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October 2012 Archives

Memoirist and fiction writer, Nancy Agabian, who teaches creative writing at NYU Gallatin and also leads her own writing group has generously invited me to join the "Blog Hop." Nancy calls blog hopping "an internet, chain mail, Q&A dance." 

Writer, Nancy Agabian

All of the following writers have answered questions about their present book projects:  Nancy Agabian, Gint Aras, Beth Neff, Ryka Aoki, and I.  At the end of my Q&A, I invite you to "blog hop" to the other writers listed to read their answers!  

Amelia M.L. Montes---

Q: What is the working title of your book?
A: The Diabetes Chronicles (a "very" "working" title because I don't think such a title will sell). I'm hoping that a different title will come to me as I continue revising. 

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: During the summer of 2010, I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I had already been researching Diabetes in my family and that of other immigrant Mexican families--weaving in fictional scenes (imagining the moment various family members were told they had Diabetes) with non-fiction (medical information and medical history having to do with Diabetes). Later, when I was diagnosed, I experienced an entirely new learning curve.  I have observed the disease from "outside" of diagnosis and now from being directly affected by it. The responses I've received when I read excerpts or post mini-sections on my blog tells me that people are interested and hungry for this information because this disease is affecting so many people.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: Creative non-fiction: medical information weaved into a one-act play, memoir, journal entries, poetry, newspaper articles, recipes . . .

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A:The Diabetes Chronicles is about a woman's coming to terms with diabetes, a disease created by multiple histories/multiple nations and various people (lovers, relatives, friends) around her who either have it or are affected by it. 

 Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: --represented by an agency

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: The problem in answering this question is that I don't remember when the first draft ended and the second draft began because it's now in so many advanced stages.  Wow--difficult question to answer.  I will guess and say that the first draft lived for about a year--from 2010-2011. 

 Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: Lately I've been reading a number of memoirs that are working with broad societal issues as well as personal.  Kristen Iversen's book, Full Body Burden:  Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats is a good example of the genre.  Her book focuses on the Rocky Flats nuclear site near where she grew up in Colorado.  The families who lived in that area (which included Kristen's family) were not told about the dangers of radiation that were present in the water they played in and drank.  As well, there were secrets in her family too. Iversen is looking at a serious national/global issue while also delving into her own individual family.  This is what I'm doing with "The Diabetes Chronicles."

 Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: Diabetes inspired me to write this book!  I am passionately interested in researching the history of Diabetes, taking classes on Diabetes management, and I'm so glad I formed my own Diabetes Support Book Group with women who are very willing to talk about the disease.  I also have realized that there is a lot of misinformation out there.  I want to help others with this chronic ailment.  People are very interested in finding out how to prevent or manage the disease.

Q: What else about your book might piqué the reader's interest?
A: It's a book about love--learning to love every aspect of yourself, learning to love others despite disease, dysfunctional family histories, and a society that continually places profit over truth which then leads to serious illness in the population. 

I also post excerpts or pieces I may or may not include in the book that work well for a blog post.  Here's a piece I just posted recently:  CLICK HERE

Continue the "Blog Hop" by checking out: 

Nancy Agabian

Gint Aras

Beth Neff

Ryka Aoki


"All Flesh" is what I seek to know . . .

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Historians are not sure whether it was the 1st or 2nd century (AD) when Ruphos, a Greek anatomist (working in Asia Minor), gave the name "pancreas" to the long and ruddy gland tucked deep in the abdomen behind the stomach.  The gland at its longest is about 5-6 inches (that's long for being squished between the stomach and the spine). Its wet clay hue prompted Ruphos (I'm guessing of course) to think of "flesh" and not only "flesh" but "all flesh" (yes, that is the exact translation of "pancreas").  Maybe the flat tapered shape prompted the name "all"-- "all flesh" (encompassing many secrets). For me, the gland has always reminded me of a paisley design. Perhaps I would have named it "all paisley."


Sometimes I imagine the pancreas dressed in a myriad of colors-- multiple pancreas/paisley "all flesh" floating about . . . 


It's a way to make it friendlier-- to connect with the gland, claim it in order to further study it.  But since I am a lover of literature, I think of Christina Rosetti's poem "All Flesh is Grass"--the lines, "So brief a life, and then an endless life/Or endless death; So brief a life, then endless peace or strife . . ."  Rosetti is contemplating Isaiah in the Old Testament (40:6), but I can't help to think about the paisley pancreas.  It so briefly attends to a body's needs (because we live finite lives) but will expire sooner (lose its paisely whimsy) if it's not working properly. "All flesh" but no power if the pancreas is not treated well, resulting in "endless strife"--better known as unmanaged Diabetes. And here is yet another term. 

Diabetes is a Greek word.  Translation:  "a siphon."  The Greek physician, Aretus the Cappadocian, named the disease "a siphon" due to one of the complications from Diabetes which is constant urination or "passing water like a siphon."  
"Sweet water" was another name for Diabetes because of the high glucose content in the urine.  This is how they diagnosed patients at the time.  They would place drops of urine near anthills.  If the ants swirled round the urine, they knew the patient had a high content of sugar in the body.  It was a rudimentary test--but effective. 

Today we know that collecting urine to determine glucose levels will not effectively tell us the amount of glucose in an individual. By the time you test your urine, the levels of glucose in your bloodstream will be different.  That is why testing a drop of blood will reveal a more immediate glucose level. Sweet water, however, is a lovely term. It reminds me of the Yoruban Orisha deity, Oshun, whose domain is sweet or fresh water.  And ironically, Oshun is known for healing the sick. 


So I take these images, these historical discoveries, and my own creative imaginings to connect with "All Flesh," to understand what it does so that then I may continue navigating its actions.  It is important to be the keeper of one's pancreas, to achieve agency and engage it.  

After three years of study, I know the pancreas that is afflicted with Diabetes needs stimulation (exercise), I know it has a very low threshold for dealing with too much glucose (maintain a low carb diet!), I know it can slip away like a paramecium and get out of control if one gets a cold, manifests stress, experiences trauma, loses sleep, etc.  Here-- meditation is the key!  

One of the most important things to do is make friends with this flat oblong gland.  I suppose that's why Ruphus named it. What must it have been like the first time he held one in his hands?  He had no idea about its function.  In fact for a long time it was thought of as an artery or vein yet others doubted that theory because no blood ever came out of it.  It wasn't until the mid 1800s that the first descriptions of the gland as an endocrine system were established.  --such a slow process to figure out a disease that actually wasn't considered an epidemic like it is today.