Welcome to the six hundred and sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with memoirist Julie Greene. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Julie.
Julie: Hi Morgen. I am so happy that you are interviewing me on my 55th birthday.
Morgen: You’re very welcome, and happy birthday! I think the only other birthday girl (or boy) I’ve had was Yvonne Hertzberger. It’s a pleasure to have you here today.
Julie, please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Julie: I wrote my first book when I was seven years old. It is written on three by five sheets of construction paper, with one sentence on each page. The name of the book is… well, you know something? I never gave it a title. It’s about a bad car accident I experienced with my family. The first sentence of the book is, “Our car flipped over.” Page two states, “And we got out.” But even that is approaching fiction, because not all of us got out. I was trapped in the way-back and scared out of my mind. The whole memoir, which as you can see starts off with a bang, is about the events that followed the accident, and the excitement of real live police and taking a plane because our car was no longer operative.
I’m sure my first writing effort probably got squelched by the oppressive school system. My town was right outside of Boston, known to be a liberal area, but it was the sixties, and kids had no rights, not that they even do now. I was a rebel as a kid and made a valiant effort to protest homework. My whole life is about being powerless and being overpowered by people bigger, taller, and stronger than me, and this is why I developed paranoia, a psychotic condition. I was thought of as a loser but I had talent in music that no one could contest. So I went off to college and studied music education and music composition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Bennington College in Vermont. Then, one semester before graduating, I dropped out, disappearing off the scene. I was buried in the bowels of the mental health system for the next eighteen years.
It is one thing to be depressed and then go see a therapist and take pills for it. It is quite another to be immersed in the “system.” It’s a very difficult trap to get out of once you fall prey to it. You are viewed as “chronic” and doomed to be stuck in a life as a mental patient. The people treating such unfortunates focus on “management” of illness, rather than curing it. That was my situation exactly. I was told I would never get well. This was a relief to me at first because now I didn’t have to try—and fail—over and over. I was thirty-nine years old and I was slated for the state hospital. In the US, the state hospitals are nothing but prisons for mental patients. There is no “care” there. You get bossed around by people trained to do nothing more than tie patients onto beds with leather straps. This remains the case in our state hospital system. I figured my life was over. They kept telling me to choose life. What life? A life of “treatment”? A life on the bottom of the pile?
But this was not to be the case. I decided try writing a short story, a little piece of autobiographical fiction. The story got longer and longer, and I realized I had a novel before me. I worked on it daily in the wee hours, beginning on my fortieth birthday and was finished eight months later. By then, I’d tried out adult education writing courses. I succeeded even though the docs said I could never do it. I tried college and did fine. I applied for Emerson College’s Adult Degree Program. Five years later, I graduated college Summa cum Laude.
Then, my boyfriend died.
We had known each other seventeen years. I was devastated. The day of his funeral I got accepted to graduate school. Pretty weird, eh?
It took me six years to finish a two-year program. This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is my third book, and I’ve written six now. A year after graduating I sent the manuscript of This Hunger Is Secret to Chipmunkapublishing for publication and the manuscript was accepted. It was released as an e-book a number of months later. Last July I traveled to London and personally signed off the paperback in the Chipmunka office.
Morgen: Wow. What a life you’ve had already, but so much to write about, and with such feeling. I’ve had various temporary jobs over the years (eight years with the same agency a few years back but different locations) and I worked in three departments of a mental health hospital and it was a real insight into the backgrounds of how people have been brought up. It made my ordinary childhood feel very special. You write non-fiction, out of everything you’ve experienced, how do you decide what to write about?
Julie: That’s pretty easy. Whatever strikes my fancy. I see it as my job to make meaning of common or not-so-common experiences.
Morgen: It’s interesting you say that as we’re usually looking to make the common no-so-common. What have you had published to-date?
Julie: I used a POD publisher for my second book, Breakdown Lane, Traveled: An Anthology of Writings on Madness. It isn’t very good and I am always toying with the idea of taking it off the market. My publisher, Jason Pegler, the CEO of Chipmunka Publishing, is interested in Breakdown Lane, Traveled and I have told him I’d like to work with him on it. When you publish with the POD publisher I used, the copyright remains yours and I am free to have it re-published. I have also had short pieces published here and there, including segments of This Hunger Is Secret. I haven’t made much effort sending stuff out for the past couple of years due to health concerns.
