Getting Ready for the Conference (and Thoughts on Drinking)

This weekend will be the North Carolina Writers’ Network Annual Fall Conference. I’m looking forward to meeting other writers and teaching a class on Saturday. I spent some time today thinking about what material to present. My goal is always to give my students “nuts and bolts”–techniques they can use right away to make their fiction better. I only have an hour and a half, so my focus will be on character and I have to think about which exercises will make the most of their time with me. I LOVE teaching, though I could never do it full time. Teachers have my enormous admiration.
On the WIP front, I’m continuing to work on the backstory. I realize I have one (that I know of) problem with my storyline, so I’m also giving that my energy, searching for a solution. It’s also weird for me to write about alcoholics. I’ve had plenty of experience dealing with adolescents and alcohol usage from my old private practice days, but I’m a teetotaler, so trying to get myself inside my alcoholic character’s mind is an interesting challenge. Plus, I need to keep her sympathetic.
I don’t know why I’ve never been a drinker. I have NEVER had a drink, although I’ve had a sip (literally) of wine now and then just to taste it. Drinking was not a taboo in my family growing up, but no one drank much at all. Yet we had a “rec room” with a HUGE well-stocked bar for when my parents entertained. A couple of years ago, I mentioned to one of my old high school friends: “Isn’t it strange that none of us (in our group of friends) got into alcohol?” She laughed and said that they were ALL “into alcohol.” They just didn’t invite me when they knew they’d be drinking. Now I know why I was home alone all those Saturday nights. LOL.
Think I’ll go have a cup of tea.


  1. Lorene on November 9, 2006 at 10:15 am

    I am also a teetoaler but I know a lot about alcoholics . The ones I knew were extremely sensitive to the feelings and needs of others and were in tremendous pain most of the time.

  2. Diane Chamberlain on November 9, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    That’s very interesting, Lorene. Is there a link between the extreme sensitivity and tremendous pain? and when you say, extremely sensitive to the feelings of others, do you mean that as empathic? it doesn’t fit with my perception of alcoholics. the tremendous pain certainly does, though. i have two alcoholic characters in this story. one is a rebellious late adolescent and the other, a woman with postpartum depression. they are both “good people” who will be sober by the time the book opens, but right now, i’m working to understand their “backstory.”

  3. Kathy Holmes on November 9, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    It is curious why people reach for different painkillers – why some choose alcohol – others choose drugs, and still others might choose food or some other addiction. Maybe that part is just in their make-up – their path to using it might depend on how they handle problems. Interesting topic.

  4. Krysia on November 9, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    I grew up in an alcoholic household. The only person who was violent towards us was my mother. I can honestly say I have no good memories or hardley any with my mother (but she claims I was a mommy’s girl) but spent a lot of time with my father who treated us kids with respect. He regrets not getting custody of us. But since my mom has been with my stepfather she’s been sober, and I’ve learned her aggressiveness wasn’t alcohol because my poor 12 yr old sister is dealing with it now. I feel bad for her.

  5. Lorene on November 9, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    Yes, Diane, I do mean it as empathic and I do see a link between the pain of living and addiction for some people. That’s my opinion 🙂 My son, Brian, couldn’t deal with the wants and needs of children so several times he gave up his own food money to buy for them. He bought an expensive train set for his nephew when he was living in a treatment center run by a homeless shelter. Not long before he was killed, he bought school clothes for a friend’s child with every dime he had. We took him to the grocery for food 🙂 He just didn’t make good decisions.
    I do have sympathy for alcoholics because I have loved them. I understand how some people have trouble feeling any sympathy for them because I had no sympathy even when it was my father. When it was my son, whose heart I knew so well, I had a much better understanding of what he went through.

  6. Lorene on November 9, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    I am worried that because of my lack of writing skills, I have not been clear. Brian didn’t have any strange relationships with children. He wasn’t like that:) It is just that he saw the children of many of his friends in need. The children were just one part of his life. He couldn’t deal with many things. He was sensitive to other people. Tried hard to please.

  7. Lorene on November 9, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    Diane, Maybe we will need to love your character as a parent does 🙂 I will tell you that Brian was expected to do and be things he wasn’t capable of and he was not appreciated for what he could be. Hope all this helps.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on November 9, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    Kathy, I have chosen chocolate and coffee. 🙂 it may be that people choose what’s most easily available to them. of course, the answer is dealing with whatever drives that pain to begin with.
    Krysia, I’m so sorry you had a rough time with your mother, and especially sorry your sister’s going through the same thing. I hope you live close enough to her to be the healthy grown woman in her life.
    Lorene, I understood perfectly what you were saying in your post about Brian. Without knowing him, though, I’d guess that his caring nature was more a part of his personality and not part of his being an alcoholic.
    I’m excited by the challenge of having to make my two characters sympathetic, in spite of their BIG flaws. I’ll probably be able to win some readers over, but not all of them.

  9. Krysia on November 10, 2006 at 2:46 am

    I talk to her almost daily even though we are 100 miles apart. I kept my cell a local number up there so she could call me any time.
    Currently I’m a little disappointed in the weather, Wednesday it was 70 degrees and now it’s snowing. SO not ready for snow.

