MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012




Rick has hand selected his most successful teachers and mentors to work with YOU during this up close and personal weekend



Attention: Experts, entreprenuers, authors and those reinventing your lives... Do you want to expand your brand, reputation and earnings as the authority in your field? After 3 days at Author101University youll leave with the precise tools to propel yourself into the top 3% of any industry.
Are you curious about what publishers like Harper Collins, Morgan James, Adams Media, Wiley, Random House, and Simon & Schuster are looking for? What is the best way to get your manuscript read when you're an unpublished author? Want to know the biggest mistakes to avoid when writing book proposals? You'll be engaged as these top pros share their expertise, reveal the inner workings of the publishing industry, and discuss various approaches to common marketing and publishing challenges.



CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP/INFORMATION

Monday, January 30, 2012

Register For Tomorrows FREE Webinar Now!

12 Hints for Rekindling Your Creative Spark

Getting inspired is the easy part. The difficult task for the loneliness of the long-distance artist is staying inspired. Based on years of experience managing and coaching writers, Dr. Atchity will share tips that will guarantee your ability to maintain your inspiration over the long range that may be necessary before you “get lucky.”

About the Presenter
Dr. Atchity is the author of 15 books, including A Writer’s Time, Writing Treatments That Sell, and How to Publish Your Novel. He’s worked successfully in nearly every area of the publishing and entertainment business, and has spent his lifetime helping writers get started with and improve their careers. As founder and head of Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., The Writer’s Lifeline, Inc., including Atchity Productions and Story Merchant, and The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC. he has produced nearly 30 films in the past 20 years for major studios, television broadcasters, and independent distribution. He is currently nominated for an Emmy for “The Kennedy Detail,” based on the New York Times bestselling book he developed. For nearly twenty years before, as professor of literature and teacher of creative writing at Occidental College and UCLA, he helped literally hundreds of writers find a market for their work by bringing their craft and technique to the level of their ambition and vision. During his time at Occidental, he also served as a regular reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Register Now


Sunday, January 29, 2012




Rick has hand selected his most successful teachers and mentors to work with YOU during this up close and personal weekend



Attention: Experts, entreprenuers, authors and those reinventing your lives... Do you want to expand your brand, reputation and earnings as the authority in your field? After 3 days at Author101University youll leave with the precise tools to propel yourself into the top 3% of any industry.
Are you curious about what publishers like Harper Collins, Morgan James, Adams Media, Wiley, Random House, and Simon & Schuster are looking for? What is the best way to get your manuscript read when you're an unpublished author? Want to know the biggest mistakes to avoid when writing book proposals? You'll be engaged as these top pros share their expertise, reveal the inner workings of the publishing industry, and discuss various approaches to common marketing and publishing challenges.



CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP/INFORMATION

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Story Merchant Client Clint Hill Helps with Identifications at the JFK Library

jfklibrary.org


Clint Hill at the Kennedy Library

Former Secret Service agent Clint Hill sits down with Kennedy Library metadata catalogers working on our digitization project. During the administration, Mr. Hill was assigned to protect Jacqueline Kennedy, and he became a nationally recognized figure because of his quick action during the events of November 22, 1963. Mr. Hill collaborated with former Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine and writer Lisa McCubbin (in photograph, on Mr. Hill’s left) on the recent book The Kennedy Detail. While here to do research for his own upcoming book with Ms. McCubbin on his experiences guarding Mrs. Kennedy, Mr. Hill took the time to help our archivists and metadata catalogers with some of the unknown people and places in our photographic holdings.

Register Now For My January 31st Webinar At Author Learning Center














12 Hints for Rekindling Your Creative Spark




 
 


   
   
   
   
 
 




Getting inspired is the easy part. The difficult task for the
loneliness of the long-distance artist is staying inspired. Based on
years of experience managing and coaching writers, Dr. Atchity will
share tips that will guarantee your ability to maintain your inspiration
 over the long range that may be necessary before you “get lucky.”




