Monthly Archives: April 2017

Publishing: A Case Study of Getting Back Your Rights to a Trade-published Book

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Do you have a traditionally published book?  Are you unhappy with the publisher and, deep down, would like your rights back so you can self-publish it yourself instead? Read on. You can probably organise this much more easily than you think, advises American non-fiction author Ann Richardson.

First, Get Angry

In my case, it all started with a royalty statement.

The small but prestigious company that had published my book Life in a Hospice in 2007, had been taken over, and the new company did things somewhat differently. Their statement informed me that they owed me £3.27 ($4.18) but “if the amount due is less than your contractual minimum of £25, the balance will be carried forward to your next statement”.

I got hopping angry.

It wasn’t the money – it was the principle.

Yes, the book was selling only a few books a year, but the meagre royalties belonged to me. And, given my age, I figured I might well be dead before my royalties reached the required sum! I phoned the royalties department and they concurred. My £3.27 turned up on my next bank statement.

But it got me thinking. This book, about the wonderful end-of-life care provided in hospices, was the best I had ever written. The medical publisher had overpriced it for ordinary readers in the first place (over £21 for a paperback and not much less for the ebook) and given it little publicity. This was despite a Foreword by the late Tony Benn, some excellent reviews and being Highly Commended by the British Medical Association.

Why was I putting up with this?

Then, Ask

That was the impetus for doing what I should have done a long time ago. I asked for the contact details of the editor responsible for my book. Having learned how to self-publish, I wanted to gain control over its publication. But I also thought that getting rights back would involve lawyers, contracts, some payment to them and heaven knows how much time and trouble.

I emailed the editor, with a friendly request for my rights. I expected it would be weeks before I heard from her.

In fact, I had an email within two hours saying that they would be happy to revert the rights, with no cost. Indeed, it took less than three weeks for the contractual issues at their end to be sorted and a formal letter to be prepared and signed by the publisher and myself.

Lo and behold, the book was mine.

Moreover, they not only sent me a pdf of the book, but all the spare paperback copies lying around, free of charge. A surprising bonus.

That book has now been re-launched on Amazon  with an updated preface and a new cover, for £2.99. I can happily report that it is selling 3-4 a week, instead of 3-4 a year.

And Ask Again

And this led me to think – why not get my similar book back?

Wise Before their Time was about people with HIV and AIDS back when most people died from the disease. It had been published by one of the Big Five publishers in 1992 and was long out of print. It took me a while to track down the relevant person for reversion rights, but when I did, again there was absolutely no issue from their end. A formal letter returning the rights to me is, I am promised, on its way shortly. I hope to use that as a giveaway on my email list as it is still a good read, albeit out of date.

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So don’t be frightened. If my experience is anything to go by, it is much less of a problem that you think.

And what do you have to lose?

 This was originally published by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) on 27 April 2017.

Reflections of a Palliative Medicine Specialist Registrar

The following short piece was sent to me and I felt that it reflected well the sort of views offered by hospice staff in my book, Life in a Hospice: http://myBook.to/Hospice

The same casual conversation keeps popping up, “So, what kind of doctor are you?”, they ask with drink in hand, expecting to reap the rewards of knowledge gained from Casualty, to wallow sympathetically in the long hours doctors work and to perpetuate doctoring lore. A fellow doctor at your side reels in a little, scoping out other conversational opportunities, knowing the answer you are about to give. “A palliative care doctor” I say, observing the face slump as they recall their Gran die.

The thought process is often predictable: “is that not the most miserable job in the world?” The job is so often tainted by the stereotype that it is a monotonous hand-holding, sickly, nicey-nice specialty, personified by wool and crochet.

My registrar interview question ‘why do you want to go into palliative care?’ I had answered boringly. I outlined how perfect I was for this job, I was born and raised like a Spartan to be a palliative care physician with my entire being – sleep, diet and life focusing on this one true life-fulfilling aim. I raised my arms in fists to thunderous rapture of the greatness of my person specification. Needless to say, it took me four attempts to get a post.

