Why “mental health care” and the arts conflict

Art students are praised for originality. Mental patients are praised for uniformity.

Art students are praised for taking risks. Mental patients are told that risk-taking is a disease.

Artists are praised for hard work and discipline. Mental patients are told that working hard and excelling is workaholism.

Musicians and dancers are encouraged to practice. Mental patients are told that repetition is obsessive-compulsive.

Actors work hard to learn to perform fearlessly. If a mental patient does this, it’s called “delusions of grandeur.”

Most artists, when inspired, work harder. Mental patients are told that inspiration is “mania.”

Artists love deeply. Mental patients are told they are incapable of depth of feeling, or that depth of feeling is a disease treatable by Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

Every artist, musician, and writer knows that art is made by humans and that perfection is not the goal. Mental patients are, on one hand, criticized for perfectionism, and on the other, told they must adhere to their treatment plans 100%.

In art, process, structure, and content are one. In MH “care,” most patients are told they are incapable of processing anything. We are told we need to blindly adhere to someone else’s idea of “structure” since otherwise, we will fall apart. We are fed content that someone else decided for us, some highly paid “expert.” All thought outside the realm of that content is censored.

Artists convey a message. Mental patients who do that are condemned for “interfering with the treatment plans of others.”

Every work of art has a beginning, middle, and end. Mental slavery, by diagnostic definition, is forever, and will never be cured.

The artist puts his brush down. The writer rests her pen. Mental slavery is continuous, since diagnosis is said to be ever-present.

The study of the arts means learning new things and discovering who you are. Mental health “care” means they obliterate who you are. You do not experience self-discovery. You only learn just how little they expect of you.

Dump the shrinks. Make art. And love.

What is a “successful writer”?

I might as well chime in on the Real Deal debate. In response to all the chatter going on in Seattle right now:

Does it boil down to “to MFA or to not?” or does this go deeper?  I earned my MFA in six full semesters, which I passed with flying colors, and six years of my life. The time it took to complete my degree had nothing to do with lack of talent or “needing special help.” I ran into bad luck, and in fact, this can happen to anyone. In the long run, more time meant more learning. I never regretted the number of years. In fact, I wanted my schooling to last forever.

If you speak to other Goddard students, you might hear the same words from them. That something rather magical was happening there for many of us. That this may have been the only time we had real friends, ever. Many of us didn’t want it all to end.

I don’t think this is particularly typical of colleges. Many college students go through the motions, but aren’t particularly passionate about their studies. I can tell you that at Goddard, passion, that is, love and devotion to the craft, was one thing that wasn’t lacking.

Goddard wasn’t a “feel good” college, despite Ryan’s claims. We weren’t coddled nor given any more leeway than any other college would give its students. If a packet was due, it was due, period. I know a number of students who, in their fourth semester, were asked to do a fifth because their work wasn’t “ready” yet. For some folks, this came as a crushing blow. I spoke with several of these students. Each resigned him/herself to the circumstances, then buckled down and turned out stellar work.

Is there such thing, truly, as “born talent,” or, “the Real Deal,” as someone recently put it, opposed to “just not cutting it”? Let me examine this one for a minute. Talent isn’t on a continuum. It’s not quantitatively measurable. Talent lies within the soul of the individual. The variety of human experience is so vast that I have to ask myself again and again why the heck anyone would say such a thing.

I come from a musical family. When I was a child, I assumed everyone had about the same musical ability. Around the time of high school, I found out this wasn’t true at all.  Perhaps this occurred, for me, late at night, watching and listening to my dad play Schumann’s “The Happy Farmer” on the piano.

He often played “The Merry Farmer.” This piece of music was included in a large collection we owned. We had many such volumes, bound with yellow outer covers. Late at night, I’d open these books and marvel at what I saw inside. I’d flip through the pages, wondering if I’d ever develop the dexterity to play all of what I saw. My dad, however, played one piece, and none other. I never questioned this, nor thought of it. He often joked with me that the Merry Farmer was merry because he was on his way home from work.

I can recall the notes of this piece, I can recall the melody line and just how it was all plunked out. I learned to play it myself. As I remember the piece now, I can  somehow dig up in my memory just how I felt the first time I heard my dad hum along as he played.

