Hello everyone. Welcome to Story Chat, living proof that stories take on a life of their own when you add readers.
Come in chatters, relax and make yourselves at home. Grab your favorite drink and some chips. Fresh banana split sundaes are in order later as we celebrate Ice Cream Day this month. For those who don’t want ice cream we also have fresh fruits brought from your gardens and jams made in your kitchens.
What a month we’ve had reading and commenting on Gary A. Wilson’s family medical drama this month! If you missed the story, here are some summaries based on the Carrot Ranch Literary Community Guidelines, 9 words – no more no less expanded to 99 words – no more no less.
If you want to know more, here’s a bit more to whet your curiosity.
To read the entire story, click here.
Gary appeared on the Story Chat scene before anyone else had come. As we got the snacks out for the Story Chat guests, we ate chips and dips, chatted, and drank tea as we waited for the others to arrive.
Yes, it is time to do this. I’ve downed one mug of tea and am ready for the second. It was a great long weekend for writing so I’m ready for another week word-wrangling. Let’s do this.Gary A. Wilson Story Chat Author
Let the chats begin, Gary!Story Chat Hostess, Marsha
The links below will transport you to a recent article posted on the attendee’s blog. The links throughout the Chat take you to their website.
- Gary A. Wilson, this month’s author
- Once Upon a Time
- Hugh Roberts, October’s author
- Debbie Harris, June’s author
- Amy, in the lineup for next year’s series
- Geoff LePard, February’s author
- Yvette Prior
- Doug Jacquier, April’s author
- Cathy Cade, December’s author
- Norah Colvin
Starting with the Power of Bacteria and Viruses
- Sue Yep, that was how it was….and now we’re running out of antibiotic options, Humans get too complacent,
- Marsha are pervasive. They can adapt so much faster than we can because they go through hundreds of thousands of generations in our life times. It’s amazing that anyone is still alive. Our immune systems are amazing, and coupled with medical science, we survived even the worst pandemic in my lifetime.
- Sue Nature is amazing, and humans use their brains, sometimes!
- Gary A Wilson Hi Sue. Correct, but I like to think that we have some very clever folks looking for the next miracle drug or treatment for nasty bugs like these. Maybe the 50 some-odd years of penicillin based drugs have allowed the bugs to forget that sufa-based treatments once worked too.
- Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.comThat would have been such a frightening situation! Gary, you did a great job grabbing and maintaining my interest and making the reader feel the tension and stress the parents found themselves in. As someone who is allergic to sulfa-based drugs, I am doubly pleased that better alternatives have been developed. As Sue mentioned, we are running out of options, especially with the over/mis-use of antibiotics. No parent should have to go through what Ann’s (and, I guess, your parents, Gary) went through.
- Gary A Wilson Hi Janis, I do have pieces of memories of the event but one really bad one when I saw my sister with what looked like a mask of blisters that covered 2/3rds of her face at the hospital. Even though she was younger, her memory is better than mine, but her recovery was indeed miraculous and fast. I thought that her near miss with death was a story worth telling. I’ve changed the names and surrounding scenes some, but this is basically what happened. I’m a dad myself and can’t imagine what it was like for my parents when we knew so much less about such things and other children in this same situation did not fare as well. Thanks for weighing in Janis.
- Prior… Hi Gary – you kept this short and masterfully succinct –felt the action and it is a great reminder of the power of medicine. I had a professor in the early 1990s – Dr. Beal – who as an emeritus – and was retired and at our school teaching Botany for fun – he was an entomologist and cool guy. Anyhow, he said he briefly worked (in the late 40s) with folks that worked on penicillin in late 20s (something like that) – he had some connection and was proud of it. I am also glad that antibiotics are not being over prescribed as I think there have been decades where that happened – and in my very humble opinion – I have seen so many folks sick with auto immune disorders who also have had antibiotics “to many times to count” – is there a correlation? I think so because the gut is our second brain (see the work of Dan Siegal) and antibiotics rob the good flora – (and I know nowadays they are often prescribing flora after antibiotics) but then consider the standard American diet and overdue of antibiotics and people are vulnerable to gut problems and that impacts all health –I had to mention that because your story today reminded me of the GOOD side of antibiotics – after I was kind of becoming so anti the I forgot they save lives still.
