The Sale

Preparing a sale means planning months in advance. First, we needed to find a person to lead the sale and volunteers to head each committee. Thankfully, someone stepped in to coordinate the sale. It's a tough job because you are responsible if something goes wrong. We rented a hall on Main Street for our sale and the coordinator figured out a layout plan for tables. We have a silent auction to raise funds, so we needed a leader for that. It means cold calling businesses to donate items like coffee beans, chocolate or a gift certificate. We also have donations of original art to auction. Our vendors sell pottery, paintings, prints, cards, jewelry and textiles.

I decided to help out with the advertising. I arranged for posters and postcards to be printed and called the local paper to place an ad. Also, we did a mail out to invite people that came the year before and to potential new buyers. We posted posters at various libraries, businesses and shops. Before the sale, an industrious fellow offered to do a promotional video. A week before the sale, it appeared on YouTube.

At the sale, I planned to sell copies of my memoir and art cards printed. I spent a good bit of money on printing costs for the art cards. Cellophane envelopes made them more attractive to buyers.

I even bought a cart to take on the bus to carry my inventory to the hall. Last year, at our annual sale, it snowed which stopped a lot of people from coming. Three hours after we opened, it started to rain and people started to arrive. Soon the hall was buzzing with conversation.

It's important to go into a sale with no expectations. I was there to have a good time, not to be disappointed by lack of profit. I enjoyed being with my friends and celebrating our art regardless.

Sometimes if you greet people who walk by, they won't make eye contact. Is saying hello confrontational? Are you there to look only at the merchandise and not the sellers?

Our sale lasts for eight hours, which means bringing a sandwich for dinner and something to drink. Volunteers help out by watching your table if you need a short break or you can ask the neighbour beside you.

When I see the beautiful paintings and pottery, I'm proud of our talented group. It takes a lot of time to produce good quality work.

I want to say, our group aren't just artists, but artists who happen to have a mental illness. We have struggled, some at death's door, to be where we are today. Our outreach to the community through our art sale hopefully lessens stigma and shows we can contribute to society through our art.

So if you are in the neighbourhood at the time of our sale, please come by. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Art Studios Winter Sale and Silent Auction, November 24th, 12-8 pm
Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street, Vancouver

Interview on We Do Write with Dorothy Dreyer

I'd like to thank Dorothy Dreyer for interviewing me on her blog, "We Do Write." She asked me about my memoir and other questions around writing. She's a novelist who lives in Germany. Thanks to Dorothy!

Please mark your calendars if you'd like to attend!

November is a busy month for me. I'm in an interview with Jay Peachy on Sound Therapy Radio CJSF 90.1 FM on November 1st between 7-8 pm PT. There is live streaming on their website.

Also I will have art cards, paintings, and copies of my book on sale at:

Holiday Craft Fair
Saturday, November 12th, 10 am to 4 pm
West End Community Centre, 870 Denman, Vancouver, BC

Art Studios Winter Sale & Silent Auction
Thursday, November 24th, 12 to 8 pm
Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street at 15th Avenue, Vancouver, BC

What else have I been up to? Giving a couple of talks on recovery, facing new challenges in the workplace, and sending off some writing submissions. Also Jay Peachy came to The Art Studios to videotape members for a video clip to promote our program.

I hope your November is a good one.

Interview on Maria Savva's Goodreads Blog

I'm thrilled today that Maria Savva, a talented UK writer and reviewer, posted a Q&A interview with me on her Goodreads Blog. I met Maria first through her writing. She has published more than a few books. If you'd like to win a free e-book of My Schizophrenic Life or Hell's Fire, please 'like' her blog post or leave a comment! Thanks!

Wredheaded Writer

Novelist Dixon Rice kindly asked me to write an author's tip for his website "Wredheaded Writer."
To view please click here. He features author tips from various writers and sayings for writers in his blog. Thanks to him for posting it.

Psychopia video online!

Psychopia | short documentary from Ali Hamzah Virk on Vimeo.
Thanks to Ali Virk and his fellow graduates from the Vancouver Film School who created this video. My mother, sister and I who appear in the video went to the graduation event and viewed many of the films they made. The quality of the films and talent of the students were impressive.

Hell's Fire

Hell's Fire is a scifi novella about a character named Johnny Riggs who goes on a mission to save his daughter from alien abduction as the clock is ticking. It's now available for $0.99 on Kindle and features a new cover. If you are interested, you can find it at Amazon Kindle.

Beautiful Minds Interview with Sandra Yuen MacKay

On Monday, July 18th between 7 to 7:30 pm Pacific Time, Richard Dalton Jr. will interview Sandra Yuen MacKay about her journey of recovery and her memoir My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness. Tune into Co-op Radio, 102.7 FM to listen to the interview. It is archived here in part.

