A Million Thanks

Grazie.

A million thanks to everyone who has been buying a copy of Left of the Dial every month.

The royalties cover the cost of a hot chocolate at the local bake shop.

It’s a place with a few tables and a seating area with a blanket bench.

The perfect hole-in-the-wall for having a casual tet-a-tet with a guy you’ve met online.

Or for you and a friend to meet to critique each other’s writing.

One thing I would love is to get more four and five-star reviews on Amazon.

That would be the happiest goal for any author like me who’s here to make a difference not make millions.

My other manuscripts are brewing and percolating: I’m editing and revising a bunch of books I want to publish in the coming years.

More towards early fall I’ve have more details about the career book and the first novel I seek to publish within three years.

My goal in writing Left of the Dial was to uplift and inspire readers that recovery is possible.

The theme of the memoir is: “Enjoy your quirkiness.”

Life is short. Have the macaroons.

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Write Your Story to Heal Your Self

Today I presented a memoir writing workshop at the 12th Annual Peer Conference at the NYU Kimmel Center. The title of the session was Write Your Story to Heal Your Self.

I firmly believe everyone can be creative. The premise of my workshop was that you can heal the self-stigma by writing your story.

Michael Jackson sang in “Man in the Mirror” that if you want to change the world you first have to change yourself.

Healing yourself is the start of healing the planet.

I told attendees that I healed via self-expression using art forms. My love of music, writing, books, and fashion helped me heal.

Here I’d like to reprint the questions listed on page 2 of the handout I gave attendees.

Feel free to Write Your Story to Heal Yourself using these Qs as a guide:

You’re a true original.

How do you define yourself?

Language is power. Written and verbal communication are a playing field.

Whoever controls their self-definition has the power to create their future.

A fortune cookie message tells us:

The sure way to predict the future is to invent it.

Here are some questions to get you thinking.

Jot down whatever comes to mind after reading them.

What is your diagnosis? How old were you when you received it?

How did your life change after the diagnosis?

What is it you don’t like about having a mental health issue?

In what way has good come of living in recovery?

What’s better about your life now?

Write about something you have that the illness didn’t take away.

Write about an event that was one of the happiest times in your life.

If you could have a super power what would it be and why?

What do you like about yourself?

What makes you a true original?

What’s your favorite color and why?

What are you the proudest of in your life?

To sum up write a six-word memoir. Use only six words to talk about yourself and your life.

Write Where You Are

I’m not a Hipster. I don’t follow trends.

What I write about might not make the bestseller list like James Patterson. It’s called a bestseller list for a reason–those books sell millions of copies.

Yet I’ve always been a Visionary in thinking that you can have your own version of a full and robust life living in recovery.

To this end I’ve formed a business and I’m set to publish a second nonfiction book.

That’s what it’s like to be a writer of left of the dial topics:

You’re not Danielle Steele. You won’t live in a building on Central Park West.

You prefer the hidden streets and neighborhoods that no one else wants to explore.

You toil away every day on your writing. If you’re lucky, there’s no writer’s block.

You have something to tell the world so you say it loud and clear.

You create a blog when the New York Times won’t publish you.

You won’t quit in your goal of championing recovery for everyone.

Here’s the scoop:

The writing life is not for everyone. It’s for those of us with an artist’s temperament.

It helps if you have a head for business too so that you can sell tons of copies of your books.

Having a mission for what you want to accomplish by writing a book is imperative.

My goal is to help mental health peers succeed at going to school and finding and keeping a job they love.

In a perverse way, this would satisfy the Republicans and Conservatives who would like to see that no one uses up “entitlements.”

Yet riddle me this: isn’t the mortgage tax deduction on an income tax form a kind of entitlement?

My goal is to help mental health peers live full and robust lives.

A J.D. is not required to have this kind of life.

Hungry Heart

In 1999 when I was an assistant in a law firm library I told a coworker: “I want to win a Pulitzer.”

She responded: “You have to write a book first.” In a tone that seemed mocking or incredulous that I could do this.

We shall see what happens.

I’ve known ever since I was seven years old that I wanted to be a writer.

Ever since I was only five years old I had been bullied by the neighborhood kids and the kids in school.

Coincidence? I think it’s not a coincidence that I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was only seven years old.

Run out and buy this book: Jennifer Weiner’s memoir Hungry Heart.

In it, the New York Times bestselling author boldly asserts that it’s the freaks of the world, the ones from f*cked-up homes, the outcasts, who are destined to become great writers.

Jennifer Weiner was strong enough to row on a crew team at Princeton University.

Yet all through her life before achieving this Ivy League feat the other kids and teens called her fat.

I’m engrossed in Hungry Heart totally. I”m going to continue reading it at the speed of light.

Easily nine years ago I’d go on Jennifer Weiner’s author website. I’ve revisited the website today. Her advice to aspiring authors is some of the greatest advice you’ll ever read for free.

Writers, click your pens and get writing. Those of us who are writers write because we must. We write because to not write we’d have a breakdown of the soul.

I stand in solidarity with Jennifer Weiner. Go on her website and read the articles she’s written for the New York Times on women and body issues.

Years ago–too long ago to count–I logged on to Match.com for about five minutes and quickly logged off.

The featured profile on the homepage of that dating website was that of a guy who wrote in these exact words:

“I won’t date a fat woman.” No kidding he used the word fat.

As soon as I saw that I refused to join Match.com.

That’s interesting, right, considering that I fit into a size 2 Petite not a 14 or a 3X?

I urge you to buy and read the book Hungry Heart.

Jennifer Weiner is anti-MFA. Like I do, she knows that if you’re a writer you don’t need to spend all your time in a classroom learning to write.

