I always make fun of poets. First of all it’s easy. How dare those sentimental bastards walk around this world making us think about really deep stuff? Like this chick, Shana Youngdahl and her chapbook winter/windows published by MIEL press.
Maybe I shouldn’t joke about poets because so very many of them know where I live. Sometimes I imagine them sneaking around my house in spy regalia, peering into windows, waiting like cats for the perfect moment to strike…
That’s when I know it’s time to get going on a new short story wherein I make fun of poets. I guess you could say my personal brand of humor always stems from a place of respect. They can say in less than ten words what it takes me to say in 140,000. They capture the smallest of moments that pierce your heart the way a photograph or song or painting can. Instantly.
Sometimes when I think of writers, I think of the stages we go through. First being that overly sentimental, overly wrought, angst driven, stage one where everything we write is heartfelt and dear. Second stage: experimentation. We get caught in the craft, the tinkering, upping the pen with new techniques and tricks. We cut and edit over half or more of the hard, close to our heart sentences and try to leave readers with a ghost of what we felt, so that it may haunt them as it haunts us. Third stage: releasing work into the wild. Here is where the heart and earnestness has a danger of getting edited out altogether, driven by a market that perhaps wants a faster paced novel or scandalous scenes or something more trendy and salable. If writers aren’t careful they can lose sight of their young unknowing self in this stage, that place where passion and need drove the work. Paying bills is not the same as emptying a heart.
In winter/windows, SY finds a perfect blend of each stage of the writer, paying homage to the beginning writer, balanced with technique, and getting it into a beautiful package by MIEL publishing.
As SY writes it best in an excerpt from the poem windows:
when you pass through the glass
and into the darkness beyond my sight
don’t forget the thumbprints
you left on me.”
Who wouldn’t be jealous of lines like that? She deserves to be made fun of in at least twelve stories. And it made it into the salable world, not by being compromised, but by being made even more beautiful in a limited edition hand-made book and a sweet talking editor at AWP.
I’m a fan of small presses because rarely do they change an artist’s vision. It seems like these houses always try their hardest to rally behind your work with as much love and enthusiasm as you had for it when it was a first draft. MIEL’s mission statement is a testament to this, “to publish difficult, interesting, intelligent, deeply felt work by writers and artists, with a focus on work by women.”
Can I get a hell yeah?
This book, and those damn poets in general, got me to thinking about the small things, the overlooked things. I’m in the nesting phase of pregnancy, already past my due date, scrambling around the house organizing cabinets, writing thank yous for all the love and support of friends and family, finishing the touches on the nursery, picking out going home outfits, and preparing ‘en general.’
Part of the preparations includes thinking about adult matters. Unfun matters none of us like to think of: healthcare, insurance, and wills.
First on my docket, was updating my Health Care Directive (HCD) should anything happen to me.
Everyone ought to have a HCD. They spare family members and friends from having to make those hard moral and ethical decisions in a time where all anyone wants is for you to get back to normal. Stress runs high in these critical times; it’s guaranteed the people in your life may not agree with decisions made upon your behalf.
During my first reality juncture, Husband had to fight extremely hard to convince doctors of a medication regimen that I would approve of if I were of a sound mind. He also had to face relatives that wanted notification of my condition sooner, but due to stigmas surrounding the topic, chose to wait for me to make that decision when I was of sound mind. He came through like a champ, thinking and acting exactly as I would have, and still took the sound advice of friends on when to admit I needed to go to the ER.
All of this was done on the fly, without my wishes in writing, and I thought, it’s bad enough for my family to go through reality junctures, why not take away as much of the problem as I can when I’m “sane.”
Even if you aren’t mentally ill, a HCD is a good idea. It covers the basics: when to pull the plug, how you’d want surgeries to go down if you were clean out of it. Anyone can get into a car wreck. Anyone can find themselves with cancer.
This is a link to the Minnesota Advanced Psychiatric Directive And Health Care Directive.
I recommend filling one out and updating it periodically. These legal documents are different depending on where you live. If you aren’t a Minnesota resident, a simple Google search (Advance Psychiatric Care Directive + residential state) can turn up the right form for you. In Minnesota, law requires that you + 2 witnesses sign the document. If you have the money, contacting a lawyer is an option to get it official and all legal like.
