short story

Worrying and Self-Doubt

Well, it has been an interesting week. I finally have a few days off to do what I like which is nice. I have a hard time when I get stressed from doing too many things and sometimes I react to it by sleeping way too much. I know this wreaks havoc on my system and makes it very hard to function in line with the world of the normal people. So many good things have been happening to me, but I know that things won’t stay good for me if I can’t do something about my excessive sleeping.

I feel really blessed today because I was contacted by the City of Edmonton and asked if I could come and give a talk about mental health at the Edmonton Public Library. On Monday I will be just finishing up a six-week contract to teach creative writing and there are many other opportunities coming my way. Still, for some reason, I find a need to worry. One of the big things that I worry about is money. Every now and then I work or do some photography and make a few extra bucks, but then it seems that the money just runs away from me. I am at a point now where I have savings to at least get me through one month of difficulties, but I keep thinking about ways I could spend the money on what I deem “more fun” things. There are cameras I would like to buy, I am always thinking of buying a car or taking a trip. It all seems like such a waste and it took so much effort just to have just the small amount of savings I do have.

I also worry sometimes about my ability as a writer. I went to a story slam the other day and really felt outclassed. I was the first reader up and was quickly knocked out of the competition. This is even after winning two story slams last year. Another thing that happened was that I won a contest for a 24-hour short story that got me $300 USD. I took the story and tried to publish it elsewhere but with no luck. I am really feeling the pinch of not having been able to go to University and take creative writing. Fortunately, I have some good friends who help and support me in making my writing as good as I can make it.

One of the things that often gives me comfort when I find myself worrying is doing meditation or taking long walks. I had planned to walk the 2km to the post office today, but the ice and snow and freezing rain was pretty bad so I ended up taking the bus. When I do take the time to meditate, what I often like to do is to read some of my Asian books about spirituality say from the Dalai Lama or ancient writings like Lao Tzu and then just sit, either cross-legged or not, close my eyes and simply try to focus on nothingness, empty space as I count my breath, breathing in and out until a thought comes up that distracts me, then I go back to zero and try to make it to a count of ten. It can be very helpful to take some training in this, I once used to go to a real Tibetan Monk for classes and it was a big help, very healing.

 

Mental Health and Poetry With a Couple of Photographs

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Another Shot From My Day Trip To Jasper With My Dad.  So Beautiful There.

Check out today’s blog entry after today’s poem

First Responders

 

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

So long as proud men and women seek the light

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

No one in the world is alone to blame

In the end the winners will be in the right

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

 

Some evil people count destruction as their only aim

But as long as good people always keep up the fight

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Raise up a cheer for those who carry the flame

By their acts they give the blind new sight

So long as heroes who make sacrifices are given due fame

 

Some feel the only good in life is gain

But our salvation still shines bright

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Each of our heroes may not quite be the same

But on all of them shines a holy light

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Leif Gregersen

July 23, 2016

     Hello to everyone out there who faithfully keeps up with my blog.  I don’t really have a lot of profound words for you today.  I am lavishing in the memories of London, England from my June trip, it really was amazing.  I have been thinking about the Imperial War Museum which used to be a mental hospital.  I think it is kind of fitting to have such a place to commemorate war, it seems to be such an awful, crazy thing.  I had a near death experience not too long ago and it reminded me of my own mortality.  I fell off my bike on a steep trail and got knocked around pretty badly, even bit a good chunk out of my tongue and got the wind knocked out of me so it was impossible to breathe for a little while.  I wondered at that moment if I would ever breathe again.  I sure didn’t expect life would be this good or that I would be this frail at 44.  I remember as a kid reading about men in their 70’s doing these incredible feats, and I don’t doubt I could still do some things, but there are a lot of things I can’t do.  As a result of taking medications and my hands shaking, just about anything that requires a steady hand is impossible.  The medication also affects my balance and my memory.  My doctor and his staff are aware of all of these side effects, but we also agree that I am much better off with these problems than I would be if I weren’t on a medication that stabilized my mood and kept me from experiencing psychosis.  It is so hard to describe what psychosis is like.  You hear things, you think things, little things that happen seem to have huge significances, and you get a lot of irrational ideas in your head.  It is scary to think of how far gone I was during my last visit to the hospital.  I will never forget experiencing this horrible feeling of depression and restlessness and looking at a tile pattern on the floor and somehow my brain mixed it around and turned it into a vision of Nazi Germany and all the horrors they perpetrated. It may seem really odd, but it would make sense to someone who has experienced such things.

I don’t want to dwell too much on all that, actually this has been a great week.  I participated in a story slam, where you put in $5 and get to go on stage and read a 5 minute story and up to ten people can read and at half time they pass a hat which everyone puts $5 into.  The stories are judged and the highest score gets all the cash in the hat.  I went home the proud winner of $100 which isn’t huge, but enough to make a nice difference in my monthly budget.  It is funny to think of how much effort it took me to write the story, edit the story, prepare myself to read it and all of that.  Then it took tremendous effort just for me to get out of bed and walk the 2 miles to the place where the event was taking place.  I really didn’t want to go, I had no faith in my story or my abilities, and I didn’t want the stress of going there and going up on stage, but somehow I did it.

