Monday, 24 February 2014

World Book Night 2014

I was pleased to receive an email from World Book Night telling me I have been selected as a giver for 2014. This is the fourth year I have been involved and I am looking forward to giving away the books from April 23rd. Unlike the previous three years, I wasn’t allocated my first two choices (A Collection of Short Stories by Roald Dahl and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne) so will be giving away Confessions of a GP by Benjamin Daniels.

There has been considerable controversy about WBN – some people claim that to give books away devalues them and their writers while others believe it helps promote literature and reading. Some givers have not entered into the spirit of the concept and have apparently given the books to their friends rather than reaching out to those who may not be able to readily access books. I have been sorry to see some WBN books in the local charity shop that I support, which is not the intended idea; they are to be given away not sold – even for a small amount which will help a worthy cause. 

But on balance I think WBN is an excellent idea. Some of the books I gave away were received with such joy, that in itself made the world a better place.

One of my patients has been dogged by depression for many years. Unable to work, she lives on a small income, spending little on any sort of luxury. She makes herself get up every day, but admits to having no routine. She knows in theory she could get out and make use of some of the local resources such as libraries and community groups but lacks the confidence and motivation. She describes herself as a total mess. Her only pleasures are her little dog and reading.

On her last session with me, I handed her a copy of WBN’s The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry and asked if she would like to have it. She was thrilled, and promised me she would bring it back as soon as she finished it.

‘You may pass it on to a friend if you like but if you would prefer to keep it, you may. It’s yours.’ I told her.

Her face lit up. It was a picture. ‘This is the best thing that’s happened to me for a long time,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’


This is what WBN says about my book.

Hilarious, insightful and eye-opening, Confessions of a GP is the perfect book to entice people who 'don't like stories' into reading. Told in a confessional and casual style you quickly feel like you're sitting alongside Dr Daniels as dozens of little stories about real people's lives play out before you.
Dr Benjamin Daniels is a GP. That is as much as we can reveal about him and we're sad he'll never be able to show off to his mates or patients about being on the WBN list


Monday, 10 February 2014

Will there be good news?

I have recently discovered a number of similarities between going through a period of illness and the process of writing.
Both are stressful. 
Both involve periods of feeling awful about myself interspersed with bursts of optimism that things are going to get better.

Waiting around for tests (blood tests, MRI scans, CT scans, ultrasound scans, nuclear scans – I’ve had them all) is like waiting around for inspiration to strike. Sometimes the wait is long and can be very uncomfortable.

Then after the tests, having to wait for the results. Some come quickly, some take a while and all the time I’m hoping for good news this time. Just like submitting writing (after inspiration eventually arrives) and waiting for the outcome - a competition win or a sale. Either way - hoping for good news but knowing I have to gear up for probable disappointment.

That last story I submitted – could this one be a winner at last? I feel optimistic about it, it’s one of my best yet. Then I wonder whether it's any good at all. Will this last test show the latest medication is working? Surely it’s doing the trick – I’ve felt a bit better in the past couple of days – but then I feel worse.

Illness and writing can both be incredibly lonely. Fortunately both have supports groups - where people in the same situation get together online or in person and empathise with the disappointments and celebrate the successes. Such groups are life savers offering support when it is most needed. Fellow thyroid cancer patients share knowledge, ideas and good old sympathy and my writing friends are a source of information, inspiration and support too. Thank you to both groups.

A letter lands on the mat. An email pings into the in-box…will it be good news? 

After lots of disappointments I've now had one small piece of good news with writing: my piece Beneath the Arches was awarded third place in Words With Jam shorter story category. You can read it here thanks to judge Polly Courtney: Beneath the Arches 

Onwards and upwards...