About the Presenter

Dr. Atchity is the author of 15 books, including A Writer’s Time,
Writing Treatments That Sell, and How to Publish Your Novel. He’s worked
 successfully in nearly every area of the publishing and entertainment
business, and has spent his lifetime helping writers get started with
and improve their careers. As founder and head of Atchity Entertainment
International, Inc., The Writer’s Lifeline, Inc., including Atchity
Productions and Story Merchant, and The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC. he
has produced nearly 30 films in the past 20 years for major studios,
television broadcasters, and independent distribution. He is currently
nominated for an Emmy for “The Kennedy Detail,” based on the New York
Times bestselling book he developed. For nearly twenty years before, as
professor of literature and teacher of creative writing at Occidental
College and UCLA, he helped literally hundreds of writers find a market
for their work by bringing their craft and technique to the level of
their ambition and vision. During his time at Occidental, he also served
 as a regular reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.




Register Now





Thursday, January 26, 2012

Register Now For My January 31st Webinar At Author Learning Center

12 Hints for Rekindling Your Creative Spark

Getting inspired is the easy part. The difficult task for the loneliness of the long-distance artist is staying inspired. Based on years of experience managing and coaching writers, Dr. Atchity will share tips that will guarantee your ability to maintain your inspiration over the long range that may be necessary before you “get lucky.”

About the Presenter
Dr. Atchity is the author of 15 books, including A Writer’s Time, Writing Treatments That Sell, and How to Publish Your Novel. He’s worked successfully in nearly every area of the publishing and entertainment business, and has spent his lifetime helping writers get started with and improve their careers. As founder and head of Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., The Writer’s Lifeline, Inc., including Atchity Productions and Story Merchant, and The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC. he has produced nearly 30 films in the past 20 years for major studios, television broadcasters, and independent distribution. He is currently nominated for an Emmy for “The Kennedy Detail,” based on the New York Times bestselling book he developed. For nearly twenty years before, as professor of literature and teacher of creative writing at Occidental College and UCLA, he helped literally hundreds of writers find a market for their work by bringing their craft and technique to the level of their ambition and vision. During his time at Occidental, he also served as a regular reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Register Now


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Register Now For My January 25th or 31st Webinar At Author Learning Center


12 Hints for Rekindling Your Creative Spark

Getting inspired is the easy part. The difficult task for the loneliness of the long-distance artist is staying inspired. Based on years of experience managing and coaching writers, Dr. Atchity will share tips that will guarantee your ability to maintain your inspiration over the long range that may be necessary before you “get lucky.”

About the Presenter
Dr. Atchity is the author of 15 books, including A Writer’s Time, Writing Treatments That Sell, and How to Publish Your Novel. He’s worked successfully in nearly every area of the publishing and entertainment business, and has spent his lifetime helping writers get started with and improve their careers. As founder and head of Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., The Writer’s Lifeline, Inc., including Atchity Productions and Story Merchant, and The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC. he has produced nearly 30 films in the past 20 years for major studios, television broadcasters, and independent distribution. He is currently nominated for an Emmy for “The Kennedy Detail,” based on the New York Times bestselling book he developed. For nearly twenty years before, as professor of literature and teacher of creative writing at Occidental College and UCLA, he helped literally hundreds of writers find a market for their work by bringing their craft and technique to the level of their ambition and vision. During his time at Occidental, he also served as a regular reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Register Now

Monday, January 23, 2012




Rick has hand selected his most successful teachers and mentors to work with YOU during this up close and personal weekend



Attention: Experts, entreprenuers, authors and those reinventing your lives... Do you want to expand your brand, reputation and earnings as the authority in your field? After 3 days at Author101University youll leave with the precise tools to propel yourself into the top 3% of any industry.
Are you curious about what publishers like Harper Collins, Morgan James, Adams Media, Wiley, Random House, and Simon & Schuster are looking for? What is the best way to get your manuscript read when you're an unpublished author? Want to know the biggest mistakes to avoid when writing book proposals? You'll be engaged as these top pros share their expertise, reveal the inner workings of the publishing industry, and discuss various approaches to common marketing and publishing challenges.



CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP/INFORMATION

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Register Now For My January 25th or 31st Webinar At Author Learning Center


12 Hints for Rekindling Your Creative Spark

Getting inspired is the easy part. The difficult task for the loneliness of the long-distance artist is staying inspired. Based on years of experience managing and coaching writers, Dr. Atchity will share tips that will guarantee your ability to maintain your inspiration over the long range that may be necessary before you “get lucky.”

About the Presenter
Dr. Atchity is the author of 15 books, including A Writer’s Time, Writing Treatments That Sell, and How to Publish Your Novel. He’s worked successfully in nearly every area of the publishing and entertainment business, and has spent his lifetime helping writers get started with and improve their careers. As founder and head of Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., The Writer’s Lifeline, Inc., including Atchity Productions and Story Merchant, and The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC. he has produced nearly 30 films in the past 20 years for major studios, television broadcasters, and independent distribution. He is currently nominated for an Emmy for “The Kennedy Detail,” based on the New York Times bestselling book he developed. For nearly twenty years before, as professor of literature and teacher of creative writing at Occidental College and UCLA, he helped literally hundreds of writers find a market for their work by bringing their craft and technique to the level of their ambition and vision. During his time at Occidental, he also served as a regular reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Register Now

Friday, January 20, 2012

Guest Post: The Girl with the Evil Psychiatrist by Dennis Palumbo

Hollywood on the Couch

The inside scoop on Tinseltown, USA.

Why are male therapists now portrayed as villains in movies and on TV?

Two iconic images, from two classic films: in Now, Voyager, kindly therapist Claude Rains walks in the garden with troubled patient Bette Davis. He's paternal, insightful and obviously knows what's good for her.

In The Three Faces of Eve, psychologist Lee J. Cobb helps Joanne Woodward parse out the three distinct personalities tormenting her. Like Claude Rains before him, he's a model of the patriarchal culture, a clinician of unquestionable motives and unimpeachable authority. One of the good guys.

Now, flash forward 40 or so years, to The Silence of the Lambs, in which Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist with an unusually carnivorous interest in his patients. Or anybody else crossing his path, like that poor census taker who once knocked on his door. ("I ate his liver with some fava beans, and a nice Chianti.")

More recently, in Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest), we have evil psychiatrist Peter Teleborian. Not only does he sexually molest adolescent Lisbeth Salander while she's under his care, he's also addicted to Internet kiddie porn.

Which begs the question: How did we get from Claude Rains to Hannibal the Cannibal, from Lee J. Cobb to Peter Teleborian?

Because, with rare exceptions, that's where we are. Look at how male therapists are now depicted in mainstream Hollywood films. Instead of being shown as caretakers, they're portrayed as troubled, sexually predatory, even psychotic: in the past two decades, we've had Bruce Willis in The Color of Night, Richard Gere in Final Analysis, Robert DeNiro in Hide and Seek and Brian Cox in Running with Scissors. And of course, as mentioned above, the wearily omnipresent Dr. Lecter, in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon and, most recently, Hannibal Rising.

Things aren't much better on the small screen. On TV shows like Law and Order: SVU, The Closer and CSI, a male psychologist or psychiatrist is as likely to be the bad guy as any garden-variety contract killer or spurned lover.

Of course, as a former screenwriter myself (now a licensed psychotherapist), I know enough to be skeptical of Hollywood's notion of any profession...but still, I can't help wondering what's going on.

What makes this trend even more irksome is the contrast with the predominant depiction of female therapists on-screen: in recent years, we've had Barbra Streisand's Dr. Lowenstein in The Prince of Tides. Lorraine Bracco's Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos. Carolyn McCormack's earnest Dr. Olivet on the above-mentioned Law and Order franchise. And, just this past year, Julia Ormond as Vincent D'Onofrio's therapist on L&O: Criminal Intent, as well as Callie Thorne as a sports psychologist on USA's Necessary Roughness.

(In some attempt at balance, I guess I should mention Birds of Prey, the short-lived superhero series of some years back, in which Mia Sara played an evil female psychiatrist named Dr. Harley Quinn. Grandiose, homicidal, the works. Then again, what else would you expect of the Joker's girlfriend?)

