By TIM GOODWIN
Thursday, December 13, 2018
For years, Dana Biscotti Myskowski was sick. At times, really sick.
But doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing her ailments. She went through a battery of tests, was told she might have stage-4 bladder cancer and at one point was seeing more than a dozen doctors.
Then in late 2013, Myskowski finally received her diagnosis: Lyme disease. It was a relief to finally have a cause for her years of anguish, but at the same time baffling since she had already been tested on a few occasions for Lyme.
During her illness, she had to step away from teaching college courses, which she had done at UNH Manchester, New England College and SNHU (online), and focus on her health. She put her screenwriting on hold and was just sick for a few years. But after being diagnosed and an ensuing round of antibiotics for 18 months, Myskowski began to feel better. By January of 2016, Myskowski began to think about writing again. By May, she was ready, although this time she had a novel in mind – featuring a character with Lyme disease.
For those four months, the Henniker author researched the disease and combed through her medical records. She found there was a lot of misconceptions about the disease and bizarre symptoms associated with it.
“People are coming to learn about Lyme disease more,” Myskowski said.
But instead of writing a memoir or medical book about the illness, Myskowski decided to tell her story through Anna McGrory, a 50-year-old state director for a U.S. senator from the Berkshires of Massachusetts, that just so happens to have all of the symptoms of her own Lyme disease and its co-infections in the new novel, I Cannot Play With You.
“This is going to help people learn about Lyme disease, but through a character,” she said.
Sick with a disease that hasn’t been officially diagnosed, McGrory, who is from Concord, struggles to make sense of her boss’s suicide as she investigates the suspicious activities of the state’s other U.S. senator and his sidekick. Filled with twists and turns around every corner, McGrory wonders if she’s crazy, suspecting that her home, workplace and car are littered with listening devices.
“I get into my character and see what she’s thinking,” Myskowski said. “With novel writing, you really need to know every quirk of the character.”
The novel features Angelina’s Ristorante Italiano in Concord, and travels to the Berkshires, into Boston, and up to the islands o the coast of Portland, Maine.
The novel’s release is today from Texas publisher Black Rose Writing, and will be available at local bookstores like Gibson’s in Concord and MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, and the Pillsbury Free Library in Warner and Tucker Free Library in Henniker. It’s also online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Black Rose.
While there is no official event today, Myskowski plans to make stops at Gibson’s, MainStreet Bookends and the Pillsbury Free Library. But there are some events planned for early 2019. Myskowski will do a reading on Jan. 13 at the Tucker Free Library at 2 p.m., and will take part in a panel discussion about Lyme and the book with Dr. Lynn Durand of Concord Hospital’s Family Tree Health Care in March at Gibson’s. There will also be a reading at MainStreet Bookends in May (dates to be determined).
This is Myskowski’s first published work, but about 25 years ago she sent out another book for review. It only went to one publisher and the response was not what she was looking for. That’s when she decided to enter a screenwriting program through UCLA.
“I sort of went on a different trajectory,” she said.
For almost a decade, Myskowski lived with her symptoms and it went undiagnosed until she got a cut on her leg while gardening that sent her to the emergency room. A course of medicine was supposed to knock her for a loop but actually made her feel great. That’s when another test for Lyme came back positive.
“The thing is that many people get far more sick than I did,” Myskowski said. “But there were times when it was really bad, and it was suggested I be hospitalized.”
It’s still something she deals with and just has to manage. But her battle with Lyme also gave a unique perspective that led to her debut book.
“My life just totally changed,” she said.
She’s currently working on her second novel featuring McGrory and plans on writing at least one more in the series. But it comes with challenges.
“I can only write for a couple hours and then need to take a break,” she said. For more information, visit Myskowski’s website, GreenChairPictures.com.