This week, it’s my pleasure to tell you about a new book from a friend of mine.
I’ve had dealings with Jen Parker and her publishing company, Fuzzy Flamingo over the past couple of years; since I was pointed in her direction by a fellow author.
I was lucky enough to be involved in the anthology of short stories she put together, called Connections. With my story Wish Upon a Falling Star included, it achieved bestseller status on publication in 2021.
Based on the professionalism and passion she put into that project, and having seen the brilliant cover she did for my friend Steven Smith’s Steampunk novel, Chasing Shadows, I commissioned her to produce the cover for my fantasy tale, The Syk’m.
And now she has a book of her own to promote. I’m pleased to be able to help her launch it.
Unflip is what a recent newspaper review called “a searingly-honest new book about her terror at being struck down by life-changing conditions – when she was just 23.”
“There is no cure.” With just four words, Jen Parker’s stomach lurched and her world was flipped upside down.
Her diagnosis with autoimmune arthritis interrupted her travels around the world, causing her to alter the rest of her trip less than three months into her gap year, simultaneously ending her dream career in the police before it could even start. Taking the reader through her life-changing diagnosis, and the process of trying to right her world again, Jen gives tips and advice to people diagnosed with chronic illnesses and those around them.
A donation of £1 from each paperback sale will be made to NASS: https://nass.co.uk/
Pre-order the Special Edition Paperback before the 7th May for the reduced cost of £10.99!
I’ll leave it to Jen to tell you more about the book and what went into writing it.
Write the Book You Wanted to Read
When I was first diagnosed with a life-changing illness in April 2009, I found Dr Google pretty scary with images of deformed spines, people in wheelchairs or with sticks and in awful pain. I’d been diagnosed with several forms of arthritis at the age of 23: ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia. Like many people, I’d thought of arthritis as an older person’s disease, but was to learn that my conditions are most likely to start in later teenage years (the average age of onset is the early twenties). Thankfully the narrative has improved over the last decade with charities like the National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society (NASS) — the new name for my AS — working hard to raise awareness and push for better research. I do still receive comments like “you’re young to have arthritis”, even from medical professionals.
So, in the early days of my diagnosis, I reached for books. I still found this lacking, however. I found books to educate me on the medical side of my conditions, books about changing aspects such as diet to improve arthritis, but nothing to help with the real-life experiences I was going through. I wanted to read about people my own age and how they were managing, but I couldn’t find anything. I wasn’t a fan of the online groups because I found them overwhelmingly negative. I needed to hear that it would be okay, that there were things people had found helpful and I wanted tips to live my life better.
Be the solution to your own problem
My answer? I wrote the book I wanted to read in those days! I have now had my diagnosis for well over a decade and developed a wealth of experience living with my arthritis. I’ve been through many ups and downs finding treatments and medications that work for me, I’ve made mistakes that have been costly to my health, and I’ve discovered ways I can improve my health and my life. I have a much better relationship with my arthritis now, and I’ve got much more balance on my work-life-health scales.
In the early days of my diagnosis, I shied away from owning it. I felt embarrassed about having a chronic illness and didn’t want to attract those tilted-head sympathetic looks when people hear you aren’t well. Over the years, I’ve realised that those reactions I was scared of aren’t important. Although I still shy away from sympathy, what really helps me is understanding. And people won’t understand if they don’t know! I also realised that there are other people out there like me, who are looking for help and not finding it.
Catharsis and changing perspectives
As a result of my own change in perspective regarding my diagnosis, I started to write about it. Towards the end of 2019, I re-read my travel blogs from my gap year travelling the world. I was diagnosed in Australia partway through my travels. I read the entries with fresh eyes, seeing how much I was trying to hide about the diagnosis side of my experiences. From there, I started writing my book. I started with a loose skeleton of what I wanted to write with three main sections: 1. early signs of my conditions, my life’s master plan and the first section of my travels, ending with the diagnosis in Australia; 2. the immediate aftermath of my diagnosis and the impact on the rest of my trip; 3. how my master plan had to dramatically alter on my return to the UK, how I dealt with the reality of a life-changing diagnosis and how I’ve got to where I am today.
Unfortunately, as lockdown created an unexpected change in priorities, I had to pause my writing. But the time was right at the end of 2021 and I managed to finish the writing process. Thankfully I’m in a good position with my own publishing business to be able to do the production myself, calling in favours from my freelance proofreaders and my peers to help me get to the publication stage relatively quickly, before the fear overwhelmed me! Initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For those with chronic health conditions, it shows them that there can be light at the end of the tunnel and offers support and practical tips for improving life balance. For those who don’t, it increases their awareness of those living with health challenges and increases their empathy. And for those reaching hurdles in their lives, it offers ways of leaping over them or changing the course in order to complete the race in your own way.
Not only this, writing my book has also helped me. It has given me a chance to reflect on what I have been through over the last decade. It has cemented my gratitude for those around me, and for events that have improved my outlook. It has also given me a greater understanding of my arthritis, less fear for the path ahead and much more determination to help other people.
Get in touch
I have always been a huge advocate for writing and reading being good for your mental health. This experience has only served to enhance that. If you would like to chat about your own book then get in touch: https://fuzzyflamingo.co.uk/
If you would like to order your own copy of UNFLIP: changing your life after a life-changing diagnosis, there is a special offer on orders of the paperback before the official publication date of 7th May 2022:
Thanks, Jen for that insight. I wish you every success with the book.
Don’t forget, as a personal recommendation, if you ever want help with publishing, or need a book cover designed, you know who to talk to.
What do you think?
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