitic glaucoma whereby fluid would build up in my right eye and not be able to drain adequately resulting in my eye pressure going sky high.  Suddenly, I was experiencing not only seeing the cells of my right eye, but also flashes of light, eye pain, nausea, and stabbing headaches.  At the age of thirty-seven I had what is known as Baerveldt Implant Surgery on the right eye.

Baerveldt Implant Eye Surgery involved the skilled hands and veteran experience of a glaucoma surgeon who inserted a silicone implant in the far right corner of my right eye which allows the excess eye fluid to drain and thus lower my eye pressure.  No.  It was not a simple surgery,  In fact, I had to have four additional surgeries in order for the implant to work at its optimal capacity.  And every ten or more years, Uveitic glaucoma patients generally have to have the silicone implant replaced because scar tissue develops and can block the implant from draining the eye fluid at an optimal capacity.  Oh, and a patient cannot be completely knocked out for the surgery; the patient can only be sedated as you have to follow instructions during the surgery to move your eye up, down, right or left. 

Thus far I have been lucky that my original silicone eye implant has not had to be replaced as I have not developed serious scar tissue.  Recently though, my retina specialist noticed that my retina was swelling and he placed me not only on Prednisolone Acetate 1% for Uveitic inflammation, but also a new eye drop called Ketorolac.  I place both sets of eye drops in the right eye four times daily.  And I pray that this decreases my retina swelling.  So far so good.  I will know for sure how well this new eye drop is working in August when my retina is once again mapped or photographed to determine if the swelling is decreasing.  I have not asked what happens if the eye drops do not decrease the retina swelling because it most likely involves surgery and why stress myself before I know for sure what will happen, right?? 

I guess some of us are just blessed with varying forms of chronic illness that plague us our entire lives.  I did not do anything to cause Uveitis.  It just happened to decide to show up in my right eye when I was sixteen years of age.  I often wonder if I will eventually lose the vision in my right eye as that scares me since I love to read and write and drive my Mustang.  And there is always the lingering thought that Uveitis might suddenly develop in the left eye as well.  Most people who are diagnosed with Uveitis have it in both eyes, but I have been a strange case in that mine has not.   According to The Uveitis Organization more than 2 million people in the world have been diagnosed with Uveitis.  In the United States, Uveitis afflicts 109,000 or more people. 

How do I cope with this strange eye condition?  I make sure that I have both veteran retina and glaucoma specialists at one of the best university medical institutions in the country.  I regularly visit those eye specialists for rechecks of my eyes.  I never just stop any eye drops cold turkey because I know those eye drops must be tapered or bad things can happen.  And I roll with the punches whenever something new occurs like this recent swelling in my retina.  All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough.

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Dear U.S. Publishing: Where Are The Patient Narratives About Unusual Disorders And Disabilities??!!

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings!  Just wanted to write a blog post and ask of our dear traditional and small/independent publishers why we do not have more patient narratives written by real patients with unusual disorders and disabilities??  This is a genre of untapped potential market share for publishers.  Why?  Because 133 million people are living with some sort of disability or chronic disease today and that number will almost double in the next twenty years according to what I read on an internet site collecting data on chronic illness and disability.  Sounds like a major untapped market share to me so when will the publishing world live up to its cries for #OwnVoices and #DiverseBooks??   Honestly, I have read and seen literary agents and editors spreading the word via Twitter, Manuscript Wish List, Literary Agency websites, etc.  requesting these type of books, but very few who are daring, adventurous, or the type of trend-spotters that are willing to step up and take the reins on publishing books of this nature and giving authors that write these books an opportunity to not only be published, but make a difference in the world as well.  Pressing play on Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T currently as I am in my home office writing this blog post. 

Seriously now, I have read the narratives or memoirs chronicling ADD, ADHD, OCD, Anorexia, Alcoholism, Drug Addicition, Asperger's, Colon Cancer, etc.  I am getting ready to read a newly released memoir about a patient who deals with Lyme Disease (finally, someone is getting onboard and publishing a book that I think is rightly needed).  Here's the deal though:  If you only publish books written by authors who are doctors, nurses, professors/academics and writers with high-faluting publishing backgrounds aka MFA from Harvard, Sarah Lawrence, etc. or who have extensive publishing credits, guess what??  You are missing out on tapping into the loads of ordinary citizens who wish to read a plain-spoken narrative and not a thesis paper, medical handbook, or heaven forbid, someone who writes in an operatic voice.  Just pointing this out to those of you in the publishing world who appear to be flummoxed as to how to publish a writer who is not well-known, an academic marvel, an award-winning author, or a medical guru.  Hello?  If I recall correctly, writers did not always have access to social media (thank the Lord) and publishers were still able to publish books by unknown writers and they also were able to continue to produce successful books without a writer having four million Twitter followers or having won a National Book Award.  Is anyone hearing me out there?

