The Writer's Conference

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
Dawn is a high school student suffering from cyclothymia, a form of bipolar disorder. Dawn is nominated by her English teacher to attend a writer's conference. The last thing Dawn expected at the conference was to be introduced to God though.

Submitted: September 26, 2014

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Submitted: September 26, 2014

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Chapter 1

 

“Can I talk to you for a few minutes, Dawn?” my English teacher, Mrs. Winters, asked me on my way out the door after class.

“I guess,” I mumbled. I only had study hall right now. 

I hoped this had nothing to do with when Mrs. Winters called on me and not only had I not heard the question, I hadn’t heard her when she repeated my name.

Mrs. Winters went to the table located at the back of the room and took a seat. I put my books down and sat across from her.

“I would ask how you are doing but I can clearly see that you are not fine.”

“That’s not my fault.”

“I know that.”

Then what was this about?

“Have you ever heard of the Young Author’s Conference?” Mrs. Winters asked.

“No.”

“Well, it is an exclusive conference for high school students that show a passion for writing. Only the best writers are invited to attend.”

“Why are you telling me this? I am not that great of an author.”

“Well, you are better than you think because I sent in that story you accidently submitted instead of your English essay. You were chosen to attend the conference this summer.”

“Why would they like it?” I asked. I had written about a character that suffered from depression. She found school difficult because of her mental illness so she put in an application at Hope Academy, a prestigious school for high school students that suffer from depression.

Unfortunately, the file for that document got mixed up with my English essay and when Mrs. Winters asked us to submit our essays electronically, she got my personal writing. This resulted in a lot of bad things all at once.

“Dawn, what you wrote about was very personal. The feelings and emotions you put in your characters were very real.”

“Oh, yeah, because everyone can understand what it is like to live with a mental illness.”

“You know that isn’t true. You were able to put real feelings and emotions in your characters, which helps others to see what your characters are going through. You are already a good writer. But by attending this conference, I hope you can learn some things that will help you become an even better writer. I know it is your ambition to become a published writer.”

“You know that I am not that good.”

“Dawn, you wouldn’t happen to be feeling depressed right now, would you?”

“What difference does it make if I am or not? It is not like I have any control over my moods.”

“I thought you were going to get help.”

“These things take time.” I was close to tears. Why wouldn’t Mrs. Winters just leave me alone?

“Dawn, why don’t you take this brochure about the conference? You can think about whether it sounds like something you want to do.”

“Ok.” I turned to leave.

“And, Dawn?”

I turned back around.

“If you need someone to talk to, I am here for you.”

“Thanks, I guess.” I turned around and left the room.

 

Chapter 2

 

That afternoon, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist, Dr. Sol. As I sat in the waiting from, I tried to read through the brochure Mrs. Winters had given me, but I just couldn’t concentrate.

This mess had all started a couple of months ago, when I accidently submitted the novel I had written about Hope Academy.

Because the character suffered from depression, I went into a lot of detail about the symptoms and how she was feeling.

Mrs. Winters became concerned that I was possibly depressed after she read it and had me talk to my guidance counselor. My guidance counselor than referred me to a doctor who then referred me a psychiatrist.

After several visits to the psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with a mild form of bipolar disorder called cyclothymia. With cyclothymia, a person suffers from moderate episodes of depression followed by episodes of hypomania. The episodes of mania are really hard to recognize at times though. The symptoms range from inflated self esteem, rapid speech, poor judgment, racing through, and extreme optimism. When a person is not suffering from depression or hypomania, life is pretty much normal.

It is actually hard to diagnose cyclothymia because most of the time, people only seek help for the depression.

To sum up my life in a couple words, I would say I am on a roller coaster. My mood is up and down and I don’t always know how I am going to be feeling. I can suffer depression episodes at any time and they can last a couple days, a couple weeks, or even a couple months.

I don’t mind the episodes of mania as much because I often don’t recognize them. I just don’t like the inconsistency of my moods.

“Dawn,” Dr. Sol called.

I got up and followed her into the office. I flopped down on the couch and waited for Dr. Sol to start asking about my life.

“What is that you have in your hands?” Dr. Sol asked.

“It’s a brochure for some kind of conference my English teacher wants me to go to.”

“What kind of conference?”

“Some kind of writing conference. Apparently it is so exclusive that you have to be invited to attend. My teacher sent that Hope Academy novel that got me landed here and they asked me to come.”

