Ruth Hartman: Blog Tour


Author of   My Life in Chains: My Struggle with Obssessive Compulsive Disorder

book_cover_my_life_in_mental_chains

Ruth J. Hartmanwas once “normal.” She perceived the world around her as any other person would—until she turned 27. That’s when Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) dug in its claws and refused to let her go. Her world (and her family’s) was turned inside out.

Working as a dental hygienist was difficult enough, but trying to balance her work life with the challenges of OCD was overwhelming. Ruth’s family, friends, and co-workers didn’t understand why she suddenly acted so bizarre. She wanted to help them understand, but she couldn’t. She didn’t understand it herself.

My Life in Mental Chains is moving and tragic, yet in the end, it’s an uplifting story of personal faith and inner strength. Ruth’s insight will be a great comfort to OCD sufferers, their families, and their friends.

Ruth graduated from the Indiana University School of Dentistry with a degree in Science/Dental Hygiene. Her interest in writing, which began in high school, led her to earn her diploma from the Institute of Children’s Literature in “Writing for Children and Teenagers.”   She lives in rural Indiana with her husband and two cats.

Visit her website at www.ruthjhartman.blogspot.com, or contact her at RGHartman@aol.com.

My Life in Mental Chains by Ruth J. Hartman

Published by Pipers’ Ash Ltd., $13.00

Publication Date: November 1, 2008

Non-Fiction, True-Life Story Chapbook

ISBN# 9781906928001

An easy way to order the book is: http://www.supamasu.co.uk/glos.html

(then scroll down to the third book) Or you can e-mail them at pipersash@supamasu.com and request the book.
Interview by Mary Jo Campbell:

(Ruth will be replying to your comments and questions all day, so ask away! And you’ll be entered in the random drawing to receive free a copy of her e-book.)

MJC: I see that you’re a graduate of Institute of Children’s Literature.  I’m a former student as well.  Can you tell me about your experience with this correspondence school for those who are contemplating this form of education?

Ruth: I had a very good experience with them. My instructor was friendly, yet very professional. I was supplied with study guides, practice exercises, and even sample children’s books. I was given deadlines for homework completion, but she was patient with me if I needed a little more time. If someone wants to learn the craft of writing for children and teenagers, I would definitely recommend them.

MJC: As writers, we seem to obsess over everything in the process: plot, theme, wording, characterization and more.  What are the true signs of having an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Can you offer any tips from your book on how you are overcoming this disease?

Ruth: Many people have slight OCD tendencies. It’s when those tendencies grow and begin to take over your life that you’ve got a problem. Mine were so severe; I had to quit my job as a dental hygienist. I couldn’t cope at work anymore. I developed a fear of germs at work. In my line of work, you can imagine how often I came in contact with those! Then the problem started to take over my home life. I washed my hands so often, they were cracked and bleeding. It affected every facet of my life.

Thankfully, I found an excellent psychiatrist who helped me tremendously. But even more than that, I was able to find a medication, Prozac that allows me to function normally again, with only occasional, short-lived occurrences.

MJC: How do you feel that your OCD has either helped or hindered your writing?

Ruth: I think sometimes it actually helps. Although I’d never wish it on anyone! When I have an assignment or story to write, my OCD kicks into overdrive and pushes me to stick with my project until it’s finished. My husband is afraid that one of these days I will actually become physically glued to my laptop! On the flip side, It’s easy to obsess about what people think of my work. Will they like what I’ve written? Will they like me? I just have to remind myself that I can’t please everyone. If I’m happy with my work, that’s enough.

MJC: You’re a published writer of both fiction and nonfiction.  Can you tell us your experience in publishing both types of work?

Ruth: Actually, I’ve only been published in non-fiction. My short story, “A Tale of No Tail” will be published in the January-February issue of “I Love Cats” magazine. It’s about my cat Arthur, who lost his tail when I accidentally closed a screen door before he was all the way in the kitchen. I still feel awful about that! My experience with that magazine was positive as well. But fiction is what I really love to write. I just haven’t found the right publisher for my stories yet.

MJC: Your book, My Life in Mental Chains: My Struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is published by Piper’s Ash, a UK based publisher, yet you live in Indiana (USA).  How did you find this publisher and what was your experience like working with a publisher from overseas, especially since they work with a different currency?