So here's the dealio, I am going to be writing on this blog about me, a female Generation Xer who juggles four unusual chronic illnesses.  I have a completed book proposal and manuscript on life with those four unusual disorders beginning at the age of sixteen.  Now I don't care if you are a Baby Boomer, Xer, or any of the generations that came after mine, at some point I believe most of us will face some sort of chronic disorder, illness, disability, etc.  And are you even ready for the reality of that?  Are you willing to stand up and advocate for yourself as a patient?  Do you know how to filter the qualified doctors from the quacks??  What would you do if you were harassed by a medical specialist as I have been??  Do you know where to even find the right medical specialist or hospital that does not allow patients to "fall through the cracks"??  Now if you are twenty years old and think you are built like a character from Avengers,come talk to me in ten, twenty, or thirty years.  Mark my words though, chronic and unusual illnesses are being diagnosed at a more rapid rate than ever and also being diagnosed in younger and younger folks.  Hell, my specialists consider me a guru now that I am a veteran patient of chronic illness and have been for the last thirty years.  It is truly entertaining when I, the patient, know before my medical specialists that one of my unusual disorders is flaring and requires medication or worse, possible surgery. 

And through all this, we will see if a publisher, editor, etc. decides to open the often nailed shut publishing door to me.  Don't worry, I'll keep you up to date.  I've never been handed anything easily in my life and I'm known for my no-holds-barred manner of speaking and writing.  Stay tuned for my first post on one of the four unusual chronic illnesses I battle depending on when any of the four decides to rear its ugly mug.  Meanwhile, I am going to be reading some memoirs about women who have been through some serious crisis with somewhat similar disorders.

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)


Monday, May 14, 2018

Apathetic, Uninformed, And Unresponsive NC State BOE And NC Lawmakers Are Why Teachers Are Coming To Raleigh, Mr. Brody


Dear Lit Loves and North Carolina Public School Teachers,

It appears that N.C.representative, Mark Brody, of Union County appears to think that North Carolina teachers are being irresponsible and petulant for coming to Raleigh to protest on May 16, 2018. Well, Mr. Brody, let me tell you as a FORMER middle school teacher in the state of North Carolina that sometimes it is necessary to make an up close and personal presence to gain the attention and priority of our N.C. state board of education and our North Carolina representatives.  And by the way, Mr. Brody, for your information, teachers are not just protesting pay, but also working conditions, school environments, and lack of teacher resources to properly educate and protect our public school students.  As a FORMER North Carolina teacher, I can tell you this played a role in why I no longer teach in North Carolina public schools.  For your information, I wrote a book on my experiences as a beginning teacher and published it on my on dime.  You might like to order a copy.  It is titled "Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life by Grace Sutherlin.  Amazon is where you can purchase the book.  You might find some enlightenment there and also send a copy to your district representative on the North Carolina state board of education.

I applaud the teachers of North Carolina for taking a day to bring forth the significant priorities and needs of not just North Carolina public school teachers, but also North Carolina public school environments and the lack of teacher as well as student resources.  Bringing forth real change in North Carolina public schools and bringing teacher priorities to the forefront of our state board of education as well as our state lawmakers requires an iron resolve, serious concern, and a brave soul.  So I want you to know that once I wrote my book chronicling my first years teaching in a North Carolina middle school, I sent correspondence to all State Board of Education Members at the time.  I received two responses.  One was from State School Superintendent, Mark Johnson and the other respondent was State School Board Chairman, William Cobey.  None of the other state board of education members responded to my correspondence much less purchased the book.  According to my calculations, that comes to fourteen members or advisors who did not even bother to care, correspond, or read about the troubles and inadequacies of our state's public schools. North Carolina Teachers deserve better.  North Carolina Students deserve better. 

So for all North Carolina teachers who are participating in the protest on May 16, 2018 and for those who would have liked to participate, but could not, I am listing here the members of our North Carolina State Board of Education, their districts, counties and when available, their email addresses and term expirations if possible.

****Point Of Interest:  I contacted The Raleigh News and Observer newspaper about my book via a local reporter who is assigned to the topic of education.  There was no response.  When I wrote the top brass at the newspaper, I was told via email that if no one responded to my education topic suggestion then my story was not deemed important or relevant.  (Take Note Mr. Brody)

The listed members of the North Carolina State Board of Education are here for your perusal.


