Monday, October 02, 2006

High fives on staying alive...

Fun fact:

"Approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder. The median age of onset for mood disorders is 30 years…women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men."
~NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health, 2006)

Guess looking at those stats it's easy to see a need for my book which I ultimately hope will entertain, inform and inspire. Or at the very least, make me lots of money so I can keep on writing.

Originally I wanted to call the book "Just Plain Crazy" but got mixed feedback on that, so the new working title of my book is:

Lipstick and Thongs in the Loony Bin
Courtney A. Walsh

And here are the opening few paragraphs....

"I always wanted to be good enough to die young, but apparently Death has a catch-and-release policy. When the Reaper is go.

And not a minute sooner.

If I learned anything from this aborted suicide attempt, (apart from the fact that most automobiles nowadays have catalytic converters—prohibiting carbon monoxide poisoning from happening at a rapid rate)…it was about new beginnings. And that only when you are tired of waiting for your life to begin are you at your true starting point. And lastly, that a failed suicide attempt is the only failure that is ultimately a success. Or so they kept telling me at the hospital..." ~CAW

I've had quite a journey with this manuscript. I've often wondered which has been harder...trying to put the pieces of my life back together after a suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization?...Writing a book about the experience? Or getting the damn thing published....?

I think it's been almost as challenging to get the book published as it was to live all those months in the 'loony bin'. Writing the book was the easy part. The process of getting it in front of the right set of eyes has been weirder than some of my fellow patients who, let's face it, were pretty odd at times and suprisingly normal overall. I was incarcerated with some of the most brilliant and quirky people I've ever met or will probably ever meet. Schoolteachers, lawyers, therapists and even a soap actress...folks who, on the surface, would be considered extremely 'high functioning."

My therapist, Larry, has read the book and is a true champion of my goal to get it published. He feels it has the potential to help a lot of people from family members and loved ones of the mentally-less-well, to the afflicted themselves. This is the same lovely man who came to the hospital the week after the attempt looking exhausted and haunted. I'll never forget what he said, it soaked through my psych-drug haze and clicked somewhere in that tiny, remaining survival part of my brain...

"I'm here to help you, Courtney. But I can't help you if you're dead."

The man had a good point.

Fast forward to a year and a half later, the book is written and I am serendipitously at the Hemingway/PEN awards and Joyce Carol Oates (very prolific and successful authoress who teaches at Princeton) is there, as is Andre Dubus III (who wrote House of Sand and Fog).

I somehow mustered the courage to approach both of them separately after the ceremony for some fawning fan time and Joyce Carol Oates (who is a little slip of a woman) complimented my shoes (forever hereafter to be known as my 'lucky' shoes) after she signed my program. My mother was goading me to approach Andre and finally at her insistence I shyly went over (with Mom in tow) to say hello...Her philosophy was...when would I get this sort of chance again?

So we went over and he was very gracious and told my mother she had beautiful facial bone structure...said he wasn't coming on to her, since he was a happily married man, but just making an observation. Then they chatted about painting for awhile and my mother of course did what any mother would do in that situation...she bragged. About how I was this fabulous writer who'd had all of these great articles published yadda, yadda. And then some force overtook me and I pitched my book to him.

He loved the idea so much that he high-fived me three times in the course of my 4-minute pitch. That's a lot of high fives. And I made some joke about how maybe he'd write me a blurb someday. And he actually said he would and gave me his personal email address saying that he'd read the manuscript and told me when I get a publisher to contact him and he would write something up for the book jacket.

I was floored!

So...naturally I followed up on that email a few times trying to strike a tone of 'remember me?' but not stalker-esque. Obviously he is a very busy man and he's currently working on adapting one of his books into a movie so I never heard back. But I was encouraged nevertheless and inspired to continue. He basically said that you just have to keep trying and don't let rejections deter you...the same advice that most people give in the literary world to those who haven't decoded the secret handshake yet, but it was great to get those high-fives. Especially since we were not in a high-five sort of environment or situation. He'd definitely been more reserved in his conversations with the other guests of the reception so I felt his enthusiasm was genuine.

As for the blurb? Who knows....?

Maybe it doesn't matter....maybe I got out of the exchange exactly what I needed.

I know one thing for sure...I will definitely be wearing those lucky shoes again.


Blogger Susan Senator said...

You seem to have the right combo of talent and perseverance plus a topic that is timely...I don't see why this wouldn't happen. You just can't give up, and you won't, if you believe it should/will happen!

4:25 AM  

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