Thinking About Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

A brilliant writer/Ph.D/published author/professional editor called me yesterday. One I deeply respect. She told me she’d just read Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, and wanted to know why I was not promoting it. She loved it (to put it mildly, it’s almost embarrassing the gushing things she said about it). She thinks I should be getting it out there, trying to sell it more. She said she hated the back cover, it’s all caps and looks unprofessional, and she said there are five typos, but she loved it anyway. She’s the type of super detailed, super editor and writerly writer I feel most intimidated by. I’m still absorbing the things she said and am flabbergasted she took time out of her busy day to call me.

I don’t know what to do with this information. I’d kind of given up on my book. I was convinced it was amateur, and that maybe I wasn’t a real writer.

Initial reactions to the book from many people in my life were curious. Some were plain afraid to read it and didn’t. Some of the people closest to me read it and then didn’t mention it. So of course I took that to mean it sucked. Others who did read it said things like, “Oh it was so difficult to read,” or “Oh it was so painful to read,” or “I don’t usually read that kind of book,” and it filled me with shame. I felt guilty to have burdened them with my story.

The woman I spoke with yesterday said just because something might be difficult to read, doesn’t mean people shouldn’t read it. She said she wants everyone to read it. She thinks it has the potential to help a lot of people, particularly kids growing up in alcoholic homes. She freaking compared it to Angela’s Ashes. And then I fainted.

In Janurary 2012 I wrote a guest post for Lisa Romeo’s blog (which I regretted one second after submitting to her…because it was whiney and cowardly and passive aggressive). In it I discussed how disappointed I was that many writers I know didn’t take up the cause for my book.  I wondered if it was a bias against self-publishing.

My gramma used to say, “When you point your finger at someone else you have three pointing back at yourself.”

The true thing is I didn’t take up the cause for my book. IT WAS ME. I was fearful of asking for help. I was afraid of being rejected.

And I as much as I said the book was about releasing shame, I had a long way to go, because I was still ashamed, still scared of burdening people with my story.

We talked for an hour. She gave me so much to think about.

What a generous gift.

Wil of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is the day!

Carrie Wilson Link’s long awaited book, Wil of God, is released.

“Wil of God is the story of a tightly wound special needs mother who comes undone, puts herself back together, and falls in love with her imperfect life.”

That’s a blurb from someone in the know.

Good blurb, right?

Oh, okay…it’s my blurb. I admit it.

I met Carrie at a writing workshop years ago. We bonded over our special needs parent status. Our children are very different and require completely different parenting but there was an immediate respect between us about the sacredness of our unexpected vocations.

I’ve had the honor to bear witness to the unfolding of Carrie’s story (at least the last seven years of it), and I’ve read her book in many of its phases. It is delightful. I am so very deeply and profoundly happy for her as Wil of God launches. It is a story that will lift you up, and make you better for having read it.

Carrie is a beautiful writer. A steadfast and devoted mother. A spiritual seeker. A vital thread in her community. She is a teacher to her core.

To paraphrase her son Wil, she is, “the right kind of woman.”

She’s also the right kind of friend.

Congratulations Care!

May your book find it’s way into the hands of all who will appreciate it. May there be many, many, many who open to receive Wil of God.

 

*For more on Carrie and Wil of God, visit her blog, here.

We’ll all be dead soon

About my recent presentation. I lived. I did my best to get centered beforehand, reading uplifting spiritual material in the AM and listening to soothing music on the way to the conference, but I don’t know how much that helped once it was actually my time to talk. I felt out of my element, stepping out from behind the computer screen (I’m so much cooler on line, LOL).

I do not pass myself off as a a teacher, but offered some tips I’ve picked up along the way at various writing workshops I’ve attended. Things that really helped me, and mattered to me, and things I believe made my writing stronger. It was hard to gauge where people were in their writing processes and I hoped I wasn’t repeating what they already knew. At the end, I miscalculated the time and thought I had 15 more minutes and thank God one of them told me I was going over. Whoopsie! 

I can’t say the audience was riveted by me. One person was nodding off (mine was the last presentation of the day and came an hour or so after lunch) and a couple of people couldn’t leave their phones alone, but most in the room were attentive and seemed sincere. I hope I gave them some things to think about and a nugget or two that will help them in their writing endeavors. A couple of kind souls thanked me afterward and I got some nice feedback from evaluations. I wasn’t told of any bad feedback, and I’m too scared to ask if there was any, though I probably should find out so I can learn.