William Cobey, Chairman of NC Board of Education and Member at Large. 
Email:  william.cobey@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2019

Rebecca Taylor, Member and Representative of NC Education District 1 inclusive of Northeast Education Region or Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Currituck, Chowan, Dare, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, Pitt, Roanoke Rapids, Tyrell, Washington, and Weldon.
Email:  becky.taylor@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires: March 31, 2019

Reginald Kenan, Member and Representative of NC Education District 2 inclusive of Southeast Education Region or Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, and Wayne.
Email:  reginald.kenan@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expired:  March 31, 2017

Amy White, Member and Representative of District 3 inclusive of North Central Education Region or Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Chatham, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Grenvile, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Nash, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake, Warren, and Wilson.
Email:  amy.white@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2023

Dr. Olivia Homes Oxendine, Member and Representative of District 4 inclusive of Sandhills Education Region or Bladen, Clinton, Columbus, Cumberland, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, and Whiteville. 
Email:  olivia.oxendine@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2021

Eric C. Davis, Vice Chairman, Member at Large, and Representative of District 5 inclusive of Piedmont Triad Education Region or Alamance, Asheboro, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Elkin, Forsyth, Guilford, Lexington, Mount Airy, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Thomasville, Surry, and Yadkin.
Email:  eric.davis@dpi,nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2021

Gregory Alcorn, Member and Representative of District 6 inclusive of Southwest Education Region or Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Kannapolis, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Mooresville, Rowan, Stanly, and Union.
Email:  gregory.alcorn@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2019

Todd Chasteen, Member and Representative of District 7 inclusive of Northwest Education Region or Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Hickory, McDowell, Mitchell, Newton-Conover, Watauga, Wilkes, Yancey.
Email:  todd.chasteen@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2023

Wayne McDevitt, Member and Representative of Western Education Region inclusive of Asheville, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, and Transylvania. 
Email:  wayne.mcdevitt@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expired:  March 31, 2017

Patricia Willoughby, Member at Large
Email:  patricia.willoughby@dpi,nc.gov
Term Expired:  March 31, 2017

Mark Johnson, State Superintendent of North Carolina Public Instruction
Email:  mark.johnson@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  2020

Dan Forest, Lieutenant Governor
Email:  dan.forest@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires with term of office.

Dale Folwell, State Treasurer
Email:  dale.folwell@dpi.nc.gov
Term expires with term of office.

Dr. Freddie Williamson, State Board of Education Superintendent Advisor
No email currently listed.

Roberta Scott, Local State Board of Education Advisor
Email:  rscott@warrenk12nc.org

Vacancy:  High School Junior Advisor
Appointment Pending
Position Not Filled Since 2016

North Carolina teachers I look forward to hearing your rallying call on May 16, 2018 and remember, sometimes you must raise your voice to make sure you are heard.  I am all for a North Carolina teacher strike if necessary.

Your Sister in North Carolina Education and Author of the book, Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life written under my pen name of Grace Sutherlin.

All my best,
Grace
(Amy)


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Maybe There Is No Literary Agent Out There For Me As A Writer

Dear Lit Loves,

I wish I had better news.  I have queried my heart out for a memoir/narrative regarding my own disabling illnesses and how those disabling bad boys taught me to be more of a feminist and a discerning medical advocate, not to mention handle living with the ups and down of rare disorders.  I have no literary representation as of yet.  I am beginning to think maybe literary agents just send out tweets and post lists of various genres they would like to acquire just because those types of acquisitions are what is trending now.  Seriously,  I just received a rejection from a literary agent who said she needed to give her acquisition list a serious overhaul so she wanted nonfiction queries especially those of the #MeToo and #OwnVoices movement and I don't know how you could figure after reading my proposal that those two hashtags do not shine brightly throughout my manuscript.  Wait, that's right, I remember now.  The literary agent never asked for the book proposal and manuscript; therefore, it is not possible anyone could have read my book proposal or my manuscript.  This is frustrating as hell, let me tell you.

Next, I receive a rejection not from the literary agent to whom I sent my query and first two chapters, but her assistant who says the agency has discussed my book and they do not see a story arc and it is hard to sell a hybrid memoir and narrative book presently.  First, they never had the full manuscript or book proposal to be able to ascertain the full story arc so I find that just a bogus excuse.  Yes, it is most definitely hard to sell a narrative and memoir hybrid manuscript, but hell, it's also hard to plant 60 gladiolus bulbs in one hour, but hell, I did it because I wanted to and I knew I could do it.  Maybe we don't have any fearless literary agents who take risks anymore or at least that's what I am beginning to think.  Maybe they all want to cater to the writer who can make them the quick buck. 

And finally, there's the literary agent who rejected my query in fourteen minutes.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Quick turnaround time, but obviously no real thoughts given to the substance and motivations for writing the book.  I'll remember that and not query that literary agent ever again.  Never.  That's it.  You handle my query like that and as my good friend says, "Ya dead to me!  Understand?!!"  Honestly, querying to find a literary agent is like dealing with the mafia or better yet professional wrestling.  I actually had a dream where I was in a cage match against a literary agent. Last person left standing wins.  I won, but since I've watched so many cage matches and know so many wrestling moves, the literary agent was unconscious at the conclusion of the match, but survived; however, he/she refused to represent me because he/she was afraid I would not take refusals or constructive feedback well when my book proposal or manuscript was evaluated!! 