Yes, it was late at night. My dad didn’t make any particular issue of it, nor grand flourish when he sat to play. You never saw him flipping those imaginary tuxedo tails over the seat so that they’d fall behind him, the way I’d seen male concert pianists do with real tuxedos. I thought it was amusing that Dad always had the printed music opened to that particular page. The book had been opened to that page more than any other. I knew this because of the crack in its spine. Truthfully, my dad had the piece memorized, and didn’t need those notes in front of him. But he opened the book anyway. It wasn’t my place to question.

I stood at the doorway and watched, between the living room and the hallway behind. He knew I was there. Perhaps he heard me breathing.

Why was this night different from any other? My dad sang along.  I think he often did, but not quite audibly. This time, I heard him.

I can say what I heard was jarring, irregular, and awkward. What was wrong? Was this really my dad? How could this be? Was it even possible?  Surely, I’d come across this before, hadn’t I?

My mom would have anyone’s head for this.

Not only was my dad’s singing out of tune, but he was completely mismatching each and every pitch by about a minor third. Did he not know? But no, dad was perfectly happy singing out of tune, which to me, was almost one of those sins you have to apologize for on Yom Kippur.

One of my music instructors had told me about this, “Either you have talent, or you don’t.” Was this really true? Why was it that some of my classmates, too, were the same way, completely unable to hear pitches?

Ability is a funny thing. I learned much later on, when I attended college as a music major, that musical talent isn’t on a continuum. I look back on the variety of students I met over the years. I can say that each and every one had natural ability, and also, abilities they cultivated and pruned during schooling and beyond. I saw so much variety that could be likened to the trillions of possibilities in genetic code. Not only that, we weren’t made up of only genes and “natural talent,” but of the collective musical experiences we’d had over the years.

I knew students who could pick up any instrument they wanted and play it. Some were brilliant at some instruments and not others. When I got to conducting class, I found no particular pattern governing who was more adept. Some students excelled in front of an audience, commanding authority and awe from all who sat listening.

I recall walking the halls of the music building, passing one practice room after another, when there weren’t any classes certainly, and many had already gone back to the dorms, calling it a night. There were the ones who just couldn’t leave it alone. They kept playing. I saw sweat on their faces, passion in their fingers and breath. I often saw a student engrossed in the keyboard, and there atop the piano was an ashtray full of butts.

This was, perhaps, the stuff of music. The sweat, drive, and excitement of it all.

I learned that while I was good at some things, I wasn’t so great at others. I had no trouble with ear training, which in our classes, meant hours and hours of music dictation. I will never really know why dictation came so easily to me. My ability to sight read wasn’t much more than average.

Mostly, I loved to compose music, to question how to put tones together and experiment endlessly either on paper, at the keyboard, or just in my head. After a while, the effort it took me to plunk out the notes to my own music took too much time and effort, so hearing it all in my head sufficed. I was one of those kids that could do that, too.

One night, I met with a friend to play duets. He said to me, “Let’s improvise!”  He put his trumpet down and then sat at the piano. He asked me to improvise on a popular tune while he played chords.

Uh oh.

I was as lost as can be. How was I to do this? Fake it? We all knew about faking it, didn’t we? I told myself I was going to have to do this. I took a breath and began to play.  This must have gone on less than two minutes. My friend stopped playing, his jaw wide open. “You really can’t do this, can you, Julie,” he said to me.

I blushed. “I guess not,” I said. I put my trumpet down, saying, “Let’s not do this. Let’s go back to playing duets.”

He said, “Julie, you mean to say you are so brilliant at dictation, but you can’t improvise at all?”

I replied, “I just don’t know how. Let’s drop it, okay?” I didn’t want to be there anymore. I felt like a failure.

He said, “You mean you can’t?”

I heard that word, “can’t,” louder than any other. I said, “Let’s go get some beer.” The subject wasn’t brought up again.

Is it true that some have it, and some don’t? That some people are the Real Deal, and some are just there to bring money into colleges, and nothing else? Was “talent” any measure of how we’d fare later in life? I’d say probably not.

I thought of my dad, who couldn’t even sing in tune. My dad was a math genius who graduated top of his high school class and then went on to earn his bachelor’s and masters, serve in the Navy, and then, enjoy a successful career in engineering.

Take that, assholes.

He didn’t need to sing in tune, and neither do you. He wasn’t going to be the next Rubenstein. He was my dad. My amazing dad. My amazing tone-deaf dad.