“That sounds exciting. Are you going to go?”

“I don’t know. I am really not that good of a writer.”

“I thought it was your dream to be a published writer.”’

“That was the hypomania talking.”

“Dawn, people with cyclothymia can actually use their mania for good.”

“Like how?” What good could be done through a mental illness?

“We discussed the symptoms of hypomania a couple weeks ago. Remember, one of the symptoms is an increased drive to achieve goals? So people can use their talents to become successful.”

“But what if this conference isn't good for me? I already don’t fit in at school because of my mental illness. People at the conference won’t want me to come anywhere near them.”

“Dawn, hopefully by the time of this conference rolls around, we will have you on something that will help you with your moods. Even if we haven’t, you don’t have to tell people you have cyclothymia.”

“They will just figure it out. I lost all my friends at school because I became withdrawn during one of my depression episodes.”

“Dawn, everything is going to be all right. Maybe not today, but someday.”

I knew what Dr. Sol was implying. She was waiting for me to start taking medicine and then I would be normal. A part of me didn’t want medicine though. I was afraid that I would lose my creative nature and my drive to write.

 

Chapter 3

 

Lunch time is torturous for the unpopular. I used to have friends, but after I became depressed, I became withdrawn. Since I wanted to be alone today, I really didn’t care that I didn’t have any friends.

At lunch time, my journal is my companion. Today, I was writing about a group of girls that get shipwrecked on a deserted island. They discover that there is another girl there who has been shipwrecked for over ten years.

“What if we never get rescued?” Jeanie cried. “What if we are here for the rest of our lives?”

“Someone is surely looking for us,” I pointed out.

“Then why hasn’t Melanie been found? Why has she been here for ten years?”

“Because they probably gave up after while; thinking she was dead.”

“Is that all you are capable of doing in your life, Dawn?” a voice asked behind me. “Writing stories in your journal?”

I turned around and saw my ex-best friend Sam. Sam stuck around for awhile after I got depressed but after awhile, she had enough. She moved on to another group of girls. Unfortunately, our moms stayed friends. My mom told her mom about my cyclothymia and Sam told the whole school.

“It is more productive than gossip and picking on people who don’t deserve it.”

“You think you are so special because you have cyclothymia. Well, I have news for you. If you really wanted to, you could snap out of it. You just choose not to because you like the attention you get from it.”

She had gone too far. A mental illness is not something a person can control. And anyone who thinks so hears about it from me.

“Since you think I get too much attention, I will share some!” I dumped my lunch tray on Sam and stalked off.

“Dawn, principal’s office now!” My history teacher had seen the whole thing.

I turned around and headed to the office. I wasn’t worried about getting in trouble. My mom has pretty strong beliefs about mental illnesses.

I took a seat outside the principal’s office and continued to write. I was oblivious to the rest of the world. That is why I was surprised when I looked up and saw Sam sitting beside me.

Sam had changed into her gym clothes but she was still very mad at me.

“Dawn, the principal will see you now,” the secretary said.

I jumped up and walked into the principal’s office. I could see that he was not happy.

“Have a seat, Dawn,” Mr. River said.

I sat down in the uncomfortable chair and waited.

“Would you care to explain why you dumped your lunch on Sam?” he asked.

“She provoked me.”

“Provoked you how?”

“She said I could snap out of my cyclothymia if I really wanted to but that I choose not to because I like the attention.”

“And you chose not to involve a teacher?” Mr. River asked wearily.

“I don’t expect you to understand. Sam struck a nerve.”

“Dawn, I don’t care how sensitive talk about mental illness is to you. You can’t dump lunch trays on people.”

“Next time I will involve a teacher,” I said glumly.

“I hope there isn’t going to be a next time. I am going to talk to Sam about not teasing you for your problem. And you are both going to write a one page apology letter to each other.”

“One page?”

“I can make it longer.”

“I’m right on it.”

As I left the office, Sam shot me another look. She still made me angry. Why would a person choose to have moods that shifted from sadness to mania? This is one roller coaster I didn’t want to ride.

 

Chapter 4

 

After school, I went home and stared into space until my mom got home.

“How was your day?” my mom asked dryly as she took a seat next to me on the couch. I knew she knew about what happened at lunch.

“She said that I was acting depressed because I wanted attention!” I protested.

“And you had to stoop to her level?”

“How else was I going to teach her a lesson?”