Morgen: It’s best to go at your own pace, which you can with a POD publisher. What lead to you going your own way?
Julie: Breakdown Lane, Traveled is self-published but This Hunger Is Secret is traditionally published. Chipmunka is a wonderful publisher that specializes in mental health. Jason runs the company well and I am proud to be affiliated with Chipmunka. I feel that I published Breakdown Lane, Traveled in haste and didn’t really think about it enough. I told Jason about the book and he is interested in re-issuing it. This will give me the chance to make the changes I should have done before it went onto the market.
Morgen: I think with any book it’s easy, over time, to see where you would have made changes – it’s why we’re all recommended to putting new creations away for a while. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Julie: I read both paper and e-books. My vision isn’t so great and with an e-book, I can enlarge the print most of the time to suit my needs. But I like paper because it feels good in my hands. This Hunger Is Secret is available as an e-book both as .pdf directly from the publisher, and as Kindle from Amazon. At first, I found that folks who were my friends and my age did not want an e-book. They chose to wait for the paperback no matter how long it took. However, I should warn writers that friends who promise to buy your paperback generally don’t. Either they don’t stay friends with you, or they back out or suddenly and very mysteriously become broke when they find out how much the book costs. I had much better luck with pure strangers, other folks with mental illnesses or with relatives with mental illness, with people I meet at open mics, with other writers, and by marketing the Kindle and e-book version simply because they are cheaper. The Kindle software is an entirely free easy and quick download and contains no ads, spyware, gimmicks, toolbars, or anything like that. You don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle book.
Morgen: Friends do tend to feel obliged to buy something because they’re your friends. I’d rather someone had my book for free and read it than buy it and it sits on a shelf. We write to be read, don’t we. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Julie: I believe that the title and cover are very important. I like the titles to all of my books. My publisher says one thing he encourages is not to have a title that starts with “the” because of search engine issues, although he will not change a title unless an author specifically wants it. The titles to my other books are: Tilting The Thing, Summer in November, and I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. The latter is a tragic novel about a woman who has anorexia nervosa, a condition with which I still suffer. I cannot say the title out loud without weeping. I wrote a short journal book I call The It Notebook that I might have printed out informally (and cheaply) and sell copies for a dollar or so or just give them away. I have trouble with that title because if you Google “It,” you get “Information Technology.” “It” was a psychosis I experienced.
Morgen: I agree with avoiding the ‘The’ (although my debut novel is The Serial Dater’s Shopping List!). It’s about findability. So much relies on Google searches and having something like ‘The Journey’ (the title of an old short story of mine) you’ll likely find 100 books with that title. Actually a Google search comes up with a few pages so I’m probably not far off. Last year I wrote 150 short stories for 5pm Fiction so had to come up with 150 titles. I quickly found the easiest way was to write the piece then if a phrase leapt out, I’d use that (especially if it was near the end). Out of those 150, five start with ‘The’ and two of those are in the first dozen. What are you working on at the moment?
Julie: I participated in National Novel Writing Month recently (November). Yes, I do have my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, but I am not a writing snob. At first, I was leaning toward fiction, kind of a political statement about the mental health system as it is in the US. I was planning to do a commentary on our idiot “insurance” method of paying for health care. I believe that socialized medicine, like your NHS in the UK, is the way to go, and I also feel that the core belief, that health care is a right and not a privilege, actually goes a long way to improve mental health care. We patients are on the bottom and the “carers” are on the top in Western medicine. I had planned to set the story in an eating disorders ward, the most oppressive mental health situation out there in my opinion besides the prisons. Even patients in some state hospitals are treated with more dignity and honor than on eating disorders wards. The stereotype ED patient comes from money, and you’d think paying more will get you luxury, but think again. These are cruel places. It’s all about forcing patients who are ill and scared, mostly young, helpless adolescent girls into surrendering their bodies in the name of “recovery.”
