Well Dear Readers, I hope you all had a good chance to bond with your fathers or children yesterday. I went for a very cool dinner cooked by my brother who is something of an incredible cook, having taken 3 years of formal training and many years of experience as a professional cook. At the moment, I have the honorable task of helping edit a book that is not yet released by one of Canada’s top writers, Richard Van Camp. The book is literally incredible, it weaves together a lot of the characters that Richard developed in his stories and the movies he made of them, including “The Lesser Blessed” and “Midnight Mohawk Runners”. Then yesterday I was working at the Edmonton Coliseum, also known as Rexall Place, loading the trucks up from the Cirque De Soleil show. Friday I was interviewed by an Edmonton Sun Reporter, Cam Tait and I am anxious to see how the article will come out. And then last Wednesday I taught my second writing class to a grand total of one student, but still it was fun. The student is a young man who grew up in this area and he is a very interesting young man and not a bad poet. Like they say, those who can’t do… teach!
Another thing that happened this week was I completed my Wellness Recovery Action Plan course which means I can now take a further course to be a facilitator. I think this would be a great experience for me, I have been considering writing another book with regards to mental health, only this time one with more hard data and facts and all that rather than just stories of what happened to me. I feel there is a great power that occurs when a persona can honestly share their own stories, in fact I think it is the main problem with mental health treatment today–too many people are too worried to admit they have a mental health issue. The only fact I really know is that 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 people will need to seek treatment for a mental illness at some point in their lives, but if all the people who were trying to tough it out or didn’t trust Psychiatrists or were too worried to reach out for help were counted in, it could be a lot more, who knows?
Anyhow, that is the long and short of it. In the morning I am going for a business lunch to discuss me taking on more responsibilities in the fall session of my writing class. I don’t really know how long I want to stay up but I might have to stay up all night just to make it in. I will most likely go for a swim in the morning to keep myself going, not an easy thing when I have worked as a truck loader the night before. I guess the price of influence and self respect is a few nights of missed sleep here and there. All I can really say about the last couple of years is that it has been such an amazing experience publishing a book, and then publishing many of them. I am meeting so many people, doing so many things. The money isn’t really there, I have sold a lot of copies of one of my books and I think if I am lucky I am close to breaking even, but writing is such a wonderful experience. I like to quote a man named Bronowski, a scholar who was the host of “The Ascent of Man” a TV show my mom used to really enjoy, which was also a book of the same name by the same person, the quote went something like: “The magic of reading is that no matter where you are, no matter the time or place, you can open a book up and be instantly transported into the mind of the author.” I thank you Dear readers, for reading my mind 🙂 Poem to follow below today’s second photo.
Please let me paint a picture here with words
A story unlike any you’ve ever heard
It all begins in a sunny late spring day
When all the little boys and girls came out to play
There was a little boy who stood out among the crowd
Somehow as just a lad he seemed to stand tall and proud
And a little curly blonde-haired girl caught his eye
He could have made her his friend but didn’t try
This cute little pair of children grew up very fast
Funny enough the girl had a crush on him as time passed
But as they went through school together it was all a game
A race to see who would first get fortune and fame
At first as a model and a scholar the girl did well
Though the strong young boy was going through a kind of hell
His life at home got worse as each day went by
It was all he could do to not curl up, give up and cry
One day when he had taken all he could
He thought of the one thing in life he saw as good
He reached out to the curly blonde haired girl for hope
He was at the end of a nasty, slippery rope
All at once our blond girl expressed her love and true respect
But he didn’t want to start out his life in her debt
He thanked her but then went off to make his own way
He never stopped hoping to see her again one day
Life had never seemed to him all that fair
It had been so awful he really thought no one cared
But still he set off to conquer life on his own
He left his friends and his community, he left his home
Our boy put out his thumb and headed for the coast
Overnight to all his friends he became a ghost
Vanished out of sight and out of mind
Wondering to himself why the blonde girl was so kind
And as some do in sunny summer days
The young man succeeded in numerous ways
But when he returned home all the love was gone
The little curly blonde haired girl had moved on
No words could ever win her back again
He had to face the fact that this was the very end