It was good to win that, but stress is eating a hole in me right now.  I am supposed to be moving this week and I still haven’t gotten word that my suite is ready.  I was really hoping to get out of this place I live in now and be done with it, but I just may have to stay another month which will cause all kinds of problems.  And then, constantly, I am bombarded with these thoughts, memories of my past where I play negative things over and over in my head.  Somehow I muddle through though and get things done.  I am now a paid blogger for healthyplace.com and I wrote my blog and recorded my video today for them.  Next step is just to post my blogs and then invoice them for my pay.  It is kind of cool.  That is what is great about being in your 40’s (I’m 44) there are so many little things you learn to do to cope with life.  I can’t imagine life without all my little jobs here and there.  Anyhow, that is my life for one more week, I appreciate you all following me, and as a token of that appreciation, I am going to post another photo just below.

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We Are All A Part Of The Same World

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Well, I just got back from watching the movie “Trumbo” and I really enjoyed it.  I hate to sound like some numbskull but I don’t know the name of the main actor.  He was the guy from ‘Breaking Bad’ and was absolutely brilliant in the role.  The main thing that bothers me about it is that I know when movies are made they end up very far away from anything to do with what really happened.  I am really intrigued by this story though, it was about a writer named Dalton Trumbo who wrote screenplays and was blacklisted in the early cold war years and was stonewalled from working in Hollywood because he had been a member of the communist party.  There were a lot of really interesting scenes in the movie, I think there were some accuracies, one of them that surprised me was John Wayne’s role as an advocate for anti-communist policies.  I don’t really know why this fact bothers me, I always really kind of liked John Wayne, I have always thought of him as larger than life, from such movies as “Sands of Iwo Jima” and many man others.  It could have to do with the fact that I had an Uncle who was John Wayne to me, he was tall and tough and didn’t take any bullshit.  I had a falling out with this Uncle when I was a teen and it really kind of hurt.  I am glad though and very grateful that I was able to visit him on his deathbed and I think he felt some pride in what I had done then.  Not to mention that, the old son of a gun borrowed five bucks off me and passed away before I could collect it so he had the last laugh.

To touch on the writing aspect of things, once again I wanted to tell people out there that have any interest in writing that they really should shoot for their dreams.  A few years ago I wrote, had edited and published my first book and it seems like I have been in a whole new time loop since then.  It is like life has slowed down and all my days are so much more meaningful, all the non-writing work I do has a point to it.  As some may know, I have now written and self-published nine books and I just want to write more and more.  And now as I have been concentrating my learning and effort and reading and everything really on this goal, things are starting to fall into place for me.  I just finished reading a book about a young woman with schizo-affective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and it gave me some really good ideas.  I have now been in touch with a psychiatric hospital and they are interested now in having me come and give a talk at one of their professional development events in the New Year, which means I might not only get a nice speaking fee I could sell quite a few books.  Things like this are popping up all over the place and I am actually thinking I am going to be run off my feet next month.  Not to mention that, I have been doing a lot of writing for magazines and now I am having no problem getting through each month and even spoiling myself and some family members with nice things.

So I will try and nail it down for anyone who hasn’t started the process.  Do you like to write?  If yes, move to the next item on the flowchart.  Choice A is, do you have a special angle?  Are you disabled, are you a minority, do you have a career or a true story that people find interesting.  If yes, then move forward to the non-fiction part of the flowchart.  Now, the other question is, are you creative or artistic, do you like movies and novels rather than true crime or non-fiction books like memoirs?  Then you may want to be a poet or a novelist or both.  There are so many things to explore, I could write a massive flowchart.  The fact is, you simply have to set out what type of writing you think you would be good at.  Then the next step is something that should be almost mandatory, you should keep a journal.  What’s a journal some of you may ask?  Is it a diary?  Not necessarily.  A journal is more your thoughts, your moods, what you want to capture, what you want to express.  Keeping a journal is something that I feel just about everyone with a mental illness should do, it is an excellent type of self therapy.   It is also a great way to get started as a writer.  The next step, whether you choose fiction or non-fiction is that you should start to expose yourself to the very best writing.  I love to go to big box book stores and scoop up all the literary journals I can afford.  Actually, today instead of doing this I went to the main library in Edmonton and scooped up a few that were available for borrowing.  I have found that when I read top notch poetry, I soon get inspired to write my own, and when I read top notch short stories I can get inspired or motivated to start to write, and I honestly think I write better after reading these journals.  The next step, first being writing a journal and the second being to expose yourself to the best quality writing in the genre you want to write (literary journals, award winning books, etc.) is to actually start to write.  If you don’t have good keyboarding skills, I suggest you take a course or get a typing tutor program.  Nothing in my entire education has served me more than taking one 5 month course in typing 29 years ago.  Nothing.  If I weren’t able to type I would be unable to keep up with my workload, would have been unable to write nine books.  Essential.

So where do you start?  I started my first book as short stories.  I told true stories from my life, put them into short stories and then collected them and over the course of a lot of years and a lot of trial and error, it became a book.  I don’t want to get too deeply into the process of self-publishing, I don’t even know if I am glad that I self-published, it has been very expensive and difficult, but it has been a transitioning phase for me.  I hate to admit it, but I am really not that good of a writer.  My whole education in English is nothing more than a grade 12 academic English course.  I have read a lot of books, but with the guidance I could have gotten in a creative writing program I would have been much better off, I would have been able to go past so many hurdles that knocked me on my arse.  We all have a different journey though.  I could also say I had some good times learning to write and I still find it exciting that I have a long way to go.  I have now gotten to the point where I am financially stable through my writing and disability pension, perhaps if I had gone to a creative writing program I would be much more demanding and whining about not having enough money and using that as an excuse to not create quality work.

Well, I think I am going to leave things at that.  Don’t forget to scroll down for today’s poem.  Tune in tomorrow and I will try and talk a little about magazine writing, something I think a lot of writers can use to help them get through the lean years of their careers and also have a lot of fun.

