This time next week, See What Flowers, my début novel about love and mental illness, will be available on Amazon.
Here’s a sneak preview of See What Flowers to give you a feel for what the book’s about.
See What Flowers
By Shannon Mullen
“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”
― Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
Emma: May 10, 2014, 9:30pm EDT
The party is over. I’m floating weightlessly through the sky like Mary Poppins, grasping my flamingo pink birthday balloons so tightly that my nails puncture the skin of my sweaty palm.
Startled by the sound of myself giggling, I release the balloons. They float to the ceiling as my feet hit the floor but the giggling doesn’t stop. Instead, it becomes louder, more honest: the yelp of a dog off-leash, the squeal of a toddler chasing butterflies, the height of sexual pleasure, the subconscious release of something raw and visceral, something undeniably, yet unexplainably true.
It’s like I’ve pierced a small hole in the balloon, sucked in the helium and exhaled delirium. I’m under the effect of something, certainly too much Malbec, but perhaps also too much happiness.
After more than a decade of cramming for exams, late nights at the library, taking risks, and making tough decisions, I’ve become lighter, like in the way sticking to a running program burns excess fat. The lightness teaches me that struggle lifts us up rather than weighs us down.
I take a blue recycling bag from underneath the sink and start cleaning up empty tall cans–Steam Whistle, Mill St., Muskoka, Great Lakes, Kichesippi and other Ontario Craft beers that I’ve never seen before. Every time I go to the Beer Store, there’s a new microbrew on the market. With so much competition, what makes one product last and another disappear? By the time I’ve tossed a dozen or so empties into the recycling bag, the giggling has stopped and I’m overcome with exhaustion. I check the time on my phone. 3:30 am. There’s a missed call from Adam. Where is he?
Adam will be upset that I already washed all of the dishes—the plates and forks we used to serve my DQ cake, the wine glasses, and the Starbucks mug that that Katie used for her cab sav because we ran out of glasses. Adam wouldn’t make me clean up a mess on my birthday. He’d remind me that a real partner shares the responsibility, and that since I’m the BDG, I deserve to let him pull the weight.
I tug on the ribbon dangling from one of the balloons floating against the ceiling. I want to set it free, let it fly into the wild like a caged parrot being released in the jungle, so I put the recycling bag on the floor and collect the ribbons from all three balloons. How high will they soar before bursting to the ground? Fingers crossed these balloons will drift higher and higher and higher into a limitless universe.
I shiver slightly as a draft of cold air floods the apartment the second the front door opens, like winter has suddenly arrived even though summer’s just around the corner.
I spin around to see who it is. I already know.
He’s holding a couple of pink tulips in his hand, freshly picked from the neighbours’ garden. His eyes are glowing with the droopy haze of booze and he looks like a maniac, a wild dog. We are both high on the energy of the party and the awareness that we are on the brink of something wonderful. As I float towards him, a nagging question tugs me back; I want to swat it away like an annoying mosquito. But it keeps buzzing inside me. I shiver again.
Is there such a thing as being too happy?
He hands me the tulips, luscious lips in full bloom. As I accept the flowers, I release my grip on the balloons, and they bounce gently against the ceiling the way they did before—hovering, annoyed, frustrated, contained by the ceiling and disappointed by the limits of life.
He hugs me tightly and an electric current shoots through me as though he’s resuscitating a heart that’s already beating. We hold each other, our bodies linking in the courtship ritual of dragonflies, our brilliant green darners hover as one above our apartment.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been,” I whisper.
Thursday, June 15
Copies of See What Flowers will be available to purchase for $20.
The evening will include Q & A with writer Louise Johnson and musical performance by Keira Loukes.
This is a public event, so feel free to bring along friends and family members!
For more info, check out the Facebook event.
I’ve trekked in the Andes & Alaska and moved to the Arctic by myself. I’ve taken risks for love, even though I wasn’t sure if it would work out.
Telling a story at True Stories Told Live Toronto was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
I’d been to TSTL several times and the storytellers are always engaging and entertaining.
At school, students fall asleep in my classes all of the time…even during gym…
The last time I tried to tell a story to my friend at the bar, she excused herself after five minutes to go to the “bathroom”…
Plus, my story was scheduled during the Toronto Storytelling Festival so I was in the line-up with Charlotte Blake Alston and Karima Armin, ACTUAL storytellers who’d traveled from out of town for the event.
Although the bar is packed for shows–I’d estimate 200+ people were in the audience for my story, it feels personal, like your at a family gathering.
It’s a fresh space for connection and intimacy in a city that can sometimes feel cold, lonely, and isolating.
Somehow, I pushed through my fear and sense of impostor syndrome and told my story. It was really fun, and while of course there are things I would change for next time, my first live story definitely went better than expected. I feel proud of myself for standing up and doing something that scared me.