by Lillian Csernica on September 24, 2015
So I promised to tell you some of the funny things that happened at the hospital once word got round about me writing novels for a living.
Michael spent six weeks in the ICU. That meant I was there, day and and day out, so the staff got to know me and I got to know some of them. One of the Fellows had a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. He was teasing me one day. I gave him That Look over the top of my glasses and said, “Keep it up. I’ll put you in a book.”
The ICU Social Worker saw me sitting in the cafeteria at lunch one day. She bustled over with a big smile and said, “I’ve been talking about you!” This statement is pretty much guaranteed to activate my fight-or-flight response. She went on to say, “I was telling someone about your book. You’re my first writer!” She meant I’m the first parent she’s met who writes for a living. It was really sweet of her to be so excited about that.
The classic no-no for writing hopefuls is to walk up to an established writer and say, “Will you read my manuscript?” Sure enough, this happened to me. What surprised me was the person asking. Not a parent, not one of the nurses, but a doctor! The one thing I had a lot of at the hospital was time. I was always waiting for this or that test to be done, and then for the results to come back. So I read the doctor’s manuscript. Late one night we sat there beside Michael’s bed and discussed what needed fixing while the doctor’s team of residents came and went with their questions about other patients. That had to be one of the stranger critique sessions I’ve experienced.
The nurses started to ask me about whether or not I had a pen name, and why writers need those. So I explained how I came up with Elaine LeClaire. They’d write down that name and the title, Ship of Dreams. I’m used to that happening when people find out I write, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then I noticed an improvement in the online sales of the ebook version. And then one morning I was leaving the Family House, a residence created for parents of patients rather like a Ronald McDonald house, when one of the ladies at the desk plopped a paperback copy of Ship of Dreams on the counter and asked me to sign it. Well! That was a nice way to start my day!
Staying in the hospital with Michael took a toll on my writing for several reasons, mostly due to fatigue and paralyzing anxiety. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my plans to attend Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention is Spokane, WA. The funny thing is, all things considered, I might have done more actual business in terms of sales thanks to the hospital staff taking such an interest in my work!
During one of Michael’s respiratory treatments, the respiratory therapist (RT) asked me what advice I’d give to someone trying to write. I asked her if she meant fiction or nonfiction. Turns out she’d gone back to school and was having trouble writing essays and analytical papers. She’s one of those people who either likes something or doesn’t like it. If you press her for details about why, she claims she wouldn’t know how to construct a detailed answer. So we talked about how to use the five journalistic questions to break down her opinions so she could translate them into arguments either for or against the subject of the essay or the paper. Once she got the hang of creative nitpicking, she was really relieved. Now here’s the punchline. She said to me, “I wish I had your mind!” I started laughing and told her she did not want my mind. Skills, sure. Education, maybe. But not my mind.