In light of Bell Let’s Talk and a growing conversation on mental illness, Canadian author and songwriter Colleen Songs offers her perspective as the caregiver and loved one to a partner who was mentally ill.
She shares with readers her escape from a significant other with a narcissistic personality disorder and mental illness, in her memoir INHALE.
Through this book and her signing career, she aspires to ignite the voice of the caregiver – who suffers a great deal of abuse and heartbreak as the person they’ve grown to love disappears so suddenly.
“They can transition in a heartbeat,” says Songs. “The quickest thing could shut him off, and I could see it on his face,” she adds.
But, it’s equally important to the author to use her creative gifts of writing and music, to inspire those who are mentally ill to tap into their talents and passions.
“Witnessing the mentally ill exercise their gifts and talents confirmed their happiness and awakening desire to live,” explains Songs. “They can cope better.”
While this has been an extremely cathartic exercise for Songs, writing, and then publishing and promoting this book has brought forth a plethora of emotions, doubts, fears and hesitations about how the telling of her story will affect her loved ones.
Songs says she’s been especially concerned about her children, and how publishing her story will affect them.
“I was afraid of hurting them to the point of almost not publishing. But inside I kept having this feeling that it would release them too. And sure enough, it did!”
Songs says her son, who was 12 when she left home to care for her late ex-husband, felt the book gave him clarity and filled in the gaps he never understood about the relationship that took such a toll on their family.
Her daughter, who was in her late teens at the time, felt the book relieved her of the guilt she’d been carrying, having seen things in the relationship that at the time she didn’t know what to do about.
Beyond the opportunity to reflect and gain clarity, Songs needed to write to gain closure from the past, and talk about how her family got to where they are today.
“With every word I felt such a release of pressure off of my chest, heart, mind and conscience! I carried so much guilt, so much survival-fear for so long that I wasn’t even really trusting nor enjoying my current state of healthy-love and life,” she says.
And finally, she’s starting to let go. “I thought there was enough closure when I finally left. I thought there was enough closure when I heard he’d died. But I only gained a sense of closure through writing,” says Songs.
“The passion for wanting to make a difference is stronger than my desire to stay comfortable” – Kimberley Parkinson shares her publishing journey
Like many Tellwell authors, Kimberley Parkinson took a huge step outside of her comfort zone when she decided to publish her first book. When her children’s book What Can You Do? was published, Parkinson realized it was time to get the word out about her book, and that she was going to be the driving force behind that. While marketing seemed daunting initially, her efforts were greeted with success and gratification. Now, she shares some of her early marketing experiences to encourage other authors to push themselves when they take the leap, and publish their writing.
Kimberley Parkinson’s take on book marketing:
A smile appears upon your face. There it is, nestled proudly within your hands, the first copy of your published book. You take a moment to reflect on all the hours spent from the initial thought to the finished product. You have worked so hard and deserve to relish in satisfaction.
Then the next part of your journey beckons…marketing! A mix of excitement and nervousness takes over. What is the best route to take first? Who should I contact, what should I do, where should I go? This is when you take the time to address your strengths and weaknesses. I know with myself, I would rather sit back quietly and let the book sell itself as I am quite shy with this sort of thing. I am not a fan of social media outlets and the thought of trying to sell my book in person to stores or reading my book in front of others at events made me want to throw up! My comfort zone was very comfy, and it didn’t like to feel threatened. However, I knew that for my own growth I had to push myself beyond those comfortable limitations.
I appreciated the knowledgeable advice and strategic outline that was given to me through Tellwell and needed to implement some of their suggestions. I had to at least try because I have always believed that there is no failure if I try. I wasn’t ready to do the social media thing yet, so I decided to go the good old-fashioned way. I travelled to locations that were within a reasonable distance and made sure to have copies of my book with me, along with props such as bookmarks, posters, etc. It was also important to have all my contact and book details ready as you don’t want to be fumbling around when asked.
Do your homework. Find out who the manager is, contact them directly, and most importantly, mind your manners. Be polite, be gracious for any opportunities that present themselves and be respectful to the ones that don’t. Unknown self-published authors tend to make some store owners apprehensive to take a chance on you and that is okay. Thank them for their time and walk out with your head held high. There will inevitably be some doors that close but if you believe in your book and most importantly yourself, you will start to see doors open. Patience and persistence is key.
Get your feet wet with smaller events at first if needed. I started with an intimate book signing/reading at my local library. It was a comfortable setting that helped me get over my nervousness. Have friends and family there for support. I felt much more at ease with their smiling faces around me. Advertise your book in local papers, make calls, get your name out there. After you have experienced one event, the next ones won’t seem so daunting. This is all still very new to me too, and I am learning as I go.