I did sell some books and a couple of people shared their personal stories with me, which is a privilege and attests to the fact that when you air your own shame, you give others permission to do the same. 

After the conference I came home and unloaded the whole thing on HT, and he hugged me and decreed the person who was nodding off to have overdosed on tryptophan at lunch, and made me laugh and hugged me profusely and told me he was proud of me for being brave. I emailed a couple of dear friends, who sent their love and encouragement, and later I snuggled my kids and later still, talked a friend (who was having her own crises) off a ledge and the whole thing got further away.

Whatever we are worried about is so transient. I can’t even remember what I was worried about last week or last month, but I’m sure it was something.

My sister and I jokingly use the phrase, “We’ll all be dead soon,” whenever one of us is in pain. Morbid? Yes, but also a reminder not to make such a big deal of things and to know it’s all impermanent. This too shall pass.

So I’m not the world’s greatest public speaker. I guess it’s still okay to be me, right now, neurotic exactly as I am. There’s really no alternative.

Taboo Topics

*(image from Women on Writing).

I’ve had the honor of being featured at Women on Writing today.

I have not been writing about Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar much, because I’d been grappling with a lot of emotions around it since my first reading. I guess I still had some guilt about publishing it, seeing my father as having an illness. I had some angst about forgiveness. Was I a bad person for writing it? Was I trying to punish him? Every time I think I’ve put those questions to rest they circle around again.

Enter Bill Macy as Frank Gallagher in Showtime’s Shameless series.

Watching the series has been helpful for me. Frank is over the top, to be sure. He’s very different from my father in some ways (my dad held a job and did very hard physical labor, Frank is a “disability” junkie, looking for any way to scam the system) but there is enough of my father in him.  The part of every active addict that cares more about the substance, than about anyone he loves. The part where people are only useful for you if they feed your addiction or your ego. If not, to hell with them. Even your own children.

Thinking about my previous post on Project Forgive, I had a revelation. The man whose family was killed by a drunk driver? The one who forgave the guy who did it? He was never asked to act like it didn’t happen. He was never asked to sweep the violation under the rug. No one questions his true “forgiveness.”

I can hold deep compassion and forgiveness for my father AND I can talk about my own experience and write about it. One does not cancel out the other.

Some statistics report that one in every 12 adults in the U.S. is an alcoholic. Others show that one in three girls is sexually abused and one in 5-7 boys is sexually abused.

And you know why it continues?

Because it’s taboo. Because people are too ashamed to talk about it. Because society makes people like me feel guilty for even mentioning it.

But you know what? I am a good person. I am a loving person. I am a compassionate person. I am a forgiving person.

I am also the Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar.

And there are millions of me.

The Reading

There is a scene in my book, where I bought this really sexy dress to impress my boyfriend on New Year’s Eve. I was 17. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, on the big day,  I was so uncomfortable with the attention the sexy dress garnered, I wore a coat all night to cover it up, and wound up leaving the party early.

The scene kept coming to me as my reading drew closer. There is the idea of “attention” and it’s great, and then the reality of it is really uncomfortable. I felt sick with nervous energy prior to the reading. It’s one thing to write behind the safety of your computer screen. It’s another to be vulnerable sharing your work face to face.

But then people started coming and there were so many friendly faces. If you are an author and you want people to come to your readings, join a women’s chorus. They will come. My Windsong sisters were there in large numbers to support me. Many who could not make it sent emails of congratulations and encouragement. Thank you Windsong!

 

So many friends from so many different areas of my life were there. People from our public school days, lots of homeschool friends. Neighbors. Friends I have not seen in months and didn’t think would be able to make it showed up. My heart was very full of appreciation and I do think it is time to give up the tired old belief that I do not have a support system, because it sure felt like I had a community there.

The woman who read with me is a poet named Terre Maher. She went first and the audience listened raptly as she read a prose piece about a family dinner she and her siblings experienced with her hostile father, all while her mother lay dying of cancer in an upstairs bedroom. It was very moving, the way her child-self disassociated from the drama at the table, and then the tenderness between she and her mother as she answered her mom’s call bell, her escape from the dinner table.