He was short like me, or, rather, short for a man, though if you’d asked me when I was a very young child, I would have told you my dad was as tall as the sky. I would have told you that my dad could do anything, that he was stronger, wiser, and smarter than Superman. But no, he was human. He succumbed to cancer in 1997. He could do anything, but he couldn’t live forever. He didn’t live long enough to see me return to school at age 40, studying not music at all, but creative writing.

I bumbled my way through school, shooting forward, then taking breaks when life got in the way. I learned that writing didn’t mean you put words together. A work of art is more than the sum of its parts. Within these kernels of narrative I scribbled were seeds that would blossom into something greater. Is it magic? What made a piece work? I had to learn these things.

As in music, some aspects of writing will just come to you, and others must be cultivated. Some things you will simply never be able to do well. In our studies, we didn’t become Jacks and Jills of all trades. We learned to become who we were.

Perhaps it was my musical ear that helped me write natural-sounding dialogue without much effort. I learned description, too, but that took a bit of prompting. When it came to designing and implementing plot ideas, I was at a loss. What was best way to make up a story? I couldn’t answer that. I faked it till I learned.

And oh, I did learn, but I doubt I could have done it without the help and guidance of many wonderful instructors I worked with in both undergrad school and in my six years of MFA school. I couldn’t have done it without the love and encouragement of my fellow students. I couldn’t have done it had I not nearly pulled my hair out in frustration now and then. I cried many times. I laughed far more.

I screwed up a lot, and I still do. I still write klutzy, awkward-sounding stuff. Unless I absolutely have to, I don’t often bother to proofread. Why take up the time, when life is so short? But still, I can say I’m a writer now, and before, I couldn’t call myself that, not really.

Pssst.  It’s one of those writer secrets. One of those things not talked about among all those other bits we discuss, except, perhaps, late at night.

We were all certainly scared to leave. Scared of what would happen when it all was over, the salons, the workshops, the walks on campus where morning mist lasted half the day. Perhaps it all hit me at graduation.

Writing is sacred. It’s sacred because it reflects all abilities and all varieties of human experience. You don’t break the chain. You aren’t married to your words. No, in fact, you are those words. On that July day, whether we realized it or not, we all took on an oath.

I was one of ten graduates, ten novitiates. We couldn’t all make it to the ceremony. One of my classmates was expecting to become a father for the first time. Others, too, couldn’t make the trip. Most of us, though, were there. I recall the conferring of degrees. I remember standing in front of many people, scared and wondering what life would throw at me, and how on earth I would write it all down.

Years have passed now since that day. You can bet my life’s been tough. I’ve often asked myself what it means to be a successful writer. I ask myself that now, in fact, now that I’ve written eight books, and published two over the years, watching in horror while neither sold well. For whatever reason, I’ve kept writing. I never stopped.

I can tell you without a doubt that if I hadn’t become a writer, and here I repeat the word, “become,” I wouldn’t be around right now. Through my own writing I spoke out more and more. I  became stronger. Writing keeps me alive just as does eating, breathing, or sleeping. It’s been the rock of communication for me when all else failed. It kept me out of mental institutions. It has kept me out of prison and off the streets. When I was stripped of my human rights and dignity, I’d come out okay anyway, with a pencil in my hand. I’m alive. I’ll keep at it till, like the merry farmer, I come home from work after the long day.

I think that says a fair amount.  I’m a writer. I know my dad would be proud.

John Oliver on Prescription Drugs, HBO, and my commentary on media and writing

Here’s the link

Bravo John Oliver! I don’t know anything about TV. Is HBO a still a major channel that many people watch? Humor is an excellent way to bring awareness to the public. Many people don’t like to read but they love to laugh. They enjoy pictures, rock music, or audio-visual displays such as animated films over the printed word. Many people enjoy reading fantasy or fiction but feel bored with nonfiction. Many people read only books that have very short chapters. I am dismayed that the preferred literature seems to be written at grade school level.

Those of us in the Movement who wish to share information may want to keep these things in mind. I know it’s a sad reality that writing anything lengthy, nonlinear, complex, or meaningful won’t sell these days. It seems that public demand is for the “easy-to-read.” Most people aren’t willing to put forth the effort to understand anything that requires  more than first or second grade comprehension level.

I question how much compromise we need to make just to get the message across.

