springfield (ma) paper features ‘uncomfortably numb’

Screenshot 2020-05-25 19.09.33The Republican — the daily newspaper for which I used to work way back in the day, back when it was called The Union-News –ran a feature story about my medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, and my experiences with MS.

Here’s how it begins:

In her new book, Uncomfortably Numb: A memoir about the life-altering diagnosis of multiple sclerosis,” West Springfield native Meredith O’Brien describes how she went overboard one Christmas season after a semester teaching ended and she proceeded to tackle “a ton of activities, too many, actually.”

Fatigue hit her hard while she was watching her son at a Christmas musical event at the high school in Southborough where she now lives. “Quite quickly, my thinking became foggy and my legs were on the verge of giving out,” O’Brien recalls. “I had to ask my husband to drive me home immediately. I spent the next several days in bed, unable to do what I wanted because my body needed the rest.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

Thank you to editor Cynthia Simison –who was my bureau chief in the Westfield, MA bureau — and to writer Cori Urban for the piece.

The article includes a plug for my June 1, 1-2 p.m. webinar with Bay Path University’s MFA in creative nonfiction to discuss “The Art of the Medical Memoir.” Sign up for the free webinar here.

Image credit: The Republican.

 

scenes from a virtual author event

sboro library talk4

The Southborough Library and Recreation Departments co-hosted a virtual author event via Zoom where I discussed my memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, and fielded questions ranging from inquiries about multiple sclerosis to questions about the writing process.

I read several short excerpts from the memoir, including one about how, in the confusing aftermath of my MS diagnosis, I became obsessed with getting a second dog — a puppy — whom we named Tedy Wilson (after the New England Patriots’ Tedy Bruschi).

Now 5 years old, Tedy made a guest appearance.

sboro library talk1

Image credits: Ryan Donovan, Southborough Library, via Zoom.

 

talking ‘uncomfortably numb’ at the les bleus lit salon & with podcaster zibby owens

Image-1Two seriously enthusiastic shout-outs to Paige McGreevy and Zibby Owens for affording me  opportunities to chat with them about my memoir Uncomfortably Numb.

These two women have been incredibly generous in helping writers, whose work is being published during a pandemic, connect with book lovers.

McGreevy, who started the New York City-based Les Bleus Literary Salon, has been hosting writers via Zoom as they read from the new books for an audience of literary enthusiasts. (Several of my fellow authors from Lockdown Literature, pictured on the right, have read from their books in recent weeks, so I was in illustrious company.)Screenshot 2020-05-04 13.34.30

Meanwhile, Owens, a well-respected book podcaster who created Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, recently spoke with me for her Instagram Live author interview series.

You can watch the interview as it happened below. (Luckily, Tedy, my hyper-yappy dog, did NOT burst through my office door — which never quite clicks closed — and start barking. PLUS my three, college-aged kids — who are all finishing up their spring semesters virtually — did not slow down the internet enough to boot me offline.)

Here’s the link to the video.

View this post on Instagram

@meredithobrien – author of "Uncomfortably Numb"

A post shared by Zibby Owens (@zibbyowens) on

Thank you Paige and Zibby! You are truly doing public service, at least to writers and readers!

book review & lockdown lit

MS Treatment Options & Strategies - MultipleSclerosis.netUncomfortably Numb received praise from a MultipleSclerosis.net reviewer as “a worthwhile MS memoir.”

Gary Chester — whose wife Cathy Chester, an MS advocate & writer, blurbed my memoir — said the book is not just recommended for MS patients, but also for those who love them:

As a caregiver, I appreciated O’Brien’s role as a tour guide through the labyrinth of a seemingly healthy individual experiencing early symptoms of MS to the ultimate diagnosis and its consequences. The journey is not one of clinical observations that many MS patients and loved ones can check-off as they proceed through the book. It is a personal diary of the frustration, doubts, worries, and grievances of almost any MS patient.

Chester added, “She transports us through the dread in a manner that is thoroughly readable and relatable.”

Read the full review here.

Now, about Lockdown Literature… I’ve joined a group of 80+ authors — convened by author Mary South — whose books have been released in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help one another out and help our books find readers, the group now has an Instagram page, Lockdown_literature. I’ve also put together an evolving list of group members’ Twitter handles and we also have a Twitter handle.

In the coming weeks, the group will be doing 10-book giveaways of our work, which ranges from memoirs and other nonfiction, to novels and poetry collections. Stay tuned!

Image credits: MultipleSclerosis.net and Lockdown Literature. 

 

memoir makes entropy’s ‘quarantine reading’ list

Screenshot 2020-04-08 15.29.09

As one of many authors whose latest book was released during a pandemic, I’ve got to say, I’ve been blown away by the ways in which the literary community has rallied to support writers who’ve been affected by the coronavirus closures.

