Spotlight on “Wide Awake and Dreaming” Interview with Julie Flygare

Wow! I have been so busy! I meant to post this much earlier. Managed to catch a fun and exciting cold conveniently over my birthday, and have been playing catch up with life since.

Funny how that always seems to happen… never enough time to do what we really want right?

Happily, my dear friend Julie Flygare was able to find time in her busy schedule to grant me an interview following her newly released book “Wide Awake and Dreaming”  and tells us a little bit about what its like to be an author. Julie has proven to be a very special person to me, personally and professionally, and having her as a muse and source of inspiration has truly been a blessing. I asked Julie some questions I thought would be interesting for all of us, in hopes others find her work and the process she went through as inspiring as I did… and perhaps help others to share their own stories in the future.


“Wide Awake and Dreaming”

 Interview with Julie Flygare

Marcia: Thank you Julie for taking the time for this! What inspired you to write your first as a memoir and truly put yourself out there as opposed to something anonymous and or fiction?

Julie: Creative non-fiction is my favorite genre to read and write. I never considered writing something anonymous or fiction, it’s not my writing style. I did change most names to protect personal privacy, even my friends who didn’t want their names changed. These changes were made very late in the process because I found it incredibly distracting and jarring to read my story with different names.

Before your book you went public with your Narcolepsy on many platforms. What are the pros and cons of “outing” yourself as a PWN?

Opening up about my narcolepsy has been very freeing. By being public, I’ve had the opportunity to put a face to this illness, raise awareness daily and open people’s hearts to narcolepsy. If there are any drawbacks or fears, they don’t compare to the power and joy of raising my voice up for a cause I care deeply about.

Do you have a specific writing style? How did you develop this? What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I’m a little old-fashioned and write my first draft all by hand, resulting of countless notebooks of illegible chicken scrawl. I often write so quickly, like a mad-woman, that I can barely re-read my own writing to transcribe it onto my computer.

Describe your process, fave pen? Fave work station? Fave time of day? Fave coffee joint maybe? How when and where did you bring your dream to life?

I write best at home or at a coffee shop – often listening to techno or classical music. I treated writing the first draft of book like a 9-5 job, but unfortunately creative inspiration doesn’t always work on a 9-5 schedule. If I wasn’t inspired, I worked on my blog, edited prior writing or went out running/walking. Oftentimes, a key phrase would hit me while out running and I stopped to type it into my phone before I forgot it. I often woke up from dream-filled naps with words on the tip of my tongue too.  Once I was “in the zone” writing, it was hard to stop and I would be angry when I had to stop to attend a pre-scheduled appointment or meeting.

How did you come up with the title? Were there other options in your head?

In development, the book was called “Racing Dreams” but I never loved this title. Last winter, I wrote out a long list of other possibilities and sent a survey for friends to vote. “Wide Awake and Dreaming” was the most popular by far, so I went with it.  The very first time I heard Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” song on the radio last spring, I panicked – worried she was about to “steal” my book title. Thankfully, she was dreaming, and now she’s wide awake. Phew. 😉

What was your favorite chapter to write and why?

I really enjoyed writing Undertow (Ch. 8) about my festive birthday boat cruise and the dark day that followed it. I enjoyed setting the stage for the  juxtaposition between my happy-go-lucky public life and my disabled terrifying private life at that time.

Is there a message within the message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The take-away messages will likely vary from reader to reader – depending on where individuals find themselves in their life experience. I hope the book provides some tools to re-examine how we view our circumstances – our gifts, challenges, fears and dreams.

What books have most influenced your life most? Are there other authors tackling this subject that you would suggest?

“The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman, “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides, “A Journey Round My Skull” by Frigyes Karinthy, “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” by Jonah Lehrer

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Without a doubt, Dr. Oliver Sacks has been the single most inspiring  and influential writer to me. After first reading “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” – I gained the confidence to stand tall in my shoes and speak my truth, no matter how crazy it may sound to outsiders. As a person with a neurological illness, Dr. Sacks’ writing is SO validating.

What book or books are you reading now?

“Create the Best Life Ever” by Taylor Wells – Taylor is a huge inspiration to me in finding the positives in life and her recently published book is awesome.

You have made your book available both as a physical entity and an eBook. What is your personal preference for reading? How do you think the two differ?

I prefer reading paperback but I have never owned any tablet or e-reader. The ebook format has helped my book reach a broader audience, which is so thrilling! The only thing missing in eBook readers is the ability to hold the beautiful cover design in one’s hands.

Everyone has that one book, old tired stained, broken, all as a result of much love and much use; the one you just can’t part with…. what is that book for you and why does it hold so much value for you?

Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” – I find new wisdom and inspiration in these pages each time I read it, as I move through different stages of my life.

What is the very first book you remember as a child. Either read yourself, or was read to you? Could you share that memory with us?

“The Little Engine that Could” was a childhood favorite. “I think I can, I think I can.” is a great mantra for life. 

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I’m a big fan of Jonah Lehrer’s work – especially his writing about neuroscience and the connections between science and art. If Dr. Emmanuel Mignot were to write a book about his life experiences, I would be first in-line to read it!

What are your current projects? Are you looking to write again soon? Do you see writing as a career?

I love writing and it will always be a part of my life in one way or another, as it’s something in me that I cannot deny. I’d love to make a career of writing. Right now, I’m still catching my breath from the publication process and working on a smaller project which I look forward to revealing soon! 

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?

I may have added a scene about facing misunderstanding from unsupportive friends and family members. I meant to highlight this a bit more. The book highlights the positive influences – like the Dean of Students and my father, which is great, but not a full representation of the spectrum of responses I received.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Your first book being a memoir, do you feel as if you held back?

Looking back, I believe it was easier for me to point out my own weaknesses and flaws over the weaknesses and flaws of others. I wanted to be raw and truthful, but I was also adamant that this book would NOT be a tool to “get back” at anyone who had hurt me along the way. I attempted to strike a fair balance to be objective and not seem bitter or self-pitying, but in doing so, I may have left some powerful scenes. This is my greatest challenge in writing non-fiction and the only way I held back.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book? Will you be signing copies anywhere soon?

I hope to travel and do book-signings. I will keep folks posted on my blog: and Facebook page:

Who designed the cover?

Cecilia Soroshin designed my cover using the artwork of Lucy Hillenbrand. The amazing behind-the-scenes story my cover is here:

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The editing and proof-reading process was hard in unexpected ways.  I often got sleepy doing the tedious edits and continued editing in an episode of “automatic behavior” well past my ability to do good quality work. When I would eventually re-awake, I couldn’t remember where my consciousness fizzled so I had to re-do big sections many times over to ensure accuracy. Also, this process was emotionally draining – as I relived the book’s experiences over and over again each time I re-read them.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I let go of rejection. The publication process is cut-throat, no one will hold your hand or sugar-coat things. For any artist to work towards his/her goals – you must become resilient to rejection.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Entering the publishing world as a “newbie” was very challenging. I knew the literary world would not be easy to enter, everyone is skeptical of new unestablished authors, especially ones like myself who had little publishing experience before attempting a full-length memoir. I was determined though, which helped me through the jungle.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If writing is your life dream, start now! Don’t listen to anyone who tell you can’t do it – they are likely speaking of their own fears and failures, masked as advice to you. Stick with it. If you are determined, you will see your dream through and it will be worth it.

Now doesn’t that just make you want to write?

Thank you so much Julie for everything you do!

OMG She’s Coding!

For National Sleep Awareness Week, I Give You My 100th Post!

So there you are lying on the ground, unable to speak or move but can hear everything around you. If you have a very severe case, (as I do) Your breathing may have become shallow, and your heart may have slowed a bit, but you are not in danger. Being left alone you will get up in a few seconds to a few minutes. But once you hear some well-meaning, unsuspecting stranger try to intervene, your fears kick in, triggering even more cataplexy, and it can take longer and longer for you to get up. It’s like you have one attack after another, after another, after another…

Code Blue? Not always true!

“Coding” is not a word you want to hear during a Cataplexy Attack.
It pretty much ensures someone is going to call 911, and maybe even attempt to “revive” you, possibly break your ribs, bruise your organs or even cause an arrhythmia which could in fact kill you. All this while you are completely conscious, and completely vulnerable. Due to the American Heart Associations Hands Only CPR campaign, the general untrained public has practically been given a legal license to try to be superheroes. I know AHA means well but that literally terrifies me to no end.

AHA’s  website literally states: “It’s not normal to see an adult suddenly collapse, but if you do, call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help.”  This is NOT TRUE. Performing chest compressions in that manner on a heart healthy person is in fact dangerous. In their FAQ , AHA addresses the question of seriously injuring some one who is not in cardiac arrest by reiterating their point of view and suggesting that: Hands-Only CPR could still help by causing the person to respond (begin to move, breathe normally or speak). If that occurs, Hands-OnlyTM CPR can be stopped. Otherwise, chest compressions should continue until EMS providers arrive. For someone dealing with severe cataplexy that is not necessarily true. Especially if fear is a trigger for that person. No one want to be stuck motionless and unable to respond while their ribs are being broken. Which, according to AHA FAQ, happens at least 1/3 of the time.