 

An Ode To Chief Seattle

 

The web of fate is woven by nature for us all

And a rare and lucky few will hear the call

Pulling them away from home, family and friends

But that doesn’t mean for these few happiness ends

 

In fact these wanderers can find things meaningful and more

By seeking self knowledge upon a distant shore

And new wonders of adventure and love can be found

When those who judge and hate are not around

 

Myself I think back often to a rainy day far from here

With new found friends that seemed so wonderful and dear

There was beauty and wonder back then in everything

We weren’t ashamed to laugh and cry and sing

 

But in the end the final choice was made for me

Now my body is chained to this place but my soul is free

I walk now down time worn paths to fulfill my dreams

And it is as if I’m walking on clouds and moonbeams

 

There have been times when life has knocked me down

But something deep inside made me get up for another round

You lose every bout where you stay down and give in

You must fight every battle with all you have from deep within

 

And you must love with every muscle nerve and bone

Never let yourself end up beaten and alone

Hold fast close friends and family and build a true home

And soon you will reap the seeds of love you’ve sewn

 

Whether you’ve been nowhere or to Australia and Rome

You can still feel sad and hurt and all alone

But I’m telling you my dear friends and family if you feel this way at all

Do what’s right and pick up the phone and please give me a call

 

I can’t promise to have any answers that will fix your pain

But I might have a hope of making you smile somewhat again

In the web of fate we are different strands but all one net

One family, one race, one world and in each other’s debt

December 18, 2015

Leif Gregersen

Across The Desperate Dangers of the Darkest Forest of Depression

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Hello my Dear Readers!

Well, being the writer of a blog it is always good to see a lot of hits and a lot of feedback when I write something.  The trouble is it is hard to really know what brings in a lot of hits in the way of keywords or content or title.  I have kind of been going hit and miss, trying various things.  I think that as long as I have breath in me I will keep writing this blog.  At the very worst I can compile all of my entries one day and have a few copies printed up as a book.

I am curious how many writers out there read my blog.  For a time I was focusing on a writing theme, but more recently I have changed to a mental health theme.  Any feedback would be hugely appreciated as to what people want to see more of, etc.  As always, in the case of mental health and in the case of wanting to write, I should stress here how important it is to keep a journal.  I started out my own writing hobby, which has almost become a career with a journal and then since I had time on my hands I expanded to write movie and book reviews in another journal.  I am almost sure the first ones weren’t anything to ‘write home about’ but I kept them and one day when I feel brave I will head down to my basement and dig them up.  I recall, either from the egotism of a young man or some delusional aspect of my mental illness that I felt everything I wrote should be preserved, I even expected people to save and print up my emails.  I suppose that sort of thing would have its place, but it seems silly now.  One way it doesn’t seem silly is when I hear about my cousin who taught at Churchill College in Cambridge that he had actually studied hand-written letters from W. Churchill himself.  Amazing!

So yesterday I wrote a poem to include in my blog and I have to admit it was kind of gloomy.  I was lucky enough a while back to connect with a reporter her in Edmonton who read my books and he told me he didn’t like them, that he felt they were dark and other things.  I have to admit I am guilty of that.  I wish somehow I could capture the dark feelings I used to get when I was young.  It is sad to think of, but when I was 17 I really had the world by the balls.  I had so many opportunities before me, I had a beautiful, fast car and a job that I really liked.  But each day when I was on my way home I would be in a seriously dark cloud of stark depression.  I had no idea at the time that it wasn’t a normal reaction to a day’s work.  Lately when I let things go for a while, like today and yesterday when I have been sleeping a lot and not doing much (I have been down with a flu/cold) I get down, I even think suicidal thoughts a little, but very minor stuff, nothing like the pits of self loathing that I used to get into.  It was hard to ask for help back then too, I didn’t really know where to ask.  One thing I do recall was that my mom was going to get me in to see her Psychiatrist but I ended up declining at the last minute.

In my young days there were so many warning signs, but I don’t blame those around me, I kept my affairs closed up.  I was reeling from constant arguments with my Dad and bullying at school and even in the home so I had pretty tight lips.  I think a thing I learned in cadets would apply in this case.  When we were out doing training in the field and it was raining, we would ask our assigned buddy if his socks were dry and then stick our hands into his or her boot to make sure they weren’t just trying to be tough.  I think that people these days need to do a sock check, but for their buddies’ mental and physical health.  What that requires is a great deal more education about mental and physical well being, something I don’t think our government in doing enough of.  Personally I am going around to schools as requested giving talks about mental health for the Schizophrenia Society which is great, but something should be worked into the curriculum.  A fact we like to stress in our talks to students is that 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 people will seek treatment for a major mental disorder in their lifetime.  It is hard to imagine, but that is a massive chunk of the population.  Anyhow, though this is something near to my heart, I should also make the point that being diagnosed or being treated for a disorder isn’t the worst thing that can happen.  I recall my days being untreated negatively, but once I got a good medication working for me life really began to improve.  I hate to think I am saying this too much as I am sure I have mentioned this in a post before.

Well, anyhow, on to a lighter note, I have been buying coffee table books.  I bought a massive art book that must weigh 50 pounds and some smaller ones.  I have so much fascination with paintings from the sixteenth and seventeenth century that are incredibly lifelike because if they are done well they can capture the very character of people that are long dead and gone.  A good painting in this way is to me a lot like time travel.  I enjoy a lot of art, but I am most moved by oil paintings like this.  There are a lot of works to enjoy in the books I got though, and I have also bought a few coffee table books on the second world war.  I used to collect war books but at one point in my life I gave away my collection but now after watching the reality TV show Pawn Stars a lot I have developed a new fascination for history.  I also have some hope of writing more articles about historical events, plus my trip last year to Hawaii where I was on board the ship where the treaty to end WWII was signed has sparked a lot of interest.

