Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Viva Mental Health, by Peter McDonnell

Hello all. My name is Peter McDonnell and this is an extract from my new book, ‘Viva Mental Health’. The idea is that it is a cheerful take on having a serious mental illness. I was very delusional, in grandiose ways (I thought I was the modern day Jesus Christ, sent to Earth by God to make some positive changes, at the time it made sense) and I also had psychosis back in 2001 when I first got ill. I later developed anxiety problems. I was lucky, I got better, and sharing my story is proving to be very enjoyable. If you would like to read more extracts and find out more about me and my book, you can visit my website I have made to support my writing.

At times I thought I had a telepathic relationship with various people, and that I could talk to people on the television telepathically. I spent a lot of time talking to Britney Spears, who became a sort of ‘Imaginary friend’. This extract is about when I thought she was sending me telepathic messages to meet her, so off I went. This was in December 2001.

Chapter 2 – Crazy? Me?

Because of complications at home I was staying at my dad’s for a bit, he was two minutes’ walk away from my mum’s, and I could stay there anytime. One day when he was at work, I broke a light switch. I had hit it, for some reason. Either I was having a talk with the switch itself, (I thought that objects had souls that I could talk to), and grew mad at it, or I was talking telepathically to a human and they angered me, so I hit the light switch as if to say ‘this is what will happen to you if you keep angering me’. Maybe a person in my head was telling me to hit it just for a laugh.

I decided I would repair it. Repairing things is fun. I needed to take the broken parts to B and Q and find a replacement. I didn’t know how to turn off the electricity, but I got a screwdriver and removed the plastic cover anyway. I disconnected the wires from the switch mechanism. I was now looking at the metal casing embedded in the wall and two bare wires, one red, one brown. I thought to myself ‘I know this is dangerous but God won’t let me get hurt.’ I decided to do it as quickly as possible and as I yanked the casing free from the wall, the two bare wires both touched the casing and I was electrocuted, receiving a strong shock in my arm. I was not thrown across the room or anything, but it hurt. I felt myself, no damage at all. I was lucky to hardly have been injured.
 

One day I was low on weed and money, so my THC flooded brain offered me the perfect solution. This day would not be like the others, this day I would meet with my imaginary friend, Britney Spears. I searched my feelings for where she was, and the idea grew that she was currently staying at The Ritz Hotel in London, room 213. The number 213 moved into my mind’s eye for no particular reason as I routinely turned on the television at about midday, so no reason not to, I would depart right away. I telepathically sent my idea of meeting her in London, a short train journey away, to my friend, who had a car. I waited for the whole afternoon, but my friend didn’t show. His loss.

That evening I put on my roller blades, and left for the train station. I soon boarded one of Network Rail’s worst carriages and got off at Waterloo station in London. I didn’t have anything on me except ten pounds, a book to read on the train, my personal stereo and possibly some cigarettes. I think I even took my passport, just in case. I was and still like to be quite a positive thinker, and I thought there may even be a chance that this time tomorrow I would be koching with Britney at her California mansion, if she had one. Or who knows?

I wore my rollerblades and had my regular shoes, one in each hand. I was wearing jeans and a casual ‘Nautica’ jacket. The plan was to meet Britney, in room 213, at The Ritz. After the night, we would both go to my home in Basingstoke, and I would pick up some things, and introduce her quickly to my parents and possibly my friends, then it was onto new amazing things.

I skated from Waterloo Train station to The Ritz, I think it took me about an hour and 45 minutes, using my instinct to decode Gods instructions to me, as to the route. If I saw a road sign that randomly stood out to me, I would follow it. It was dark and cold, but I was convinced that I was in good mental health, and I was quite happy, skating along, enjoying London, listening to ‘Oops I did it again’ on my personal stereo.