And finally, there is the literary agent who is OPEN to submissions. I query him/her.  I receive a rejection because he/she has too many current clients to even consider much less seriously read my book proposal and manuscript.  Straight up, hand on my father's grave, that is what the email rejection he/she sent me read.  I was like, well, why the hell do you keep yourself OPEN to submissions if you are too busy with your current clients??  Try closing to submissions till you can seriously consider a writer's work.  Really, it's not that difficult.  I do not send you a book proposal or manuscript till it is in its finest shape possible so do I not deserve your undivided attention when you go to read my book proposal and manuscript??

Stay tuned to Is There An Actual Literary Agent That Can Handle Grace Sutherlin?? 

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

There Is A Serious Lack Of Diversity When It Comes To Whose Memoir Manuscript(s) Are Traditionally Published

Dear Lit Loves,

This may be one of my last posts on this blog as I am deeply disappointed to report that I believe, based on my on personal experiences querying both literary agents and editors, that I must report that I have come to the conclusion if you are not a female writer who is highly educated, privileged, and phenomenally connected in terms of social media then traditional publishers and literary agents do not appear to genuinely wish to hear much less publish your story.  And that's even if you have a valuable, timely, and unusual personal story to relate in book form. I have come to this conclusion after many weeks of querying literary agents and editors who should, based on their own specified genre interests, have reason to be excited and motivated to sign as me as a potential writer/author.  It most definitely has not been the experience of this memoir writer.

Recently, I have noticed that when it comes to books and in particular memoirs pertaining to health-related experiences, particularly those that target a female audience, if you are not a professor, a scientist, a theatrical director, celebrity, or a media powerhouse then literary agents and traditional publishing appear not to care about much less want to publish your potentially invaluable personal experiences.  It is particularly sad given that as writers and readers we hear from agents and publishers that they want "diverse voices", "own voices", and one powerhouse publisher actually tweeted that the editors wanted to hear and promote memoirs "of ordinary women who have survived extraordinary circumstances".  From my perspective, this is simply not the case and sure as hell is not happening when it comes to this writer and her manuscript.

My definition of an ordinary woman apparently does not match the definition utilized by those members belonging to the realms of traditional publishing.    And it deeply saddens and disappoints me because I think the average female who buys books these days reflects my conceptualization of an ordinary woman as opposed to the privileged woman from an upper socioeconomic class that most traditional publishers and literary agents appear to define as an "ordinary woman".  So that leaves writers like me with manuscripts that will never see a place on a shelf at Barnes and Noble or an independent bookstore.  It leaves writers like me utterly disillusioned with the entire traditional publishing industry.  A writer like me who has potentially not only written an informative, engrossing, and intriguing memoir is left feeling and being treated like a second class citizen in a third world country.   It leaves me wondering why did I even try to pursue or obtain the dream of being the author of a traditionally published book?  Why was I not given an opportunity to see if my book could succeed and potentially make a difference in someone or many people's lives?  It leaves me with the desire to put down the pen, close the laptop, shred my manuscript and book proposal because none of the gatekeepers in traditional publishing gave a damn about me as a writer/author, my experiences, or my manuscript and book proposal.    And for that, traditional publishing and its many inhabitants should be ashamed if that is what eventually transpires regarding my publishing dreams.

Grace
(Amy)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Would Reese Witherspoon Select A Self-Published Book As A Part Of Her Hello Sunshine Book Club?

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings book lovers!  Those of you who are Southern women are going to loooovvveeee this post.   I read somewhere recently where Reese Witherspoon selected a memoir for her April 2018 Hello Sunshine Book Club.   So I, being a lowly, self-published Amazon memoir author/writer, started thinking during my most recent book club luncheon that I needed to fire up my laptop and see if Reese Witherspoon has ever selected a self-published book as one of her Hello Sunshine Book Club picks. This does have a point to it ya'll so just hang in there with me, okay?

Driving home from my book club meeting/luncheon that day I thought back to a presentation I made in Calabash, North Carolina when I self-published my first book titled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  When I closed my book presentation someone asked me about the self-publishing process and if I ever thought I might one day be a part of the traditionally published author tribe.  And I answered by saying, "Well, I guess anything is possible.  I mean, the movie Legally Blonde was originally a novel written by Amanda Brown that began as a self-published book.  The novel was eventually published by the book imprint named Dutton which is or was most definitely part of the big five traditional publishers.  And we all know how BIG that movie became for Reese Witherspoon - Hell, it put her on the map!  So who knows?"

