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March 17th and 18th at the Golden Notebook

Janet Johnson Schiff, "What Ever HAppened to My White Picket Fence: My Brain Injury From My Massive Brain Tumor"

How Do You Rewrite Your Life's Script after You've Suffered a Massive Brain Tumor? Janet Johnson Schliff was an award-winning special education teacher for 25 years. But, as her abilities began to fade away with no medical explanation, she suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) behaviors that wreaked havoc on her much-loved teaching career.... A massive brain tumor was discovered, and finally, after brain surgery, the odd behaviors it caused that had ruled her life for years were gone, only to be replaced by a different set of life-long challenges due to her injured brain. Her story will inspire and inform her readers.

Event Date: Saturday, March 17, 2018 - 2:00pm


Larry Ruhl, "Breaking The Ruhls" in conversation with Kitty Sheehan

“As an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I face
challenging questions. Is it truly possible to move through the shame I carry every day? Can I have a full life without depending on mind-numbing drugs and alcohol? And the most difficult question of all: Do I tell? But how do I tell? Who do I tell? What happens if I do tell?”

—Larry Ruhl, Excerpt from Breaking the Ruhls Preface

An urgent and timely memoir exploring the reality of childhood sexual abuse, a scourge on too many neighborhoods, often hiding in plain sight. Millions of victims remain silent, buried under the weight of their own guilt, shame, and addiction.

Breaking the Ruhls will resonate deeply with many who have experienced complex trauma, boundary violations, and abuse within the family, and struggle with the emotional and psychological effects. Ruhl mines his own experiences with sexual confusion, shame, PTSD, addiction and recovery, marital issues, career struggles, and therapeutic breakthroughs, while offering vindication on a range of issues and demonstrating it is possible to heal and thrive.

Larry Ruhl serves as a board member for Taking Back Ourselves, which facilitates weekends of recovery for female survivors of sexual abuse, and is a registered speaker with the RAINN network (Rape Abuse Incest National Network). He previously served as a board member at Male Survivor. He also spoke at colleges and retreats to increase awareness of sexual abuse against men and boys. Today he shares his story publicly to spread awareness and to help others shed the shame and stigma associated with sexual abuse. He graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), with a degree in Display & Exhibit Design, and worked as a creative director at a textile firm for ten years until opening his own home furnishings/interior design business in 2004. He works as an artist and designer in the Hudson Valley.

Writer Kitty Sheehan edits manuscripts and essays for writers of all genres. Kitty is also a copywriter and social media editor for several brands. She founded and directs the Dartbrook Writers Retreat. For several years, she has served as editorial director for the annual Woodstock Bookfest in Woodstock, NY, and is a regular workshop teacher at the event. A former elementary teacher, corporate trainer, consignment store owner and graphic designer, Kitty is a native Iowan and graduate of the University of Iowa. She now calls the Hudson Valley home, and is a past contributor to Hudson Valley magazine.Kitty’s essay, “The Measure of a Girl” appears in My Body, My Words, Big Table Publishing, March 2018, and her essay, “Irish Wake-up Call” is part of Shades of Blue, Seal Press, 2015. Visit her website at and find her on Twitter at @KittyASheehan.

Event Date: Saturday, March 17, 2018 - 4:00pm


Sandra Allen, "A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia"

The manuscript arrived with little warning. Faded, yellowed, stinking of cigarettes, it was page after typewritten page of unbroken and misspelled text. There were colons everywhere and its author, a self-described “hermit” named Bob who lived in the Californian desert, had sometimes typed letters on top of one another, or had crossed words out and written in new ones. He summarized its contents on a cover page:

this is a true story of a boy brought up in berkeley

california durring the sixties and seventies who

was unable to identify with reality and there for

labeled as a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic

for the rest of his life;

In A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE: A True Story About Schizophrenia (Scribner; on-sale January 23, 2018), Bob’s niece Sandra Allen tells his story faithfully to his account. She details his coming of age, chaotic even before the day he was locked in a psychiatric cell and injected with Thorazine. Her book follows Bob as he quests for love, friendship and stability, living in and out of hospitals, in a halfway house, and on a commune. He becomes a logger, a welder, and a street preacher in Louisiana. He joins the Air Force and for three days is kidnapped by aliens. Is this, to use Bob’s word, NUTS?

Written in two fonts, A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE animates the complicated nature of truth itself when telling stories about schizophrenia. Relying on carefully navigated interviews with her extended family and the galaxy of characters her uncle attracted, Allen illuminates the experience of knowing and caring for someone with his diagnosis. She deftly unpacks the history of what’s known about schizophrenia — and what’s not. She traces the history of mental healthcare in America from its earliest days to its very dire present, when our nation’s largest psychiatric hospital is a jail.

Eight years in the making, but with an urgent message for our moment, this electrifying work is groundbreaking in its style and its spirit. It’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets House of Leaves, with the literary soul of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It will be read and discussed not only by those whose lives and work are affected by schizophrenia, but by any reader interested in better understanding these complex topics.

Meticulously reported and daringly written, A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE  is poised to change the conversation about mental illnesses — and those told they have them.

Sandra Allen grew up in Muir Beach, California. She attended Brown University and received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. A former BuzzFeed editor, she lives in New York. A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia is her first book.

Event Date: Sunday, March 18, 2018 - 3:00pm