The main entrance to The Ritz was surprisingly understated. There was no one on the door so I rolled straight in, still wearing my skates with a shoe in each hand, and queued up in a short line of smartly dressed wealthy looking people. When I reached the front of the queue, I calmly asked the clerk, ‘Can you tell me which room Ms Spears is in please’. She dutifully checked her books. ‘Sir we don’t have a room for Ms Spears’. I replied ‘I think she’s in room 213’ ‘We don’t have any reservations for a Ms Spears’. I was a bit surprised, but I knew that sometimes people checked in with a false name, so I left the desk clerk to call security while I had a look around for myself. I started up the grand staircase, finding it difficult to walk upstairs sideways, as I still had on my roller blades. I wasn’t exactly blending in with my surroundings. When I got to the first floor I found somewhere to sit down and took off my skates and put on my Nikes, making a mental note that if I ever were to repeat the exercise, to change footwear on the ground floor.

I found room 213 easily enough, knocked on the door and waited. A cleaner answered, who did not speak English, but I could see that there was no one in this large room. I hallucinated hearing Britney’s voice behind me and turned around, but there was nobody there. I rethought my plan. I needed the loo, so I wandered through the restaurant on the ground floor to find the bathroom, and then wandered back to reception. The Ritz in London is an impressively grand and attractive place. Piano playing hung in the atmosphere of the spacious restaurant, melodic mainly right hand playing, Debussy, I think. I could almost hear Britney Spears in the music. I went back to room 213 and just hung around for a bit. I decided to check out the top floor, she may be in one of the nice rooms. I walked around the corridors for a bit longer, but soon the security man found me. He was not a large man, but he looked authoritative enough to deal with the odd straggler. He accompanied me to the exit, where there were black cabs waiting to pick people up, and while leaving, I wandered whether I should put my skates back on or take a taxi to the train station to go home.

This was my only experience of The Ritz, until a year later when I tried the same thing again, but more about that journey later.

I thought I would skate to Waterloo train station, and see a bit of London in the process. I don’t remember much about the trip back home, but I do recall stopping at a cinema and buying a coffee flavoured ice cream, playing on some arcades, and stopping to give five pounds to a homeless person on a busy street, where it occurred to me that an hour ago I thought that five pounds would be such an incredibly small amount of money to me by now, as Britney would be paying my way until I capitalised on my newfound fame.
 

I remember skating alongside the Thames, possibly near Westminster. I also remember skating across the Thames on a road bridge but I can’t remember which one. The only other thing I remember about travelling back to Waterloo train station at about nine pm through busy streets was almost flooring a lady with a broken leg who was using crutches, as my roller skating proficiency bubbled over into over confidence and the situation got away from me. She sent me an annoyed look as I apologised and I was embarrassed and newly schooled. I was careful after that. I soon boarded a busy train home, and I read a Mario Puzo book while travelling, not The Godfather but one of his lesser known stories.

Although I didn’t find my imaginary friend on that wintry night out to London, I did enjoy myself. As I got nearer to home I was wandering where she was. I concluded that she had been unable to meet me, and that she had tried also but failed. She could be anywhere in the world, but we had got our wires crossed. As I was on my street, almost home, I thought, maybe she left The Ritz to meet me at my house, and that’s why she wasn’t there. Maybe she was right here – 100 metres away, having a chat and a cup of tea with my mum as we speak. This was good, the evening endeavour was not to be wasted after all. I began to look for expensive cars parked on the street, none there, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. I opened the door and she was – not there. I was disappointed, but a nice joint would soon sort that out, it always did, temporarily, but I paid for it by being affected by more craziness. Some people can smoke weed perpetually and not be adversely affected. For me it felt good, but didn’t do me any favours in the long run. It was fair to say that the craziness had been brewing up without my awareness for months. My awareness of reality was dim.

The next morning I was trying to meet Britney again, and I was feeling like maybe Paris was a good idea. The fact of the timing of my meet up thoughts was happening now suggested to me that now was the best time to do it, she must be in the neighbourhood, and wasn’t in London. The next best place for a meet up would be Paris. Paris would be a fitting place to meet up with a star like Britney. If I went to the Eiffel Tower she would surely show up. I made up my mind to go to Paris. As I write this I’m wishing I was still so adventurous.
 

