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Monday, July 6, 2009

My Life Part I …

No, I won’t bore you with stories of first dates, the epiphanies of puberty, or my political views, but what led me to writing, and eventually to podcasting. So, we’ll just slide through my childhood and young adulthood, then land in 1979 when I became certified as an Emergency Medical Technician. Shortly, thereafter, I landed a job with the local ambulance company. They say Emergency Medical Services work is ‘long hours of unrelenting boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror’. So true, but it’s those moments of dealing with chaos and occasionally finding creative solutions for someone’s dilemma that make you want more. Being there during someone’s worst nightmare and providing relief and comfort for them makes one feel that they’re gaining positive points toward their Karma. After graduating paramedic school, I started doing 911 response work, and spent five of those years working out of a fire station as a contract medic. The field paramedic role then evolved into Field Training officer, Preceptor, then, 16 years later, Company Training Officer. I also held parallel positions as an ER Technician in a trauma center, EMT/paramedic instructor, and disaster medical team member. I couldn’t get enough of emergency medicine.

I’ve always loved writing, but never seriously considered it as a career. I was too busy saving the world. I did manage to write and publish several nonfiction pieces including feature magazine articles. In 1985, I took a road trip with my new husband across the country. While sitting in the car with not much else to do for hours at a time (no iPods, DVD players or vehicle mounted TVs in those days), I started documenting some of my more interesting experiences from the job. Those reminiscences eventually morphed into a fiction piece. My professional life was played out through characters very similar to ones I had actually worked with, and many of the situations they encountered were ones I had personally experienced. The writing of the story became very erratic, though, and sometimes months would go by between sessions. It’s interesting when you do it that way, as when I re-read what I had written months before, I had to ask myself, how in the hell did you think that was good? So, the next draft would become an improvement … then the next one … and so on, until 1996.

That was the year my company was acquired by American Medical Response, which would be destined to become the country’s largest ambulance provider. Immediately, they wanted me to relocate to the San Francisco Bay area. So, busy with a new chapter of my life before me, the book, again, sat idle. Then, in 2006, a strange thing happened. I was driving from the Bay Area to Sacramento for a meeting, and my main characters, 3 firefighter-paramedics, popped into my head and assumed control of my thoughts. They showed me a scene in the book that I hadn’t written or even considered. “Where the hell have you guys been?” I asked.

“What are you talking about,” they replied. We’ve been patiently waiting for you to come back to us. After 10 years, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We intend to hound you until you finish our story.” They weren’t kidding. Virtually every moment that my brain wasn’t fully engaged in some other task, they were there, showing me where they wanted to go. The original manuscript, which was a number of disparate scenes that had yet to be strung together, and was still handwritten. So my first task was to transfer the words to my computer. Re-energized by the new material they had given me, I began writing again. When I finally reached the end, 4 years later, a few surprises materialized. The main protagonist’s strange idiosyncrasies were suddenly explained by an event in his past that even I didn’t know about. An even bigger surprise was that the point of the story became different than what I thought it had been all those years. I was pleased with the final product.

Okay, now what? It’s done (if editing is ever done. Sometimes I think it’s a convenient excuse for never really finishing the book). Was this effort just an exercise for me to document experiences, a tool for catharsis, or did I really believe it was publishable and that other people might actually like it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this project and it would seem sad to let it languish, forever unshared, on my computer. An author may not have a real concept of whether a story they love would appeal to others. Family and friends will tell you it’s awesome because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. How do you really know if it’s any good? … continued …

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