I wish I had instead tried to respond to the connotations noted above, focusing on what I realised was important. All of medicine is palliative care, really – you are not better until you feel better, but what if you’re feeling rotten all the time? Life is about living, drinking, dancing, devotion, family and football – this job is about giving that quality to patients. It is anything but miserable and, I kid you not, the hospice is one of the most welcoming, charming, blissful and happy places I have ever been privy to.

Is it wishy-washy woollen crochet? Nothing de-stresses me more than grotesque unadulterated violence on the football pitch, and there would be a niche for some equivalent anger management strategy in the hospice (I’m trying to figure out how). But sometimes folk need some fluff. Complementary therapies and the like, although they have no quantifiably measurable outcomes, subjectively calm patients and their family in what is arguably the most stressful time of their life. There isn’t much high quality evidence behind most of it, but rather an old true physician ‘art’ in getting subtle decisions right. The cleverness is figuring out the big picture, what is important to each person and then guiding them through their own – often foggy and treacherous – waters.

Is it for everyone? Well of course not. You are dealing with death, which can create a dolorous reflective environment and this can be hard to get your head around at times. However, being close to an aspect of life so often ignored can be liberating in a weird way. Life is precious and it seems all the more so when you see it depart.

There are no overt heroics in palliative care, rarely quick drama, no adrenaline, which many doctors would miss. But what it does do better than all other specialties is offer the opportunity to not only hold the hand but walk the patient and family through the most difficult journey of their life.

Dr Matthew Dore, Palliative Medicine Specialist Registrar, Severn Hospice

Getting the motivation to exercise

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A few months ago, my six-year old grandson really took me aback. “Granny”, he asked innocently enough, “would you do me a favour?”. I assumed he wanted a second biscuit and said “of course”. As one does. “Granny, would you and Granddad try really, really hard to stay healthy, because I want my children to know their great-grandparents?” Well, that was surprise. I promised to try. What else could one say?

Too much trouble

We all know that one means towards good health is exercise, but how often do we do anything about it?  It feels like so much trouble. Once now and again is fine, but doing it on a regular basis is something else altogether. There are so many excuses – a bad night’s sleep, someone coming for dinner, just don’t have the energy today. And so forth.  It’s easy to slip.  Believe me, I know.

And yet you know you should be doing something to keep yourself in good shape. They keep telling us this. You probably know what might be possible if only you could get off the sofa and go do it. How can we get the motivation?

Find something you really like

First, you need to find something you really like to do. In my case, this was difficult as I had no love of sports all my life. I was no good at any of it – indeed, I was the girl in my PE class who no one wanted on their team. I tried to avoid sports wherever possible. Not surprisingly, this continued well into adulthood.

What about you? Did you used to love tennis? Or swimming? Or dancing? Perhaps you just enjoy walking. Have a think if there is something that you could still do that you really like to do. Are there others who could go with you? All that would be a good start.

Other benefits

Second, you need to think about what additional pleasures you will get from the endeavour. If you have a friend who likes to swim, you could go together and have a chat afterwards. If you go to an exercise class, you might make new friends and expand your social life.

Or, like many of us, you may want to lose a little weight or improve your body tone. This will certainly be another secondary benefit. Or particular exercises may help to reduce certain pains, like those arising from arthritis. I got started on yoga, because it was recommended by an osteopath as a means of strengthening my painful back. I have now been doing it for over twenty years.

Third, you need to make it really easy for yourself to keep at it week after week. You need to find something that fits readily into your daily routine. Is the swimming pool nearby? Is there an obvious walk? Are there exercises you could do in your own living room?

The extra push

And finally, you may need an extra push. Setting a target will help, such as promising yourself that you will go to the gym twice a week. My husband thought up a very novel means – he blamed me for not nagging him. I can now nag with impunity and he is happy.

I’m not sure I can manage to fulfil my grandson’s ambition for me, as I am not so young. But I intend to keep trying.

 

Originally published on the website of British Seniors: https://www.britishseniors.co.uk/life-over-50/guest-authors/getting-the-motivation-to-exercise/

Grandfathers are not what they used to be…nor are fathers!

Have you noticed that something very wonderful is happening to men? Perhaps not all men in every circumstance, but certainly with respect to children in their family. They are becoming so very much more involved. It is a joy to behold.

