lockdown lit @ lunch, july 7, 2 pm ET

Book talk on Facebook Live

Florida journalist Leslie Gray Streeter, author of Black Widow, and I will chat about our memoirs on Tuesday, July 7 at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST.

lockdownlit4The event is co-sponsored by The Booksmith in San Francisco and Zyzzyva Magazine as part of their Lockdown Lit @ Lunch series. Both Leslie and I are members of Lockdown Literature, a collection of over 80 authors who banded together as our books were published during the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown.

Leslie038_lesliesz is a columnist for the Palm Beach Post and the author of Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books With Words Like ‘Journey’ In The Title. She lives in West Palm Beach with her mother Tina and her son Brooks.

You can watch the live-stream of this Facebook event — or watch it later, but then you won’t be able to ask us questions live — here.

 

 

talking hope, healing & loss w/new york writers workshop

Screenshot 2020-06-15 12.45.59Christina 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.

 

the story behind the stories: ‘uncomfortably numb’ & ‘mr. clark’s big band’

Women Writers TBR pile

In the first scene in my recently-released medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, I am interviewing Jamie Clark, the music director of the middle school jazz band I’m planning to shadow during the 2012-2013 school year to witness how Clark helps his students through mourning the sudden death of a band member. The year I spend with Clark and his student musicians is the subject of my 2017 book, Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room.

As I’m speaking with Clark, I experience what I will later realize is the first symptom of multiple sclerosis. It will take two years before I’m officially diagnosed with the incurable autoimmune disease, and another three to see the band book through to publication.

The time line covered in my 2020 memoir Uncomfortably Numb starts with that August 2012 interview and ends with the launch of Mr. Clark’s Big Band. Pretty meta.

The inextricable link between the two books is detailed in a piece published on the website Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books. The website is also featuring my book this month as a recommended read.

Image credit: Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books.

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.

 

june 1: free webinar on ‘narrative medicine and the art of the medical memoir’

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I’ll be joining award-winning author, Bay Path University writer-in-residence and faculty member, the wonderful Suzanne Strempek Shea on June 1 for a free webinar where we’ll discuss “Narrative Medicine and the Art of the Medical Memoir.”

Hosted by Bay Path University’s MFA in creative nonfiction program, the one-hour webinar, from 1-2 p.m., is open to the public. Register here.

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Strempek Shea is the author of many books including Songs from a Lead-Lined Room: Notes — High and Low — From My Journey Through Breast Cancer and Radiation, a memoir writer Anita Shreve called, “one of those books that changes your life forever.”

Writer Michael Carlton said in Yankee Magazine, Songs from a Lead-Lined Room “is one of the most moving and important books ever written about the extraordinary pressures the disease places not only on the victim, but on family and friends as well.”

Strempek Shea and I worked together at the Springfield, MA daily newspaper, The Republican, and she has written blurbs for a number of my books. It was our connection that resulted in my attending and graduating from the Bay Path University MFA in creative nonfiction program, which she was instrumental in creating.

Please join us for a warm conversation between friends about the craft of writing about the innately personal topics of illness and medicine.

Image credits: Bay Path University MFA in creative nonfiction program, Amazon.

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buying copies of ‘uncomfortably numb’ during COVID-19

Screenshot 2020-05-20 16.43.40I 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:

Tatnuck Bookseller

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.

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Continue reading “buying copies of ‘uncomfortably numb’ during COVID-19”

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!

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.

READ: ‘uncomfortably numb’ excerpt at healthcentral

Screenshot 2020-03-28 15.01.36In honor of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, the HealthCentral website has published an edited excerpt of Uncomfortably Numb.

Here are the first few lines:

There’s something weird going on with my leg.

I’m interviewing a middle school band director for a book I’m working on, but something doesn’t feel right on my leg and I can’t stop thinking about it. I brush my left calf across my right shin to compare the sensations. The right leg is positively brimming with feeling by comparison.

Yeah, that’s not right. 

After the interview is over, I walk to my car. Now that I’m alone, I can fully focus on how odd the skin on my left shin feels — how the hem of my linen capri pants feels, as though it’s rubbing evenly across my right shin and calf, but not so with my left. I close my eyes and focus on my legs.

Does it feel different on my left? Does it really? Is this just something strange that will go away?

Read the full excerpt here.

Image credit: HealthCentral.