Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Kansas Center for the Book

Tomorrow I leave for Wichita KS to experience a celebration by and for the Kansas Center for the Book. I enjoy visiting Wichita and the friends I've made there. Friday and Saturday will be filled with taking in Kansas-related programs. Native American Dancers, Bluegrass musicians, poetry readings, and book signings are only a few events on the menu. The Black and White and Read All Over Ball is Friday night. I won't be doing the bugaloo in my formal attire this year. Maybe next year.

One of my favorite writers, Max Yoho, will receive the Kansas Notable Book Award along with 14 others. A couple more of my favorite Kansas writers -- Tom Parker and Nancy Mehl -- did not win this year. I'll start right away thinking good thoughts for next year's nominations.

The highlight of any trip to Wichita for me is an evening at the Mosley Street Melodrama. I eat dinner and laugh myself silly at the vaudeville-esque antics and sing along with the wonderful music. Joining me in the fun and frolic will be writer Todd Hunter and his wife Cheryl, and Nancy Mehl. I might even have a libation in way of celebration. Smith and Kerns is a favorite after dinner drink of mine. The Long Island ice tea is great, but packs a huge wallop!!

I apologize to readers who must scroll down to the bottom of the page to see my profile and blogroll. Don't know what happened there but a technowhiz I ain't, so unless blogger techs know how to fix it, guess it will stay in its state of misalignment.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A fine day for a book reading......

We drove to Blue Rapids, Kansas in bright sunshine. The weather was near-perfect with a brisk breeze and temps in the low sixties. Whatever route you choose in that kind of weather provides pleasant natural vistas. Colorful scatterings of yellow and white daisies, goldenrod, and buttercups grow wild along the highways. Sleek cattle and horses graze on native grasses or drink belly-deep in farm ponds. Hardwood trees, just starting to turn fall colors, mark indelibly riparian causeways. Every so often a farmstead looms, nestled safely into vales between plateaus and rolling hills. As always, I imagine what this land must have been when native tribes were the sole human inhabitants. By the time we reached Blue Rapids, my mind and spirit were energized and ready for the afternoon event.

Shoppers browsed Mercantile treasures and a fascinating array of Kansas-made products as we breezed through the door. I joked that my "groupies" would be arriving soon. Owner Lori Parker set out tasty snickerdoodles, confetti cookies, and raspberry tea as treats. She also treated us to a sample of scrumptious Scuppernong Cider, made and bottled in Blue Rapids. This did not taste like any cider commonly known, but more like fruit juice of an indescribably delicious flavor. The legion of my faithful groupies arrived. With everyone sated by cookies, tea, and cider, the reading began. Tom Parker introduced me with a flourish and I was off and running.

Tom had insisted I lay out all my books, but My Name is Esther Clara was to be the main focus. I read a passage about the hapless rooster who got drunk on fermenting wine bubbling through the bunghole, followed by one that showed Grandma's strong opinions about politics and politicians, women's liberation, and setting priorities. I was center stage from one to two thirty and most of that time was spent answering questions or telling literary war stories. The audience was appreciative, but keep in mind that they were groupies -- friends, family, and loyal fans. I'm not certain what the response might be in an audience of strangers.

Before heading home I bought a bottle of Scuppernong cider. Can't wait to introduce my husband to it. Next time, I'm checking out the ear candles more closely and buying jelly. Maybe, if I'm lucky the Mercantile will have be back for another performance.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thoughts on a rainy day....

Now that our fall weather pattern has set in, temperatures have moderated here in the plains. I hunker down through summer every year, waiting for fall and winter. Soon there will be no more flies and mosquitoes, no gasping-hot days and smothering nights. Today, with cool breezes blowing through the windows surrounding my computer desk and the first frost just around the corner, I'm celebrating life.

A couple days ago I started reading 1491 by Charles C. Mann. He provides a compelling picture of North and South America before the arrival of Columbus, de Soto, and the subsequent influx of immigrants from other lands. I must admit the North American Indian tribes interest me more than those in South America. So far, the book provides more questions to pique my curiosity instead of answers.

I'm surprised paleontologists and archeologists don't know more about the North American Indians. Granted, they did not build huge pyramids and cities made of stone like their cousins in the southern hemisphere, or create objets d'art out of gold, but their accomplishments were amazing. Perhaps the lure of finding gold treasures buried with bones adds interest to digs in South America? And stone cities don't deteriorate like those of wood, thatch, and animal skins. Mann proposes that millions of indigenous natives populated the North American continent, living in well organized cities, before the advent of European diseases. I want to know how they lived and what they thought in the millennia before the first European arrived. I want to know why they actually welcomed people they viewed as weird, smelly and unwashed instead of killing them the second they touched ground in the new land. How and why did the Indians see those first explorers as fellow humans and treat them as such?