I hear so many times that scholarly literature sells to only a small market, isn’t expected to do well, and is therefore printed in small batches. I’ve spoken to so many writers of scholarly books who tell me their book has become difficult to acquire, expensive, or has gone out of print. So often I hear that only people in academic circles even looked at these books. I am saddened that so much effort has gone into gaining expertise in the topic, then researching and writing, but these incredible efforts are not reaching the mainstream. Many scholarly papers cannot be accessed by everyone, but instead require academic library privileges or membership in an association.

What can we do? Do we “dumb down” our writing, shortening our chapters, use more simple vocabulary and shorter sentences? Should we add cartoon illustrations for those too lazy or too busy to read? Do we offer lower prices? Do we publish in e-format so people can have instant gratification? After all, it takes immense effort to go to a library or bookstore. (It might burn a few calories, though.)

Perhaps many people simply don’t want to open their eyes. They are terrified of enlightenment. They may be aware that other versions of “real life” exist, but they are just fine with not knowing about any perspective other than their own narrow viewpoint. For instance, I often joke about the lack of awareness in USA of the existence of South America. Just calling USA “America” excludes Canada, Central America, and that exotic continent “below.” The assumption is that we are living in a jungle here in South America, and that the population is diseased and corrupt.

Even worse, people in one part of USA are unaware of the other parts. I lived in Massachusetts. I am amazed that folks here in Uruguay are well-versed in the 50 states of USA, and if I mention Massachusetts most know where it is on a map and have a basic idea of what it’s like there, even though many have never traveled to USA. Yet I have mentioned Massachusetts to people in states as close by as Pennsylvania who have no clue where Massachusetts is. I hear, “Oh, that’s one of those little states.” Can people not see beyond their living rooms? Do they know where Bulgaria, Armenia, Turkey, Iran, Korea, or Kenya are? Do they have a concept of time zones and the variety of landscapes and climates that exist on this planet? More dismaying is the assumption that all cultures are the same and that people worldwide share the same perspective.

I see and hear this all the time. So often I hear the assumption of the traditional family structure, the assumption that everyone can hop into their cars and drive somewhere, the assumption that everyone on the planet owns a TV, microwave, dishwasher, cell phone, or has easy Internet access.  Some people have no concept of what it’s like to be single or live in a socioeconomic situation far different from their own.

I am saddened when I hear, “Why don’t you ask your family?” because this statement assumes everyone has one, or that those that don’t must have done something terribly wrong. I am saddened when I hear people who don’t have partners for whatever reason seen as “sick” or “wrong” or “not good enough.” This is another narrow view based on cultural values not shared by all people. I ask myself why folks don’t go beyond their immediate reality and see that there’s an unexplored world out there. I guess they don’t want to see it  nor believe it.

So often I am asked about TV. People make reference to shows I’ve never heard of and assume all humans on the planet have seen these shows and are well familiar. I am saddened that so many people assume everyone watches the Superbowl, and is well-versed in the Superbowl commercials. I am saddened that so many people assume everyone has seen the latest trendy movie. The multitude of Harry Potter references is another indication of cultural short-sightedness.

Do we have to write with this short-sightedness in mind, or do we disregard public demand? What makes for the most timeless literature? Do we write what will sell in the next few years, or do we write works that will still be relevant and valued four or five generations from now? How can we enlighten without taking people too far out of their comfort zones? You tell me.

Either way, John Oliver’s presentation is a hoot for sure. What does comedy do? Comedy demands that we take a step outside ourselves, peek in, and laugh. I hope you enjoyed the video as much as I did.

 

“Is”

Wise people such as Jesus encouraged two or more to gather. He also said, “In the name of God.” But what, specifically, is the “name of God”?

Perhaps our languages did us a disservice with the creation of “to be.” Elimination of “to be” from thinking and expression would save humanity. In principle this might be true, would it not? Some writing teachers say “is” is passive and tell their students to eliminate all usage of this word. Is “to be” passive, or is it a verb?

Did you know that the Jewish word for God is “is”? It is “to be.” Just that. In some Christian literature, Jews are said to have a god named Yaweh, but actually, that’s a total mispronunciation and misinterpretation. The word for God in Hebrew that’s commonly used is in fact an acronym of “to be,” in the forms past, present, and future. These are sometimes seen as two “yud” letters. “Yud” is a consonant, and when Hebrew is written out without vowels, Yud still stands, silently. “To be,” as name of God, is more like “the active presence of God.” Can we be okay with “is” now?

