The Facts of Life – thank you!

This year saw the publication of my first graphic novel, The Facts of Life. I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to anyone who has read, bought, borrowed, reviewed, written about, left ratings, shared, ‘liked’, tweeted, retweeted, mentioned, or supported my book in any way this year. It’s been a year of highs and lows for me, as I will continue to explain.

I’ve had some heartfelt emails from readers – especially from those who’ve been unable to have children, people experiencing ambivalence over the decision to try for children or not, and those with chronic illness. It’s always gratifying to know that what I intended as an author has worked in some way, and that people have found it relatable. Of course, I’m always sorry to hear that others have suffered similar and far worse situations than I describe in the book, and, due to the subject matter, it always feels somewhat incongruous to say that I’m glad that a reader has found it relatable.

In the book, I describe my health problems with ME, and, unfortunately, this year things became worse: I’ve also been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and, recently POTS (Disautonomia). These three chronic illnesses form a tricky triumvirate indeed! At present I need a wheelchair to go any distance; I’ve been bedridden and housebound at times; and I’m now investigating stair lifts and mobility scooters – quite the opposite of what I’d hoped for life this year, especially my literary life.

This has all meant that I’ve had to cancel and turn down a great deal of professional opportunities to go out into the world with my book and give talks, and sell face-to-face at events etc. I’ve managed a couple, and although it was great to be out and about, it involved a lot of payback. ME is truly an invisible illness. This has made me all the more appreciative to those who have done this on my behalf, especially my editor Corinne Pearlman and publishers Myriad Editions and Penn State University Press, but also to anyone who has helped to spread the word about my book. I won’t list them here because I’d be afraid of missing people, but they know who they are! Believe me, it has made all the difference and warmed my heart over a difficult few months.

I’ve still managed to write interviews and articles by working on a laptop in bed (where I wrote this) or reclining on the sofa – and for this I’m thankful, at least. As long as I still have words at my fingertips I have a means of expressing creative ideas, therefore I’ll be OK!

All that remains is to wish you a very Happy New Year for 2018, and may your creative lives flourish! I’ll be continuing to try to find ways that I can still partake in mine. All the very best and, again, THANK YOU!



Chronic illness and creativity comic

Sometimes ideas arrive fully formed, as this one did back in July when I started a non-dominant hand chronic pain drawing diary/ sketchbook! It’s the first comic I’ve made since finishing The Facts of Life this time last year. In March, my health became considerably worse and I’ve been bed bound at times, and often housebound. At the worst point, my arms hurt simply lifting a drink to my mouth – I had to use a straw. I have ME, and I’m also in the process of having diagnoses confirmed for Fibromylagia, and Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS). I’m now a sometime wheelchair user, Blue Badge holder, and I consider myself semi-disabled – although these are fluctuating conditions, so it depends on the day!

Part of the pain and stiffness I get in my dominant hand from drawing and writing is also likely due to the beginnings of osteoarthritis in my index finger/ knuckles. However, the parts of my body that I use the most become fatigued and sore due to ME/Fibrolmyalgia, so simply using my left hand is not necessarily the answer.

I’m trying to find new ways of working so I can somehow continue writing, drawing and creating comics. My hope is that if I use my left hand to draw, it will at least spread the load, and I might eventually become sufficiently ambidextrous to switch sides when one gets too painful. This might help to slow down the progression of any arthritis and ultimately extend my potential working life as an artist. Artwork is also made difficult by being unable to sit at a drawing board for long, if at all, hence using a sketchbook.

This comic is very much about a fear of losing my creative potential, expression and communication, and my means of making a living. My creativity is my backbone – it props me up in so many ways. The last few months have been frightening and sobering at times: I’ve learnt that nothing is certain, and life as you know it can change drastically at any moment, crushing hopes.

One of the things that has kept me going, and been of some comfort during particularly bad periods, is my imagination. It is still very much active – probably the most active part of me, in fact, and my illness won’t take it away. I continue to record ideas for times when I’m well enough to carry them out.

This comic no longer exists in a tangible form – it’s in the bin – trashed! For me this reflects the transient unpredictable nature of lives curtailed by chronic invisible illness.