Sunday, December 12, 2010

A year in review

This was a big year for me with the release of my memoir. Writing a book and having it published is an achievement for anyone. Sometimes fate or synchronicity, call it what you will, makes things fall in place. A bit of luck and you meet the right people that can help you achieve your goals. My publisher, Marvin Ross at Bridgeross Communications, is one of those people that made a major difference in my writing career. For someone to take notice of your work, help you edit the work to make it better and believe enough in it to publish your writing doesn't happen everyday. Thanks to Marvin for his constant aid and direction in putting my work out there.

This year I gained experience in marketing and promotion. I learned to be my own spokesperson in live and recorded interviews. I hobnobbed online with other writers who gave me support and savvy advice. I befriended Jeremy Soldevilla, a publisher, who gave me some valuable advice in regards to my book launch and approaching local bookstores. My book is available at Banyen Books and Sound, Sitka Books and Art, Book Warehouse, and Odin Books in Vancouver. It's also available online at Amazon, chapters.indigo.ca and barnesandnoble.com.

Marketing isn't emphasized in writing classes, but I think an author has to be a bit of a salesperson to get noticed. I know some authors on Facebook or that have websites that are constantly promoting their books. I think that's great! More power to them.

I'm at a point I turned down some opportunities because of time constraints. There's only so much time I have allotted for various activities so I learned to say no.

I was working on a curriculum vitae and counted 40 print publications of my writing. Not to mention online publications and my work as a columnist and editor for Majestic. Being a columnist and editor has widened my experience in writing. I've learned a lot from the other columnists. HavocTheDemon, a fellow writer who uses that pseudonym, kindly interviewed me for the newsletter. He also edited one of my half-written stories which I appreciated. I had reached an impasse and he helped redirect me with some suggestions. I need to flesh out a stronger outline and tighten the structure. Point of view was a complication in this book but hopefully I can resolve that issue. He said, "Just write. Edit later. " Havoc is a very good fantasy writer. I've read and critiqued some of his work. You can find him on Lit.org.

Health update? I've noticed improvements in my mental health. I'm more confident and centered, so I'm less tempted to be drawn into fantasy. I'm more aware when I am experiencing paranoid thoughts so I rebound quicker and regain objectivity faster. I have symptoms mostly when I'm tired or stressed. So sleep and relaxation are paramount. This past fall I made a commitment to get more exercise. They say if you exercise, you will actually have more energy for other things. After exercising, I was more relaxed and felt good. Also cardio helps to lower cholesterol but so does eating apples and taking salmon oil. So what's my new year's resolution? To finish writing the novel I'm currently working on and to exercise!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Indie writers vs. traditional publishing houses

How does one learn to write? Practice, reading, education, building knowledge, and getting feedback. Being a member of a writing circle can be very important to develop your writing. I became a member of Lit.org, a writers' forum in 2007. Lit.org is a very good site for writers wanting constructive criticism on their writing. I've been an editor for Majestic, a newsletter for Lit.org, for almost a year. I feel this work has really helped me grow as a writer. I hope that the columnists and readers benefit from the newsletter as being a place to communicate ideas, learn about writing, and find support for each other.

How does one break into the publishing market? The traditional publishing houses have been affected by the economy and changes in the industry. They are flooded with submissions. It can be difficult to get a traditional publisher for some. I've met a lot of independent writer/publishers who do well selling their own work. They have complete control over the cover design, layout and content of their work. With the growth of popularity of e-books and print-on-demand opportunities, one can launch a book relatively inexpensively and quickly through Smashwords, Lulu.com or Amazon. However, there's a belief that self-published books aren't screened by third-party assessment. Anyone can publish with or without reaching so-called publishing standards. However, if one proves oneself as an indie writer, will traditional publishers respond to that and take note? If an indie writer receives good reviews does that count as third-party assessment? I would hope that the cream will rise to the top and that quality writers can receive recognition and success regardless of where they started or how they are published.

Having said all that, being new to the scene and not knowledgeable about publicity and publishing, I went the traditional route in publishing my memoir. I started writing my book in 2008. I sent out a query to Bridgeross Communications and got a contract. My publisher is exceptional. He's available to answer my questions and we worked together to edit and publicize the book released in September 2010. I'm happy with the response to my published book so far. I've met a lot of other writers along the way that were really supportive of me. A published book is definitely a milestone.