Young Fathers and Their Children

In our day, it was the rare father who would carry a baby around, do the school run or otherwise take a real part in day-to-day childcare. Of course, they would help out now and then by taking the children to another kid’s birthday party or reading a bedtime story. But they were not truly involved in the everyday business of childcare.

They argued that they were too busy or could not get time off work. Or, by the very old-fashioned, that most activities involving children were “women’s work.”

Nowadays, in contrast, you commonly see men on the street with a baby sling or pushing a stroller (‘pushchair’ in England) or, indeed, at the school gates. Fathers come home from work to get the children to bed. You see them at school plays. It is a very different scene.

I haven’t seen any data on the subject, so I can only speak anecdotally, but all my friends comment on it. Whether it is their son or their son-in-law, grandmothers notice how much the man plays his part. Mothers may not even be so aware of the enormous change, as they only see what is happening now – not what used to happen in our day.

Is this development because mothers are pressing harder for more paternal involvement and fathers can find fewer excuses with real bite? Or have fathers discovered that it is actually a lot of fun to engage with their children? Or perhaps a bit of both? I suspect also that the more fathers are seen to be actively involved, the more normal it becomes and the easier it is for the pattern to continue.

Grandfathers and Their Grandchildren

The same kind of thing also seems to be happening to grandfathers. As discussed in my book, Celebrating Grandmothers, they want to play on the floor with their grandchildren. They want to tell them stories and in all kinds of ways want to be much more involved in their lives. Yes, there were always some who were highly active in any case, but the tradition was that it was the grandmother – along with the mother – who did the heavy lifting.

Some are the children’s favourite. We grandmothers have to grin and bear it. When I collect my young grandson for a visit, his first question, almost invariably, is “Will Grand-Dad be at home when we get there?”

Just as some grandmothers are providing a lot of day-to-day childcare for their grandchildren, so too are grandfathers. I have a friend who takes his grandson to school every day, collects him in the afternoon and makes his dinner, as the parents tend to work long hours. And he doesn’t even live near by. It is hard work day after day, but the result is a very close relationship.

A New Generation of Modern Grandfathers

Are these grandfathers making up for lost time? Some may feel they did not give their children enough attention when they were young and this is a way of making amends. Some simply have much more time now – and the lack of driving ambition – to put their energies to these tasks. And some, like grandmothers, have found that they get a great deal of fulfilment from their role. Perhaps they like the opportunity to give an outing to their softer side.

Of course, many grandfathers have been lost along the way. Some divorced the mother of the grandchildren a long time ago and had less and less to do with the family from an early stage. Others divorced more recently, but still choose to keep out of the way. Some grandmothers engage in considerable efforts to bring the stray grandfather back into the fold. My own view is that they will find it very worthwhile.

A Gift for the Next Generation

Whatever the reasons for these developments, we should celebrate them. It suggests greater respect is being given to the important task of bringing up the next generation. And, while families undoubtedly differ hugely in these respects, the children are surely benefitting from the real involvement of more people in their lives.

This was initially published with a slightly different title by sixtyandme (http://sixtyandme.com/grandfathers-aint-what-they-used-to-be-and-thats-a-good-thing/

Why Do Our Grandchildren Grow Up So Quickly?

We all know that our sense of time changes as we grow older – with everything speeding up at an alarming rate. One of the most notable markers of this is the age of our children – and even more so – our grandchildren.

When We Were Young

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child, time seemed to stretch on forever. If it was Christmas, summer was ages and ages away. You looked forward to being the next age up – to be seven when you were six, and so forth – but didn’t it take a long time to come!

It seemed the natural order of things that time passed slowly and one never thought to question it.

Children and Time

By the time you are in your 30s and 40s, time speeds up a bit, but not that much. Having children in the house keeps you so busy, you don’t think about time as such. Perhaps their birthday parties seem to come around more quickly than yours ever did, or you notice their friends getting taller rather quickly. But somehow there was nothing alarming about the speed of things.