“Dawn, not everyone you meet is going to believe that mental illnesses are real. It’s just like how not everyone believes in aliens.”

“I don’t need to convince anyone about anything.”

“Then what was the lunch tray about?”

“Because she deserved it. She came over to bother me by saying insulting things.”

“Dawn, I promised myself when you were diagnosed with cyclothymia that I would not try to understand or relate to your feelings. The same holds true now.”

“Thanks.”

“But, Dawn, you need to accept that there are people who are going to treat you differently because you have cyclothymia.”

“That’s why I should be homeschooled!”

“You can’t go through life avoiding people. It is impossible. Even if you want to be a writer, you are still going to have to interact with people to make a living.”

“Then maybe I will move to the mountains and grow my own food.”

“Dawn, eventually you will get your moods stabilized and things will be different. That’s why I want you to attend the writer’s conference.”

“Why?”

“It’s always been your dream to be a published writer. You will get a lot out of this experience.”

“But what if I don’t get along with my roommate? What if she doesn’t like me because I am cyclothymic?”

“First of all, you don’t have to tell her you have cyclothymia. And second of all, even if you don’t like her, I am sure you will meet other writers that will enjoy your presence.”

“What if they all don’t like me because I am cyclothymic?”

“Dawn, I read somewhere that a lot of writers suffer from depression for several reasons. They spend a lot of time in their heads, they stare at computer screens all day, and they don’t get much exercise.

“I have also read that one in ten people will suffer from depression sometime during their life.”

“I do not have depression though. I have bipolar.”

“Your mania episodes are very mild that I doubt anyone will notice them.”

“But what if they do?”

“Dawn, stop worrying. You will enjoy the conference. I know you will. Now, I don’t care how difficult it is for you to get motivated and stay focused. I want you to do your homework and your letter of apology, even if it takes you all night.”

 

Chapter 5

 

A week before I was scheduled to go to the conference, I was put on medication. My mom quickly resubmitted by health forms to the conference.

Early Sunday morning, I left the airport and arrived in Chicago a couple hours later. From the airport, a taxi took me to the college campus where the conference was being held.

“You will be staying in room 205,” the friendly looking girl said when I checked in at the dorms.

“Thanks.” I grabbed my suitcase (I had packed light since I was only going to be gone for two weeks) and headed up the stairs.

I found the door to room 205 open and a girl inside unpacking. There were two nametags on the door in the shape of books. One said Dawn and the other said Darcy.

“You must be Dawn!” Darcy said excitedly when I came in. She rushed over from the dresser where she was unpacking and embraced me in a hug. I felt like her long lost cousin.

“And you must be Darcy,” I said awkwardly.

“I’m sorry if I have weirded you out. I am a very energetic person.”

“They why are you a writer?” I asked curiously as I threw my bag on the empty desk.

The room was small, consisting of a bunk bed, two dressers, and two desks.

“A lot of people ask me that. I guess God has given me energy but the ability to sit still and write.”

I could not honestly see how she could even focus for minute. She was all over the room, putting things away.

“I am able to use my energy in my writing though,” Darcy babbled. “I like to keep my audience entertained. I like to keep them on edge.”

I opened my bag and put my clothes in the dresser.

“So what did you write to get here?” Darcy asked.

“Um, I wrote a story about a girl,” I replied. I realized that sounded lame once it came out of my mouth. But I couldn’t tell Darcy the truth.

Darcy looked at me. “You aren’t going to give me anymore details?”

“It wasn’t anything special,” I mumbled. “What did you write?”

“I am writing this series about Christian detectives,” she said. Then, without any prompting, she went into full detail about how in her novel, God was able to work through the mysteries.

I have nothing against religion, but I don’t want any part of it. I don’t see why a God who is supposed to love can allow someone to suffer from a mental illness.

Just then, there was a knock on the door. I was saved from listening to Darcy’s plot summary.

“Hi, I’m Raven Becker, a nurse,” a young woman said.

“How are you doing?” Darcy asked. She rushed over to the door and greeted the nurse. “What can I do for you?”

“Well, I am here to talk to Dawn,” she replied. “Who might that be?”

“I am.”

“Well, on your health forms it says that you take medication. I am in charge of holding and dispensing medication.”

I went over to my suitcase and retrieved the bottle of pills and handed it to her.

“Just come and see me tomorrow morning before you head out. Otherwise, I will have to track you down.”

