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Near Midwinter In a Cold Cold Land

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    Here is a photo of a massive cruise ship I saw in Hawaii last time I was there.

          Hello to my many kind followers.  I don’t know really what to talk about much today, the past little while has gotten me a bit down.  Of course I am still taking my anti-depressants and mood stabilizers, so it isn’t really that bad but I think one of my main problems is that I am often sleeping during the day and staying up all night.  In a way this has been a good thing because I have had time to work on my writing, but isolation is something I really have to watch out for.  It hasn’t helped that I was turned down for a low-income swim pass with the city and haven’t been able to work out much.  I have been doing a lot of thinking about not being able to work out.  I know I definitely felt better when I was working out, but I don’t know if I should really go back to swimming every day and lifting weights.  It certainly also helped me when it came time to do my job as a stage hand, but still it was a lot of time, a lot of work and I don’t really think I enjoyed it.  It would be just about impossible for me to stop exercising completely, I love to take my long walks and long bike rides in the summer.  I just don’t know what level of fitness I should pursue.

One of the huge things I think I need to do if I am to stop going for muscle mass is to work on the paranoid/anger side of my illness.  The reason for this is that if I get angry, it will get me into fights, and if I am just some skinny writer nerd type I will really get my butt kicked.  There are a lot of reasons though, I know when I am fit I am more motivated to do things, I feel more confident.  I do tend to eat a lot more though, and this is not only an expense, it adds to my weight which isn’t exactly in the healthy level.

Another fact I want to really face up to is that even if I take all the vitamins recommended, get my exercise and do all these healthy things, it will make a difference, but it will never stave off death permanently.  I have to fact up to the fact that I only have so many days, months, years, minutes, seconds before my time will come, and also that this time may come this very moment.  It is unlikely, but we all really only have the present moment don’t we?  I think what that line of thought tells me is that I have to try and focus on the more important things, the bigger battles.  Who really cares if some guy with a black belt can kick my ass?  I have to find a way to cope with the world that allows me to live among people like this without getting into fights or even arguments.  There really is no such thing as righteous anger, unless of course God communicates with you directly.  There were times when I thought he did, but I am of course wrong about that.

So, I wanted to write a little about writing.  A lot of great things have been happening in my new chosen profession and it has been making me very happy.  I have been approached about having a co-author help re-write my second memoir, and it would mean some drastic changes would happen in my life.  One of the amazing things about writing is that once you get going, aside from a few times when you may be called out of town or have to speak somewhere, most of the time you can get away with just writing about 2 hours a day and still make a success of yourself.  There have been times for me though when I have been driven to finish a project in a short amount of time and spent marathon sessions at the keyboard.  When I wrote my first novel, “Green Mountain Road”, what I did was go to an all-night burger restaurant and sit and write until I had 3-5,000 words done.  It was often difficult to pick up right from where I left off, so what I would do was to read the chapter I had done the previous day and edit it as I went along and I found that soon I had my creative juices flowing.

I would really like to get feedback from any writers out there, especially in the form of requests for certain topics I can address here in the blog.  If you want to know more about poetry, or journalism or any such topic, please ask and I would love to teach you all I know.

Something I also wanted to put out there for new writers is that, especially when you are starting out, it is so important to make and maintain contacts with writers of works in your genre or even just successful writers in general.  You can write to me, or you can often find emails of your favorite authors listed on the cover of books as I think John Grisham does.  I haven’t tried this, but I have had so many great things happen as a result of connecting with other writers.  There is this co-authoring partnership I may be getting into which will give me so many advantages (the writer I have in mind already has an excellent relationship with a publisher).  Not to mention that I found a real gem of a friend in the well known Canadian writer Richard Van Camp.  Richard has had movies made from his writing and has done so well for himself and is just about totally dedicated to helping me succeed.  Him and I get together over milkshakes at a diner near his house about two times a month and he is a massive help.  They say that what defines the most successful people in any field is having a mentor, and Richard has been this for me.  (If anyone wanted to see a review I wrote of Richard’s latest short story collection, “Night Moves” it is on the front page of the Ottawa Review of Books website.)  And then it takes daily effort, persistence and time.  Sometimes it takes a lot of time.  Most people will write their first book over the course of years and write many drafts before they feel it’s ready.  Then there is the process of finding an agent, getting your work edited and sending it off to publishers or getting it self published.  This can take years more and like any other business, you have to establish your repuation.  One of the best things you can do while waiting out this process is to get in to see a writer in residence at your local library, university or college and they will help guide you.  I hope all of this helps, I am including a poem below, I hope you enjoy it.

