Dandelions and Bad Hair Days: Everybody loves it so let’s go for the top 10….!

Last month Dandelions and Bad Hair Days; Untangling lives affected by depression and anxiety was published on Kindle. Available around the world to read on Kindle, PC or even iPads and smart phones, alongside the paperback version it is now available to millions of people. All the reviews so far have been 5*, with comments such as ‘moving’ ‘enlightening’ ‘uplifting’ ‘accessible’. The book has been featured at a Psychotherapy conference where a reading by Vivienne Tuffnell of her piece that gives the book its title was viewed by many therapists present as one of the highlights of the day.


All good then. Since going to eBook DABHD has featured in two Kindle charts, reaching the top 50 of one of them and the royalties available from Amazon mean that selling at 2.99 we get nearly as much in royalties as we do for a paperback at twice the price.

But we really need a breakthrough to get it on to  ‘must read’ lists. Looking at the charts, the ‘self-help’ books that do well seem to be the ones with inspirational quotes and have a life coach angle to them. Nothing wrong with that at all. However, I do think there is a place for a book full of wonderful writing by inspirational people who talk about their own experiences in their own words, creatively and with passion. Reviewers have said that even if they have no direct experience of mental ill-health themselves, the book has helped them understand how it can affect anyone, in any walk of life and however resilient they think they are.

So how do we ‘go viral’? How do we bring Dandelions and Bad Hair Days to the attention of all those that would benefit from it, learn from it, come to a better understanding from it? All of those involved believe that to reduce stigma and raise awareness we need to get our stories out there. We have poked our heads about the proverbial parapets, which for many has been a courageous move.

So lets find a way to sell in the hundreds, the thousands. Remember ALL profits go to mental health charity SANE, with a contribution to OCD Action in memory of Sybil Macindoe whose mother, Lois Chaber, writes movingly in DABHD and whose own book The Thing Inside My Head has done so much to highlight how damaging Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be.

I have to say I am not very confident at marketing the work I do – it feels a little like selling raffle tickets – you know people are strapped for cash and it is hard to ask. However – this is not all my writing; it is poetry and prose by some twenty contributors. It has a beautiful and unique cover, using artwork by the talented artist Ingrid Smejkal and the paperback includes photographs by photographer Nettie Edwards.  Everyone wins with this book. Please do buy it, tell your friends, review it. I can’t thank you enough for the hard work so far, but there is so much more it could do.

Mental health guest post: on surviving using self-help strategies….

Editor’s note:  Dandelions and Bad Hair Days has brought me into contact with some really interesting and honest writers and Melanie is definitely one of them. She is a freelance writer, mother and is currently working on her first novel. Recently having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, she embarked on a mission of self-help, to assist alongside her medication and talking therapies. Her guest post today details some of the methods used by her and others to ease their symptoms during what can be a difficult time of year for many. Do take a look at her own blog over at Molly Doubly-Barrely.

lavender aromatherapy

Self Therapies – A holistic approach to mental illness

 A commonly uttered phrase I have been hearing of late is ‘they won’t help you unless you help yourself.’ Of course, my perpetual need to over analyse what people say took over and I have since become fanatical about self management strategies, Googling and reading until my brain aches with information overload. After waiting two weeks for a referral to the Wellbeing team, I had worked myself into a state, my medication had reduced in its effectiveness and I was generally making a hash of life. Then my appointment was cancelled due to staff shortages. Luckily, I had already read up on the experiences of others and I now realise I am not alone in searching desperately for ways to help myself, having been – temporarily – let down by the professionals. Continue reading “Mental health guest post: on surviving using self-help strategies….”

10, 9, 8… Now the ‘clocks’ really are counting down for Dandelions and Bad Hair Days.

Well it is definitely happening now. No longer an idea, or a manuscript or a virtual, social media entity. Dandelions and Bad Hair Days is a physical book – with a cover and everything! It has an ISBN number, a cover price and a launch party booked and so, with much wringing of hands and nibbling of pearly pink painted fingernails it is truly all go here – the marketing really has to move up a gear so that as many people as possible find out about the book before publication. With all profits going to the mental health charity SANE and other mental health charities nominated by contributors it is vital that I get the message out there.

So…. the 10th October is the big day. The launch party is booked for 7pm at Brendon Books in Taunton, a fabulous independently run bookshop – the owners of which also organise the Taunton Literary Festival.