At times I was sure that I was really linked to Britney Spears. At other times it felt like she was imaginary. I thought it best to at least try and find out by putting in the effort to meet her.
 

About the Author

Peter McDonnell lives in Hampshire, England. You can contact him via his website www.petermcdonnellwriter.com, which includes a number of excerpts from his book.

 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Speaking Up, a Film about Mental Health

Yesterday I was privileged to attend the premiere screening of Speaking Up at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema. This was the first in what is to be a series of short films “exploring young people’s experiences of mental health issues by producing and creating their own shorts to convey powerful, practical messages.”

Running a little under twenty minutes, the film certainly delivers. The first part really opened my eyes to the realities of living with anxiety. The team then took to the streets of Newcastle to interview members of the public. Having volunteered on those same streets for last year’s Newcastle Mental Health Day, I was interested to hear what people had to say.

Folk were asked what terms such as “mental health issues,” “anxiety,” and “depression” meant to them. I found it encouraging that so many felt able to share their opinions, concerns and personal experiences to camera. I got the sense most were unused to having the opportunity to do so.

Several spoke of stigma, and the need for more to be done for those living with mental illness. There is clearly still a way to go, but this is the sort of thing which helps break down barriers. One person suggested stigma is perhaps less prevalent in the younger generation. Initiatives such as Speaking up bring hope that things can change, by giving younger people the opportunity to share their lived experience in ways directly meaningful to them, and to a wider audience.

Kudos to Sharon Race, Alisdair Stewart Cameron, and the whole Speaking Up team for what they are doing. Sharon commented:

Speaking Up is important to highlight that young people also live with mental health issues which they want to speak out about. The participants were so wonderful to work with — creative, clever and witty. We are pleased to announce Launchpad have secured funding for Speaking Up Too, which will take place in the Summer holidays.

I invited my friend Carol Robinson to share her thoughts about the screening:

The short film was made this summer It was great to be an extra and to see the great work Sharon Race completed. The interviews on the streets of Newcastle were intriguing. It was good to see discrimination around mental health is being tackled so positively, and the public attitude is so positive and honest.

UPDATE: Speaking up was shown as an introduction to the main features at the MiLAN - Medicine in Literature and the Arts at Newcastle film festival starting on Monday 11 February.

UPDATE: Speaking Up is now available to watch on YouTube.

If you would like to know more about this initiative, or fancy getting involved, check out the Speaking Up Facebook page.

Organised by Launchpad, Speaking Up runs free film making workshops for 15-25 year olds in Tyne & Wear on the 5th Floor of Broadacre House, Market Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6HQ. Speaking Up is funded by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear.

Marty

 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Using the Darktime

The following is excerpted from High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder, by Martin Baker and Fran Houston (Nordland Publishing, 2016). This section covers part of Fran’s two-week cruise from Amsterdam to New York aboard the MS Eurodam.


Using the Darktime

Our first opportunity to connect properly was in Reykjavik, five days into the cruise. Fran was desperately fatigued, and in emotional and physical pain. She was relieved to have made it through the summer but fearful of the future. We had always known the summer would be hard, but instead of recuperating she faced finding somewhere to live, packing, leaving her community, and settling into somewhere new. It was not merely daunting, it was potentially dangerous.