Winston Schroeder combines Santa and social issues in his satirical graphic novel, Elf Wars: The Battle for Santa’s Village
Know someone who is a fan of Christmas and politics? Elf Wars: The Battle for Santa’s Village is a graphic novel where the two subjects merge into one hilariously dark story. The novel was written by Tellwell author Winston Schroeder and illustrated by Logan Miller.
The 31-year-old writer grew up in Saskatchewan but has been living in Vancouver for the past 10 years. In 2015, he graduated from the Langara College Film Arts program where he studied screenwriting. While working odd jobs on the West Coast, Schroeder says he has dedicated some of his time attending L.A. pitch fests trying to pitch his screenplays. Although there was some interest in his work, it would ultimately fizzle out. Instead of waiting for others to collaborate with his content, Schroeder teamed up with one of his childhood friends and started their first project together.
“I’ve known [Miller] since the first grade. He’s always been a great artist and he pursued his passion and I kind of pursued my writing,” says Schroeder. “We lost touch for several years honestly but we always knew each other. And then we came back years later and decided to work on a project together.”
Although the political undertone of the graphic novel may reference the current political environment in the United States, Schroeder says he began the writing process during the Obama era but later revised his work to parody current events. “I was pretty influenced by the American political climate and how publicly tumultuous it is,” he says. “Plus, I’ve always enjoyed Christmas and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer from the 1960s. It’s one of my favourite holiday stories and I thought that if I could fuse real world politics with a fantasy world, that would be fun and interesting.”
With the first one published just in time for Christmas, Schroeder says he has already completed the sequel. Although it is not a continuation of the first graphic novel, it continues to highlight American issues using the same characters and festive holiday setting. In addition, readers will be exposed to a new villain and a new obstacle. “I kind of like to do parodies of social issues in America,” he says. “This one deals with a lot of police brutality in America and terrorism but done in a satirical, comedic way. It’s underlining social issues but done in a ridiculous way with Christmas elves and snowmen.” The second installment is titled Elf Wars 2: White Powder, and the author hopes to have it available for comic book lovers by Christmas 2018.
Prior to becoming a published author, Walls admits that she was always in love with writing. “I’ve grown up always being a writer of some sort,” she says. “I like people. And therefore, when you put the two together I like storytelling because they kind of go together. I like to write about people, what I hear, and what I see.”
Although Walls had written two manuscripts about the tragic event, she never felt that it was the right time to publish her work. About five years ago, Walls attended a writer’s conference in New Mexico and had her work critiqued.
“I met some American publishing groups and they were all sort of giving me the green light, ‘Go ahead. This is good,’” she explains. “And yet I came back and really felt I had to sit on it. I really felt like it was not my time to tell the story yet.” With 2017 marking the 10-year anniversary of her son’s death, the author admits she “found her voice” and felt that it was ultimately time to share her experience.
After her other son left for Berlin following New Year’s Day, Walls immersed herself in writing this book. From January to May, the difficult writing process forced her to recall the heartbreaking memories.
“I didn’t think it was possible to have so many tears,” she says. “After ten years of letting go of my son, I was actually amazed at how much emotion it evoked. There would be some days that I would be going deep into my memories to craft a story because I had written the book in a series of snapshot stories to tell his life. There were days where I would really have to lay my head on my desk and just sob until I let go of some of that pain that had found me.”
It can certainly be quite scary to write and self-publish your first book. But, writing captivating content can be even more challenging when you’re trying to send shivers up the spines of your readers. Tellwell author Edgerton R. Nicholson shares the spooky details that inspired his collection of short stories titled Nightmare Pie. The novel offers a glimpse into the netherworld
and the frailty of the human mind. Served on a cold plate of the surreal and macabre, it is a must read…Especially in the middle of the night.
Nicholson talks with me about writing horrific plots, believable character arcs, and bloodcurdling climaxes. Read on if you dare…
FJ: What motivated you to write a horrific/paranormal book?
EN: As a young boy I was enamored with books such as Tom Corbett Space Cadet and his intergalactic exploits, and the Hardy Boys with their adventures into local mysterious happenings. My Mom took me to the movies to see Conquest in Outer Space, The Angry Red Planet and the original Blob, which scared the daylights out of me. So as a youngster I developed a penchant for the mysterious, the surreal, and the macabre. As a young adult I savoured Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, and Hitchcock’s movies such as The Birds and who can forget Psycho? I moved on to Stephen King and studied the film adaptations of his stories. I was hooked. I knew I wanted to write something, probably not a novel initially so I just started writing short stories about my own experiences, or offbeat and unusual items I had seen in the news.