Case-in-point: The literary magazine Entropy‘s Michael J. Seidlinger put together a quarantine reading list of “Books You Shouldn’t Forget to Buy” and was gracious enough to place Uncomfortably Numb on the list.

Screenshot 2020-04-08 15.27.24

Thanks to both Michael and Entropy for their good will and generous literary spirits!

Image credits: Entropy magazine.

blogger gives kudos to ‘uncomfortably numb’

Screenshot 2020-04-06 16.37.35The Sparkly Life blogger Alyssa Kolsky Hertzig named Uncomfortably Numb one of her top reads for the month of March.

Putting it in her “Liked A Lot” category, Kolsky Hertzig wrote of the memoir:

“It tells the story of the author’s life being rocked when she is diagnosed with a chronic disease (after being told by doctors that it was anxiety/all in her head). I thought it was really interesting to learn about how her illness has affected every aspect of her life, and I also thought it was a good commentary on how women’s concerns still often aren’t taken seriously by the medical community. It’s a quick read and a I love a good memoir.”

Image credit: The Sparkly Life.

book party chatting across the pond

Screenshot 2020-03-20 14.01.18UK Author Madeline Dyer and her Book Party Chat Twitter page hosted me for an hour-long discussion about writing, about memoir, about researching, and about work that inspired me as I wrote Uncomfortably Numb.

We discussed how long it took to write the memoir, what it was like to write such raw and personal material, as well as what projects I’m working on next … to which I would only say that it’s something in the thriller/fiction genre and will be set in Springfield, MA where I used to work as a newspaper reporter. It’s still in its infancy/planning stages.Screenshot 2020-03-20 14.05.26

Thank you Madeline and the Book Party Chat team for taking the time to speak with me about my work and about the craft of writing.

 

talking memoir, ms & chronic illness with The Write Review

Annie Horsky McDonnell, the book guru who runs The Write Review book group, was kind enough to have me on her Facebook live-stream to discuss my medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb.

We talked about our respective autoimmune diseases, our invisible symptoms and the struggle to help others to understand what it’s like to live with chronic illness. Members of the online book group offered up engaging questions as well.

My son Jonah — home because his university closed and is having students do remote learning due to the coronavirus — took our dogs for a walk during the interview but came back at the tail-end. I think you might be able to hear Tedy’s high-pitched barking. Oh well. The hazards of working from home.

Horskey McDonnell’s interview was part of her effort to help out authors whose book events have been engulfed and crushed by coronavirus cancellations. Thank you Annie!

 

talking with robin kall at ‘reading with robin’ (+ book giveaway)

Screenshot 2020-03-15 12.31.51Robin Kall, the lovely host of Reading with Robin on Facebook, was kind enough to have me appear on her virtual author-palooza tour:

You can watch the interview here. (For some reason I couldn’t upload it here.)

We talked about the memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, about the impact of coronavirus on our lives, and about invisible chronic illnesses. I also read an excerpt from the beginning of the book when I first experienced multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Book giveaway: If you go onto Facebook and post a comment, you could win a signed copy of Uncomfortably Numb. At noon on Tuesday, March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day — I’ll write down the names of all the commenters (old school, on paper) and pick two names out of a hat. I’ll then contact those lucky two.

Kall, a fellow New Englander, has been interviewing authors all weekend. Check out a group of other authors talking books.

In a pandemic, why not discover new authors and their books.

the ‘nothing is cancelled virtual book tour’

New York Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt and podcaster/book enthusiast Robin Kall recognized that — amid the coronavirus shut-downs — authors with new books being released (*raising my hand*) are having their events canceled.

So they took matters into their own hands and created the Nothing Is Canceled Virtual Book Tour.

On Twitter, they initially made a call for authors to record videos of themselves talking about their book, discussing the authors who influenced the writing of that book, and to cap it off by giving a shout-out to local independent bookstores.

Meanwhile, Robin Kall has started interviewing authors online. (We’ve corresponded and I hope we set something up soon.)

I enthusiastically agreed to join their virtual author series and recorded my awkward video (see above) while praying Max and Tedy wouldn’t start howling outside my office door.

In the video — the link to which I’ve emailed Leavitt — I give a shout-out to Tatnuck Booksellers in Westborough, where I hosted my book launch and from where you can purchase signed copies of Uncomfortably Numb.

I also give kudos to two authors whose memoirs influenced me as I wrote mine: Suzanne Strempek Shea and her Songs from a Lead-Lined Room, Susannah Cahalan and her Brain on Fire.

What a wonderful way for authors and book enthusiasts to support one another while we’re holed up away from the coronavirus.