Be back soon.
I have finally cleaned out the attic in preparation for a move. My speed at tackling this chore is directly related to what “treasures” I find. Sometimes I need to take time to look over the objects, reminisce and then struggle whether they get packed or pitched.
A few days ago I found two of my nursing caps tossed together in a plastic bag. My particular cap was a linen rectangle that needed to be starched before it was folded into a wing-sided emblem of the nursing profession that sat on the back of my head—held on with a bobby pin. It looked something like this.
What I found was one flat cap and one that had been worn, still with the bobby pin, two straight pins that held the black band on and a stud that joined the cap together in the back. I bet I took the cap off years ago not thinking I would never wear it again. Both caps were dotted with rust spots.
I didn’t feel any sentimentality when I tossed the caps away. Many years ago I had come to terms with the reality that their inconvenience out ranked their symbolism. One thing I did like about my cap was that is was so simple compared to other caps—like the cup cake ones that sat on top of a nurse’s head.
So simple that, when nursing caps still held prestige, I would make a miniature version with a sheet of letter size white paper and give it to my young female patients.
One recipient stands out in my memory.
In the 60s, I worked on a small cardiology research unit. Our patients, from babies to adults, stayed for days and sometimes weeks. One girl, about 14, with congenital heart problems had an impoverished background. Her brother made money by forcing her to have sex with his friends. Her mother was in prison. She couldn’t read or write.
After lunch, she and I would sit in the patient lounge reading outdated magazines. I don’t remember how long she stayed on the unit or how much progress we made. I do remember making her a nurse’s cap, which she immediately put on her head.
After she was discharged, she sent me a letter addressed to the hospital that was written by her mother’s cellmate. I recall that she told me how she was doing and what efforts she was making to learn to read.
I didn’t respond.
My old nursing caps brought back long forgotten remembrances. I don’t regret tossing them into the trash but I do regret not answering that letter.
SEPTEMBER 22ND, 2014
When Rejection is Necessary, or I Reject All the Fear
By Guest Blogger
The most detested word in the publishing industry, perhaps even in the English language (we writers might argue) is rejection. Even saying it aloud gives you a nasty swirling in your stomach. Whether it be from agents and editors, or readers and reviewers, the word itself embodies our deepest darkest fear—we aren’t good enough. When the “R’s” begin to pile up, we sink into the sludge that mires us deeper in our fears and that horrible message becomes louder, crippling us.
As I’m working on book three, this fear of the dreaded “R” sits on my chest like a fat cat—even after two contracted books at a large publisher. Even with the overwhelming good fortune of having a network of writer friends I’m proud and blessed to call my tribe. I’m pushing the envelope, you see. In my first novel I mashed up historical fiction, women’s fiction, and romance. My second, I skipped ahead to another era and fell in love with a lesser known artist figure and her struggles with madness. Now, I’m taking on a well-known story and turning it on its head. No biographical route for me this time.
Some serious genre pushing.
But WHY I ask myself? Why must I stick my neck out, push my craft to the point of almost physical pain. Why must I risk my publisher saying “no thank you” to this next book, and the one after that.
The answer is simple.
I can’t avoid the challenge, the tugging in my soul that pushes me to grow—in spite of the quaking in my knees. Reach higher, my heart says. Create better, it begs. INSPIRE MORE. Yet I don’t know if I will succeed and this terrifies me. I know many of you know what I’m talking about. You struggle as I do to get a hold of this nasty thing called fear. So what does one do?
Find Your Center Work on the exercises that bring you to a deeper, centered you. For me, that’s running or biking until the jitters are gone and you can breathe again. Whether it be meditation or exercise, or sketching or journaling, every writer needs a way to disconnect from the voices in your head. Plus you get the added bonus of all that meditative activity adding years to your life.
Put the Risk in its Place In the grand scheme of life, how does this risk rate? Is it life-threatening, or life-altering? Will it obliterate your reputation or your self-worth? Will it destroy important relationships around you? If the answer is no to these questions, POWER ON. Take the risk and don’t look back. If it’s yes, it’s time to evaluate that risk. Weigh the pros and cons and remember—regrets will follow you your entire life.