I arrive home from my own book club group meeting and luncheon and check to ascertain if Reese Witherspoon has ever selected a self-published book as a pick for her Hello Sunshine Book Club.  Nope. Nada. Ain't Happened Yet.  Wait A Freakin' Minute!  I googled the Hello Sunshine Book Club and what I found which I think is sort of a mission statement is "To tell stories BIG and small and shine a light on female authorship."  !!!!!!!!  Hold the phone, shut the door, and sit thy posterior down for a moment.  An idea popped into my head (this happens occasionally, sometimes for the good and sometimes for naught).  If Hollywood or at least most of it, but particularly Oscar-winning actresses are going to support women in their efforts to "speak their truth" while also encouraging them to "raise our voices and tell our stories," should that not include those of us who've been trying to break through the forces of the literary gatekeepers?  Seriously, I personally feel like I have queried literary agents till the cows have come home and right now, they all are grazing on my deck.  I've been given every reason in the world for rejection including that I am not a grand partaker of social media (Hello, thank God I did not join Facebook as 87 million users have had their private information  stolen and I think Zuckerberg or Zuckerburg and company also allowed advertising that negatively impacted our last election).  How would you feel if after writing a memoir manuscript, a query, a book proposal, etc and then researching literary agents that sell books in your genre, you wrote to those literary agents and received email responses like the following, "Sorry.  Pass., I have determined I am not the right person to rep this book, You have virtually no platform, and last but certainly not least, I don't have the time to devote to this manuscript and memoirs by unknowns just don't sell."  I have received emails from literary agents that said all this and more.  Not to mention, some literary agents never bothered to respond in any shape or form. 

Would it not be great if Reese Witherspoon selected a self-published book as one of her Hello Sunshine Book Club selections???!!!  So I am throwing down the gauntlet (in Southern-speak this means I am putting down my fork of Lexington-style barbecue and placing the glass of mint julep down on the table).  I think it would be fantabulous if Reese Witherspoon selected and promoted a book completed by a self-published author.  And yes, I am going to give the reasons why my self-published book should qualify as a selection.  Henceforth, here is why Brave Soul Rising by Grace Sutherlin should qualify as a Reese Witherspoon book club selection:

1)  It relays the story of a timid, Swouthern gal evolving to become one bad-ass, take-no-prisoners woman.
2)  The book delivers a round-house drop kick to the cruelties of domestic violence and sexual harassment.
3)  It is a book featuring a real world woman who learns the art of how to write about her actual encounters with the realities of inner city public education and overcome the negative stigmas associated with it.
4)  It's a story about a woman rising above the fray when the odds are firmly stacked against her.
5)  Above all, never underestimate a Southern woman with a brave heart and feisty soul.

That's my pitch to Ms. Witherspoon.  And for my limited and select few regular blog readers I just finished reading They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson and will review it here shortly. 

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Dear Publisher: We Need More Books Written By Patients

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings book lovers!  My journey to locate a publisher is a never-ending anxiety attack.  Seriously.  This past week I received one form rejection from a literary agent.  I just love it when I have literary agents preach not to send query letters beginning with "Dear Agent" and then I receive a rejection email addressed to "Dear Writer"!  It makes me want to scream, "Hey, if you can't follow your own query rules then you are most likely not the literary agent to represent me".  Writers often get very little respect and endure a tremendous amount of belittling.  Next, I am somewhat happy to report that another literary agent actually sent me a personalized response indicating she had read my proposal and was impressed; however, she just signed an author writing on a subject similar to mine so she would pass on my work.  I appreciated the knowledge that I could tell she had truly read through the book proposal and specifically noted portions of my story as a patient with four chronic illnesses.  Agents like this give me hope.

So I see there is slow growth in book sales by three of the big five publishers.  I think there are several reasons for this beginning with the point that people are highly distracted these days.  Honestly, individual attention spans do not last much longer than nine seconds!  I read that statistic somewhere in the news recently.  So if many individuals can really only concentrate in nine second segments then books better be about a subject in which the reader has an interest or the book must fascinate, relate or create one damn fine escape for the readers of today.  This brings me to my real point:  We need more memoirs written by patients, not just the medical experts, but those of us who entrust our lives to those who may or may not be medical "experts".  I swear if I see one more book, particularly a memoir, written by a medical expert I may scream while in Barnes and Noble or scream while surfing Amazon on my deck which would totally annoy my neighbors and most likely scare the hell out of my feline.   Did anyone, such as literary agents, editors, copywriters, marketing specialists, etc. ever consider that there are just some patient stories that truly need to be told (published)? 