Those of us who are writers will do our editing of a manuscript on a crowded New York City bus we’re lucky to get a seat on.

We’ll write in a notebook on the subway, or at a table in a public library, or at any number of indie coffee shops in our neighborhood.

We scope out the layout of the living room dining room area when we want to buy a co-op or rent an apartment to verify there’s room for a desk and a file cabinet.

I’ve been remiss in blogging here because yes indeed I’ve started writing a third novel. This is the one I want to publish first within three years.

Jennifer Weiner tells it like it is.

I tell you this:

There is something about being bullied, about being called fat, about being an outsider in the Popularity Contest of Life that endows a person with great writing talent.

I’ve been listening to alternative music ever since I was in high school–long before I was a disc jockey on the FM radio.

I tell you this also:

I’ll go to my grave–a 90-year old woman–listening to the Beastie Boys.

Thirty years after my disc jockey career ended I’m still listening to alternative music.

Thirty years after having a breakdown I stand in solidarity with those of us who are outsiders–who don’t fit in–whose difference threatens to mark us with an externally-inflicted stigmata.

Listen up loyal blog readers:

You have nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about because you have a diagnosis of SZ or whatever challenge you have in life.

Let’s refuse to be hurt when a dude tells a potential lover he won’t date a fat woman.

Would he then divorce a skinny woman who gained 10 pounds because she was no longer desirable?

Think about this. Think long and hard before you submit to feeling guilty or ashamed because of who you are.

Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore

authors clothes

Now you see my focus on fashion and music wasn’t so far-fetched in my memoir Left of the Dial.

A book has indeed been written about authors and clothes. I’m now not the only one linking our sartorial bent to our creative success.

That is Joan Didion on the cover. She is the author of The Year of Magical Thinking, a best-selling memoir.

The ultimate truth about fashion and aptly individual style has been corroborated on the Visual Therapy website.

Co-founder Joe Lupo wrote there:

“We stand by the idea that style isn’t just about the clothes–it’s about the people in them. Using style and clothing to express the most authentic superstar version of yourself will give you the confidence you need to reach for your dreams and goals.”

Co-founder Jesse Garza reinforced:

“We always say that when image (the outer) and identity (the inner) are aligned, the result is clarity that will bring you places and help you reach your goals in all spheres of life.”

From firsthand experience I’ve seen that when you’re at odds with your clothing, it could be because you’re at odds with yourself.

Hiding behind your clothes is a way to hide you from yourself.

Finding the items that fit and flatter is like coming home to yourself.

Research non-traditional careers if you’re loathe to wear a suit and pumps to work.

I’m revising and editing my second non-fiction book.

I will return here in the coming weekend if I’m able.

Why I Detest Stereotypes

I abhor stereotyping people. As a writer, I wanted to publish a schizophrenia memoir where the illness was in a way almost secondary. I wanted to craft original characters that had real lives.

Long-term research indicates that about 15 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia have a refractory form of this illness: unremitting symptoms. And 10 to 15 percent commit suicide according to the long-term studies.

This causes doctors and family members to extrapolate from the minority of patients and loved ones that NO ONE with schizophrenia can have a normal life or a better life.

I understand how a person can feel when their loved one has a refractory illness. I make the case for better research and better treatment for schizophrenia for individuals who have a severe form. I make the case for seeing who the person is as a human being not a mental patient.

My contention is that stereotypes are lies. Viewing everyone the same way because you interacted with one person who behaved that way is stereotyping.

And often it’s the mothers and fathers who stereotype their loved ones by saying: “My son’s a schizophrenic.”

Stop that. Right now.

Jill Bolte Taylor in her brilliant memoir My Stroke of Insight wrote that she needed everyone to believe she would recover when she had a stroke that paralyzed her.

Believe that your son or daughter can recover. Believe that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia can recover.

Know that you don’t have, I don’t have, no one has the right to judge another person. We don’t have the right to write the end of their story before it begins. Neither do we have the right to think: “You were supposed to become a brain surgeon and now that you work at Rite Aid I’m disappointed in you.”

I abhor stereotypes of any kind. I’m writing a novel with an African American character so I’m set to read books written by and about African Americans.

My point I’m getting at is that no one’s a cardboard character. To quote Jodi Picoult from a radio interview: “People are more than the sum total of their disability.”

It’s a choice: we can focus on illness or we can focus on the beauty inside as well as outside of a person. And I think sometimes only seeing the symptoms and focusing on the hell blinds others to that beauty.

What I’m saying is two-fold: we can’t view recovery as the total absence of illness. Yet we can’t view the illness as the person’s identity in life.

I’m a writer: I’m interested in the contradictions inherent in everyone’s personality.

I’m a person in recovery: I’m interested in destroying stereotypes by writing about real people not about pathology.

And yes, I salute cashiers who work in Rite Aid just like I salute people who have other careers.

I’ll quote the title of an earlier blog entry that quoted the X song title:

“See who we are.”

See possibility in our pain. Break bread with us. Get to know us as people first.

There’s a word for this.

It’s called dignity.

Untold Stories

If memory serves it was Zora Neale Hurston who is quoted that there’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you. If you listen closely to what my Uncle Joe is saying in the video you’ll see he makes this point too in his own words.

We have to honor our veterans. The statistic is that 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

You might think we had no business starting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (I do not think we should have started these wars.) Yet that is beside the point when Americans join our armed services to serve our country. We have to honor our veterans and regard them with the highest esteem.

You can watch the Joe Bruni documentary here on CNN.

Our veterans deserve better. They deserve better than to be cooked to death in prison like Jerome Murdough who had a mental illness and was homeless and was sent to jail.

The time is now to get real: our veterans deserve better.