Grandchildren Change So Quickly

But when it comes to grandchildren, everything speeds up so fast you begin to wonder if you have time to enjoy them. They seem to change from toddlers to teenagers in the blink of an eye.

This is particularly the case, I suspect, when you don’t see the grandchildren all that often. We all heard “My, how you’ve grown!” when we were children and thought it was a silly remark. Now, we all probably repeat it ourselves. And buying appropriate presents can be a minefield. It moves amazingly quickly from dolls to make-up, from toy trains to football gear, and for all them to small screens of every kind.

And then they learn so fast. One minute they are working out how to read and the next they are learning French or Mandarin. And they know things you don’t know. This came home to me recently when my seven-year-old grandson taught my husband how to use his iPad.

Children as Markers of Time

I have always used the age of my children as markers for particular times – we moved house when my daughter was seven, my good friend died when my son was ten. These were easier ways of remembering dates than the actual year, as the years tend to merge into one another with surprising ease.

In contrast, I find it hard to use my grandchildren’s ages as markers of time as they move so fast from one age to another.

Other People’s Surprise

And your friends are constantly surprised about ages. Is your son really 35 – it feels like only yesterday that we took him to university! Is that baby grand-daughter six years old already? Different friends are taken aback by different information, but what they have in common is surprise at the passage of time. I tend to say “Yes, they age, but we don’t. We just stay the same.”

And this is, perhaps, hardest of all – realising that we are aging, too. I still remember my own father saying he didn’t mind so much getting old, but he hated having middle-aged children. He always said I was 31, whatever age I actually was. I really understand now how he felt.

Originally published on Sixtyandme (see http://sixtyandme.com/why-do-our-grandchildren-grow-up-so-quickly/)

Handselling

My grandfather, who died before I was born, was a failed entrepreneur who ended up as a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman in the 1930s.  I think of him often these days as I have discovered that a good way to boost sales of my most recent book is by what seems to be called ‘handselling’.

How I handsell my books

cover of Celebrating GrandmothersCelebrating Grandmothers is a narrative book about what it is like being a grandmother.  Who buys it?  Grandmothers, of course, but also many others buy it as a gift.  The pre-Christmas period is great, as people are looking for an original present for a grandmother, and my book is a solution to their problem.  Grandfathers may be looking for a present for their wife, young people for their grandmother, and parents with young children for their mother or mother-in-law.

It takes a lot of courage, but yes, I go up to people in the street and show them my flyer, and while they are looking at it, I pull out the book and say ‘this is what it looks like’.  As the cover has an eye-catching picture, they often say ‘ooh’, take the book and leaf through it.  Many say they will look at my website later (and then don’t), but a fair number buy it then and there.  I always carry change for £10 in my pocket, so the transaction can be completed without a lot of fuss.

How I decide who to approach

The key question is who to approach.  First and foremost, youngish-looking older women, asking if they are a grandmother.  They are invariably so surprised by the question that they ask ‘why’ and then I tell them. Very old women are not so interested, because once grandchildren are grown up they no longer identify with the role. If they aren’t a grandmother, I ask if they have a sister who is.

Another obvious group are pregnant women.  Of course, I approach women pushing prams or pushchairs, although the hazard in London is that they are a nanny and/or foreign and their mother doesn’t speak English or, indeed, they don’t speak English themselves. Men with pushchairs are better as they are invariably polite, unlikely to be a nanny, and more often buy on the spur of the moment.  I avoid older men, because with so much divorce, many lose touch with grandchildren and you don’t want to touch a raw nerve.

I need to aim for relaxed individuals – and a relaxed author

And what have I learned? You need to get people on their own, rather than two or more together.  They shouldn’t be rushing about, on their phone, dealing with troublesome toddlers or looking like their minds are completely elsewhere. I must be in a good mood, as otherwise I can’t muster the necessary enthusiasm.  It helps if it is a nice day as people are more willing to stop and chat. But all in all, people are surprisingly nice, some even complimenting me for selling in this way.  And best of all, every sale feels wonderful.

