This Is a Strange Planet We Live On and Often Neglect

IMG_5475                      Canada Goose, from a park in Edmonton in the summer

For me, being a writer has been a long journey.  Sometimes I think I was interested in being a writer from way back.  I could read before I started school.  I devoured books and make regular trips to the library after school from grade two onwards.  My whole life seemed to revolve around the library.  When I was six, my parents bought me a plastic typewriter and I saved my allowance to buy a dictionary and thesaurus as my junior reporter book told me I needed to.  Soon after I took printer ribbon from my Dad’s business calculator stash to make scrolls that I turned into comic books.  When I went to the mall, the one thing my parents could buy me that would make me happy was a blank notebook, even before I could write.

Later on in life, I was still a voracious reader, but I had little opportunity to write.  I lived in a traveler’s hostel in Vancouver but I told people I wanted to write one day.  I will never forget an old hippy in that place who never seemed to do anything but drink beer and smoke cigarettes tell me about Jack Keroac, how he would travel and travel and then come home and write and write and then start over again.  It wasn’t until I left flight school and my home in Vancouver to return to Edmonton that I really started to write.  I bought some books about writing and brought an old typewriter from my parent’s house to my apartment.  I started to keep a journal, trying to commit to a full page each day.  I also wrote poems, and got sucked into vanity press ‘contests’ where I was told my poetry was top notch and could be published in their upcoming anthology for a fee.  I didn’t fall for it-couldn’t fall for it, I had no money anyways.  I lived on a tiny disability stipend and had credit collectors calling me at all hours.

My first book, titled “Through The Withering Storm” took some 20 years to write.  It began as ideas, then short stories, then was abandoned and taken up again and then lost.  When I was living in the place I am at now, a friend gave me a copy of the manuscript I had given her years before to keep for me and my whole life changed (thanks Caroline!)  Now, after the book was finished, edited and printed/published, I wonder what drove me to write it.  I like to tell people I wrote it to help people with mental illnesses, and help reduce stigma of the illness, but I don’t really know.  I’m sure more than once the idea of making money came to mind, and the book has given me some rewards of that nature though not the millions I hoped it would.  I think there were two huge factors that made me want to write it:  one, I wanted to write and thought it would be easiest to start with myself, a topic few people can tire of, and two, I had been treated like garbage for most of my life and wanted something to throw in the face of my doubters.

As for number two, I grew out of that aspect of it but still it was a factor in writing it.  It did feel really good to go to a craft fair at the mental hospital I spent so many long months in and have a book printed with my name on it and not only that, it sold really well that day, some 20 copies.  I have to say that if anyone had told me during my last hospital visit that I would be in the position I am in now, doing public speaking, book signings, radio interviews and even soon to be working in the mental health field, I would have thought they were playing with my mind to torture me.  But things have gotten good, really good.  I think I have accomplished something just in the last week that every male my age wanted to do one day, to make their Dad proud of them.  The other day I completed a draft of a Young Adult Novel I am working on and showed it to my Dad and he actually liked it.  Years ago when I told him I wanted to write he told me there is only 2 or 3 people in the country who actually make a living at it.  I have to admit I still don’t make a living at it, but I get closer each day and writing is so hugely rewarding.  One thing that keeps going through my head is that now that there are hundreds of copies of my two memoir books out there, in a way I am immortal.  500 years from now when I’m gone, perhaps someone will pick up a copy of my book in an antique store and read it and understand who I am, what I went through in my life, my dreams and hopes and defeats.

