Terminally Ill Onstage and Sugar and Vice in the World

Terminally Ill cast: undercurrents 2024

Hope Sze: Stefanie Velichkin-Hitgano

Elvis: Corinne Viau

Archer: Brandon Nguyen

Kameron: Malia Rogers

Ryan: Song Wang

Mme. Bérubé/Tori: Melissa Yi

Director: Micah Jondel DeShazer

Playwright/Producer: Melissa Yi

Stage manager: Tamara Laplante

Writing is lonely. We want to connect with readers, but even bestseller Lee Goldberg says he may never see people reading his books in public with the advent of ereaders.
Solution: TURN YOUR BOOK INTO A PLAY. That’s what I did! The header photo is our final cast for the undercurrents festival.

Photo above of Stefanie Hitgano as Hope Sze resuscitating Melissa Landry as Elvis (photos by Jen Derbach from the TACTICS workshop).

And here you see Kameron (Eponine Lee) stepping forward. She played Juliet in R+J at Stratford. Shakespeare, Melissa Yi, same, same. 😊 Tucker was Dora-Award winning theatre maker Richard Lee, sitting with Hope, and Micah Jondel DeShazer, our director, sits above them.

Well, now it’s time for Terminally Ill to debut at the undercurrents festival in Ottawa Feb 8-10, 2024!

February 8: 8:30pm

February 9: 7:00pm

February 10: 3:30pm

Buy your tickets here: https://ottawafringe.com/show/terminally-ill/

Strictly optional: would you like to cosplay?

The audience can be part of the show if you want. Some ideas:

  • A medical outfit like scrubs or a white coat, in honour of Dr. Hope Sze
  • Elvis gear because our escape artist is also an Elvis Presley tribute artist
  • Protestor wear. A group called Nelvis wants to ban Elvis!

Have fun!

I’ll have a merch table, which means you can also buy the book Terminally Ill if you like.

I’ll also have copies of the brand new Hope Sze thriller: Sugar and Vice! In case you hadn’t figured it out from our “sweet” photo at the top.

Yahoo! Massive thanks to our donors for supporting the arts!

Emerge and Create! (Emerging Creators Unit 2019)

Hey, what’s the Emerging Creators Unit?

I was absolutely delighted to discover this program where, in order to nurture new writers and create fresh theatre, six artists would be chosen to work with dramaturg Catherine Ballachey and assistant dramaturg, Matt Hertendy.

A dramaturg reads and analyses your script to help you present it most effectively as a play, which is a tremendous help, especially to someone like me who is used to the page. Some people describe dramaturgs as a literary editor for plays.

The six artists would meet six times and then perform a reading open to the public.

There would be no charge for this workshop. It would be absolutely free for the six chosen ones. In fact, the artists would get paid for the reading. This is mindbending in the cash-strapped world of theatre.

 All funded by the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Acting Company.

Holy cow. I could not get my application in fast enough.

And then I won a spot!

We get together at the Acting Company on Bank Street every other Sunday. We review each others’ work and make gentle suggestions if the writer is ready for them.

It’s the opposite of medical school, which is still very sink or swim. It’s even different from my other writing workshops, where I’m often surrounded by extremely competitive, award-winning writers from around the globe.

Sidebar on those competitive writers: most are cool and generous, but one woman reported that she would elbow her own grandmother out of the way if it meant she’d have a better chance at authorship; another one’s husband described her as a Formula One driver of writing. Writing is taken Very Seriously.

So it felt different to take part in a local, thoughtful group where people are encouraged to turn in material every two weeks, but there’s no punishment and no harsh words if you’re late. Then, when you do write, everyone tends to be super encouraging and talk about shows their work reminded you of, or visual things or smells they imagined while reading your work.

You’re supposed to give the group questions to answer as they analyze your work. They asked, am I allowed to write about this ethnic or social group? Was it funny enough? Did you need a visual aid?

A lot of the time, they boiled down to, “Is this okay?”

Maybe that’s what we always want to know, as writers. Is this all right?

But I do find that most of the people who are most worried about offending, or about appropriating voice, about getting permission, about being exact—those are the people who are the most respectful and should not be silenced.

