Success: People, places, and things that excite me, from Shelagh Rogers to Bloody Words

Joanna Penn and Kris Rusch have blogged lately about success.

My success is minuscule compared to many writers, but my M.O. is not buckets of money. I like money, because it represents freedom, but I don’t neeeeeeed money or prestige.

I set out my goals here. I want my writing to connect with people, places, and things that excite me.

So when I picked up the phone and a neighbour named Rhonda asked me to join a new book club, and said maybe they could do my book for the next meeting, I was deeeeeelighted. (Also, surprised to hear that they’d hesitated to invite me, thinking I might be too busy. Ask me! I’m always looking for fun.)

Code blues cover 2013 EBOOK-200

Now starring the in the Glengarry book club! Will they like it? Guess I’ll find out next month.

And they did pick Code Blues, the first Hope Sze novel, which was awesomesauce. I just had to giggle in embarrassment when Rhonda told everyone it was a fun, quick read, and that they’d enjoy the Montreal references, but that parking tickets are now $52, not $30. Oops.

Steve Steinbock, the reviewer from Ellery Queen, Facebooked me seven reasons that I had to come to Bloody Words, the mystery conference in Toronto. (The list was hilarious. If I get permission, I’ll post it, but probably the funniest was (2) to join me, Howard Shrier, and Ken Wishnia in a Yiddish cussing contest.) I’d considered going after my friend Rebecca Senese told me about it, but the $190 conference seemed steep. After that message, though, I told Matt, “If Ellery Queen asks you to go to a conference, you go.” So I’ll be in Toronto June 6-8. And I have to say, it made my day that Steve was asking me to come. I’m a very small potato. Unbelieveable when someone higher up in the French fry industry says, Hey. C’mere.

Look. This incorporates both the theme of me as a small potato and the murder theme for me going to Bloody Words. You see how I did that?

Look. This incorporates both the theme of me as a small potato and the murder theme for me going to Bloody Words.You see how I did that?

Then Yasmin tweeted about my blog on Emergency Room: Life+Death at VGH, and I looked her up and realized that she’s one of the stars of the show. In fact, she got the closing words of the final episode. And the most hilarious parts is, she tagged my friend Anna to read the blog post…and Anna is the one who highlighted it in the first place, because she’s my Vancouver General Hospital friend who used to work in Montreal.

Yasmin ER star Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 8.54.43 AM

So it’s come full circle, and the closest I’ve come to a blog post going viral. In this case, it’s more like my blog post going water cooler, because it’s a relatively small group of people, but still. Shelagh Rogers. Need I say more?

Another Twitter win was that a new friend/fan made up a hashtag for Dr. Hope Sze, #HopeIsCool.

#HopeIsCool twitter Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 8.54.43 AM

I’ve never met @vmchick, so this here I am, connecting with new people who have excellent taste.  #livingthedream

“You’re quite the celebrity at the dentist’s office,” said my husband Matt, and in fact, when I made it for my appointment, Maria (the secretary), Dr. Levon Kichian (our dentist), and Kim (a dental hygenicist) all bought copies of Terminally Ill. “I started reading it already. Very intriguing,” said Dr. Kichian.

Loose Tooth

Look closely. Combines dentistry & bloody theme. Photo by Terri Heisele.

At the hospitals, they’re quite used to me writing, but if I call for a consult or for an admission, a staff member might say in passing, “Congratulations on your book” (which means they don’t plan to buy a copy, but they’re aware of my fifteen minutes of fame. Cool enough), or “I started reading your book. It’s beautiful. Now I have to buy the other two” (well, only Dr. Shah said that. But here’s hoping!).

One last win: Kobo’s Mark Leslie Lefebvre had pushed me to talk to bookstores. I found it hideously embarrassing, but I got over it, and now the Hope Sze books are available in the following select locations:

R&L’s Book Nook in Alexandria
58 Alexandria Main, Alexandria, ON K0K 1A0; (613)525-9940;

The Quirky Carrot
1 main street south; (613)525-2229; Facebook

Sunset Yoga
Église Ste. Marie de l’Assomption, Cp 119 4172 Route 34, K0C 1L0; (613) 662-YOGA(9642);

Penny’s Market
7340 regional road 23, K0C 1J0; (613)551-4806;

Coming soon:
Fassifern General Store; RR 5 in Alexandria, ON; (613)525-2144

You can also order any Olo Books/Windtree Press book from your local bookstore. Just go in and say, “Here’s my money,” and they’ll make it happen.

Thanks, exciting people. You rock!

“Only connect.” —E.M. Forster

From Fangirl Blogging to Tweeting with Shelagh Rogers


“Elvis” (Kobo director Mark Leslie Lefebvre), Barnaby Bones, reader Lesley Orr, and Melissa Yi. Yes, I know this is a giant picture. But it’s so awesome. Photo by Margaret Caldbick.

