BETWEEN THE PAGES welcomes Cinda Johnson and Linea Johnson. Let's let them tell us about their writing adventure and the book they've created together.
Q: Cinda, How and why did you start working on this book?
A: A little over a year into Linea’s illness I started to write more about my experiences. After writing my “part” I read Linea’s entire journals. After a couple of years and once she was more stable we began to put her words and mine together.
Q: Cinda, Who are your favorite authors?
A: In no particular order:
Stephanie Kallos, Michael Ondaatje, Louise Erdrich, Khaled Hosseini, Kiana Davenport, Edwidge Danticat, Zora Neal Hurston, Kay Jamison, Arundhati Roy.
I have many more. I love to read.
Q: Linea, what is your writing style?
When writing I often don’t set out with a plan, but merely go. Sometimes I have a rough concept in my mind, but I usually write then shape afterwards. I find that just getting my thoughts down on paper is the most important and essential step for me.
Q: Linea, what kind of experience has writing your book been for you?
Because the book is written in real time, the experience of writing was not necessarily the experience of an author but more of a journal writer. I was simply getting everything out on paper rather than thinking about it before I wrote. I did not have a process aside from stream-of-consciousness “spatterings”. I often wrote when I was experiencing extreme pain and solitude and in the end, writing became my friend and someone to confide to. Writing, though coming from a very dark place, was relieving. It was taking the weight off of my shoulders and laying it on the page for me to do what I wanted with it. Originally I did not intend to reread or edit any of the writing as it was simply a private release, but as I began to see its power it became something completely different. Editing for me was a fundamentally dissimilar process and mind state. Now I had to reread and in many ways relive the pain and agony and confusion that were in my writings. I was lucky to have a writing teacher at the time who was very supportive and taught me how to shape the pieces into something that was coherent and meaningful for the reader. Overall the writing process has been one of release and relief as I realized that I could move beyond those feelings knowing that through writing I could overcome some difficult thoughts and challenges.
Q: Cinda and Linea, What do you wish the general public knew about mental illness?
We are quite certain that the general public is not familiar with the fact that 1 in 4 families have someone in their family with a mental illness. For teens and adults, 46% will suffer from a serious mental illness in their lifetime. For college students, 50% will have symptoms of a mental illness severe enough to cause them great difficulty in their life and may even change their lives significantly. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents. As we share our story with large audiences around the country we so often hear, “You, Linea, don’t look like someone with a mental illness.” Mental illness cannot readily be seen in someone who is living well with a chronic disease. Staying stable and therefore productive, contributing members of society takes treatment, support, often medications, and a medical team that can be trusted and consistent enough to learn the patient’s needs.
Cinda Johnson, Ph.D., is a professor and director of the special education graduate program at Seattle University. She is also the principal investigator and director of the Center for Change in Transition Services. She is a national leader in the area of transition from high school to post-high school settings for young people with disabilities. She has written articles and book chapters in the area of secondary special education and transition services including youth with emotional and behavioral disorders and mental illnesses.
Linea Johnson is a recent graduate from Seattle University, with a major in English and Creative Writing. Linea recently worked as an intern at the World Health Organization in the Mental Health department and is currently a Research Study Assistant at the University of Washington. She is a national speaker and writer, advocating for understanding and support for people with mental illness and the elimination of stigma.
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