Fran: I’ve missed you..
Martin: I’ve missed you too.
Fran: You help me beat my depression..
Mary: That’s because I come down there to find you, in the darkness where you are. I sit with you until you are ready to walk out again into the sunlight.
Fran: From this bleak harsh landscape..
Martin: Iceland?
Fran: Yes..
Martin: The landscape can be an analogy for your depression. Let’s use this part of the journey, this Darktime. Feel the sadness, and then leave it behind on these shores.
Fran: I don’t like this part of the trip.. Coming home.. It’s scary..
Martin: Find me a stronger word than scary.
Fran: Terrifying..
Martin: Good. If it’s terrifying then say so. Feel it fully. Because if you can feel it, it will keep you from falling deeper into depression.
Fran: I haven’t made the most of Norway and Iceland.. I don’t like them.. They are not warm like Germany..
Martin: On the way back to the ship, find me one thing that delights you. A smile. A ray of sunlight. Anything.

She messaged me later.

Fran: We sail soon..
Martin: What did you find for me?
Fran: The bus driver.. And a woman named Cindy who went to buy a swimsuit..
Martin: As you found two things I will ask for three tomorrow.
Fran: The blue of the water.. The brown of Mum’s eye.. The niceness of people caring for us..
Martin: I said tomorrow! That’s cheating! (Thank you.)

They were at sea for the next four days. We were able to chat when they reached Nanortalik in Greenland, and I was relieved to discover her mood had lifted a little. I didn’t expect us to be in touch again until they landed in Newfoundland, but some personal news required me to contact Fran the next day.

Despite the cost, we exchanged text messages throughout that day and for the remainder of the cruise. It helped Fran process her feelings from the summer and prepare for all she would face once she returned home. She was by turns angry, tearful, and depressed. Most of all, she was exhausted. One bright moment occurred as they reached Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was at work, and a colleague found a webcam that showed the Eurodam as it berthed at the ferry terminal.

Martin: Frannie, I have the ship on webcam! I watched you coming in. The camera is looking down on the ship from outside the terminal.
Fran: Would you see me if I waved?
Martin: Maybe! Are you at a window?
Fran: I could go up top on the back deck..
Martin: Yes do! Let me know when you get there!
Fran: OK.. I’m by the stacks..
Martin: I think I can see you! Walk about a bit.
Fran: I’m right by the railing..
Martin: Yes! I can see you! I am waving!
Fran: Can you see my big belly?
Martin: Haha! No but I can see you!
Fran: I’m going back down now.. I don’t have a coat and it’s cold..
Martin: Go and warm yourself up! I can’t believe I just saw you on webcam from all the way over here!
Fran: That was awesome.. Thank you for doing it with me..
Martin: Thank Barry, he found the webcam!
Fran: Thank you, Barry!

I took a screenshot of Fran waving, and shared it on our social media pages.

A little later she went ashore and we were able to talk. The call only lasted a few minutes, but it was our first since Amsterdam and helped us feel connected again.

 


You can watch the live Halifax Pier 21 webcam here.

 


High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder is available at: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.jp | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.es | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Barnes & Noble

 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Time to Talk, Time to Listen, Time to Care

Thursday February 2 2017 is #TimeToTalk Day, an annual event organised by Time to Change to focus attention on mental health. (Time to Change was formed in 2009 by MIND and Rethink Mental Illness, with the aim of reducing mental health-related stigma and discrimination.)

Some feel that awareness campaigns trivialise the lived experience of people with serious mental illness, giving the impression that talking to someone or going for a walk can fix things, or take the place of professional treatment and support. I wholeheartedly agree that a chat with a friend or a breath of fresh air is never going to cure anyone. But I do believe—as the following quotation from the #TimeToTalk webpage makes clear—there is much we can do to lessen the burden of isolation and misunderstanding.

Conversations about mental health change lives.
At the moment, too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless by other people’s reactions. But talking about mental health doesn’t need to be difficult. It can be as simple as making time to have a cup of tea or go for a walk, and listening to someone talk about how they feel. Being open about mental health and ready to listen can make a positive difference to someone’s life.
This is what Time to Talk Day is all about—giving us all the chance to talk and listen about mental health.

What Does “Having a Conversation about Mental Health” Look Like?