 

Midwinter Edmonton Musing

 

The wide Pacific calls out to me

Nowhere else have I felt so free

I would plunge into waters clear and blue

But I just can’t let go of loving you

 

Tropical Islands grab your heart and soul

No better way to make a person feel whole

It’s to escape from this cold place in which I live

And to take a little time to relax, forget and forgive

 

In just one sunny Hawaiian day

Ten years of anger melt away

I no longer see the point of a mad rat race

And soon my wrinkles are erased

 

If you were mine and we both could go

I could teach you things no one else knows

We could spend our nights walking the shore and sand

And feel the tropical night’s cool loving hand

 

Looking deep into each other’s eyes

We would not have to wear any disguise

Just you and me and our love that stood the test of time

Finally I would be fully yours; you would be completely mine

 

But if I have to go alone I will

Even alone there are pleasures still

Oh, I would give up a year here for one day there

And that feeling of lying in the sun without a care

 

I would rent a little car and just explore

It’s like opening up a new dimension’s door

To be so very far away from all of life’s concerns

Just one worry: make sure your skin doesn’t burn

 

Now that I found that place I feel I was born to stay

I just need to find some simple way

To say goodbye to all those I care so much for here

And return to the Islands that I hold so dear

 

 

December 13, 2015

Leif Gregersen

Inside Lurks a Darkness

DSC_0080     This is a photo of a building on the grounds of the Provincial Mental Hospital where I spent some quality time about 15 years ago.  The place was so old the toilets used a chain from the ceiling to flush and there were all kinds of weird staircases to nowhere.  It really was spooky and looks even spookier here.

(poem at end of blog today)

     Well Dear readers, it has been some time since I posted.  I haven’t been too involved with poetry lately and I have actually gotten a job with two more magazines.  Both of these new magazines deal with mental health topics and so I have not really had much to say about mental illness that I haven’t been saying already.  In many ways life is going really good.  I am having such a great time just about every week meeting with my friend Richard Van Camp, author of “The Lesser Blessed”, an incredible novel about a young man growing up in the North which is on Netflix if anyone is interested.  He has been doing a lot for me and there have been a number of other opportunities open up.  I guess this is a good time to talk about writing, if anyone who reads this on a regular basis wants to write or writes things and hasn’t published them, I want to encourage you to write as much as you can, re-draft and polish your work, have it edited and send it out to publishers.  This seems all too simple, and the sad fact is that it is very hard to get your work published these days, but after giving it an earnest try to get your stuff published, if you feel in your heart that you really have something to say and that people can benefit from your writing, you should look into self-publishing.  I had the benefit of being able to take writing courses and website development courses through my local library for free, and the rewards have been so huge.  I actually first published a book (Through The Withering Storm) a number of years ago but have now sold enough copies to go past the break-even point.  The good thing is that since I have only self-published and distributed in my own area, there is still a lot of potential for more sales in new areas.  I had a successful few weeks going to school libraries and selling books to them and now I want to try and take some time and do a book tour in Vancouver or Calgary at some point.

The important thing to remember though is that you really need to keep writing, keep getting your name out.  Enter all the contests you can and start a website like this one to promote your work and put it on your email and business cards.  If your writing has merit and you are diligent, opportunities will start to come.  I recall being so frustrated that my book didn’t start to sell right away after I put it online.  It took years before I made the right connections and found my way through the maze, the jungle of writers, editors and those who purchase books and pay you for writing related things.  Writing related things… that deserves a bit more of an explanation.  Of course I wrote two memoirs about mental illness.  After taking a course through them, I found out that the Schizophrenia Society hires people to go to schools and other groups to give talks.  This was an incredible way for me to hone my public speaking and teaching skills and learn more about mental illness as I went.  And one of the cool things was that sometimes I have been able to sell some of my books at these speaking engagements and I have been getting myself known.  There have been a number of other things pop up as a result of me accepting what is kind of a low-paying job but a hugely rewarding and enriching activity.  One of them is that I have been hired as a professional storyteller, those two magazines I mentioned are also paying me and allowing me to advertise my books in their publications.  And I have two awesome events planned in the New Year that are going to make me a fair sum of money.  There are many more things than that, but I just wanted to put that down for anyone who reads this blog for the writing advice.

 

As far as mental health information, I don’t really know what I can share today.  I get a great deal of benefit from talking to my sister who is very caring and down to earth.  I was telling her some fantastic news today and she said that I had stars in my eyes and that I would be disappointed no matter what the outcome of this thing I was telling her about.  This is something that is very important for people with Bipolar to be aware of, slipping into the manic side of your emotional scale.  I only know a few ways to combat it, one of them is to meditate.  When I do this, I simply breathe and try to focus on literally nothing, not allow my mind to chatter or wander, just breathe and be.  I often sit in the lotus position for up to half an hour and it is incredibly soothing.  One of my problems is that I will get into this manic mood and get extremely restless and the first thing I want to do is to go out and spend money.  I almost don’t even care what I buy, I just want the excitement of going to some shopping area or store and pulling out my debit card and purchasing things I often will never use (books I will never read, etc.).  The other way I know how to deal with this problem is to get in touch with my Psychiatrist or Nurse/Therapist and explain that I may need an increase in my medication.  This is never an easy thing to do because medication can take a lot of the fun out of life.  One has to consider though how much they may regret the things they could do while manic or in psychosis and how much better it would be if they could head off the problem before it gets really bad.