Now I am a writer with a memoir manuscript in the 92,000 word range chronicling my interactions with all facets of the medical industry while juggling four rare chronic illnesses.  And let me tell you I do not spare the rod when it comes to detailing the highs and lows of searching for the best medical specialists, enduring all forms of tests or torture in one case to determine a diagnosis, learning how to deal with negligent and pompous medical personnel, standing up for my rights as a patient, and discerning how to become my own best medical advocate.  My memoir about chronic illnesses does not involve any form of addiction.  It does not involve turning to alcohol or pharmaceutical drugs to escape what physical illness did and continues to do to my body which also happens to wreak havoc with my life on a frequent basis! My memoir relays my story in a detailed plot without a lot of frilly language. The key to a great memoir to me is the story or the truth put forth in a no-holds-barred manner that gives me something I can take away and apply in my own life as well as a book I can readily say to my friends, "You better not miss reading a copy of this book." 

No, I am not a neuroscientist, pediatric oncologist, editorial writer for The New York Times, or a Nobel Prize winning writer.  I am your slightly above average Jane coping with unusual illnesses, an often dysfunctional medical system and learning to navigate doctors, medical insurance, hospitals, medications, family crisis, a redirected career choice and still live a relatively stable life while daily discovering new sources of happiness and hilarity.  Let's hope that someone in the publishing industry lets me share my little nuggets of relatively controlled chaos soon.

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Juggling Four Chronic Illnesses And Waiting To Hear From Agents & Publishers

Dear Lit Loves,

I just want to begin by saying that I get the heebie-jeebies each time I check my email these days.  Seriously, I just wrote a manuscript about living with four rare, chronic illnesses that I feel is quite relevant for our times as currently there are 134 million people who have some form of chronic illness and by 2025, almost 170 million people will be welcomed to the world of chronic disorders.  To me, those are staggering numbers.  Heart disease is a chronic illness.  PTSD is a chronic illness.  Heck, to me, even cancer can be a chronic illness these days.  In my experience, you never really recover from a chronic illness; it is more like "continuous endurance" and remaining in a hyperactive state of vigilant awareness that some part of your body may turn on you or force you to sit up and take notice that life is often a never-ending state of expecting the unexpected.

So I decided to write about my experiences with chronic illness.  Now I am in the midst of grinding out the wait to hear if a literary agent is going to select to represent me and if there is an editor out there that can appreciate the relevance of my subject matter and the "plain spoken" manner in which I write.  I'm not the writer who went to Stanford or received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence; I am the writer for those who like a feisty woman who doesn't mind telling it like it is and leaving everything about my personal experiences on the written page.  I'm probably not the writer for you if you like lyrical prose that sings operatic notes.  I write about the nitty-gritty of life with a ZZ Top beat and in your face lyrics.  A lot of folks cannot handle that, but what the traditional publishing folks are missing currently is that many of my peers will not buy much less read books written in a high-falutin' manner and tone.  Seriously.  I had several people who read my first book, Brave Soul Rising, and then later said, "Thank God!  A female writer who doesn't bore me to death with detailed descriptions or background information!"  And from other readers I would also hear, "Finally!  A writer whose life and manner of writing I can relate to without having to go consult a dictionary or Google."

So I continue to wait.  Waiting to hear from literary agents.  Waiting to hear from acquiring editors.  Here's the deal though:  I'm not willing to wait forever on traditional publishing.  I will go it alone and publish the book on my own if I have to because I feel it's that relevant and incredibly important.
And I'm hearing a lot these days about literary agents and editors wanting to hear from diverse voices and women who have a #MeToo experience or two to relate.  Is that really the case?  I hope I get the answer I'm looking for soon because it would highly disappoint me if this is all talk and no action.  I want to see traditional publishers - all parts of it- agents, editors, publicity, etc. put their money where there mouth is.  Let's get this party started.  There is no time to waste.

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Query Process Is Like A Non-Stop Merry-Go-Round Ride


Dear Lit Loves,

Well folks, I am at it once again.  That would be the querying process for literary agents as well as potential publishers.  As I recently announced, I completed my second memoir manuscript which totaled 305 pages and 92,668 words.  This does not include writing the query (cover letter for the book) and book proposal (book overview, synopsis, table of contents, marketing plan of action, competitive titles, and chapter summaries).  I get exhausted just recalling how much time I have spent completing not just the book, but all the other necessities related to either landing a literary agent, a publisher, or both.

This time around I am being more selective in my choices of literary agents.  If my research does not indicate a literary agent is willing to take on a debut author in nonfiction and memoir, I skip querying that agent entirely.  And this time around I am beginning to look at twitter statements made by literary agents along with perusing the website, manuscript wish list.  I found one agent that I thought might be a good fit for me and then I just happened to take a look at some of the retweets she had been posting and endorsing.  Once I saw the flippant attitude toward feminism and how she publicly and quite negatively dismissed potential queries from other writers, guess what?  I struck her from my list entirely.  So be careful what you tweet. And no, I do not use Twitter because heaven only knows I cannot limit myself to 147 or 149 characters at a time when it comes to communicating. 

