Guest Post with Lori Schafer

It is my honor to host Lori Schafer today. Her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, is being released today. I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy and will be posting a review next week. Lori writes about a subject close to my heart – the effect of mental illness of the family. My extended family has been touched by several different forms of mental illness so I appreciate the struggles that Lori endured. Well, without any further delay, here is Lori Schafer.

 Thank You: An Open Letter to Those Who Stood By Me During My Mom’s Mental Illness

Dear Friends from My Youth,

Next June will mark the twenty-fifth year since our graduation – the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day I left home.
Some of you I have not seen in those twenty-five years. Some, I fear, I won’t see again. I’ve never been one for reunions or for keeping in touch, yet you might be surprised at how often I think of you still. Lately my memories of you have drawn even nearer to the forefront of my mind, as I think back on the day that I ran away – as I think back on all the other days when I wished that I had.

In the spring of last year, I learned that my mother had died, six years before, in 2007. In the months that have passed since, I’ve written a book: On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness.

I know that to you I don’t need to explain; that I don’t need to tell you why I say mental illness, and that you’ll understand fully why it took so long for me to hear of her death. And perhaps you’ll understand, too, why I think of you now more than I have in two decades; why I’m writing this letter years after you should have received it.

We were all of us helpless during Mom’s mental illness, adolescents with limited experience and limited resources. There was little we could do to manage my personal situation, and nothing we could have done to manage my mother’s psychosis. Yet each of you did something, some small thing, perhaps, to ease my distress and lessen my pain. Each of you, in your own small way, helped me escape, helped me move on, helped me survive.

So to you, Maria, my long-time chum, I want to say thank you. For letting me call you at midnight when I got too lonely to stand it; for letting me talk and also letting me listen. For persuading your parents to permit me to use your phone number on my college applications, so that Mom didn’t have to know everywhere I’d applied. Maybe it didn’t seem like much to have done to help out a friend. But it got me my scholarship, and that salvaged my life.

To you, Karina, let me also say thank you. For helping me plan and then helping me move; for corralling our dog back into the house while I was frantically packing, for knowing that even in that desperate hour I wouldn’t have wanted him to get hurt or get hit. For being my friend in spite of what anyone thought; for never giving a damn what anyone thought. For that, Karina, I thank you.

George, my former friend, my later lover, how can I thank you? You did so little, and yet so very much. You came when I called. You’ve always come when I called. I think you still would.

Josh, my old friend Josh. What a wonderful time we had while Mom was insane! For so long you were my sole solace, my sole support, my sole source of happiness. I’ll never understand why Mom, even in the depths of her dementia, took such a shine to you and your charms; why her suspicions never turned upon you as they did the rest of our friends. You were the only person, kid or adult, that she would still allow into our house, and what a dreary, depressing place it must have been for a cheerful and energetic young man to enter time and again. Yet you did. Week after week and day after day, you came and kept me company, kept me alive, kept me sane. You perhaps can’t imagine how much I looked forward to your visits, or how often I’ve wondered what impelled you to make them. Or how hard it hit me when they finally came to an end, when even your most good-natured arrows could no longer pierce my mother’s thick armor. Yet the light of your smile, that you shone upon me and that you even shone upon her, lightened my burden and smoothed my transition. Those afternoons that we spent side by side were the most precious gift I had ever received. I thank you for giving them to me. I will never forget them.

Jesse, sweet Jesse. Quiet and shy, lacking, like me, even a license, you weren’t well-prepared to swoop in like a knight and come to my rescue. No, you weren’t able to take me away – but you never went away, either. You continued to love when there was no reason to love; you continued to wait when the waiting seemed without end. You were there when I emerged, blinking hard against the sun now burning my eyes, and you were there when I sank again into black pits of despair. There were times when I couldn’t have counted the days since I last saw you – and there were more when I didn’t want to count those that would pass before I saw you again. But I knew that however many had passed, and however many more would, you would still be waiting, and that was everything to me. Thank you, Jesse. Thank you for being with me.
And thank you, friends, for listening and for reading my letter. I know that we may never again meet, and may never again speak. I know that you’ll understand why I haven’t written you sooner, and why I won’t ever write you again. And I know, too, that you’ll forgive me for so long maintaining my silence. Because what’s a mere twenty-five years between friends?

Forever yours,

Mother's Death Front Flyer

On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness
It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.
Then came my mother’s psychosis.
I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.
My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.
But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.
She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until last year that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.

On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened is now available in eBook and paperback from Amazon. The audiobook, which Lori narrated, is also forthcoming.