Having “a conversation about mental health” might sound daunting, but it simply means allowing someone to talk openly about what’s going on for them. It might be a face-to-face conversation, a phone or video call, or a conversation by e-mail, text (SMS), or instant messaging. Whatever works for you and the other person.

Whatever the channel, there are a few things that distinguish a supportive conversation from the normal everyday kind. I find the following reminders helpful.

Don’t interrupt. This is self-explanatory, but can be one of the hardest to remember. Let the other person share what they want to share, without giving in to the urge to interrupt with your own ideas, suggestions, and questions. I certainly need reminding of this one!

It’s their story, not yours. Don’t monopolise the conversation by recalling times you have been through what they are talking about. “I know just what you mean” is particularly unhelpful. No matter how similar your experiences might seem, their situation is uniquely theirs, and what worked—or didn’t work—for you might not be relevant to them at all. If you are asked for suggestions or advice, fair enough, but wait until you are asked.

Save your judgments for later. It’s hard to listen to someone without analysing and mentally judging what you are hearing. This isn’t wrong in itself—you might need to assess whether the person is in immediate danger, or in need of professional help—but beyond that, your internal dialogue only serves to distance you from what they are sharing with you.

You don’t have to fix everything. Depending on your relationship (partner, child, parent, family member, close friend, colleague, acquaintance, or stranger) you may be in a position to offer help, advice, or support. But it is not your responsibility to fix everything, so hold back with your suggestions unless they are asked for. On the other hand, don’t feel paralysed or useless if you can’t think of anything that could possibly help. If you are present and engaged, you are helping. Often, that is precisely—and all—that is needed. You’d be surprised how rare a gift holding space for someone can be. As it says on the #TimeToTalk webpage:

“It’s #TimeToTalk because if you say something, you realise how many people around you haven’t, and needed to”

But I’m Busy

We are all so busy these days. School, college, work, commuting, chores, children, our own issues and problems, fill our days—and often our nights too. When are we supposed to find time for all these conversations?

#TimeToTalk isn’t about blocking out chunks of “Mental Health Conversation Time” in your calendar—although it might involve committing to meet up for lunch with that friend you haven’t seen in a while, calling on a relative on your way home from work, or turning off the TV after dinner to talk with your partner or child. It’s about being open to what the other person wants to talk about, and not being scared if that includes their mental health, or that of someone they care about.

Think of the people you talk to already. The colleague who gives you a ride home. The person you speak to every Saturday in your favourite café. Social media and the internet mean you can connect with almost anyone, almost anywhere, at almost any time.

It’s Not All about Mental Health

You won’t always be “talking about mental health,” of course. Open conversations span the full gamut of topics: deep and trivial, funny and sad. But if they are genuine, they encompass whatever is going on for you and the other person, and often that does include some aspect of mental health. That said, if you are open to such conversations, you might find yourself having more and more of them. I consider it a privilege that people feel at ease talking with me about topics which so often are kept hidden, because they attract judgemental attitudes, stigma, and discrimination.

Balance and Boundaries

You can’t be there at all times for everyone, however. You are not a 24/7/365 crisis line. Aside from the dangers of burning yourself out, doing too much can lead to codependency, which is unhealthy for both you and the other person. Don’t take on too much, and pay attention to your own health—physical and mental. Remember that #TimeToTalk includes sharing your issues and concerns, as well as listening to those of others.

What Difference Can I Make, Really?

Fran and I believe passionately that all of us—you, me, everyone—can make a difference. Fran knows this first-hand, and I can do no better than close by sharing her words from the Epilogue to our book.

There are many like me who live in invisible institutions of stigma, shame, and silence, the walls built by others from without, or by ourselves from within. Dismantling these walls invites connection. Be the gum on someone’s shoe who has one foot inside and one foot outside. Stick around. It may not be easy but you can help someone make a life worth living. Maybe even save a life. One little bit by one little bit. A smile, a wink, a hello, a listening ear, a helping hand, a friendship all work together to interrupt the grasp of illness.
Be open and honest, with your friend and others you meet. Judge not, for misunderstandings abound. Acceptance, understanding, and kindness can pave another way. Let’s.