They should be writing, and singing, and dancing.

Do you see Donald Trump asking if it’s okay?

Author Natalie Goldberg says that every writer seeks permission to write. It’s not necessarily a conscious thing, but we want someone to put a hand on our shoulder and say, Yes. Keep going.

Catherine Ballachey built a safe place for us to create. Isn’t that wonderful? In an age of cutbacks, when the only headlines about art tend to be “cut again” or “can’t believe they wasted money on that monstrosity,” she and Matt and directing consultant Ludmylla Reis quietly constructed a haven for new writers and performers, using funding from the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Acting Company.

Thank you all so much.

We’re having a reading next Sunday at 7 p.m. It’s free art, with snacks. Come!

Emerging Creators Unit 2019, unite!

– Montana Adams with “My Good Friend Jay”

– Kieran Dunn with “Sneakerheadz”

– Sarah Haley with “Olive: a Culinary Landscape”

– Amanda Logan with “Plain Jane”

– Izzie Solis with “Valeriana”

– Melissa Yuan-Innes with “I Am the Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World (and Other True Tales From the Emergency Room)

Lead Dramaturg: Catherine Ballachey

Assistant Dramaturg: Matt Hertendy

Directing Consultant: Ludmylla Reis

Snacks and discussion to follow the reading! Admission is free.

Ottawa Monster Launch. Montreal Yoga. And Joy From Malaysia.


First of all, I’m so honoured to take part in this Monster Book Launch with Renaissance Press on Saturday, October 29th at 5 p.m. at the 3 Brewers in Ottawa (240 Sparks Street).

You could come in wolf ice POD cover.inddcostume! You could win a prize, including an author date with moi! You could hear me read from my werewolf thriller, Wolf Ice!

Authors include Jen DesmaraisEvan MayCait GordonKevin JohnsCaroline FréchetteS. M. CarriereÉric Desmarais, and me.

After that much awesomeness, you’ll want to decompress with some yoga, amirite?


Luna Yoga:


I brought my friend Genevieve here for our birthdays. She liked it so much that she yelled, “I love you, Melissa!” during class. True story.

I first met Frances at Yocomo, the annual yoga festival in Montreal. I was early to an 8:30 class on teaching yoga and adjusting students, and Frances walked up to me and said, “Would you mind if I gave you a massage?” As long as the volunteer is not a psychopath, the correct answer is always YES. Frances gave me a quick, firm massage, and I was hooked, especially since she was an excellent instructor. Last month, I made it to a Frances’s class at Luna Yoga,  I like the fact that she uses her whole body to adjust you. I like the fact that she lays her hands on every single person during classat least once, at least for a few seconds. Drop-in class: $19; introductory month: $49.

Shri YogaI did such a good yoga workshop with Todd Norian at Shri Yoga. Mona is a gifted teacher. She can tell at a glance if you’re off, and how to correct it. It seems like a cool community, too. After one class, we were wishing each other Shanah Tovah after a class on Rosh Hashanah; after another, a man was convinced that he’d met me before, even though I no longer live in Montreal. Drop-in class: $22; introductory week: $30

Montreal cheap & lovely DOLLWhy am I talking about prices? ‘Cause I like value and beauty at the same time. I even wrote a guide: The Cheap and Lovely Guide to Montreal: Food, Fun, Fashion, and Ze French.


When you migrate to downtown Montreal, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Stockholm Syndrome

at the one, the only Paragraphe Books! (It’s very exciting that they’re carrying my book, as I described here.)

And, if you can’t make it to Ottawa or Montreal, I’ve got two suggestions. One, my romance THE LIST is on sale for only $3.99 until Hallowe’en.

And–shh–The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back e-book is on super-sale for $3.99 for the next 72 hours.

