The Author

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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
I am overcoming schizophrenia, and I believe others can too. Here is how I am managing my condition...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Speaking Up

After reading a few books by the same author I was offended by the way mental health concerns were mentioned in a couple of their books so I emailed the author about my concerns. I am still a fan of the author I just wanted to voice my concerns to let them know it was offensive and hopefully they will be more sensitive about mental health. Below is the edited version of the letter I wrote, omiting the author's name and book titles...

Hello Ms. [Blank]:

I became an immediate fan of yours since I read [blank]. While I am a fan, I do have some concerns about the stigma you may be contributing to as it relates to mental health. For example, in [blank], you mentioned an ex-boyfriend who has schizophrenia and how he may desire to commit violence by burning down someone's house with them in it. I too have schizophrenia. I am not violent and I am an upstanding citizen through volunteer work.

In another work of yours, [blank], the main character wondered why her father could have had a mental illness. Why can't the individual doing the wrong deed just be a bad person, why do they have to have a mental illness?

In short, I love your work but some things are offensive as it relates to mental health and I hope in future writings you will be more sensitive.

Thank you for your consideration and keep writing!

Ashley Smith
Fan and concerned mental health advocate

[Response from the author]

Hi Ashley,

Thank you so much for reading my work and for taking time to email me. In terms of my reference to schizophrenia with the character, Aaron, he is not representative of all people who have this illness and I apologize if you felt that way while reading about him. My work is fiction, so there may be times when I will create characters based on what I amy have heard or seen but my characters never represent an entire group of people. For example, when I write about [the main character's name], I am not saying that all pastors are consumed with money, power...Actually, when it comes to someone burning a house, the person doing it could have a mental illness or they may not have a mental illness, so again, this was just the illness I chose because of examples I know of.

In [blank, title of the book], the reason I chose to write that her stepfather must have had a mental illness was because there have been many times when pedophiles have admitted that they simply cannot help themselves and even hate themselves for doing what they have done to a child. I've heard some say (not all) say themselves that they were sick. This isn't always the case, but this is what I chose to write in my particular novel, and it is also what I believe was the case with the man who molested me when I was a child. There are also times in my stories when people tend to do bad things simpoly because they are just bad people the way you mentioned, and this is the reason I don't always use mental illness as a reason for their terrible actions.

The unfortunate thing about writing fiction is that no matter what a novelist writes, there will always be at least a few readers who feel offended or like the writer is not being sensitive to his or her particular situation. Especially, if a writer focuses on taboo or controversial subjects the way I always do.

I hope my explanation is helpful and thanks again for all your support, Ashley.

Take care and God bless,

[Author's name]


After sending the email I wish I would have listed some sources to get educated about mental health. And after the explanation, well, what do you think?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., NAMI, or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

6 comments:

Lady_Amanda said...

Hi Ashely,

Good for you for stepping out and standing up for "us." I think the author was wrong to say that child molestors are mentally ill. Yes, they are ill! I don't think they have schizophernia or bipolar, though. I think it's classified as some sort of personlity disorder. I am a writer so I understand also where your author is coming from in saying that just because she wrote something doesn't mean that all people are that way. When you are in the "magical" world of writing you just write the story that's in your head. I remember one writer described it like a movie playing in the writer's head. However, in her letter your author said it was "also her personal belief!" I think you did a wonderful thing, though, by educating her. I applaud you!

Hugs and blessings,
Amanda

Valash said...

Thank you Amanda!

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Valash said...

Thank you Kamagara! I appreciate feedback from readers, especially compliments, thank you...

Ashley

K.C. Jones said...

Good for you for writing to the author! Unfortunately I did not find her answers satisfactory. I believe writers and other people whose work is open to the public have a responsibility not to further stigma.

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