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Friday, November 30, 2012

Announcement for Joy, Interrupted: New Timeline

I have finished the first proof for "Joy, Interrupted."  Right now, the wonderful Ann Mathew is proofreading this proof.

Around December 15, I should have it back and will send it around to all the contributors.  Contributors will need to send me back the proof with any edits or changes they need me to make by January 10. 

I should turn around and send out the second proof out pretty quick, giving everyone one last opportunity to finalize the manuscript.  After that point, we will have to play it by ear, trying to tie up loose editing ends and working on the nuts of bolts of getting it published.  But, I anticipate getting this book out around early Spring.

On a personal note, many of you already know I passed my dissertation defense this week.  I really appreciate that many people sent me notes of encouragement and congratulations.

Melissa Miles McCarter
Editor, Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss
Publisher, Fat Daddy's Farm

Friday, November 23, 2012

Updates --looking forward to Nov. 30--marketing plan for Joy,Interrupted

As many of you know, I am defending my dissertation this Tuesday. On Nov. 30 I will be releasing a new timeline for publishing Joy, Interrupted, with deadlines for contributors, proofreaders, and myself.

I will also be asking help in promoting the book. Right now I am learning how to develop a marketing plan by promoting my book, Insanity: A Love Story.

What I am doing now to promote this project will help us build an audience for our anthology.

Here are some of the things I am doing now and plan on doing for our project on the anthology:

Getting Likes for Fat Daddy's Farm facebook page at http://facebook.com/fatdaddysfarm.org

Getting followers on twitter @fatdaddysfarm

Promoting and fixing up the website at fatdaddysfarm.org

Getting reviews and ratings, on Goodreads, Amazon and blogs, posting them to facebook, tweeting them

Guest hosting on blogs

Exchanging reviews with other authors

Doing Author Q&As on blogs

Promoting our books in posts, tweets and getting others to share these posts and retweet

Posting excerpts on facebook, twitter

Doing a free book promotion (btw, my book, Insanity: A Love Story,  is free to download today on Black Friday, as a special thank you)

Promoting books on various sites

There are more things in the works.

If you know of anything else I should be doing, please let me know. Some of these things you can do now, if you do want to help with the promotion of the project, other books we publish, and the press itself--they are all interconnected, so more exposure for one is good for all.

 As time goes by, I will explain more about the marketing plan.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend,
I am grateful to have all the contributors to Joy, Interrupted

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Preview: My contribution to Joy, Interrupted

I am also contributing a piece to Joy, Interrupted, and thought I would share it will everyone while I am in the process of editing the anthology.