One last story…


Last month, my hospital called me to tell me that I had a registered letter. I was exhausted between hospitalist/shift work and didn’t want to drive in. “Could you sign for it?”Dr. back POD front cover 5x8 72

“No, you have to sign for it, but I’ll tell them to hold it for you at the post office.”

the list cover 2014 interracial YI-200It’s never a good sign when a doctor gets registered mail at the post office. You could be getting sued. Quebec used to send me registered letters telling me that I would lose 30 percent of my clinic billing if I didn’t do enough hours in the emergency department, obstetrics, or geriatrics (they have draconian rules for new doctors where they will just pull money out of your wages).

However, I was so tired that I forgot about the registered letter.

Yesterday, R&L’s Book Nook in Alexandria e-mailed me to say, “We’re sold out of your back pain book. You also have a letter at the post office.”

Holy crap! That letter! I drove in today to see what horror awaited.

I was astonished to receive this instead:
2016-10-26-19-14-48 2016-10-26-19-14-31 2016-10-26-11-56-29I ran into Steve Warburton on the way out. He said, “Hey, you have a real letter.”

“Yes, from Malaysia!”

“I thought it was from a fan.”

“I guess she is a fan, because she read my book and that’s how we got to know each other. But I just think of her as my friend. She’s a doctor now, too.”


I drove away thinking how incredible it is that I have a fan/friend/fellow doctor on the other side of the world.

I may not sell as many books as my friend Lynda sells nut cheeses. But I am now on Athira’s bucket list! Awesome!!!!!!!!!

Terminally Ill Robots. Squee!

I spent yesterday at the Ottawa CEMO High-Fidelity Resuscitation Skills day, which meant that I spent the morning doing mock codes with mannequins that groan and blink and try to die on you (“Those aren’t mannequins. Those are robots!” said my mother, when I described them) and the afternoon carving airways into pig cricothyroid membranes and the like. It cost me $900, but was the best CME I can remember.

Photo copyright jagged-eye. http://jagged-eye.deviantart.com/art/Laure-Robot-1a-210064518

A healthy robot named Laure. Photo copyright jagged-eye. http://bit.ly/Nd1nJO

Then I crashed at my brother’s family home, stuffing myself on delicious Indian food from Indian Punjabi Clay Oven.

In the meantime, Jodi White sent me a Kobo link that looked like this:

Me, attempting world domination.

Me, attempting world domination.

OMG. Squee!

Just a reminder that everyone who buys a print book of Terminally Ill will receive a free Kobo e-book. Contact me for details. Thanks!

Terminally Ill

Terminally Ill

Authors: ,
Series: Hope Sze medical mystery, Book 3
Genres: Hope Sze, Medical mystery, Mystery
Tags: Hope Sze, medical mystery
Publisher: Olo Books
ISBN: 9781927341254

An escape artist plunges into the icy waters of Montreal’s St. Lawrence River, chained and nailed into a coffin—and never breaks free.
After they dredge him from the waves, Dr. Hope Sze resuscitates him, saving his life. When he regains consciousness, but not his memory of the event, he hires Hope to deduce who sabotaged his act. Even as she probes the case, and the strange world of magic and illusion, she must confront her own fears of death on the palliative care ward—and tackle the two toothsome men who can’t wait for her to choose between them.

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About the Book

Available in trade paperback on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.uk, internationally, and at your friendly neighbourhood bookstore.

“Entertaining and insightful.”Publishers Weekly

Also available directly from Windtree Press and Gumroad.

“Narrating in a sprightly style while sharing some of the nitty-gritty of a resident’s job, Hope Sze is an utterly likeable character.”–Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine


Top 50 on Kobo

Top 50 on Kobo March 25, 2014

Listen to CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning podcast of Dr. Melissa Yi’s interview with Wei Chen.

Watch Youtube video with audio excerpts

If you have trouble redeeming a free Kobo code, try this link, then contact Kobo: help@kobo.com

or click http://kobo.frontlinesvc.com/app/ask_NA to call, chat or email the Kobo reps.

Full Publishers Weekly review:

Montreal physician Hope Sze is looking for simple entertainment when she attends escape artist Elvis Serratore’s show, but when Elvis nearly dies in mid-act, Hope’s medical skills are available to save his life. She is less enthusiastic about his plea for her to use her detective skills to find out who tried to kill him by sabotaging his equipment.

