So Why No Novels With Speech Therapist Protagonists?

As I had mentioned in my post on How I Came To Write Unspeakable, the seed of the idea for my novel was inspired by a comment made by my esteemed colleague, CBW (or as I like to say, CB-Dub). CBW astutely observed that there were no speech-language pathologists (SLP) as protagonists in novels. In fact, she wished that someone out there, for once, would portray us as the sexy creatures that we are (or would like to think we are). Hence, the seed was planted and I began writing Unspeakable (click here for my post on how it went from the seed of an idea to a full-length manuscript).

Part way through the writing process, I did a Google search on speech-language pathologists as protagonists and came across this post by the Speech Dudes. It’s a bit dated, but I like the humor and they too have noticed the same thing. We can be sexy and exciting! Just give us a chance!

So, I hope to heed the call with Unspeakable. Hanna is a bit naïve at the outset (as most of us are) and overwhelmed with the demands of the job and the diverse clientele that many of us are expected to serve. (You wouldn’t ask a Neurologist to be an expert in Gynecology, yet the same SLP may see a child with autism, an adult with Aphasia, a person with feeding issues, and person who stutters all in the same day.) She flounders at first, but her heart is in the right place – she wants to ‘save’ all of her patients, but as any seasoned professional knows, that just isn’t possible.

And so, I leave you with this. The Speech Dudes contributed some scenes of the SLP as the protagonist and I thought I would contribute my own, tongue-in-cheek version, for CBW. She has often teased me that there should be a sexy scene with ‘a dangling uvula’. We’ve had several fits of laughter in the clinic cafeteria about this, but I still refuse to put such a scene in my novel. But here’s one, just for fun (and yes, it’s meant to be cheesy and ridiculous!) Enjoy!

“Come closer,” she said, leaning towards him.

He inched closer, but the small distance between them seemed like a giant chasm. She needed him to be near her. She placed her latex gloved hand firmly on his cheek and urged him toward her.

He couldn’t deny her. If this is what she wanted, he had to comply.

“Good,” she whispered. She could feel his breath flutter against her skin. “Now open for me.”

He parted his soft lips, revealing the moist expanse of his mouth. Finally, she had what she wanted. An unobstructed view of his supple tongue, and there, nestled in the back, between the perfectly rounded orbs of his tonsils, their presence simply highlighting the immense size of the long and ample rod-like structure dangling there. That which gives a special vibration to our words, our sounds; the epicenter of the mouth: his glorious uvula.

The Speech Dudes

In a recent press release from The Association of American Publishers, it’s clear that digital downloads of books to mass market reading devices continues apace. From February 2010 to 2011, there has been a 202.3% increase in sales of eBooks. Not only that, eBooks are now ranked as the number one format for all categories of trade publishing, which includes adult hardcover, adult paperbacks, adult mass market, children’s/young adult hardcover, and children’s/young adult paperbacks. For those who like their number to be preceded by a $ symbol, eBooks raked in over $90 million in cold, hard cash over the year.

e-book imahe

Yet amongst the plethora of vampires, werewolves, wimpy kids, celebrity chefs, management gurus, and impossible heroines, there doesn’t appear to be ONE protagonist who is a Speech Therapist. Not one. Now, if a Whitehouse chef can be the main character in a story (e.g. “Eggsecutive Orders”) why not a…

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The Process of Writing: Part Two

 

WRITING YOUR UNIQUE STORY AND DEFEATING WRITER’S BLOCK

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Last time, I discussed the importance of writing because you love it and understanding your characters. This time, I will be adding two more important strategies that worked for me in getting the first draft of my manuscript completed.

 

  1. Write What You Know.

I know, I know, we’ve all heard this one before, but it’s true, but not always in the way we might think. When I was at When Words Collide, a writer’s convention in Calgary, D. J. McIntosh (author of The Witch of Babylon), posed the question: Why is this story one that only you could tell?

 

When I wrote Unspeakable, I was motivated to tell a story about something I live every day; speech pathology. I challenged myself to make it sexy and interesting. In order for my plot to work, it needed to take place in a small town. Starting out in my profession, I was very much like Hanna (my main character); young, naïve, and in over my head. So I decided to place my story in the same town where I had found my first job as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) – Dryden, Ontario. It was the perfect setting for my story and writing about a place (and experience) I already knew helped add authenticity to my writing.

 

In addition to the things that I understand about Hanna, there are a lot of things that I understand about Hank, because of some of my unique life experiences. One is Hank is French Canadian; a language minority in his part of Canada. This plays an important role in his journey in Unspeakable.

 

Unspeakable is a story only I, the French-Canadian SLP who worked in a small mill town and grew up in Western Canada, could tell, because my life lens colors my story. HOWEVER, there are a lot of things in the story that I don’t know about – so you have to pull from similar experiences, as well you need to do your research (which I will address in a future post).

