Thursday, May 23, 2019

Book Signings

One Day at a Time Gift Shop, Rehoboth, DE

When I was at the Association of Writers and Publishers in Portland, Oregon in March, I witnessed book signing
after book signing. People just lined up to get a book signed. I had dreamed of such events for
“Distilling Hope: 12 Stories that distill the 12 Steps”.  With 22 million people in Recovery and another 22 million
who could be, or should be, I thought that people would flock to my work in droves, clamoring for a signature that
would increase the book’s inherent value. My naivete was obviously showing.
Book signings can be very strange events, especially as an unknown with a published work about the Recovery
But then, there are the gems hidden in the nooks and crannies of the Recovery world.  
I was privy to one of those nooks, and it was just delightful!

Amylynn Karnbach has a lovely shop in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware geared toward the 22 million in recovery.  
While I doubt all of them will frequent her business, those who do are the precise audience my work needs.
Amylynn had an open house to celebrate her first year in business and invited me to tell stories and do a book
signing.  It was a beautiful spring day, and Amylynn had set up the patio entrance for a garden party, complete
with chairs, tables, and abundant food. As the afternoon wore on, people drifted in and out of the store, and I
drifted in and out of the storytelling. I told the stories from the book as an unabashed effort at promotion.
Books were sold, and signed, connections were made, and a good time was had by all.

What’s really behind those bars and walls?

Reaching through the Cracks:  Connecting Incarcerated Persons with Loved Ones through Story

Despite the conventional concerns about working with incarcerated individuals,
I can happily report that I have never experienced any of those fears, nor any of those situations which one may
 consider hazardous to one’s health.  I’ve worked behind these bars for many years now, and this is what I find
every time:

I find people who have been thrown away,
Dismissed, discarded, and

I find people who have suffered trauma…
By a random act of violence, by the world they were born into,
By family action, or inaction.

Catastrophe due to addiction, mental illness, or both,
Wreaking havoc, one person at a time,
One soul at a time, five minutes at a time.

I find the power hungry and the apathetic,
The burned out and the burned
Some there for a paycheck, some for a payback.

I find human souls that have been caged, both willingly and unwillingly,
For years at a time, or perhaps a lifetime,
Devoid of hope because they are disposable.

I thought disposable described diapers.

© Beth Ohlsson, 2019

All rights reserved

Friday, May 17, 2019

Reaching Through the Cracks...

 Reaching through the Cracks: 
Connecting Incarcerated Parents with their Children through Story

Incarcerated parents are one of the forgotten populations in our society.  Time, Inc. reported that in 2015, one out of 14 children in the United States had experienced parental incarceration.  As someone who worked with pregnant and post-partum addicts, I heard what many of the women had to say about their Baby Daddy. “He got his ass locked up…he’s no good…” and so on.  I wanted to give the men the opportunity to connect with their children in a meaningful way; to tell the rest of the story and become a positive presence in the children’s lives.

There were some hurdles to overcome when one wants to work within Maryland’s Department of Corrections and Public Safety.  There were grant proposals to write, funding to find, and then there was the question of finding space to conduct an 8-week workshop within the prison walls.  It took 2 years for the hurdles to be jumped, the funding to be acquired, the space to be found, and enough inmates interested in this new and untested program to sign up.

Now in its sixth year, Reaching through the Cracks has been offered to both men and women who are incarcerated.  I worked with exclusively women at the local detention center for the first four years and was able to gather information about those who completed the program 2 years after their release from jail.  Among those women who had completed, there was a 10% recidivism rate after 2 years.  By any measure, those are results worth celebrating.

Reaching through the Cracks is now offered exclusively at Eastern Correctional Institution in MD.  More posts to follow about the creativity that is awakened in the process of sharing one’s own story.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Recovery Lit Up!

The reason I actually went to AWP 19 was because my dear friend, Perry Gaidurgis, said that he was organizing a reading and book signing for writers who were in recovery.  On a wing and a prayer, I signed up, registered for the event, booked a flight, and went.

Huge shout out to Perry for his efforts and his success in organizing this off-site event while on the East Coast and to Bridges to Change Treatment Center and 4th Dimension Recovery Center for their sponsorship of the event.  There are some amazing books about the recovery experience written by equaling amazing women. 

Shannon Egan has written “No Tourists Allowed: Seeking serenity and recovery in war torn Sudan.”  It is as much a course in Issues in Contemporary Africa as it is about the process of seeking recovery.  I was fortunate enough to swap books with Shannon, and read the entire text during my flights and layovers back to the East Coast. I couldn’t put it down, not even on the red eye that was the final leg of my journey.

Kristi Coulter’s work, “Nothing Good Can Come from This,” is a collection of essays charting the uncharted path of alcoholism and recovery.  Much of the literature about alcoholism is from the male point of view.  Kristi approached the journey from an unabashed feminize perspective, and the result is often a hilarious walk in her shoes as she finds recovery.

There were others who shared works in progress that promise to be worthwhile additions to the body of recovery memoirs.  I was grateful for the opportunity to be part of this event, and to be part of its creative energy.  Thanks, Perry!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Impact from the Association of Writers and Publishers Conference 2019

AWP #19 was held in Portland, Oregon March 27-30, and I attended for the first time.  

The follow up e-mails indicated 15,000 attendees.  There were over 500 events, panels, speakers, and book signings scheduled, and there were 880 vendors in the Bookfair.  All I can say is, 
“It was A LOT!”

I don’t fancy myself an author, despite the publication of “Distilling Hope.”  However, I have recently begun to wander into the realm of personal stories for performance purposes, and find it a path full of land mines!  I decided to take advantage of those panels that spoke to the realm of the personal narrative as a way to feed my storytelling Muse.  

T Kira Madden has written “Here’s to the Tribe of Fatherless Girls,” a powerful story of a woman whose parents were addicts.  She was asked how she managed to portray these less than perfect parents with any kind of compassion.  Here response was that she “had to give them a heart.”  Tears came unbidden.

My father was an alcoholic.  Until my boys were 3 and 7 years old, I was an active alcoholic, as was their dad.   My brother, their uncle, was an alcoholic. That particular kind of neglect was all around them, and I carried that guilt for a very long time, in spite of the fact that I got sober and stayed that way.  I still do, sometimes.  I hope and pray that my parenting as a sober woman was good enough, attentive enough, nurturing enough for them to forgive me.  My sons say they harbor no ill will towards me, and assure me that my parenting was “good enough.” 
I realized I was a fatherless girl, and I was able to forgive him.  I guess I should believe my sons.