Blow by Blow
by Melissa Miles McCarter

Maddy was born on September 1, 2003 and died on October 6, 2003.  Her death certificate says CAUSE OF DEATH: SIDS.  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome--also known as crib death.
My pregnancy had been one worry after another. However, it never even occurred to my husband and I that we might lose Maddy to SIDS. After her death, we tried to find some cause for her death other than the official cause of death, which seemed almost to be a non-diagnosis.  I had been taking lithium for years for bipolar disorder; Maddy was exposed to the drug the first two months I was pregnant because my HCG levels were too low to show even in a blood test that I was pregnant.  I later learned that the low levels signalled that the pregnancy wasn’t viable, but Maddy hang on, burrowing her way into my body and heart.  We were unaware of the series of blows that were about to come.
Once I knew I was pregnant, I discontinued lithium because there was a risk it would cause congenital heart defects.  On advice of my psychiatrist, I stayed on the antidepressant Celexa throughout my pregnancy, which I would later find out carries a similar risk to lithium.  I also went onto the anti-seizure medication neurontin because it had a low risk profile in order to control my moods.  We were so careful, trying to make the best decision for my mental health and Maddy’s well-being, but once she died we second guessed every decision.  
The first blow came at 16 weeks into my pregnancy.  The doctor told us that according to the ultrasound, Maddy might have Down Syndrome.  We had already decided that if we were to find out that she did have Down Syndrome, we would abort.  We wanted a healthy baby or no baby at all.  The window to abort was about to close; right before the 6 months “deadline,” we found out from a specialist that the original ultrasound did not indicate Down Syndrome. It either was an error in measurement or interpretation.  I thought back to the fact that a blood test failed to detect my pregnancy, and now an ultrasound had detected a phantom abnormality; I didn’t know that these medical irregularities would haunt my pregnancy and Maddy’s birth.  
The next blow was around the corner.  At the same time we knew for sure that we wanted carry the baby to term, I began to have frequent contractions.  They put me on brethine to stop premature labor, and put me on a steroid to help develop Maddy’s lungs if the drug couldn’t prevent my going into labor.  I was also told that I had to be put on bed rest for two months. The brethine made me feel like I was on speed and the steroid made me angry and irritable.  So much for trying to control my moods--the medicines I was taking to keep Maddy inside in me and/or healthy if she was born caused me to have symptoms that mimicked bipolar disorder.  I spent the last couple of months of my pregnancy in bed, wanting to run around the house at high speeds and snapping at my husband.
The next blow came at the next ultrasound, about three weeks before my due date. We discovered that Maddy was in the breech position. We were so beaten down at this point, having dealt with blow after blow in the course of this pregnancy.  My OB/GYN told me we could try to “turn” the baby by their manually manipulating Maddy’s position in the doctor’s office.  We breathed a sigh of relief for a moment but then we had another blow.
I thought I was leaking amniotic fluid and went to the emergency room. The nurse monitored me for a few hours and dismissed my fears.  During this same time, my sister’s ex-boyfriend committed suicide and she asked us to come with her to pay her respects to his family because they lived about a couple of hours away from us.  We got the okay from the hospital to travel.  We figured, outside of the family obligation, it would be one last time to have some sort of vacation before Maddy’s arrival.  After blow after blow, we thought it might rejuvenate us.
We left Tyler, Texas and continued on for a weekend trip to Louisiana.  My husband had it in his mine that he wanted to see Kate Chopin’s home in Natchitoches.  Being nerdy English doctoral students, this seemed the best way to have one last hurrah.  Our two year old, my husband’s son, my step-son, came with us on this final family trip where it was to be just the three of us.  We stopped in Shreveport, and went to a casino to have a breakfast buffet.   I was at the end of my 37 weeks, and we planned to return home a few days later to have Maddy turned, or, if this failed, to have a C-Section.  We never get to see where Kate Chopin’s home.
My water broke. I had to have an emergency C-section in Shreveport, four hours away from home.  We were in a small Catholic hospital, where we weren’t even sure our limited graduate school issued health insurance would cover.  My husband stayed with my step-son and I was rushed to the operating room, all by myself.  But, we thought that now that the pregnancy was at a definite end, the blows would be over.  It would all be over, and I was looking forward to holding my daughter in my arms.
. Blow. Maddy was born, but she wasn’t breathing.  I kept asking, is she okay?  But no one would tell me what was going on.  Later, I would find out that they thought she was having a seizure.  She was rushed into the NICU and I was brought to my room to recover from the C-section.  I wouldn’t get to see Maddy until the next day.  I lay in bed in agony, feeling my uterus shrink to near its original size, wishing I could hold my daughter in my arms.
My dad took a picture of her with his cellphone, and after he showed me it, it motivated me to get up and walk around a few hours after the surgery.  I had to be able to get into a wheelchair before they would take me down to the NICU.  Luckily, Maddy was stable, not having had another seizure.  They decided to keep her in the NICU for about a week for observation while they put her on antibiotics because my culture tested positive for strep.  Every three hours I went down to try to breastfeed her, but she had trouble latching on and I wasn’t producing enough milk.  They supplemented with formula and I pumped in between seeing her.  Even my breasts were failing us..
Three days after my surgery, I was officially released, but they let us stay in our hospital room until Maddy was released.  The night before we were to take Maddy home, we got to “co-room” with her.  Matt held her in a swaddled pink blanket and watched a football game.  I held her in my arms under a LSU blanket my husband had bought me after wandering around Shreveport while I was recovering from surgery.  We tried to breathe easy, walking out of the hospital with her after she passed the “car-seat” test, in which we proved we could safely strap her in.  We were on our way back home.
While we thought the blows were over, that everything had been so worth it despite all our difficulties, I still had lurking concerns.  She was born at 5 pounds 5 ounces, a bit earlier than we wanted.  I hadn’t gained any weight in my pregnancy and soon was twenty pounds lighter than my weight before I got pregnant. But the worries started to wane when we went to her first pediatrician’s visit and she was almost 7 pounds.  I was starting to gain weight.  My milk was starting to flow easier.  Maddy hardly gave us any trouble, sleeping on schedule and very rarely crying.  The blows were done.  Or so we thought.
The morning Maddy died, I was beside her in bed, fallen asleep next to her after we finished breast feeding.  This would soon haunt me for years.  When I first looked at her, she looked like she was sleeping, content with a small puckered smile on her face, swaddled in her pink blanket. I reached towards her, about to change her diaper after our long nap, and I realized she wasn’t breathing.
I called 911 and was told to put her on a flat surface.  We were taught baby CPR at the hospital, but I couldn’t remember anything.  I tried to suppress my panic and listened to the instructions.  But her mouth was full of mucus; I couldn’t get her to breathe. After one puff, blood, like a small nosebleed, came out of her nose.
The doctors could never get her to come back to life, and in my heart I knew she was dead, even as I saw them working on her and hoped I was wrong. The doctors took forever before they confirmed this fear, which they did when my husband was on the way to the hospital. I was the last one to see her alive. After being interviewed separately by the police, a week of funeral services, and my husband taking a week off work, we were left with trying to deal with life, day by day. The blows had stopped, but we were broken in the wake of Maddy’s death.  
I was afraid the horrible pain, feeling like I had a broken heart, would never end.  For a while, I was a defective robot, unable to do the simplest tasks. I felt old before my time, unable to look forward to the next stage in life.
We thought the blows had stopped, but they still come, like aftershocks from Maddy’s death.  Sometimes I feel guilty because I know that if Maddy had lived, my husband and I wouldn’t have as much free time together. I feel bad when I think about how old Maddy would be now and the milestones we might be enjoying. I love spending time with my stepson, but his company often reminds me of the joy we felt when Maddy was alive.
Blow. I run into a former student of mine from when I was a graduate teaching student at the university.  She had last seen me pregnant and asks, "How is your baby?" I took a moment, tried to breath, then said, "She died of SIDS." I didn’t know how else to answer, and the conversation ended abruptly.  This would only be the first of many times since.  
Blow. I walk on campus and see all the innocent, carefree students starting the new semester, and it seems their only worry is what class to take. I feel like I have a visible gaping wound.  I have become “a mother whose child has died.” There’s no other way to describe me.
Blow.  I can’t let go of the day Maddy died, the last day I saw her.  It is frozen in my mind, for me to go over and over, and it clouds my memories of her.  I stare at the few photos we have of Maddy.  I try to remember every moment I had with her.  I can’t get the image of her dead, lying beside me--and then my trying to revive her--out of my mind.
Blow. I have physical reminders of Maddy's gestation, and eventual birth, that I cannot avoid.
One is the scar on my belly from the C-section.  This scar fascinated my stepson, who would often raise up my shirt so he could gently touch the purplish line.  He asks, "Who did this, Mommyhead?"  I answered, "The doctor."  He seems very sad.  "The doctor not supposed to do that.  He hurt you.  I think to myself, "You're right--this shouldn’t have happened."
Blow.  My step-son doesn’t understand where Maddy is.  To him, she’s just gone.  Sometimes, he asks my husband where Maddy is.  It pains me to see my husband have to remind his son that his daughter, my step-son’s sister is dead.   Britin doesn’t ask me, instead saying to me, haltingly, "Maddy is in heaven."
Blow.  There’s a period of time when I can’t reminisce about Maddy with my husband.
Any mention of her name seems to pain him.  To my step-son, he only remembers seeing her in the few photos we have of her.  He doesn’t understand why I am sad, pointing to the picture, seeming to say, "Don't worry, Mommyhead, Maddy is right here."
Blow.  Everyone who is close to me waits for me to fall apart.  I am eerily calm, numb, functional, but an automaton.  I only cry alone.  I deadened myself, because life would not stop after Maddy died.  Sometimes I wonder--if I had let myself break down, beyond a little at a time, would I feel less empty, resigned?  
Blow. Sometimes, when I wake up the next day, I hope that my life will be a different story.
I never before had wanted to have a different past, to wish that life had been otherwise. I used to think, "Things might have been bad, but it was worth it to be at this point in my life."  But the narrative of my life has been interrupted by Maddy's death.  I have to accept that tragedies cannot be unwoven from my life.  I have to accept that the blows never stop, just slowing down, fading into the background, like a heartbeat I wish I could hear again.   

Why I wrote Insanity: A Love Story

About Insanity: a love story--

My goal was to share what being mentally ill is like, because it is natural to wonder. I recognize what a scary idea it is to lose control of your mind and have to be in a mental hospital, even briefly. But the only way to de-stigmatize mental illness is to bring it into the light.

In my relationships with other patients, I developed a sense of belonging and understanding that put me on the path to sanity. I write about how, even after my moods stabilized, I didn't know how to relate to others and I didn't know who I was anymore. It was like learning to walk again after years of being in a body cast. I had to learn to be patient with myself. Everything involved baby steps, learning to live all over again without the boundaries of my moods.

One of the lessons I learned while in the hospital was how to forgive. A simmering undercurrent of shame and anger was intrinsically linked to my foray into insanity. Getting past shame meant forgiving myself; dealing with anger meant forgiving others.

After my hospitalization, I started to accept the upside of bipolar disorder—how, with my mood shifts, came a sensitivity and creativity I might not have otherwise had. It has made me more compassionate. These experiences also left me unafraid of mental illness, taking away the fear I might one day go crazy. With acceptance comes relief, which allows me the possibility of forgiveness.

My author page is at http://amazon.com/author/melissa and you can download the book from there. If you have amazon prime, it is free; you can get the book free on Thanksgiving day and other promotional days in the future. If you do download it for free, I would appreciate an Amazon review (even if it is just a "like"). The only way we can take te shame out of disabilities is to share our experiences.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reflections on editing Joy, Interrupted

Just an upfront note--I still have the self-imposed deadline of announcing a launch note of Nov. 30.  One thing I have discovered about myself in the course of writing a dissertation is that I need the structure of self-imposed deadlines.  Additionally, I realize that contributors are anxious to know when the anthology will be published.  It puts some added pressure on me; but in a way it is a good thing, because it means that people are eager to see the anthology in its entirety and, perhaps, start promoting it.

In the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of the reflections I have had in editing the anthology.

There have been personal reasons the launch has been delayed.  As some people may already know, I have been dealing with health issues, in particular related to fertility.  Anyone who has had similar issues may understand what an emotional toll this takes on a person.  Additionally, I am defending my dissertation in a few weeks.  I don't know if anybody who hasn't written one really knows what a disciplined and harrowing endeavor  it is.  The fertility issues delayed my work on the dissertation, and, since my dissertation's defense was pretty much set in stone, I had to make it a priority over editing the anthology.

