Working at Anxiety

I’m going to attend a week of professional development for work and it’s a time when my anxiety can explode like pollen on a spring morning. New situations, strange people.

The last day of school was also a full day of professional development. The day centered on writing, something I adore. But when the focus is long stretches of putting pen to paper in a deathly quiet room, reading aloud, and sharing, my anxiety ramps up. First, rapid breathing and audible swallows. While I hear other people drink from their coffee mugs, open packages of candy, and chomp chips, I don’t even want to take a sip from my water bottle.

anxiey-quote-hp-64-1My foot taps the ground dramatically to ease my overactive mind. I start to doodle on any available surface to distract myself.

Our instructor asks us to read aloud, to share, to reflect. The quiet builds. Acid builds in my stomach, nausea builds in my throat, and my stomach gurgles. Does it announce my anxiety to everyone in the room?

We talk about immigration, marginalized people, being different, and being devalued. The conversation rings true in so many ways.

The silence mocks me. I use my tools and continue to doodle, tap my foot, and finally get up and walk the halls.  When I make it back to the classroom, I survive the last hour of PD. I leave with new tools to teach writing, but I also have new empathy for the high school students struggling through my classes.

anxiety-quote-13-3-healthyplaceA Facebook friend of mine sent me these quotes from people with anxiety and they ring so true: “I can’t turn off my mind.” “This never stops.” “I’m so tired of this.” “I will never be normal.” “No one understands.” “My teacher treats me like a behavioral problem.” “My parents don’t understand.” “I worry so much that I can’t get anything done.” “I studied for hours & when I got my test my mind went completely blank.” “My anxiety tells me that everything awful will definitely happen.”

Check out this article in NEA today about students suffering from anxiety. It’s a serious and growing problem.

I’d love to share other experiences people have with anxiety, and you can check out my upcoming novel Twelve Months of Awkward Moments. 


Book are available for pre-sale on at

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Contact Lisa Acerbo at

laft100@gmail.comTwitter: @Apocalipstick_



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TAU on Netflix

TAU held my attention — always a good thing.


The movie starts with an action-packed punch but slows in the middle and the end. TAU (voiced by Gary Oldman) is the AI device that runs the home of a deranged but functioning-in-society scientist named Alex (Ed Skrein). He kidnaps Julia (played by Maika Monroe) and holds her captive inside his futuristic smart house in an attempt to complete his final project. Julia reasons with the AI hoping to develop a relationship and escape.

After Julia is kidnapped, she wakes up held captive with two other survivors. She’s smart enough to find a way out of the cell but not smart enough to save the other people. Then the real movie begins and begins to slow down.

We meet Alex, mad scientist, and TAU, the AI in charge of the smart house. TAU’s weakness is he wants knowledge, and Julia will exploit any weakness to free herself. There are slow moments when Julia and the AI interact, play music, learn. I don’t know, but something was missing in the delivery. I wanted the same edginess and suspense at the start of the movie to last throughout.

Ex Machina is a much stronger film with a similar theme about what happens when AI comes to recognize its own existence. As TAU learns more about itself and the outside world it has to decide whether to side with the Alex, its creator or Julia who promises much more in the way of knowledge.

TAU is worth the watch but find the time for Ex Machina as well.




Open Submission Calls

I finished a big rewrite recently and don’t know what to start next. I have ideas, lots of ideas  for books, but the thought of penning another 50,000-word disaster leaves me running to Facebook for a distraction.
Instead, I compiled some short story and novella open calls. I’m thinking it is easier to tackle 10,000 words than an entire book. Maybe we can all submit together.
1.      Feeling depressed? Like the end of the world is around the corner? This submission call is for you. The End of the World story contest is open now and closes August 31, 2018. More information at
2.      Into mysteries? Submissions will be accepted between May 1st and August 31, 2018 for Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible Anthology at
3.      Fireside Magazine will be open to novel and novella submissions for the month of August! Check out
4.      Mysterion opened for submissions on July 1st for science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories up to 9,000 words long about Christianity.
5.      The Chattahoochee Review has an open call until August 31, 2018 on the theme Lost and Found. They are looking for literary fiction. More information at
6.      Haunted Waters Press has an open call for flash fiction until July 31 at
7.      Mom Egg Review is open for submissions for the 17th annual print issue. They seek literary work that is about mothering or motherhood.
Enjoy the writing!

Summer Netflix – Brain on Fire

I recently watched two enjoyable Netflix films — Brain on Fire and Tau — and thought I would provide a quick review of Brain on Fire for anyone who has a few hours to binge.  I’ll get to Tau soon.

As a mom who spent three days in the hospital with her adult daughter suffering from blot clots, I related to Brain on Fire more from the parents’point of view than the protagonists. No matter which characters you invest in, the movie is well done and interesting to watch.


Can you imagine your life falling to pieces day by day and doctors having no idea why? The film follows Susannah Cahalan (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), a writer for the NY Post, who begins to experience unexplained symptoms from a rare neurological disease. Doctors claim it is everything from alcohol withdrawal to mental illness before diagnosing her with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Based on the book, Brain On Fire, the movie is based on journalist Susannah Cahalan true-life experiences.

Carrie Ann Moss and Richard Armitage play Cahalan’s parents. Previously, I saw Moss in the role of a tough-ass lawyer in Jessica Jones and The Defenders. I enjoyed her more realistic portrayal of a mom frustrated with the medical system. We’ve all been there. I also love Moretz as an actor and though she did an amazing job portraying the fear of having her body betray her without explanation.


I didn’t quite get Cahalan’s relationship with her boyfriend. While supportive, their interactions lacked chemistry. At one point she was talking to him about her symptoms and he’s mixing music, ignoring her. He came off as uncaring, and I had to wonder why the directors decided that was how they wanted to portray him.

While not getting rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is worth watching.  The characters are well portrayed and the fact that it is based on true events makes it more noteworthy.

Anxiously Waiting

Twelve Months of Awkward Moments arrives August 30. I’m anxious. Not your normal new book anxious, but the kind of emotion that interferes with every day life.

I could write about my main character Dani suffering from anxiety because I’ve lived it, and gee, it’s not fun. I don’t know when it began. I was always a quiet, sensitive, and weird child. I grew up in a dysfunctional family — story for another day.

My memories of school include not talking and being scared of every adult. One of my teachers made me so nervous, I puked in class. But it was always part of life. Growing up in the 70s and 80s it wasn’t a diagnosis, and it took me years to think about it that way.

I’ve learned to manage and my personal anxiety has given me a lot of empathy for the students in the class who suffer from it.  The next time I’m too quiet, it is because I don’t want to say the wrong thing.  I’ll remember my stupidity for years. The next time I skip a party it is because I’d rather have a stomach bug than be in a situation where I could possibly do something wrong. Days before the party, all the “what if” scenarios scream through my head.

I’m still recovering from Yale and Rutgers. Amazing experiences that left me so drained emotionally and physically.  Anxiety plays out not only in your mind but in your body.

I’m hoping Twelve months of Awkward Moments might shed some light on what students go through. I’m hoping you’ll get a copy and talk to me about it.