Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Just before I turned the big 5-0 (fifty--which you very well know!),  I was delighted and honored to receive an invitation from my friend BeverlyWillett to join an online feature called The Next Big Thing.  Some people call it a "blog chain, and some folks call it a "blog hop."  Whatever you wish to call it, it's pretty damned exciting for a blogger/writer like me! Once "tapped" by Beverly, I shall respond to ten (10) questions which all the previous participants have answered.  Now, I'm over the moon about this opportunity, but before I field these questions, I would like to introduce you to Beverly.  (I may be biased, but she's rather an incredible writer and woman!)

Beverly Willett is a freelance writer and attorney.  She is a founding member and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Divorce Reforma volunteer, non-partisan organization dedicated to supporting efforts to reduce unnecessary divorce and promote healthy marriages.   Beverly has written and continues to write for national newspapers, magazines, and online reporting and opinion sites, including The New York Times, TheHuffington PostThe Daily, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Prevention, and Parenting.  Beverly is now at work on her first book.   

Now here are the questions, but I'm going to start with Question 5 for the sake of--as my mother would say--keeping this "quick, easy, no fuss."

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In 1994, at age turning thirty-one, I was misdiagnosed by one psychiatrist with Bipolar II Disorder, and spent fourteen years of my life living as a person with a serious mental illness, suffering terrible mistreatment by the medical establishment, Big Pharma, and the legal system, until 2008, at age forty-five, when I met a young psychiatrist who correctly diagnosed and began treating me for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is the working title of your book?
I call it Disorderly Conduct.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
There is no guidebook for how to conduct oneself when you have a mental illness.  So I really had to wing it.  Also, I was arrested on false charges, and was charged with--but not convicted of--disorderly conduct.

What genre does your book fall under?
 It certainly is a memoir, but I hope that my book has the far-reaching effects of a political and social science nonfiction book.  I intend to tell readers that people with mental illness in the United States are still not receiving proper diagnoses, nor do they get competent medical care, either for their mental illness or for physical illnesses and diseases which are brought on by the terrible side effects of their medications.  They--and I mean "we"-rarely are the recipients of fair administration by law enforcement and the courts.  We are stigmatized, socially isolated, ridiculed, feared and despised.   

Which actors would you choose to play you in a movie rendition?
 I certainly know I do not resemble her in any physical way, but I would choose Angelina Jolie.  "You must be crazy!"  No, seriously, I think she possesses the intelligence, sensitivity and strength of character which I needed in order to survive my experience.  Also, she already has played characters who were locked in psychiatric facilities.  She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2000 for her portrayal of Lisa Rowe in the film adaptation of Susanna Kaysen's memoir Girl Interrupted.  In 2008 she was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Christine Collins in Clint Eastwood's film Changeling.  Miss Jolie understands and conveys serious emotional and psychic distress as an actor.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
 Since I worked in the literary department of ICM from 1987 to 1988, and then for Georges and Anne Borchardt from 1988 until 1990, I know that there are many advantages to being represented by a literary agent.  I do not knock writers who self-publish, but I prefer the "old-fashioned" method.  Luckily, I already have several agents who have expressed interest.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Once I started what I refer to as "recovery" nearly five years ago, I was too traumatized to write anything.   Then, in 2010, I realized that the clarity of my mind had returned.  I was letting go of "what might have been" if I had not been misdiagnosed, and all the rage I had from trauma upon trauma upon trauma.  By the end of 2011, I had completed my first draft.  Then, in 2012, because my mind and my heart opened up even more, and wrote another, different draft.  I hope to have the final manuscript completed by this summer.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
While I could point out numerous well-written, well-received memoirs by and about people who have mental illness, I have enough of a background in the commerce of books to know that my story is very unique.  My psychiatrist told me I was a "one-in-a-million" because I knew that I had been misdiagnosed.  There were more traumatic events and horrors in store for me before I met my doctor, but, even at my lowest points, I knew that I did not have Bipolar II Disorder.  And I do not judge people who do!  I do have PTSD, and that's not exactly a cakewalk.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I never cease to be amazed by the resilience of the human spirit.  I have met and know many people throughout the years who inspire me by living with mental illness every single day.  I want to be able to speak for those who are trapped and entangled in their illness that they are unable to raise their own voice.
Also, I have dreamed about being a writer since I was a young girl.  I am so lucky to personally know quite a few wonderful writers, and some, like me, didn't begin to write full time nor were they published until after they turned forty.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
 My memoir has a lot of humor in it.  Family and friends tend to remember me for my quick wit.    I have long used comicality as a tension breaker.   My late mentor Raymond Bongiovanni used to write in "hijinks ensue" to save on detailed explication of events in manuscripts.   When my own personal hijinks ensue, I manage to see the absurdity and the comedy in situations which can be fraught with horror or peril.  The glass of water may be being thrown at me, but I choose to see it as a full glass!