It’s worth trying quiet shops

Book on shelf in Limone Delicatessen

Finally, shopkeepers are also worth approaching, if they have no customers.  They may well want a copy, but my greatest surprise was a lovely woman who runs the Limone delicatessen in Highgate.  She offered to put a flyer in her window and then added, why didn’t she keep a couple of copies in case people wanted one?  They are placed just behind the counter, so I couldn’t ask for greater visibility.  She has sold five copies in three weeks and refuses to take any payment on the grounds that she likes to help people and ‘what goes round comes round’. I wish her all good things.

This was originally published by the Alliance of Independent Authors:                                    http://selfpublishingadvice.org/book-promotion-a-handselling-case-study/

Crime and Punishment: memories of school

My husband and I had an unusual experience recently. We visited his old school, along with about 60 other men in their 60s and above. There were also a few other wives. Let me explain why we were there, and the impact of the visit.

New Use of School Premises

In the early 1950s, he went to a boys’ grammar school. In the UK, this is a state high school for boys aged 11 and over. It was located in the extensive docks area near Tower Bridge in the East End of London. Most of the boys were from local working class families, but the school had a good reputation and they studied hard.

In the late 1960s, the school re-located to another part of London and the premises were used for various other educational purposes. It eventually fell into dereliction. The area, in the meantime, changed beyond all recognition and is now full of restaurants and office buildings spilling over from the business district in the City of London.

A few years ago, the school building was bought by an Indian luxury hotel chain called the Lalit. It was given a complete makeover and is opening for business shortly. As part of the hotel opening, all alumni of the school and their wives were invited to a reception to see how it had changed. We were feted with champagne and taken around the building.

The old assembly hall had become an elegant dining room and the ordinary school rooms had become well appointed guest rooms. There were also the usual places associated with a hotel, including reception rooms, a bar and so forth. Everyone agreed that the renovation had been an excellent job. It was splendid to see.

Memories

While we trooped around the premises, the men exclaimed about the changes of use. They said things like “This used to be the physics lab!” and exchanged memories of being there.

There were memories of sports events, exams, the way assembly was run, particular teachers and eccentric classmates. Conversations started with “Do you remember…?”

But by far the most common memory was of having been caned by the headmaster. This is known in England as “six of the best.” One man remembered a stool he had to hold onto while he bent over to be thrashed. Another, presumably a bit of a tear-away, proudly claimed to have had over 150 lashings over his time at the school.

My husband said that he had had only one caning, for admitting that he had taken a second pudding, or dessert in American English, at lunch. He had not been the only boy to do so – just the only one to admit it.

Nobody remembered the head with any affection.

Women’s Memories

An equivalent group of women of a similar age, wherever they are in the world, are likely to have very different memories of school. Punishments might still be a strong component. Indeed, it brought back my own memories. I was generally a very well behaved little girl, but I still remember being called in to a head teacher when I was about eight for loudly singing the well-known Christmas carol about three kings in its inappropriate form. The words included something about a rubber cigar.

We girls were beaten much less frequently than boys, I am sure. However, we were told off, given detention and generally forced to undergo some unpleasant activity in an effort to make us behave. And corporal punishment continued in some places for a long time, as my daughter-in-law, who left her school in a small town in Louisiana in the 1980s, informs me.

These memories sit in the back of our heads, rarely aired. But when they come out, they are very strong.

This was originally published by Sixtyandme (http://sixtyandme.com/discipline-and-detention-looking-back-at-school-in-the-1950s/)

Becoming Grandma can Change Your Life

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Are you a grandmother? Does that give you absolute joy or considerable worry? I write about grandmothers on Sixty and Me.  Most of these posts are about the very wonderful side of being a grandmother. But some women experience real problems, often as a result of conflicts within the family. If you find yourself in the latter situation, you are not alone. Stay with me.

The first step in becoming a grandmother is the actual birth. And what a moment that is! It means a new life for the grandchild, but also a new life for everyone around the baby. This includes its mother, father, siblings and other grandparents. And don’t forget yourself.

Becoming a grandmother will bring big changes in your day-to-day life, your ways of thinking about the future, your family relationships and your sense of yourself. This is what these posts will be about.

