Tag Archives: stories

When Writing About Suicide or Mental Illness or Addiction


I stumbled on an excellent article from aportiaadamsadventure.wordpress.com in which the author discusses college training for journalists on handling a suicide story. The author is applying that learning to her fiction.

Below are a few excerpts from the article. You may read the complete entry here: http://aportiaadamsadventure.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/writing-about-suicide/#comment-520

An article from the Poynter Institute written a decade ago remains one of the best on the subject if you are interested in reading more, but this is the quote that I always keep in mind when this subject comes up (which thankfully, is not that often, but still happens more than it should):

Mental illness is almost always present in a case of suicide. To report on suicide without discussing the role of mental illness is like reporting on a tornado without mentioning the underlying weather conditions. Tornados don’t whip up out of nowhere, and neither does suicide.

***

Just because context helps when writing, Statistics Canada and Health Canada obviously follow this subject very closely, and their latest numbers are:

Suicide is a major cause of premature and preventable death. It is estimated, that in 2009 alone, there were about 100,000 years of potential life lost to Canadians under the age of 75 as a result of suicides.

Research shows that mental illness is the most important risk factor for suicide; and that more than 90% of people who commit suicide have a mental or addictive disorder.1,2 Depression is the most common illness among those who die from suicide, with approximately 60% suffering from this condition.

***

The article writer is working on a fictional story set in the 1930’s. She asks readers for input about mental health support and treatment from the time. I reply to her request as follows:

Excellent article! You ask for insight from the 30’s. I’ll share a personal anecdote. I learned in my fifties about my maternal grandfather’s commitment to an insane asylum. I learned it by finding personal papers of my mother’s that referenced the event. My mother had them stashed away. Never in my entire lifetime had my mother told that story to me. Instead she had painted a picture for me of a talented man who was ahead of his time. From the same stash of papers, I learned my grandfather physically abused my grandmother. The societal code of the time was silence about anything untoward, especially if the family had any social prominence. So much so that long after my grandfather was dead, long after I was a married adult and a mother, my mother never mentioned the dark side or mental illness of my grandfather. I learned about it after my mother left her home, and I was cleaning out the place.

After sending that message, I recalled more about the story of my grandfather. It was set in the Great Depression. He was in the throes of losing the family dairy and farm. His wife died, leaving him to care for seven children from age 14 to a newborn infant, all while running a home milk delivery business (done from a horse drawn cart) and running a crop and dairy farm. It was in a time when a family grew their own food and preserved it, so a huge garden had to be tended and defended from pests, then harvested and put up. Kids had to get to school, be dressed and fed. The wee ones required care 24/7.

As my grandmother lay dying of cancer, my grandfather or my mother, the oldest child, injected grandmother with morphine to control her pain. I am uncertain about why he did it exactly, but my grandfather began using his wife’s morphine himself and became addicted. In the 1930’s, my grandfather’s addiction was treated as mental illness in the insane asylum. (I’m sure there’s more to the narrative that I will never know.)

All of this tragic story was hidden from me by my mother. She did tell me that after my grandmother’s death, grandfather fell apart and abandoned the farm and the children. She said my grandmother had been the glue that held the family together. After her death, the children tried to operate the farm, but, as children, they failed. Ultimately, in the midst of depression, the children were split up and sent to various homes, where they were grudgingly taken in and resented as another mouth to feed in what were difficult times.

The point is there is always a backstory to suicide. Often it is mental illness or addiction. And there is often a backstory to addiction and mental illness, too. When writing about the subject of suicide, mental illness or addiction, be sure to make the reader aware of the backstory, since it provides context for the current event you are writing about.

Ghost Stories


Ghost stories have been popular as long as stories have been told. In today’s pop culture, ghost stories sell. Readers of haunted tales are DEVOTED!

Want to try your hand at a spooky mystery?

I’ll give you a hand by providing a list of ghost names–yes, there is a list and it contains male, female and unisex (???) names and meanings.

http://www.20000-names.com/ghost_names_spirit_names.htm

Here’s the Link to Preview the Anthology


http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Desert-Cafe-An-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00ARYTOYC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1356216202&sr=1-1&keywords=writers+of+the+desert+rose+cafe#_

Clicking on the link takes you to the cover and a brief look inside the first few pages of the new Anthology. Coincidentally, my work appears first in the book, so it is my work that is open to be read as part of  a free preview. Talk about pressure. If my work doesn’t nab a reader, then the rest of the authors may never get read. My work has to convince the site visitor to buy the book.