“I will,” I promised. I had actually planned on not taking my medicine while I was here because I didn’t want to lose my creativeness. I had no idea why I couldn’t be responsible for my own medicine.

“Well, she seems nice,” Darcy said before going off about something else.

The good thing was that she didn’t ask why I needed the medicine. And since Darcy is so energetic, maybe she won’t even have time to notice that I am not completely normal.

 

 

Chapter 6

 

The next morning, Darcy’s alarm went off and I reluctantly got out of bed.

“Good morning, Dawn!” Darcy was certainly in a good mood.

I threw on a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt and then pulled my hair back. It was my typical depression look.

“That’s how you are going out?” Darcy asked.

“Yeah. I will be right back.”

I left the room and went in search of Nurse Becker’s room. I was shocked when I saw about fifteen girls waiting outside her door.

“Are you all waiting for medicine?” I asked the girl at the end of the line.

“You didn’t think you were the only one at this conference that needs medicine, did you?” the girl asked.

“Not anymore. I just think it is ridiculous that we can’t hold on to our own medicine. We are in high school!”

“You’re telling me. I got strep throat last week. I can be responsible for making sure it doesn’t come back.”

The line moved slowly forward and eventually I ended up in Nurse Becker’s room. She poured out my pill in a little cup and gave me some water.

“Swallow and then show me,” she instructed. 

I reluctantly swallowed the pill. I could almost feel the creative juices leaving my body. I stuck out my tongue.

“All right, I will see you later.”

I went back to my room and grabbed my notebook and pen. Then, Darcy and I headed to the cafeteria for breakfast.

“Mind if we sit here?” Darcy asked a couple girls once we had our trays.

“Go ahead.”

Darcy and I sat down. Darcy instantly folded her hands in silent prayer.

“I’m Libby,” one of the girls said. “And this is Gwen.”

“I’m Darcy and this is Dawn.”

“It looks like we are going to have a pretty good day,” Libby said as she pulled out the schedule that came in the welcome packet.

I hadn’t even looked at the packet yet. “What is going on?” I asked.

“Well, we have Christie Alexander speaking this morning,” Gwen said. “Then, this afternoon, we are going to have a seminar on editing. Then, tonight, there is going to be some ice breakers followed by a dance.”

“Sounds fun,” Darcy said.

I honestly think Darcy would have fun if she was told we were going to have a seminar on garbage. She is always so optimistic.

“So what do you write?” Libby asked.

“I’m a Christian writer,” Darcy said. “I became a Christian three years ago and I decided I was going to use my writing for God.”

“That is so cool,” Gwen said. “What about you, Dawn?”

“I write a little of everything,” I said. That is mostly true, except that most of my characters have a mental illness. “What about you guys?”

“We are both romance writers,” Libby replied.

“Libby has actually been published though.”

“Really? Tell us all about it,” Darcy demanded.

Libby rushed into detail about her book and I kind of quit listening. I was glad that the girls hadn’t asked anymore questions about my writing. I was just hoping to pick up some writing tips so that maybe I could someday make a living for myself, despite my problems.

 

Chapter 7

 

After breakfast, Gwen, Libby, Darcy, and I headed across campus to the auditorium. There, we would listen to Christie Alexander, a famous author.

“Good morning, young authors,” Christie said a few minutes later as she addressed the crowd. “I’m glad to see many young people giving two weeks of their summer to learn how to become better writers. I, myself, attended this conference several years ago and learned many valuable things that helped me get to where I am today.

“I started telling short stories shortly after I learned how to talk. Then, my storytelling progressed to me acting out stories with Barbies and dolls. As I learned to write, I told my stories on paper, getting better as the years went on.

“Through my writing, I have learned a lot about myself as well as the world around me. And as I have grown as a writer, I have found that I do have advice for other writers.

“Take one of my earliest works. I was writing about a girl that had cancer. It was discovered during her treatment that she and her best friend had actually been switched at birth. The story involved a lot of research because I knew very little about cancer. I didn’t mind the research. I actually liked it. I wouldn’t have chosen to write about a topic that I had no interest in.

“Despite all my research, I still found writing the story difficult. I felt that my research told me everything I needed to know about cancer. The only problem was, I knew nothing about the personal feelings and emotions a character with cancer would feel.

“I always find I like to write in first person. For one, I like to imagine myself as that character. I try to think and feel and act like that person. And because I become that character, it is easier to write about their feelings and emotions. That is difficult to do though when you haven’t truly experienced what you are writing about.