I mentioned in an earlier post how Terre and I had a lot in common. One in particular of course is we grew up with severely wounded fathers. What we found out in our phone conversation earlier in the week is we are from the same hometown! Her family is from Binghamton, NY. They moved when she was little but returned every summer to visit her vast extended family. Of all the people in all the world who would be reading together, what are the odds? I wish I had thought to get a picture of us together, but I didn’t have on my thinking cap for such details at that point in the night! (Most of the pics in this post are from after the reading).

Next, it was my turn. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when I just flat out admitted I was nervous and said I was going to take a breath, and the whole audience spontaneously took a deep breath with me. It immediately put me at ease. Deliberate breathers are good people.

My neighbor Heidi gave me a reassuring wink. I felt a hug from Lidi halfway back to my left. Kirsten was in the front. Meg smiled. HT met my eyes. Cindy nodded.

Once I got rolling, I felt okay. Sure, in my head earlier in the day, I’d had all of these pithy little things I was going to interject (and they all went out the window), but I didn’t faint. I read three pieces, one about a huge fight I had with my father when I was about ten years old, over the TV show Laverne & Shirley, one on a transcendent moment I had as a child while on an inner tube on a lake, and a final piece about how I got to college against all odds, due to the generosity of a boyfriend’s parents.

Many people said I didn’t appear nervous. It seems I have a good poker face.

A whole bunch of us went out for dinner after.

HT worked ’til 11PM Friday, then got up and went to work at 6AM Saturday so he could have the evening off and come to the reading. He then worked at 6AM Sunday after going out the night before. Looking at this picture just fills me with love and gratitude for him. For being there, for dealing with all my neurosis leading up to the reading, and also in the aftermath of it Sunday. Because there was fallout. I seriously had a hard time with all the vulnerability the event drummed up in me and felt like crawling into a hole to hide on Sunday.

I wanted nothing more than to put a big thick coat over my sexy dress.

My ego got hold of me. I questioned myself. I wished I had not used certain words during the reading, (“balls,” I was quoting someone, “assholes,” all mine). I watched a few minutes of video HT took and noted my mouth looks strange when I talk. I questioned whether I am just damaged and starved for attention and is that why I felt compelled to write this book? Is it why I blog?  Am I mean or vindictive writing about my father when I know he is so very wounded and ill? I felt ripped open and raw and was so very hard on myself. And I had this strange feeling all day of needing my mom.

I have not allowed myself to “need” my mom in over twenty years.

Around 8PM, I called her.

She reassured me of the value of my writing. Even if it is painful for her or my father. She reassured me it is good for me to write and to share our experience. She said I have no idea who it might help. She reassured me I am good.

She mothered me.

I let her.

She shared more of her story than I had known. She shared her regrets.

She said to give all my worry and self-doubt to God.

It’s okay for me to write my truth. It’s okay for me to share it. I don’t even have to understand the whole picture.

It’s okay for me to shine.

Reading at Mac’s Backs

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

This Saturday at Mac’s Backs, I have my first reading ever. I’m trying not to over-think it. I’m trying not to under-think it. I want to be prepared. I sort of feel like I’ve gotten on a roller coaster ride and it’s edging up the mountain and I’m all… on second thought….can we stop this thing? I’m not so sure about this. But it will all be okay.

It will be fine. Fine.

I know plenty of writers who do readings all the time and act like it’s no big deal, but they must have had a first time. And I bet they were at least a little scared. And my book is really personal.

I’ll be reading with another writer, Terre Maher. We spoke on the phone the other day and she seems lovely. That helps. We discovered in our conversation that we have much in common. Weird Stuff. No accidents stuff. I’ll tell you about it after the reading, unless you live in Cleveland and want to come. Then you’ll find out on Saturday.

Wish me luck. Wish that my lip or eye doesn’t start to twitch. Wish that I don’t read too fast. Wish that people show up. Wish that I wasn’t such a nervous Nelly.