Now, to be VERY clear, I am not saying attempting to save someones life is not important. But I truly believe if you see this happen to someone, If you see someone fall like this, you should always always always check for medical alerts first. More and more people with narcolepsy are carrying information on them in some manner to alert others to their condition. Please take half a second to look for wrist bands, necklaces, and ICE contacts in cellphones. Even if you do this, and THEN start chest compressions, you are still acting faster than the ambulance can get there.

Coding and More Coding:
Using QR codes to avoid mistaken blue codes is my new favorite thing.  Using QR codes for medical alert information is gaining in popularity as the technology for scanning them has become available to the general public via smart phones… If a person stopping to help you in an emergency has a smart phone they can access the information that you provide on your personal QR Code with a simple scan. These things have more room for more information making a description of Narcolepsy, Cataplexy and how to deal with it more complete. Even if you haven’t simply fallen down, and truly do need medical attention, they will need to know other basic information about you and that people many with Narcolepsy have issues with anesthesia. Something like that could truly save your life. You can also link to websites for more information. And since the person who is helping likely knows how to work their phone really well,  it will be quicker and easier for them than looking at a tag that says “narcolepsy” and then trying to Google it if they don’t know what it is. (Or worse saw it in a movie!) There are organizations and companies that provide services to develop these QR codes for you for a fee, but it is also really easy to do yourself if you are just planning to stick to the basics. Here is a list of free QR Code Generators that might work to suit your needs if you plan to go this route!

I am not trying to be an alarmist…

The post is based on my experiences,and triggers of my *version* of  Narcolepsy & Cataplexy, which happens to be very severe. (I am well aware that it is not this bad for many people, no need to bring that to my attention.) My fears of falling in public have driven me to solitude, and severe social anxiety. It’s difficult to explain to others that I am afraid of  being in public and people, because I fear they might injure me in some way, and have them  understand that with my condition and the lack of general public knowledge of this disorder, that is a very real possibility for me. (I have actually developed many fears as a result of my diagnosis. I will have to get into that some day…) My anxiety, though admittedly, perhaps extreme, are based on facts, logic and personal history. And they are very real.  (Side note: I have suffered physical abuse by EMT’s who were attempting to make me stop “faking it”, I have been taken advantage of simply because I could not move, seemingly unconscious and unable to defend myself, and I know many other people this has happened to as well. It’s the scary stuff, the taboo subjects of narcolepsy, that no one wants to address. But it is there. And it is real.)  Look around yourself in your world. How much do the people in your area know about narcolepsy and cataplexy? How safe are you from your would be saviors?

I implore you to do something about this. Wear your tags. Carry your wallet card. National Sleep Awareness Week is this week, March 4-11 2012. If you did not have time to organize an event to spread awareness on a large-scale, at least take steps to protect yourself from well-meaning bystanders. Personally drop off pamphlets from your doctor or organizations such Narcolepsy Network, Wake Up Narcolepsy or The National Sleep Foundation, to EMS, police and fire responders, close to your home and work locations. Take a few minutes to explain them the importance of them understanding and encourage them to ask questions. Nothing is scarier than hearing an EMT say: “Cataplexy? Whats that?” and then listen as they accuse you of faking a seizure, or juice up their defibrillator.

Busy Busy Blogger Bee (Version 11.12.22)

Yeah, so, sorry this is late! Was busy with holidays and recovering from holidays and recovering from recovering and so on and so forth…. Anyhow, I have been reading some REALLY good stuff. Things have been very up and down for me lately, and I have found incredibly inspiring work this season to keep things afloat. I may not have had much to say the last few months, but I assure you I have been paying very close attention….

So here are my top five blog post from the Fall of 2011! I hope you find them as interesting and inspirational as I have.

1. And the Universe Conspires…

Bonnie Copland is a life coach with a really great blog that I discovered in early October. Its almost as if the stars aligned for me to find her when I did because this blog post ( …and the blog post of her friend Deeone, as mentioned in her blog post) Truly resonated with me at that time coming just after the 25th Annual Narcolepsy Network Conference.  I could understand more clearly through these articles that I was putting off my own metamorphosis by constantly dealing with the challenges and changes of others. I have let my own life fall to the cracks in favor of helping others, and am still to this day trying to repair that damage and needless neglect. Since finding Ms. Copeland, I have found many of the things she has written or posted on her video blogs useful, but this is the post that changed me and has pointed me in a direction with greater balance and new focus. I particularly love that their is a chain of inspiration here. Beginning with letters from his late mother, Deeone Higgs, to Bonnie Copeland, and now myself. I imagine this has spider webbed dramatically to others as well, and I hope that my readers will also be inspired by their words.