 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

It's Not Just for Kids: Reading Together for Fun and Friendship

The most important sounds we can ever share with another person are our own voices.

The above quotation is from the chapter in our book where we discuss how we make our 3,000 mile, transatlantic, friendship work. We believe there are many kinds of distance that can separate people, and not all are measured in miles or time zones. What keeps our relationship fresh and alive is our willingness to keep the channels of communication open between us, no matter what.

Reading together is one way we honour that commitment, and amongst the most rewarding.

Young children—and parents of young children—know this instinctively. And yet as adults we rarely read to one another. When was the last time you read to your adult child, to your partner, or to a friend?

Geography need not be an obstacle. Fran and I live on opposite sides of the world, yet read together regularly on our video calls. We do this both for simple pleasure, and because Fran finds it helpful. She has difficulty maintaining focus, and finds lengthy works easier to digest if they are read to her.

Borrowing the phrase which introduced each story on Listen with Mother (a BBC children’s radio programme which ran between 1950 and 1982), I begin each reading with the words: “Are you sitting [or lying] comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” This simple formula marks the occasion as something special, and helps us focus on the words we are about to share.

Since we met online in 2011, we have enjoyed a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books, including thrillers by suspense novelist James Hayman. As Fran says:

There is nothing better than a well-written thriller.. and nothing better than it being set in your hometown.. and actually knowing the author.. but when you have an Englishman reading it to you.. that takes the cake...

In addition to James Hayman’s thrillers The Girl in the Glass, Darkness First, The Chill of Night, and The Cutting, we’ve read The Stone Trilogy (The Distant Shore, Under the Same Sun, Song of the Storm) by Mariam Kobras, and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

Nonfiction titles include:

  • Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, by Brené Brown
  • Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung
  • An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison
  • Say Goodnight to Insomnia, by Gregg D. Jacobs

A full length novel or nonfiction book can take weeks to read, and represents a significant commitment in time and energy. Shorter works, collections, and poetry—including my own Collected Poems—can be dipped into at any time. Those we've enjoyed include some perennial favourites:

  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
  • The Happy Prince and Other Tales, by Oscar Wilde
  • The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne

We keep a list of web pages, newspaper articles, and blog posts to read when we get chance. For the past three years we’ve subscribed to the Compassion Course Online offered by the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication. Each week we read the latest lesson together and discuss its relevance to our lives.

Although I do most of the reading, it’s not all one way. Fran reads me pieces she finds; she also reads back to me the letters I write her. We read aloud to each other a good deal throughout the process of writing our book, especially the editing and proofreading phases.

Reading together has given us confidence to read in public. I’ve read excerpts from High Tide, Low Tide at the Newcastle Literary Salon, and we’ve read at public events including a [panel discussion on mental health and social media], and a fundraiser for nonprofit Family Hope.

Whether they are your words or another’s, whether the person you’re sharing them with is in the same room as you or on the other side of the world, reading to someone can be a powerful, beautiful, and empowering act. It is also an antidote to personal separation.

No matter the nature of distance in your friendship, keep in touch. Keep talking. Keep the channels open and the communication flowing. Share your time, your thoughts, and your worlds. Do that, and closeness will never be far away.

 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

How to Write the Best Acknowledgement Page for Your Book

Whether you have recently started writing your book or are close to publishing it, there is no wrong time to start thinking about your acknowledgement page.

We have brought together a few ideas and lessons based on our own experience writing High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder.

Make a (Contact) List and Check It (At Least) Twice!

You will meet many people in the course of writing your book. Not all will warrant a mention in the acknowledgements, but you don’t want to forget someone who contributed early in the process simply because they weren’t actively engaged at the end. Don’t rely on memory. Make—and maintain—a list. If it’s good enough for Santa...