My Dad seems to think I am taking too much on, and I agree with him.  Sometimes my day starts at 4 am and is interspersed with naps and goes on until I am completely exhausted or have a rare day off.  It is a difficult thing to balance in life because on one side a person doesn’t want to waste away their lives passively watching TV or listening to music, but it is hard to deal with stress in other ways.  Once again, I would love it anyone out there reading this has insights for me.

Well, Dear Readers that is about it for today.  I think I rambled on and didn’t say much but I hope someone out in that vast blog-reading world feels otherwise.  As always, feel free to email at viking3082000@yahoo.com and don’t forget to scroll past the below photo for today’s poem!

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Hot Summer Night

 

 

To you my secret love I offer the very best of myself

I can no longer let my love waste away on a shelf

I sought for all of my time on this earth for one just like you

And finding you saved my life; made me feel born all anew

 

There had been so many dark days when I didn’t think love could be

And even now I admit you and I are not matched perfectly

But forever there has been something in your lovely blue eyes

That betrayed you needed me, though you knew you were truly a prize

 

I noticed you and saw such good in you before introducing myself

So much beauty, such wisdom, both of them better than any wealth

I knew that you and I would have things to talk about for hours and days

I found you simply fascinating in so many ways

 

By some strange miracle we ended up close friends then lovers

You were like an epic novel so much between the covers

But that glow from our passion one day faded away

But you are still my very best friend to this very day

 

Through many years you brought my life such joy

And now I’m a middle-aged man, when we met I was just a boy

I want to let you know how much happiness that you bring

Into my challenged life despite that you wear another man’s ring

 

Although you are the love that I wanted most as years went by

It doesn’t hurt you are pledged to another I don’t know why

As long as we can share the simple things that you and I like to do

I am happy to play second fiddle to your man for you

 

The love that I have for you has never felt wrong

And all of your family makes me feel like I truly belong

So I just want to tell you on this hot summer night

Your love and your friendship are my life’s greatest delight

 

 

Leif Gregersen

May 26, 2015

Story Slam and New Camera Day

DSC_0146Photo taken near my house with my brand new Nikon Camera

Today’s Blog:

     Well, I wonder what my growing list of regular readers would like to hear about today.  Last night I went to a ‘story slam’ competition and got up in front of a large crowd of people and recited a five minute story I wrote about my mom’s passing.  It was something that affected me greatly, I think I will post the story here for anyone to have a look at:

A TRIBUTE:

Mother. Mama. Mommy. Mom. So many names for the same thing, that one special person in all of our lives, in the lives of everyone here, everyone that ever lived has had a mother. Mine is no more.

 

The Catholics consider Mary Mother of Jesus to be the first Saint. She was the first one close enough to our Lord to appeal to him when wine ran out at a wedding. When the time came for me to perform a miracle for my Mom, I was unable.

 

It was six or seven years ago. My Dad was far away in Toronto at my sister’s wedding and I was taking care of my mom. At 63 she had just about everything go wrong with her that could. In her day, my Mother had been a bank manager, she had been an expeditor for a rail company. She had been her first family’s sole support at 16 and nearly earned herself a full scholarship to University. All she had wanted in life was to become a teacher, but she had to satisfy herself with teaching three kids.

 

Life and medications had taken so much out of her. My mom had turned from an intelligent and active adult to a child in a 63 year-old body. I had to answer to her every call, be it for her meals, for help to go to the bathroom, or even just to bring cold water. As I did these things, I thought of all she did for me and tried so hard to keep having patience.

 

One day, she called my name. The name only she could get away using. “Leify!” she said. Leify. Me, her little boy, the one she had carried and loved and spoiled.   And now she needed me.

 

I went in to see what was wrong. Her arms were flailing but she wasn’t speaking. I felt cruel and cold as I looked at her, tried to explain I didn’t know what she wanted. I put my hand to her chest and somehow I realized she wasn’t breathing. I don’t know how much time went by, but in what seemed like hours and at the same time like split seconds I had dialed 911. “Do you know CPR?” the operator asked. Yes, I have taken it many times, in boy scouts, in air cadets, I had read about it, even watched it performed once on a heart attack victim.

 

“No.” I had to reply. It had been too long, and this was my mom who wasn’t breathing. They told me to lay her flat on the floor. This I did, wondering how much damage I was doing to the back that suffered from crushed vertebrae and osteoporosis. I made a seal on her lips and blew, still being able to taste her last dose of medicine on her lips. I pushed on her chest a few times then tried to breathe life into her again. Nothing was happening.

 

In no time the paramedics were there. There was a lot of them, they crowded into my parent’s small apartment, pounded her chest and put a breathing bag over her mouth. They tried so desperately hard but nothing was helping. One of the paramedics told me she could still hear me, to not be embarrassed, to say what I wanted to her. “We all love you mom.” Is all I can remember saying. “We all love you mom.”

 

I was given a ride to the hospital and the paramedic explained that there was no hope to be had. At the hospital this was confirmed. I had to make a decision. She was brain dead and breathing through artificial methods. Her pain, her joy, her suffering, her crying fits and bedsores were all over now. I told them they could take her off life support.