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Lori Schafer’s flash fiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her first two books were published this November. On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness commemorates Lori’s terrifying adolescent experience of her mother’s psychosis, while Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past is an autobiographical collection featuring stories and essays inspired by other events from Lori’s own life. In the summer of 2014, Lori began work on a second memoir, The Long Road Home, during the course of a solo two-month-long journey across the United States and Canada. She anticipates that it will be ready for publication late in 2015.
When she isn’t writing (which isn’t often), Lori enjoys playing ice hockey, attending beer festivals, and spending long afternoons reading at the beach in the sunshine. For further information on Lori’s upcoming projects, please visit her website at

Author Interview: Behind The Scenes with Elizabeth Hein

It was an honor to be interviewed by Maggie on Just Get It Written about my writing process and about my latest book.

Just Get It Written

Behind The Scenes2

I’m thrilled to have Elizabeth Hein with me today for this edition of Behind The Scenes. Her latest novel, How to Climb the Eiffel Tower, follows the journey of Lara as she goes through cancer treatment, and in the process, learns how to live.

1. Tell us a bit about your writing journey. How did you get started, and how did you get to where you are now?

Before I ever sat down at my keyboard to write, I was a reader. I was that little girl that always had a book in her hand. It wasn’t until I had lived a little that I considered sharing the stories in my head with the world. When I first sat down to write, I intended to put together a series of essays based on my experiences as a cancer patient. It was awful – dry, maudlin, a bit academic…

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Radio Tour

It’s been an exciting few weeks since How To Climb The Eiffel Tower was released. I have been doing a radio tour talking to people about the book and cancer survivorship. If you are in the Colorado, Washington, New York, or Kentucky areas, tune in and listen to the conversations. Some of the radio stations I spoke to last week have archive feeds, which I have included.

Monday, 10/13 – Denver, CO KLZ-AM 11:00 CT  Experience Pros

Tuesday, 10/14 – Wenatchee, WA KWCC

Thursday, 10/16 – Buffalo, NY WESB-AM 10:00 ET

Monday, 10/20 – Lexington, KY WMST-AM 9:00 ET

Archived shows:

Barbara Dooley Show on WGAU in GA

Midwest Opinions on KOGA in NE

Launch party and updates

We had a lovely time at the launch party for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower.

I was overjoyed that we had such a nice crowd for a short reading and question and answer period. After the months of  preparation, it was great to finally be able to talk with people about the book. The folks at our local Barnes & Noble were extremely gracious and even found more chairs when we ran out. Thanks, Val.


On another note, I have several guest posts running this week. Check out these blogs to read my posts, then click around a bit and get to know Eileen and Julie.

Guest post on Booktalk With Eileen

Eileen’s review of How To Climb The Eiffel Tower

Guest post on Julie Musil

Keys that unlock more than doors

I’m excited to be a guest today on Maryann Miller’s excellent blog – It’s Not All Gravy. You should check it out. She posted a lovely review of How To Climb The Eiffel Tower on Sunday. 


In the post on Maryann’s blog, I  talk about how the scarab ring I frequently wear serves as a reminder of my journey throughout the land of cancer and how it became an inspiration for the special pieces of jewelry in How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. 

In my current work-in-progress, a small object also plays a pivotal part in the plot. As I work my way through an extensive rewrite of the story, the main character’s inability to enter a room is emerging as a major theme of the book. One plot line follows her progress in renovating her family’s estate and learning about each of the women who lived there before her. She works her way through the house room by room, except for the library on the first floor. She doesn’t have the key to open that lock – or does she? 

I have been researching the symbolism behind keys and locks for the last day or so. Had you ever heard of a mystery key? I had not, until I stumbled onto Antique Locks Knowledge and fell down a research rabbit hole. A mystery key is a working key that also contains symbols that the bearer could use to solve a puzzle. I think the key in this photo is gorgeous. According to Brian Morland on Antique Locks, the symbols on the face of the key are an ant perhaps for hard work, a ladybug perhaps for harmony, and a wizard’s face perhaps for wisdom. The reverse side has a face that Mr. Morland thinks might signify the moon. I think it would be neat if it was a caricature of the original owner of the key. Either way, having a key like that is far more interesting than the keys in my pocket. I like the idea of a key being imbued with meaning. I envision the main character finding a key in the shape of an ‘H’ that will unlock some important door or drawer. I will be tinkering with the idea for the next few weeks. Stay tuned for further updates on how the rewrite is going. 

An example of a mystery key full of symbolism (c/o
Reverse side of mystery key.



Adventures in photography

As the release date for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower approaches, I am gearing up to start talking to more and more people about the book. Part of that is putting together marketing materials that I can send people. This meant I had to have my picture taken. Few things give me the willies as much as looking at pictures of myself. I don’t know about you, but the woman I am in the pictures never looks like the woman I see as myself in my head.

Anyway, the charming Emilie Carol and I met in the Sarah P Duke Gardens on a steamy morning to snap some photos. It had rained the night before and was already hot and humid at breakfast time. Still, we soldiered on and got some nice shots.

Here’s where you come in. Which one of these photos is your favorite? If you saw this woman’s photo on the back of a book, would you want to read her books?


EAH Black jacket seated


EAH violet sweater leaning on post


EAH green shirt leaning