We priced the book at an affordable $2.99 because we want many people to take the chance to buy the book, then read it.

Remember, if you purchase a copy of the book and have constructive feedback for any of the authors, please share it here. The book is the first product of our writers group, reflecting our growing as writers. You, as reader, matter to us and we want to hear what you think, good or bad. Just make the critique constructive so an author can improve based on what you say.

 

 

Drug Running in Submarines


Technology is moving faster than my imagination. Who knew that Latin American cartels have run drugs for years via semi-submersible and fully submersible vessels? Submarines are used to run drugs in the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans.

Crime writers have to keep up, at least, and stay ahead, at best, of technology that can be used in the field by criminals.

Sometimes I feel as if  I am using the equivalent of a rotary phone in terms of technology in stories I create. Today’s criminals are sophisticated, savvy and well-heeled enough to buy cool tools.

For insight into marine equipment used in drug running, read the following:

http://news.yahoo.com/feds-cant-catch-cartels-cocaine-filled-submarines-010821526.html

When an Author Offends


The bane of the author who wishes to make a living from his work is offending the reader.

Writers, by nature, are rogues, as in “rascal” or “playfully mischevious”. We’re opinionated. Why else would we write? We’re a bit arrogant, too. We believe our opinion matters. We believe a reader should take time to read us.

But even the gnarliest author is a humanitarian. We are trying to make a positive difference in our world. I have yet to see a series of books on “How To Fail at. . . .”  The expose is meant to uncover that which is loatheful, harmful, dishonest or dangerous. The topic may be uncomfortable, but it exposes truth in order to benefit the reader.

I write to entertain. That’s what I tell myself. Yet when I review the topics I cover here, the majority are meant to help someone else.

However, there are times when I offend, even as I am trying to help. When I offend someone, they disappear as a reader.

I want to be a commercial writer.

I have considered writing under a pen name and producing formula books that endear, uplift, encourage, but never offend. To do so would be telling a half truth. There is a rosy side to life, but it is one facet of a many sided existence.

When I am true to my nature, I can’t do that. If I ignored other sides of life, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to face another day of intellectual boredom and artifice.

That leaves me with the reality of a writer. If I write about things that I deem important or sane, but which can be ugly or brutal, then I am going to offend. Period. End of story.

I may stay broke, but I jump out of bed every morning.

The Back-up Dilemma


The Back up dilemma.

My galpal Subtlekate has a great reminder here for all writers. If you read her comments on the post, she also name drops a program that she says is easy to use.

I need to practice what I preach — and I confess I haven’t. But do you really want to lose 13 chapters of your current novel because you didn’t back-up your work? Or lose 100 poems you were gathering for publication? Or lose your daughter’s wedding photos? You get my drift.

For Every Writer, There Is a Reader


The writers group to which I belong is moving ahead on its anthology. What started out as a collection of fictional stories, each under 300 words, has morphed into something else. Now there will be microfiction, flash fiction, short non-fiction, short short stories and poetry.

One of the members expressed concern that some works may not be as polished or sophisticated as others. Certainly, in any anthology, there is a diversity of styles, if not themes.

It was decided at last week’s meeting that the works would be grouped by author. That seems sensible. It allows an audience to sample a couple of pieces by an author and move on, if that author doesn’t suit the reader’s taste. If the reader likes what an author writes, then  there will be several choice morsels to sample.

For every writer, there is a reader.

Some writers have broad appeal, usually because they are skilled, talented, clever.  They also have a knack to figure out and write what will be popular. Nevertheless, I contend that every writer can find an audience, even if it is an audience of one.

Some of the group members have a spiritual slant. Some are noir, fathoming the depths of human nature. Some are innocent or inspirational or comic or macabre. The collection will run the gamut.

Therefore, I choose not to worry about what is included in the anthology. What another author writes is not a reflection on me. My work stands or falls on its own merit.

Some readers will like my stuff. Others will hate it. To each his own.

The next squabble will likely be over the order of the authors and their work. That may be the fodder for a future post.

*****

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  ~Pablo Picasso