  10. Lorene on November 10, 2006 at 8:04 am

    “I’d guess that his caring nature was more a part of his personality and not part of his being an alcoholic”
    Of course it was but I think he and many other addicts expect the rest of the world to treat them with as much compassion and they are genuinely hurt when this doesn’t happen. After so much hurt, they try to numb the pain. Just one of the things I saw as a common trait in those I knew.
    I do know that the actual addiction is a physical thing though. I’ve heard that some people realize their addiction after the very first drink. This tells me that those of us who are not addicted should be very thankful and not judgemental because most of us have had at least one drink 🙂

  11. Diane Chamberlain on November 10, 2006 at 10:26 am

    Oh, it’s physical all right. I have several friends who are recovering alcoholics and they have my admiration. Recently I had to come off a medication and experienced withdrawal symptoms so severe I couldn’t function. Days of dizziness, vomiting, etc. I did some checking online and discovered that in some people, the withdrawal symptoms lasted months! Believe me, I thought of going back on that med and staying on it forever to get rid of feeling terrible. Fortunately, my doc was able to give me something that alleviated the symptoms, but wow–it really opened my eyes to what some addicts have to go through to get clean.
    Krysia, you sound like an excellent big sister!

  12. Lorene on November 10, 2006 at 10:55 am

    Diane, My nephew, a doctor who treats high risk pregnancies, says that some meds are addictive after only 5 days. After an auto accident I was prescribed an addictive med for a pinched nerve. When he found out what it was and told us how addictive it was, I was very careful about taking it. The doctor who prescribed it had not mentioned at all that it might be addictive. I still took it but only for real pain and for a couple of days.

  13. Brenda on November 10, 2006 at 10:59 am

    Getting caught up with you guys…
    Vegetarian-I became a vegetarian in 1992 at the advice of my mother’s oncol…when she died of cancer (died at age 60). She lasted 90 days-I lived with her in that hospital room (long story) and went from a size l0 to a 2…
    Because of the stress, etc., etc. (long story), I divorced, went back to college-you all know that—continued to stay way too skinny…walked 5 miles a day…however…after deciding that I was way too skinny for my age, I started drinking milkshakes (am not a vegan-just eat no animals of any kind)…and after all these years, am up to a chubby 8…however…I can’t do the 5 miles a day in the weather here in WV (versus S. Carolina’s mild weather) but do pilates when I can….I remain a vegetarian but do like my chocolate…I do not want to go below an 8…am too old for that… Since having my hormone patches taken from me in February-my body has gone to a blob of NO MUSCLES….however, the nights are getting better as far as sleep goes…
    Alcoholism-lived with it (family members)…not great…but I believe in anything in moderation-it took me until I was almost 50 to understand that part of it. I was that age when I had my first drink of any kind, and the only thing I drink-a few
    times a year is wine…although with my strokes, I have been advised (medically) that wine is good for that…(I still cannot eat animals-health reasons and am totally strict…had a situation when I was living in the south-ate some dip that had crab in it-made me sick…so many years without it…body can’t adjust–14 years…however, I do not rec. the no animal diet for anyone…)
    I know that alcoholism is a disease and not something one chooses….
    Your weekend in the mansion-I thought of you, Diane, and wished I could have joined you but the next email will tell you guys where I have been… Right now am fighting a horrible cold, eye infection (Plane rides do that to me)…and trying to get some work done before this horrendous semester of grad school ends in Dec. I have still not studied for comps, registered for next semester, or done my project…Alas!!
    We are off school today-a salute to Veteran’s…and I will have some time at T’giving to get the house ready for Christmas (the family comes this year…my daughter and her family take turns every other year…this is our turn for C’mas…)
    My son will be here both holidays…YEAH!
    Lorene-my heart goes out to you…how ironic that I have a dear friend who’s son died-Brian…long, heartbreaking story…
    Your Brian, as hers, sounds like a dear soul….

  14. Brenda on November 10, 2006 at 11:04 am

    As you can tell, I have been offline for about two weeks-so am writing two short books…
    I drove to Cleveland last Thursday night…about 4 hours-my son and I flew out early Friday A.M. and met my daughter (her first NYC trip) in the big city that morning.
    We had a lovely weekend. Much good food…saw THE PRODUCERS…(stood in a short line to get tickets l/2 price as we always do…) (My son has treated me to this trip for three years…and now his sister could go.)
    My daughter and I spent all day Sat. on the tour bus–ate in Greenwich Village, saw Ground Zero…etc…did NYC and ended in Harlem…
    Sunday-beautiful cool weather continued, and my son did his best ever in the NYC Marathon…it was fantastic…Lance Armstrong did it the first time this year and he said it was his hardest battle yet…
    My son ends it with a smile…and is ready to go on to his next…
    He doesn’t plan to do NYC for awhile, but is doing others in other areas…Triathalons, IRONMAN, and Marathons…at least 4 big ones next year-all this with a job of many many long hours…whew…he amazes me…
    With my physical limitations, I had a difficult doing a lot of walking-but they were patient, kind, and slow for MOM
    It was our first trip-the three of us-since she married ll years ago…it was a dream come true…
    We know inexpensive places to eat…it really works out well…
    My favorite city…My daughter told me, “Mom, write a best seller and move here for awhile…! Right!
    I have too many books in me but grad school awaits…
    Have a good weekend as we remember our veterans…

  15. Brenda on November 10, 2006 at 11:05 am

    P.S. Addiction-getting off the hormone patches-don’t even ask…good grief…I was so tempted to go back on if they would have given them to me–it was horrible and even though it has gotten better-my body has aged horribly…

  16. Margo on November 10, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    Have not been around alcoholism and very seldom drink myself…a glass of wine is nice during the holidays but otherwise I’ve never had the desire…I’m filled with deep compassion after reading all these comments.

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