To complicate matters, many of you know that I have a chronic mental illness.  It is managed quite carefully by medication, but also with certain types of self-care.  Stress is one of the largest triggers for any episode, and, obviously, I have had a lot of that in the last few months!  Luckily, I haven't had any major flare up of symptoms, but mainly because I have been pacing myself very diligently.

Some people have grumbled about the delay of the launch, and one person actually withdrew their contribution.  I think my silence about my personal reasons for the delay may have contributed to some people's misgivings about the project coming to fruition.  Many other people have been quite compassionate about the delay, which I am extremely grateful for.

I haven't opened up much about the personal reasons about the launch because I felt discussing them might be a distraction and because I just wasn't ready to talk about my difficulties.  I am still not wanting to share much about the details of these stresses, but I am opening up a bit because I want everyone to realize that I have not lost my passion or commitment to this project.

Another more pertinent reason for the delay of the launch is that editing this anthology is very difficult psychologically, much more so than I anticipated.  It is slow going--I can only focus on one or two pieces of week, and I have over sixty contributors, many with multiple works.  I believe that the psychological difficulty speaks to the quality of the contributions.  They are moving in ways that I don't think I have had the opportunity to witness in many other books.

Additionally, I feel a deep sense of responsibility in doing justice to these contributions.  They each are like delicate jewels I am trying to protect.  This also speaks to the potential quality of the anthology.

So, in this next stretch of finishing the editing process, I will be reaching out for some help in order to get this project launched.  Some of you I will be contacting privately in the next couple of months to followup on particular offers to help.  More generally, I ask that if any contributor wants to help, give me or month or so, and then I will be open to hearing ideas.  Additionally, I will need some help with fundraising efforts.  Right now we are being fueled by the little amount of used books we sell and the royalties of previous works.  In the long run, we will need much more...if people want to make suggestions on our facebook page, this would be a great way to help me!

Editor, Joy, Interrupted

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Buy Books at our Online Used Bookstore

Did you know that Fat Daddy's Farm sells used books online?  It helps fund our publishing efforts.

Our Alibris Bookstore
We sell a lot of collectible books at our Alibris bookstore.  We also sell a number of fiction and nonfiction books, including fiction by and about women, rhetoric and philosophy books, books about feminism and postfeminism and much, much more.  There are coupons available, too.

Our Amazon Storefront
We sell a lot non-fiction books, including textbooks, books about rednecks, history books. If you buy over $25 dollars of merchandise at Amazon, you get free shipping.

If you buy a book on Alibris that isn't in our inventory after visiting our online bookstore at Alibris or Amazon, we receive a percentage of the sale. :-)

Also, we have  promotions for  the books we publish every once in a while.  Right now you can get the Kindle version of "Insanity: A Love Story" for free until Oct. 31.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I will be announcing a new timeline, with a new launch date, on Nov. 30, for Joy, Interrupted.  If anyone would like their piece released in the meantime because they aren't comfortable waiting for this project to come to fruition at a later date than anticipated, please let me know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Press Release

Feel free to distribute or modify for your own use:

Upcoming Anthology "Joy, Interrupted" Explores Themes of Motherhood and Loss

 Ironton, MO---Melissa Miles McCarter is editing an upcoming anthology about motherhood and loss titled, "Joy, Interrupted," to be published by Fat Daddy's Farm in the Fall of 2012. After her own loss of an infant daughter in 2003, she couldn't find many books having to do with the topic of motherhood and loss.

According to McCarter, "Most people think about motherhood as a joyous experience, but for some it can be experience of interrupted joy." As the author of a memoir, "Insanity: A Love Story," about her own experiences with mental illness, she was no stranger to tackling difficult subjects. However, more than just wanting to share her own experiences, she wanted to find writing and art that could explore the subject more universally.

This new anthology delves into the subject from perspectives of sixty authors and artists from all over the world. Lottie Cellini-Corley says she decided to submit her work to the anthology because she was convinced the book would be, "the perfect platform to reach out to others and all who have similar experiences." Other writers who contribute to this upcoming collaboration echo similar sentiments, saying they were inspired by their own personal losses as mothers, such as Gabriella Burman who says, "I want to keep my daughter alive," through her writing. Sixty contributors from such countries as Turkey, Canada, Vietnam and England, in addition to a significant number of American writers and artists all explore the common themes of loss in the context of motherhood. They write about the universal experiences of loss, such as through death, adoption, or never even being able to have children.

McCarter says, "More than anything, I hope through the book both the contributors and readers find a sense of community of people who share their own feelings and experiences. "

Additional information available at: 


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Exciting news from contributors to "Joy, Interrupted"

We are proud to share some various announcements from some of our contributors to our upcoming anthology. 

  • Mark Moore's painting, "Mother's Bond," which is featured in our upcoming anthology, has won and International Art Contest in Amsterdam, UK.  It will be going on Electric Taxi Cabs throughout the Netherlands.
  • Pushcart Award Nominee, Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, has been busy performing her work throughout the country, such as recently at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan. For more information about upcoming performances, be sure to check her out on facebook
  • Sheila Hageman was interviewed on NBC CT News about her memoir, Stripping Down,  April 11, 2012
  • Recently, our contributor Gabriella Burman's Big Tent Jobs, LLC, which is the leading recruiting firm in the United States for degreed professionals with hidden and visible disabilities and chronic conditions, offered free resume reviews to those celebrating National Stuttering Awareness Week.
Check back for more announcements as we learn about them!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spotlight on Monika Pant and Anindita Chatterjee

We are proud to introduce Monika Pant and Anindita Chatterjee, two contributors to our upcoming anthology on motherhood and loss, "Joy, Interrupted."

Monika Pant contributed the piece, “Run” and can be reached by email at mpant65@gmail.com  She can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/monika.pant3 and on twitter @mpant65

What is your piece about?

"'Run'","It is the story of a mother who is being carried into the ocean and into sudden death. The waves wash over her and more than striving to survive, she watches helplessly as her children are being pulled away by the relentless waves of the Tsunami and that of death. She remembers her life with her family and those little joys and sorrows which she will nevermore experience. She would give anything to save her children, but, alas, death does not barter one life for another.

Who are you?

I am a short story writer and poet living in India. My stories have been published in 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' series and my poems in various anthologies. I also have been writing English Grammar and Literature books being used in schools after I left teaching English to senior students in a reputed school for more than 15 years. I left a flourishing career to be able to write full-time and am now in the process of completing  three novels, one is a memoir based on my experiences as a cancer survivor, one is a historical based in the times of the Nawabs of Lucknow in the 18th century and another is the story of a woman who is attempts to unshackle herself in the contricting society in India.

Where have you been published?

My articles, stories and poems have been published online as well as in print. Story published in Platform Magazine, ‘Chicken Soup for the Indian Armed Forces Soul’, ‘A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul’, ‘Teacher’s Soul’, ‘Father’s Soul’ and ‘Chicken Soup for the Indian Mothers’ Soul’. Forthcoming titles of ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series will feature some as well.  

