I could win an award tonight for The Medical Post, but I’m working at the hospital instead. You’re welcome.

Hey! I was nominated for ‘Best regularly featured column’ at the 62nd Canadian Business Media Awards for my work at The Medical Post!

Photo on 2016-06-05 at 11.13 AM #4

Anastasia sometimes likes to change inside the locker at swimming. In other good news, our kids may pass their swimming lessons (Whale & Level 7). W00T!

I fist-punched the air. Until I got this, I didn’t consciously realize that my non-fiction was the one kind of writing I did consistently that wasn’t recognized by awards. The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World did get named to the Ultimate Reading List for Nurses, and it sold a lot of copies, but awards? Awards for me? Yaaaaaaay!

Also slightly unreal, since I feel like everyone else is talking Very Seriously About Life And Death in their columns, and I’m like, Whut.

I didn’t even know this was a thing, but I looked it up, and the Medical Post is killing the shortlist. IMG_1917Professional Magazine the Year, Best News Coverage, Best One-of-a-Kind Article (two out of seven articles, and I contributed to one of them, “Medical misconceptions”—I wrote a quick piece called “I’m not an old, white man”), Best Professional Article, and Best Regularly Featured Department or Column. The last one’s my baby, and competition is stiff. Not only are there nine different contenders (including Richard Ouzounian, whom I used to listen to on CBC Radio’s “Say It With Music”), but again, two of us are from the Medical Post.

I considered going to the awards ceremony tonight, but I’m the hospitalist at the Glengarry, starting today, so it would be hard to get coverage as I drive to Toronto and back.

So good luck to all the nominees! I’ll be thinking of you tonight.

humans hot dogs cover audio 3 inAlso, I must thank our phenomenal friends who are crowdfunding Rico Anderson’s reading of “Humans ‘n’ Hot Dogs,” my Roswell Award finalist short story. The net tally so far is $255.04 U.S. and $148 Canadian. We love you! Thank you for the support from Canada, the U.S., England, and Switzerland. Rico’s jonesing for us to meet our stretch goal of $500-$600, so if anyone wants to throw a bit more money in, maybe he’ll do a Snoopy Dance for you.

Either way, much gratitude today. xoxoxoxoxo

Bringing Humans ‘n’ Hot Dogs to Life

Meet Rico.rico head shot black

Rico E. Anderson, to be precise. rico star trek picstitch

Rico is an award-winning actor who starred as Boras in Star Trek: Renegades, directed by Tim Russ. He appeared in Criminal Minds, Modern Family, Young & Hungry, and Bones, and will be on The Fosters in June.

He lit up the stage as Oedipus and Malcolm X. He got his first big break in the 2005 Academy Award Winning short film, “Mighty Times: The Children’s March.”

You medical types may recognize him fresh off Grey’s Anatomyrico mcstabby 13256528_10209840858725007_1403981302899658875_n

However, Rico’s most thrilling appearance to date was at the 2016 Roswell Awards, when he read my short story, “Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs.”

I kid, I kid. Well, Rico did read my story. He was hilarious. He adopted various personae, including a Russian accent for the homeless man. People laughed the whole way through. Like, almost continuously. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to record audio or video, so that performance is now locked in the audience’s memories and otherwise lost in the ether.

After the ceremony, Rosalind Helfand, the Roswell director, told me that the judges were “absolutely gleeful” after reading my story. One judge, Steven Calcote, applauded when he met me and said, “Yay! ‘Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs.’” Later, he took my hand and said, “Promise me you’ll keep on writing.” Which felt good, since I’ve been casting about, trying to write the next Hope Sze medical mystery.

rico and me on stage roswell IMG_7377Later, I was having drinks with Rico, praising his performance, and I thought, Maybe I shouldn’t let this go. We weren’t allowed to record his performance at the Roswell Awards. But what if he recorded it later and we released it as an audio book?

This is a risky proposition. I’m not a big name, so sales are not guaranteed. You can’t charge buyers much for a recording of a short story. And Rico would have to be paid. The man is one of those rarities, a full-time Hollywood actor who doesn’t have a day job. (Whenever he says this, he starts knocking on wood, and on his head.)

But Rico wants to do this. He told me, “I’m in.” Still, I know this will take time for him, not only to record, but to discuss my “vision.” I said he could direct himself, but as a professional, he wants to make sure the final product is what I envisaged. Plus there’s sound editing and other things that take time and expertise.

This is where you, the reader, come in.

I’ve never done a real crowdfunding campaign, but I’m going to try it now and see if we can bring Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs to life.

Any donation: big thanks and a picture of Rico shirtless. Goal: unlocked! See below.

Wiener ($5): an advance e-book copy of Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs and enormous thanks from Rico and me.

Pepperoni ($10): an advance deluxe e-book copy of Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs, including cartoons, inside tips on how to how to network in Los Angeles, and behind-the-scenes stories from Sci-Fest LA, Caltech, and Buzzfeed.

humans hot dogs cover audio 3 inBangers ($20): deluxe e-book and you’ll be the first to hear the audio book, before it’s uploaded to Audible, iTunes, and other retailers. Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs all the way!

Chorizo ($25): now we’re cooking. Deluxe e-book, audio book, and line producer credit in the book.

Andouille ($30): now we’re sizzling. All the previous rewards, co-producer credit in the book, plus an audio copy of my most popular book, The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World and Other True Tales From the Emergency Room

Bratwurst ($50): smells absolutely delicious in here. Must be your generosity. Includes all of the above, with associate producer credit in the book

Mortadella ($100): every single previous reward, with executive producer credit in the book, and a copy of the print book, shipped anywhere in the world for free. Yes, a real, live, print book that you can pass on to future generations, along with Rico’s stunning rendition of my oeuvre.