If all else fails regarding obtaining a literary agent this time, no worries.  I have now located publishers that will look at my work even though I do not have a literary agent.  Personally, I like the thought of just having an intellectual property attorney look over any potential book contract.  I would most likely take that action with a literary agent contract as well.  No disrespect literary agents, but I have to cover my interests first and foremost. 

One thing I know for sure is that if I am forced to take the self-publishing route, I now have some experience under my belt so it is no longer intimidating.  It's actually a thrill to complete the entire writing, publishing, and book cover design yourself and have it arrive at your door or in your mail.  I screamed the first time I held a book written by me in my hand.  I also tried two cartwheels in the foyer of our apartment at the time, but that did not turn out well and I scared the hell out of my husband.  Next time I'll just clutch the book to my chest and run around our new home screaming for five minutes and most likely alarm all our neighbors, but hey, you have to let some of that excitement escape and be on display at least momentarily. 

So I have two more literary agents to query and three additional publishers to email with the book package.  So far so good.  Meanwhile, I just read the memoir titled Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I've Loved) by Kate Bowler which was an enlightening account of her own battle at a young age with cancer.  Presently, I am reading Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain, a Raleigh author, as a book club selection.  She most definitely has Southern style speech patterns nailed perfectly which adds genuine authenticity to the book.

Till my next update, happy reading!

Best,
Grace




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Coming Soon: My Second Memoir

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings!  No, I didn't fall off the face of the earth or the back of a turnip truck for that matter.  I have been busy.  Busy with what??  I am completing final edits on my second memoir!  Editing a manuscript is NEVER an easy task.  I do not care what anyone says and that includes English teachers and I was an English teacher for crying out loud! 

You know, I used to think that writing a memoir was the most difficult part of the writing process.  And now, nine years into the whole process I can definitively say, Hell No!  That might have been the easiest part.  I have a different writing process than most writers I know.  Initially, I slam or bang out the memoir with a no-holds-barred attitude and allow grammar and spelling errors to fly right out the window for all I care.  That's right,  just get the story down on paper once I have outlined each chapter.  Now, this is what I call free writing - just get with the program, open the laptop and start typing with no filter.  Seriously.  When I had students who pitched a fit and said they could not write, my policy as an instructor was to always implement free-writing.  Just get the gist of the story down on paper and to hell with the grammatical errors, spelling errors, etc. for now.

Once I complete free-writing a manuscript, you know what I do?  I stuff the manuscript in a saved file on my laptop and I walk away from it.  No lie.  I go do other things like attend my book club meeting, attend another author's meet and greet, go get lost in Barnes and Noble for half a day, visit my brother and solve the world's problems over lunch, and read, read, read other books in the memoir genre along with books chosen by my book club members.  I truly do not think about the manuscript.  And then one fine day I will be reminded of that memoir manuscript sitting in a file on my laptop and I will think, damn, I really should go read what I wrote.

Then I go back to my laptop, pull up the manuscript file and read what I wrote.  While I am reading it I start thinking maybe I should really detail this particular event more so I add to it.  Then I will catch spelling errors, grammatical errors, etc.  I start going over the manuscript with an initial first edit attempt.  And then once again, I save the manuscript in a file on my laptop and I put it away for maybe a week or two while I go visit my mom and help her search for a new car.

When I return for a second edit, I am really going over the manuscript plot in detail.  And I am noticing if I see any errors.  Do I need to rewrite an entire chapter?  Do I need to delete or add a chapter?  I am also editing to determine if I can hear my "voice" in the manuscript as I read it.  Does this manuscript even read like I am sitting across from you at Page Road Grill and relating a story to you?  Are there any southern expressions used in the manuscript that I might need to explain to the reader?  Is the title I chose for this or that chapter appropriate or should it be changed entirely?  This is often when I run downstairs and ask my husband, "What do you think of a chapter in my next memoir with the title: blah, blah, blah.?"  And he will generally ask me what that particular chapter is about and I will give him the short and dirty synopsis of the chapter.  He will either say he likes it and it is appropriate or he suggests I change the title of the chapter entirely.  My husband is unflinchingly honest so that's why I generally consult him in relation to my manuscripts. 