Recently written a series of English Grammar textbooks for classes I to VIII ‘Grammar Room’, which is being used in some schools from the session 2009-10.  Also written another grammar series for classes I to V, ‘Grammatica’ which is to be used from the next session.   Currently writing a series of literature readers and workbooks by Vision Publications, Lucknow.  Essay published in ‘Spirituality in School Education’, published by New Book Society of India.  I won the first prize in ‘Scribbles’ category in a writing competition conducted by Platform Magazine in the July- August 2008 issue.  Poems published in ‘A fancy Realm’ an anthology taken out by JKC College, Guntur in November, 2011.  Poems to be published in ‘Joy Interrupted’, an anthology of poems to be released in November, 2012 and ‘Indus Valley’ another anthology to be released on 7th April, 2012.

Who inspired your work and why did you contribute it to our anthology?

My mother.  I feel the need to connect with people who have loved and lost.

What other representations of motherhood have inspired you?

The Mother, The Good Earth both by Pearl S Buck and Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandya. And of course, John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. There are many more real life stories.so many characters living and breathing within me, plots thicken, tales in different lands and different moods brush against each other...how to disentangle and write a coherent story? Is it time for a saga, I wonder.

Anindita Chatterjee contributed “Anirvan: The Deathless One” and can be reached at bluehighways071@gmail.com

What is your piece about?

The short story ""Anirvan: The Deathless One"" revolves around the hope and despair of a young urban couple. The woman wakes up to the shocking realisation of her miscarriage in a hospital ward. She reflects on her life and the intensity of the catastrophe. The story begins with a personal tragedy but ends on a note of hope and promise. The catastrophe brings the couple closer.

Who are you?

I am an Assistant Professor teaching English Literature in a Government College in Kolkata, India. Having done my Doctorate on ""Poetry of Madness"". My favourite activities include reading writing, travelling and photography. Currently I am working on a novel about two women belonging to two different age groups finding hope and friendship in each other. I often write poems as well, many of them have been published.   I love teaching my students and seeing them bloom from buds into beautiful flowers.

What have you published?

My critical research papers have been published. My poems have been published in leading English dailies of Kolkata, India. Recently one of my poems entitled ""My Fancy"" was published in ""Oasis"", a literary journal of India. My jointly co-edited book on ""Critical Perspectives in Indo- Anglican Poetry"" is on the verge of publication from Anthem Press, New Delhi, India in April 2012.

I have published several non-fictional work. I was always interested in fictional work. The short story is based partly on personal experience and when I came across the fact that such an anthology was going to be published I felt an instinctive  urge to share.   Writing can be therapeutic at times and it is a form of communication which often soothes and tranquilizes the mind.

Why did you submit your piece to our anthology?

I submitted the story in August 2011 within the deadline. When I received the acceptance letter I was elated. I have sent my signed contract form as well.

What other representations of motherhood do you like?

“Difficult Daughters” by Manju Kapur is one of my favourite novels on motherhood. Poignantly written it recounts the journey of a young woman to her roots in search of her mother's past. Rituporno Ghosh's ""Unishe April"" is a wonderful movie on mother-daughter bonding.

What else would you like to share?

I shall be glad if my story touches your heart. It is not a simple piece of fiction, it is based on personal trauma and hence the words are marked with personal emotion and pain.   It has been my way of transcending the loss. Like the conclusion of the story, I too hope that the future shall bring new promise and hope for us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spotlight on Merrill Edlund and Kim Hensley Owens

We are pleased to share these interviews with Merrill Edlund and Kim Hensley Owens.

Merrill Edlund

Merrill Edlund contributed various poems to this anthology, including “Kalem,” “Leaving Earth before you planned,” “When I miss my kids,” and “They Said.” She can be reached at gedlund@shaw.ca
and on twitter @meedlund

What are your poems about?
“Kalem” is a short poem about my oldest child leaving home and travelling to Australia. “Leaving Earth before you planned” is dedicated to a friend who died shortly after her third child was born. “When I miss my kids” is a poem about grieving the loss of children and how my husband helped me cope. “They said” is a poem about miscarriage and the responses I experienced when I had my first miscarriage.

Please tell us about yourself.
A mother of three grown children and one grandpuppy, I am a poet and writer of short stories and creative nonfiction. I currently teach online high school English and Creative Writing.

Where have you been published?
My recent manuscript of poetry titled “a dissimilar memory” is currently looking for a home. I am also working on a chap book. “Blue Skies Poetry Worth Architectural Magazine.”

Why did you contribute to this anthology?
The topic of motherhood and loss was a perfect fit for my writing. My poetry focuses on being a mother, loss, love, and marriage which I felt would contribute to the anthology.

What other representations of motherhood move you?
Of Women Born, Adrienne Rich
The Birth House, Ami McKay
A Fine Daughter, Catherine Simmons Niven
A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews
Hanna's Daughters, Marianne Fredriksson

Kim Hensley Owens

Kim Hensley Owens contributed “On Being Luck” and her blog is at okhensley.wordpress.com.

What is your piece about?
“On Being Lucky” is a first-person creative nonfiction examination of the many and varied losses of my friends, at all stages of their lives, through the prisms of 1) my own "lucky" status as a mother of two without losses and 2) a society that places burdens of expectation on women's procreation.

Where have you been published?
Most of my published writing is in academic journals such as Rhetoric Review, Written Communication, Pedagogy, and Enculturation. I have written about mothering and work in a career advice piece for Inside Higher Ed and with co-authors in Composition Studies.

What moved you to contribute to this anthology?
I have been researching childbirth for several years, and have learned a lot about loss through that work. Perhaps because of my familiarity with childbirth, and just having many friends who have had fertility issues and losses of all types, I have heard more loss stories than I could process. The call for papers for this anthology allowed me to write about those losses, which affected me even though they weren't my own. The only book I know of about loss is Motherhood Lost, by Linda Layne. I thought a book collecting many women's stories in different styles was important and would be valuable for women to not feel alone. I hoped my story, reflecting many women's losses, would speak to the audience for this anthology. I also hoped it would in some way honor my friends' losses. Loss is significant, and it is also common, and that dual truth is important.

What other representations of motherhood have you enjoyed?
What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty. (fiction) Breastwork, by Allison Bartlett. (academic monograph) Textual Mothers, Maternal Texts, Ed. Andrea O'Reilly and Elizabeth Podnieks. (academic edited collection) Steel Magnolias!

Kim can be reached by email at okhensley@gmail.com

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spotlight on Olivia Good and Rebecca Manning

Check out these interviews with Olivia Good and Rebecca Manning, two contributors to our anthology, "Joy, Interrupted."

Olivia Good

Olivia Good contributed the short story, “The Island” and can be reached at ogoody@windstream.net

What is your piece about?
The Island is an allegorical short story about the isolation one feels when mourning the loss of a child; the methods employed by those seeking to console the bereaved parent; and the promise of hope and strength, found in faith, to move forward with a life which is vastly different than the one previously anticipated.

What would you like to share about yourself?
I am the mother of two beautiful pre-schoolers, in addition to my daughter who inspired my anthology contribution. I have always been a writer. I am a firm believer in the power of creativity, and have always been a writer, even from a very young age. I love creativity in all forms--especially lyrically- and stylistically-interesting music, and well-structured writing. Dabbling in the world of academia, which I simultaneously love and loathe, I have presented at several international conferences on topics ranging from cultural preservation and identity to urban renewal and race relations. As a writer, I have an unfortunate propensity towards wordiness that I have thus far been unable to cure.

What inspired this piece?
My oldest daughter, Laurette, would be 5. She was stillborn on November 2, 2006. She taught me things about myself and spirituality that I had not previously realized, and for that, I am forever grateful to her.

Olivia also shares:
I believe in the power of creativity to soothe, communicate, teach, inspire, and heal. It is my hope that my contribution is able to do at least one of those things for someone else who is faced with the loss of a child.