 

It really was a beautiful thing, to be with someone when your end comes. Her breathing slowed, then stopped. I looked in her eyes and they seemed so alive, so real, I wanted to cry out that she wasn’t gone, that there was still a spark in her, but she was gone no matter how alive she seemed. I went into a waiting room, was given access to a phone and called my Dad to tell him my mom had died-on my watch.

 

It was discovered she had died of choking. Complications of acid reflux. Her and I shared a malady, the one that makes us take medications, we both had Bipolar Disorder. It gave us a special bond but it was also eating away at our souls and some of our vital body systems. My last true friend was gone, my mom. Three more days and she had an appointment to fix her throat. She didn’t have to die. She was a victim of waiting lists. I was a victim of guilt for many months.

 

My family goes on. My sister married and she has a child, a wonderful little child who had loved her grandmother. I look in her eyes and it warms my heart when she tells me she wants to grow up to be a teacher. Sometimes she cries because she misses her gramma. Now, I still reach for the phone when I want to talk to her, then I remember and pray to her instead. She can’t respond, but I know she can hear me. I know because when we visit her resting place I can feel her tears in the rain and her whispers in the wind. She will be in my heart forever.

CONTINUATION OF BLOG:

The story I read was just slightly different from how it appears here.  It must have been pretty powerful because when I got off the stage I noticed that three women were in tears.  One of them was one of the contest judges and she gave me the only 10 our of 10 of the night, though I didn’t win the competition.  Grieving a loss is a funny experience.  There have been times in my life when I was greatly worried that I was some kind of Psychopath or Sociopath, but after experiencing my mom’s death I realized that I do have a lot of compassion and feeling in me, I think I just register it differently.  The whole experience hit me from a blind side.  On the day my mom died I only cried one tear, as I held her hand after life support was taken off.  I was comforted that I was there with her, comforted that my name was the last thing she said.  I felt horrible for my Dad, worse for my brother and worse still for my sister who will always be reminded of her loss on her wedding anniversary.  I found myself doing odd things after my mom passed, I would lay in bed and say “mom” over and over again, I was in a bit of a fog of depression.  Now, seven years later, I feel a lot better about the whole thing.  My mom was the kind of person who made you feel very wanted, very needed.  I found my life somewhat lacking in purpose after she was gone.  I will never forget a friend of hers and an old teacher of mine who came to one of my book signings and said, “Your mom would be so proud.”  That meant a lot, but of course there was still the hurt that she never saw me publish a book and my mom dearly loved books.  I think though I will have to leave off there for now, it is early morning in Edmonton and I am extremely tired from lack of sleep.  Thanks so much for all those who have been liking my page and joining up, I hope you are getting your money’s worth out of reading my blog and that it moves you enough that you check out my eBooks and paperbacks.  All the best Dear Readers!

DSC_0038                    Downtown Edmonton’s Hustle and Bustle at Lunch Time Midwinter

 

The Real Beauty and Happiness Is Between Your Two Ears

DSCF5216Sometimes I can’t even believe I made it to this beautiful place.  This beach, with its crystal blue waters is known to locals as ‘the toilet bowl’ and makes for some great snorkeling and general lounging around the shore

     Hello to all those who dare to dream, dare to try, dare to seize the day.  I thought I would write a bit about writing here, writing is something that is not only what I do, and what I love to do, it is something that I think everyone should do, everyone should enjoy.  On a whim this morning I looked up our local correspondence University (Athabasca University which I have taken Psychology and Criminology through in the past) and did a search on creative writing.  There was a course, but there were many courses I had to take before I could take that one.  I am seriously thinking I would love to do this, love to go back to University despite my 43 years.  The only thing that really scared me off was that a 3 credit course costs $677.00!  I am going to look into financing options, there used to be something called a bursary for part-time studies that would pay all the costs of such things, but I fear that has faded into the cost-cutting jungle.  So, I looked at an option, iTunes U!  Well, it is a definite option and certainly much less cost, but there is still some cost.  One video I wanted to look at regarding freelance magazine writing was $10 to download and thanks to wise investments (not) and careful saving (not) I currently have an available balance of $35 on my Mastercard.  I looked at some of the free resources though, and I watched a short video on getting ideas for magazine writing and it prompted me to write a query letter to a magazine I was once paid a phenomenal sum from to write an article about my old Cadet Squadron.  Writing the article was pure pleasure, I even drove out to the airport where they had a gliding program going on.  If I could get 3 or 4 jobs like that a year I would be a very happy man.

As far as other writing goes, ever since I stopped posting my poems I seem to have stopped writing them.  As mentioned though, I really want to get into poetry publications and get noticed and known which could help my writing career in many ways and just about all of them insist that your poem can’t have been published online or otherwise if you submit them.  Last night though I did pick up a great resource that I received in the mail from amazon.com called “In the Palm of Your Hand, the Poet’s Portable Workshop”, and after working through the first chapter, I worked with a writing prompt and wrote something I was kind of proud of about how I felt about a dear Uncle who has passed away.  It is hard to describe how I get my ideas.  I think some of my best writing occurs when I start with a pen and paper.  I also quite often start before that laying in bed.  I turn out the lights, turn off any distractions aside perhaps from my classical music station on the radio and just toss ideas around until I can come up with something workable, plausible.  (I often use this same method for short stories and Novellas as well).  Then comes pen and paper.  First, I try to just brainstorm, write out every idea I have even if I’m not going to use it at all.  Then comes the outline, which is a bit harder and needs to be double spaced because I often make changes.  With shorter works like poetry, I might stop at the brainstorming phase and start to write, but with longer ones an outline is essential.  Sometimes I don’t even follow the outline for short stories, I just dive in and let the story and my memory lead me.  With Novellas and such longer works, the outline is more essential, but is always being revised.  When I am writing a longer work, I often come home from supper and go right to sleep, then try and wake up late at night in the wee hours and write then.  I start out reading and editing work I did the night before, or from my last session and then I find that my ability to write is increased.  When I write poetry, I start with the brainstorming and then I write out long hand a whole poem.  I have been told it is best to leave your work for some time, but I often go right to the stage of typing out the poem on my word processor, and I find somewhere between the written word and the computer typed words a change occurs.  I feel moved to write more stanzas, or to say things differently.  Lately I have been trying to write in iambic pentameter, which actually comes pretty easy with practice.  I simply count off two syllables for each finger on my left hand and when it fits into the rhyming and meter I am going for, I write it out.  What seems most essential though is to have a theme.  I have done young love to death (hey-that gives me a great idea-a poem about ‘old’ love!).  I have also used themes of brotherly love, friendship, my illness, history (usually of World War Two), my fears, and more.