“My advice for you young writers is to put yourselves in the character’s shoes and to write about the familiar. That is why many writers choose to write about the area they grew up. I have a friend that grew up near Yellowstone so the settings of her books are usually in Wyoming. I have another friend that grew up in Alaska and makes that the setting of her books.

“I also have many friends that write about events and topics that they have experienced. For example, I have a friend that found herself paralyzed after an accident. Most of her characters use wheelchairs.

“But I can see some of you already shaking your heads. I know we have a very diverse group of writers. Some of you write nonfiction or biographies or fantasy. My advice for you is all the same. Know your topic and be interested in it.

“If you are writing to make money, you are in the wrong place. Writing should be a hobby. Not all of you will become published writers. Not all of you will be able to make a living solely from writing. But if you write because it is your passion, at least you will enjoy what you are doing; even if you never get any farther than writing for yourself.

“My last piece of advice is to organize your ideas. I used to hate doing outlines in school. I hated the structure and all the work involved. When I first started getting serious about writing, I refused to use outlines. But than I found myself knowing how the story would begin and how it would end, but not what would happen in the middle. I finally turned to my own form of notes so that I would have a map where each story would go.

“I know all of you have great potential because you wouldn’t have been invited here if you didn’t. I wish you all the best of luck in your writing. If you have any questions, I invite you to stay back to talk to me. Otherwise, I ask that you get the most you can from this conference. You are going to learn a lot of valuable advice.”

The auditorium burst into applause.

“Do you have anything you need to ask?” Darcy asked us.

“No,” we all said together.

“Then let’s get to lunch. I am starved!”

 

Chapter 8

 

“So what is your familiar?” Libby asked at lunch.

“Well, I am a Christian and feel very strongly about my faith,” Darcy said. “That’s why I am a Christian writer.”

“What about you, Dawn?”

I knew the question was coming so I had quickly stuffed my sandwich in my mouth.

I slowly chewed and thought abut what to say. I couldn’t tell them that cyclothymia was my familiar.

“I don’t know,” I finally lied. “Nothing really spectacular stands out in my life.”

“What did you write about to come here again? And what are you writing now?”

I quickly glanced around the cafeteria, looking for inspiration. I saw a girl who looked like she was using her spoon as a microphone.

“I wrote about a concert singer,” I replied. “And right now I am writing about a Broadway singer.”

“What is your familiar?” I asked Libby and Gwen to distract them.

“I guess I have always been a romance writer,” Libby replied. “I don’t even have a boyfriend so I don’t know why I write about love.”

“Maybe it is because you are a helpless romantic,” Gwen joked. “I have seen all the romance novels you have brought with you. You know, we are only here for two weeks. Are you going to have time to read all those?”

“What if I have some down time? I will need something to do.”

“With all these activities going on, I doubt there will be much down time,” Darcy said. “Take today for example. We have another seminar this afternoon. Then, tonight, there is the ice breakers and dance.”

The three girls broke into an excited chatter about the dance, leaving me to my own thoughts.

I really wanted to go back to my own room right now and just be left alone. I hoped that this afternoon’s seminar was just about listening, instead of interactions.

 

Chapter 9

After lunch, we were ushered into a huge room filled with tables scattered about. We were directed to a table based on a number on our name tags. I found myself in a group with two girls and one guy that I didn’t know.

“This seminar is all about editing,” we were told. “At your table, you will find three copies of each person’s writing. Read through their writing while making notes for what needs edited.”

Oh, no! I had no idea that my writing would be read by others here. I thought it was bad enough when Mrs. Winters accidently read it. I didn’t want anyone reading my writing. It was personal!

One of the girls with a name tag that said Amanda passed out everyone’s writing. I was going to be reading an exert from a romance novel, a sports novel, and a religious novel.

I read through each of the manuscripts, making notes about things I would change or were unclear. It was hard to focus though partly because of my depression and partly because I was worrying about what the others would think of my writing.

“Well, is everyone ready to discuss?” Tiffany asked at last.

“Let’s discuss Summer Romance,” Kyle said.

“What did you think of it?” Amanda asked.

“It was too gushy for me,” Kyle said with a laugh.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t write it for males,” Amanda said.

“I really liked it,” Tiffany said. “I liked how descriptive you were with your words. I could easily picture what you were describing.”

“What about you, Dawn?”