And so he went on living like a ghost
Drifting north to south and coast to coast
Then one day he met a young troubled soul
And he found that holding her made him feel whole
Soon a wedding came and not long after a child
They let the baby grow up just a little wild
In their humble home there was always love and fun
And before too long our boy saw past memories as done
It meant so much to just lay back and hold his child and wife
By losing his first love he was given the perfect life
June 22, 2015
Sometimes I can’t even believe I made it to this beautiful place. This beach, with its crystal blue waters is known to locals as ‘the toilet bowl’ and makes for some great snorkeling and general lounging around the shore
Hello to all those who dare to dream, dare to try, dare to seize the day. I thought I would write a bit about writing here, writing is something that is not only what I do, and what I love to do, it is something that I think everyone should do, everyone should enjoy. On a whim this morning I looked up our local correspondence University (Athabasca University which I have taken Psychology and Criminology through in the past) and did a search on creative writing. There was a course, but there were many courses I had to take before I could take that one. I am seriously thinking I would love to do this, love to go back to University despite my 43 years. The only thing that really scared me off was that a 3 credit course costs $677.00! I am going to look into financing options, there used to be something called a bursary for part-time studies that would pay all the costs of such things, but I fear that has faded into the cost-cutting jungle. So, I looked at an option, iTunes U! Well, it is a definite option and certainly much less cost, but there is still some cost. One video I wanted to look at regarding freelance magazine writing was $10 to download and thanks to wise investments (not) and careful saving (not) I currently have an available balance of $35 on my Mastercard. I looked at some of the free resources though, and I watched a short video on getting ideas for magazine writing and it prompted me to write a query letter to a magazine I was once paid a phenomenal sum from to write an article about my old Cadet Squadron. Writing the article was pure pleasure, I even drove out to the airport where they had a gliding program going on. If I could get 3 or 4 jobs like that a year I would be a very happy man.
As far as other writing goes, ever since I stopped posting my poems I seem to have stopped writing them. As mentioned though, I really want to get into poetry publications and get noticed and known which could help my writing career in many ways and just about all of them insist that your poem can’t have been published online or otherwise if you submit them. Last night though I did pick up a great resource that I received in the mail from amazon.com called “In the Palm of Your Hand, the Poet’s Portable Workshop”, and after working through the first chapter, I worked with a writing prompt and wrote something I was kind of proud of about how I felt about a dear Uncle who has passed away. It is hard to describe how I get my ideas. I think some of my best writing occurs when I start with a pen and paper. I also quite often start before that laying in bed. I turn out the lights, turn off any distractions aside perhaps from my classical music station on the radio and just toss ideas around until I can come up with something workable, plausible. (I often use this same method for short stories and Novellas as well). Then comes pen and paper. First, I try to just brainstorm, write out every idea I have even if I’m not going to use it at all. Then comes the outline, which is a bit harder and needs to be double spaced because I often make changes. With shorter works like poetry, I might stop at the brainstorming phase and start to write, but with longer ones an outline is essential. Sometimes I don’t even follow the outline for short stories, I just dive in and let the story and my memory lead me. With Novellas and such longer works, the outline is more essential, but is always being revised. When I am writing a longer work, I often come home from supper and go right to sleep, then try and wake up late at night in the wee hours and write then. I start out reading and editing work I did the night before, or from my last session and then I find that my ability to write is increased. When I write poetry, I start with the brainstorming and then I write out long hand a whole poem. I have been told it is best to leave your work for some time, but I often go right to the stage of typing out the poem on my word processor, and I find somewhere between the written word and the computer typed words a change occurs. I feel moved to write more stanzas, or to say things differently. Lately I have been trying to write in iambic pentameter, which actually comes pretty easy with practice. I simply count off two syllables for each finger on my left hand and when it fits into the rhyming and meter I am going for, I write it out. What seems most essential though is to have a theme. I have done young love to death (hey-that gives me a great idea-a poem about ‘old’ love!). I have also used themes of brotherly love, friendship, my illness, history (usually of World War Two), my fears, and more.