I don’t know why, but writing seems so exciting to me.  Even when you put aside the (slim) hope of money, the concept of becoming famous or at least well known and respected, there is something that really hits me about actually creating something, and this feeling often also goes for reading quality literature.  When I mention quality literature though, I should point out that my concept of quality literature has changed a lot in the past few years, largely because of my good friend Richard Van Camp who writes everything from dark novels exploring horrible sides of the human condition, right down to baby books and in between (comics, graphic novels and more).  I want to put in a mention here about a graphic novel I am reading right now that is just so good I can’t help but tell people about it.  It is called, “Brooklyn Dreams” and is a black and white, thick book where a man is sitting in a dark room supposedly talking to a Psychiatrist, recounting his days as a teenager in the drug culture of Brooklyn in the early 70’s.  This book is so engaging I have been savoring reading it page by page, massively enjoying the art and the incredibly humorous stories.  I think one of the great things about graphic novels is that it allows more people into the wonderful world of literature, people who don’t understand or have the patience for longer works of literature.  Feel free to post any of your favorite reads here.

After yesterday’s words about changing the focus of this blog to mental health, I wanted to mention at least some snippets about the subject.  I have been attending a class run by the Schizophrenia society about recovery from mental illness, and I strongly urge anyone out there, be they Bipolar, Schizophrenic or Depressive, to try and connect to a similar organization in their community.  I have gotten so much out of looking at more modern ways of dealing with my illness, I have learned about medications that may help me with fewer side effects, and even just kind of got out of my shell a bit and went to a place where I can feel comfortable about talking about my illness.  I actually think I am going to re-take the class another time just because the content of the course was only one small part of what made it great.

Well, dear readers, I hope some of you can take something from  today’s blog.  As far as any advice I may have, I think one thing applies to both people struggling with mental illness and people who have the desire to become a writer.  Keep a journal.  Head down to the dollar store, pick up a notebook, and find a good pen or package of good pens, and bring it with you everywhere.  Jot down how you are feeling, how things ‘make’ you feel, ideas you have for stories.  I actually forgot to mention one aspect of the writing process for me, once I am done the outline for a short story or a novella, if I get stuck, I write out with pen and paper a scene from my story.  It just takes a little push sometimes but when you do push yourself, you can find out that amazing things happen.  As for keeping a journal, it is something recommended for anyone, and it can even include blogging if you are so inclined.  As always, feedback is appreciated, so if you wish, please email me right at my personal email, viking3082000@yahoo.com  all the best readers!

IMG_8135This is a picture from the near-desert area of the interior of The Big Island of Hawaii, which some world class observatories call home.  I did some hiking and a lot of driving in this place and ended up feeling like a brand new person upon my return

Prozac Dreaming

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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.

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More About Writing, Less About Poetry

DSCF5641                                              SUNRISE JUST OUTSIDE MY BACK DOOR

Hello dear readers.  It has been a couple of days since I posted anything and I don’t really know what to write at first.  I had a long talk with my sister, who has her Masters Degree in Education and she has been encouraging me to focus more on short stories and magazine/newspaper articles rather than poetry.  I don’t really know how to take this, for some time I have felt something lacking in my poetry.  One thing I do know is that if I want to publish poetry or have any success getting a book sized collection going, I can’t use anything I post here.  I think from time to time I will try and post some poetry though, but while I am in this thinking stage I am going to refrain.  I find though that I really love taking pictures (I just purchased a brand new $500 camera) and so I have no problem continuing with those efforts.  I also can put together blogs without any worries of copyrights or publishing problems, so I want to go on with that.  I think I should start writing in themes though.  One of the things I would most like to do is to help other writers who may be starting out, so to that end I am going to put after the second photo for today a copy of an article I wrote which was turned down, but still has some very useful information.  I would love feedback on what anyone thinks of it.

Perhaps one of the themes I could work on could be some of the interesting people I have met.  For some odd reason I am reminded right now of a 28 year-old African American I met while traveling the United States at age 19.  I had been living in truck stops, trying to hustle a ride from anyone who showed any sign or indication that they were going North to Vancouver, BC or anywhere in Canada for that matter.  I was outside enjoying a cool, crisp morning and looking out at the sand colored mountains of Southern California when I started talking with this guy (damned if I can’t remember his name) and he told me that he had thought of pursuing a career as a minister.  He seemed like a good guy to count as a friend in an otherwise unfriendly place, so I decided to hang out with him.  Him and I went to a shelter in the nearby town and got a meal, some clothes and an offer of a place to stay and work to be had.  For the most part my new friend was extremely entertaining, he told me stories that nearly made me split my gut laughing, but then out of seemingly nowhere he started to talk about a rape and a murder he had been an accessory to and it really freaked me out.  One of the scary things about big American cities is that by weight of sheer numbers a lot more people slip through the cracks of what is considered normal in Canadian cities and can end up being pretty scary.  I really wanted to get away from this guy, but I didn’t see any potential harm in hanging around with him for a while though the bells should have gone off way earlier.  Those were strange times, I remember when I got home from that horrible trip that I had two blisters each the size and thickness of a silver dollar on each foot thanks to the boots I was wearing.

