Interview: Ann W. Shannon

Thank you for joining us, Ann! To start off, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a bit about yourself and the anthology We Are Not Alone.

I’m Ann Shannon. I’m an author, blogger and avid reader. I write romance and erotic romance. My blog is the Manic Writer and its focus is on Indie Authors. I review indie books and run a monthly spotlight called the Indie BLT where I feature a different Indie author each month amongst other things. I also read a variety of books, about 4-6 a month. I read a mix of Indie authors, writing craft books, and others. My favorite genres are romance, and paranormal.

The idea for We are Not Alone came up when Skye and I had a conversation about some poems and short stories we’d written concerning mental illness. These pieces had been written from the heart and we felt people needed to see them and be encouraged that they were not alone. Finding a place where they belonged, however, was proving difficult, so we decided to make our own and open it to others who also had something to say. The anthology will be a collection of poems, letters, essays and short stories that all focus on the impact mental illness has on everyone, not just the individuals who are ill. It’s purpose is to raise mental health awareness. All proceeds will go to a mental health charity.

Nice to meet you, Ann!

In your perspective, what is the connection between mental health illnesses and creative writing? How do you see that played out with the anthology, We Are Not Alone?

I think there’s a huge connection between mental health illnesses and creativity in general. That being said, I don’t think there has to be. I’ve known many creative people who did not suffer from mental illness. But I do believe that mental illness tends to make us look for ways to express ourselves, as a cry for help, or just as a way to communicate what we are feeling. In my case it’s an amazing outlet when I feel pain that I can’t express in other ways.

That’s one of the reasons We Are Not Alone came to be. Often the pieces we write in our pain are dark and sad and, as a result, hard to place. I wrote just such a piece. A short story called “A Terrible Mistake.” It looks at the pain a young teenager feels as she copes with the death of her baby brother while she babysat him and her thoughts of suicide to end that pain. Skye read it and felt that people needed to know that pain was real and normal, but that death shouldn’t be allowed to win. We decided the anthology was the place for it and for others. We wanted to gather people’s stories for others to read and know they were not alone.

You refer to writing as a means of expression and communication. Have there been times that writing has fallen short? Have you faced any difficulties in using the written world as a vehicle for self-expression and communication?

I think every writer has had times when their chosen outlet has failed them. As an individual who lives with bipolar disorder there have been times when I’ve been so down I couldn’t imagine writing. I was literally too depressed to put words to the page. My brain too befuddled to organize them.

Fortunately, for me, those moments don’t last for more than a day or two, if that long. I have an amazing support network and my husband is a chief part of that. He is always willing to listen to me and help me work through what is bothering me so I can move on.

Can you offer any advice to those who, at times, are unable to use writing as an outlet?

I think the best advice for those times is to allow yourself to take a break and not see it as an end. Sometimes we just need to step back and allow our minds to run free.

When I’ve hit a wall and not felt like writing I used to panic and worry that I’d never write again. I know now that isn’t true. I may not write for a while, it might be 2 days, 2 months or 2 years, but I will always be a writer. I think also, during those times it’s important to be sure you have another outlet for your creative energy.

Let’s transition to the anthology. What are your hopes for We Are Not Alone?

I hope the anthology will show people living with mental illness, either because they have it or have a loved one who does, that they are not alone. I hope it helps to normalize some of the feelings and experiences that are unique to mental health problems. It’s why we chose the title we did. There is a stigma attached to mental health issues, people living with them sometimes are left to feel as if they are the only ones. We want to end that misunderstanding.

Thank you for tackling the important task of fighting the stigma!

Is there any significance as to why the title is in the plural (“we”) and not the singular (“you”)?

The significance of the title being plural is that we recognize (1) that mental illness is not a solitary disease. It always affects those around us, and (2) that it is not rare. We probably talk to, work with and associate with people every day who are dealing with mental health issues, if we used the singular “you” we felt we’d be insinuating that is was an individual problem.

Most definitely!

What are your thoughts on tackling mental health issues as a collective or community, instead of or in addition to addressing them as individuals?

I think like other community issues we need to gather as a community and offer love, friendship and help to those who need it. We need to campaign for and vote for leaders who will support those dealing with mental health issues and then support them in our own communities. If we are going to consider ourselves a first world country then we are required to care for those who can’t care for themselves.  Globally we need to break down barriers and end the stigma that mental health issues are rare, or only happen to “other” or are a sign of depravity or defect.

We can start this individually amongst our friends, but it’s not enough. It needs to happen in literature, and other media and in the government as well.

Well said!

I understand the anthology is in progress. Are submissions open? If so, what kind of pieces are you looking for how should writers submit their pieces?

If anyone is interested they can contact me at my email,

Is there anything you would like to add in regards to your anthology or mental health?

In regards to my mental health, I’d like to add that it’s important to ask for help. I was the primary caregiver for my elderly grandmother when my bipolar symptoms became unmanageable but I didn’t seek treatment for 5 yrs. That was easily the most difficult 5 years of my life. I think I was afraid to admit I couldn’t do it all. We are taught to be independent and not ask for help but with clinical or bipolar depression, and many other mental health issues, you can’t do it alone. You can’t just buck up and get better.

Also, don’t be afraid to gently suggest help for a loved one. And support them after they get help. Mental health issues will not go away on their own, and they take time to heal. Be patient with yourself and your loved ones during the healing process.

Thank you so much, Ann, for joining us!

Thank you for interviewing me.