It doesn’t matter how you keep track—on paper, on index cards, or in a Word document—but start recording everyone you encounter. You never know when you might need to contact that guy you met at the library, or the lady at the coffee shop who said she’d introduce you to her nephew at the radio station when you’d secured a publishing contract. Fran and I used a spreadsheet for our list. By the time our book was finished we’d collected close to two hundred names.

Record the person’s name, how and when you met, contact details (phone number, e-mail, social media links, mailing address). Add a few words about who they are and what role they have played—or might play—in your book’s development, promotion, or marketing.

How Do Other Authors Do It?

You can find sample acknowledgment pages online, but there’s no substitute for seeing how your favourite authors approach the task. Start with books you already own, especially those most relevant to your work. You can research other authors and titles at your local library, or online. Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature lets you browse without having to purchase the book, and the random sample often includes the acknowledgements. Make notes, so you can refer back later.

Front or Back? Where are the acknowledgements located? Most authors and publishers place them toward the front of the book, after the foreword and preface (if any), and before the introduction. Others place acknowledgements at the back, especially if they are rather long.

Length. There’s no need to count words, but does the author constrain the acknowledgements to one page? Two? More?

Categories. Authors generally group people together depending on the contribution they have made. The following categories are common, but are not always presented in the same order. What categories and order does the author use? Think about which are most relevant to you.

  • Children, partner, parents, siblings, other family members.
  • Beta readers, street team, researchers, editors, agent, publisher, illustrator.
  • Friends, colleagues, teachers, tutors.
  • Others.

Names. Does the author use first names only, first name and surname, or a mixture of both? Are names listed alphabetically, and if so by first name or surname?

How We Wrote Our Acknowledgement Page

Fran and I began by setting some ground rules. An acknowledgement page is not a list of everyone you know, like, or are scared of offending by leaving them out. We agreed to only include people who had played a specific and significant role in our book’s journey, or in our lives whilst the book was being developed and written. We gave ourselves permission to make exceptions, and did so in a couple of cases, but having the rules helped keep us focused.

We reviewed every name in our contacts spreadsheet, flagging people yes/no/maybe for inclusion. We revised and refined our selection until we were happy with it. Our final acknowledgement page thanks eighty people individually by name.

We checked close to a dozen books in detail. We made notes on the length of the acknowledgements, the categories they author used, and how the author introduced each category. Having done that, we played around with categories which made most sense to us and the people we wanted to thank. We settled on three main categories: contributors to the book itself, our support team, and the wider community.

Contributors. People who contributed content; people who provided advance endorsements; readers, editors, publishers

Our Support Team. Fran’s professional support team, family, friends

The Wider Community. Our social media connections and supporters, mental health organisations and individuals

We added a fourth category for people who had inspired us, whether or not they had contributed directly.

We took our time allocating the people we wanted to thank to the various categories. This was mostly straightforward, but several people fit two or more groups: we placed these in the category which best represented their contribution. Within each group, we arranged people alphabetically by first name, to remove any hint of favouritism.

We introduced each category simply, with a variation on “We thank ...”

  • We are grateful to ...
  • We thank ...
  • Special thanks are due to ...
  • We acknowledge and thank ...
  • We thank ...

After editing, our acknowledgements ran to one and a half pages. A little on the long side but we are happy that we recognised and thanked everyone we wanted to. As I wrote to Fran:

So many people have been with us on this journey—some since the beginning, others not so long. But so many believe in what we are about! Yesterday, you and I were going through the acknowledgement page.

There are far more people than we can ever list by name, but those we are able to include represent a wide spectrum of experience, knowledge and expertise—and they have all believed in us. That is awesome—and humbling.

We hope our ideas helps you craft the best acknowledgement page for your book: one which reflects your preferences and character, and honours those you most wish to recognise. Do you have suggestions and experiences of your own to share? We’d love to hear them!

If you haven’t bought our book yet, you can read our acknowledgements using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.

Marty