What was I supposed to say? I really wasn’t interested in anyone’s writing.

“It was pretty good,” I lied. “I would buy this at a bookstore.”

Next, we discussed some things that needed edited and then moved on to Tiffany’s and Kyle’s exerts.

“Now, Hope Academy!” Tiffany said.

My heart started racing as I waited for feedback.

“It was really good, Dawn,” Amanda said. “I could tell that you were writing from personal experience because you were able to put such detailed feelings and emotions into your character. Do you suffer from depression?”

“That is a personal question, Amanda,” Kyle said.

“No it isn’t. Many writers suffer from depression.”

“No, I don’t suffer from depression,” I said. That was true because I suffer from cyclothymia.

“Could I have a copy of this?” Tiffany asked. “I want to continue reading. It is so good.”

“Sure.” I guess since they liked it and didn’t know about my problems, I was all right with them continuing to read.

“Thanks.”

The group gave me some feedback which I graciously accepted since I knew it would make Hope Academy even better.

 

Chapter 10

 

Darcy, Gwen, and Libby were eagerly preparing for the dance.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go?” Darcy asked.

“I am sure. I am kind of tired. It has been a busy day.”

“I am sure you will wake up if you go to the dance,” Gwen said. “Besides, it is ok if you don’t get much sleep during the conference. We are supposed to be busy. We are supposed to have fun.”

“Well, if you are sure, Dawn, then have a good night,” Darcy said.

“Have a good night,” I said.

They all left and I crawled into bed.

I had been feeling depressed all day. I had really just wanted to be alone but instead I had been forced to get out of my room and work with people. Then, there was the issue of not being able to focus during the editing seminar as well as the overwhelming sadness that had plagued me all day.

Why did I have to be depressed during the conference? I really enjoyed writing. I could learn so much if I didn’t have to feel depressed. I could be depressed after the conference.

I thought about how Darcy prays all the time. Maybe God could make me feel better.

“Dear God,” I prayed, “I don’t want to be depressed during the conference. I want to be happy and meet friends and learn all about writing. Amen.”

I didn’t feel any different but I figured it would probably take awhile. Maybe in the morning I would be feeling better.

I lay back on my bed and closed my eyes, hoping for a better tomorrow.

 

Chapter 11

 

The next morning, I could tell that I wasn’t any better. I didn’t want to get out of bed and face the world. During breakfast, I hardly said a word. And I struggled to focus during the publishing seminar.

“Do you mind if just the two of us eat lunch together?” Darcy asked me after the seminar.

“Sure.” I didn’t care what she did. I couldn’t see why she wanted to just eat with me.

We grabbed our trays and then found an empty table.

“Is everything all right?” Darcy asked immediately.

“I’m fine,” I lied.

“I just get the feeling something is wrong, Dawn. Please, let me help you.”

“Nobody can help me. My medicine isn’t helping me right now.”

“What is going on? Why didn’t you go to the dance last night? Don’t you want to be here?”

“Of course I want to be here. I don’t get to pick my moods though. That is what is making things so difficult.”

“Are you bipolar?”

“I have cyclothymia. It is a type of bipolar disorder where the individual has mild mania and is often mistaken as having just depression.”

“I’m sorry, Dawn. I will be praying for you.”

“I prayed last night that I would feel better. It didn’t help.”

“God doesn’t always say yes to our prayers, Dawn.”

“Then why do you want to have a relationship with Him?”

“Everyone is a sinner, Dawn. Because of that, none of us are going to Heaven. God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins. Now, whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. I have accepted that forgiveness, so now I am going to Heaven.”

“Are you saying that it doesn’t matter how good we are or how many good things we do?” That was news to me. God and I had never been close but I figured I would go to Heaven.

“That is a common misconception.”

“Will I still have cyclothymia if I accept this forgiveness?”

“Probably. It is part of God’s plans for you.”

“God has plans for me that include cyclothymia?”

“God has plans for all of us. For example, God’s plans for me include writing. I write about how to become a Christian.”

“I still don’t see how cyclothymia is part of God’s plans for me.”

“I will be praying for you, Dawn. I will pray that you will accept Jesus’ forgiveness and God will reveal His plans for you.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

 

Chapter 12

 

I was depressed for a couple more days. I went through the motions of life until I started feeling a little better.

The last night of the writer’s conference, we had a very special dinner where we were required to dress up. There were waiters and table cloths and several fancy courses.