Working in the film and television industry in special make-up effects on shows such as Supernatural, The Dead Zone, and Final Destination further stoked my interest in the surreal and netherworld. I showed a few friends some early stories and received a very positive response. I accumulated eleven stories and with the expertise and help of Tellwell Publishing created an anthology which became Nightmare Pie. I think there is a market for this kind of book, a collection of short stories all different, to be enjoyed when one has fifteen or thirty minutes freedom to read from start to finish during a commute, or in bed before falling asleep. Not everyone wants to take on an 800-page novel, either in reading or writing.
FJ: When and where did you come up for the ideas for this book?
EN: The common thread in Nightmare Pie is that something weird, bad, unexplainable, surreal, and yes in some cases, horrific is going to happen to somebody in each story. Much like life itself. When and where I came up with the ideas for the stories I sometimes wonder and I think the only answer I can give is based upon my own personal experiences.
For example, two stories, ‘The Man with the Green Nose’ and ‘Red Roadster Revelation’ are based on my experiences in working at a funeral home part time while I attended chiropractic college. ‘Animal Avengers’ is a reflection of my love for animals and a fitting end for those who abuse them. ‘Garcia’s Revenge’ reports on the plight of Mexicans working in the fields of American farms and a case of severe injustice and retribution. ‘Death in the Forest’ is a new take on the Bigfoot phenomenon and ‘Lowes Descent’ is a story of one man’s paranoid downward spiral caused by the in your face incessant news cycle. The stories focus on the seemingly endless human foible of making assumptions, not recognizing the law of unintended consequences, or finally simply encountering evil head on in one form or another. ‘Teratoid’ was written in response to the terrible Japanese earthquake, tsunami and ultimate nuclear plant meltdown and its effects on the Pacific Ocean and one unfortunate young couple travelling in Japan two years later. ‘Mr. Nocebo Points the Bone’ is a disturbing look at what happens when those in need place their faith in wrong people with ulterior motives.
All it took was an act of kindness for the idea of “Santa and his Super Hero” to come to life.
A few years ago, three-year-old Nathan McTaggart was making a donation to a local food bank when a firetruck pulled into the area. The fire truck captivated Nathan and later on he asked his dad, Keven McTaggart, what would happen if Santa got stuck in a chimney and couldn’t get out. The fire truck and pertinent question formed the beginnings of what would become the book “Santa and his Super Hero”; a story about Santa getting stuck in a chimney while a firefighter named Nathan comes to his rescue.
The initial stages of the book were a challenge for Keven and Nathan, particularly the illustrations.
“After a couple years of looking for someone to illustrate it, Nathan’s grade 4 teacher had her class do some illustrations as a preparation for a project that they were going to do. She showed me the images and I was totally amazed,” says Keven. The illustrations from the book were hand-drawn by the students in Mrs. Shinkewski’s Grade 4 class at Harbour View Elementary School.
But as the two started to put a draft of their book together they realized they wanted to give back to the community by donating some of the proceeds to a charity.
“The biggest take away from the book is that the net proceeds from the sale of Santa and his Super Hero will be donated to the Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund,” says Keven.
As part of promoting the book, Nathan and Keven have visited fire halls all over the world, “We’ve done about 40 fire hall visits in and around the Lower Mainland of BC, three in Washington State, one in Mexico, four in Manhattan, and more recently, we returned from a 16 day, 18 fire hall tour of Southern Ontario and Montreal,” says Keven.
On October 13, Nathan and Keven will be launching Santa and his Super Hero at the Coquitlam Express hockey game. Nathan and Santa will be dropping the puck at the opening face-off at 7 p.m. and they will both be available for book signings afterwards. Members of the B.C. Burn Fund, the Coquitlam Fire Department and some Coquitlam City Counsellors will be in attendance.
“It’s okay to look back, but you don’t have to live there” – Kathy Tuccaro encourages readers to DREAM BIG!
We’ve all heard the saying “people can change” at one point or another. While we might not always believe it, there’s no denying Kathy Tuccaro did just that.
After years of physical, verbal and sexual abuse, assault, violence, eating disorders, substance abuse, job loss and homelessness, Tuccaro decided to start writing a different ending for her story.
She sought the help she needed through a Women’s Recovery Program, got her certification in Occupational Health and Safety, and now drives the biggest truck in the world through the Alberta Oil Sands.