The subject of unwanted fame as a sleuth, Hope struggles with a too-complex love life, is faced with an ominous death at the hospital at which she works and becomes concerned about a young patient whose requests have deeply disturbing implications. She soon learns that if she does not seek out mysteries, the mysteries will seek her.

The most recent installment in a series comprised thus far of three novels and a radio play, this novel demonstrates familiarity with the conventions of mysteries without being constrained by them and with the realities of Canada’s medical world. Although the tone is light, the author is not afraid to introduce darker themes. The three intertwining mysteries and Hope herself provide a narrative by turns entertaining and insightful.

Full Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine review (link will expire):

Publicity-seeking magician Elvis Serratore, in tribute to Houdini’s visit to Montreal nearly ninety years earlier, allows himself to be chained inside a coffin and dropped into the St. Lawrence River. When the escape fails, Montreal medical resident Hope Sze is able to resuscitate him. Against physicians’ recommendations, the magician prepares for an encore, but wants Dr. Sze, with her reputation for solving crimes, to find out if someone wants him dead. Narrating in a sprightly style while sharing some of the nitty-gritty of a resident’s job, Hope Sze is an utterly likeable character.

#5 mystery kobo Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.16.02 PM

Top 5 in all categories on Kobo on March 25, 2014


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Seaway Valley News

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The Seeker, Feb. 27

The Seeker, Feb. 27


Hey! I beat out dozens of gardeners on Google News!

Hey! I beat out dozens of gardeners on Google News!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

My Year of Yes: We Are Light Rays

Not one of Sook-Yin's pictures, since hers are copyrighted. This one is by Alvimann.

Not one of Sook-Yin’s pictures, since hers are copyrighted. This one is by Alvimann.

I pushed myself to go to We Are Light Rays at the Ottawa Art Gallery last week. My body desperately wanted sleep, my throat ached, I had chills, and my nose dripped, but I wanted to meet Sook-Yin Lee. So I forced myself to drive to Ottawa, through the construction, and listened to SYL.

What I love is how she can draw a story with a few details, and she’s completely open. About her childhood: “I had to come home from school right away. I had to have high marks. I was on the swimming team. All I could do was watch TV.” “My mother is like Kali. Don’t mess with her. She will destroy you.” “I never finished high school. I left home when I was 15 and joined the art scene in Vancouver.”

About other people categorizing you: “I was a VJ, so everyone put me in this box. ‘You’re a VJ.’ And some of my friends were like, ‘Why are you working for the man?’ and I said, ‘It’s just a new medium that can reach so many people.’” It hadn’t occurred to me that TV was what the Internet is now, a new medium to reach millions of people. TV was just TV to me. So I thought that was super cool.

She’d also made a lot of interesting artistic choices, like displaying her photographs on small light boxes instead of blowing them up huge like everyone else does, although she said she’d like to experiment with large photos printed on linen. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to use light boxes, but she works in film, so it’s more natural to her. And linen? Wow.

If you go see the exhibit, it’s an auditory as well as visual experience because she’s singing original music in the background. I was in a hurry because my parking metre had expired and I needed to sleep, but I still liked it, and the gallery person said that it’s cool to rotate 360 degrees and take in all the photos and the music.

I liked that SYL works in all sorts of media (radio–she’s the host of CBC radio’s DNTO; music; film) and tries different things. People already think I’m strange enough for writing in all different genres. And I asked her what she did when people told her “You can’t do that. Stick to one thing” or criticize her for succeeding, which happens to me.

SYL basically said that she doesn’t listen to naysayers. Sometimes she has doubts, but she creates the stuff first and then says, “Uh oh. What did I do?” afterward.

I missed her show the next day, How Can I Forget. I would have liked to see the interplay between her and her siblings (SYL said that the emotional highlight is a Skype call between her and her oldest sister, a successful businesswoman who refuses to dwell on sadness in their past, whereas SYL is the crazy artist who does nothing but dwell on “crap”). Unfortunately, I was still sick and a bit tired from my two Kali yoga classes, which will be the next post. But if you have a chance, go see Sook-Yin Lee. Go support living artists.