BLOG: 6's & 7'S
My first suicide attempt was in 2004. Yes, I said “first.” Others followed. I’m pretty forthright about my struggles with mental illness. I fight my demons as best I can, and if I can cause some good to come of it by showing others that they are not alone and that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, then yay me.
My novel The Trees Beneath Us tells the story of a man suffering from grief, depression, and suicidal thoughts. He seeks solace in nature and hikes the Appalachian trail. Along his travels, he meets a woman called Frog. She is part den mother, babysitter, therapist, and caretaker for the distance hiking community that tromps through her yard. Frog is the subject of Building Cairns, my contribution to the Christmas anthology Tangled Lights and Silent Nights.
When my friend, Kelly Stone Gamble asked if I thought I could take a character from my book and put them in a holiday story, I had to think a lot about it. The themes of the book don’t readily translate to the joyous holiday season, but I gave it a shot.
I’m proud to have my work included in this eclectic collection. Tangled Lights is a group of writers tackling a challenge and demonstrating their craft. Additionally, all proceeds from this book are being donated to the Life After Project. It is a nonprofit organization that serves the survivors and victims of suicide, domestic violence, and addiction.
I teach at a community college. Each semester, some students eventually find my blog, which is almost entirely about my mental health struggles. Every class, every semester, a student will come to tell me they too suffer from mental illness. They find comfort in knowing that an authority figure gets up each day and faces the same struggles they do.
I guarantee everyone knows someone dealing with depression. It is widespread. I’m proud to do my part to remove its stigma, and I’m proud to be among a group of writers donating their time and creative work to supporting those who struggle.
Tangled Lights and Silent Nights is a raucous read. Think of it as a literary mix tape. You’ll find something that will delight you or move you. Give it a read and help the Life After Project do important work. Happy holidays!
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From author Brenda Vicars:
Can you tell when it’s love and not just a passing crush?
Polarity, the main character in my novel Polarity in Motion, is only 16, and she’s in love with Ethan. He’s the character who helps her figure out how her nude picture showed up on the Internet—a photo that she has no memory of posing for.
Sometimes when teenagers say they’re in love, we think it’s just a crush or hormones. But Polarity says, nope, it’s not a passing teen thing. She’s in love.
When I want to get a deeper understanding of a character, I use a writers’ technique of interviewing the character. “Dear Polarity,” I wrote. “Why do you think you’re in love with Ethan? Possibly you’re just grateful to him. Afterall, he helped you put your life back together after the nude picture fiasco. Or maybe you just have a crush on him—he is so hot!”
Polarity’s answer surprised me and warmed my heart. She not only explained why she loves him, but she went beyond the question I had posed, and described “the moment I knew I would love Ethan forever.” Her answer became the short story by the same title in Tangled Lights and Silent Nights. And the segment is also in the next Polarity book, Polarity in Love, which will be released in 2019.
What was the moment she knew she’d love him forever? It happens during Christmas season in south Texas and involves a rattle snake and a ten-year-old girl’s tears. In an incident that both horrifies and amazes Polarity, she sees deeper dimensions of Ethan.
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by Kelley Kaye
“Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.”- George Bernard Shaw
My response to this has always been a resounding GRRRRRR! 🐻George Bernard Shaw, you can kiss my butt, because you don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about!
As a high school English teacher for 20 years, as any teacher (or parent) knows (and based on everything I’ve read, GBS was neither), you need to know a subject intimately before you can help another person acquire the same skill. The entire quote is ridiculous and ignorant, whether it comes from a genius playwright or not.
But the whole time I taught school, I felt like I needed to do everything I expected my students to do, every time they did it. Especially when I started teaching Creative Writing--because I'd never been published and I didn't have my Master's in the subject yet, and I felt like I needed the practice. It helped that I had ended my one-minute-long-way-too-young-and-stupid, completely unadvised marriage at this time, because when I got to poetry, I had a glut of emotional material. Maybe not good poetry, but poems from a real place, anyway.
My tears fall
like a broken
string of pearls.
They hit the hard floor
Forever, it seems.
Though I try
frantically, to gather
them back up,
Parts of my pain
and into the corners.
I wash my face
and re-string my
The lost tears
roll our of their hiding place
to slip my feet out from under me
One of my favorite lessons was poetry within a form, haiku, limericks--and since I taught Shakespeare, the sonnet form. Here's one I wrote for my CW class back in 1998--the students were intimidated by the restrictions of the form--so I told them to just give me a subject and I'd write a sonnet. Appropriately for the time of year we're in right now, they gave me the subject of 'Death." I worked it out group-style, with them right then and there.
The Visit--a sonnet
At night I sit with all-foreboding gloom.
My heart has tripped as often as it beats.
My dying face I see in yonder moon,
The flesh decaying in your cold black sheets.
You enter with a quiet stealth of sound,
Your hands caressing all my morbid fears.
The thought of living always in the ground,
Creates a sculpture molded with my tears.
O Death! Can I please send you on your way??
Your visage conjures thoughts of evil lands.
My horror builds each moment of your stay,
With dreams of bodies melting into sand.
I’m well aware my soul cannot remain---
Your bony handclasp seeks to end my pain.
I guess it's appropriate for this post, too, because ironically, now I don't teach anymore, but among other genres, I write about death--murder mysteries. I'm laughing OUT LOUD because the only way I can prove how wrong George Bernard Shaw was--in this case--is to read a boatload of murder mysteries and do a lot of research. I don’t even kill spiders, so this is the way for me to know the subject intimately enough to teach it. Or help others be entertained by it, at least!
For this short story anthology, Tangled Lights and Silent Nights, I was lucky enough to be able to combine a lot of my knowledge as a teacher and now as a writer for my piece 'A Muse-ing Christmas: Ms. Parker Teaches Santa--Shakespeare Style'. Leslie Parker, one of the teachers and crimestoppers in my Chalkboard Outlines Cozy Mystery Series, loves Shakespeare and loves Santa! She decides to help her Creative Writing student, Maisie Duchovny, try and turn her holiday poem into a sonnet about Santa. I haven't written poetry in quite a while, so it was a lot of fun to write fictional student Maisie's Santa poem and then turn it into a Shakespearean form sonnet, with the help of fictional teacher and Shakespeare-obsessed Leslie Parker.
It was a great time, and I consider myself even luckier that the story is amongst this cool collection of stories by award-winning and bestselling authors of all genres, raising funds for the Life After Project—Visions of Hope. Don't miss it!
Visit my website at https://kelleykaybowles.com/ and check out my books, the Amazon cozy mystery bestseller Death by Diploma and Poison by Punctuation from Red Adept Publishing, and the Victor Indie Book of the Year 2017 young adult Down in the Belly of the Whale from Aionios Books..
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