Today I found out from Tim at Dotterel Press that the cover price will be £5.99 and the book will be available via Amazon for worldwide distribution. There will be an initial print run and then we will have to see how it goes…. Frankly, I am terrified. Those people who contributed to the book and helped me with the publication of it deserve to be part of a huge success story. We don’t just want to raise money – important though that is – we want to contribute to the great work others are doing to raise awareness of mental health issues and challenge the stigma still evident in employment, health and, frankly, life.

Continue reading “10, 9, 8… Now the ‘clocks’ really are counting down for Dandelions and Bad Hair Days.”

Insomnia – that 5am feeling….

I haven’t been able to sleep too well recently. In the past, bed has been a safe place I long to reach at the end of a long day; somewhere I can lie comfortably close to my husband, or turn away and stretch out with a little gap creating a cool space between us. No less love, but a rather lower temperature. I’m getting to a funny age where such things matter.

So what is the problem? Why can’t I sleep beyond 4.30? By the time the clock turns over to 05:00 I am lying there trying not to think about the increasing need to get up and go to the loo – as our bathroom is downstairs there is no staggering out with sleep-filled eyes. If I am not fully awake by the top of our steep staircase I know I might as well throw myself to the bottom and be done with it. So by the time I have done the necessary and returned to lie back underneath the duvet, my mind is working harder than it does at almost any other point in the day – the physicality of the whirling mass of thoughts, fears and anxieties that manifest themselves in those small hours is literally palpable.

If my husband can’t sleep he gets up and watches something boring on the television, waits patiently until he feels dozy and then tries again. Not a deep thinker during the day, he doesn’t become one at night so even if sleep doesn’t eventually overpower him  he isn’t beset by demons taunting him over things half remembered or taking him to task over things said or done. Whilst I will lay there imagining all manner of horrors; seeing darkness in every nook and cranny of my life, he will simply re-run the last Ireland rugby match. Perhaps he will even celebrate scoring the winning try….

Continue reading “Insomnia – that 5am feeling….”

Do I have to change my personality to market my book?

Dandelions and Bad Hair Days will be published in the early autumn of this year. That is great news and I am looking forward to seeing it in print and using it to raise awareness of mental health issues and raise funds for nominated mental health charities.

However, whilst emailing round to all the wonderful people who have contributed to what is not only ‘my’ book – it being an anthology of prose and poetry written by more than 20 people who have experienced aspects of mental ill-health – someone raised the issue of marketing. Being helpful, and having published his own book, he wanted to know how I was publicising Dandelions. He was concerned that after it was ‘out there’ so to speak, there would be an anti-climax.

I have been blessed with the people who have been excited by this project. It isn’t only those who have written for it who have been so supportive. Editor Rin Simpson and her sister Ingrid Smejkal from Ingrid Eva Creative  who designed the cover without charging, although she spent a lot of time on it to get it just right; wonderful Sarah Cruickshank of Sarah Cruickshank Admin Solutions  who has offered her time to help me with communications and marketing. But he does raise an interesting point.

Do I really understand what it takes to get this book in front of people and ensure they  want to buy it? And as a person who experiences anxiety at the most inopportune and occasionally unexpected times, how do I get the confidence to do what almost every author has to do now – sell themselves to sell their book?

Continue reading “Do I have to change my personality to market my book?”

‘Underneath the Lemon Tree’ – The Guardian’s Mark Rice-Oxley gets direct about depression….

March the 15th saw the publication of a new memoir – ‘Underneath the Lemon Tree’ by Mark Rice-Oxley, an assistant news editor on the foreign desk of The Guardian newspaper. It is an important book.  Seeming to ‘have it all’ – great job, marriage, children – Mark was as surprised as everyone around him when he succumbed to mental illness.

I first learned about the story as Mark and his wife Sharon embarked on the always necessary promotional tour of radio stations and social media outlets. At a time when we are faced with many stories of distress – whether caused by health, economics or accident – pieces relating to ‘Underneath the Lemon Tree’ stood out for me as a brutally honest expose of the potential dangers inherent in the life many lead today. Fast-paced, hard-working, physically exhausting and apt to bleed into time available for any family willing to stay around, it is a typically (but not exclusively) male existence. Perhaps due to guilt as they struggle with traditional roles, greater sensitivity or just ‘because’, women are much more likely to approach their GP about their feelings – depression is diagnosed in three times more women than men. In a book for everyone, whether already diagnosed or yet to recognise an issue, Mark highlights the destructive nature of trying to have it all….

 Mark kindly agreed to break from a hectic schedule of book promotion to answer a few questions for ‘No wriggling’. 