Use a Lifeline My friends are my lifeline—both my writer buddies and my “real life” friends who understand nothing about the pressures in publishing. Sometimes you need both to balance you out, to remind you of all you have accomplished. To remind you of the simple goodness that is you.
Revel in the Risk What is life without taking chances? A safe, boring affair that passes you by in a cloud of regret. Get a hold of your fear by the throat. REJECT HOW IT RULES YOUR LIFE, YOUR DECISIONS. Embrace the thrill of being bold, of striking out, and of being the best version of yourself—your best writer self. I’m trying like a mad dog. I hope you are, too.
I leave you with a beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson. It’s called HOPE.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers - That perches in the soul - And sings the tune without the words - And never stops – at all -
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard - And sore must be the storm - That could abash the little Bird That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land - And on the strangest Sea - Yet – never – in Extremity, It asked a crumb – of me.
There is always HOPE and ADVENTURE when taking a risk. Don’t let the fear ruin all that beauty. I, for one, am choosing to banish it.
Have you ever branched out, far from the core safety of your tree to write something edgy or different? How did you tackle your fears?
Heather Webb is an author, freelance editor, and blogger at award-winning writing sites WriterUnboxed.com and RomanceUniversity.org. Her first women’s historical, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, about the life and times of Josephine Bonaparte set to the backdrop of the tumultuous French Revolution, and her forthcoming novel, RODIN’S LOVER, about art, love, and the lines between obsession and madness releases from Penguin in January 2015. Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and she may also be found teaching craft-based or publishing industry courses at a local college. Find her on Twitter: @msheatherwebb or her website: www.heatherwebbauthor.com/
My book is done. Okay, so I don’t have a title—I have at least ten that are in the running—but none of them seem quite right.
In spite of that, I’m crafting a query letter to send off to agents, small presses and to anyone or anyplace else that might publish my book. Besides sweating over every word that goes into the letter, I am bracing myself for the inevitable rejection responses.
I needed to write this book about my nursing experiences back in the 80s when I was in charge of a clinic for the elderly on the 10th floor of a low-income housing project, never thinking at the time what would I do with the book once it was done.
Well, now seven years later I’m done, and educating myself on the myriad paths to publication.
Serendipitously, I tumbled on this post by Allison K Williams in Brevity this past Wednesday, September 10th. I have printed it out and taped it above my desk.
I just love the way it’s written and how it seeps under my skin and toughens it.
What nobody tells you is that you have to be the kind of person who can hear a hundred no’s before you get to yes, and that if you are not that kind of person, selling your art may not be for you.
Here, let’s practice:No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. I’ll call you back. No. No. No. No. No. We went with someone else. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. My cousin will do it for free. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. This did not fit our needs at this time; we sincerely wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere. No. No. No. No. No. NO. No. No. No. NO. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No response means no. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. NO. Next! No. No. No. No. No. My boss said no. My editor said no. No. No. No. No. No. NO. Sorry. No. No.
Speaking editorially, we should get to ‘yes’ here, but it’s better to experience the dissatisfaction of having our expectations unfulfilled, so we can quit before dissatisfaction crushes us. Or, so we can immunize ourselves.
So we can say, I am blue. My work is blue. The blue of a thousand cerulean seas. The blue of Texas bluebells. The stunning blue of the sky from the top of the mountain. The deep blue of sapphires. The gentle blue of my mother’s eyes. The best blue.
They might want red.
And what nobody tells you is that it’s not up to you to be red, and that whether or not you want to make your blue more of a purple, or draw a crimson border around it, or pass out violet-tinted glasses to all your readers, it is a choice. Your choice. Your choice to change or stay the course, and neither of those are wrong.
It is not a cruel world full of no.
It is a beautiful world in which the one (or many) persons to whom your work–your particular, personal work–speaks are waiting for you. Waiting for you to grow, to revise, to polish, to publicize, to sell, to share. Waiting for you to make art they love and will pay for.
Go and find them.
Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor, writes in the Off the Charts blog on the variety of nurse bloggers:
Originally posted on Off the Charts:
By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor
A recent check reveals that a good percentage of the blogs on our nursing blogs list have been relatively active over the past few months. A few have been less so. I didn’t see any posts about the ice-bucket challenge, and that’s okay. Here are a few recent and semirecent posts by nurses that might interest readers of this blog:
Hospice nursing. At Hospice Diary, a post from a few weeks back is called “Dying with Your Boots On.” An excerpt:
As I drove down a switch-back gravel drive in the middle of nowhere, I pulled into a driveway and there in a sun-warmed grassy yard sitting perfectly still on a garden swing among buzzing bees and newly bloomed flowers was a fellow in a crisp white shirt, a matching white cowboy hat…
View original 460 more words
I am writing my memoir because of what I learned when I ran a clinic on the tenth floor of a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) high-rise twenty years ago. All my patients were over sixty years of age. I was an inexperienced nurse practitioner and new to working with older people.
I learned that older folks were generally accepting and forgiving.
I learned that some sold their medicine for street drugs or money and some were abusive and some were abused.
I learned that not all families wanted to care for their older members and that family members, who suddenly showed up when someone was dying, might not be family.
I learned that most of them enjoyed sex.
I learned that loneliness was the most pervasive condition among the group.
I learned how to plan a funeral, hand over firearms to the local police precinct, how to put folks in a nursing home, transfer them to an emergency room, and commit them to a psychiatric hospital.
I learned to listen to a person’s story before I examined her. And that making a home visit told me more than I could ever learn from an office visit.
I learned that I didn’t need the support from a highly educated and professional staff but from people who were caring and didn’t walk away from a problem.
I learned that a sense of humor was a requirement when working with the elderly.
And I learned that some of my patients were impossible to forget.
I resort to making soup when I’m facing a deadline with my book. I’ve documented what has become a ritual in a post I wrote exactly two years ago.
I’m planning to start a total review of my manuscript before I hand it off to the line-by-line editor. (Yes, the end is in sight!) But, before getting started, I’m going to take a break. I don’t call this procrastination but honing in on my creative skills by using a different outlet—making soup. Warm, fragrant liquid that perfumes my kitchen, soothes my anxiety and wakes up my senses.
While writing my book I have made the following soups: broccoli and cheddar, lentil with frankfurter, black bean, potato and leek, chicken noodle, gazpacho and my favorite, butternut squash.
Today I am tackling French onion.
The recipe that I will try for the first time comes from Jacques Pepin. He uses chicken stock (instead of beef) and incorporates egg yolks and port after the soup is cooked. I will forgo the eggs and port.
After going through the mechanics of cutting, frying, toasting, stirring, shredding and ultimately tasting, I will feel ready to plug away at my writing with renewed enthusiasm.
It works every time.
From the Lyon region of France, this onion soup is much thicker than the usual kind. It’s often served as a late-night dish. When I was a young man, I often made it with my friends at two or three A.M. after returning home from a night of dancing. The soup is strained through a food mill and put in a large tureen or casserole that goes into the oven. Once it is baked, egg yolks and port are mixed together in front of your guests and poured into a hole made in the center of the cheese crust. Then the whole soup is mixed together — both the crust and the softer insides — and served in hot bowls. It looks thick and messy, but it is delicious.
Serves 6 to 8
15–20 thin slices (1/4-inch-thick) baguette
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
6 cups homemade chicken stock (see recipe below) or low-salt canned chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups grated Gruyère or Emmenthaler cheese
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sweet port
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange the bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. (Leave the oven on.) Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sauté for 15 minutes, or until dark brown.
Add the stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Push the soup through a food mill.
Arrange one third of the toasted bread in the bottom of an ovenproof soup tureen or large casserole. Sprinkle with some of the cheese, then add the remaining bread and more cheese, saving enough to sprinkle over the top of the soup. Fill the tureen with the hot soup, sprinkle the reserved cheese on top, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until a golden crust forms on top.
At serving time, bring the soup to the table. Combine the yolks with the port in a deep soup plate and whip with a fork. With a ladle, make a hole in the top of the gratinée, pour in the wine mixture, and fold into the soup with the ladle. Stir everything together and serve.