National exposure

So I'm preparing for my trip to Ottawa to speak at and attend a national conference. First there was a mixup of the flight schedule. We had to rebook for an earlier flight so we wouldn't arrive late at night. Then when I picked up my tickets, they had us scheduled to leave the wrong day. So it was sorted out and all is well.

I've spoken at a conference before but the audience this time are occupational therapists from across Canada. I am not an occupational therapist but I'll be talking about collaborative practice of mental health professionals and myself, a receiver of mental health services, on a program evaluation of the Art Studios and my personal journey. Boring? Not at all. I'm going to have slides of my art and have prepared a very inspiring success story about how the 'system' has aided me.

The mental health system doesn't always get praise from their clients. Do I in some way fit the mold based on the philosophy of recovery? Some of the mentally ill fall through the cracks. They may end up homeless or addicted without community supports. Shouldn't the government try harder to alleviate the problems caused by their own mistakes?

I think Riverview Hospital should never have been downsized. I think if there were complaints about institutionalization and a desire to integrate the mentally ill into society, they should have improved the standards of the institution and put more low-cost housing, resources and supervision in place.

We were told we might be interviewed by the media after our presentation. The first time I was interviewed on television was when I made a comment about MP David Emerson crossing the floor from Liberal to Conservative in order to serve in the cabinet. I said, "It's like what flavour is it this week, what flavour is it next week." I spoke to my mother about it and she said that he did a lot of good things while serving as a Conservative to which I replied, "But he ran as a Liberal, mom!"

Making progress

I wrote "Hell's Fire" off and on over a ten year period. It was a story, then a script. then a story again. It has great visuals and action and crosses genres. So I really thought it would make a good movie. My logline is: With the threat of earth’s destruction looming, Johnny Riggs goes on a mission to save his supernaturally gifted daughter Annie from alien abduction.

Novellas may be hard to publish compared to novels because of the word count. However, they may be printed in a collection if you have connections. I submitted "Hell's Fire," as a novella to Bewildering Stories. Eleven weeks later, the editor responded, accepting my story for online publication in late summer/early fall. I was ecstatic.

Today I sent them another novella to see if they'd publish it as well. I also sent a submission to The Bulletin. Despite these advances, my novel "Chocolate Days" has been on the back burner. And also my painting has taken a backseat to other activities. But you can only stretch your energy and focus so far.

 The other thing I've experienced are waves of internal conflict. Because of my illness, I developed a deep hole of self-pity and deprecation. Even though I've had so many successes and achievements, this hole still opens up at vulnerable times. One would think, I would "get over it" but self-stigma and negativity throw me off balance. So instead of dwelling on my disparaging self-talk, I vote that I get ready for summer. Pull out my shorts and sandals. Pack my bag for my Ottawa trip and enjoy the sunshine. The best remedy for the blues is to relax and have a fresh start everyday.

I'd like to thank my friends and family for their support. You know who you are.

If you like it, why don't you buy it?

So I sold art cards at a Mother's Day Sale at the Art Studios. Attendance to the sale was so-so as our location was off the beaten track. However, I socialized with the public and other sellers. It wasn't a bad day. The sun was shining. In my experience, people say they can't afford original art but they'll pay for dinner or buy fashionable clothes. Buying art isn't a priority for some. Even less so, with the economic downturn. On the other hand, by selling art cards, my art becomes affordable.

The Traveling Art Show through the Art Studios took down an exhibit and mounted a new show at the Evergreen Community Health Centre, including some of my paintings. While they were taking down the show, people had great things to say about the art, but the question remained, "If you like it that much, why don't you buy it?" Maybe I'm being a little cynical, but if the paintings are of very good quality and well-priced, what's the barrier?

I volunteered at a family conference on mental health and I recognized many faces. People I met at talks, workshops and dialogues. It was good to reconnect. So I was told by two writers I respect that my May Musings column on the topic of character was my best yet. It was great to get that response. My novel is coming along. As I write, the story is becoming more intricate and involved. Remaining true to the advice in my column, I try to express character through action, words, emotions and thoughts.