- Gary A Wilson Hi Yvette, I’m so glad you stopped by and gave my story a read. What a treat it would have ben to meet someone who was part of the initial discovery and development of such a drug. it is too bad that it took so long to get production to be such that it could be widely used because those sufa-meds had pretty much hit the wall and we were losing many to diseases that could have been easily cured. The timing was the story and often I’ve thought of how close we came to loosing my sister. My one big memory of the time was her looking out at us from her hospital window. After not seeing her for several days, I was shocked by the mask of blisters that covered most of her face. It was not a pretty memory and scared me for her chances of survival. Later, as a late teenager, I used to get step-throat every year. The first time, I didn’t recognize it and let it go too long and almost waited too long before getting a shot of ampicillin which wiped it out virtually overnight. Amazing stuff and, I think, a compelling story.
- Doug Jacquier Sorry to be late to the party but somehow this Story Chat post escaped me. As a childhood polio survivor myself, I have every reason to thank the dedicated medical scientists who found the vaccine that I missed by a few years. I’d encourage everyone to read more about the discovery and development of penicillin, including the fact that Howard Florey from my home State of South Australia shared the Nobel Prize with Fleming and others. It was Florey, along with Ernst Chain who actually made a useful and effective drug out of penicillin, after the task had been abandoned as too difficult by it’s discoverer, Fleming.
- Cathy Cade I’m old enough to remember polio, Doug. I also remember presenters of Blue Peter (a UK children’s programme) interviewing children in iron lungs. A terrifying disease. Childhood diseases went around the school like lightning (German measles in particular is one our parents wanted the girls to catch while they were young, so there was little chance of them getting it in adulthood while pregnant and damaging the unborn.) Vaccination has defeated so many diseases. As has penicillin. what a shame it has been over-prescribed to the point of bacterial resistance – we know better now. I’m not old enough to have much knowledge of medicine before penicillin (I was a particularly robust child) but my husband’s older sister died at six from pneumonia which could probably have been routinely treated such a short time later.
Writing About Your Family Trauma
- amybovairdauthor Well done, Gary! I liked the title, too. Thanks, Amy
- Gary A Wilson Aren’t titles the oddest part of creating our tales? Sometimes a good title surfaces with little effort (as this one did) and sometimes we wrestle with the things and never feel they quite do the job.
- OnceUponaTimeHappilyEverAfter.com I held my breath all the way through this story. As a child, my mother had scarlet fever as a result of a similar infection and had to learn to walk again. The family was quarantined and my grandfather was unable to work. It was a very difficult time. But Mom has lived to be 94 years old and is still doing well. Penicillin was definitely a miracle drug for so many. I was given it so many times, I have developed a life-threatening allergic reaction to it. But have also outgrown many of the infections I had as a child. Great story, Gary.
- Gary A WilsonHi and thanks for giving “Sometimes a Miracle” a read. Often, writing about a trauma can help one process or settle the event somehow. For me, the writer wants to create something compelling while the teacher in me wants to educate and help others progress through life with eyes and minds wide open. It can be a huge task, but I want to be a author who produces stories that compel, inform and entertain. Like many other skills, each story seems to get better. Being allergic to penicillin must have caused you to be more careful than others about avoiding infections and staying clean. That task seems huge in my mind, even overwhelming.
I was pretty sure it would resonate with someone and it sounds like you are the one. Scary stuff indeed. I’m just thankful that for both of us the real story turned out so much better than might-have-been.
- Hugh W. RobertsThey say the best stories are based on true stories. This one is one of those stories. I’m not a fan of medical dramas, but I was hooked by your story, Gary. I liked it as well because you gave me a glimpse into the introduction of penicillin. Most of us have heard of it but probably don’t know someone who was at the forefront of it being used to save lives so early on.
- Gary A Wilson Hey Hugh, I’m so glad you checked in and found my story hooked you. There are several ways to tell history and I’ve always like the approach of historical fiction. I created characters similar to my family but scrambled things to make it fiction and more focused than our real account of events. But I liked the idea of taking readers to a difficult place at a time when they did not have the benefit of the technologies we have today, given them a terrible situation, even a hopeless one and try to capture what they must have felt. The image of a child dying for lack of a solution we have readily in hand has been a powerful one for me, because it is a real memory, but could I succeed at taking a reader there and then impart a gush of relief like the timely arrival of a newly available drug, like happened to us, seemed to me to be a drama that could only fail if I wrote it poorly. I love to highlight some little known fact or piece of technology. Science, in particular, is hard for some to reach, but well told story images can suddenly make the history of the arrival of a new antibiotic meaningful by putting (even fictional) names and faces around the facts.