The birth day of your grandchild brings back strong memories

Some grandmothers find themselves right in the thick of things at the birth of a grandchild. Others live too far away or do not go for other reasons. If you were able to attend, you may notice the details and remember the experience better than the birth of your own children.

Remember all the upheaval and emotion when it was you having the baby? Even if you weren’t able to attend the birth day of your grandchild, it brings back memories of your own childbirth experiences.

Deciding to attend the birth of a grandchild is not an easy decision

You may not expect to be present at the birth of a grandchild. However, if your daughter or daughter-in-law asks you to be there for her, you will need to give it some thought. It is not a simple decision. You may be uncomfortable being around someone in pain, especially when it is your own daughter. Or you may feel that you will simply be in the way.

If you are a somewhat anxious person, you may find yourself too tense about the possibility that something could go wrong. The sound of a baby’s heartbeat over a monitor is great ­– until you think that the one you just heard might also be the last. You will worry for the baby; you will be concerned for the mother.

It is possible that your own emotions could create a problem, like the proverbial father in cartoons who inevitably faints. But being there can also be one of the most special days of your life. Your help may be vital, if only as a welcome distraction during labour.

It’s always good to attend when asked, to give help if it is needed. You will be a full part of the experience. The absolute bonus of course, is seeing the baby when a new born, in that second when you became a grandmother.

Creating an early bond with a grandchild is important 

Being at the birth can establish a very close bond with the new baby. There is something significant in those very early moments. If there are any complications, the baby may well be handed to you first thing. But in any case, you will get to hold him or her very soon. On occasion, a grandmother is invited to cut the umbilical cord. These experiences will remain with you forever, bringing a special closeness between you and the baby.

The birth of a grandchild connects you with your daughter or daughter in law

Being present at the birth may also strengthen your relationship with your daughter or daughter-in-law. A new birth changes many relationships. In the days to come, you will see a lot more of your grandchild’s mother, as you visit and help her to look after the baby.

But it can start with your being there for the birth. It is a very intimate time. You see her when she is feeling most vulnerable and she may rely on you to help her through. What a good way to deepen your relationship forever.

The moment of birth is an indescribable moment

You don’t need me to tell you that the birth of a new grandchild is one of the big moments in the life of a grandmother. Many people who work in the maternity business say they never get over the excitement of each birth. But for us normal mortals, there are only so many chances to be physically there. So if you are asked to be at the birth, think hard about it. And then, if you possibly can, go.

This was first published by sixtyandme (http://sixtyandme.com/becoming-grandma-can-change-your-life/)

The Painful truth about unhappy grandmothers

There are many happy grandmothers about. I know; I am one of them. We play with the kids, we bore our friends by talking about how wonderful they are and we generally feel very pleased with the way grandchildren have enhanced our lives.

But what about the unhappy grandmothers? Those who cannot see their grandchildren much – or at all. Those for whom the occasional visit is a painful experience due to complex family relationships. Let us pause for a moment and think about them. Perhaps you are one of them.

Distant Grandchildren

The least complicated scenario is where the grandchildren live far away. People are so mobile nowadays, they think nothing of traversing a continent for a new or better job. This leaves a lot of bereft grandmothers. Women in California whose grandchildren are in New England, women in London whose grandchildren are in Australia – it goes on and on.

Of course, there is Skype and all the equivalent apps that allow us to see the grandchildren grow from a distance. We can talk to them on a regular basis and keep up with their new pets or toys or hair styles. As discussed in more detail by grandmothers in my book, it is never the same as actually holding them in our arms.

And then we can travel to see them or vice versa. Airports are full of eager older people, often women, clutching presents on the way out and holding back tears on the way home. It will ever be so.

Difficult Families

A more difficult case is where families are in a state of conflict for immediate or past wrongs and the grandmothers are not welcomed. Sometimes, they can visit but only occasionally or under very specific conditions. Sometimes they are refused access completely, such as when there has been an acrimonious separation or divorce.

It may also be the case that you can visit, but it is painful to do so because your son or daughter’s marital relationship is so difficult that being around them is highly unpleasant. You want to go, but you don’t enjoy the time there due to bickering or uneasy silences. How can you enjoy the grandchildren in such circumstances?

