My Long & Crazy Road to Publishing
If I were to diagnose myself based on the first story I ever wrote, I’d go with narcissistic idealist. But a lot changes in 34 years. It’s been a long and crazy journey to bring me where I am today—on the verge of publishing my second novel in less than 32 days. I could write for days on all that I have learned, and surprisingly, whom I have learned it from. And I wouldn’t take one word of it back—even the intransitive verbs.
My day job is as a therapist. Don’t let that fool you; I’m as crazy as any other writer out there, especially these days (and sleepless nights). Long before I knew anything about diagnoses, I wrote a book about an aardvark. Its title—a real grabber—was Nire, the Purple Aardvark. Always one to see the world backwards, it doesn’t surprise me that I named my quirky protagonist after my own name, spelled in reverse. Six-year-old me was sure Nire would make it to the best seller list. However, I quickly learned that the literary world can be a cold place with little room for purple aardvarks. Earning only an “honorable mention” for that book in a Young Author’s contest—something given to every kid who participated—I knew Nire and I had a long way to go.
I haven’t stopped writing since that first attempt at putting my words into print. My first job as a teenager was writing hometown “news,” aka lists of community events, for a free weekly newspaper. I was paid ten cents an inch and thrilled with my bi-monthly $13 loot. The byline was better than the money. Since, I’ve worked as journalist, marketing director, and therapist. I’ve written children’s books about rainbow cows and talking apples, as well as suicide prevention literature, journal articles, memoir, and poetry. When I think about all the topics I’ve touched on, I realize I might want to add schizophrenia to my self-diagnosis.
For me, that’s what makes writing fun. Where else, but in art, can you wear such different hats so easily passed off with an “oh, she’s a writer?” Writing has made my world such a zanier place. For me, writing is a love affair. It has allowed me to fall in love with hundreds of characters. Add love addict to that diagnosis.
I’ve come a long way from my days with Nire and apparently increased my pathologies, but some things haven’t changed. My favorite color is still purple. I continue to write for the love of the art. I’m still attracted to writing about quirky personalities. My mother, my first writing mentor and a retired English professor with a heavy red pen, is still my number one wordsmith coach.
Other things have changed. My days of undergrad internships with manual paste up all-nighters are gone. The sweet smell of scented markers and newsprint on my hands has long ago been replaced by a stylus and antibacterial lotion. The Internet and digital photography have opened doors to creative folks who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to share their stories.
Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to meet kindred spirits who have encouraged my love for storytelling and imagination. I was blessed with an editor, Colleen O’Brien, of Savant Books and Publications, LLC, whose even heavier red marker was filled with as much love as Mom’s. She helped me to bring my first novel, Crazy Like Me into the world on August 6, 2015. Later, I was even more blessed to discover that Limitless Publishing, LLC was offering me a contract for my second novel, Wave to Papa. Wave to Papa will be released by Limitless on September 8, 2015.
As I hug my 41st birthday and send my oldest son to college, I’m grateful for this exhilarating time in my life. Katherine, the main character in Crazy, has taught me more than I could have asked for. She has taught me how to play and reminds me of Nire, someone I treasure to this day. A character that started as autobiographical, she had the guts to take on a life of her own, and in doing so, helped me—at midlife—reclaim mine. As a therapist who specializes in narrative therapy—the art of helping people define themselves, tell, and rewrite their own life stories—I feel privileged to tell Katherine’s.
There is a saying among therapists that we are all a little crazy. This may not be a bad thing. Who doesn’t have a wild Uncle Earl who wears mismatched socks and drinks too much at family barbecues? He’s quite loveable, the way he brings stolen lollipops for the children without fail. Would life really be as interesting without Grandma Ethel’s insistence that a wedding just isn’t a proper nuptial without lilacs and a marching band, complete with a tuba player?
If therapy room flies could talk, they would tell you that life is not always easy. As humans, we struggle with the same issues—learning who we are, what we want out of life, who we want to be, and how to get there. We all run into obstacles. We fall, we get up, and the ride isn’t always smooth. If we’re lucky, we do it together—for good or bad.
