celebrating ireland with a virtual Facebook parade of authors

Facebook-based book groups The Write Review and Sue’s Reading Neighborhood teamed up with six other book groups to create a virtual, day-long St. Patrick’s Day “parade” of authors. Since we can’t stand on the sidewalks to watch live St. Patrick’s Day parades anywhere due to the coronavirus, this was the next best thing, plus it gave us the opportunity to speak with authors who are in Ireland right now, while we’re stateside. The Irish Echo even ran a feature story about the unusual, COVID-era event.

I appeared on a panel where the writers discussed the “Irish DNA” in our work. The night before the panel, I looked over my four books and discovered that there’s Irishness deep within the bones of each, in one way or another.

The only explicit reference to my Irish connection (via my father’s father), was found in my collection of humor/parenting columns in my book A Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum where I included a piece called, “Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with All-American mutts.” In it, I talk about how my husband and I served our three young kids the same corned beef, cabbage and Irish soda bread my family used to eat every March 17 (full disclosure: my husband almost always made the corned beef.) While Scott took care of the corned beef, I’d have the kids create shamrock-themed crafts while I blasted U2 and the Dropkick Murphys (“Shipping Up to Boston” of course) as Scott and I enjoyed Guinness. That was usually followed by the kids’ consumption of super-sweet shamrock shaped cookies with sprinkles set atop their shamrock paper plates. One year, Scott and I took them to South Boston, where my brother lived at the time, to watch the famous Southie St. Patrick’s Day parade, not too far away from the L Street diner, which was featured in “Good Will Hunting.”

My next book, Mortified: a novel about oversharing, didn’t explicitly have Irish references, although the main characters were Irish. You had Michael Kelly who married Maggie Finn, whose mother was Molly Mahoney, whose mother Emily had lace curtains in the window. The novel was set in a suburb outside of Boston, an area where Irishness is deeply felt. When I was a newspaper reporter for a brief time, covering Boston City Hall in 1998, I was frequently asked, “What county are you from?” I’d wrinkle my brow, recall the western Massachusetts county where I was raised (Hampden), but then realized they meant from which IRISH county did my family hail (Cork).

Years later, my two works of narrative nonfiction included Irishness not only because the second one, Uncomfortably Numb: a memoir, was my story and I have Irish heritage, but because both books made frequent reference to Jamison Clark, the main character of Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room. He not only was the hero in Mr. Clark’s Big Band, but he appeared at the beginning (and the end) of Uncomfortably Numb as he was there when I first experienced numbness in my left leg. During one of my first long interviews with him (the one with the numbness), Clark told me about and showed me his Celtic necklace with the “triple Goddess” that he wears, saying it symbolizes eternity and rebirth, this from a man who married a woman named Colleen O’Brien (no relation) and who, before they had kids, would spend the entire St. Patrick’s Day in the Black Rose in Boston.

While a recent DNA test told me I am 53 percent British and Irish (designating County Cork as a likely ancestral location), Irish influence has always been strong, particularly because of that O apostrophe at the beginning of my last name.

Watch the panel discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/1367330023/videos/10225035457138085/

sunday, march 14, 11 a.m.: catch me on a virtual authors’ st. patrick’s day parade

I’ll be getting my Irish on during the Facebook-based Write Review’s 1st Annual Virtual St. Patrick’s Day Parade/Book Club Tour/Hop on Sunday, March 14 at 11 a.m.

A ton of authors, with some connection to the Emerald Isle, will be participating in the day-long festival of all things books and Irish. (Plus there will be giveaways.) Join The Write Reviewers Book Club on Facebook in order to participate.

I’ll be speaking during the 11 a.m. panel about the Irish DNA of my characters, focusing on the protagonist in Mortified: a novel about oversharing, the stressed out Maggie Kelly.

virtual book tour for ‘uncomfortably numb’ continues: book giveaways & an instagram takeover

Screenshot 2020-03-28 13.11.01As 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.

Screenshot 2020-03-28 14.31.23I’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.

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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.

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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!!”

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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!

 

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!