If you want to write – a book! Part I

“Wanted: someone willing to sit for hours in front of a blank page and come up with words and sentences which will hopefully become riveting fiction, compelling memoir or beautiful poetry. Financial compensation: potentially zero. Benefits: an excuse to avoid working, housecleaning, laundry, and exercise. “ During a recent promotional event for the People of Yellowstone book at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, many visitors asked me if I knew when Old Faithful would erupt, but some stopped by our display table to peruse the book and ask questions about writing. Several said that they would like to write a book, too. Some imagined they would write fiction, but most wanted to write about their own life. “How do you begin a memoir?” they asked. “What’s the difference between an autobiography and a memoir?” Why do people think they want to write a book? I asked myself. I’m not sure if I can answer this for others, but I do know that writing is a wonderful and mysterious heroic journey during which it’s possible to make amazing discoveries about our self and the world. “Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves,” says Carol Pearson, author of The Hero Within. I think we can say the same thing about initiating a writing project. It’s a heroic feat. But how does it begin? Most of us wouldn’t consider entering into hand-to-hand combat or a tennis tournament without some training, but to accomplish a piece of writing – a short story, essay, or even a book – it is possible to hone your skills on the job. The first requirement is to put words […]

Celebrating Nurses

  During National Nurses week we acknowledge the excellence and dedication of those who choose the nursing profession. I grew up surrounded by nurses in a nursing home that my family owned and operated. We lived in a rural area and my mother’s skills as a Registered Nurse also made her the go-to person for many emergencies around the village – cuts, burns and even broken bones, head injuries and emotional problems. I can see my mother calmly cleaning and dressing a bloody wound after an accident with a broken glass and, on another occasion, carefully positioning a child’s possibly broken leg after a fall from a tree. Eventually, a doctor might arrive, but watching my mother and her colleagues in action, day after day, offered me firsthand knowledge that nurses were unsung heroines. Nurses in war zones and military settings have done their job quietly and largely unnoticed as well, putting their lives in peril on the battlefield for centuries. Yet, little is known about their experiences in war or exactly how many participated. Even appropriate financial remuneration in the nursing profession has been meager and long in coming. Only at the end of the twentieth century did nurses’ pay, both in military and civilian life, begin to become commensurate with the risks and responsibilities of their jobs. Many women served as nurses during the Revolutionary War, but they are barely mentioned in history books. The Second Continental Congress, heeding George Washington’s advice to establish a means of caring for wounded and sick soldiers, authorized the formation of hospitals. In July of 1775, congress initiated a plan […]

Looking for Mr. (and Ms) Goodness: Writers and Teachers Who Inspire

“Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us… Hence arises a pleasure mixed with awe; I may say, a low degree of the sublime is felt from the fact, probably, that man is hereby apprised, that, whilst the world is a spectacle, something in himself is stable….In a higher manner, the poet communicates the same pleasure. By a few strokes he delineates, as on air, the sun, the mountain, the camp, the city, the hero, the maiden, not different from what we know them, but only lifted from the ground and afloat before the eye. He unfixes the land and the sea, makes them revolve around the axis of his primary thought, and disposes them anew.” An excerpt from “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson   What a pleasure it is to bask in Emerson’s words, even if his style from the mid-nineteenth century requires slow, close reading. When I reread this essay, it brings me back to my first meeting (with his work) in high school. I still feel that intimacy of recognition as if he is speaking directly to me, tapping me on the shoulder, creating the “bling!” moment of a new idea. This was my introduction to what a poet might be doing – unfixing nature and experience. Until then, I hadn’t a clue and I hadn’t expected to fall in love with a man ten times my age.   I was fortunate to have an English teacher in 1962, Miss Whalen from California, who not only immersed her students in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, but also hired a bus and took us on the three-hour trip from Connecticut to Concord, Massachusetts. She wore the same spike heeled shoes that day as she […]