Can we be in each other’s presence actively? It’s our choice if we choose to share our beliefs. There are as many beliefs as there are humans present, and as many opportunities to change our minds as there are moments in time. Can we hear each other’s voices? Can we really listen?

I might say “is” today. I might not. I believe in Freedom of Speech and saying “is” or “was” isn’t a crime. If the grammar police banging down my door for having written this, I’ll invite them in for a thermos full of maté.

Will you please buy my book?

Okay, I am gonna cry now. This Hunger Is Secret sold ONE COPY last year.  Total.  Where are my friends? You say you love me. I don’t even believe this anymore.  Don’t friends support friends? I have never once heard of a writer so unsupported. Where the heck are my other writer friends? Where are my grad school friends?  Don’t writers support other writers? I am shocked! For all the talk about how people care about me, apparently it’s all bullshit. It’s not like it’s that expensive to purchase a Kindle book, and YES, it can be purchased for Nook too. I am so disgusted right now.

T.H.I.S. is not a “painful book.” If it were a piece of shit, do you really think the faculty at my grad school would have approved it? If the book were crap, I would never have earned my Master’s.  T.H.I.S is not antipsychiatry. So rest assured, I don’t rant on and on about bad therapy in the book.  It doesn’t kill people and it’s not a danger to society. It won’t shoot you or stab you or ruin your “recovery.” It won’t break up your marriage nor cause you to grow horns. Some parts of the book are funny. So? What the hell’s the problem? Where are my friends? Are you even there?

I think I must be the most unpopular person on the planet. I think people must really hate me. I must be cursed.  I need a rich uncle. Or to get married to a media guru. That’s how people sell books. If you have friends, family, and connections.  Money helps, too.  If you don’t have those things, you are fucked in this life. Just plain fucked.

Okay, rant over. Wasn’t that cool?

Surprise, surprise

I woke up this morning feeling discouraged. I kept asking myself why I was writing my current book. After all, if the book is going to sell as poorly as This Hunger Is Secret, why am I even bothering?

People have already made the most bogus excuses I’ve ever heard for not purchasing the book or making any effort to read it. I know a few people have, but not many. Some even make excuses as to why they “can’t” read the sample that anyone can find on Amazon.

I know now the truth about writing and publishing.  You can write all you want. It might be good stuff. Publishing, though, is an entirely different matter. Once you are published, it’s all about promotion and little else. It’s about whether anyone loves you and whether you have money. Good looks might help, too. But the bottom line is that if you don’t have a whole bunch of charisma, you might as well hang it up. They’ll buy it if you act charming. If you are poor and plain-looking like me, you won’t even get a reading. They won’t want you.

If you have rich parents who are living, or a spouse with connections, you are a lucky writer. If you have a job where you can show up and parade your book around, great. I never had any of those things. These were stolen from me by Mental Health Disservices.

So I was thinking all that this morning. Asking why I was working so hard on this book if it wasn’t going to do any good. I felt rotten about everything happening right now.

I realized, too, that my intentions all along were to help others. That’s why I write. Looking back, I know I have used writing to get other people what they needed or deserved. Wasn’t I the one who showed up at Town Hall on July 31st, 2013, to petition the town for hot water for my apartment building? Prior to that, our water wasn’t warm enough to shower in. Hadn’t I written numerous letters to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to ensure telephone privacy for the patients at the Alcott Unit? The hospital agreed to provide soundproofing for one phone. They failed to follow through with what they had agreed upon.

Is it actually necessary that anyone appreciate my efforts or acknowledge to me that I did these things? Or should I just keep doing stuff like that? I ended the Housing Authority’s refusal to change the expired batteries in our carbon monoxide detectors. They replaced all of those detectors with new ones after I tattled to the town government. I’m sure the whole neighborhood was glad our building wasn’t beeping all the time!

Does recognition matter? I suppose it’s selfish of me to think that it does. But what gets to me is that a huge portion of the “eating disorders community” that i was a member of now considers me a “sicko.” They look at me much as my community in Watertown treated me. Like I’m some kind of dangerous criminal.  They’ve even used that word. Dangerous. I hate that word.

I’m not dangerous. I challenge people. They don’t like it. They don’t want their platitudes questioned. I know my own world came crashing in when I realized the lie I’d lived for three decades. I don’t think anyone else wants to hear:

Bah humbug.

They don’t want their worlds crashing in. I only want to warn them: if they choose to keep up with the status quo, the same thing will happen to them.  They’re just a bit younger than me.

