Sunday, May 1, 2011

Inspiration, You Reap What You Sow by Author Maria E. Schneider

Who in their right mind empties bedpans to gain book material??? I mean, if you were going to be a writer and do research, wouldn't you do something cool like ride the rapids through the Grand Canyon, swim with dolphins in Hawaii, or I dunno, interview Steven Spielberg in his East Hampton home so you could oogle all the incredible rooms???

Turns out that when I was thirteen years old, Mom did not pick any of those cool things for me to do during the summer. Nope, she thought it would be a great "experience" for me to volunteer at the hospital on the days she happened to be working. I doubt that thirteen-year-olds are allowed to volunteer at hospitals anymore (and no, I don't think the rules changed because of anything *I* did as a volunteer!) At the time, I was not concerned in the least about writing novels. I was supposed to be learning about a potential career. Probably because my mother worked there, I was allowed to do a few tasks that student nurses did: Stay in the background while a doctor talked to a patient or two (no exams were done, just the routine rounds) empty bed pans (oh, the benefits of being on the inside track!) and work in x-ray. If you've read Executive Sick Days, you might see a connection here.

When writing Sick Days, I almost created a hospital setting similar to the old hospital where Mom worked before I volunteered. It was a spooky old building and the possibilities were endless. It still had laundry chutes, which, let's face it--would be a great place to find dead bodies or Sedona might need a laundry chute to make a quick get-away...only...yeah, let's think about what goes down laundry chutes. And what might not have stayed in the bedpans and might be on the sheets. No, I was not going to go back to the old hospital and research *that* too closely. We writers have our limits. I'll do a lot for my fans, but if even the stunt-double turns it down, I just make the stuff up.

I learned a great deal of respect for my mother working that summer at the hospital. Unlike her, I didn't save any lives, but on the bright side, I didn't cause any injuries either. It was not me who stole lunches, although if you ate the hospital food back then, you might have been tempted to steal a lunch or three from the employee fridge. The moral of the story, if there is one, is to avoid hospitals if you can; I've heard that people sometimes really do die there.

If anyone has a inside track to that interview with Spielberg, let me know. Sedona would enjoy working in a setting like that. Unless, of course, dead bodies, bad guys and and crooks are going to show up. If that's the case, let's stick with the trip to Hawaii. That's some research I could really get into.


  1. You mean emptying bed pans isn't glamorous? Well, I think I'm glad it was you and not me. Though what I did as a teen in the summers wasn't all that glamorous either. For someone who despises seafood, working in the largest sit-down restaurant on the East Coast for a summer was not the ideal. Of course I've never written a book about it either!

    I know another writer who actually had a blast in an antigravity ride doing some research for his book. I know, I was jealous too.

    If you need any other inspiration, I know the owner of a B&B in the boonies with a resident cat named Boo...

  2. That anti-gravity ride sounds GREAT!!! As for the B&B in the boonies, it might not provide inspiration, but it might give me some quiet time away from chores...and that in and of itself can really help a story along!!!


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