I would have had a blast writing the book, however, instead, I had a change of heart, and instead I did a memoir of the past year of my life and the oppression that I faced in forced care. I wrote about how the patient rights laws are ineffective and not enforced, using what happened to me as example. I put in several human rights complaints, and each time, my paperwork was mysteriously lost, delayed, and forgotten. I believe almost all human rights complaints are pushed aside, shelved, and ignored by the people in power who are supposed to be protecting us.
I believe writing is a great form of revenge. The book, tentatively titled, It Follows Me Everywhere, is a treatise against forced care. The title sums up both my paranoia and my anorexia in one sentence.
Morgen: I’ve done NaNoWriMo five times and would recommend it to everyone at every level. Apart from getting me writing 50,000+ words (I’ve won each time, the second in 2009 with 117,540 words!) it’s fun knowing that so many people (hundreds of thousands) are doing likewise. It’s then the editing of course that times the time but at least we have something, you can’t edit a blank page, and I’ve got better over the years at knowing when I’m starting to waffle, and rein myself in, despite it being about quantity over quality. We still want the best we can do by the end of it. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Julie: I am very, very fortunate that writer’s block doesn’t seem to happen to me. I am always writing. I bring my journal or some paper on the bus with me. It helps that I live alone and have no one to talk to. I am always thinking up writing ideas, and never waste them in a conversation if I can help it. For a while, the ideas were coming to me so fast that there was no time to grab a pencil, so I’d use a little voice recorder. In It Follows Me Everywhere I talk about being incarcerated in ultra-secure lockup wards. They take away all your belongings and do a strip-search and their eyes are on you constantly. When I ask for a pencil and paper, the staff assume I’m going to stab myself with the pencil but the truth is that what I really plan to do with the pencil and paper is far more powerful. I write wherever I go.
Morgen: I have a dictaphone, although I do prefer pen and paper as it’s easier to go back and check something, but not so useful in the rain. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Julie: This is an interesting question because I have noticed that my writing continues to improve and become more natural to me. I tend to write faster now and get it right quicker than I used to. My ideas come faster. I am funnier. I relax more. At the same time, I am just as fussy as I was before. I do edit quite a bit after I have a draft down. But I am able to edit faster, too. I am on less medication and I am older. Time has passed. I am more educated and more experienced.
Morgen: Life is all about practice, isn’t it. We get practiced at something we enjoy and we love it all the more, and gain in confidence as a result. You’re writing non-fiction, do you have to do much research?
Julie: As a memoirist, I mostly use the source that is housed inside my skull. When I need to research, it is painfully obvious. For instance, the name of the summer camp I went to was Kiwanee. Summer camps in the US often are given Native American names. Kiwanee at least sounded Native American but if it truly is I don’t know. Now, in my journal, it says “Kiwannee,” with a double “n.” I discovered my error after the e-book to This Hunger Is Secret went live. Other times, I’ve had to look at maps to find out if it’s actually possible to get from Place A to Place B via a certain Interstate highway, or research vegetation at a certain location.
Morgen: The good thing about eBooks is that you can tweak and re-upload. I’ve had to do that (thanks to an eagle-eyed reader) for my novel but I just went back into the Word document and re-uploaded. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Julie: I don’t want my answer to that question to see the light of day.
Julie: Actually, I think up more ideas than I need and faster than I can write them, so many will not come to fruition. I find this extremely frustrating. I plan to keep It Follows Me Everywhere carefully hidden so no one finds it in its current form. I have no intentions of showing it to anyone as is until I do something drastic to it… I’m not so sure what that is.
Morgen: If it’s on a computer you can always password protect it (usually File / Save As / Options or Tools or Security in Word – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58r4NvRn7G4 shows Word 2010) but then you have to remember what password you’ve chosen. Are you commissioned to write?
Julie: The closest thing I’ve ever come to being commissioned was when I wrote a piece that I read as part of a church service. I would love to do that again.
Morgen: Maybe you just need to ask. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Julie: I think most writers get rejections, and if they don’t, they need to get their feet wet. When I first started submitting material, I was told by another writer about the “good rejection.” If I get a form letter, that’s just something I forget about. But a “good rejection” is one where the publisher says your piece has merit, stating specifically why, and is apologetic for turning it down. My best “good rejection” was from a magazine that wrote and said to submit it again when they decide to publish an issue that specializes in the topic, because they liked the piece and its message.