Don't get me wrong. There have been the occasional positive portrayals of male therapists on film and TV: Judd Hirsch in the Oscar-winning Ordinary People. Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. And, to cite Law and Order again, J.F. Simmons' wonderful, testy police consultant, Dr. Emil Skoda. Not to mention Gabriel Byrne in HBO's In Treatment, playing a therapist who, though certainly flawed, ultimately has his heart in the right place.

But these are clearly exceptions. The question is, why? What happened? How did the on-screen image of male therapist go from father figure to the most likely suspect?

Maybe this change simply reflects one that's occurred in the culture at large. After all, the past fifty years has seen a challenge to the whole idea of male authority. In terms of image, professors, doctors and scientists of the male persuasion have suddenly gone from being saints to sinners. Same with male therapists. No wonder today's TV and film writers find them irresistible as villains. All that education, respectability and power, turned to the Dark Side.

But it wasn't just society's growing distrust of male authority that turned Lee J. Cobb's gray suit and pipe into Anthony Hopkins' face muzzle and leather restraints. There was also a trend, starting in the 50's, of popular films that threw extremely cold water on the notion of psychological treatment as a positive tool to alleviate suffering. Films like The Manchurian Candidate (and its recent remake), The Snake Pit, and One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest all suggested the nefarious ways that psychology could be exploited or used for evil, often conflating its concepts with those of brain-washing and drug-induced manipulation.

Even such recent films as A Beautiful Mind depicted the horrendous misuse of electro-convulsive therapy -- at the hands, of course, of a cooly assured, unfeeling male psychiatrist. (As opposed to its somewhat benign use in the series finale of Showtime's Homeland, in which Claire Danes' sister, a kindly psychiatrist, looks on with concern.)

Let's face it: the world's a pretty treacherous, confusing place nowadays. Our most sturdy institutions -- government, the church, education -- traditionally headed by men, seem to be letting us down. It's no different with psychotherapy. Fairly or not, I believe the way in which male therapists are portrayed on screen reflects a similar disenchantment with both the profession in general, and its male practitioners in particular.

Which is why, when I started writing a series of mystery novels (Mirror Image and its sequel, Fever Dream), I wanted my amateur sleuth to be a therapist. Flawed, yes. Psychologist Daniel Rinaldi is certainly that. Troubled, stubborn, and with a temper. But someone trying desperately to make a difference. To help others on the path to healing, even if only as a way to come to some kind of peace himself.

My point is, if Daniel Rinaldi's mission as a therapist is to treat those crippled by trauma, I guess one of my goals as a writer is to help resuscitate the image of the mental health professional. Particularly male. Particularly in today's harsh, cynical world.

Because nowadays, much like Catholic priests, the male therapist suffers from the failed expectations of a disillusioned public. He's been transformed, regrettably, into just another stock character -- our distrust and suspicion buffed to a stereotypical finish by the narrative demands of TV and film.

So now, to the hallowed celluloid images of "tough" private eye, "brilliant" physician and "ruthless" attorney, we can add the unethical, manipulative and frequently homicidal male therapist. Coming to a theater -- or TV screen -- near you!

Hmm. Sounds like we could all use a walk with Claude Rains right about now...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Register For My January 25th or 31st Webinar At Author Learning Center


12 Hints for Rekindling Your Creative Spark

Getting inspired is the easy part. The difficult task for the loneliness of the long-distance artist is staying inspired. Based on years of experience managing and coaching writers, Dr. Atchity will share tips that will guarantee your ability to maintain your inspiration over the long range that may be necessary before you “get lucky.”

About the Presenter
Dr. Atchity is the author of 15 books, including A Writer’s Time, Writing Treatments That Sell, and How to Publish Your Novel. He’s worked successfully in nearly every area of the publishing and entertainment business, and has spent his lifetime helping writers get started with and improve their careers. As founder and head of Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., The Writer’s Lifeline, Inc., including Atchity Productions and Story Merchant, and The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC. he has produced nearly 30 films in the past 20 years for major studios, television broadcasters, and independent distribution. He is currently nominated for an Emmy for “The Kennedy Detail,” based on the New York Times bestselling book he developed. For nearly twenty years before, as professor of literature and teacher of creative writing at Occidental College and UCLA, he helped literally hundreds of writers find a market for their work by bringing their craft and technique to the level of their ambition and vision. During his time at Occidental, he also served as a regular reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Register Now

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Register For My January 25 th or 31st Webinar at Author Learning Center

The next 10 people to respond will receive a free copy of William Diehl’s Seven Ways to Die, in exchange for a promise to review it.