You know, it’s strange. I used to work in radio. I had a White House press pass. I interviewed “important” people and my pieces were played on radio stations all over the country. Outwardly, I was intimidated by no one. I was once chastised by my boss for “not being awestruck enough” about covering the President’s State of the Union address. My reply to him was,

“These Congressional Reps and Senators sit down on the can like everyone else.”

One of my young colleagues almost did a spit-take over that one. The kahunas of my younger self astound me. But the bravado I used to carry around in my twenties has long since burned off. That’s a good thing. Bravado is just masked insecurity afterall.

Now it’s just me, being more real, which means sometimes being afraid.

Reading aloud from my memoir in public is a little scary but so what?

It will be fine. Fine.

It totally will.

Mac’s Backs
7PM Jan. 28th
1820 Coventry Rd.
Cleveland Heights

A Free Webinar with Author Jennifer Lauck

We’d been writing all day under a big tent in a meadow. As we walked the dusty dirt road back to the outdoor kitchen at the Buddhist retreat center in the Colorado mountains, Jennifer Lauck, (award winning, best selling author Jennifer Lauck) looked at me and said, “You’re the real deal. You’ve probably been writing for many, many lifetimes.”

It was my first writing workshop. It was the kind of moment you tuck into your heart and keep. The kind of thing you take out from time to time to look at, when you’re feeling doubt.

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar would not have been written without Jennifer Lauck. I was changed forever by her memoir Blackbird. Therapists have used Blackbird as a tool to access the child voice of trauma in their clients. As soon as I finished it I had to read every other word Jennifer had written, and her subsequent memoirs were just as good. If this brilliant author thought I could write, maybe I could believe it too.

Jennifer’s latest memoir is Found, a story about finding her birth mother forty plus years after being given up for adoption. Beautifully written and poignant, it does not disappoint.

Jennifer graciously asked me to guest post on her blog and to take part in one of her Free Webinars this week, to discuss my decision to publish Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar independently.

I hope you’ll join us Thursday on the call, 11am PST, 2pmEST.

Inside This Memoir Writer’s Neurotic Head

My ego is on a freaking rampage and having a ball! Self-judgement abounds. Sometimes I don’t know if my skin is really thick enough to be a writer. No, I have not received a bad review (yet). No, I have not gotten critical feedback. People are saying nice things.

I just have this fear somewhere in the back of my mind that something is fundamentally wrong with me for being compelled to write about such personal things. Why do I do this? And why don’t many other people do it? Am I wrong for doing it? Do I have some sort of mental instability? Some sick need for attention? Am I bad? Shameful? Lacking healthy boundaries? A narcissist? Cruel?

My ego does a fist pump and cheers!

Why do I have to go back and explore things? Why can’t I let things stay buried? And why do I have to make it public? What if other people in my story are perfectly fine not to ever think about these matters again? Why do I, in my grandmother’s words, have to “open a can of worms?” Bad, bad, girl, talking about things that would be better left alone. I was the one in my family looking around saying, “Yo! This is messed up! Why can’t you see it?” Why does this seem to be my role in life? What’s wrong with me?

Sly, sly ego. If it can’t get me on that one, it searches for a different angle. Self-pub. What a joke. Thoroughly researched, and a viable way to get books out these days, especially with a traditional publishing industry that is limping along, but I can easily fall into that hole.

Or this….POD (print on demand) means I can make changes. My friend with an eagle eye found some things, like, I’m constantly capitalizing the word “Dad” in the book, when not referring to a dad by name. Interesting mistake, because I am not constantly capitalizing “mom.” She found some other small things, that if I change will make the book look more professional, and tighter, and nothing big, and easy to fix, but boy my ego is having a field day ripping me apart! How embarrassing for it not to be 100% perfect! How awful for the people who have purchased it already to have a book with mistakes! Shameful. I want to crawl into a hole.

Looking at the suggested changes last night I was practically pulling out my hair, not crying, but teary and very overwhelmed. The kids came in the room, took one look at me and Riley said, “Does somebody need a hug?”

Somebody did.

I told the kids what was happening, and Riley reminded me we found typos in Little Women when we read it, and Seth insisted we also found one in Harry Potter. He even remembered the word.

Every single day as I was writing Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, I did a meditation before writing, offering up the day’s efforts to serve the highest good for all involved. That was my intention. Being perfect was not my intention. Hurting people was never my intention.