- Hugh W. Roberts I’ve written a few pieces of historical flash fiction and enjoyed the experience, Gary. However, my pieces were from a time well before I was around, although I recently published a post about one of my stories where somebody left a comment suggesting I may have experienced the event in a former life. It was an interesting discussion. I guess that when most of us write fiction, we base it on true life events. In fact, I’ve always believed that much of what I write is based on what I’ve experienced. Even some of my science fiction stories set in the future had me basing characters in my home, so there always seems to be an element of what we’ve experienced in them. You did a great job with the story and had me there at the hospital with you.
- Debbie This was a real rollercoaster of a ride Gary, you told the story well, and as it based on real events it means even more. I’m so pleased your sister got the new drugs in time and has enjoyed a long and active life. It must have been awful for the family at the time. It’s interesting that I was hospitalised about a year later than your story at age 18 months, with pneumonia which turned into double pneumonia and then I got Golden Staph on top of that. I was in hospital for many months and very very sick. I ended up having some of my lung removed and antibiotics were my lifeline from what my mother tells me. I went to a rehab hospital for many more months but thankfully I have had few issues since that time. I have a rocking good scar on my side where they took some of my lung, in those days scars were mean looking – there went my bikini modelling days! I really wouldn’t know about the horrors of the situation today apart from my scar and my family’s memories of that awful time. My father was away at sea in the Navy and they wouldn’t let him off the ship, unless I died! My mother has never forgiven the Navy for their heartless attitude. Anyway, your story reminded me of my own true story of survival, so many thanks for sharing.
- Gary A Wilson Wow, Deb – your own story sounds pretty scary. At that age you might not recall much of it but your parents must have been emotionally scared for life by it. Two of our three kids have had medical brushes with death, but both were much more easily dealt with than yours or my sister’s situations and as their dad I can recall being fully scared and attentive to anything I needed and could know about the plan for their recovery.
- Norah What a powerful and moving story, Gary. Thank the scientists for ampicillin and a good outcome for Ann. I’m pleased she survived and has continued to do so for many a year. I could not help but feel for Arthur who was right there in the waiting room hearing the discussion about his little sister. It must have been upsetting for him, I think. Was it? How did you feel? How did you respond? And just by the by – my grandson Arthur is big brother to his little sister Anna.
- Gary A Wilson Hi Norah, Thank you for this very kind feedback. It is gratifying that you felt what I was trying to portray. I really was too young to understand much of it at the time, but my family has been thankful for this medical miracle ever since. I have fragments of memories of the dread I felt and was told that I was a wreck because I understood that my sister was dying, but I don’t recall much of that. Blocked it out I suppose. In the real story behind this fictional one, I did not witness either the diagnosis or hear of the timely arrival of this new drug until the nightmare was mostly past. It was nightly nice to have her come home and be so clearly on the mend. For what it’s worth, we grew up pretty normal after that, added another sister who recalls none of this, fought and won or lost normal sibling battles. Mom and Dad went back to working and sacrificing for our welfare and comfort. It’s fun to note how both names showed up in your family. For the record, my middle name is Arthur and my sister’s middle name is Ann. I kept her real first name fully out of the story. Both Rock and Carolyn only resemble our real parents. This helped me get inside their heads and begin to understand their angst. Thanks so much for giving my story a read. That you took to time to do so means the world to this newbie writer. Kindest regards.
- Marsha A little more revealing the true story and how it evolved into the fictitious one. Of course, as a child you would not have known what all was going on inside of your parent’s minds. You’ve done a great job of piecing a new reality, Gary
- Gary A Wilson Thanks Marsha. As a parent now, if I had to go through what my parents went through, it would have torn my soul out watching something like this. I’d like to think that I cherish my kids as Mom and Dad cherished us. Thankfully I don’t have any direct experience of what it was like expecting your child to die unless some kind of miracle occurred.
- TanGental Hi Gary You tell a compelling story as I know from your blog and maintain a nice pace and tension throughout. Sometime those BOTS are a great basis for story telling, aren’t they? One thing to think about when creating fiction from a true piece is to try and use the ‘rules’ of fiction writing rather than slip into those of memoir writing (rules, what rules?). In fiction the old saw, show don’t tell is a cliché and there for a good reason; in memoir telling is the point of the exercise. So, in your piece I’d suggest you think about the section where you tell us about Caroline and Rock’s back story, how they met, her aspiration to go to college, his skills with repairing anything. They have little to do with the story itself and introduce a drag when all we want to do is get to the hospital and find out what’s up with Ann. Hope this helps because you’ve pulled out a nice line in story via dialogue and emotion from that awful event and maybe it can be even better. Take care, Geoff.