12 Hints for Rekindling Your Creative Spark

Getting inspired is the easy part. The difficult task for the loneliness of the long-distance artist is staying inspired. Based on years of experience managing and coaching writers, Dr. Atchity will share tips that will guarantee your ability to maintain your inspiration over the long range that may be necessary before you “get lucky.”

About the Presenter
Dr. Atchity is the author of 15 books, including A Writer’s Time, Writing Treatments That Sell, and How to Publish Your Novel. He’s worked successfully in nearly every area of the publishing and entertainment business, and has spent his lifetime helping writers get started with and improve their careers. As founder and head of Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., The Writer’s Lifeline, Inc., including Atchity Productions and Story Merchant, and The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC. he has produced nearly 30 films in the past 20 years for major studios, television broadcasters, and independent distribution. He is currently nominated for an Emmy for “The Kennedy Detail,” based on the New York Times bestselling book he developed. For nearly twenty years before, as professor of literature and teacher of creative writing at Occidental College and UCLA, he helped literally hundreds of writers find a market for their work by bringing their craft and technique to the level of their ambition and vision. During his time at Occidental, he also served as a regular reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Register Now

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stuart Connelly's BEHIND THE DREAM


BEHIND THE DREAM
The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation

Author: Jones, Clarence B.
Author: Connelly, Stuart


A star is assigned to books of unusual merit, determined by the editors of Kirkus Reviews.


With the assistance of filmmaker and Huffington Post contributor Connelly, Jones, who was present at the creation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, revisits the forces that generated the 1963 March on Washington and that animated the speech that now represents an entire era.

Essential reading about a moment of surpassing political and moral importance







On August 28, 1963, a photographer working for the United States Information Agency (USIA) took a picture which has become an iconic image of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The photograph, in the holdings of the National Archives, is of a young African-American girl, holding a March on Washington banner and concentrating intently on the scene before her. The image has been reproduced countless times in history books, on calendars and most recently in the National Park Service brochure for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. Edith Lee-Payne of Detroit, Michigan, celebrated her 12th birthday by attending the March on Washington with her mother. She had no idea she had been photographed, let alone that over the years her face had become so well-known. Recently her sister saw the photograph in a calendar celebrating African-American history. She told Ms. Lee-Payne, who says she is still "in shock." Also appearing in the video is National Archives supervisory archivist Ed McCarter and the photographer to whom the image is attributed, Rowland Scherman. In addition to the famous image of Ms. Lee-Payne, many other USIA photos from that day are shown

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Author 101 University - A Crash Course in Publishing Success - March 1st - 4th




Rick has hand selected his most successful teachers and mentors to work with YOU during this up close and personal weekend



Attention: Experts, entreprenuers, authors and those reinventing your lives... Do you want to expand your brand, reputation and earnings as the authority in your field? After 3 days at Author101University youll leave with the precise tools to propel yourself into the top 3% of any industry.
Are you curious about what publishers like Harper Collins, Morgan James, Adams Media, Wiley, Random House, and Simon & Schuster are looking for? What is the best way to get your manuscript read when you're an unpublished author? Want to know the biggest mistakes to avoid when writing book proposals? You'll be engaged as these top pros share their expertise, reveal the inner workings of the publishing industry, and discuss various approaches to common marketing and publishing challenges.



CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP/INFORMATION

Friday, January 13, 2012

Free Mystery-writing workshop, Sunday, January 15th With Dennis Palumbo




Dennis Palumbo will be teaching a FREE mystery-writing workshop and then signing copies of his latest Daniel Rinaldi mystery, FEVER DREAM, at Vroman's Bookstore this coming Sunday, January 15th, at 4 PM.

