The Dark Side of Fiction ~ a look at Emotional Trauma and the Literary Arts

The Noon God CoverErnest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton and John Berryman…These names evoke an immediate sense of talent intermingled with despair. Recognized universally as writers of great impact, their darkness launched a pursuit of the highest order of literary art, ending with their deaths — by their own hands.

As a lesser-known mortal, the connection between despair and art is all-too-familiar to me. It’s a thread woven throughout all of my work: novels, poetry and even short stories.

In the coming weeks, please join me for a series on The Dark Side of Fiction, where I’ll explore the connection between personal experience and the literary arts. In particular, I’ll delve into each of my books to show the parallels, where they exist, between real life and fiction.

Let’s start with the first of my books: The Noon God

It begins with:

My mother once told me judgement was best left in the hands of God. Forgiveness was the virtue she most cherished. The older I get the more I understand the wisdom of her words.

Some days, though, her lesson gets lost under the trials of life.

The theme is immediately revealed: judgement vs. forgiveness. A lesson hard-learned by many, especially those of us who’ve survived the earliest forms of trauma — childhood abuse and/or neglect.

Some days, though, her lesson gets lost…

The Noon God explores, in mystery format, what happens when we lose sight of the importance of that simple lesson.

Without inserting spoilers, since it is a mystery, I can reveal here that Desdemona Fortune, Mona to her nearest and dearest, has suffered her share of loss. Her mother, a talented ballerina, gave up her art in favour of family. Addicted to alcohol and drugs, she takes her own life when Mona is at the impressionable age of 17.

After losing their mother, Mona struggles to raise her 2 younger sisters, Gail and Lucy. When Gail succumbs to her own depression and addiction and commits suicide, Mona must pick up the pieces and act as a buffer between her beloved youngest sister and their overbearing father.

What can I say about J. Caesar Fortune?

Renowned author, celebrated intellectual, unfaithful husband, distant father… the envy of many, and yet, beloved by his family, despite his many flaws.

From the book cover:
Living in the shadow of ‘greatness’ can be a difficult thing…

Just ask Desdemona Fortune. When her father, the magnificent J. Caesar Fortune, is found murdered inside the offices of the Faculty of Art, there is no shortage of people who carried a grudge against him.

From the lover who could not capture his affection to the colleagues whose efforts were repeatedly ignored, many resented the immensity of his literary success.

For although the ‘Man of Words’ is lying dead on a slab, his legacy will live on. But as Desdemona knows, the legacy of greatness can bear a heavy price.

In a household pummeled by the dual forces of addiction and narcissism, Desdemona must face the fact the father she loved has hurt those closest to him.

Now, as the head of a once illustrious family, she must do whatever is necessary to save her only surviving sister from the far-reaching influence of an immortal.

My aim is to draw the parallel between real life and fiction, so with that in mind, let’s look closely at those connections.

Was my father a renowned author?

Far from it. He was an officer of minimum rank, a Master Corporal, in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which was since re-branded, of course, as part of the Armed Forces.

He did, however, have a love of words, which was unknown to me growing up. I seldom saw him read more than an outdoors magazine or a how-to manual. But after his death, when I was clearing out his house, I found several massive bundles of letters, written in a compulsively beautiful long-hand, from him to our mother during their long months of separation, when he was stationed as a young man in God-forsaken places like Cold Lake and Moisie…

Myself being an author of minor acclaim, it isn’t hard for me to imagine the pride, and perhaps even arrogance, that might manifest itself in the wake of major success…if one does not take care to cultivate a humble nature.

So there we have the first tie-in to real life — the love of words, and the need for self-expression.

What about the suicides?

The Noon God features the suicides of 2 characters, both of whom are deeply loved by our protagonist.

Writing about suicide may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

It calls upon a need for expression that outweighs even grief, anger, trauma… A desire to understand and to be understood.

When writing those passages, I was immediately drawn back into that vortex of emotion, transported via memory to a time and place I cannot leave behind.

To the suicide of my own sister, Debbie.

If we, as writers, are true to our art, we cannot ignore these pivotal experiences. Nor can we attempt to gloss them over in a fashionable turn of phrase, or a pithy commentary of little import.

In my opinion, we must embrace these truths fully, if we are to present them to the world.

Therein lies the challenge: to fully explore our own pain, without allowing ourselves to succumb to it.

To turn the leaf over, study it awhile, feel its texture and smell its lost life, then put it once again inside the pages of that book, where it is safely pressed and preserved…

Until the next time we must look upon that beautiful loss.

 

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Families can really bring the fun…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGSkSuISXbo&sns=em

Here’s our own Ted, practicing his guitar piece for up-coming competition

 

 

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“Dwelling” vs “Dealing” – #BellLetsTalk #EndTheStigma

BWSM Ten Tales of Family Glue Cover 12-03-11

Image Created by Sara Carrick

When someone you love is experiencing the blows of mental illness, it can cast a pall over current happiness.

The temptation is to ignore it, especially if the causes lie in the distant past.

Why dwell on problems? Why drag up issues that should be long gone?

Unfortunately, in my experience, burying problems does nothing to resolve them.

Mental illness can take many forms: depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, phobias and mania are a few of the more common manifestations.

Bell’s research indicates that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a form of mental illness during their lives. Only 1 in 3 of those will receive the help they need.

Those who are closest to me know I strive to live a positive life. I “keep a good thought” so to speak. I remain active, with work, writing, family, crafting and physical exercise.

