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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sunburned Shoulders

We moved to Florida almost two years ago. 

Last week I got my first scorcher of a Florida sunburn on my shoulders. It was cloudy when I left in the morning and I forgot sunscreen. Later, the sun came out in full force while I was out. I had committed to volunteering where I was, so that was that. Later that night, looking over my shoulder as I rubbed aloe on it, I flashed back to a time when I went on a vacation with my dad’s mom when I was about ten. We traveled with a camper attached to the back of a Chevy Suburban and stayed at KOA campgrounds all the way from NY to Texas. One day, I got a severe sunburn, which resulted in large blisters on my shoulders. That night, I was homesick, in severe pain, and I cried. My pain was met with my grandmother yelling at me to, “Stop your crying. Crying isn’t going to do you any good.” She had been nice to me most of the trip, but likely felt helpless, and my crying was making her feel worse. But she screamed at me, and I had to stuff my feelings inside.

I had not thought of it in the 36 years since, but standing in the bathroom, looking at my sunburned shoulder it all came back to me and I thought of my father. His dad was physically and emotionally abusive to him, his siblings, and his mother. In my body I felt the sadness, imagining all the tears he was never allowed to cry. From something as minor as a sunburn, to the really major things that happened to him, and things he saw that no child should have to witness.

I understand why he drinks. He’s been drinking beer like it’s water since he was a teenager and has not been sober ever. You set a boundary, he tells you to fuck off. His way or nothing. I can’t have him in my life, but I have no malice toward him.

He will likely never believe that. He will likely never understand me or my heart. He will likely never understand why I wrote a book about my childhood if not out of spite. It’s all he knows.  

But I am a writer. Writing the story of my childhood helped get the pain out of my body. In deciding to publish it, I had to weigh the possibility of it helping someone else, vs. the desire to protect him from himself and from the pain of awareness of his own actions. 

I knew how much reading the stories of others healed me on my own journey. A skillfully written memoir touches something in a reader and rather than sinking them into a pit of despair, allows them to breathe, and air out their own wounds. Shame is lifted as we realize we are not alone. I hope I was able to do that for others with my memoir. 

It’s funny how memories come up. My sunburned shoulders. My dad. My sorrow for him and the tears he never got to cry.

1) I wrote a book about my childhood experience with my father.

2) I don’t hate him.

Both those things are true.

I wish it had been okay for him to cry. 




Sunday, May 26, 2013

Grisly Adams



There is a brief reference in Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar to a feud my brother and I had when we were growing up. On Wednesday evenings, I wanted to watch Eight is Enough. I loved that show. He wanted to watch The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, starring Dan Haggerty.  We had to alternate weekly and it really chapped my ass.

What are the odds that Hollye Dexter, one of the writers I would ask to endorse my book, would be the niece of Mr. Haggerty? And how apropos that she alone, of all the many editors and persnickety writer friends who read it, noticed my typo. 

"Grisly" Adams. 

In Hollye's good nature, she pointed out that Grisly Adams would be an excellent name for a bearded serial killer, should I ever want to venture off in that direction with my writing.

I crack up every time I think of it.

'Tis good not to take oneself too seriously.


*Image from Wikipedia.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Back Cover



So I am thrilled with my new back cover blurbiness. Seriously. My back cover has gone through a complete metamorphosis over the last couple of months. Previously, I was still apologizing for existing and for writing this book at all. Trying to make it "light." Trying to assure the reader that, hey, I'm okay, you do not have to be afraid to read this book! The story is not too dark. Promise.

It was pitiful.

Now, I am endorsed by rock stars. Each one a true and brave writer whom I admire. Each one giving me a jolt of confidence with their nod of approval.

Jennifer Lauck, my first true writing teacher and the most beautiful memoirist. Queen of memoir. Blackbird, Still Waters, Show Me the Way, and Found. Every word, pure poetry. I am so honored that a writer of her vast wisdom and talent would endorse my book. She is and always has been so very generous to me.

Amy Ferris, author of Marrying George Clooney and A is for Ambien. Co-editor of the powerhouse anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom. Amy is a nurturing, loving, force for good in the world. She is a champion of other writers, other women, men, humanity. She is hilarious, and a heart breaking writer. She's got the funny, and the poignancy. All of it. I'm still pinching myself that she said yes to my blurb request.

Monica Holloway, her way with words, her books, make you feel like you are sitting down having a chat with a dear friend. She is one of those writers that is so good, she makes writing look easy. Her memoir Driving With Dead People about her dysfunctional childhood, and her memoir Cowboy and Wills, about her son on the autism spectrum and his special dog. Yeah...we have much in common. She's soul sister material.

And speaking of sisters, what about Carrie Wilson Link, author of Wil of God. We've been blogging sisters for over seven years. Her book is a beautifully written testament to blooming where you are planted, and embracing the relentlessness of special needs parenting, and life. Her constant championing of me over the years is humbling and I am so blessed to have her in my corner, and on my cover.