Rebecca Manning

Rebecca Manning contributed the piece “The Sign” and can be reached at gochoroser@live.com

What is your piece about?
This piece is from a unique outside perspective. As a mother and random bystander presented with a tragic circumstance, I am forced to take a hard look at my own situation, as well as see it through the eyes of someone who has fallen to the depths of pain that only a mother could perceive.

Who are you?
To be honest, I am just a regular person, not particularly noteworthy, but I love writing and the art of written expression in every form. The two proudest accomplishments in my life are my daughters, Amanda and Justine. As for writing, even as a child, it has always been my outlet and expression of freedom that I never take for granted.

What else have you published?
I had a short anthology of poetry published in the 80's, but this is my first real run at putting a story out there for the world to embrace or analyze, whichever comes first.

What inspired your piece?
This particular story was actually inspired by a real event. After I eventually made it home that day I started the initial threads of what would become the basis for a mother's perspective on loss and general societal ignorance. Both are frightening and tragic and, I believe, emotionally haunting. I believe I found the perfect forum to share this unique story and my hope is that if it touches even just one person, it was worth every word.

What other representations of motherhood have you enjoyed?
I treasure the book (anthology) “When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” and my favorite movie on motherhood is “Steel Magnolias.” Both are very real and touching representations of successes and failures that we, as women and daughters, experience.

Olivia also says:
I am a mother and daughter who has succeeded and failed and gotten back up again to do it all over. As long as I have breath within me, I hope that I will always find the strength to continue that path. I also hope my story gives you something to ponder and that it stays with you for a bit to absorb and share with other mothers.

Spotlight on Lisa Wendell and Gabriella Burman

It is an honor to introduce Lisa Wendell and Gabriella Burman as contributors to our upcoming anthology, "Joy, Interrupted."

Lisa W. Wendell

Lisa W. Wendell wrote the piece “Hiatus” and has a blog at http://momslogonly.blogspot.com/ and can be reached at lisawendell2003@yahoo.com

What is your piece about?
Maxx was diagnosed with Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma on July 11, 2007. He died 16 weeks later on December 6. He was 21. It took two years before I was able to begin writing about what had happened and how losing him had reduced my life to rubble. “Hiatus” is an excerpt from my journal about feeling literally insane with grief, trying to “live” in the real world, pretending to function when inside I was holding on by a thread. I was trying to describe the surreality of appearing to survive when all I really thought about was why I hadn't yet died from the force of this constant heart-rending pain. At that time, I needed to come to terms with the fact that I had to rely upon medication in order to achieve some temporary periods of relief if I intended to stay alive--the validity of which I am still struggling to accept. The whole concept of deserving to live after one's child dies is fraught with minefields. It either takes tremendous fortitude to withstand this mind-crushing new reality, or a primal fear of self-annihilation. Perhaps it is a combination of both that occurs in varying degrees at different times that is the closest we ever come to carving out a place for ourselves. I go back and forth still.

Lisa shares this about herself:
In 1975 after I graduated with a BA in Political Science I went to work as a waitress. Two years later I had earned enough to return full-time to graduate school for an MPA (Master's in Public Administration). I worked in the public sector as an administrative assistant for several years, married my husband in 1977, and had my daughter, Megan in 1981. Then, after a miscarriage in 1985, I became pregnant with Maxx who was born in 1986. My August babies, five years apart. Despite my college degrees and growing work experience, I chose to stay home full-time at the height of the working-mom craze. Though eventually I returned to work when Maxx entered Kindergarten, I never got back on any career track. Having little extended family and growing up an only child in an alcoholic environment, I was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with whatever a family “norm” was considered or supposed to be, but I knew how much I loved my children and I worked hard to build a safe and loving home. In the process I rebuilt myself. Mothering became my skin. Whatever else might be “interesting” about me, I have defined myself, rightly or wrongly, as the mother of my children. Though my daughter is 30 and on the brink of marriage and perhaps starting her own family, I am still defined by my role as a mom. The challenge, the daily fight for me now is how to live and be in this world as the mother of a dead boy.

I am an obsessively private person. I do not share anything about myself easily and find that I am often offended and intimidated by the self-serving nature of a popular culture that is informed by, and in turn determines, personal value on the basis of a “web presence.” I don't feel at home in this milieu and I have never understood the drive to tell everyone everything as if what you have to say is worth hearing. There is a distinct difference between the quality of an offering and the volume of what, by virtue of age, energy, and circumstances, one is able to produce and subsequently discard en masse.

Having said this, I admit that my experience of grief in all its evolving complexity is something I feel the need to discuss--make public as it were. This may be more a function of timing along my own emotional spectrum of this new and distorted reality than a sincere offering, but in this moment I have allowed myself to think that what happened to me, what is still happening to me-- with all the attendant isolation, fear, confusion, and loneliness-- might contain a few nuggets of truth with which the despairing can identify. As important, is my wish to “attend to” the death of my son in a way that keeps the loss of his life at the forefront. Maxx lost everything. And he knew what was happening. Imagine, at 21 knowing you are dying from a cancer caused by medications you were taking to treat a non-fatal illness? Sharing my grief in this way gives form to the catastrophic purposelessness of his death.

Where else have you been published?
I have had several pieces appear over the years in small publications, free-lance feature stories and a column in local newspapers; nothing of note anywhere. On the other hand, I have been a closet writer since I was 10--personal essays and poetry. Apart from knowing that I will continue to write, I'm not certain where I will “go” with my writing, or even that I have to go anywhere. I have a blog on maternal grief and I post entries about once or twice a month. For now, what I can manage feels minimal by comparison to what others are able to accomplish but I do what I can when it is possible.

Lisa shares:
One of my recent favorite quotes is in Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsher, “Something in us dies so the rest of us can live on, but it must not be the heart.” That is where I am in this moment.

I live in the Bay Area with my husband of almost 36 years, Steve, a sales manager in the digital printing industry, and my two dogs, Koda, a Chocolate Lab, and Bruiser, a chihuahua. My daughter, Megan is an attorney in Northern California. I have worked for the last 8 years as a Project Manager in a small private university library.

What inspired your work?
One of the only things I was able to do after Maxx died was to read. Apart from my husband and daughter both of whom were in shock, I had no living family and the few friends I did have were not prepared to offer any consistent support. Reading became a way of comforting myself. I read several books about grief, though none stand out, and many many more novels that have helped me to absorb the psychic irresolvability that is the bedrock of grieving. I read several Civil War and Holocaust stories. I drank up tales about individual survival against hopeless odds, or conversely about why people chose to end their lives or how they came to terms with situations over which they had no control. I read Kay Jamison's,an Unquiet Mind, John Styron's Darkness Visible, The Noonday Demon: an Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon, Man's Search for Meaning (Victor Frankl). I was probably most struck by the stories and writing in The Book Thief, This Side of Brightness (Colum McCann), The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien), The Widow of the South (Robert Hicks), Sarah's Key,(Tatiana de Rosnay, The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) and Women Who Run with the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes). Primo Levy, Howard Bahr, Joyce Carol Oates, Marilynne Robinson, and Phillip Roth, are some of my favorite authors, but any literary work (or film) that probes the nuances of sorrow and beyond that, sorrow without any resolution are the stories to which I find myself most drawn. Reading as much as I do has also encouraged me to write with more discipline and commitment. And this in turn led me to explore the possibility of sending what I was writing somewhere. And that led me to the Anthology.