Well, I am going to leave off things there.  Anyone who finds this little bit of a story interesting is encouraged to read more about this and other misadventures I experienced in my two books, “Through The Withering Storm” and “Inching Back To Sane” which are under the heading, ‘books’ in the menu of this website, both paperback and e-book formats.  As mentioned, I am putting an article I wrote below the photo, please leave any comments you like

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ARTICLE ON WRITING:

Writing is simple. Pen a document, print it up, send it away and get rich. Sorry, nowhere near that easy. Stephen King once said that if you can write something, get it published, get paid for it and the check clears, you are a writer. Cool! But where do you start?

 

Perhaps you are just starting out. Start with a good computer. I prefer a Mac Mini that I use only for writing and I have Microsoft Word on it, whick is considered the industry standard. An option is to download a program called OpenOffice which is compatable at www.openoffice.org for free.

 

Where do you go from there?   “The Writer’s Market 20–” is essential. Check it out at www.WritersMarket.com where you can sign up for their newsletter and get other information. The book, at around $30.00 US contains query letter templates, advice for writers, and tons of addresses of everything from agents to publishers and many magazines. It gives you almost all the facts you need, from who to address your query to, right down to how to get back issues (always try to read a publication before you submit to it) and what the magazine pays.

 

Now that you have the essentials, or are able to beg, borrow or use other creative methods to utilize them, start reading. Read, read read! Look for ‘short story’ stickers on fiction books in your library and check them out and devour them. Read magazines, literary and otherwise (read them in the library to save $$). Sometimes I will take a bus route that adds an hour to my morning commute just to have the time to tune out and read.

 

Magazines can be a great way to start your career. I started making money with magazines simply by browsing through a copy of Writer’s Market and coming up with ideas to query them with. Not all of the magazines took my offer, but I can safely say I have added a few thousand to my bottom line just from part-time freelancing.

 

Something important is to start getting your name known, and start getting your list of publications growing. I still love volunteering for my community newspaper for free because I have fun doing, it connects me with my neighbors and it gives me more clippings each month to add to my growing pile. Not to mention I feel the experience makes me a better writer. Don’t worry that at first you will get low paying or non-paying work, it all benefits you in the long run.

 

Something else I do is sit down and write a short story when I feel moved, or a poem. Every few months I these together into a book and have them printed up at www.createspace.com which is an imprint of Amazon. For the cost of a few hundred dollars for 50 or 100 copies, I get the extreme joy of seeing my name in print on a real book. I take copies to independent bookstores, I set up signings at places as varied as Farmer’s Markets and Hospital Gift Shops. It’s all on a small scale, but as time goes by, my list of guaranteed customers grows and presently, two of my books are being evaluated by distributors and another is being considered by a publisher. Will either of these make me rich? Not likely, success can be a long journey for a writer, it may never come, but I can assure you that the path is a rewarding one financially, emotionally and in a general feeling of happiness of having accomplished something truly worthwhile.

A Photo, A Blog, A Way To Help, A Way To Give

 

 

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This is a shot from one of the nicest parks we have in Edmonton, and we really have some nice parks.  If anyone has purchased my poetry book, “Poems From Inside Me” They will see on the front cover a gull spreading it’s wings as it flies over this small body of water.  Today is a little windy, a little cold and very wet and slushy, almost like a Spring day, but normally we are around minus 20 celsius at this time of year.  I could have posted a picture of Hawaii, but I figured it would warm my heart a bit more to see a place here when it is nice.  I think in many ways Edmonton’s summer is nicer than Hawaii, mostly because it doesn’t get as hot, it isn’t as muggy when it is hot and there are much more daylight hours than tropical locations because Edmonton is so far North.

I wanted to shake things up a bit today with the blog because I have been hard at work on a few things and just haven’t got the energy to compose a fresh poem.  I think I will post a ‘used’ poem on the page, as always I welcome feedback.  What I have been up to is setting up a crowdfunding web page with the hopes of raising $750.00 (already $50 has been generously donated) which I will use to hire an illustrator for a comic book script I have written, and hopefully this will help cover printing costs as well. I have a couple of rare opportunities, one is that I have gotten a part-time job where I will be going to schools and other classroom settings and talking about my life experiences with mental illness, and though I have two books on the subject, I don’t know if they will help teens much, partly because not all teens are into regular books, and not all teens can afford regular books.  So my idea is to print up and distribute this comic in these settings, and by some million to one shot, I was sent an email asking for proposals for presentations at a conference in California on mental health and comic books.  Can you believe it?  There really has to be some kind of major intelligent guiding force in this Universe.  Anyhow, anyone interested can check out my crowdfunding page at: http://www.gofundme.com/oneinfive1in5

I think what I am going to do is to post a video from Youtube I made below here, it is a narration of me walking through the mental hospital I was sent to as an 18 year-old and last left some 13 years ago at the age of 29.  Pardon if the first little while is boring, I decided to keep it because as I went towards the hospital on the bus a young woman started a conversation with me that seemed relevant.  Look for todays (used) poem below the video.  Actually, what the heck, I will put in three short poems, I had entered them in a contest to appear on the bus but they weren’t accepted.

