Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Check Mates: A Collection of Fiction, Poetry, and Artwork about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Today we welcome Vrinda Pendred to our writing blog. She is discussing her book Check Mates: A Collection of Fiction, Poetry and Artwork about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by People with OCD.

YVONNE: Tell me something about yourself and your background.

VRINDA: I originally grew up in Arizona, but moved to London in 1999. I now live in Hertfordshire, England with my husband and our son. I have been coming up with stories since I was three and writing them down since I was six. Being an author is all I’ve ever really wanted to do.

When I was 7 I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, and over the years I have learned I also have OCD, ADHD, Autism and Bipolar Disorder, which colour all I do. In 2008 I decided to establish Conditional Publications for fellow writers living with neurological conditions.

YVONNE: What is the title of your book? Give us the basic concept so we’ll know what it’s about.

VRINDA: It’s called Check Mates: A Collection of Fiction, Poetry and Artwork about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, by People with OCD. It is the first ever collection of fiction and poetry written about OCD, by the people who know best. Split between ‘realism’ and stories of the ‘beyond’, there is a diverse range of styles and genres, and a mix of rage, frustration, tears, violence, pain, heartache, subversion, love, strength, metaphysics, philosophy, friendship, hope, and even a bit of humour.

YVONNE: What inspired you to write this book?

VRINDA: I wrote a story (included at the end of the book) titled “The Royal Bank of Scotland” and put it online to get readers. The majority response was that people just didn’t get it. I realized people just aren’t aware enough of the reality of things like OCD to get it. So I blogged about it on a social network called OCD Tribe and someone suggested putting together a collection of stories from people on the network. Two years later, the book is now formed of twenty contributors including myself.

There really aren’t enough books and websites out there preaching positivity regarding these types of conditions – nor is there enough that expresses how truly difficult it can be to live with one of them (let alone more than one, as many people do). Yet I have heard/read so many times that people with neurological disorders are usually highly creative people (indeed, many psychiatrists believe certain nervous disorders might even be a prerequisite to being so creative) – and that art/music/writing can be incredibly therapeutic.

Hopefully this book will knock away a few stereotypes.

YVONNE: Is this the first book you have written?

VRINDA: No. As I said, I’ve been writing all my life, and all the stories I made up as a child have now found their way into a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age kind of novel) I’m working on. I have completed one novel called ‘The Ladder’, which has just started doing the agency rounds, as I have decided for now to keep my personal writing career separate from the company business, for the sake of objectivity. I also have a few half-finished novels, at least 2 books’ worth of short stories and a notebook filled with ideas for future projects. But ‘Check Mates’ is my first publication.

YVONNE: How long did it take to write this book? Any interesting tidbits about your writing method or how the book developed?

VRINDA: This project took 2 years, although much of this was down to the number of people contributing to the project – it required a lot of organization. Of my 3 stories included in the book, 2 were already written prior to the conceptualization. Some other contributors also already had their submissions ready, so it was mostly a case of revisions and edits. Others, though, were just starting to try their hand at writing, or using their skill to talk about OCD for the first time, so this required much more time. I’m sorry to say we lost a couple of the original contributors, too, because they decided they weren’t ready to ‘go live’ to the world about their struggle – which is a shame because they were some very powerful stories. Perhaps there will be a ‘Check Mates 2’!

YVONNE: How did you publish your book? Tell me about your publishing experience and what you learned from it. Please go into detail if you wish.

VRINDA: Just before this project was conceived, I was reading a book about Tourette Syndrome called ‘Don’t Think about Monkeys’, published by Hope Press, who turned out to specialise in books about neurological disorders. I contacted them and received a prompt response informing me that it was a one-man company and he was retiring – but why didn’t I do it myself? he suggested. So, me being me, I thought, ‘Yeah, why not?’ and went for it. He recommended a book called ‘Aiming at Amazon’, which details the process of starting your own self-publishing company. Because I studied Creative Writing at university and had done a little work experience at Random House some years back, I understood enough of the process to take on the project.

Conditional Publications is printing/distributing via Lightning Source, which means the book is automatically listed on Amazon and I don’t have to pay for shipping when customers order the book. It’s definitely not the same as going to a self-publishing company, though, as you are required to do all the editing/proofreading/layout/design/artwork/ISBN, etc. yourself – so it really is just for people who want to go into the publishing business, rather than just authors.

It’s been an interesting experience learning the ropes for the first time, but it turned out to be a lot simpler than I expected – probably because, as I say, I had some background in the field anyway, so I didn’t go into it blind. I’ve already got the next Conditional Publications release underway now, with just one author this time, and I think second time around it’s going to be a pretty smooth process.

YVONNE: Where is your book(s) available? Do you have a Web site or blog where we can learn more about you or your book?

VRINDA: You can purchase the book from all Amazon sites. It is already listed for pre-order or e-mail alerts when the book is released (11 May 2010). For more information, check out and be sure to subscribe to the blog feed for updates on the book, as well as useful information relating to neurological disorders, insider experiences and news from the neurological world. There’s also a dedicated social network for writers with nervous disorders:, a Conditional Publications fan page to join on Facebook, and you can follow us on Twitter under NeuroBooks. And if you want to get in touch, talk about writing or you’re looking for some support, feel free to click the ‘Contact’ tab on the main company webpage and we’ll get you pointed in the right direction.

YVONNE: Tell me some ways you have promoted your book. Give examples and links to any sites you feel might help other authors.

VRINDA: I’ve been using Twitter quite a lot, and Twellow to look up search keys (such as ‘OCD’ and ‘Autism’) in people’s Twitter profiles, so I can find new people to follow. I’ve also approached other people in the OCD world for endorsements and support, gone to my local newspaper and am appearing on podcast interviews. All my promotional advice has come from Lynn Serafinn at

YVONNE: Any other comments or things you would like for us to know?

VRINDA: Part of the proceeds from the sale of ‘Check Mates’ will be donated to OCD charities in both the US and UK, so this really is for a good cause. Also, we’re currently running a competition to win a free copy of the book. Just log onto and click the ‘Contact’ tab, then send us your fiction or non-fiction of no more than 3,000 words, about whatever neurological condition you have – it doesn’t have to be just about OCD. We’ll be choosing a favourite from each category, so 2 people are in with a chance of winning.

YVONNE: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to get to know you and learn about your book. I wish you much success with your book.

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