Still, even though the worst is past in my case, I still find myself occasionally dealing with the symptoms and the stigma of depression and anxiety.

There have even been times when I’ve canceled plans with friends because my personal phobias reared up and restricted my ability to travel.

On those occasions, I usually lie — claim a scheduling conflict, or physical illness.

The truth is, there are times when anxiety keeps me a prisoner in my home. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

So yes, I do believe it’s time to end the stigma and speak freely.

I’ll be there on February 12, joining Bell on Twitter for the #BellLetsTalk Day.

Hope you’ll be there too!

Be sure to follow @Bell_LetsTalk on Twitter. For every tweet using the hash tag #BellLetsTalk Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health research in Canada!

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An open invitation to join the dialogue on February 12:

IMG_0292On Freedom Road‘s author Donna Carrick will be supporting the Bell Let’s Talk Initiative.

Most of us understand that breaking the silence is essential to healing the damage caused by depression, anxiety, rage, fear and other forms of mental illness.

Yet we can’t help feeling mildly uncomfortable when a friend or colleague speaks freely about the causes and symptoms of their affliction.

It’s time to end the stigma.

I’d like to throw out an invitation to my friends in the Creative Arts, writers, painters, musicians and crafters of all kinds:

I’ll be there on February 12, joining Bell on Twitter for the #BellLetsTalk Day.

Hope you’ll be there too!

Be sure to follow @Bell_LetsTalk on Twitter. For every tweet using the hash tag #BellLetsTalk Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health research in Canada!

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5 Tips for a Healthy Mind: Things I wish I knew then…

Donna Old Photo PonyOn February 12th, On Freedom Road‘s author Donna Carrick will be supporting the Bell Let’s Talk Initiative.

This Initiative is long overdue. I truly hope Bell Canada will sponsor it on an annual basis and keep the lines of communication open for everyone who has been touched by Mental Illness.

Having lost a beloved sister to suicide in 1977, I spent many years dogged by bouts of chronic depression and survivor’s guilt, a sense of despair so deeply rooted it threatened to dominate my life.

It was only when I learned to speak freely about these issues that they finally lost their grip on me.

Now that “things are better”, to coin the popular phrase, I’d like to share “5 Tips for a Healthy Mind”, things I wish I’d known when I was younger:

1- Keep busy.
Positive activity of any kind has a healing power that should never be under-rated.
I write, knit, work, spend time having fun with my family, swim… There is always SOMETHING I can do to blast through the blues.

2- Connect with Others.
A growing number of people are beginning to make the case for having Internet access recognised as a “Basic Human Right”. I agree.
But for those who don’t have the ability to connect on-line, there are church groups, support groups, neighbours, friends, family.

The key is to remain open — to speak freely. Mental Illness is not a crime, nor is it anything to be ashamed of.
Reach out. People will care.

And above all, if you find yourself in crisis get help! You can dial 911 if unsure where else to turn, or contact your family doctor or closest clinic. Any health care professional will be able to direct you to someone who can help.

3- Fine tune your Self-Talk.
The way we speak to ourselves has an imeasurable impact of the way we’ll see ourselves. If we take steps to modify our inner dialogue, to ensure we “speak” to ourselves with the same respect we hope to show others, this will go a long way toward healing our minds.

4- Be generous.
As my mother used to say, nothing will take your mind off your troubles quite as effectively as trying to help others.
We do not exist in a void. There are a myriad of great, legitimate causes out there.
Choose one and make a difference. It doesn’t have to cost money. You can help by simply spreading the word, or offering whatever assistance is needed.

5- Pay attention to others.
Always remember, every single day, to ask at least one other person how THEY are feeling, and really LISTEN to the answer.
This one is self-explanatory. It’s a sure-fire way to remind ourselves that we are not alone.

I’ll be there on February 12, joining Bell on Twitter for the #BellLetsTalk Day.

Hope you’ll be there too!

Be sure to follow @Bell_LetsTalk on Twitter. For every tweet using the hash tag #BellLetsTalk Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health research in Canada!

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On February 12, Let’s Talk…

imageAccording to Bell’s “Let’s Talk” research, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their lives.

And worse, the stats claim only 1 in 3 of those Canadians will receive the help they need.

For those of us who’ve experienced the debilitating symptoms of mental illness, we know how difficult it is to speak out. Unlike a broken leg, depression, mania, rage, fear and substance abuse are not things we can put a cast on and invite our friends to sign.

We Canadians take pride in our understanding and compassion.

It’s time for us to play a leading role in breaking the silence about mental illness.

On February 12th, On Freedom Road‘s author Donna Carrick will be supporting the Bell Let’s Talk Initiative.

And yes, I do have first-hand knowledge of the wide-reaching and devastating effects of mental illness.

Having lost a beloved sister to suicide in 1977, I spent many years dogged by bouts of chronic depression, despair so deeply rooted that it threatened to dominate my life.

It was only when I learned to speak freely about these issues that they finally lost their grip on me.

So I’ll be there on February 12, joining Bell on Twitter for the #BellLetsTalk Day.

Hope you’ll be there too!

Be sure to follow @Bell_LetsTalk on Twitter. For every tweet using the hash tag #BellLetsTalk Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health research in Canada!

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Thoughts for a New Year — Happy 2013!


Let me say this of life and what I’ve learned:
Some gifts are free, while others must be earned.
Throughout the darkest days, my candle burned.
I’ve given love, and it has been returned.

Happy New Year, my friends!

Donna Carrick, January 1, 2013

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