I don’t fully understand why truth-telling is in my DNA, but today when I’m feeling small and scared, I’m going remember that “highest good” intention, and trust it. I don’t have to understand everything that is in motion right now.

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar Video Trailer

When I think about my main audience for Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar it is, obviously, adult children of alcoholics. We’re everywhere. It is with this group in mind I made a video trailer for my book. (All the cool authors have video trailers). I did it by myself, with just a little emotional support from HT during moments of frustration as I learned how to use my trusty iMovie capabilities.

Please try not to let my fancy permed orange 80’s hair distract you from the poignancy of the video.

Please forward said video to anyone and everyone you know.

Please let it find the people who would benefit from reading my book.

Please know my blonde ponytails were once used as paint brushes, when a little neighbor boy and I happened upon a gallon of pink paint in the garage and painted everything within reach, including the Toyota. There was only one brush. What could I do?

Please know my sister got a real xylophone, and I got stuck with a “baby” Fischer Price piece of crap. Santa? I was not fooled, nor was I impressed.

Please know my little brothers are as handsome now, as they were cute back then.

Okay, enough dilly-dallying. Ready set go. I hope you like it.

Love.

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, in paperback

Today is the day.

My memoir Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is out in paperback on Amazon.

Like it’s been for many of the momentous occasions in my life, it feels a bit hollow. Sure, I should be proud. I wrote a book! What many are calling a beautiful book. A book that is changing attitudes about children from troubled families. But in order for my book to be out there, doing its thing, helping anyone, I had to put my parents on the chopping block. And no matter how badly they screwed up. No matter how many times they let me down. No matter how compelled I felt by some inexplicable force to write it and release it, no matter how much they’ve hurt me, it feels unnatural to willfully hurt them. There is a sadness there. 

I wish there were a happy ending for my father. I wish he were healed. Unfortunately we who’ve done the co-dependent dance long enough learn you can’t “fix” anyone else. Wishing doesn’t make it happen. The best we can strive for is a healthy life for ourselves. The best we can do is stop the cycle. The best we can do is breathe, hopefully with compassion. And love ourselves even though our compassion sometimes waxes and wanes when situations continually arise.

For every child who ever had to break free in order to save themselves, I wrote this for you. I hope you love little *Janie, as much as I’ve come to love her, and in doing so, I hope you love yourself.

Thank you so much to my blog readers for your support.

I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.

Love,

Michelle

Amazon link for the paperback.

Smashwords link for the ebook version.

*All of the names have been changed in this book.

Again, truly,

Love.

Introducing Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

So, I did it.

Over the last several weeks I’ve had my head buried in all things indie publishing. I’ve read ’til my eyeballs ached. And ultimately, given the state of transition the publishing industry is in, and given the fact that I am not Kathy Griffen’s mom(don’t get me wrong, I love her), Chelsea Handler, or God help us, Flava Flav, I came to the decision self-publishing is the way to go for me. From here on out I am going to call it indie publishing though, because it sounds better. Like an indie film. No one thinks you’re pathetic if you make indie films, now do they? No. They think you are cool.

Then there was figuring out the process on a technical level. Formatting issues. Do it myself? Or pay someone. Making a cover. Buying rights to photos. More research. More eyeball ache. It’s been fascinating and so worth it. I’ve loved the learning.

Soooooo. Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is now available as an e-book on Smashwords. Smashwords, if you don’t know, is a site where authors can publish their own material in ebook format. Readers can buy the book on Smashwords using a credit card or Paypal. Smashwords formatting allows you to view it on-line on your computer, on your Kindle, and using most other e-reading apps.

My book will also be available on Amazon in the near future. If it matters to you, I get more royalties if you buy it on Smashwords. I apologize for telling you that, but thought you might want to know.

Oh…and I made a little webpage, just for the book.

Much, much, more to come on this. Just wanted to put it out there. Dip my toe in. Get used to people knowing. That kind of thing. I’m going off to pretend I didn’t just post this, because basically I am terrified.

La, la, la, la, la…..

Nice day today, isn’t it? A little hot here in Cleveland but it’s supposed to cool off in a few days. Any vacation plans coming up? Really? You do? Awesome! I have the perfect thing for you to read on your trip. TTFN.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N