What does one do after writing a memoir? Do I still want to pursue writing or do I want to spend more time painting? I spent some time thinking about it. If I desire to pursue a professional writing career, I need to put time and effort into being a disciplined writer. For me, that means setting up a weekly writing schedule, goals and deadlines for my stories. In the writing world, there's no guarantee of monetary stability like a regular 9 to 5 job. However, I know of writers and artists who supplement their income with other jobs. It can be a risk but I've met writers who write because they need and want to. Can writing be fulfilling? Definitely. Currently, I'm focused on two fictional novels which I started a while back. One is pretty much complete. The other is semi-autobiographical. Will something come of it? We'll see!

I am participating in the Art Studios Winter Sale and Silent Auction on November 25th, 12-8 pm, at 3102 Main Street in Vancouver, BC. There are paintings, prints, cards, pottery and crafts for sale. The proceeds of the silent auction go toward supplies and workshops for the Art Studios, a rehab program for people with mental health conditions. I will be selling my art cards and copies of my book. If you're around, please stop by!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thanks to Radiah on the H20 Network and Greg Tyzzer

Today I had a radio broadcast interview on H2O Network on Blog Talk Radio. Radiah, the interviewer had some really excellent questions. We spoke for about an hour and Ochani Lele called in to ask a question. Ochani Lele, a fellow writer and friend (and my boss), has been a guide for me as I've grown as a writer. Also, I've received support and valuable feedback from Lit.org members. If you listen to the recording, there's a 7-minute musical interlude before the interview begins.

Greg Tyzzer posted a review of my memoir on his website. Thanks to Greg for the many positive things he had to say. He's also planning to write a memoir of his own personal journey. (Editor's note: He has since deleted his website, but his review can be found on PsychCentral.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Exceptional book review from Maria Savva

Maria Savva, author of Second Chances gave a 5 star review of my memoir. Thanks very much to Maria for her kind comments. Here's the entire review:


'My Schizophrenic Life' is a memoir about Sandra Yuen MacKay's experience of living with schizoaffective disorder. It is ultimately a book about how Sandra has coped with the illness and more importantly the lessons she has learnt from it and how she has been able to recover, although the author does still suffer from symptoms but has now been able to find a way to almost control the effects. The book is a fascinating and compelling story giving valuable insight of the view of the world from the perspective of someone with a mental illness. Sandra's story will definitely benefit anyone who may be currently living with a diagnosis or suffering from any type of mental illness, as Sandra has described how she was able to seek help and find different techniques to stop or reduce the severity of some of her symptoms. This book will also help anyone living with or caring for a relative or friend who may be suffering from schizoaffective disorder. 

Sandra has told the story of her 30 year battle with the illness. At first she was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. It highlights the fact that mental illness is something that is very difficult to diagnose, as there are many different symptoms and each individual suffers in different ways; the triggers for the symptoms will vary from person to person. 

In many ways this book is important as it breaks down a barrier of ignorance about mental illness. Here we are told a story by a very intelligent, creative woman who works as an artist and writer and has used her experience of suffering with this disorder to help others, by taking part in talks and public speaking. 

Sandra's symptoms began when she was a teenager, and I found it fascinating to read about the way she would hear and see things that were not there and have profound delusions and paranoia. In some ways there are so many things from Sandra's memories of her teenage years that everyone could relate to. Paranoid feelings, delusion and depression are things that we have all felt to some degree in our lives, but the way these things would manifest in Sandra's mind shows just how frail our vision of reality can be and how easily it can be distorted when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain causing mental illness.

By reading Sandra's story I personally feel that I have learnt a great deal about how Schizophrenia can affect someone's life, and her story has illuminated for me a subject which seems to carry an unworthy stigma. I have always believed that mental illness is just like any other illness and yet the mentally ill are generally feared and treated as if it is almost their fault that they have this illness. I felt that the way many of Sandra's therapists spoke to her when she was a teenager showed a general ignorance about mental illness. 

Sandra Yuen MacKay's book is very important as a bridge to understanding how a mentally ill person feels. She is a great advocate and has put her story across in a way that is compelling and easy to understand. I would recommend this book to everyone. Its worth is not only in helping to dispel certain myths surrounding mental illness, but it's also the story of a person who has overcome great adversity and is now successful and an example to us all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

5 star reviews and a documentary

I was happy to receive two 5 star reviews for My Schizophrenic Life on Amazon and Goodreads. One is by Jen Knox, author of Musical Chairs. The other is from Stuart Ross McCallum, author of Beyond my Control: One Man's Struggle with Epilepsy, Seizure Surgery & Beyond. Both could identify with the book and had some good things to say. If you look under REVIEWS you can find their reviews.