Morgen: It doesn’t happen often because most editors are too busy but when they take the time it definitely means something has potential (unless they’re taking the time to tell us that it doesn’t!). Do you enter any non-fiction competitions?
Julie: I have a procrastination problem. I always wait until the day after the deadline and then ask myself, “Gee, why didn’t I mail that in?” No, I don’t think I have never actually entered one.
Morgen: Procrastination is a strange thing; why do we prefer to wash the kitchen floor (me last week) rather than write, and yet when we do write there’s nothing as enjoyable. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Julie: I do not have an agent. Many of my writer friends have been let down by agents who don’t put forth enough effort or don’t have the knowledge that is required, especially if the manuscript is very specialized. For instance (off the top of my head) if a woman writes about breast cancer, and the manuscript deals with both technical medical stuff a lot of medical ethical questions, then the book is really geared toward an audience interested in those things and not an audience that sits down with a good mystery at night.
I feel that if a lot of money were involved, an agent of course could help prevent some sort of financial mishap, but I don’t have money to begin with.
Morgen: I have heard mixed reports from agented authors here although most are very happy with theirs, and most of us do look for them at some stage (I’d never say never). How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Julie: Quite a bit. My publisher has helped a lot with this. I feel that I am the Voice for Reform in Eating Disorders Care. Not long ago, I nearly starved to death, and when I got locked up for it, all I saw around me were starving people, mostly kids, kids who had turned down food not because they couldn’t afford it, but for very, very complicated reasons. I vowed that I would help the hungry. I decided I wanted to change the world. And that was what got me taking my first bite.
As the date of release of my latest book approached, I was locked up again. I promised the starving people around me that I would help bring light into their world, our world, and that I would make sure that conditions improved. This means that Massachusetts law is followed in care facilities here in the state, and that care is more easily accessed. That was back in July. The paperwork is still going back and forth, because the facility and the people in office who are supposed to be protecting patient rights consistently lost the paperwork I filed. I am in the process of creating a website telling the story of this appeal. I won, by the way.
I feel that in order to be well, I had to ditch oppression. That meant traditional eating disorders care, which is called the “team approach” here in the US, had to go out the window for me. That was half the battle. Here in the US, if you want decent health care, you pay for it, and I wasn’t going to pay someone to run my life, boss me around, and literally force-feed me. I ended up writing a second dedication page for the paperback version of This Hunger Is Secret, for the patients at the eating disorders ward.
Morgen: I know it’s not the same thing but I’d love to work in my local homeless shelter one Christmas Day but whilst my mum’s alive (she’s 82 this September) it wouldn’t be fair on her not to be there. I do have a friend who helps out so I’ve been talking about helping out anyway so hopefully that’ll happen. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Julie: My favorite aspect is the writing itself. I love the process. My least favorite is the frustration of feeling discredited due to the prejudices that people have about mental illness.
A funny thing happened to me when I traveled to the UK recently. I went both in November 2011 and in this past July. They always ask your occupation. In November, I said I was unemployed and on disability. The border people gave me grief, and even asked me what the max was on my credit cards. When I came in July, I used the term “freelance writer.” The border guy cheerfully let me pass with very few questions, but just as I was stepping away, he asked, “What kind of writing do you do?” I said, “I am a memoirist,” and he waved me goodbye with a wink.
Morgen: How bizarre. I suppose it’s like any profession, there’s a shop down the road from me where one shop assistant doesn’t utter a word whilst she’s serving me, even when I speak, another is really chatty. Maybe the first is shy but she looks always like grumpy so I suspect not. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Julie: Many, many people have approached me and asked, “How do I become a writer and write a book about my life just like you did?” Some have asked me if they can be writers even without ability to use a keyboard or know computers. I have had people who never had the opportunity to finish high school due to mental illness tell me that they feel inadequate when it comes to writing. I assure them that no special degree is needed (even though I have an MFA). I tell them that whatever parents, teachers, or therapists tell them about being dumb and a loser just because they’re sick is wrong. I assure them that all they need is a writing instrument and some paper. I make them promise to start writing right away, and to keep at it. Everyone has a wonderful story inside them, and no two stories are alike.