I don’t know why, but writing seems so exciting to me. Even when you put aside the (slim) hope of money, the concept of becoming famous or at least well known and respected, there is something that really hits me about actually creating something, and this feeling often also goes for reading quality literature. When I mention quality literature though, I should point out that my concept of quality literature has changed a lot in the past few years, largely because of my good friend Richard Van Camp who writes everything from dark novels exploring horrible sides of the human condition, right down to baby books and in between (comics, graphic novels and more). I want to put in a mention here about a graphic novel I am reading right now that is just so good I can’t help but tell people about it. It is called, “Brooklyn Dreams” and is a black and white, thick book where a man is sitting in a dark room supposedly talking to a Psychiatrist, recounting his days as a teenager in the drug culture of Brooklyn in the early 70’s. This book is so engaging I have been savoring reading it page by page, massively enjoying the art and the incredibly humorous stories. I think one of the great things about graphic novels is that it allows more people into the wonderful world of literature, people who don’t understand or have the patience for longer works of literature. Feel free to post any of your favorite reads here.
After yesterday’s words about changing the focus of this blog to mental health, I wanted to mention at least some snippets about the subject. I have been attending a class run by the Schizophrenia society about recovery from mental illness, and I strongly urge anyone out there, be they Bipolar, Schizophrenic or Depressive, to try and connect to a similar organization in their community. I have gotten so much out of looking at more modern ways of dealing with my illness, I have learned about medications that may help me with fewer side effects, and even just kind of got out of my shell a bit and went to a place where I can feel comfortable about talking about my illness. I actually think I am going to re-take the class another time just because the content of the course was only one small part of what made it great.
Well, dear readers, I hope some of you can take something from today’s blog. As far as any advice I may have, I think one thing applies to both people struggling with mental illness and people who have the desire to become a writer. Keep a journal. Head down to the dollar store, pick up a notebook, and find a good pen or package of good pens, and bring it with you everywhere. Jot down how you are feeling, how things ‘make’ you feel, ideas you have for stories. I actually forgot to mention one aspect of the writing process for me, once I am done the outline for a short story or a novella, if I get stuck, I write out with pen and paper a scene from my story. It just takes a little push sometimes but when you do push yourself, you can find out that amazing things happen. As for keeping a journal, it is something recommended for anyone, and it can even include blogging if you are so inclined. As always, feedback is appreciated, so if you wish, please email me right at my personal email, firstname.lastname@example.org all the best readers!
This is a picture from the near-desert area of the interior of The Big Island of Hawaii, which some world class observatories call home. I did some hiking and a lot of driving in this place and ended up feeling like a brand new person upon my return
This is the inside of Sacred Heart Church of The First Peoples, where I go for mass when I have the time. The Priest here is a wonderful man, Father Jim Holland and is greatly loved among all community members, catholic, protestant, European or Native (or others)
Hello dear readers! Well, today was actually a pretty good day. I am still getting over a cold that has lasted for 2 weeks now and my brother has told me I might want to try something called Cold F/X which has been on the market for some time and is quite expensive, but when I hear a recommendation from my brother, I often heed it. For most of the weekend I have been sleeping, taking these Advil cold and flu pills and when I went to the post office in my local pharmacy, I tested my blood pressure and it was way higher than it has ever been. I don’t quite yet want to stop eating my nightly popcorn, but I am looking at healthier alternatives (like using so called ‘heart healthy’ margarine) and I have already scaled back my eating and salt intake.