Yes! We have our first donation, which unlocks a behind-the-scenes photo from Grey's Anatomy. Hello.

Yes! We have our first donation, which unlocks a behind-the-scenes photo from Grey’s Anatomy. Hello.

If you don’t want producer credit, that’s cool. No pressure.

Minimum Goal: $250. Stretch goal: $600.

rico and me with baby IMG_7384For now, I’m staying away from Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, because it looks like 10 percent of the money will go to fees. PayPal alone eats a fair amount of the donation—up to 5 percent plus a flat rate fee—but seems the lesser of the evils, so please send PayPal donations to olobooks [at] gmail [dot] com. I accept cash and cheques (Canadian or U.S., since Rico is American and we’ve got Canadian “dollarettes” right now). Internet banking saves on fees and should also go to olobooks [at] gmail [dot] com. I should even be able to accept credit cards or Interac if you contact me privately through that address.

If you can’t donate, I also appreciate any likes and shares and sparkly comments. I’m not going to spam you. It’s just that, if you react to this post, it ranks higher in Facebook’s algorithm.

Thanks for reading this. I think it’s very cool that nowadays, with only a few dollars, we can make a difference and support the arts.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”Aesop

“No one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them.”Maeve Greyson

The Roswell Award vs. Max’s birthday parties

roswell simon and me 11393247_10206278702662184_1238016676653303411_n (1)

Simon Kassianides (formerly of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a James Bond villain in Quantum of Solace, now directing and starring in his new Kickstarter-funded film “Trust No One”) and me, 2015

roswell award group 11393157_10206278702702185_5846603274151926583_n (1)

Back row: David Dean Bottrell, comedy duo Charles, David Blue, William Hawkins, Gates McFadden, Catherine W. Cheres, Armin Shimerman, T. Lucas Earle, Patricia Tallman, Rosalind Helfand Front row: Jasika Nicole, Donna Glee Williams, Simon Kassianides, Melissa Yuan-Innes

One year ago, I was a Roswell finalist. You may remember my 2015 agonizing about spending the money to go to L.A. when I had a 1/6 chance of winning $1000. You can read about it here and here. I didn’t win, but I had a fabulous time.

And this year…

Dear Melissa,

Congratulations (again!)!

On behalf of SCI-FEST LA, I’m excited to announce that your story “Humans ‘N’ Hot Dogs,” is a finalist for

The Roswell Award for Short Science Fiction

Your story is one of just six finalists chosen from nearly 250 submissions received from around the world. Your story will be presented in an Awards & Staged Reading event featuring celebrity guest readers on Sunday, May 22 at 7:00pm at the Acme Theatre in Hollywood.

What? No way.

I ran through my usual reasons not to go. It will cost money. It will harm the environment. I should stay home with my kids. I should stay home and work. I should stay home and write. It’s too close to Max’s birthday, which is tomorrow.

Then I decided I wanted to go. Even though I’m sure I’m not going to win. “Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs.” C’mon. A comical piece doesn’t usually take top prize.

roswell finalists 2016 72ed0b_6288775339a74bf98aa4434eca5f935d

But what about Max’s birthday? Up until now, Max has had fairly extravagant birthday parties. Not in terms of renting out the Ritz, but in terms of time and sweat. When he was four, I made Thomas and Annie and Clarabel train cakes. DSC01525

When he was seven, he decided he wanted the solar system for his piñatas, so I set about making nine celestial bodies and told him, “Max, we’re going to skip Pluto. It’s not officially a planet anymore.” He said, “Awww! But I like Pluto!” So I felt like I had failed him, even though when his friend Lucas told his mom and my friend, Jessica, “Max is having nine piñatas,” she said, “Oh, Lucas, I’m pretty sure Max isn’t having nine piñatas.” But of course, he was. And that made me realize that not every mom would make the solar system for her kid with her own hands.

The past two years, we’ve done water fights and a piñata. For his ninth, we even had a small contingent of girls. But this year, he just wanted to go see the Angry Birds Movie with a few friends. So I thought he might not notice if I went to L.A. for the Roswell Awards.

When I asked Max, he started crying.

Oops. I gave him a big hug. We agreed that I’d fly down on the Saturday instead. That way, I’ll be home for his real birthday *and* Angry Birds. Because you only turn ten once, and even though he ignores me when his best friend, Jacob, is around, it’s cool that he still loves his mom and wants her at his party. That won’t happen for too much longer.

Why do I want to hit L.A.? There were a few things I didn’t have a chance to do the last time. Well, I mean, many, but on my last night, I met Neil from Buzzfeed, and he said I could tour the office. That is WAY cool to me, because…Eugene Lee Yang. I like the Try Guys (the American Ninja Warrior episode hooked me), I like Buzzfeed Violet, I like lots of things. But in the end, Eugene.


My 2015 Roswell friend, Kevin, had invited me to tour Caltech. And Human Remains, the fifth Hope Sze novel, is set in a lab. The ZINN lab said I could stop by. I also reached out to Bill (Dr. William L.) Stanford, whom I’d met through the UOHS conference. He just told me that he’d give me a tour of his Ottawa stem cell lab when I get back! Yeah!

And when I told John Burley, my new ER doctor-author friend, that I was flying down, he said, “It’s only a short flight from San Jose.”

IMG_7234So that makes me feel socially sophisticated, that I have an author-doctor friend flying down to meet me in L.A. for the Roswell Awards. Of course I also feel environmentally guilty, but right now, I’ve decided to travel a little when it calls me. If you want to learn more about John and his cricothyroidotomies, you can read my interview with him here or his official website.

In the meantime, I made homemade vanilla ice cream cake, using whipped cream, condensed milk, and real Madagascar vanilla beans for Max’s birthday. I hope it’s good. I love you, Max! Happy tenth birthday!