Morgen: I have a Mexican lodger who’s had a really interesting life (including working in a circus for many years – her son still does) and I keep saying she should write her autobiography. She loves London (we live about an hour away) so I bought a London street sign covered notebook, pen and mug to inspire her and she loved them so I think she might actually start it this year. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Julie: That’s a tough question for a person with an eating disorder to answer. I rarely have people over. But it is my dream to have a very special free dinner for people with eating disorders only. This will be held on Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates freedom. The focus would be freedom from oppression. There would be no pressure and no judgement, just lots of love and fellowship. The food would be fantastic, all organic, nothing processed or fake like they try to give you at the eating disorders hospitals. We would eat off of fancy dishes and we’d have fancy napkins and a tablecloth that would make the table look spiffy. It would be all about love and sharing and respect. I would encourage folks who have trouble paying for food to attend, as well as those who feel judged because of their eating disorders and find it difficult to eat in front of others.
Morgen: Sorry about that, but thank you for answering. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Julie: I always say that I do what I do, and have done what I have done only for the sake of survival. If no one else likes it, that’s just tough.
Morgen: Do you write fiction? If so, do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Julie: I have written two novels. I’m in love with my second novel. As for who would play the parts… I’m not sure because I do not go to movies.
Morgen: Novels are great. I always thought it would be something I’d write in years to come but then I discovered NaNoWriMo and realised I could write one in a month. I’d always thought it would take a year as I’d heard most writers take a year to write a novel but then I’d not realised that editing would be the most time-consuming and have only put online my 2009 chick lit novel. Do let me know when you’ve published one of your novels, you’d be welcome to do an author spotlight. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Morgen: For your novels, do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Julie: A writer has to capitalize on what they do best, and for me, I write a mean dialogue. What they say tells the reader a lot. One of more humorous chapters of This Hunger Is Secret is the set of chapters, “Family Therapy.” I put my own parents in a room with a therapist and set them loose. What I got was a riot.
Morgen: <laughs> What fun. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Julie: I enjoy writing in first person and second person. Every time I’ve tried writing in third person, I end up changing my mind and switching to first. And yes, I do write in second person quite often.
Morgen: Yay for second person. It’s not the point of view I write most of because (although I’ve been writing one every Friday for the 5pm Fiction slot) but it’s my favourite. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Julie: I love giving readings. Reading aloud came to me naturally because I started off as a musician. Getting paid to perform at a young age helped me overcome performance anxiety rather quickly. So later on in life, when I took up writing and found myself reading to an audience, it was simple to fall into the new role. I have training as a stand-up comic, and love getting an audience to laugh. I plan to take a course in public speaking soon. I guess it all stems from my childhood desire to be a baseball star and hit a home run. When you stand at bat, all eyes are upon you. In baseball, I always struck out, but in spoken word, I shine.
Morgen: I used to do open mic nights at my local pub (sadly they stopped doing them a few months back) and would wear thin sleeveless tops because I got so warm (self-conscious) but I gained in confidence and by the end found them fun (especially as everyone clapped regardless). I’ve got my first paying gig coming up in March (at London’s Covent Garden’s Poetry Café – on the Wednesday 13th if anyone reading this is local and free that night!) talking about blogging so it’ll help being my comfort zone. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Julie: I knit sweaters for my dog and matching hats for myself. I design these myself from beginning to end. My dog is female and so are the sweater designs. When it comes to making sweaters for a boy dog, I’m rather clueless.
Morgen: How sweet. I guess just make them blue? Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Julie: I have done National Novel Writing Month three times. Don’t let “national” turn you off; it’s a misnomer. It is an international affair that started in California, USA. Check out http://www.nanowrimo.org.
Morgen: It did, by a San Francisco writing group (I’ve had a few San Franciscans here :)) and was originally in July (a 31-day month) but apparently too many people were on holiday so they switched it to November, perhaps thinking that with the time off in the US for Thanksgiving, but I think everyone doing it would have appreciated the extra day, and be not thinking about Christmas. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Julie: Yes, you can find these forums anywhere, and some are more private than others. Some are far more helpful than others as well. I once did critiquing online at a site that is no longer in existence most likely. I was a very tough and demanding teacher. The other volunteers didn’t like me too much. Finally, I broke my leg, and found that a good time to bow out.