- Gary A Wilson Hi Geoff. Thanks for calling this out for attention. I was worried about leaving it in and wondered if it would stick out, be a distraction or (as you suggest) a speed bump. Given the allowance of more words, I do prefer to put the story into the mouths or thoughts of my characters and I wanted this piece of fiction to do that, but previous to starting my blog, I was rightfully accused of flattening out my characters by not spending time and words making them human. You could read pages of my stories and know little more about my characters than their name. Since a respected reader & writer called me on that, I’ve always tried to put skin and personality on those names. In this case, 1000 words squeezed me and to tell enough of the story for it to work at all it had to be tight and still bring my reader into the hospital via the reactions of the parents. I thought that would work better if the omniscient narrator dropped a small info dump on the two parents before sending them into peril. I had to cut a lot from the first drafts to get the story down to size and considered slicing out that paragraph but, I really felt like the reader needed to know them. So I was torn. Still am actually. Your comment is spot on!
- Marsha Gary, you are getting a lot of great feedback from so many people, Gary. It is hard to make decisions given a word count to stick to. The best exercise for developing that ability that I’ve found is through the Carrot Ranch flash fiction 99 words, no more , no less. https://carrotranch.com/2021/07/09/july-8-flash-fiction-challenge/
- Doug Jacquier As an historical snapshot of a medical miracle that obviously deeply touched your family, it works well. As a short story though I’m inclined to agree with Geoff. The parents feel two-dimensional and much of the dialogue is stilted as a result, which loses a lot of urgent momentum. It’s an excellent reminder that if a story is too big for 1,000 words, let it go where it needs to rather than try to cram into a pre-set format. However as a dedicated Carrot Rancher myself for a couple of years, I have to agree with Marsha that you should try out this community that is learning the skill of creative succinctness from the inimitable Charli Mills. All the best for your future creative endeavours, Gary.
- Gary A Wilson Hi Doug. I don’t think we’ve met, but after your comment, rest assured, you’ll always be welcome to comment on my work. This is very useful – and I feel that agreeing is simply a given because I did try to cram it into 1000 words and felt a lot of the flavor of the story getting lost as I pared it down. It’s a good lesson. When I began blogging, my first project was to capture stories about growing up that would be short reads that would be both autobiographical and fun on their own merit. I decided to use 10 minutes as a self imposed read-time limit which I calculated to be 2000 words or less .So I have some practice at being succinct but a limit to half of that, i.e. Marsha’s 1K limit, was new and a challenge I was keen on trying. The first draft of this story went to about 1.6K words so it was painful making it fit. Thanks for reading it and for your helpful feedback.
- Marsha Cathy Cade brought up a point that changes the dynamics of the story. The story could easily been a double tragedy had both children gotten the disease. One of my problems with writing fiction from real life is that I want to make the facts in the fictitious story agree to what happened in reality. It’s quite freeing when you realize you don’t have to do that anymore. What you do have to be careful of in a fictional story is that the facts of the story add up. You can’t have someone die in one chapter and appear several chapters later with no explanation just because you forgot that you killed them in chapter 2
- Cathy Cade I’ve found it’s also quite difficult to give up the reality in a story that’s based on events. Maybe I’m worried that someone who knows the truth will read
- Marsha Exactly. I never could tell our family story. I’m sure someone would be hurt. Even though my parents are gone, it seems sort of sacrilegious to share it.
- Cathy Cade I planned a novel based on our family home, but someone will say ‘Oh, that’s her daughter; that’s her ex, that’s the eldest son…’ the fact that the dogs were mostly based on dogs we had doesn’t help. I’ve given up the idea altogether, despite having finished a first draft.
- Marsha In my November Story Chat, the character was based on my family with me as Jenny. Not too many of the events were real, but some of them were based on things that happened in that area – just not to me. The parents had some semblance to my parents. I wrote the entire story but have never published it. We should switch stories and add in our own bits and publish them! LOL
- Cathy CadeI think we all add in bits of people we know and events from our past to our stories, but I’ve decided a whole novel would be trying the tolerance of my family too much.
- Marsha LOL, My family is all gone except my brother, but I still hesitate. Isn’t that crazy? And the story is truly fiction. The other characters did not exist.