Gabriella Burman

Gabriella Burman contributed the essays “Push Pull” and “Mobility. She can be reached at by email at gnburman@gmail.com, on twitter @gabriellaburman or on the website www.bigtentjobs.com

What are your essays about?
Both essays are from my memoir-in-progress about my time as mother to my oldest daughter, who had cerebral palsy, and the unique grief of special needs parents, following her unexpected and sudden death at age 5.

Where else have you been published?
I have been writing since childhood, have a BA in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University, and am an award-winning journalist. But I feel my life's purpose has been to be a special needs mother and now an advocate for people with disabilities. I serve on the board of United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Detroit, am communications director at Big Tent Jobs, and coach families whose children have CP. I will be published in the Bear River Review in June 2012. I have contributed to several books.

What inspired you to contribute to our anthology?
A classmate of mine from the Bear River Writers' Conference let me know about the opportunity to submit to Joy Interrupted, and I am so grateful that she did.

I want the world to know my daughter lived. I want to write down her story for my surviving children. I want to keep my daughter alive. I cannot bear that she has passed away.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Winners of the Giveaway and Other Announcements

The giveaway for the ebook version of "Insanity: A Love Story" is over--for the list of winners, check below.  You can still buy "Insanity: A Love Story" online at smashwords or for the Kindle on Amazon.  As a book launch promotion, you can get the ebook on Kindle for free from March 28-29 or until April 1st you can get 25% off the 5.99 price using this coupon code at smashwords: VS35P.  If you would like to review the book I can send you a free ebook copy.

In other news, William Matthew McCarter, who is editing a new anthology for us, just published his academic treatise on white trash culture, "Homo Redneckus."  You can find his book at Amazon.

Spotlight on Margaret Kramar and Karen Lockett Warinsky

We are honored to introduce two contributors to our anthology, "Joy, Interrupted" on motherhood and loss, Margaret Kramar and Karen Lockett Warinsky.

Margaret Kramar

Margaret Kramar contributed the piece “The Dining Hall,” which is about “the unexpected and not very readily acknowledged grief parents feel when they send their child away to college. This story is framed by the vantage point of Benjamin's sophomore year at Grinnell College, but explores his growing independence and the memorable day that we brought him to Grinnell for the first time.”

Margaret is on track for receiving a PhD. in literature from the University of Kansas this spring (2012), and for her creative dissertation she wrote a memoir about a disabled child who died titled, “My Son the Actor.” She says, “My reward for completing the degree will be to get sheep and/or goats. We live out in the country in northeast Kansas and operate Hidden Hollow Farm, where we grow organic produce and raise free-range chickens.”

Her work has been in two anthologies : “Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages” and “Reading Lips and Other Ways to Overcome a Disability.” She also has an academic submission in “Bringing Light to Twilight: Perspectives on the Pop Culture Phenomenon,” and in several magazines and newspapers.

Margaret has written extensively, almost exclusively, about loss and motherhood because she has a disabled child who died when he was ten years old.

She says, “Most representations of motherhood in the media are overly sentimentalized and create guilt, in that mothers are made to feel like they are inadequate. I like the magazine “Brain, Child” (usually)because it presents a more objective and intellectually-challenging perspective on motherhood issues.”

Margaret is looking forward to the publication of our anthology. Further, she suggests, “It would be exciting if we could have a public reading somewhere to get to meet each other and share.” Margaret can be reached by email at kramarmt@hotmail.com

Karen Lockett Warinsky

Karen Warinsky contributed “Departure for College” and “The Wheel.” “Departure for College” is a poem “reflecting on what it means to watch your young adult children go on to the next phase, and what it means for them.” “The Wheel” is about “a moment when you realize that everything is changing; about knowing your set pattern of life is about to be disrupted, and wondering how to feel about that.”

Professionally, Karen worked as a reporter for about 15 years, taught English in Japan in her late 20's from 1984-88, and now teaches high school English.

According to Karen, “Mothering my three children continues to be wonderful and difficult (they are 24, 21 and 16), and since 2007 I have been writing poetry and recently began having some success at getting published.”

She was a semi-finalist in the 2011 Montreal International Poetry Contest and her work can be seen at Crazy Pineapple Press www.crazypineapplepress.com; at redfez online at www.redfez.net, and at Redneck Press: Fried Chicken and Coffee www.friedchickenandcoffee.com

Karen says, “Departure for College was written mostly about my daughter and her friends the summer they graduated high school. Our son was still in college and we had to have our daughter live home one year to save money. Most of her friends were leaving that fall, and she was feeling very hurt and angry. For years I had heard about this break away time, but when it hit it truly was difficult to see them leave home.”

Also, Karen knew she had these two poems that would fit the theme of the book and thought others could appreciate them and understand what she had to say.

In terms of representations about motherhood, Karen says, “Of course Mary Cassatt's paintings are touching and masterpieces, and made me realize the sacrifice of motherhood in all those small moments we put in every day, but I also get a laugh out of that other side of motherhood: The “Throw Momma from the Train,” type humor, or the stereotypical nagging mothers in films are funny to me.”

Karen also says, “It is true that motherhood is the busiest, most intense ride you'll take in life, and when trouble hits you will feel like you won't make it through (yes, talking about teenagers here!), but hang in because once they realize you are valuable, the love is even better than when they were tiny babies and knew no better!!”

Karen can be reached at karen.warinsky@gmail.com

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spotlight on Carol Alexander and Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

We are proud to introduce two contributors to our anthology, "Joy, Interrupted," Carol Alexander and Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow.

Carol Alexander
Carol Alexander wrote the poem “Dandelion Child” and be reached at caa11212@earthlink.net Her poem “tells of a child being routed through the foster care system, going from "mother" to "mother," but still hopeful of finding a loving family.” She has concentrated on writing for children and a couple of years ago, she began “sending out poems full of the things we can't say to children.” Carol has been a foster parent, raised a biological child, and continues to interest herself in the needs of kids.

Her work has been published or is scheduled to be published in/by Avocet, Boyne Berries, Cave Moon Press, The Canary, Chiron Review, Danse Macabre, Earthspeak, Fade, Fried Chicken and Coffee, Mobius, Numinous, OVS, Red Poppy Review, Red Review Review, River Poets, Journal, Sleeping Cat Books, and The Whistling Fire. Carol has also published ten books for children, and writes regularly for the educational publishing market.

According to Carol, “I believe my work may have been selected because it explores loss from the point of view of a child, rather than a mother, and lends another perspective to the collection. When I saw that Melissa was gathering work for an anthology on motherhood and loss, I hoped that this would be the right place for "Dandelion Child."”

Her favorite literary figures relating to motherhood include “Proust's doting mother or Rimbaud's deranged mere!” She adds, “One of my favorite comedies is "Baby Boom"--it's hard to top that one for the zaniness of modern parenthood. I also just saw Vera Farmiga in the film "Higher Ground" and was impressed by the struggle to live an examined life, raise children, and remain intact.”

Finally, Carol says, “I feel it's a privilege to add my work to an anthology that explores this potent subject.”

Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow
Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow contributed “RG” to our anthology and can be reached at elynne1@attglobal.net 

What is your piece about?
Marrying late in life, my husband and I did not have children. My story is about how I see my life as a woman who has not been blessed with having a child but has lived a fulfilled life and has enjoyed a close second experience to mothering. I am the eldest of four sisters. I lost my grandmother in a plane crash and my father and 16 yr. old sister in a second plane crash. I understand loss and survival.  

Why did you contribute to our anthology?
I wanted to share my perspective and experience with other women and men. Also, "RG" exists in the pages of this anthology.  A gift I purchased for my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary inspired my writing "RG". It was a time of reflection and insight. I was elated to see the submission call for Joy, Interrupted which I found after having completed my story. I am honored to be part of this anthology.