Morgen: I’ve just (Sunday) set up two critique online writing groups (http://poetrywritinggroup.wordpress.com and http://shortstorywritinggroup.wordpress.com and a Facebook group for each, and am toying with the idea of creating a novel equivalent). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Julie: My publisher has noticed a trend toward electronic media. He noticed that the sales of e-books increased and print books holding steadily. E-book readers are getting cheaper. It is very easy to distribute an e-book and they require no storage. For the longest time, I clung to the idea that my book would sell better as a paperback because people wanted to hold something. Now, I realize people want to buy something for less.
We live in a fast-paced society. Writers seem to be writing shorter books and shorter chapters and assume that readers don’t have the attention spans they once had.
I think there is a big market for audiobooks and for making literature accessible to folks that are blind or handicapped. There is some amazing technology out there that helps people read who would ordinarily not have this opportunity. This is shaping how we write.
Morgen: Audiobooks are my favourite format because I can multi-task. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Julie: Well, first of all, read my books to learn more about mental illness. I feel that it’s important to spread the word that we are worthy human beings just like everyone else. Secondly, I do have a website: http://www.juliegreene.name.
The following are links to my book:
- You can find my publisher’s site at http://www.chipmunkapublishing.com. Here is the link to my paperback: http://chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=2222
- here is the link to the .pdf on the publisher’s site: http://chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1709
- here is the link to the Kindle version (USA Amazon): http://www.amazon.com/This-Hunger-Secret-Journeys-ebook/dp/B004APA4DY
- Here is my blog: http://juliemadblogger.wordpress.com
- Here is a recent in-depth interview done by Priya Menon, CureTalk: http://trialx.com/curetalk/2012/12/cure-talk-interviews-julie-greene-author-of-this-hunger-is-secret-my-journeys-through-mental-illness-and-wellness-part-1-julies-writing-experience-and.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Julie: Pretend I just held up a fluffy, furry, soft and warm creature and that creature just gave you a nice big doggie kiss. That’s from Puzzle, my Schnoodle (Schnauzer/Poodle).
Morgen: Thank you. My dog reciprocates. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Julie: I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for having me here.
Morgen: You’re so welcome, Julie.
(I’ve now set up the novel writing group! – see http://novelwritinggroup.wordpress.com, each with their own Facebook Group)
I then invited Julie to provide an extract of her writing and this is from ‘This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness’…
“And why are you here?” the nurse asked me, scribbling on his forms.
I considered bolting out of there while the poor man fussed with his mass of multicolored paperwork, then reconsidered. It would only get me into further trouble. A rotating fan whirred in the corner. Judging by the solid concrete floor, I guessed that we were in the hospital basement, the same floor to which I had been delivered by ambulance not long ago. The nurse rolled back his shirtsleeves. He had a small unidentifiable tattoo on his left arm that continued up his bicep. He wrote my name on the bottom of the form, then handed me the pen. “I advise you to sign this,” he said, “otherwise you’ll be committed.”
He had spelled my name wrong. I didn’t dare protest. I took the pen from him. I signed my name.
And a synopsis of her book…
Although Julie Greene grew up a troubled child, mental illness did not take hold of her until she turned 22. This sickness affected all areas of her life: it changed her friendships and family relationships, her college activities, and even her ability to take care of herself.
This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness describes Julie’s early life, her time spent at a day treatment center, her stay at a small hospital in rural Vermont, her brief hospitalization at a Massachusetts state hospital, her time at a residence at McLean Hospital, and many other experiences in–and out–of the mental health system.
This is a book about hunger–a gnawing, insatiable hunger for spiritual fulfillment and love. Julie is in her fifties now; she looks back, and remembers.
Julie Greene was born in 1958 in Philadelphia, and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, where she attended public schools. She studied music education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and music composition at Bennington College. In 1979, she spent 40 days hitch-hiking across the USA and Canada with her dog, Hoofy, then returned to college, but everything had changed. She spent the next eighteen years observing the mental health system, writing, and meeting the many characters she later wrote about in This Hunger Is Secret. She returned to academia in 1998, and in 2003 earned her BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. She graduated with her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2009. Today, she enjoys working on new writing projects, and knitting sweaters for her dog, Puzzle.
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