Here's the info: Sunday, 4-6 PM

Writing workshop and book signing

Vroman’s Bookstore

695 E. Colorado Blvd.

Pasadena, CA. 91101

Contact: Jen Ramos (626) 449-5320




Rick has hand selected his most successful teachers and mentors to work with YOU during this up close and personal weekend



Attention: Experts, entreprenuers, authors and those reinventing your lives... Do you want to expand your brand, reputation and earnings as the authority in your field? After 3 days at Author101University youll leave with the precise tools to propel yourself into the top 3% of any industry.
 
Are you curious about what publishers like Harper Collins, Morgan James, Adams Media, Wiley, Random House, and Simon & Schuster are looking for? What is the best way to get your manuscript read when you're an unpublished author? Want to know the biggest mistakes to avoid when writing book proposals? You'll be engaged as these top pros share their expertise, reveal the inner workings of the publishing industry, and discuss various approaches to common marketing and publishing challenges.



CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP/INFORMATION

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lisa Wilson and Myles Nestel Launch New International Sales and Financing Company




http://www.hollywoodreporter.com



by Pamela McClintock


The Solution Entertainment Group, funded by private equity, will make its debut at Berlin's European Film Market.


Veteran international sales agent Lisa Wilson is teaming with film financier Myles Nestel to form The Solution Entertainment Group, which will shop two films at next month's European Film Market in Berlin, Writers and Hector and the Search for Happiness.

The duo will be partners in the full-service international sales and financing company, which is being funded through private equity. The Solution group will offer filmmakers access to development funding, production and post-production services in additiont to international distribution.

Writers and Hector are the first titles on Solution Group's international sales slate. Directed and written by newcomer Joshua Boone, Writers [follows a year in the life of an acclaimed novelist and his relationship with his ex-wife, college daughter and teenage son. Michael A Simpson and Eric Brenner of Informant Media serve as executive producers.] is produced by Informant Media and Judy Cairo (Crazy Heart, Hysteria). The film is set to start production in the spring.

Peter Chelsom will direct Hector And The Search for Happiness. Chelsom, whose credits include Serendipity and Hannah Montana: The Movie, adapted Fran├žois Lelord’s bestseller of the same name with Tinker Lindsay. Egoli Tossell Film and Wild Bunch Germany are producing the German-South African project about a young psychiatrist’s global quest for contentment.

Robb Klein at Sheppard Mullin represents The Solution.



Hector, from British director Peter Chelsom (Serendipity, Shall We Dance), is an adaptation of Francois Lelord's bestselling novel of the same name. Chelson and Tinker Lindsay wrote the adapted screenplay, with Chelsom set to start production in the spring. Hector, from Egoli Tossell Films, is a German-South African production. Wild Bunch Germany is co-producing.

Myles has helped finance 75 film and television productions, most recently through his Los-Angeles based Merlina Entertainment. Prior to Merlina, he was with Oceana Media Finance.

He most recently arranged the financing for and executive Robert Rodriguez's 2010 Machete and Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher.

"In today's world you have to be more than just a sales agent to be in a position to bring the very best theatrical titles to the buyers and that takes production funding," said Wilson, who most recently was president of international distribution for GK Films, handling films including Angelina Jolie's directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey, Johnny Depp starrer The Rum Diary and Mel Gibson's Edge of Darkness.

While at GK Films, she also formed Parlay Films, an affiliate sales company handling third-party titles. She'll continue to be the international sales agent for all films under the Parlay banner. They include three Sundance Film Festival entries: Red Lights, starring Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy, financial thriller Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth, and romantic drama The Words, starring Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Guest Post: Who (and What) Defines Normal? by Dennis Palumbo


I Fever Dream (Poisoned Pen Press) the second in my series of crime thrillers featuring psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi, my hero makes use of psychiatric diagnoses when dealing with patients. Yet he also expresses misgivings, as he did in the first novel, about the legitimacy of these clinical terms.