Today I wanted to talk a bit about what it is like to really be inside a mental hospital. I relate a lot of my experiences in my latest book, “Inching Back To Sane”, but I wanted to touch on it here as well today. I was thinking about how quickly attitudes towards smoking has changed. A few years back when I first went to AHE (Alberta Hospital, Edmonton) you could smoke anywhere, and get cigarettes anywhere. You could even buy cigars and all that. Even when they were cheap though, people were often very reluctant to share cigarettes, myself included. At first I didn’t mind so much but there were literally people who would wander around asking again and again until you gave in. One time I recall sitting in the lock-down ward and this guy (who incidentally I have seen in the community, way to go dude!) named Robert came up to me while I was smoking a cigarette and asked me for one and I told him I didn’t smoke and he went away. Another time I was in the cafeteria in another part of the hospital and a young woman actually punched me in the face because I didn’t give her a cigarette. It is a sad sight to see now as people are no longer allowed to smoke anywhere but outside and there is no place in the remote location the hospital is in to buy cigarettes. I know smoking is horrible for your health and all, I had a terribly hard time quitting and still feel the effects 10 years after quitting, but people with mental illnesses are very prone to cigarette addiction which I feel has a lot to do with the fact that nicotine actually works on some of the same brain chemicals that anti-depressants and major tranquilizers work on. I can remember days when I was relatively unmedicated and very ill that I would wake up and smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes and my thoughts would be much more normalized, I wouldn’t hear the Television saying things about me and I was able to sit comfortably and carry on conversations. I don’t really judge the staff on this issue, whether or not they smoke themselves, but I wonder if they have been aware of all of these factors in making their decisions.
One of the things I remember clearly also about being in the hospital is the effect that your illness and ‘cabin fever’ has on a person. Everyone on the ward, staff or patients seemed in some different way to be someone I knew from before. There was this really pretty young Psychiatric Aide who was staff on my last (hopefully last ever) stay who bore a slight resemblance to a young woman I was very fond of in school and my mind turned this staff member into this young woman in the flesh. Then there were other people, like an east indian staff member who looked a lot like a man I had once arrested while working as a security guard. All in all most of the people there were fairly nice but on occasion I had some outright threats from them. “Don’t push us.” one young man said to me quietly as he handed me my medications one night. “If I ever see you outside of this hospital, I’m going to kick the living shit out of you.” Another staff member said to me. If I told anyone, they would deny it, but they made me very aware that they were the ones holding the power and I was the one under it. There was one guy who kept coming into my room to shine a light in my eyes to see if I was sleeping (I don’t know if this was official policy, but it seemed just one guy was doing it) and he would wake me up several times a night, so I kept yelling at him or asking him to stop. One day I was put in the isolation room and propped my mattress up against the wall and snuck in behind it so no one could see me, and this guy was watching me through the small window. He came in and I knew he was going to assault me so I grabbed his ‘life call’ emergency button and pressed it and staff came running in from all over the hospital thinking he was in need of help.
I could really go on and on, but I think the important thing to realize is that, though it was extremely difficult and painful to go through these things, I was indeed very sick and the result of me being in that situation could have easily led to me ending up in jail not a hospital. I also want to emphasize that though my Doctor at the time in particular was a bit of a jerk and did little to help me, in the end the system actually worked and I got better. When I got out fortunately I didn’t have to keep the same Doctor and ended up with an incredible Psychiatrist (who actually wrote the forward to “Through The Withering Storm” and has been a huge supporter of my writing efforts) who literally brought me back from the depths. I don’t really have the room here to say thanks to all the people who did put up with my arguments and erratic behavior and still did everything they could to help me, but I would like to send out a thank you in general to Psychiatric workers of all kinds. It takes a thick skin and a heart of gold to do it, and I have heard often that being in there can be just as hard on those people as it can be on patients. As far as Doctors, I would like to greatly thank Dr. Petkowski, Dr. Bishop, Dr. Boffa, Dr. Chue, Doctor Gordon and many others over the years of my treatment. And thank you, dear readers, for liking and sharing my posts so often, that is what really makes me feel what I am doing is worthwhile (with regards to my writing and blogging).
Good morning to all. I didn’t want to really put up a blog entry today, I am in between two fairly difficult shifts at work and was hoping to get some sleep. At the moment, I am also trying to get rid of a cold and losing my voice. Last night I had to work loading trucks for the Edmonton Opera for a Valentine’s Gala they put on. It was kind of neat to see all the people downtown dressed up either in tuxedos or military dress uniforms. Reminds me of all the neat things I used to do growing up, especially when I was in Air Cadets and it came time to have a formal dinner.