NAMI conference, July 6-9 in Chicago

My memoir is being promoted at the National Alliance on Mental Illness 2011 conference in Chicago at the convention bookstore. NAMI is an American association that provides education and support to mental health consumers, families and mental health professionals. The conference will run July 6-9.

To view the press release, click here.

I won't be attending, but fellow writer Susan Inman, author of After Her Brain Broke will be signing books July 9th at 11:45.

Juggling June

Alas, June is here already. The first part of this year for me has been talking about recovery and my memoir in particular. I spoke at the Unitarian Church last month. A fellow told me, he drove in from Maple Ridge just for the talk. I thought to myself, am I a celebrity?

I also spoke at My Artist's Corner, an art group of mental health consumers in Burnaby. They had some good questions and remarks for me. Later this month, I'm speaking briefly at an art reception, salon showing at The Art Studios and presenting to a health care assistants class at Vancouver Community College.

After Oprah Winfrey had her last show, I wrote her a note and got a response within six hours. I did receive another email from her several days later. I found out some of these letters others receive are the same. But I'm just glad to be acknowledged and to be able to email her about my recovery and memoir.

American Idol ended after a lot of agonizing, waiting for the end of the show. They had some stellar singers this year. I liked the comments from Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson.

The Canucks won their first game in the Stanley Cup playoffs. As a Vancouverite, I want them to WIN! I was at a store on Wednesday, when I heard people shouting and applauding. I dashed over to the big tv screen section and watched the replay of the one and only winning goal during the game in the last seconds. Hurray for the Canucks!

Other work and leisure activities have me working hard. I'm on the computer a lot keeping up. Soon July will be here, and we'll be off to our annual vacation spot Parksville.

Interview on The Coffee Klatch

Marianne Russo from The Coffee Klatch invited me for an interview on Blog Talk Radio on April 6th, 2011. She read my book "My Schizophrenic Life" and put aside a special time for me that fit into my schedule. She had a lot of interesting questions and quoted from the book. It was a very positive experience as she had some good things to say about me as well. I was asked, "Did your intelligence affect your illness?" I replied that I had a difficult time ruminating and obsessing over my detailed, vivid memories of past negative events. It took a long time to let go of the past. However, another answer would have been having very high expectations which led to disappointment in myself. By the end of the interview, I felt she covered all the bases of my book! A big thank you to Marianne and listeners out there!

Click here to hear the one hour archived interview.


I am featured in an interview in a local newspaper, Burnaby Now, with Jennifer Moreau, March 23, 2011. She came to my house and took some photos and asked me questions. A week later, she published this article. Thanks to Jennifer for promoting my author reading at Tommy Douglas Library. Click here to view.

Interview with Thomas Walker of NAMI in Athens, Ohio

This month I was interviewed by Thomas Walker. He is a professor, scholar and writer and a representative of NAMI in Athens, Ohio. He interviewed me for the radio show Conversations from Studio B on WOUB AM 1340. I spoke about my experiences and memoir. I also spoke about the mental health system in Canada. To listen, click here.

February News Flash and other stories

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! I'm a little behind as Chinese New Year was February 3rd, but that's because I'm pretty busy. I worked on three new paintings these past two weeks. I posted them on Facebook and received some good comments!

The Art Studios to which I belong is planning an exhibit called "Visual Melodies" at the Unitarian Church from late April to May. I may be asked to give a talk there about my recovery from mental illness and my book. Also this month, I am speaking at an occupational therapists conference to over two hundred attendees about "how rehabilitation aided my recovery." I plan to use powerpoint and speak about my book. I am also speaking to pharmacy students and giving an author's reading at a Burnaby library in March.

On Goodreads, I met a fellow writer, Kevin Alan Lee, who lives near Vancouver. He also has schizophrenia and wrote a book about it. His book The Split Mind: Schizophrenia from an Insider's Point of View reveals not only his experiences but information about stigma, social problems and policies. Interesting comparison to say the least. His book will be released February 28th.

I've also been meeting indie writers on BestsellerBound and Goodreads. I asked if some of them were interested in entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest to win a publishing contract with Penguin Books. One fellow said the contract was regular boilerplate and nothing special. Another person said, she had entered before, but would rather let her book speak for itself rather than be based on a pitch for voting. So I learned that many of my fellow writers enjoy so much being the captain of their own ship, maintaining control over all aspects of their books: writing, book cover design, promotion and distribution. Self-publishing is the choice of many.

I'm the editor of Majestic, an online newsletter for, a writer's forum. Recently, the forum changed ownership. The founder of the website has returned! So I'm curious what changes there will be to not only the forum but for Majestic. It's a time of transition.

I find myself obsessing about future outcomes and spending a lot of time on the computer. So my aim is to leave the house and do something different! Rome wasn't built in a day. Taking small steps causes less stress. Expectation shouldn't rule my thinking. I would like to have faith that things will work out. Things that don't, maybe weren't meant to be. But learning something or seeing the silver lining is beneficial.