In her self-published memoir DREAM BIG! Tuccaro shares her journey from what she describes as the “root cellar of Rock Bottom” to inspirational triumph.
“I have always said I would write a book about my life because nobody would believe me otherwise,” she says. After being encouraged by others at speaking events she attended last year, she decided to start writing.
“I started with a pen and paper while sitting in the 208,000L water truck at work, waiting under the water tree for the tank to fill up. I had written the book within a month,” she says.
It was no easy feat to describe the physical and mental abuse she endured throughout her childhood, nor the sexual assault she faced in her modelling career at 17. Even after relocating to Jasper for a fresh start in 1991, Tuccaro was still confronted with challenges.
She graduated from her nursing program in 1998 as a divorced, single mother with a 3-year-old daughter. After several more years of physically and emotionally abusive relationships, Tuccaro resorted to self-harm and alcohol abuse, which ruined her career. With no job, she was evicted and her daughter stopped speaking to her.
“I had pushed everything into the background my entire life, and kept pretending that I was tough and that I could handle it until the time came when I lost my nursing career for good and relapsed hard with my drinking,” says Tuccaro.
But the gravity of the situation hit even harder during the week she spent living on the streets, when her depression could no longer be avoided or forgotten.
“A man named Toothless Joe slapped me on the back and said, ‘This is the life! Live it! Love it!’ and smiled a great big toothless grin! He was quite content of the life he was living, and the sheer shock of hearing him say that stunned me,” she says.
That was the moment that triggered her to get help. But, even after spending nearly two years in a women’s recovery program, landing a full-time job as a Heavy Equipment Operator, driving a 400 tonne 797F Caterpillar Truck, and initiating and participating in several community initiatives, the pain from her past lingers. “You still relive it as you write about it,” Tuccaro explains.
In January 1977, five men tunneled through steel and concrete to break into the Vancouver Safety Deposit Vault. The men pilfered more than 1200 safety deposit boxes and stole millions of dollars in jewelry, gold bars, and cash. It was a perfect crime. Except, when staff at Vancouver International Airport noticed that the men’s luggage was exceptionally heavy, they called the police. The men were arrested. The perfect crime a flop.
This is the true story that inspired Don Levers to begin to write his novel, Loot for the Taking. “The idea of these professional criminals who staged the perfect crime with an imperfect getaway wouldn’t leave me,” said Levers. He began writing the novel in 1987 and last year, with encouragement from his family, Levers sat down to finish his book. “It took a solid year of writing, re-writing, editing, re-writing, and more editing to reach the finish line,” said Levers.
There are a lot of parallels to publishing a book and planning the perfect crime. You can write the best book on the planet, but if you don’t take steps to make sure your getaway (marketing plan) is solid, you’ll be grounded in terms of book sales. Which is why Levers decided to make book marketing his primary occupation. “It’s a lot of work but if you enjoy it, it’s not a job,” he explained.
Like many first-time authors, Heather Pattullo didn’t realize the journey she was getting herself into when she decided to self-publish. On a steep learning curve, she encountered many hurdles along the way, including a 4-month waiting period to gain permission to use the images in her book.
But, her ‘cross-Canada guidebook’ Positively Canadian: A fun guide to Canadian language, culture and history, couldn’t have been released at a better time.
On the cusp of Canada’s 150th birthday, Pattullo has been taking advantage of any opportunity to feature her book, and it’s certainly paying off.
“The end was worth the means to get there. My fingernails are growing again” she said.
Not only has it been extremely rewarding to finally hold the book in hand, but also Pattullo said she’s been overwhelmed with the response from those she’s connected with so far.
Taking advantage of the waiting period to develop some good working relationships with those in her local community, Pattullo has already had book signings at Albany Books in Tsawwassen and Black Bond Books in Delta. Both bookstores are now carrying her book on consignment.
She was featured in her local paper, the Delta Optimist (read the article here,) and was also invited to sell her book at the national and provincial conventions for the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) in Vancouver at the end of May.
Her calendar is already filled up with events throughout July, including book readings and signings at three Fraser Valley Regional libraries in the Delta area, and a signing at the Granville Chapters in Vancouver on July 9.
Pattullo has approached private schools and the Vancouver Community College, to add copies of her book to their libraries for students to read and learn about Canada. She’s already sold the first 150 copies of the book, and a second order has arrived for her upcoming events.
“I haven’t even tapped into the all the ESL schools in Vancouver,” said Pattullo. “I still have lots of places to go, I’ll probably be busy until Christmas!” she laughed.
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