Ruth: I found their listing in the “Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers.” My original query was for a fictional story about a girl with OCD. They replied back that serious subjects such as OCD were better suited for their “True Life Series.” I re-queried with my own experience, and it was accepted. They’ve been wonderful to work with. They’re a small, non-profit publisher, so they only work with a few clients at a time. I’ve gotten personalized attention and they’ve been extremely patient with me. Especially since this is my first book!

There were a few differences between this publisher and an American one. It takes longer for me to receive regular mail from them. I waited six weeks for my five complimentary books. I learned that when their web site lists a certain amount in pounds, as opposed to dollars, I’d be paying twice as much. I guess the good news is, when I get paid an amount in pounds, it will end up being more in our currency! (NOTE: When ordering direct from Pipers Ash, readers should expect to recieve their e-book in the mail within 1-2 weeks.)

Also, one thing I had to get used to: when we use quotation marks, they’re double. In England, they often use single quotes. When I got my page proofs from them, I thought it was a mistake at first. Then I researched it on the Internet and found out that’s a normal practice in the U.K.

MJC: Thank you so much for sharing your writing experiences and your struggles with OCD with the readers here at Writers Inspired.

Be sure to leave your comments for Ruth on today’s post before 12 midnight (CENTRAL) for a chance to win your own copy of Ruth’s e-book: My Life in Chains

MJC:  I s

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24 Comments

Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books

24 responses to “Ruth Hartman: Blog Tour

  1. Jodi

    Ruth,

    Here’s a funny question but, did you do the drawing for your book cover?

  2. Hi Jodi,

    I get that question a lot. But actually, no I didn’t. Pipers’ Ash asked me to send them a picture and their illustrator did a caricature from that. It was funny, because when my Mom saw the cover, she said, “That dress you’re wearing looks really familiar.” That’s because she had made it for me to wear to my brother-in-law’s wedding. “Good eye, Mom!”

    Thanks for the question!

    Ruth

  3. Ruth,
    Is your book available in both print and an ebook format?
    Mary Jo

  4. Hi Mary Jo,

    Yes, it’s available in both forms. It can be ordered from the publisher, Piper’s Ash. The easiest way is to e-mail them at: pipersash@supamasu.com.
    You can then request the book in either form.

    Thanks!

    Ruth

    • Thanks Ruth. I have another question I didn’t ask before: You said you approached Pipers Ash to pitch a children’s story where the main character suffered from OCD, but they requested a nonfiction version told from your experience. How long did it take you to write this new version and did the material from your fiction draft get you further along?

  5. Hi Mary Jo,

    The story idea I had for the fictional children’s story came from my own OCD experiences. So when I decided to submit to their True Life Series, I already had the background for it.

    I originally sent them a query for the children’s story in July of 2008. My book was published in November 2008. I know that’s quick, but they are a small publisher who only work with a few clients at a time. Also, I didn’t have to do any research for the project. It was already in my memories. I just had to sort through them and write them down.

    Ruth

    • Do you think you’ll use these OCD experiences to write another fiction piece, whether for young adults or adult readers?

      Also, what was the editing process like with the small press? Did they make many changes to your original submission?

  6. I think I probably will use the OCD theme again at some point. I’m not sure yet whether it will be for children or adults. But it’s such a part of who I am, it’s hard to ignore its influence in my life.

    Piper’s Ash didn’t make many changes to my story at all. I’m guessing that’s because it was a true life story. They sent me the page proofs through the mail, and I went over them to correct any typos. Then I mailed them back. When I got my original five complimentary books, I found a few more typos. They quickly and gladly made the revisions. They’ve been wonderful to work with!

  7. bronzeword

    Hi Ruth, A UK publisher. Thank you for wanting to write about your experience. I’m sure you thought about it for a long time first. Yet reading your experiences helps us tenfold. I know it has helped me. Thank you so much for taking that risk.
    Jo Ann Hernandez
    http://bronzeword.wordpress.com

  8. Elise

    Ruth,

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. Glad you have a happy ending. How difficult was it for you to share your story with others in the form of this book? I applaud you and wish you all the best in the future…

  9. Thank you for this interview. I don’t know very much about OCD, but I imagine you must have had to overcome some fears putting yourself and your struggles out there in public. How did you deal with your fears about opening up about mental illness?

  10. Hi Jo Ann,

    You’re right. I did have to think about it before telling my story. I was afraid of how others would react. But honestly, everyone has been so supportive. Only one person (that I know of) questioned why I did it. And he had good motives for asking. It still is a little weird at times-having everyone know about my struggles. But I’m so glad to have done it, especially if it helps someone else.