“What is this about?” I asked Darcy.

“Every year they choose one writer’s writing to be published. Then, everyone here gets a copy of their writing. Then, that writer gets to write something else and have it published.”

“I didn’t know that.” I knew I didn’t need to worry about being chosen. There was no way they would choose something as depressing as my writing.

Gwen, Libby, and Darcy got into an animated discussion about writing about the familiar. I did my best to join in without admitting that I had cyclothymia.

“Can I have your attention?” Dr. Ring asked when it seemed that everyone had eaten all that they could.

We all quieted and looked up at the stage.

“As you all know, tonight we are going to announce whose writing is going to be published. It is very difficult to choose every year. There are over three hundred writers here and we can only choose one. All of you show promise and that is what makes it hard.

“The writer we chose this year wrote a great novel. This author did a great job putting feelings and emotions into her characters. We have a feeling that she was writing from personal experience.

“While the writing is clearly fictional, this author created a school for high school students suffering from depression. The author has put such detailed feelings into her characters that all of us on staff could understand what they were going through.”

My mouth fell open in shock as I realized that they were describing my writing. I was about to become a published author. My personal thoughts and feelings were about to be published. The whole world was about to find out that I have a mental illness!

Dr. Ring continued. “Please join me in congratulating Dawn Springfield, author or Hope Academy.”

The whole room burst into applause and my friends started cheering. I reluctantly stood up and walked to the stage.

“Dawn has a very interesting story about how she ended up here,” Dr. Ring said. “Should I tell it or do you want to?” he asked me.

I shook my head. Dr. Ring was going to admit to the entire conference that I had problems.

“Dawn was required to turn in something electronically in her English class but she accidently uploaded Hope Academy. Her English teacher read it and was really impressed. That is why she submitted it to us. And then we were really impressed. Dawn, is there anything you would like to add?”

I shook my head again. Dr. Ring may not have admitted that I had a mental illness but everyone was going to find out when they read my novel.

“Congratulations, Dawn. Go ahead and get started on writing something else because you will get one more published work since you are the winner.”

“Thank you,” I managed to get out as everyone applauded again.

“Have a good evening,” Dr. Ring said to all of us. “Please make sure you grab your copy of Hope Academy and then meet Dawn at the back table to sign them.”

Great, just what I wanted to do! I reluctantly headed over to a table that held several pens and started signing.

 

Chapter 13

 

It was a couple hours later when I was able to finally get away and go back to my room.

“Congratulations!” Dawn said when I came in.

“Thanks,” I said.

“You don’t seem very happy about this honor,” Dawn said.

“How can I be happy when the whole world now knows I suffer from a mental illness?”

“Dawn, I was flipping through your book and no where does it say that you suffer from a mental illness. You don’t even mention cyclothymia.”

“Yeah, well, readers will get the idea that I am depressed then.”

“And who cares what they think? If they don’t like reading about depression, then they won’t read the book. Besides, one in ten people suffer from depression. One in eight people suffer from a mental illness worldwide. That is a lot of people who understand what you are going through. There are still a lot of people who need to learn about mental illness.

“Dawn, you have a lot of power to raise awareness for mental illness through your writing. God has plans for you. He wants you to write about mental illness. Who better to do it then someone who understands it first hand? That is your familiar.”

“Are you saying that God gave me a mental illness so that I can write about it? Because I don’t like God’s plans.”

“God can see the big picture. We can’t. All we see is a tiny piece of the puzzle.”

“Why would God want to work through me and my writing? I am not even a Christian.”

“But God really wants you. He sent His Son to die for your sins. He is just waiting for you to make a decision.”

“But still, why would God want me? When I have a depression episode, I barely have the will to live, let alone do anything else.”

“I have heard of famous people doing great things through bipolar disorder. When they are feeling a manic episode, they are really creative and are really ambitious and stay up late working.”

“I guess that describes me. I did a lot of work on Hope Academy during my hypomania.”

“You may have a mental illness, Dawn, but God is working through it. Please, think about embracing God’s plans for you and surrendering your life to Christ.”

Darcy had given me a lot to think about. I was definitely interested though.

“I will think about it,” I promised.

 

Chapter 14

 

I had been dreaming of becoming a published author for years. I knew it is very difficult to get published. It is also very hard to make it just on writing.

It was almost like God was answering my dream even though I am still in high school. I say dream because I have never prayed to God abo


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