Write

  1. Sit Down and Write.

After you’ve got your plot, sub-plot, and characters figured out you need to write your story – your novel. Wow, that can be daunting. 80,000-plus words with a plot, subplot, characters, denouement….and, and, and…. Take a breath. Writing a book can be an overwhelming (and often discouraging) undertaking.

 

Where do you start? That’s just it. Start.

 

I found that writing an outline of my story and chapters really helped. And then, well, you have to sit down and write it.

 

Some writer’s have word count goals, time goals, etc. You could also write out a writing schedule. For me, it was much simpler than that. I tied my writing time into my life routine. When my youngest son was in an activity, instead of going home and running errands, I slotted that as my writing time. Inspired or not.

 

I was taught to use Free Fall Writing at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre. This technique basically means sit down and just write. Without editing or self-criticism – give’r (that’s a Canadianism, eh?). I didn’t set arbitrary word counts as a goal. I felt that this would just add unnecessary pressure and would lead me to feel dejected and defeated if I didn’t attain the word count goal. My goal was simple: Any writing, for me, was an achievement (a lot harder to fail that way). When I wasn’t sure where to go next or what to write, I used the Free Fall method and it really helped alleviate any instances of writer’s block and kept the story moving forward. And hey, I always left the coffee shop I nestled myself into with more content than when I had arrived.

 

 

So, in the end, with the help of things I learned about characters, world building, and Free Fall Writing, I got my story down on paper. But most importantly, I wrote Unspeakable because I had a story that I felt compelled to tell. Once I had the idea, plot points and characters bounced around my skull constantly; cracking at my consciousness and pulling me into a world of my own making. I had to let my characters breathe. This, in the end, is what really drove me.

 

Especially Hank. With his long lean body, black hair, and those cobalt blue eyes. Well, I couldn’t wait to spend time with him. And the only way to do that…was to write him. So I did. And now, I miss spending time with him.

Hank
Hank

 

Sigh.

 

 

How I Came to Write My Novel

Writing my novel

Since I was very young, I’ve always loved reading and wanted to grow up to be a writer. You would often find me with my nose in a book, reading into the wee hours of the night, using the pinpoint of red light from my waterbed heater control to illuminate each finely typed line, so as to not wake my sister.

My first experiences sharing my writing with others left me feeling embarrassed and self-conscious (the fault of the inner critique). Whenever my mother proudly stated to her friends that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I saw placating smiles and schooled expressions. Isn’t that sweet? I felt ashamed that I had such fanciful pursuits – it felt as realistic as believing in the tooth fairy; and at eleven, I knew there was no tooth fairy.

Creative interests took a back seat to finding a secure career. I became a speech-language pathologist (SLP) over 15 years ago, and I currently practice with the pediatric population. I love what I do. To help families facilitate and improve their child’s communication, to connect with others, is often very gratifying.

Speech-Language Pathologists
Fellow SLPs at the Hanen More Than Words training workshop on November 18, 2014

But what of my childhood dream? Do I simply leave it in the background of my wants and desires, as something silly and unattainable?

If I don’t try, I am sure to fail.

I was inspired to pursue my dream to write once more when I realized I had no reason not to pursue writing any longer. I don’t need it as a career. I can do it just because I love it. What did I have to lose?

The idea

I was discussing books with a colleague in November 2012 and she mentioned that no one has ever written a book where the main protagonist is a speech-language pathologist (SLP) and sexy (her words, not mine). This got my wheels turning. What would a book like that look like? How could you develop a story where it was important that the main protagonist was an SLP?

The seed of the idea for Unspeakable was planted. And so, I started making notes. I came up with a premise, and characters and a plot and a subplot. Now what?

Work to do your best.

I took a course on novel writing at the University of British Columbia in early 2013, and then a creative writing course at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre that spring. I was then accepted into their yearlong novel course last year, where I completed my first draft. I had a few reviews from writers-in-residence programs, and did some rewrites. I then had a few beta readers read it over the summer, and did more rewrites. I sent it for a manuscript review with a local writer’s association – they told me it was good, but gave me few constructive things to work on (I waited 10 weeks for that one!)

 

Currently, it is in the hands of a professional editor that I hired. I now have to wait 14 weeks. So, if you’re following all of this, it took me 2 years to get to this point. From the seed, to the tree in it’s adolescence. Sure, there were long periods where I didn’t touch my manuscript. Namely the summer months, when I parent full-time with few moments to myself and those long periods of waiting…waiting for people to read it and give feedback. And so now I wait again, and I write about other things. This blog mainly, and there is another seed. It’s germinating. I just need to plant it.