Now it is my great pleasure to pass the torch to five of my favorite writers.  Here they are (in alphabetical order):

Adrienne Crezo is an editor and freelance writer. Her work appears regularly on, The Atlantic,, and in Optimum Wellness Magazine and various other web and print publications. She spends her days drinking too much coffee, talking to her too-smart 7-year-old, and tackling whatever interesting work comes her way. You can find Adrienne on Facebook, Twitter, or her poorly-maintained website.

Danielle E. Curtis has both MA and MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University.  She writes fiction and creative nonfiction, and has completed her first novel, Come High Water.  Her comedic short story, "Lilac Blossoms:  A Dead Squirrel Story" appears in the November/December  2012 issue of Split Lip Magazine.  Danielle grew up in northeastern New York near the Adirondack Mountains, which serve as her novel's settings.  She now lives in New York City and is a publishing marketing professional   As @DaniWritesWords on Twitter, she frequently contemplates life, literature, baked goods, and bad jokes.

Kaylie Jones is the author of five novels: A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, Speak Now, Celeste Ascending, As Soon As It Rains, and Quite The Other Way (see her author page on Her novels have been translated into many languages, including French, German, Polish, Turkish, and Japanese.  Jones chairs the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, which awards $10,000 annually to an unpublished first novel. During the past 15 years, 12 of the winners have been published to impressive critical acclaim.  A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, based on Jones's experiences growing up as the daughter of celebrated novelist James Jones (From Here To Eternity, The Thin Red Line, Whistle), was made into a Merchant-Ivory film starring Kris Kristofferson, Leelee Sobieski, Jesse Bradford, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Barbara Hershey, and Isaac de Bankole.
Kaylie is a graduate of Wesleyan University. She received her MFA from Columbia University and studied Russian at The Harriman Institute at Columbia University and the Pushkin Institute for Russian Studies in Moscow.  Ms. Jones helped found the MFA Program in Writing at Long Island University's Southampton campus and the MFA Program in Writing at Wilkes University. She currently teaches memoir, literature and fiction writing at both universities.  In 2011, she was instrumental in publishing an uncensored edition of James Jones' From Here to Eternity.  Jones currently teaches in the MFA Writing and Literature program at Stony Brook Southampton and at the Wilkes University MFA program in professional writing.  Born and raised in Paris, Jones lives in New York with her daughter, and a mixed-breed mutt named Natalie.  You can find her on her website , and on Twitter.

Nina reads hundreds of books and reviews them on her website, Readallday.   She also is on 
Twitter.  Her 2010 book,  Tolstoy and The Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading published by HarperCollins, tells the story of her lifetime of reading, and of one magical year when she read a book a day to rediscover how to live after the death of her oldest sister. Through the connections Nina made with books and authors (and even other readers), her life changed profoundly, and in unexpected ways.  Sankovitch is now writing a book about letters, both the writing and the reading of them, to be published by Simon & Schuster in November 2013.

Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a New York Times bestselling author of fiction.   She also is a psychologist.  Her novels include, The Comet's Tale, a novel about Sojourner Truth, Lost & FoundNow & Then, and Picture This (Amazon's Jacqueline Sheehan Page).
She has published travel articles, short stories, and numerous essays and radio pieces.  In 2005, she edited the anthology, Women Writing in Prison.  Jacqueline has been awarded residencies at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland and Jentel Arts Colony in Wyoming.  She teaches workshops at Grub Street in Boston and Writers in Progress in Florence, Massachusetts.  She has offered international writing retreats in Jamaica, Guatemala, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  You can find her on her website , and on Twitter.  


  1. Thank you for the kind introduction. You are an amazing (and funny) woman and writer it has been my pleasure to come to know in 2012. And now I know you even better. You are writing a rich, important book. Godspeed...and looking forward. Best, Beverly Willett

  2. Sounds very illuminating Maura, and hopefully be of great help to others. (You do have a mahvelous sense of humor!) xo

  3. Memoirs are among my favorite genre, and yours sounds like a great read. I grew-up with a bipolar mother, but she was diagnosed with a few different disorders before doctors "settled" on the right diagnosis.