Funny how much of my life seems to make me think about Air Cadets. It was only 3 years literally 30 years ago but what an impact! In a few days I am going to go before a crowd of nursing students at a local University and tell them about my own lived experiences with psychosis. I learned the skills I need to do those sort of things in Cadets as well. It was a Thursday night when I was 14 and in grade nine at the junior high school across the street from my house. I was attending cadets that night while I was a patient in the General Hospital Psychiatric Ward in Edmonton and I hadn’t been to school in a couple of weeks, I had mostly spent my time avoiding any activity and reading a book I bought off the TV about the war in the Desert in WWII. This was when I was taking my toastmaster’s course and it was my turn to speak. I got up and was incredibly nervous. No surprise really, I had so little contact with any friends or people my age in the days preceding, I had literally forgotten how to be comfortable in front of people. I gave a talk about my collection of military uniforms and was so nervous I blushed crimson and couldn’t look anyone in the eye. It was funny because as I went further into the course, I ended up doing really well and learned many skills, but that night I was a wreck. Later I heard a friend telling another friend about how stupid I looked and it really made me feel awful.
I have been thinking about that night because I have been sick for over a week and have stayed home taking cold and flu pills and sleeping all day. This morning I had a meeting about an event some friends and I are setting up for The Edmonton Poetry Festival and I kept tripping on my tongue. I hope I get back into my groove by the 23rd when it comes time for my talk.
Aside from that, the nervousness and declining social skills I have experienced, things seem to be going pretty well. I have gotten negative news from a few sources about my writing, but I have also gotten some positive. I don’t know if any readers of this blog have read my first novel, “Green Mountain Road” but I ran into a friend at work who bought a copy of me and the other day he said I am a really good writer. This surprised me because I sent it off to be reviewed and the guy who reviewed at it tore it to pieces, he really didn’t like it, but my friend (Myron, a very interesting and well read dude) said I just have to not listen to that kind of thing. Good advice, but it seems that there is a thing about being mentally ill that makes things people tell you cut deep, or even perhaps just seem to be absolute, totally the truth. I had an experience in the University Hospital psychiatric ward quite a number of years ago where a lady kept saying things like, “I am going to go to sleep.” and then put up her finger to emphasize her point, “I haven’t slept in six months!” She said. It was weird how things would hit close to home.
Well, I don’t want to plug my own writing too much, but it would sure be great if I could get some sales going online. I have put so much into trying all different kinds of marketing for my books and what I have been finding is that advertising doesn’t seem to pay off for books. If I were selling houses that each cost $350,000.00 it would be great to advertise, I could spend $500 on a campaign that got just one sale because the value of one sale was so high. But a while back I spent $500 on a blog tour that literally didn’t get me one single sale, not even in ebooks. If I had gotten ten it would have still been a disaster. It is frustrating because I love writing so much, it gives me such a good feeling. Each day I look forward to sitting down and writing this blog and it is a great feeling when I look at my stats page and see that my site got 15 views today and so on. My latest attempt at fame is to get a distributor, I am going to be working with a company called Red Tuque Books and I am sincerely hoping it helps me go somewhere with my self-published books, though I don’t even know if they will accept my work.
I am really curious how well my book, “Through The Withering Storm” would do with nation wide distribution because it seems to have done really well in all my books signings and even on amazon.com it has gotten about ten independent reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. I think I must have sold close to 300 copies of the book (though likely a number of those were giveaways and promotional copies). One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is that I can take that book, as I have just tonight, and start reading it from any point and actually enjoy my own writing. I guess that means I can’t be all that bad a writer. But, with that, seeing as it is nearly 5:00 am and I have to be at work in 5 hours, I think I will leave off there. As always, emails and comments are greatly appreciated. Passing around the site address and all that would also be great as I plan to start doing some giveaways of my books soon when I can get more people involved in this blog. All the best Dear readers, stay real! email@example.com