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Utah authors discuss what writers get wrong about mental health
Deseret News - 10/16/2017
By Herb Scribner
SALT LAKE CITY - Local authors Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells brought their nationally recognized writing podcast to Salt Lake Comic Con to talk about mental health issues with another Utah author.
Both Wells, a North Salt Lake native, and Sanderson, who lives in American Fork and attended Brigham Young University, spoke at Salt Lake City Comic Con 2017 alongside fellow podcasters Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler for a future episode of their Writing Excuses podcast.
Writing Excuses, currently in its 12th season and online at writing excuses.com, features 15-minute episodes with writing advice for those looking to start writing.
The opening panel on Sept. 22, which was recorded for an episode of Writing Excuses that will air in the 13th season, focused on what writers get wrong when writing certain characters.
For this episode, they brought on Wendy Toliver - a Utah young adult author who's penned companion books to the ABC TV series "Once Upon a Time" - to talk about how the media doesn't always portray people with mental health issues accurately.
Toliver spoke candidly about her own experience, having raised a child with mental health issues. When she discovered that her son had obsessive compulsive disorder, she changed the way she saw those characters in media.
Toliver said you'll see often see characters who have a quirk, such as having their towels facing a certain way. She said the real disorder sends disturbing images into people's brains, worrying them if they don't put things in the right place.
Similarly, Kowal said writers don't always describe the issues accurately in their writing.
Sanderson said that "mental illness is on a spectrum. The illness is the part where it impacts our lives and changes our lives in the way we don't want."
Tayler agreed. "One of the things I see writers get wrong is the sense of there is an obsession, but the compulsion is never pictured," said Tayler.
Wells said he doesn't like it "when people use OCD for humor."
"You're making fun of a really harmful thing," he said.
The group offered some tips for families who have children with mental health issues. Toliver said that when her son feels "antsy" or anxious during school, his teacher will let him go out in the hall. "We don't ask questions when he leaves the room," she said.
Tayler said it's important for children to have good teachers and a local community to help people cope.
"I love that we have talked about it enough that somebody else is in place to help my children when I can't," Tayler said.
Credit: By Herb Scribner Deseret News