Continue reading “‘Underneath the Lemon Tree’ – The Guardian’s Mark Rice-Oxley gets direct about depression….”

One year on: a new life – Mark’s story

Editor’s note: The monthly mental health guest post on No wriggling for March has been written by Mark K. Social networks provide great support to those with mental health issues and it is via twitter that I ‘met’ Mark. Writing has long been a release for him during bouts of deep depression, but only recently, after changes to his diagnosis & treatment, he has started writing when not under the cloud of depression. He is using this new found freedom to write on mental health issues, to help raise awareness & to fight the stigma associated with mental illness. He blogs at http://nudirection.blogspot.com.au/ 

Just 12 months ago I was diagnosed as bipolar. I was told I suffered from social phobia, had anxiety issues, suffered from PTSD & was mildly obsessive-compulsive. Yet the year that has just passed is the best I’ve had in probably 15 years or more. How can it be that despite this alarming list of mental illnesses, I’m so much better today than I was?

The answer is quite simple. Before this diagnosis I was being treated based on an eleven year old diagnosis, a diagnosis I had believed was incorrect for most of that time. In early 2000 I was diagnosed with major depression – a label that I would live with for the next eleven years. I never realised it at the time, but once you’re labelled by a doctor as having a certain illness, it can be very, very hard to get it changed, even if you know it’s incorrect.

Continue reading “One year on: a new life – Mark’s story”

Crikey I’ve got a website! Taking control of my freelance life…

I have recently received some sage advice about how I must run my freelance business. I need structure, routine and a business plan. I need to market my work efficiently online, keep accurate financial records and get out ‘there’. My ad hoc bohemian approach was causing me unnecessary stress I was told. Get timetabling, project planning, networking. Take regular breaks from the computer screen. Exercise. Hmm…

Continue reading “Crikey I’ve got a website! Taking control of my freelance life…”

Autophobia or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love my Ego

Editor’s note: As we go into the second year of mental health guest posts here on No wriggling I am grateful for a contribution  from the other side of the world. Deb is well-known in the genealogy community and has a great blog of her own over at A Pocket Full of Family Memories. Describing herself as a Mum, writer and part time diva she is working on a number of writing projects and tweets as @Debs_Dwelling and @RelicsofBeccles. My thanks to Deb for her honest description of how she is coming to terms with depression and anxiety rooted in childhood and how counselling and research into her family history helped her find inner strength and identity.

To say that I suffer depression sounds alien to me. The dictionary defines suffering thus:

  1. To feel pain or distress
  2. To tolerate or endure pain, evil, injury or death
  3. To appear at a disadvantage.

What I find interesting about the first two definitions is that suffering sounds like it could be a good thing. It’s normal and okay to suffer, to feel, to tolerate or endure. However, my past experience with suffering was definitely the third definition. I didn’t know any other definition until much later in life.

To my mind, suffering implied that I may not ever recover, that I was destined to be at a disadvantage forever.

A popular Australian seventies band sang “Ego is not a Dirty Word” and this couldn’t be further from the truth when it came to my upbringing. I was fed on a daily diet of humility and modesty from birth, where depression was a very dirty word. Depression ran rife in my extended family and yet, before I sought help, nobody discussed it or dealt with it. It was swept under the carpet alongside the failed marriages, frequent job or house changes, and ill health, including the interminable “c” word (whisper it with me now: cancer).

Continue reading “Autophobia or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love my Ego”

A ‘me! me!’ meme. Seven things you didn’t know about me..

I am not a one for ‘meme’s as a rule. Not because I don’t like them – lists have always fascinated me. As a child there was a ‘Book of Lists’ that came out to a great fanfare (these things still having some sort of novelty in the ’70s and 80s) and I was glued to the brick sized volume of endlessly useless and often inaccurate facts. However I have that gnawing feeling as I start to compile my own list of favourite albums, children’s books, green vegetables etc etc that I am going to be a lot less interesting than everyone else. So there are just two on my blog.

But this morning I read on the fabulous Diary of a Desperate Exmoor Woman (writer Jane Alexander’s blog) her response to another blogger’s meme, ‘7 things you never knew about me’. It was written a year ago, and I know lots of others have taken this meme on since but Jane had come up with some really original ideas (helped by having interviewed David Byrne and Phil Collins). Having promised in my last post to take opportunities, get writing and risk failure, I have decided to use this as a prompt to get tapping away and expose myself to the derision of my peers (see no. 2).

Continue reading “A ‘me! me!’ meme. Seven things you didn’t know about me..”