Christina Chiu — working with the New York Writers Workshop and 2040Books — organized a virtual author event where she invited three writers to discuss our recent books which all touch on the subjects of “Hope, Healing and Loss.” Chiu’s recent novel is Beauty.
I was thrilled to discuss my medical MS memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, alongside memoirist Maya Lang who wrote What We Carry about her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and novelist Jacqueline Friedman whose That’s Not a Thing features a character who develops ALS.
The hour-long discussion was lively and varied, as we touched on topics from approaches to writing and research, to how the medical industry treats female patients differently than male ones.
I had to fend off Tedy, who kept trying to climb up on my chair and eventually succeeded. Then there was Max, who was snorting and moaning loudly on the floor. My husband decided it was the perfect time to make dinner so there were ambient cooking noises as well. Ah … the joys of the coronavirus quanantine and working from home!
You can watch the video of our discussion here.
I love to support independent bookstores and make sure to visit one whenever I’m in a new town or city. But … since we’re in a pandemic, I figured I’d give you a couple of options of where you can buy my medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb. I’ll emphasize the indie bookstores first:
Based in Westborough, MA, this independent store has been the site for book events for all four of my books, including the one and only in-person event to launch my memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, before the Coronavirus shutdowns went into effect.
If you’re looking for signed copies of Uncomfortably Numb, email the bookstore and we’ll send the book on its way. You can also call them: 508.366.4959.
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.)
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.
Thank you Paige and Zibby! You are truly doing public service, at least to writers and readers!
As I’ve seen events to promote my medical memoir Uncomfortably Numb canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been so grateful for the work of many people who are stepping in to fill the void.
Several woman have been extremely generous in helping me spread the word about my medical memoir through their online book groups.
Ashley Spivey’s book club: Instagram takeover
Self-proclaimed book nerd Ashley Spivey allowed me to take over her book club’s Instagram account this past week to promote Uncomfortably Numb.
I’m new to the world of Instagram stories, so it took me a little bit of time to figure out how to layer words atop the images and then throw music into the mix, like combining UB40’s “Red Red Wine” with a snapshot of my mother (whose death is featured in the memoir) sucking down a glass of red wine.
I had to create visual ways of conveying the experience of writing and researching my memoir, including shooting quasi-awkward videos of myself explaining my process. In addition to a photo of my mom –who was given the nickname The Wine Mother by a local radio DJ, I posted a pic of the bathroom where my biggest MS attack took place, a photo of my family on vacation in Los Angeles just before two MS attacks, and an illustration that I first saw on actress & MS patient Selma Blair’s Instagram account (created by artist Erica Root) depicting MS symptoms.
You can see highlights from my Uncomfortably Numb Instagram takeover here.
Readers Coffeehouse Facebook book group: Book giveaway
Prolific author Kimberly Belle — one of the founders of the Facebook book group Readers Coffeehouse — has been instrumental in the “authors helping authors” movement, assisting those whose book events were canceled in the wake of the coronavirus spread.
After she shared my book with her club members, I engaged in lively online discussion with them before giving away two signed copies.
Annie Horsky McDonnell, of The Write Review: Gives kudos to the memoir
After our recent flash-interview on The Write Review, Horsky McDonnell wrote a short review of Uncomfortably Numb.
“Wow! This book should be read by anyone with Multiple Sclerosis, or other autoimmune disease,” Horsky McDonnell wrote. “… It is a book that is going to help so many people needing a voice to hear when they get their diagnosis with MS, or even a loved one does. It will certainly bring comfort to know they are not alone! After my interview with her, I trust she will be a huge voice for Multiple Sclerosis. I cannot get her out of my head, and I’m sharing her book with my doctors!!”
Yellow Brick Reads Facebook group: Book giveaway
Led by Jady Bernier Babin, members of the Yellow Brick Reads Facebook group vied for a chance to win signed copies of Uncomfortably Numb by sharing ways (other than reading, which, of course, we all adore) they are coping with being asked to shelter-in-place so as not to spread Covid-19.
I was honored to virtually converse with Yellow Brick Reads folks, as well as with the members of Readers Coffeehouse, The Write Review and Spivey’s book club.
Thank you Jady, Kimberly, Annie and Ashley for your support!
As Dyer — author of several novels including the Untamed series — is working on her own memoir about her chronic illness, her words meant a great deal to me.
While saying she “couldn’t read it fast enough,” Dyer called Uncomfortably Numb “harrowing in places,” adding that it had “so many relatable moments.”