 

The Truth of The Matter

 

The gentle blackbird asking nothing of anyone

A shiny object with which to line his nest, a little food

He reminds me of the young man I saw some years back

A thin shock of dark hair, a lust for life

A sincere smile, a shirt indicating his military unit

The blackbird is known all around the neighborhood

The young man seems the type to have many friends

I weep for my blackbird friend and this nameless young soldier

Both of them have been alone and in pain

Both of them must face life with just one leg

 

 

More Than a Scavenger

 

Someone once told me birds aren’t very smart

And yet I will never tire of marveling at their beauty

Even the simple gulls can soar and glide

Press their perfectly arrayed wings against the air

With just the right energy to carry themselves skyward

Once, in a place where many are old and forgotten

I felt generous and threw a pizza crust to a gull

It was too stiff for him to eat and he carried it

Over to a puddle and soaked it until it was softer

Bird-brain. Bah!

 

 

Hawrelak Park

 

I once saw a deer in my city

Those big eyes seemingly glowing

This gentle creature more beautiful

Than any made-up model

It’s slim legs ready to flee

At the sound of an unkind foe

It looked at me, looked at me

And somehow for a moment

I could see her soul; her sad tired soul

Longing for rest and peacefulness

In a city full of meat eaters

 

 

Late Night/Early Morning Thoughts of a Princess of Old

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This is a beautiful statue behind my favourite building, the Library!

Hello all my dear readers!  Well, it is only 7:00am but it looks like my day is off to a great start!  I just had a chance to read a great article about myself published in my home town newspaper.  It mentions my website, my new ‘gofundme’ campaign (I am trying to raise $750 to fund a community health graphic novel/comic book about mental health issues at http://www.gofundme.com/oneinfive1in5).  It even has a picture of my new poetry book, “Stargazer: My Life in Constellations”.  I have to apologize because I haven’t yet put a link for that book on this website or set it up so those who aren’t rich can get it in a cheaper ebook format.  Look for both in the coming week.

Today I am heading over to the University Hospital to set up a book signing at the gift shop.  I always like going there because I sell a few books and then they buy a few more to sell on their shelves.  I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel where I won’t have to worry so much about working as a stage hand.  I love the work, but it can be extremely strenuous and dangerous.  Just the other day I had to walk on some two inch metal slats eight floors above a stage that were spaced about two inches apart.  No real danger, but freaky!!

I have been considering taking my next vacation to Mexico.  The only thing that worries me about going is that cigarettes and booze are going to be so cheap I don’t know if I can keep my clean living promise to myself.  I would really like to tour some ruins and swim in the Atlantic, I have already checked some prices and places to stay.  Might end up later in the year than I thought I would go though, which would be fine.  I have high hopes right now that I am going to get published in Esprit De Corps magazine with a story I did on a battle during the Korean war at a place called Kap’yong where a small group of Canadians distinguished themselves by holding off some 3,000 Chinese troops.  I have also put out a few more proposals to magazines, they can be really great paying or really lousy.  One article I wrote they weren’t going to pay me anything and so I whined and complained and they decided to shoot me a few bucks for the effort.  I should warn any aspiring writers out there that when it comes to getting paid, you really have to be patient sometimes, even for magazine work.  I have had to wait up to a year for some markets to pay, but the majority of editors are really good.  The vast majority.

Once again, I want to let everyone know that I welcome any comments they wish to make.  If we can get this blog a little more active I will start having contests and give-aways.  First to answer a simple question gets a signed book delivered and so on.  Any writers out there?  I would love to follow your blog, just leave a comment and let me know who you are.

Look for today’s poem below today’s photo!!

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Here’s a nice shot of a cruise ship from the Big Island in Hawaii

Princess

 

In the darkness in morning I awake

And a brisk walk I always like to take

Down the frozen streets of my northern home

If the stars are out I don’t feel alone

 

The sky is my companion as I go

Walking here does me more good than I know

The air is clean and crisp the streets all mine

Renews my spirit more than sacred wine

 

I like my neighbors; I love all my friends

But on these moonlit walks my soul depends

Walking for me is meditating too

It’s so much more than just something to do

 

I need to walk and focus all my thought

I need to unlearn all my day has taught

In this city one tends to worry much

And more when you have no lover’s sweet touch

 

As I walk far I walk through my head too

And banish all my memories of you

God take me now if I can’t do the task

Some peace and strength to live is all I ask

 

I love someone who does not care for me

My meditation walks sets me free

But like all good things it too has to end

And then all those longings come back again

 

In every life some pain will come for sure

And sadly time can be the only cure

The best advice I got is to have fun

And know first love is not the only one

 

In my heart I want to be loyal still

But you can’t change a mind by force of will

The sad thing is I did not know her well

Though her smile could send you to burn in hell

 

A perfect face and lovely golden hair

Men would always see her and stop and stare

How I ever thought she could have liked me

Folks must still consider a mystery

 

So now I walk and count my breaths and think

About how life can sometimes really stink

One thing I can say that I know for sure

I now have a new girl and I love her

 

Maybe the Princess would have been a trial

I just can’t stop thinking about her smile

My new love was meant only to be mine

And in reality she’s just as fine

 

We always want what we can never get

I feel though that I owe a holy debt

I have four limbs, two eyes, a heart and mind

I have a real girl so sweet and so kind

 

One day I will get over what’s-her-name

And not feel I have to focus the blame

On things I felt but never talked about

Things kept inside because all of my doubt

 

 

Leif Gregersen