So I was pretty excited when my friends told me that we’d made the Standard Freeholder and Seaway Valley News last week and the Glengarry News (with this photo) this week.

Then I got retweeted by Shelagh Rogers.

When I was at McMaster University, cloistered in a windowless basement apartment that cost only $275 a month, I’d listen to Peter Gzowski and Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio’s Morningside and dream about them interviewing me, about my books.

Yes, I know. Only me and 10 million other people had the same dream.

But yesterday, I moved one tiny step closer. I was approving comments on my previous post, a rave review of the show Emergency Room:Life+Death at VGH, And not only did the show’s producer, Kevin Eastwood, thank me on Twitter, but a few people had favourited it and retweeted it. Including…

@shelagh reteweet Screen Shot cropped 2014-04-03 at 4.55.22 PM

So what do you say to one of your media idols? I don’t care if this question is so 2002. Comments welcome!

In the meantime, a few people have asked where they can buy Terminally Ill.
melissayi_terminallyill_eBook_final daisho

Why, online, of course, through Kobo and other fine e-railers, and in trade paperback at R&L’s Book Nook (613-525-9940; in Alexandria.

Personalized copies are also available from the author (moi), but I am sold out, and a rush shipment should arrive next Wednesday, right in the middle of a bunch of my ER shifts. If you see a zombie staggering around with a stethoscope and books, say hi.

My new favourite medical show


People used to ask me, “Is ER realistic?” and I’d say, “Kind of.” I only watched it a little, but they cut out the boring bits (“Two hundred! Three hundred! Three sixty!” when resuscitating a patient in VFib who didn’t come back right away, and I was like, “Where’s the CPR? What about the drugs?”) They added human interest elements, like educating kids about sex in the middle of the ER, that just don’t happen for me.

I did like Grey’s Anatomy, but the medical part never convinced me. Once I rewound three times to look at a CT and complain to my husband, “I don’t think it shows a bleed!”

I liked Nurse Jackie the best, but obviously, she was over the top. That whole flushing a patient’s ear down the toilet thing should have tipped you off.

medical helicopter file0001012914143

But Emergency Room: Life+Death at VGH is the real deal.

It should be. It’s a documentary. But this one captures the stories, from multiple angles: the patients, the doctors, the nurses, the respiratory therapists, the social workers. Patients die. (On dramas, so many patients survive miraculously just in time to close out the show, and I kind of roll my eyes.) People and staff aren’t always gorgeous, although I have to say that Vancouver seems to be filled with beautiful people. Crap happens: multiple trauma patients. Multiple bariatric patients. But they also cover less dramatic stories, like a cut hand and a girl with a connective tissue disorder.

On a medical geek level, I really like that the patients give a bit of history, and then the diagnosis flashes on the screen. For me, I can mentally compare my diagnosis with theirs, like a medical game show. I see a knife in the chest and think, “That’s a surgical case,” or I think, “Why would you airlift those fingers?” and give myself a checkmark when they agree with me. And when they show X-rays, the humerus really is broken. It’s not just something the prop people whipped up and might have gotten wrong.

It’s also a great peek into another emerg. I work in two community hospitals, not Level I trauma centres, and even when I did, the Montreal General Hospital was more like car crashes and that sort of thing. VGH regularly handles stab wounds (no gun shot wounds so far, though), ski accidents, and “ped strucks,” pedestrians struck by cars. (Made me realize how much people drive around here, instead of walking, although, to be fair, it’s snowing again.)


I, too, was amazed by the intensity of their cases. My friend Cara used to say to our friend Anna, who now works at VGH, “Anna, I feel like you’re in university and I’m in kindergarten.” But I was also envious of their personnel and organization. Excellence all the way. “Activate the trauma team.” I am the trauma team. I mean, me and the nurses, the ERA’s until 10 and RT until midnight, but we don’t have dedicated specialties in-house in the middle of the night. We are it. My smaller hospital has only one doctor and one nurse in the ER for the night shift. So if you’re wondering why you have to wait, that’s why.

VGH actually has a protocol for a lock down during violent cases, which sounds like a good idea. And all they have to do is say, “We’re on lock down.”

Emergency Room: Life+Death at VGH also captures the little things beautifully: a shrug, a raised eyebrow, a resuscitation room empty except for a few gloves littering the floor. The jokes (“I had a woman who vomited into her hands and then ate it.” “Hey, why waste it?”) Their philosophies (“I think of the emergency department as a living organism.” One doctor said that working with patients was sacred).

As a writer, too, I love seeing how the show draws you in, spins a story out, and makes you care.

When my kids grow up a bit, I might try and renew my privileges at a tertiary care centre. In the meantime, I’ve got to watch four more episodes of Emergency Room: Life+Death at VGH.