Overworked Grandmothers

There is yet another scenario where grandmothers have taken on a great deal of childcare and find it difficult to manage. With too much access, rather than too little, this is a different situation altogether and requires a post all of its own.

Ways Forward

I wish I could offer easy solutions. I wish I could make relationships easier, whether people live close or far. All I can say here is that, whatever the difficulties of your circumstances, you are not alone. There are many others living with similar pain and some organisations committed to helping you. It is well worth checking what is available near where you live.

This was first published by sixtyandme (http://sixtyandme.com/the-painful-truth-about-unhappy-grandmothers/

Interview about Life in a Hospice

Life in a Hospice takes you behind the scenes in end-of-life care, where you will see the enormous efforts of nurses, doctors, chaplains and others – even a thoughtful cook – to provide the calm that we all hope for.  Perhaps you are looking for end-of-life care for someone you love. Perhaps you are wondering if this is the job for you. Or you just feel like being inspired by humanity at its best. This book will be for you.

Life in a Hospice: reflections on caring for the dying by Ann Richardson

1. What inspired you to write your book?

After the death of a good friend, I worked for four years as a hospice volunteer. I was extremely impressed with the dedication of the staff, but also rather fascinated by what motivated them to go to work day after day to see people die. I had already written one book based on interviews and felt this would be another suitable subject.

2. How long did it take you to write your book?

My writing is different from that of most authors as it is based on interviews.  Each interview takes somewhat under two hours and it is best not to do more than one a day. There were 31 interviews done over the course of two or three months. These are then transcribed verbatim (word-for-word), which takes about half a day each. Once I have the transcript, I read it over with enormous care, marking up the different themes and issues arising. I can do only 2-3 a day.  So there is a lot of preparation time.  These preparatory processes usually overlap, which helps.

Once I have the transcript material in order, however, it takes me only a few months to complete a book draft and a little longer for editing.  All in all, the process takes somewhere between six months and a year.

3. What is one thing you would love someone to take away after reading your book?

A sense of awe at the caring qualities of the people I interviewed.  You see humanity at its very best (not the people dying, who we don’t learn much about, but the people caring for them)

4. Describe your book in three words.

 Hospice, dedication, care

5. Who will enjoy your book the most?

People who like to reflect on deeper issues in life.  It is not at all morbid – indeed, it is funny in places –  but it is not traditional entertainment.  I suspect there is a big overlap with people who seek out literary fiction.

6. What do you think is most important to being a powerful writer?

 Skill with words is always important (and hard to pin down what it means), but so is a sense of the complexity of human beings – their motivations, their funny little foibles and their joys.  I would place honesty above all, as readers recognize an honest book when they see it

7. When you write, who do you envision you’re writing to?

This varies book by book.  In this case, I imagined readers would be people like me who would find it fascinating to understand the joys and challenges of end-of-life care.  Regrettably, there are not so many people in this category as I hoped! Several subgroups are also likely to be interested in this book –

  1. people who already provide end-of-life care, such as nurses and others, and want to read about how others cope with it;
  2. people who are thinking about going into end-of-life care, such as student nurses and others, and want to understand what it entails;
  3. people who are looking into end-of-life care for a family member or friend and want to know what hospices are like.

I also recommend it to anyone who just wants to see humanity acting at its very best.

8. Does writing energise or exhaust you, or a bit of both?

Writing completely energises me and it is difficult for me to stop. Sometimes I will wake up in the night and go to work on a book.  Of course, in the end, it is tiring, but I am always happy when I am working on a book.

9. What did you enjoy most – and least – about the process of creating your book?

I enjoy almost everything in the process of creating my books, but there can come a time in editing a book when I feel I have had enough.

10. Did you often suffer from writer’s block whilst writing? Any tips to overcome it?

I have never suffered from writer’s block, aside from the odd morning after a bad night’s sleep when the sentences don’t flow as well as usual.

Ann Richardson’s book is available on Amazon at: Life in a Hospice

This was originally published on mumsthewordblog (https://www.mumsthewordblog.com/2017/04/12/interview-with-ann-richardson-author-of-life-in-a-hospice/)