“The writing craft itself in this book is really good too,” Dyer continued. “Stylistically, Meredith’s writing flows and just demands to be read. I’ve read quite a few medical memoirs, but I have to say, I think this is one of the best, and I’ll be recommending it for years to come.”
You wouldn’t know, just by reading this post, but I’m blushing. Thank you Madeline!
You can read her full review here.
Image credit: Madeline Dyer.
I’m deeply honored that several fellow writers have been kind enough to write blurbs for my forthcoming memoir, Uncomfortably Numb.
Take author Jessica Fechtor. When she was a 28-year-old graduate student, an aneurysm in her brain burst, leaving her with a long and difficult road to recovery. Fechtor deftly shared the story of her arduous journey in her bestselling memoir Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home. I greatly admired Stir, so it meant a lot to me to read what she had to say about my story:
Meredith O’Brien’s Uncomfortably Numb is a rare window into everyday life with multiple sclerosis, and how chronic illness can turn one’s very identity inside out. The illness is unpredictable: an initial diagnosis takes years to materialize, symptoms may or may not signal the progression of the disease, and treatments are imperfect. With candor, O’Brien bares her most vulnerable moments as she learns the new rules of working, parenting, and living in the present when the future is uncertain.
Then there’s Maya Dusenbery — author of Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick — who also did me a solid with this blurb:
Uncomfortably Numb tells a sadly all-too-common story: of a woman whose symptoms were initially dismissed by doctors before a life-changing diagnosis. Frank and relatable, it will speak to anyone who knows the uncertainty that chronic illness brings and the resiliency it demands.
Author Trevis Gleason, a fellow multiple sclerosis patient himself, chronicled the devastating impact the disease has had on his own life in Chef Interrupted: Discovering Life’s Second Course in Ireland with Multiple Sclerosis. He graciously offered this about Uncomfortably Numb:
A modern telling of the newly diagnosed story from a no-nonsense journalist, a gifted writer, a pragmatic New Englander. While uniquely her own — by definition — there will be few who have or know chronic illness who will not glimpse well-told aspects of their own experience in this memoir. Uncomfortably Numb is heart-breaking, it’s harrowing, and it’s heroic. What is is not is candy-coated. Refreshingly honest, unguarded, and reflective about what is, arguably the most difficult half decade in Meredith O’Brien’s colorful life.
Thank you so much Jessica, Maya, and Trevis.
Image credits: Amazon.
I was pleased to learn that the Library Journal this month released a review of my forthcoming memoir, Uncomfortably Numb saying it “will resonate with those living with the unpredictability of chronic conditions, along with their friends, family, and various support systems.”
Thank you to reviewer Marcia G. Welsh.
Image credit:Library Journal.
Given that Buchanan struggled for over a year with the devastating impact of a tear in the membrane protecting her brain and spinal cord — as detailed in her memoir, The Beginning of Everything: The Year I Lost My Mind and Found Myself — her words about my MS-centric book mean a great deal:
Meredith O’Brien writes deftly and gracefully about the shock of becoming an unreliable narrator as she navigates both disbelieving doctors and the challenges of her own changing brain in the process of searching for answers to the concerning symptoms she experiences. A journalist by training and a writer by nature, she fearlessly investigates, contemplates, and confronts her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis as she learns to adapt to her body’s new way of being in the world. Her frank look at what this process is like for both herself and her family will be heartening to anyone who has lived with the uncertainty of chronic illness.
Uncomfortably Numb: a memoir, goes on sale March 3.
Image credit: Amazon.
In less than a month.
My memoir will be available for sale.
At the beginning of Multiple Sclerosis awareness month.
This is more than slightly terrifying. My memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, is the most personal work I’ve written to date. Hopefully folks will embrace its vulnerability and dark humor. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed. Tightly.
Meanwhile, it gives me a shot of confidence that Sarai Walker, the author of the much-praised Dietland (yes, the book that was made into a TV show), has kind words for Uncomfortably Numb. In fact, my publisher put an excerpt of Walker’s blurb on the cover.
Here’s Walker’s full blurb:
In Uncomfortably Numb, Meredith O’Brien writes unflinchingly about her life before and after her MS diagnosis. Detailing her treatment, her struggles to be taken seriously by doctors, and the effects of it all on her family, career and sense of self, she writes in a clear-eyed and courageous voice, bringing the reader along with her as she navigates this profound, life-altering experience.
Thank you Sarai!
Image credits: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing and Amazon.