When I first became a family therapist, one of my greatest challenges was moving between sessions with shy teens incapable of eye contact to teens unable to take a breath because of their manic mothers. I took on their anxieties and problems and felt like I was on a rollercoaster. The vicissitudes of several consecutive 50-minute-hour daily mini dramas almost made me abandon my dream of helping others. Then, I remembered the big joke: We are all a little crazy. I figured; why not celebrate our common nuttiness? I decided finally to enjoy the ride.
Crazy Like Me was born as a wink to our shared human experiences. I often wondered what it would be like to put that shy teenager in a room with the manic mother. I had a feeling they could help each other. When I finally did, I saw the magic of human connectedness.
A work of fiction, Crazy Like Me is the story of Dr. Katherine Murphy, a psychologist who has the guts to take on that same challenge and allow her clients to learn from one another. Her recipe is simple: Take a few unhappy couples and a dash or two of lonely singles. Add broken hearts, anger, envy, betrayal, and hope. Stir continuously for 50-minutes. Simmer and repeat. Soon, lives collide in the craziest of ways.
I did not know what would happen to the doctor and crew when I first put these characters in a group therapy room together. But, like a fly on the wall, I found myself learning more than I ever imagined from Katherine and her eccentric clients. I stopped looking at the clock and let them take me on their journey. They made me laugh. They made me cry. They warmed my heart. Best, they surprised me.
Writing Wave was a whole different experience. A much more serious book, on a very serious and sad topic, Wave challenged my writing in a different way. Its main character is a woman who struggles with a choice many of my clients are faced with daily. And in the end, Dawn has also taught me something important. Her message is about courage and letting go— not unlike what I am now doing with these books as they release into the world.
Would you go to therapy in any shape form or fashion? One (1) commenter will win a signed copy of CRAZY LIKE ME. Sorry, limited to U.S. only. Good luck y’all.
Here’s a sneak peek of Wave, releasing September 8:
With the media swarming her on the courthouse steps, her husband in jail, her teenage daughter already in foster care, and a determined case worker and vigilant court appointed guardian fighting to “protect Noah,” Dawn doesn’t know where to turn. Nobody cared last time Noah had an accident while in his father’s care…so why is everyone now set on destroying her family?
But through the crazy cycle of hearings, counseling sessions, and visitations, Dawn begins to fear she’s been fooling herself. What if she’d been wrong and put Noah in danger? What if this was all her fault? During his mandatory anger management therapy, even Dan starts to wonder if he might not be the man he thought he was.
Dawn has already lost one child—possibly for good—and can’t bear the thought of losing Noah, too. But with the pieces of her life shattered all around her, can she put it all back together? Or should she salvage what she can and build a different life, broken heart and all?
The bonds of marriage and parenthood are strong.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t be broken…
Nire will always live in Katherine and Dawn’s hearts the same way she lives in mine. She is in there, in both Wave and Crazy, if you look close enough. But she’s changed. If I had to diagnose myself now, I’d go with word-aholic, type A—a condition I never desire to change. There is no cure, treatment, or expectation for my recovery. I’m a crazy writer, and I always will be. And that feels great! My hope is that you enjoy Katherine and Dawn’s stories as much as I do. Continue to read, continue to write. Never forget your inner Nire. Sometimes, the publishing world becomes crazy. But don’t let that stop you from achieving your dreams. Characters, your own or the ones you read, have so much to teach. Never stop reading, falling in love, and learning.
Erin Lee is a freelance writer and therapist living with her family in Southern New Hampshire. She is the author of Crazy Like Me, a novel published in 2015 by Savant Books and Publications, LLC (available at www.amazon.com and at www.barnesandnoble.com) and Wave to Papa by Limitless Publishing (available for pre order on amazon). She has also published numerous magazine articles, particularly on the topic of mental illness. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and works with at-risk families and as a court appointed special children’s advocate. When she’s not busy learning and writing about the human mind, she’s obsessively taking pictures of her rescue dog and muse, Milo. Her work can be found at www.authorerinlee.com or www.facebook.com/gonecrazytalksoon. Her twitter handle is CrazyLikeMe2015.