I really feel for people with Schizophrenia at this point because a lot of people with this illness still hear voices no matter how much medication they may be on.  I wish I could spend more time on the topic, but I think I would just like to ask that anyone who reads this takes a moment to consider what people may be going through that have any kind of mental illness, and maybe even take things one step further and think about helping by volunteering, fundraising, or even just being a part of an organization like the Schizophrenia Society.  I have felt so good about the work that I have been doing because it happens on a regular basis that when I give talks for the Schizophrenia Society I run across people old and young that are either dealing with a mental health issue themselves that they don’t understand or have a family member or friend that needs help and I really like to think that I can make a difference.  I always used to think as a kid that if I could really make a difference in just one life my own life wouldn’t be wasted.  Have a great day and Happy Holidays!!

 

Midwinter 2015

 

These days of gentle longing feed the darkness in my soul

I wonder if it was my journey here that left me less than fully whole

 

My years of paper wanderings have given me one thing

A longing to be near you and to feel the joy that your love brings

 

Never in my yearning did I ever think that life could be

Less of myself and the cold cruel world and more of you and me

 

Poems gave me reasons to seek the love that my soul needs

I just never knew that loving someone grips your heart until it bleeds

 

When we met you were always near me, now you live so very far

It’s a long journey now to meet you but it soon becomes a voyage on a star

 

Love is never simple and life is almost never kind

And your perfect loving touch is something I thought I would never find

 

Run with me in the moonlight, let’s dance beneath darkened skies

Give me those stolen moments that gold or money doesn’t buy

 

Love me through the evening, love me when we awake

These precious vivid memories is something no hard times can ever take

 

I want to walk in cool grass barefoot with you and simply hold your hand

I want to take you far away from here and walk in the sun and sand

 

Before it is too late for us I want to share a child with you

You are my perfect dream girl and I never thought this could all come true

 

Somewhere in the deepest parts I keep something from you

It’s about that darkness that I spoke of that often makes me blue

 

I fear that I’m not good enough, that I’m destined to be alone

I’ve tried to bury it deep within me since my love for you has grown

 

To hear your voice and touch your hand is medicine for me

Hug me, hold me tightly now, let our love set the demon free

 

 

Leif Gregersen

December 10, 2015

 

A Little About My Favourite Place to Spend a Tuesday

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Not too long ago, actually right around a year back, a good friend, who happens to be the niece of my best friend, suggested that I check out an open stage poetry night at a local lounge.  The place is an icon in Edmonton, it is a pizza place (Rosebowl Pizza) that serves excellent pizza among other things, and they have events like this quite often.  When I got there, I was astounded by the talent I encountered and soon tried to become involved in the poetry scene in Edmonton.  Even though I had published two poetry books, I had never publicly performed a reading and this was really what I needed to take my love of poems that stretches back to the second grade when I wrote the Father’s Day poem below:

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

Cofffee is Strong

And so are you

(scroll down to read today’s poem, called “Rouge”)

I added a drawing of my Dad along with it, actually, when I was a kid I did a lot of drawing, and liked the idea of one day being a writer of other things, but I digress.  I was pretty nervous the first time I got up, but it felt so good to express myself and to speak in public that I went back time and time again until I was pretty much a regular.  I can’t even tell you what happened, but I think they broke for Summer and I stopped going.  It was a shame, but finally last night I decided I wanted to get active in my poetry again and went to another group, usually populated by older poets called “The Stroll of Poets” and it felt really good, I didn’t even have to get over my nervousness all over.  Going to Rouge Poetry also led me to apply to have my own radio show on Campus radio and I had such a wonderful time.  This too ended, but not before I interviewed Ahmed Knowmadic, one of Edmonton, and even Canada’s top poets, Alice Major, who put out an incredible book about poetry called “Intersecting Sets”, one of Edmonton’s Poet Laureates, and a few others.  I love to read, but I often need a motivator, and having my own show really motivated me to do my research, which I greatly enjoyed.  I experienced all kinds of new things.  Anyhow, the point of all this is that I decided that tonight I would go back to the Rouge Lounge where hopefully my old friend Ahmed will be reading and hosting and read a few poems.  I wrote a poem about the lounge below, which I hope you all enjoy!