And for good reason. As a licensed psychotherapist myself, I've long been concerned about both the validity and reliability of psychiatric diagnoses. For one thing, the list of these mental conditions is constantly being modified by a group of psychiatrists and psychologists, who meet on a regular basis to argue about what should and shouldn't be in the diagnostic manual used by most clinicians. Which means that the criteria for inclusion or exclusion is primarily determined by social trends, current clinical norms and a fair amount of politics. For example, at one time, homosexuality was considered a mental illness; now it isn't. Conversely, among the more dubious recent additions to the list is Self-Defeating Personality Disorder.

As I see it, there's another danger to an over-reliance on diagnostic categories: namely, the idea that every aspect of the human condition can be quantified, or reduced to an empirical stat. In other words, does the prevalence of assigning practically every single behavior a clinical diagnosis mean that there's no room for eccentricity, personal quirks, individuality? Are we just trying to define what "normal" is? And if so, are therapists really the best people to make such a determination?

Now I'm not suggesting that we do away with clinical diagnoses altogether. If nothing else, these categories provide a common language, enabling mental health professionals to communicate with each other. On the other hand, I believe all clinicians should be wary of seeing their patients only as a set of symptoms. They're not; they're individual human beings, each with a history and a particular (though not always healthy) way of coping with a hard, uncertain world. As are we all.

Moreover, especially in public and private psychiatric institutions, once patients have been tagged with a diagnostic label, it's almost impossible for them to wriggle out of it. It goes in the file. It defines them. It limits their view of themselves, and, all too often, whatever possibility for growth they're capable of.

And inevitably, over time, that file gets bigger and bigger. So that after enough years in the system, their particular diagnosis doesn't merely define them, or limit them. It's what they become.

Unless, like the character Noah Frye in Fever Dream, they happen to be friends with Dr. Daniel Rinaldi. Despite being labeled a paranoid schizophrenic, it's Noah's personality -- foul-mouthed, funny and disconcertingly intuitive -- that defines him, not his diagnosis.

Which is why Rinaldi would agree whole-heartedly with psychiatrist Allen Frances, who warns, "Knowing the diagnosis is not the same as knowing the patient."

so expresses misgivings, as he did in the first novel, about the legitimacy of these clinical terms.And for good reason. As a licensed psychotherapist myself, I've long been concerned about both the validity and reliability of psychiatric diagnoses. For one thing, the list of these mental conditions is constantly being modified by a group of psychiatrists and psychologists, who meet on a regular basis to argue about what should and shouldn't be in the diagnostic manual used by most clinicians. Which means that the criteria for inclusion or exclusion is primarily determined by social trends, current clinical norms and a fair amount of politics. For example, at one time, homosexuality was considered a mental illness; now it isn't. Conversely, among the more dubious recent additions to the list is Self-Defeating Personality Disorder.

As I see it, there's another danger to an over-reliance on diagnostic categories: namely, the idea that every aspect of the human condition can be quantified, or reduced to an empirical stat. In other words, does the prevalence of assigning practically every single behavior a clinical diagnosis mean that there's no room for eccentricity, personal quirks, individuality? Are we just trying to define what "normal" is? And if so, are therapists really the best people to make such a determination?

Now I'm not suggesting that we do away with clinical diagnoses altogether. If nothing else, these categories provide a common language, enabling mental health professionals to communicate with each other. On the other hand, I believe all clinicians should be wary of seeing their patients only as a set of symptoms. They're not; they're individual human beings, each with a history and a particular (though not always healthy) way of coping with a hard, uncertain world. As are we all.

Moreover, especially in public and private psychiatric institutions, once patients have been tagged with a diagnostic label, it's almost impossible for them to wriggle out of it. It goes in the file. It defines them. It limits their view of themselves, and, all too often, whatever possibility for growth they're capable of.

And inevitably, over time, that file gets bigger and bigger. So that after enough years in the system, their particular diagnosis doesn't merely define them, or limit them. It's what they become.

Unless, like the character Noah Frye in Fever Dream, they happen to be friends with Dr. Daniel Rinaldi. Despite being labeled a paranoid schizophrenic, it's Noah's personality -- foul-mouthed, funny and disconcertingly intuitive -- that defines him, not his diagnosis.Which is why Rinaldi would agree whole-heartedly with psychiatrist Allen Frances, who warns, "Knowing the diagnosis is not the same as knowing the patient."