Get the hell out. Get out of the system. Do it any way you can. I don’t want one more person killed by it, in the name of “recovery.”

So today, I wrote about my friend who died with those words on her lips:

Bah humbug.

See you later.

 

Day Five of Nanowrimo, midday.

At present, my word count is far ahead of par. I have now reached where I should be at the end of Day Seven. I know word count may seem trivial, but this goal-setting, to me, provides an adequate structure for me. The idea of continuing to write until I am finished gives me a boost of motivation and drive. I am reminded to concentrate my efforts on one project instead of my usual mode, which is to divide my efforts into far too many projects. I tend to quit early on, abandoning my work. If I have too many goals and projects going at once, I end up frustrated and far less productive.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with multitasking. It’s a good skill to have. Most professional chefs are amazing at multitasking. They cut up veggies, boil the broth, bake the casserole, and marinate the meat all at once. They make it look easy on TV, don’t they? They go back and forth, checking this and that for doneness. They never lose track of their task and never leave food to scorch or burn.

Every task is done like this. We must break things up into mini-tasks, but at the same time, retain the coherent focused whole of a long-term project.  It’s not easy! However, we improve with practice, and gain further confidence with time.

That’s how you grow up, by the way.

I think I will take a shower then return to writing and the remainder of my day.

New book coming along, due to start writing text Nov. 1st

I am compiling the outline and am planning to start writing the actual text November 1st.  I will keep you all posted.

Right now, I am planning ten personal essays. Some are pure narrative and some are more reflective. As follows:

Title: Madness Invisible (I will most likely add a descriptive subtitle)

1) Narrative of my awakening in 2o12. A few hours’ worth of scenes, dialogue, etc. My “ahah” moment that led to my gradual walking out of MH care.

2) Compare/contrast the mental health system to a brainwashing religious cult I was a member of a long time ago. I have a bunch of material i can bring into this. I also walked out of this cult on my own following an “ahah” moment.

3) Dispelling the myths they tell us in “eating disorders care.” My list of these myths is lengthy.  I need to hit upon the most glaring errors made by these supposed gods that think they know our bodies better than we know do, or this chapter will be endless. I also wish to dispel myths about eating disorders that are unfortunately widely accepted as truth.

4) Black Box Warning – a chapter about what it’s like to have the well-known side effect of anti-depressants and other psych meds that causes a person who takes these drugs to go through sudden personality change and then commit suicide. I went through that, failed at suicide, and I am lucky to be alive. This began late in 2011 when I started taking the drug.  The “black box” effect of the antidepressant as well as other, more physically measurable effects, took a long time to wear off, even though I had stopped the drug after a few months. I will begin when I went to my psychiatrist asking for the drug, and continue from there.  Since the Black Box Warning dissipated gradually, I am not sure where to end this.

5) What it’s like to almost starve to death. I suppose this would be an anorexia narrative. From the perspective of a person who went through this at age 55. It wasn’t the first time, but for sure, the worst/best starvation I ever did. This isn’t a pro-ana piece and I wouldn’t recommend that another person do this to themselves. I hope I never get to that point again. The narrative would detail events of July 2013 and end August 12, 2013.

6) No longer human.  A narrative of being stripped of my dignity. Abuse at the hands of those who supposed to provide care. I plan to spare nothing here. Begin August 12 end August 22.  11 days in hell.

7) Made into a criminal. Narrative of the shocking way others around me reacted when I tried to take legal action against those that abused me. Again, I’m not going to sugar-coat this.

8) My journey to freedom. Narrative of the steps I took to get where I am now in South America, and my arrival May 15. About a month of events.

9) Madness Invisible (“title track”): Narrative of how I spend 11 days in a medical facility here in South America incognito, without any detectable mental illness whatsoever. Compare/contrast how Western medicine is practiced in a poor country south of the equator to the USA money-driven system. End with my bus ride home.

10) A writer’s oath – I am not sure where to put this chapter but it will talk about writing as commitment. This will be in fact an imaginary commencement address to those who have earned their MFA in creative writing.  Sadly, I most likely will never be invited to speak at any commencement anywhere, anytime in the near future.  It will be addressed to “the graduates.”

I can change the order of appearance of these essays if I wish. I can take some out if I wish. I don’t plan to braid them the way I did in This Hunger Is Secret.

I hope to be able to revise after November and polish up one or two of these essays as stand-alones for media publication.