Then I go back one more time and solely edit for grammar and spelling.  Then I will do another edit for spacing and margins.  Now, there are times when I am editing in my home office and stupid circumstances happen.  Like, for instance, when my neighbor and his wife decide a builder should construct a custom-built stone patio and fire pit in their backyard at the end of JANUARY!  They didn't bother to do the neighborly courteous part like give their fellow neighbor who works from home a heads up that this little expedition of theirs will take place right outside the neighbor's home office window for EIGHT DAYS STRAIGHT!!!  So I get really ticked off and go find my noise-canceling headphones.  Only I can still hear the jackhammer and chainsaw and oh yeah, now the construction folks are cursing one another.  AND IT IS ALL SO LOUD I CANNOT CONCENTRATE AND MY NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES ARE NOT CUTTING IT.  So my work process is interrupted for only ten days, damn it! 

Finally, I resume my editing process and stare down my neighbors in an annoying manner with my best version of a death glare.  Finally, I utilize the editing software I have installed on my computer.  Wait, cancel that last one.  My husband installed that software on my computer.  It takes a while for me to see what that software finds and determine if I need to change anything or communicate a sentence in a different way.  Then I rethink the title and subtitle of my memoir.  Is it catchy?  Will you know what the memoir is about after reading the title?  Is the title too long or too short?

 Then I begin thinking about the image I would like on the book's cover.  I peruse stock images to determine if anything dazzles me.  This takes a bit as I get sidetracked quite easily.  What colors should I utilize on the book's cover?  I then think about the summary that must go on the back cover of the book and do I want to add an author profile and picture?  Do I even have room on the back cover of the book to include an author profile and picture??

And then I turn the whole kit n' kaboodle over to my husband who formats the e-book version.  And then my husband (the tech wizard) helps me upload the manuscript as well as the book's front and back covers for printing purposes.  I wait to receive a printed copy of the book to see if it knocks me right out of my Ralph Lauren loafers.

Needless to say, it is a hell of a lot of work, but it is my passion.  I mean, seriously, if you are not passionate about your book then why even bother??

Looking forward to bringing you readers my second memoir soon!

Best,
Grace
(Amy)


Monday, January 22, 2018

Wait A Minute Cecile Richards! This White Woman Has Been Stepping Up In The Fight For Equality!

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings, I was incensed to read that my dear "sister" Cecile Richards negatively singled out white women for not stepping up and saving our country from itself when she led a speech in Las Vegas on January 21st, 2018 in relation to the Women's March (which I fully support) and also about women in politics or #PowertothePolls (which I also fully support).  What I am upset with "sister" Cecile Richards about is that I or rather this ordinary, average white woman with a liberal tendency Has Been Doing Her Part To Advance Equality, Feminism And Inclusion, Damn it!! Not all of us have been sitting on the sidelines filing our nails or sitting with our heads in the sand, darling!! I was standing up to chauvinism, sexual harassment and "the good ole boys' club twenty years ago sister, and I continue to stand up to it today by self-publishing my own books relating my experiences.    Just because I am not an activist, organizer or candidate for public office does not mean I have not been doing my part to support those women who are taking on those roles and also attempting to promote the power of the female voice in this country.  And let's be real honest here, I know where my talents lie (writing and teaching) and even though I have been trying to break into traditional publishing by writing about the lack of equality in this country, the abundance of sexual harassment and the profuse degradation of women in our society, I have not exactly had Penguin Random House knocking down my door to sign me to a book deal.  You know why? Because they do not wish to sign those of us ordinary and average white women who have been on the front lines dealing with sexism, harassment, belittlement and pay inequality for much of our lives especially if we don't have prominence in the world and are not extremely well-known with five million Instagram followers.  Jesus and Mother Mary!  God forbid there be a traditional publisher who might sign and promote an unknown, feminist woman from the South who writes from a liberal standpoint about significant women's issues.  I might as well have signed my own death warrant when I decided to take up writing and the endeavor to be published traditionally!  What the heck was I thinking??!!!

You know who the traditional publishing industry wants to sign to write and discuss these particular issues?  People with big platforms such as celebrities, athletes, talk show hosts, business leaders, comedians and anyone who has over a million Twitter followers.  Just because I am not Ashley Judd, Reese Witherspoon or Oprah does not mean I am not doing my part to further the Feminist and Equality Causes.  This average southern white woman has been doing her part via self-publishing and book presentations to talk about how she's faced down some quite vile men and pushed the envelope when it comes to better pay and benefits for women.  Hell, I have even stood up to members of my own extended family, medical specialists, former colleagues, present day acquaintances and friends to promote the concepts of feminism, equality and a spirit of sisterhood.  And I have received backlash for it in some cases, but that did not stop me from speaking, writing, engaging, debating and in some cases arguing for the rights and dignity of women.  So no, we may not all be designed for political office, but that DOES NOT MEAN THIS WHITE WOMAN HAS NOT BEEN DOING HER PART TO SAVE THIS COUNTRY FROM ITSELF AND ADVANCE THE POWER OF WOMEN, MS. RICHARDS!!
Best Regards,
  "Sister" Grace