Tell us about yourself:
I am Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Wright College, Founding General Manager of WYCC-TV/PBS in Chicago and a Pushcart Prize nominated author. I write to motivate and inspire others through my short memoirs. I have the great pleasure of performing my work for audiences and recently performed in NYC at The Museum of Motherhood.  My performances of my stories have been broadcast on The Bob Edwards Show on NPR, and Rick Kogan's Sunday Papers on WGN radio. In addition to having recently returned from my performance in NYC, I have performed my stories throughout Chicago including the Printer's Row Lit Fest. My work has been part of the production "Dear Mother" in L.A. at The Lyric Theater. April 29th, 2012 I will perform my stories at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan. If you live close, I would love to have you in my audience.

Where else have you been published?
My short memoirs, short stories and essays have been published in magazines and newspapers and are anthologized in the books: Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul (HCI Books) THE REVOLVING DOOR; The Wisdom of Old Souls (Hidden Brook Press) GRANDMA LEBEDOW; Forever Friends (Mandinam Press) features THE ELEVATOR, MR. X and MR. Y, and LIFE 101; My Dad Is My Hero (Adams Media Publishing) HIS WAY; The Ultimate Teacher (HCI Books) THE HAT; Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages (All Things That Matter Press) THE NEEDLE IN THE HAYSTACK and MY GIFT OF NOW; Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love (Simon and Schuster) RONALD; FOUR SISTERS IN LIFE AND DEATH is published in the new anthology THIS I BELIEVE: ON LOVE. This book is based on the popular NPR radio series. (Wiley Publishing); THE HAT is published in Living Lessons (Whispering Angel Books); DANCER'S LANE and MY OFFICE are published in Press Pause Moments: Essays About Life Transitions By Women Writers, (Winner of a 2011 Clarion Award) (Kiwi Publishing); THE HAT is published in Thin Threads of Teachers & Mentors (Kiwi Publishing); Thin Threads Anthology - More Real Stories of Life Changing Moments has also published THE HAT (Kiwi Publishing); Forever Travels features 10 of Elynne's travel stories ( Mandinam Press); Chicken Soup for the Soul Grieving and Recovery featuring THE RED PEN; Thin Threads Women & Friendship (Kiwi Publishing) featuring WAITING; Nurturing Paws (Whispering Angel Press) featuring DREAM GIRL; Thin Threads Moms & Grandmas (Kiwi Publishing) featuring MORE THAN LIFE, her Pushcart Prize nominated story. Coming in 2012: FIRST IN LINE will be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life; RG in Joy, Interrupted; THE ANSWER in Warpaint; MY BEST AUDIENCE in Thin Threads: Hadassah; HER FIRST GRANDCHILD in another Mothers & Grandmothers anthology (Title TBA); DREAM GIRL in The Animal Project Anthology.

Writing "More Than Life" about my mother and her inspiring grace and strength in the face of overwhelming loss was a gift I could share with her. She is now 87 yrs. old. The anthology Moms & Grandmas with my Pushcart Prize nominated story was launched on her birthday by Kiwi Publishing in NYC at The Museum of Motherhood where I performed it.

Elynne also shares, "My husband Richard is my muse."   Her
 blog is at http://lookaroundme.blogspot.com/

Guest Inteview with Ellen Gerst: Part 2

Ellen Gerst is a grief and relationship coach who uses her experiences to help clients through the grief process.  She can be reached via facebook.  You can find the first part of the interview here.

What is the mission of the website "lost and found" and how might non-widows, such as people in general struggling with losses of all kinds, use the resources offered on this site?

“Lost and Found” is a pair of opposites that reflect the natural duality of the universe. By experiencing both ends of the spectrum, one comes to understand and appreciate the other. This concept does not only apply to one type of loss but all kinds, both big and small.

Learning to move gracefully through the cycles of loss and subsequent rebirth in one’s life is a skill not taught by society. In fact, most shy away from talking about loss and feel awkward around those who are grieving. I believe this is because it brings up one’s own mortality or how frail the line is between success and failure. And no one really wants to go there!

When loss occurs, mourners are dropped into a foreign land. It’s almost as if they are watching a movie with subtitles, but the words scroll across the screen so fast that they can’t read them. On top of feeling rejected by society, there are no instructions on what to do and how to feel. They are lost without a map to follow.

This website offers a lifeline back to the main road – to help mourners of all categories find their way back to solid ground and eventual renewal.

The name of the website was also chosen from a quote by Clement Robinson, who said in 1584 that “I much rather be lost than found.”  This struck a chord within me, for I wholeheartedly agree with him.

When you’re lost, you become a seeker. You seek for knowledge, understanding, love, truth, your place in the world, and how to connect to yourself, to others and the world-at-large, amongst other things.

On the other hand, “being found” can equal complacency or stagnation. It’s possible that you’ve reached a place in life that all is going smoothly. You may feel comfortable enough to lift your hand off the “tiller of your ship.” When you do, what can happen? Your ship, or life, may start to veer off course because you weren’t paying attention or you allowed yourself to operate on auto pilot.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not advocating that you look for drama in your life, and you certainly need to appreciate and revel in the times when things are going well. You simply need to pay attention and to always be seeking to become the best version of yourself. It’s a lot easier to make minor corrections as you go along vs. having to make a complete turnaround.

Although the word lost usually holds a negative connotation and found a positive one, when you take into consideration the explanations I’ve offered above, “being (a little) lost” is really a good thing. It makes you always strive to be and do your best.

You mention the idea of a "grief journey" --what can people do to navigate this journey with grace and dignity?

The grief journey is all about self-reflection and introspective thought. When the life you had planned gets ripped away, it is virtually impossible for you to remain the same person you were before your loss. Your grief journey is really a journey to find the new you who will emerge as you face the challenges (and rewards) of loss.

One suggestion on how to accomplish this feat is to become a reporter of your own life. By that I mean, ask yourself the six questions that every reporter attempts to answer when writing a story. In fact, you are writing the Story of Your Life Part II, so ask: Who? What? When? Why? Where? and How?

During your quest for answers, here’s a small sample of some questions you can ask yourself.
Who are you now? Who will be the participants in your life going forward?
What am I going to do with the rest of my life? What do I want to accomplish going forward?
When, if ever, will I feel like myself again? When will it get better?
Why did this happen to me?
Where am I going to live, work, etc.? Where do I fit in?
How am I going to do this?

Moving forward through grief with grace and dignity is a process. It’s pretty hard at the beginning when all you want to do is crawl into a hole and not come out. In your anger, you might lash out at those who are trying to help you the most. Moreover, your emotions reside on the surface of your being, and so you are especially sensitive to the comments and actions of others.

Mourners always have a choice to either reflectively respond or reflexively react to their circumstances.  They must also conserve their limited energy. For example, mourners can choose to waste their energy on anger over inappropriate or hurtful comments or choose to be happy for the people who have never experienced loss and realize that is the reason they don’t know how to act toward one who is grieving.

I believe that moving through all circumstances of life with grace and dignity comes down to a person’s perspective. Move a couple of degrees to the positive and a whole new world can open up. Additionally, the universe is a giant mirror and whatever messages are transmitted reflect back to the sender.

Accordingly, if you stay mired in negativity and mad at the world, you will encounter more situations that will make you angry. On the other hand, if you make conscious decisions to project out hope, gratitude, love, and grace under pressure, you will be presented with situations in which these positive feelings can be planted, take root and bloom.