Importance of Fact-Checking in Fiction
- Hugh W. Roberts Before I read your story, I’d always thought penicillin was discovered in the 1930s, Gary. Why? I don’t know, but that’s as much as I knew about it. I’ve just read your story Cosmic Gold and am astounded by the scientific facts in it. I learned so much from reading it.
- Gary A Wilson Penicillin does go back pretty far, but it was not well understood, safe to manufacture or widely available until ampicillin was created. This kind of fiction is one of my favorite play grounds – it’s the stuff I most enjoy reading myself.
- Hugh W. RobertsSame here, Gary. I love writing stories with an ending that leaves the reader thinking more about what they’ve just read. I always enjoy readers telling me what they thought happened. This is why Story Chat is such a great feature.
- Cathy Cade I’m sure you must have researched those medical terms, Gary, to make sure you got them right (and their spellings!) Real life is always a good basis for a story – what a raw deal: getting both at once! Once your story becomes ‘fiction’ though, there’s nothing to stop you adding a little more to the mix – like stirring up the tension even more around the possibility of young Arthur having been exposed to the bacteria. (In fact, what a blessing you escaped it!)
- Gary A Wilson Hi Cathy. It’s good to meet you. Do you recall the sugar cubes they used for the polio vaccine? I recall thinking this was the best tasting medicine ever. This kind of story does lend itself to lots of additional drama- but Marsha wisely kept the length limit at 1,000 words so I had to keep it fairly tight.
- Cathy Cade I remember polio jabs when they WERE jabs – BEFORE they went sugar-loaded. I’ve edited down so many stories for competitions that I kind of enjoy the process now. When I send it off to another comp with more generous limits I don’t always reinstate everything.
- Gary A Wilson Hi Cathy. My memory of the sugar cubes with the cherry flavored vaccine added, includes my wondering if the sugar cube idea and creators of the music for “Mary Poppins” and the song, “A Spoonful of Sugar” were somehow cross inspired by each other. Unsure of which came out first, I did a quick web search and found that the Disney movie came out in 1964 and the following link places the sugar cube saga in “the early 1960s, 18 months before we would meet the Beatles.” Not exactly precise but helpful. The link is worth a quick read as this is the kind of stuff that inspires a follow-up piece of historical fiction. You must check out: https://www.post-gazette.com/news/insight/2021/01/03/Memories-of-the-sugar-cube-vaccination/stories/202101030009 But beware, you may never be able to face a sugar cube again without laughing.
- Gary A Wilson Then there are those of us whose sense of humor is a bit off as compared to the “normal” people. I can’t bear watching sitcoms and certainly could never write for one. Writing humor is much harder than I expected.
- Norah I’m pleased to hear you went on to have a normal life with all the usual battles, Gary. Now I’m surprised that this story was fiction. I missed that somehow. It read real to me. I guess when ‘they’ tell us to write what we know, they’re not wrong with that, even if we fictionalise it. I did enjoy your story. I don’t real all posts to the end.
So there it is another successful Story Chat completed as the last guests shook hands and said their goodbyes. I hope you will all come back next month where we will meet at Cathy Cade’s blog for both the August and September Story Chat. You’re going to love her sense of humor and the members of her writing club. It is a chance for all of us to meet some new folks over the next two months.
Then Hugh Roberts will be back in October to launch Year Two of Story Chat.
What Are Your Thoughts As Story Chat Moves Forward?
Thanks so much for sticking around to make this unique and new event a success.
Around the middle of September, I’ll compile your comments from this post into a Year-Long-Analysis of the Monthly Writing Event know as Story Chat. You all are the guiding force behind Story Chat. You provide both the story and the comments. I offer the venue and scaffolding.
Without you, Story Chat ceases to exist, so believe me when I take your comments to heart. Don’t feel that you have to answer all these questions, but feel free to address any that you feel are important as we plan for a new year together.
- What did you like about Story Chat this year?
- Would you like to see Story Chat more frequently, or is a monthly event enough?
- Was there enough varieties of genre? Is there a genre that you would like to read and didn’t?
- Cathy Cade is guest hosting for the next two months. Would you like to see guest hosting opened up even more frequently?
- How do you feel about the balance of writers for example: men/women, geography of bloggers?
- Should we open Story Chat up to non-fiction – or should that be a different event?
- What other topic or issue would you like to discuss?
See you next month, the exact date TBA with Cathy Cade.