Just so everyone who follows this blog understands, I wanted to state that I am going to get away from a poetry/random blog theme from now on and focus on a writing skills and mental health theme.  I will still post photos but the blogs I write will be a bit different.  I was thinking today of talking a little about what it’s like to be in the hospital, but I think I will save that for tomorrow and suggest anyone interested who is planning to read my next blog can go and watch my Youtube video, “Alberta Mental Hospital Experience” which is a short film I made and narrated about my time in Alberta Hospital, AKA AHE, AKA Oliver.  All the best to everyone, and once again I want to extend my hand and freely give out my personal email to anyone who wants to ask questions, rant, talk, chat, gab or whatever they desire.  My email is:    and the video link is:

DSCF3186                      Lush, green summertime in Edmonton, Hermitage Park

Prozac Dreaming


Good day dear readers!  I am extremely grateful that when I announced I would be focusing on less poetry that no one stopped following and I still got some nice posts.  I wanted to breach a topic today that deals with something I feel is extremely important in my life: my medications.  As many of you know, I have Bipolar Disorder, which means I experience extreme highs and extreme lows at times.  For a good number of years I was taking a drug called Paxil, which seemed to work well.  Before that, I was taking Prozac and I didn’t seem to have any problems with it.  The main problem I did have with it was that it worked very well and for a time I thought my depression had gone away (a situation that often happens to those with mental health issues and a very dire situation that I feel needs to be addressed).  So, thinking things were fine, I stopped taking my Prozac and all I can really remember about that time was phoning up a young woman I used to see in high school and learning that she in fact considered me a psychopath.  This led me down a dark and scary path of depression and at the tail end of it I took nearly 100 acetaminophen and nearly destroyed my liver and came very close to death.  The strange thing about it all is that Prozac is kind of a fun drug if one can use such terms.  I was told when first prescribed it to take it first thing in the morning and I soon found that I could take it then, and it would make me a bit sleepy and when I took the drug and went back to sleep I would have the most wonderful dreams anyone could imagine.  The best way I could describe it would be to say it is all ‘sunshine lollipops and rainbows’.  It literally makes a person feel a glow of happiness as though all is right with the world.  Anyhow, being in that ‘glow’ as I write this, I thought some might be interested in hearing about it.

I thought I should write a bit about the writing process today as well.  I don’t know how many of my followers may have read my novella “Green Mountain Road” but despite that a very well known author greatly enjoyed it and I heard a lot of positive feedback about it, a critic tore it to pieces and I had no luck in finding anyone to publish or represent it.  It is an odd thing that opinions could be so varied, but what I chalked it up to was that simply I am a beginning writer and I’m not in a good position to moralize in my writing or try to find some great philosophy.  As when I write my short stories, I should keep things light, entertaining and PG rated, or so I think.  Hopefully learning from my misadventures with “Green Mountain Road”, I have now written two Young Adult novels, one of which is being considered right now for publication, and one that I finished literally just a few hours before writing this blog.  The second one is of course just a very rough first draft, but I honestly think that I have something in trying to appeal to young adults.  I don’t want to get into any great detail of the new work before it is more complete, but basically what I did was toss around a few dozen ideas in my head and then simply sit myself in my chair and start to hammer things out.  I have a strong suspicion that one of the reasons I was able to write a work of some 17,000 words in just two sittings had to do with the fact that I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately.  Sounds disconnected I am sure, but listening to audiobooks can be extremely enjoyable.  Not only that, it teaches a person not only to use their imagination, but also to use their concentration and focus better, or at least I am assuming.  First I was listening to an audiobook about Buddhist meditation which is something wonderful in itself, then I logged onto my local library with my iPad and ‘borrowed’ a book called “The Litigators” by someone who is on fast track to being my favorite author, John Grisham.  I have enjoyed many of Grisham’s novels, I learned recently that he basically invented the legal thriller genre.  I read ‘The Pelican Brief” (in Reader’s Digest condensed form), the King of Torts, The Testament, and a few others, including a short story collection he wrote called “Lincoln County” which I highly recommend to anyone looking for examples of great short stories.  Anyhow, that is my advice for today.  Listen to audiobooks.  Write in your journal, write every day, keep writing, never give up.  I think I go through the whole ‘I think I want to give up writing’ phase at least once every two weeks.  Thankfully I have a lot of support from friends, family, and of course, the incredible Richard Van Camp (author of ‘The Lesser Blessed”).  So, thanks for visiting, please comment if you would like to see me introduce contests on this blog to win copies of my works.