How can writers dealing with topics and loss find a supportive community for sharing their stories and connecting with other people?

When I was widowed 17 years ago, the availability of a supportive community for young widows was practically non-existent. As the Internet grew and social media pervaded society, lots of organizations that connect widow/ers globally have sprung up, including, Hope For Widows, the Widdahood, Open To Hope, Legacy.com, and Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, to name but a few.  Each of these communities offers mourners a venue to share their stories and connect with others in similar circumstances. Blogging is also another popular way to tell your story. There are also anthologies who look to publish stories of loss, too, one of which I was the co-editor, Thin Threads of Grief and Renewal.

I have found all the aforementioned communities to be warm and welcoming. Those who have experienced loss seem to feel an almost immediate connection to others who have experienced the same pain. They are willing to open their hearts and their ears to hear the stories of others.

I might briefly add some of the reasons why it is important to tell our stories.

  • To heal. When you touch the life of another, especially one who has experienced something similar, an immediate bond is formed. The gap is bridged between the teller and the listener, and both feel less alone. This act of connecting and knowing that somebody “gets you” is very healing.
  • To evaluate. You may feel that you haven’t progressed very far on your journey. However, when you hear the story of someone who has spent less time on the roads of grief, you can accept that, even though you may not be in the place you want to be, you have come a long way on your own travels.
  • To change your perspective. When you swap stories with others, it allows you to hear different perspectives as well as learn about different ways to handle similar situations you’re encountering. When you only hear your own story in your head, it can become difficult to decide what sounds right or wrong. When you release your thoughts, out in the air (so to speak), it allows you to hear your story with a fresh ear and to decide if your feelings are appropriate or not.
  • To validate.  Without connecting to others in similar situations, it is easy to think you’re going crazy with all the random thoughts that may cross your mind. When you share and discover that others feel the same, you can heave a big sigh of relief.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Less than four days in book giveaway for "Insanity: A Love Story"

Free Giveaway Below
"Insanity: A Love Story" is Melissa Miles McCarter's memoir about the hospitalization that lead to her diagnosis with bipolar disorder.  In both her narrative and interludes reflecting on various aspects of coping with mental illness, she resists the stigma so often associated with bipolar disorder. Her memoir adds to the mental hospital genre that includes such books as "Girl, Interrupted," "I never promised you a rose garden," and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest."  This new and improved e-book version of "Insanity: A Love Story" is an honest, raw and emotional account of a world many never experience.  This memoir of "madness and mania" challenges the thin line between sanity and insanity.

See this youtube video about "Insanity: A Love Story"

If you would like to do a book review of "Insanity: A Love Story" for your blog, or some other forum/publication, email info@fatdaddysfarm.org and we will provide you with a free copy.

There are less than four days in the book giveaway for "Insanity: A Love Story." Enter below for a chance to win!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guest Interview: Ellen Gerst (Part 1)

We are proud to have the opportunity to get to know Ellen Gerst in the following interview. I decided that, in addition to our contributor interviews, it would be good to talk to people whose interests overlap with our anthology, "Joy, Interrupted."  This is the first part of the interview with Ellen; the second part will be on this blog later in the week.

Ellen Gerst is a grief and relationship coach who uses both her personal experience as a young widow and her professional expertise to help clients and readers experience a change in perspective to held them gracefully move from the darkness of loss to the light of renewal.

She is a member of the Advisory Board of Hope For Widows, a workshop leader, and the author of several books on both grief and relationships, which are available through her website at or via Amazon.  You can also connect with her on Facebook to receive tips and thoughts on finding love after loss.

INTERVIEW: ELLEN GERST, March 2012, Part 1

What role do you think writing has in the grief process and/or in your own situation as a widow at 39 years old and beyond?

I believe that putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as it is nowadays) and producing the written word is a magical medium. It is a vehicle that allows you to write to yourself about your own confused set of emotions. In this way, it is a cathartic device, for it permits you to move your difficult and racing thoughts to another physical location. When you are done “throwing up” these types of thoughts, you always have the option of deleting the words off your computer or crumbling up the piece of paper onto which you inscribed your diatribe of despair and to throw it away. Whether you keep or discard your musings, you are figuratively ridding yourself of negativity/sadness/anger and allowing a space to open within you for more positive thoughts to flow.

And, although I am a big believer of writing about your angst, I think it is equally important to journal positive experiences and thoughts. When you are encountering an especially difficult time and feel nothing ever goes your way, this practice will allow you to review past entries and realize that you have also had many good days. This helps you to keep everything in proper perspective.

Many use the writing process to share their thoughts with others, as evidenced by the many “grief” blogs and articles that appear on the Internet. When I was widowed almost 17 years ago, blogs were non-existent. Instead, I started sharing my thoughts through a newsletter that I wrote for a local Arizona grief group. I wrote about all aspects of grieving – emotional, mental, spiritual and physical. It was a record of my journey as I encountered all the new circumstances I needed to conquer; I just experienced it aloud as I shared it with my audience.

Until I started getting feedback from other widow/ers, I didn’t know that most of what I was experiencing was commonly felt by others, too. Of course, everyone grieves in their own way, but there are universal and shared underlying truths about grief, and these are the ones that came shining through in my writings. This was very validating for me and encouraged me to share more as I figured out my new life. As I continued in my efforts, I helped others by providing suggestions and options on how they could approach similar issues.

So writing is both a mechanism that helps the writer and the reader. I consider that a winning combination and one of the reasons why writing through grief is so popular.

The articles I wrote for that newsletter were so well received that they became the foundation for my first coping with grief book, Suddenly Single: How To find Renewal After Loss.

What's your best advice for someone looking for "love after loss," whether in the form of a romance or other relationships?

There are many self-help books written to help you find love, mine included (Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story). It’s important, though, to keep in mind that books have a tendency to “intellectualize” the process of developing a relationship by providing a blueprint to follow. It is just as important to recognize that love is a feeling or emotion, and that it is hard for it to always flourish within rigid rules and boundaries. Sometimes when the right person comes along, you must simply discard your stringent list of requirements.

I always say that you must listen to your inner knowing or your intuition. Your body will never lie to you; you just need to learn how to recognize the language it speaks. I suggest that when you are trying to make a decision, complete a quick check to make sure that your head, your heart and your gut are in alignment. If they are, you won’t be second guessing yourself or see red flags in the distance that you may be choosing to ignore. You will feel calm and at peace with your decision.

That said, of utmost importance, before jumping into a new relationship, you must first complete your grief work. A good majority of relationships fail because either one or both parties are not ready to make the full commitment a successful relationship requires.

Consider the fact that your loss has precipitated a monumental change in your life. Consequently, the answers to the following questions have different answers now, and you need to figure out what they are.

Who do you think you are?
Is this the same as how others see you?
So, who are you really now?
How are you approaching your life now?
What do you need and want in life and in a partner going forward, and is this different from what you wanted before your loss?

This is only a small smattering of the long list of questions you will have to answer in order to figure out the new you. When you can fully recognize (and accept/love) the new you, it is then you can first begin your search for a new other. If you look for love before this point, you will very likely wind up with the wrong person.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t practice! Practice dating is one of the ways that helps you to figure out this new you because it is a source of immediate feedback. You can try out new personas and determine what works and what doesn’t. More importantly, as you continue to figure out and refine the new you, learn to appreciate the small moments of happiness found in just living everyday life. Project this happiness, and the universe will reflect it back upon you.

Please look forward to more interviews with contributors to "Joy, Interrupted" and part two of our interview with Ellen Gerst.