2. Hannah Harto : My Drunk Kitchen

Here is something new! I am adding a YouTube Video Series to my  Top Five Blog List! Technically Not a Blog or a Vlog, “My Drunk Kitchen” Has provided me with soooo many hours of *pee your pants* entertainment, it would be blasphemy to not include it. I literally buy a bottle of wine in anticipation of her next video. It just seems like the right thing to do. Never fear, She always tries to end with an important message and I am glad that she does… because sometimes the best world perspectives come from drunk people. ( At least, that is what I tell myself when I’m completely crocked.)  With such important advice like ” Just be confidant about everything and people will think your good at things.” and “Really people are just looking for ways to transport cheese into their mouth. All the food that involves cheese is just an excuse to eat cheese. Thats life. You know how thats like life? Because we think we are going after something, but really we are just hiding from ourselves the thing we actually want. And that is to just bite into the cheese.”  (episode 12: Pizza) As with most people under the influence, she’s got a mouth on her, so if you are easily offended by that, you might skip this one…  Though I really hope you wont!

3. Candies for a Cause A Sweet Way to Raise Awareness

This Blog by fellow recently Diagnosed PWN, Really struck me. So many people when they are first diagnosed with Narcolepsy go through the whole grief process, but this woman, just seems to have trucked right through it and I am sooo proud of her for that. I was thrilled to see her feature a guest who handed out candy for awareness. It was really a good idea and I hope that concept catches on with more of us in the Christmas’s to follow! I certainly hope to do it myself next year!

4. District of Sculpture Photographer Julie Flygare Wins First Place in Foto Week DC’s Internarional Awards Compititon 2011

Julie Won an AWARD!!! I am so extremely proud of her! Julies photograph, “MLK’s Spirit Walking,” Was given First Place in the 2011 FotoWeek DC‘s International Awards Competition for the “Mobile Phone Spirit of DC” category.  She took a series of photos shortly after the new MLK Memorial went up, all of which were astounding, and I am so very pleased that she was honored in this respect. Many of us know Julie from her own Narcolepsy blog: District of Sculpture is another blog project of hers that I truly appreciate. Too often I am unable to get out and admire and muse about the things around us. The sculptures and stories that Julie shares with us here are just one more way I can leave my own boring reality and walk into another…. and more often than not, learn something at the same time. If you are like me and cant get enough of Julie, check out her photography site also!

( Bravo to Julie for making this list twice!)

5. Small Spaces Pets: The Climber

This is my new favorite blog for this quarter! And its old! No activity since January of 2009, I am lucky to find it at all! I was searching for new ways to entertain Musashi, Miyako, and Kohaku, when I found this blog post. And it is BRILLIANT. (I want one of these Pet Climbers sooo bad!)  After reading this I literally spent hours coming through the other post here, and I am still not done! I truly hope what ever is keeping this Incognito Pittsburgh Couple from continuing with this will subside, and there will be much more to come from them soon!

So As a heads up my next quarterly Blogger Bee post is due days before my sisters wedding, so please be patient with me as it will undoubtedly be late also. Already since Christmas, I have found things that just might make the cut! Im excited to share them with you!

For those of you who find blogs and posting links to them to Twitter or Facebook, I do read those! keep doing it! I have a vast array of interest and am always interested in seeing what is new out there… So show us what your reading too!

I am a Sleep Nazi? 0_o

Wanted to share this funny Facebook post from my friends.
My friends who year’s later still don’t get it.
Meh, you’ll have that.
(They are Daywalkers so we must forgive them for it is written: “Forgiveth Daywalkers, and bring not wrath upon them, for they are mad stupid, and know not what they do, or anything else for that mattereth.”)

A Quote For a Friend:

I read this quote today and thought of a good friend of mine who I sincerely wish him the best of luck on his current endeavors…

 If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.

 ~Rabindranath Tagore

Funny How a Nobel Prize winner from the turn of the century, wrote something so many years ago that it makes me think of someone I know today. There has to be some sort of time travel paradox in here somewhere!  (Or more likely, It is late and I am tired!)

Best Quotes for Narcolepsy

Most of my fave quotes are from Alice in Wonderland.

They describe my life perfectly.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.
Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.
And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be.
And what it wouldn’t be, it would.”
~ Alice in Wonderland
“You might just as well say, that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe!” ~ The Dormouse, Alice in Wonderland
“I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir, because I’m not myself you see.” ~Alice in Wonderland

“I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and I don’t believe you do either!” ~ Alice in Wonderland  ( Who hasn’t had *that * doctor at least once?)

Anyone with Narcolepsy can truly understand these and Relate.
I will update this post occasionally.