Thanks to Laura Schultz for her 5 star review!

I met Laura Schultz on Facebook a while back. She is a psychotherapist, life coach and freelance writer. She is a delightful, positive, kind and caring person. She wrote a review of My Schizophrenic Life, which she posted on A sincere thanks to Laura. Here it is!

A Compelling Memoir From a Courageous Young Woman
Most of us never think about the possibility that the world as we know it one day would suddenly ceased to exist almost overnight. And if suddenly what once was, appeared to be totally different, who could you feel safe with to explain strange occurrences that you either felt, saw or heard? That is exactly what transpired in the life of author Sandra Yuen McKay. One day she was a fairly happy, though shy young teenager dealing with issues that most young girls deal with such as school, friends, family etc. Seemingly overnight she heard voices of people she knew, speaking to her in ways that were foreign and threatening to her and made no rational sense, but she was unable to decipher what was real or not.

The author is able to adeptly explain in-depth what she saw and felt during the time she believed people were peering at her and developing unseen plots against her. Her vivid memories and feelings are so poignantly described that the reader feels everything that is occurring, in a deeply meaningful way. At first,no one was able to validate how she was feeling nor was she able to explain it to others in a way they could understand. So she felt more and more isolated and alone. Such is the plight of anyone who experiences schizophrenia or for that matter many who suffer from mental illness. The feelings of isolation and fear set in and it becomes difficult to trust anyone for help or believe that there really is anything wrong.

After suffering for many years and finally being diagnosed, she then endured the often unequipped system of treatment and various specialists who were often not as empathic as one would hope in order to help their clients recover in a warm trusting environment. Some even blamed her for not seeking help more quickly and made her feel more guilty and uncomfortable. This is part of the tragedy of living with mental illness when others who are supposed to know better, blame the victim. Though Sandra endured many challenges once within the mental health system coupled with the stigma attached to a diagnosis of schizophrenia--she never gave up her dreams of living a fulfilling life and becoming independent. And her family was a critical component in her road to healing, as they never stopped loving her nor gave up believing in her which greatly aided in her recovery. Her magnificent artistic ability helped to heal and propel her into a life that blossomed and evolved. She was able to trust again, marry a loving,supportive man and began to pursue her dreams.

This book is alive with Sandra's feelings and experiences documented in words that are genuine and heartfelt-- filled with love and hope for others who are still suffering from mental illness. But it transcends the world of mental illness as well by giving us all hope that no matter what we might have to deal with in life, we too, can learn to cope and not merely survive but learn to thrive! Kudos to Sandra for writing this wonderful book that is insightful and profound! 

Beautiful Minds with Richard Dalton

I was asked if I'd like to be part of an interview with Richard Dalton, on Beautiful Minds, a radio program about news, interviews, resources and events related to mental illness on Coop Radio 102.7 FM. I called Richard, and he asked me if I could speak about going off medication. I agreed. So yesterday evening, I went to the radio station on Columbia and Hastings and met him for the first time. I also met Linda Stewart, a retired police officer that teaches at the Justice Institute of British Columbia and Inspector Scott Thompson of the Vancouver Police Department. They were there to talk about police training in mental health and how the police deal with disturbances or crises involving the mentally ill. A third of all calls involve people with mental illness. Basically, if they are called to intervene in a situation, they treat a distressed mentally ill person the same as anyone in crisis. Linda said the officer must actively listen, calm the person down, build a rapport, and assess if the person is in danger of harming themselves or others. Substance abuse is also an issue in certain situations which can also affect behaviour. They mention Car 87 which the Vancouver Police Department has had since the late eighties. Car 87 partners a police officer with a psychiatric nurse, or mental health worker which takes calls, and provides a resource along with a hotline service 20/7 to give advice and background when needed.

Karen Ward is an editor-in-chief of The Ear, an artist, writer and photographer, and collective member of Gallery Gachet. She was interviewed with me about the problems with taking medication like tardive dyskinesia, sedation, and weight gain. We discussed the importance of insight. One needs to recognize the need for medication to be able to function more normally. We discussed the effects of medication on creativity. We talked about the consequences of going off medication. I wanted to talk about how reducing medication can be successful in some cases, if done under the care of a doctor, but we ran out of time.

If you'd like to listen to the 12-minute interview on going off medication, click here. For the entire one hour broadcast, click here and go to Jan. 17, 2011 Program.

BestsellerBound Anthology on

Thanks to Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick who compiled the BestsellerBound First Annual Sample Anthology on

BestsellerBound is a website for readers and indie writers, including self-published authors and small press.  This is an amazing forum for anyone interested in meeting authors, sharing ideas and giving support to others. Joel came up with a brainstorm to compile an anthology of writers on BestsellerBound. My bio and excerpt from My Schizophrenic Life are in Chapter 11 of Volume One. There are three volumes available.

To view the book, here's the link.