Meanwhile, I had a filming session to be in a documentary produced by Vancouver Film School students. The film is about my recovery seen through my eyes and from my family's point of view. Also my book will be highlighted. On Sunday, I was interviewed on camera for an hour then the crew recorded me reading quotes from the book. My mother was interviewed today at the house where I grew up. My sister will be interviewed tomorrow. They are compiling a lot of footage and images for this ten-minute film. It will be in production for awhile. I look forward to seeing it on YouTube!

Friday, October 8, 2010

People First Radio CHLY 101.7 FM interview about my book

On Thursday, October 7th, I was interviewed once again on People First Radio. This time I was interviewed about my memoir. The interviewer quoted from the book and asked some excellent questions. Here's the link.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

People First Radio 101.7 FM roundtable discussion

The roundtable discussion on 'the psychiatric experience' on People First Radio CLHY 101.7 FM on September 30th went well. Don Fraser, Wallace Malay and I were interviewed. Don was recognized in 2005 with a "Courage to Come Back" award from Coastal Health and Wallace Malay is a Nanaimo-based artist and activist. We talked about our experiences within the mental health system, notions on medication, Mad Pride and advocacy.-Click here to listen to the edited broadcast.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blogcritics.org book review and People First Radio interviews



Did you ever scare yourself with your own imagination? What about that night you were watching that cheesy horror flick and were afraid to look out the window? Or the time you scared yourself into a panic, convinced you hadn’t unplugged the iron? Now, picture your life if your brain continuously supplied these frights and you believed they were real. You hear people talking about you from great distances away, and are convinced someone is using you as a test subject for some bizarre psychology study. Welcome to schizophrenia.

Sandra Yuen MacKay began experiencing paranoid schizophrenic symptoms when she was a  young teenager. Frightened and ignorant of the disease, she kept it to herself. Her family could not differentiate “normal” teenage mood swings and behavior from mental illness. Meanwhile, she could not differentiate between reality and the false messages her brain sent her.

In My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, MacKay details the thought processes that made life hell, and the work involved in recovering. Mood-stabilizing and anti-psychotic drugs certainly played a big part in her recovery (as well as her distress), however accepting the label “mentally ill” was not easy. MacKay was also blessed to have a supportive family who loved her unconditionally and a community that offered a variety of options to persons with mental illness.

Readers will feel her frustration as doctors and treatment team members spout platitudes, some of which seemed nothing more than “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” or “grow up.” Being familiar with her disease, we don’t know if she is remembering exactly what those helping her said, or her interpretation. That doesn’t matter — it’s her perceptions that formed her reality.

My Schizophrenic Life is not an explanation or definition of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. It is a chronicle of one patient’s experiences and how she was able to structure her life around the disease after many attempts. Some of the episodes she details are common to many paranoid schizophrenics; others are unique to her. MacKay’s writing reveals so much about her experience, not only in the stories she tells, but how she chooses to tell them.

Anyone interested in mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, can learn from My Schizophrenic Life. Its value is in its candid look into what is going on in the mind of the sufferer.

Bottom Line: Would I buy My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness? Yes.
Thanks to Bob Etier who wrote this great review of my memoir on Blogcritics.org. The review was picked up by The National Examiner and the Seattle Post Intelligencer. The link is: Blogcritics.org Book Review The National Examiner gave the book a four star recommendation. 

Also coming up are some radio interviews. Two of them will be broadcast live. Here's the details:
Roundtable discussion on mental illness including me on People First Radio, CHLY 101.7 FM, Thursday, September 30th, noon, Pacific Time, broadcast live. 
Interview with me about my book on People First Radio, CHLY 101.7 FM, Thursday, October 4th, noon, Pacific Time, broadcast live.

Shows are rebroadcast on the following Mondays at noon. Also streaming online available on www.chly.ca
(Eventually the broadcasts will be made available to hear on http://www.columbiancentresociety.com/pfr.php but they will need time to edit and post.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Proud recipient of The One Lovely Blog award

I'm proud to be bestowed The One Lovely Blog award by A.F. Stewart. 