Hollye Dexter is author and co-editor of Dancing at the Shame Prom and also head of media relations for Moms Demand Action (for gun regulation). I blogged about the Shame Prom, and then kept bumping up against her work, her blog, her piece in another anthology, etc. I so resonated with her work. She is a beautiful writer and fierce advocate/activist for children (and animals) and the world. I am so honored that she agreed to blurb me. She's quite the human.

Thank you to writer Jennifer Margulis, author of The Business of Baby who had the guts and the honesty to mention that my previous back cover was hideous. Because of her candor, I trusted her when she said the work was actually good. She is a tough editor. She wouldn't lie just to be nice. Every writer needs someone like Jennifer in their life!

I'm still not sure about the author photo. I've switched it up a couple of times. I'm kind of in transition looks-wise and don't feel I even know what I look like these days. I cut off all my hair, and stopped coloring, thinking I'd just be gloriously grey, and turns out I'm hardly grey at all, so now I'm just letting it grow out again. I decided since the goal is to grow it back down to shoulder length, this was the closest photo. I might change my mind.

But for now, the back cover is looking so much better. I can't believe I am swimming in the sea with these talented, tenacious, writerly women. People who say the writing industry is cut-throat, don't know these folks. Generosity abounds. I am full to overflowing with love and gratitude.

Amen.



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Another most wonderful endorsement! Thank you Hollye Dexter!


How does one escape the legacy passed down by a damaged, alcoholic father? Fortunately, Michelle O Neil was born with enough spunk and sass to rebel against what was modeled for her. As she comes of age through the chaos of her family's dynamics, she looks for fleeting glimpses of hope, and manages to find God in small, ordinary moments. A charming and engaging read, you’ll be cheering for her every step of the way.

Media Relations, Moms Demand Action (for gun regulation), L.A.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Endorsements for Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

Recently I posted on my main website Full-Soul-Ahead! about a shift that is taking place in me. I am feeling more confident about Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar. As a result, I finally mustered up my courage and asked some truly glorious writers if they wouldn't mind reading it if they hadn't read it yet, and endorsing my book if they wound up liking it. I was so terrified to ask.

But they said yes. Every single one I asked said yes.

And what would have happened had they said no? Would it have killed me? No. I would have been a little sad. Perhaps embarrassed for having asked. But it still would have been a brave thing to do. I believe in my book. They would have had their reasons, but it wouldn't mean I did anything wrong by asking.

It is amazing the help that is there if you are brave enough to ask for it. Here are three endorsements. I'll have more coming in soon. I am humbled. Flattered. Grateful. Happy.

"Michelle O'Neil is a true writer, dedicated to sharing her story and experience with others. To read her work is to be inspired.  She is a truly perseverant spirit."  –JENNIFER LAUCK, author of New York Times Bestseller, Blackbird, Still Waters, Show Me the Way and Found.  

"Michelle O'Neil is a grand gorgeous HEARTBREAKING writer. You should go and buy this book, curl up with this book, fall in love with this girl writer and shout her name from the rooftops." -AMY FERRIS, author of Marrying George, Confessions of a Midlife Crises and co-editor of Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories that Kept Us Small.

"Michelle O'Neil has written an honest, brave, funny, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant book. You will love her as Janie, a little girl born on the wrong side of the tracks with the right set of gifts that carry her up and away from it all, and into your heart. Forever." -CARRIE WILSON LINK, author of Wil of God: Embracing the Relentless Love of a Special Child.

And a bonus I didn't even ask for from a GeekMom at Wired.com who "devoured Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar overnight." 

I am so moved by these wonderful endorsements. I feel so much appreciation for writers who help other writers. 

Thank you, thank you! 

Amen. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5 Questions for an Adult Child of an Alcoholic



Author Tanya Savko has started a new "5 Questions for..." series on her blog. It is designed to highlight authors who address topics that affect family relationships. Tanya is a very generous writer friend. It was her encouragement that tipped me over the edge to go forth with publishing Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar. I appreciate her. She is a beautiful person, inside and out. 

I am honored to be the first interview. 

Check it out here.




Thursday, February 7, 2013

Drinking With Men


Today, NPR ran a story on a new memoir titled Drinking With Men. I have not read the book, but based on the interview, I left this comment on NPR. 

I am author of my own memoir, Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar. I wonder if Rosie Schaap and others like her ever consider the possibility that the men she shares drinks and camaraderie with might be there at the expense of their marriages and children? If he's being the generous big spender buying the drinks, I wonder if she knows he's just blown his kid's lunch money for the next day, or the electric bill for the month? The subtitle of my book is: For every regular manning a barstool there is likely a family at home. I'm not saying it is Ms. Schaap's responsibility to know or care. I just used to get the willies when I heard someone, mostly drinking buddies, say what a swell guy my father was, when he was abusive and pissing our money and our family down the drain.
This piece seems to romanticize "bar culture." When the guy at the bar is your alcoholic dad, it isn't romantic at all.

I do realize I am seeing this through my own lens, and I can't speak to the experience of all bar regulars.