I’ve been writing since I began tinkering with poetry when I was eight years old. Today, my works run full range through legislative testimony, letters to the editor, high-altitude gardening and poetry as well as novels.

I started gardening when I was three years old. That spring, my great grandmother gave me a jar of dried beans to play with in my sand box. Then it began to rain. It rained for over a week and I stayed inside till it stopped. And when it stopped, I found a sand box filled with plants. Grandma said that if I take care of them we’d have beans to eat later in the summer. That summer, I kept the weeds under control and I harvested those beans as well as helped prepare them for storage. I’ve never stopped gardening. In fact, to this day, we still work an eight-acre garden. In the seventies, I wrote a column Digging and Scratching for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Sunshine Soil and Short Seasons, a high-altitude primer, soon followed.

For some time, I wrote short stories that were published in literary magazines as well as three novels that I did not think were worth publishing. After eight years of research I wrote Strength of Stone the Pioneer journal of Electa Bryan Plumer. This was published by the first house I sent it too and it became an award-winning historical novel.

This Writing Life

Since then, I’ve published two books of poetry Shattering Porcelain Images and When Volcanoes wake as well as a novel in verse form Songs of Bernie Bjorn. I tell the stories that come through my body and through my fingers and I believe that no matter how horrible one’s life appears, there is hope and redemption. Here I’d like to share three of my poems.

Blood fiction is the story of one woman’s journey in her search of self. Because I am bipolar and come from a problematic family, it seemed natural to slip into her world. However, I did not write Blood Fiction because I am bipolar, our protagonist, Franniemarie wrote this story through me because I, along with about 2.6 million other American adults, live with her affliction. I was drawn to her story because I wanted to share this personality in all her glory and tragedy because she’s bright, thoughtful and represents those millions who are no less than she. More important is our need to be able to talk about ourselves with openness and honesty. This is the only way any of us can rise above our limitations. To know thy self is not enough. No matter what our afflictions we must share ourselves with each other in order to grow.

This Writing Life

Bipolar symptoms of a manic episode may include: feelings of euphoria abnormal excitement or elevated mood— talking very rapidly or excessively— needing less sleep than normal, yet still having plenty of energy— feeling agitated, irritable, hyper, or easily distracted— engaging in risky behavior, such as lavish spending, impulsive sexual encounters, or ill-advised business decisions.

Symptoms of a depressive episode may include: no interest in activities once enjoyed— loss of energy— difficulty sleeping, either sleeping too much or not at all; changes in appetite, eating too much or too little; difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; and thoughts of death or suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hrs. a day and can be reached at 1-800-8255.