This is how the award works:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I've chosen 15 blogs (in no particular order):

Jen Knox
A Word Please [Darcia Helle]
Maria Savva's blog
Stuart Ross McCallum's Blog
Bleak Landscapes [Jonathan Weyer]
Tiffany's World of Words
to live on the wind [Nanette Rayman-Rivera]
Ochani Lele
Nancy's Poetry
Laura Schultz
Linda M. Spear
Pete Marshall
Dianne's Wordshop
Thoughts Along The Road to Healing [Dan L. Hays]
Bernadine's Blog

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Press release, interviews, bookstores, etc.

This is a link to a press release on my memoir on PRWeb.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/09/prweb4496044.htm

It's exciting to receive this type of coverage on my new book. Thanks to my publisher, Bridgeross Communication for making it happen.

I have radio and internet tv interviews scheduled soon. I have a number of RSVP's for my book launch in October. Soon I will be approaching local bookstores to carry my memoir. I also joined some writer's forums and mental health sites to get the word out there.

It's exciting to reach this point in my life! Thanks to all the people that have supported me in this endeavour!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Goodreads

Hello fellow writers and readers,
I found a website that's a real gem, called Goodreads, if you are familiar with it. I joined recently and made some connections with other authors. It's not only a good place to publicize one's own writing, but also to review other books, and get support from a community of writers and readers.

I met a writer, who is on Goodreads, named Stuart Ross McCallum who wrote a book about his struggle with epilepsy and undergoing brain surgery with amazing results. His book is titled, Beyond My Control: One Man's Struggle with Epilepsy, Seizure Surgery & Beyond. I am intrigued by his story, because my book is also a memoir about recovery. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, but also sometimes true stories can be very incredible and insightful.

To be honest, I don't read a lot of books, despite the fact I'm a writer. My concentration and attention span sometimes aren't good. At times, I have to read the same passage over several times but it still doesn't penetrate. I think it's because my mind is distracted by inner thoughts - a sign of a dreamer.

In the past, I did enjoy comic books or graphic novels because there's less text and I liked reading pictures. Comic books aren't just for kids!

Please check out Goodreads and you'll meet some interesting people and find some great books to read!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Author vs. Book

Today I read on a website that an author needs to promote himself and his published works separately. The two should be independent, as in having separate websites for personal and professional interactions. What do we have here? I have art, a blog, links, and promotional material for my writing all rolled into one. I also learned that Stephen King doesn't have separate platforms - but he's famous!

I would hope that if you read my blog, you might be interested in my memoir to be released very soon. Also, if you have heard about my book that you might be interested in reading my blog.

Because this book is about me, I think it's quite suitable to have a blog on the same site - am I right? I believe in a one-stop concept.

As I've stumbled through life, I've met a lot of different people who took an interest in the fact I'm an artist or writer. Some expressed a desire to buy my book, based on the fact they know me personally. Some perceived me to have a certain amount of fame attached. I think fame does draw people to you especially if you have charismatic appeal.

Over the past while, I've been showing off a proof copy of my book and publicizing my October book launch when I speak to groups. As a public speaker on recovery, I have the opportunity to share parts of my life experience and also talk about my writing and art. It's all interconnected. I've developed an elevator pitch, meaning a 30 second blurb I can deliver quickly that gives a snapshot of my memoir, if someone is interested.

Being a writer and artist isn't just about the creative process, but involves time and effort to market your work, if you desire monetary success. There are of course lots of creative people that create for their own pleasure which is perfectly valid. It depends on your motivation and goals.

What's my motivation? The desire to share, inspire, entertain, and educate. To give hope and encouragement. To reciprocate and give back by helping others.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Followers

I just added the Followers gadget on this page. Please join if you'd like.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Living the life that dreams are made of

After a long siesta, I'm back in the saddle on blogspot. I've been having a busy year. Publishing a memoir; being an editor of Majestic, an online newsletter for writers; and layout designer of Four Seasons, a literary magazine; and doing my art. I feel like I'm on the crest of the wave, moving into new territory, expanding my horizon, living my dream.

How does a person with schizoaffective disorder manage to wear so many hats? She keeps her goals in mind. No one really tells me to do anything. I just find new projects. I'm not technically working as in a full-time job - just bits and pieces when I have time.

How is the self-care going? You know the stuff I'm supposed to do to stay well? I recently bought a 3 month flexipass for the fitness centre and pool. I'm making exercise a priority because of weight gain from Zyprexa. I'm too young to have high cholesterol, I was told.

My book launch is coming up October 2nd at Vancouver General Hospital. I should be happy and excited but I'm anxious as well. I hope it goes well. I'm looking for book reviewers on the Internet and putting the word out. Soon the day will come, but until then I'll try to relax.