Well, not my heart.
I was contacted awhile ago and asked if I wanted the chance to read and review Tilda Shalof’s new book, Opening My Heart. (Amazon link, but NOT an affiliate link – I live in California and due to a new law, Amazon has cut all ties with us).
I had the chance to include a story in a book that Tilda edited a couple of years ago called Lives in the Balance. So I had fond memories :)
I’ll say up front that I enjoyed the book. I had a range of emotions while reading it – frustration, worry, happiness. Frustration because although Tilda is a very experienced ICU nurse, she doesn’t take her own health seriously at all. I read with disbelief as she described her incredible denial of the obvious need to treat the heart condition she was born with.
I was amused at her doctor’s and husband’s reactions when she tried to tell them that if anything went wrong with her surgery, she didn’t want to be kept alive on machines. She explained that she used to have a dog and her husband absolutely refused to euthanize the miserable thing. I liked this passage in particular: “To Ivan, love means never stopping love or giving up. This is what families say. They can’t let go because of love. I hope no one loves me this much, ICU nurses often say to one another.”
Tilda writes about her surgery and subsequent recovery, which I found fascinating. I love hearing about patient experiences, and having a nurse tell it from her point of view was pure brain candy to me.
She writes a lot about her friends and coworkers and her interactions with them. I admit I found those particular parts of the book a bit draggy, but maybe others would find them an enjoyable read.
Lastly, she wrote a lot about depression after her surgery. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think this is addressed much when the doctor is informing the patient about what heart surgery will be like. I think it needs to be given more consideration and that patients need to be told that it’s a completely normal thing that happens after such a big surgery. Not dealing with it can impede healing and recovery. I was really pleased with how much attention she gave to this particular part of her experience.
Anyway! Tilda very sweetly agreed to be interviewed! I am really excited about posting an interview with her on codeblog.
How did you get started writing books? Did someone come across something you wrote and suggest you write/publish a book? Or did you write a book and send the manuscript to agents?
I had been writing for many years before I got published. Taking writing courses, sending my manuscripts out, and receiving numerous rejection letters from publishing houses was the extent of my writing hobby for years. In 2004, I got a lucky break when I sent my true stories of being an ICU nurse to one of Canada’s top publishing houses, McClelland & Stewart. To my surprise and shock, they offered me a book contract on the spot. They said it was a new perspective, a real insider’s view. Well, who better to provide that than a nurse, I thought? I hope with A Nurse’s Story and my other books, that I’ve opened a door to more nurse writers to get their stories out.
Have you always been a writer or is it something you started doing as an adult?
Yes, I’ve always been writing, recording my life and observations, but it was only in the last few years that I have been published. It took me a long time to be ready to share my stories with the public. I had a lot to learn about the craft of writing.
Many nurses haven’t published books – what is something we’d find surprising about being a nurse author?
The most surprising thing I’ve learned from being an author is not how many amazing nurses’ stories there are – I knew that – but how few are actually undocumented. Nurses aren’t speaking up enough and thus their voices aren’t being heard. I hope I’ve started a trend with writing about my nursing life. Other nurses love to read these stories and the public needs to know what we do. It’s a matter of their health and safety to understand more about the roles and responsibilities that nurses have, otherwise, misconceptions and stereotypes can flourish. Otherwise, we also run the risk of being invisible and completely overshadowed by doctors who traditionally have had a lot more power and stronger voices.
You mention your coworkers and friends many times in the book – do you use real names? How do they feel about being mentioned?
Yes, I use real names of friends/co-workers and usually ask their permission to do so. So far, no one has objected, and most are pleased, or at least in agreement with what I’ve said about them.
Do you do a lot of book promotion (signings, readings, etc)?
Not much book promotion per se, but a lot of speaking to groups of nurses, doctors, and the public at large about what nursing is all about. Now that my new book, Opening My Heart is out, I enjoy speaking also to patients. I love to be invited as a guest speaker and wherever I am invited, I am thrilled to go. Also, I enjoy connecting personally with nurses on my Opening My Heart Facebook fan page and one-to-one emails through my web-site – www.NurseTilda.com. That’s truly the best part about being a nurse author – connecting with other nurses. If anyone writes to me, I always write back, usually in a day or two.
Do you have marathon writing sessions or do you write a little every day?
Both! I love the opportunities to immerse myself in my writing world for extended periods of time, but for an hour in the morning after a night shift, or on a day off from work, in between household responsibilities and being with my kids – two boys, 16 and 14 – I squeeze in some writing, too. If you wait for the perfect conditions for writing, you might not ever do it. You just have to plunge in amidst the chaos of a day.
I thought Opening My Heart was a great read and I recommend it. And thanks to Tilda for taking a few moments out of her day to answer some questions!
(My post about this project and a list of interviews done so far is linked here.)