Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Learning from the Unexpected

Last week I had a little unexpected adventure, which began when I swooned at IKEA.

I say "swooned" for want of a better word, because I learned from a doctor the next day that "passed out" clinically means that the body completely loses muscle control. You end up on the floor, your head "bounces." His word, not mine. Since my brain still had enough wherewithal to keep me in my chair, I did not pass out. I will never use that term casually again.

But I did lose about 2 minutes of consciousness. I've read in novels where the hero wakes "what seems ages later" (or some such) after being conked out. Me? I didn't think time had passed at all--or maybe a second or two, tops. My first words to the friend I was with were to ask why she was yelling at me. Then I noticed 4 IKEA employees around me. Okay, they couldn't have run over to me that fast, so it dawned on me that I'd missed something, especially when one said paramedics were on the way. I've made 911 calls myself--it takes a little time to answer the operator's questions. I found out the brain doesn't like minutes it can't account for--it muddles the internal clock much like daylight saving time.

After that I had my first ambulance ride, my first experience as a patient in ER, even my first overnight hospital stay. I mentally took notes. Most fascinating, I think, was how different all the hospital corridors looked from a gurney or wheelchair. I've gotten a slew of routine tests done at this hospital, visited lots of patients, and gone Christmas caroling there the last 30-plus years, yet I had a hard time getting oriented. Sure, this was mostly because they took me down staff-only elevators, but I'm sure part of it was my perspective, and my anxiety about what the next test would involve.

You can bet I'm going to use that in a book someday.

A few other observations:

Even hospitals have to be educated as to what constitutes a gluten-free meal.

When you're under orders to call the nurse if you need to get out of bed, why do they keep putting your phone, tray table, books, etc., out of reach?

Who comes up with the patterns on hospital gowns? They are not psychologically empowering. I suppose they don't want your self-esteem to be so good you'll question the nurses' authority, but wouldn't we all heal faster if we didn't feel ugly?

Luckily, my swooning was only a result of a reaction to a medication. Unhappily, the experience will cost me a chunk of my savings. Still, I had the chance to do a little unexpected writer's research.

Peace (and good health),

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Writers Helping Writers

When I began hanging out with mystery writers, the one thing that absolutely floored me was how nice they are. Not kidding. A real bunch of sweeties.

There I was, the complete naive newbie, yet writers like Gillian Roberts, Charles Todd, Polly Whitney, Lisa Scottoline, Elizabeth Peters, and too many others to name here--who didn't know much more about me than that I wanted to write--took the time to point me in the right direction.

They all taught me the most valuable lesson: that writers help each other. I remember Polly Whitney saying, when I'd thank her for advice, "Just make sure you pass it on someday."

This is why I began this blog last year, to pass it on.

I'm a member of Sisters in Crime, an organization of mystery writers, readers, booksellers and others in the business. They've elevated the idea of writers helping writers to a national scale. In my local Delaware Valley chapter, our authors lead workshops for novice writers. We organize book signings and tours and library panels to show off our published authors. Once in a while, we'll put together an anthology of short stories to teach our new writers about the editing process, publishing and promotion.

And frankly, it also helps to hang out with other writers simply to get out of the house, away from your writing and rejections once in a while. A writer's life can be lonely and sometimes discouraging.

If you're a writer, whether published or not, get out and network. Go to conferences, join a local writers' group, or a Sisters in Crime chapter. If you're in the Philadelphia area, check out Delaware Valley Sisters in Crime (or just email me from my website and I'll send you info about them).

Talk shop once in a while. It's good for you. And if you learn anything, pass it on.



Member, Delaware Valley Mystery Authors