Where I live now was at one time a lush river valley and crossroad of an ancient indigenous highway. Long before fertile grasslands were broken by plows, Native tribes set their tipis in riparian forests along the river. Game was plentiful here -- bison, antelope, turkeys, pheasant, quail, fish and fresh water clams. I wonder what their lives were like before explorers and immigrants arrived, in the centuries when only tribes with tradegoods from the east and west walked these trails? Maybe I'll find answers yet in 1491. I'm only halfway through the book.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The words of gods.....

A comment to my last blog prompted the title of this post. Now, I don't see physicians as gods. Perhaps a handful of doctors reign godlike over their domains, but most physicians I know understand their fallibilities only too well.

The commenter told his doctors that they BECOME gods to scared patients in pain. He stated, "The words of gods must be chosen carefully and be with the clarity of a god." Meaning, I think, that he wanted to be fully informed by the doctors who hold his life in their hands.

People with catastrophic diseases, those facing surgery or even simple diagnostic testing need information from the doctors and nurses responsible for their care. I wonder sometimes if medical professionals empathize with the shock, horror, and fright their patients experience when thrown into the confusing maelstrom of a modern health care system. Most people are not versed in human disease processes. All they know for sure is that they DO NOT WANT the disease, pain, heart numbing fear, surgery, and a body image different from the one they've had since birth. The only thing that helps frightened, suffering people in the slightest is compassionate teaching and explanations from the doctors and nurses they are forced by circumstance to trust.

Patients may be too shocked and scared to understand the words doctors and nurses speak, but they do sense an underlying kindness and compassion. They see the body language as a doctor speaks, hear the tone of voice, hold to any offering of hope and assurance. No communication is effective unless the patient understands. When a nurse or doctor says, "Do you have any questions?" the patient may not know enough yet to ASK a question. I'll use my sister as an example.

When doctors gave her the option of taking oral chemotherapy and radiation before surgery, each one said essentially the same thing: "I've seen tumors break up and shrink considerably with radiation." Granted, they did not PROMISE the tumor would shrink but that's what she heard -- the carrot on a stick, the hope of a tumor shrinking down to nothing. Nobody told her the radiation would burn soft tissues in the area of the tumor and she would suffer horribly with that. No, when she complained of horrible burning in her vaginal and anal area, she was told by technicians, "Hmm, you're the first one who ever complained of that." Really? The only one? If she had known healthy soft tissues would be "fried" by radiation, her decision might have been different because she ultimately found out that radiation did nothing to shrink the tumor.

Despite her long ordeal, my sister is a brave woman and presented a humorously courageous front to caregivers. But her words told anyone listening what her fears were. The outcome of radiation and surgery horrified her. She's only one of hundreds of thousands of patients shocked and horrified each year. In that respect, the commenter to my original post hit the proverbial nail on the head:

"The words of gods must be chosen carefully and be with the clarity of a god." Patient education is not effective unless it educates, informs, and lessens fears.

Friday, September 01, 2006

So many interesting writing projects, so little time...

September 1st is here at last. I can see and feel fall arriving in the prairies. I'm hoping for a spurt of creativity, or at least a steady trickle. A bit of added encouragement came yesterday when I checked two of my books on Amazon. Copies of My Name is Esther Clara and The Alley of Wishes had sold. It's impossible to know how many copies, but some at least, according to the much improved rankings.

The main book project I'm considering is a novel based on a relative's ancestors. Reading her genealogy information is a fascinating trip through time in the British Isles. Her ancestors have been traced back, so far, to the 12th century in England, with a handful of Irish and Scottish progenitors thrown in for good measure. Some day soon I'll dig out the genealogy search and begin in earnest. And once I begin, I'll be consumed. Writing My Name is Esther Clara inspired me to do more biographies. Real people, real places, can be more intriguing than fiction.

My co-author on the poetry book, Stephen Sulik, wants to begin a mystery suspense novel with me as editor. Sulik's previous book, The Tattered Coat, had action, mystery, and suspense with tinges of surreality mixed in. If he decides to write another book, I'll edit.

My sister Pam thinks I should write a book about her experiences with colon cancer --
  • radiation, chemotherapy, and their side effects
  • what to expect from the surgery and post op course
  • the importance of faith and a positive attitude on patient outcomes
  • the detrimental effect on patients when they don't have adequate teaching each step of the way
  • and the impact of various physician specialists on their patients.

I haven't investigated yet to see how many other books have been written on the subject .

Several others have asked me to write memoirs of their parents/grandparents' lives. I use the "method acting" technique while writing. I become the characters, live in their milieu, and act them out in prose. Some characters are easier to "become" than others.

Stay tuned to see if this old lady writer has it in her to complete another book or books.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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