Maybe I’m an overachiever when it comes to this stuff, but I also like this form (download from top left hand corner of page) by Mary Ellen Copland.
I don’t intend on this form being legal – I like it because it offers me the chance to task my personal support group (friends and family) with the little things, “can someone bring me a puzzle with kittens playing with string with jumbo sized pieces when I’m in recovery and can barely read or comprehend a sentence?” Or more importantly, signs to look for that can help me avoid getting into a crisis to begin with.
I E-mailed my support group the forms and then directed them to where I keep legal copies. As a writer, I made them as funny as possible, because well, they’re not fun to read. It’s important to me to give my supporters hope and remind them that I won’t always believe radio-active monkeys are coming to get me in my sleep.
Throughout the process, I kept thinking about how fortunate I am to have such a large support group. This is not always the case for those dealing with mental health issues. I kept thinking of someone like my mom, who has a kind partner to take care of her, but if she were on her own, she’d likely not have a huge group of friends or coworkers because she is on disability.
What if you’re a bit of a shut in? What if you’ve had a falling out with family or never had much family to begin with? What then?
Your doctor’s office may keep these forms for you on file. If you don’t have a regular doctor or are in-between doctors, (sometimes it happens) hopefully you’re still getting the medication you need. If you have a relationship with your pharmacist, it’s worth asking if they can keep it on hand for you. Be considerate to the person you’re asking to hold the form. Community pharmacists are busy – they’re the only health care professional you can see without an appointment. I think people often forget they hold a doctorate degree. Try to stop by during a non-rush hour time. Have a landlord? Tell them where you keep the document, should crisis arise. They likely go into your apartment for repairs from time to time. Maybe they wouldn’t mind retrieving the forms for you should you need them.
Perhaps part of your crisis plan is to stop in at your local police station to ask them to note somewhere in your file that you have a mental illness. I don’t know if they’d be interested in holding your form unless maybe you have a criminal record and you kindly explain you’re trying to get your life together. Letting them have the heads up on your situation if, unfortunately, they’re called to your residence, is a good thing. Mental illness symptoms can often be mistaken for substance abuse symptoms, and more and more officers are being trained to know how to respond to a mental health call. Perhaps they’d dispatch an officer with more experience for the situation.
All of these things are suggestions. It’s important to keep in mind that community members are busy, busy folk. Restrictions might keep them from holding records or making notes due to bizarre policies in your area. Don’t get discouraged. The point is you are in control of your health care, and more often than not, people want to help you with that.
Writing the HCD got me thinking about what would happen to my creative work should I happen to expire. It’s a realistic thought, seeing how depression can be a fatal disease and the world, heck your body, is full of ways to end you.
No one wants to think this stuff. No one except, Neil Gaiman. He posted a compelling article on his blog why a writer or any creative type may want to have a will made with special attentions going to their work. This article is found here.
And the downloadable sample will here .
I don’t have hundreds of books (yet), but what I did create is important to me. I want it taken care of properly when I’m gone. This way there’ll be no squabbling over who gets to sell the rights to my epic life movie! (We all know I’ll be famous someday…)
Okay, okay. Enough with all this Debbie Downer adult business. Now on to something more uplifting: I finally have an ISBN to call my own.
I published with Red Bird Chapbooks.
It’s titled, Tree In Winter, and was a visual collaboration with an amazing painter and friend of mine, Susan Solomon. One fine summer afternoon, she and I had lunch and the topic of her painting some of my stories came up. I love her work, so it was a no brainer to collaborate with her. She suggested Red Bird Chapbooks as a possible home for the book and knowing their objective: “to showcase the art and writing of as many people as possible,” I was down. I took a month and pounded out a story for her with Red Bird in mind. Soon into the first draft, it became clear to me that the story was more than just another story: it was a gift.
All proceeds go to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Purchased the book here.
Even if you don’t want to buy my super-amazing-most-fantastic-creation made for a worthy cause, spin around their website. There’s plenty of other super-amazing-most-fantastic writers on there. Plus, they sell pretty broadsides and pamphlets by more sentimental bastards.
So, like any good bird, I’m off to do more nesting. The next time I’m back I’ll have hatched a mechanical human of my own.