The Edmonton City Hall, right in the centre of the Arts District

The Edmonton City Hall, right in the centre of the Arts District

Rouge

 

 

 

Each night that I go into that lighted glow

I feel my self worth and confidence grow

I stand up and soon I know

That I have become the show

 

 

I often meet young beautiful girls

With bright eyes and sexy curls

And for that moment when I stand in the light

My heart glows and my soul is pure delight

 

 

Some of the poets rap their rhymes

All of them devote their precious time

To entertain all who attend

And I try to pretend at the end

I don’t have a wish to live always like this

 

 

The burgers there are juicy rare

The spices tickle one’s tongue

Just as you think you can eat no more

Your neighbor’s communal pizza comes

 

I drink it all in and somehow begin

To feel so much younger than when I came

The poems are pure delight and such a sight

On the stage as the young people play their poet’s game

 

 

Oh, there is a waitress there

With red-brown silky hair

Who really seems to care

I wait to see her each time

It is not my crime

It’s those sexy things she wears

 

 

We are this happy group that gathers in a band

To show off their linguistic command

And perhaps an audience of a hundred

But we all would get up and recite our verse

If not a person ever attended

 

 

It is such a thing

To hear one’s own poem ring

Through a microphone to a crowded room

In a way we sing when we do our thing

It makes you feel like you’re on the moon

 

 

I often fill my stomach up with that tasty pop

That keeps coming all night long

I also savor each bite of French fry delight

Though I know it’s not wise to eat this way

It’s just that I crave these things all week until Tuesday

 

 

The sights and sounds of this poetry loving lounge

From the people to the decorations

Cause me each day to think and scrounge

For new poetic celebrations

 

 

The room is filled with lovely people

Spiced with laughs and shouts

It makes me believe one day my voice will be known

Despite my nagging doubts

 

 

The artists there all seem to share

Care and love more than anywhere

And on this cold night in my city home

I’m going to head to where I never feel alone

 

 

Leif Gregersen

November 18, 2014

http://www.edmontonwriter.com

New Blog Format and Today’s Poem

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Well, after discussing the matter with my editor and friend Paula (who set up this site for me), apparently it turns out I have been making a mess of this website.  From now on, my blogs will be found here, in the News section rather than being the landing page.  All that aside though, things are going fairly well.  I am feeling in a bit of a slump after have all these adventures going to Hawaii and up to Hazleton, BC so I thought I would cheer myself up by buying a new camera.  I am pretty excited about it, it is being shipped to me and comes with a long-range telescopic lens that I am hoping will aid me in taking wildlife photos.  It may be some time before I get any more use out of my waterproof camera, but there is a chance I will take another tropical vacation in the new year.  Sometimes I want to travel to more ‘artsy’ places like New York or London and experience things like live theatre or the rich culture of their art galleries and museums.  I actually did go to a couple of museums in Hawaii and I loved it.  Anyone interested in seeing the pictures can find a lot of them at my Facebook page under my name.  Feel free to friend request me as well if you like my writing, it is always nice to have more followers, and Facebook will keep you updated about my books and poems as well as this site.  If you scroll down below, you will be able to read today’s poem.

 

How Could I Have Said That?

 

 

 

How can I have really forgotten

All that I thought I had learned?

How can it have faded away how I felt

Each time I loved another and was spurned?

 

I once swore I never would do that

Rejection is just simply too cruel

But as I get older and close off from love

I act like an angry old fool

 

I treat those who show that they care

As though they were gum on my shoe

It seems that just loving my family

Seems to be all I can manage to do

 

Once long ago when I was much younger

And friends were few and were far in between

I held up this one woman in my thoughts

As though I were a slave and she were my Queen

 

And it hurt me so terribly much

When she cut me right out of her life

Sometimes I think it may have hurt less

If I had cut my wrists open with a sharp knife

 

But that is never the answer

Suicide only hurts those that care

I just never stopped thinking of her brown eyes

Never stopped thinking of her beautiful hair

 

I knew this young woman from her girlhood

And when I got older I told her of my dreams

But so much was wrong in my life then

I might as well have been talking in screams

 

Maybe recently the loss of my sweet mom

Helped to make me end up so cold

Though the real truth is that it scares me

That I keep getting more lonely and old

 

I suppose there will be more chances

To not be so selfish a jerk

And hopefully in future romances

I can let go of my ego and make them work

 

Many years ago a smart dude once told me

That no matter how much things may seem bad

There still is another soul out there

Every bit as lonely and sad

 

I wish that I could somehow find her

And show her these hard won lines of verse

Tell her I will make her feel wanted

Because I have the same loneliness curse

 

So to the heart that beats out there somewhere

To the very same rhythm as mine

If I haven’t already hurt you too much

Think of me and the days when love will shine

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Leif Gregersen

November 15, 2014

 

http://www.edmontonwriter.com