    Ruth

  11. Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for your willingness to share your experiences with all of us. I find myself feeling a little weird about sharing deep struggles with, you know, the world. I find I’m not too shy about anonymous readers but freak out when I think of particular people in my life who, I fear, will be judgmental. Any advice on making the leap to go public with private struggles?

    Thanks, Jenni

    • I have to ditto Jenni. I have been holding back on writing personal essays for that very reason. But, like you said, Ruth, you’re glad to have done it “especially if it helps someone else.” When you started out to write this book, was it more with your audience in mind as a way to help or more as a cathartic journey?

  12. Hi Elise,

    It was difficult at first. I had to get over my qualms about letting everyone know what I’d gone through. Only a small number of people actually knew just how bad it was. Suddenly, I was “out there” with everything. But now I’m glad. It was worth it!

    Ruth

  13. Hi Jennifer,

    It wasn’t easy. For some weird reason, there is still a stigma about mental illness. In this day and age, you’d think there wouldn’t be. It’s improved over time, but it’s still there.

    I had to come to terms with everyone knowing about my illness. Now, when people I know read the book, their comment is usually something like “I had no idea. You went through so much, didn’t you?”

    As far as dealing with my fears of publishing the book, I started small. First I asked my husband’s opinion. He’s my most trusted confident. Then I told a couple of trusted friends. When no one fell over from shock, I began to cautiously tell a few more people. The reactions I was getting were positive, so I took the plunge!

    Ruth

  14. Hi Jenni,

    I guess my advice would be: what would be best for you? Yes, you have to be sensitive to other’s feelings, and not hurt them, but ultimately, is there a way you could tell your story that would not hurt others, but help you?

    I had a dilemma. When it came time in my story to talk about some of the awful things people did to me, and the cruel things they said, how was I going to handle that? I decided to keep every one’s name out of the book. The only two people who are actually named are my husband, Garry, and me. Once I decided I could write the book without naming individuals who had harmed me, it freed me up to write the true story. Then I didn’t have to fear one of those people reading it and coming back to cause trouble for me. Since I didn’t name them, what could they do?

    Ruth

  15. Mary Jo,

    I started out with my audience in mind. I wanted to hopefully help someone else by writing it. But, a side benefit has definitely been for me. The more I wrote, the more I realized I needed to write down my feelings . Getting them down on paper made me face them head on. At first, I was afraid that remembering it all, and going through it again, would trigger my OCD into high gear. But it didn’t. Instead it helped me. More than I ever could have imagined.

    Ruth

  16. Michelle

    Hi Ruth and Mary Jo,
    Thanks so much for sharing all this tremendous information. I think so much of writing is getting over that hurdle of putting yourself out there. Even when a piece isn’t as personal as this, it takes a lot of guts, so I’m amazed at your bravery in putting all this on paper, Ruth. That’s wonderful. I was curious about the process you took for getting the book published. Did you query only to Pipers’ Ash or others as well? Thanks!

  17. Mary Jo,

    Thanks so much for hosting me today. You did a great job! I’ve really enjoyed it!

    Ruth

  18. Ruth,
    When I read that you suffered from OCD and were a dental hygenist, my heart went out to you. Talk about confronting your fears on a daily basis. It must have been awful. I’m so glad you’ve been able to find a home in writing! I’m curious about the number of children who have OCD. Is there an estimate? I ask because you mentioned originally pitching the children’s version of your story. I know I always benefited from stories that reflected my life as a child (e.g., parents getting divorced, questions about puberty, etc.) so I imagine if many kids suffer from OCD your story would definitely benefit them. Thanks for sharing your story.

  19. Hi Michelle,

    For the original children’s story about a girl with OCD, I had already submitted it to several magazines, with no luck. After I submitted it to Pipers’ Ash and they recommended their True Life Story instead, that was as far as it went. They accepted the story in that form. So far, I still haven’t found a publisher for the children’s version

    Ruth

  20. Hi Liz,

    That’s an interesting question about the percentage of kids with OCD. I’m not really sure. I have observed some of my cousins’ kids exhibit those tendencies.

    It’s also interesting that you mention my book might help kids. That actually hadn’t occurred to me. Thank you. That’s a really nice thought. I would love it if it helped a child with this problem.

    Ruth

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