Tom, I'm wondering if you can tell us quite how Blood Sweat and Tea came about, why you decided to start a blog, how it became a book ...yes in fact please do tell us how a blog becomes a book:-) how you write about your day without upsetting the 'organisation' (!) and what you want your readers to know and learn as they read, in fact anything you can tell us about it all.
Well, I'd like to mainly blame joey devilla
I'd been reading his blog for a bit and it came to his birthday. At this
birthday he had a Jacuzzi on a truck delivered and had scantily clad women using
it. My thoughts on reading this was mostly 'how can I get a piece of
*that* action?'. So I started blogging, fully expecting to get bored and
give it up within about six weeks. Somehow, through comments and the
burning desire that is still unfulfilled of having a Jacuzzi at my birthday
party, I find myself still blogging.
As I kept writing I was discovered by Jane Perrone of the Guardian - this then led to a few more newspapers and even the BBC profiling me as one of these new-fangled blogger types, and I was noticed by a number of publishers who all came knocking at my door. Turning down the 'big boys' I went instead with a spunky little start-up, 'The Friday Project' and so the book was born.
Later, of course, The Friday Project would be bought by Harper, so I ended up working with the big boys anyway.
I doubt that any of this had anything to do with any sort of writing 'skill', and more to do with what I was writing about. In those days writing about the work ambulance staff do was fairly rare, especially from a normal member of staff. I found my niche and have ruthlessly exploited it...
I think I've managed to avoid annoying the LAS (London Ambulance Service) by maintaining the confidentiality of my patients and by not being too negative. It's true that I do take swings at various silly things that I come across but I do try to remain somewhat positive about what I think would be good changes to make.
The LAS communications department keeps an eye on what I write and I suspect they like it that I can write about things without them having to put an official seal of approval on it. For example, I can whinge about frequent callers a lot more than the LAS can through official PR channels.
I think that they realise what the views of a frontline member of staff can do to humanise the service and explain that we don't just deal with heart attacks and car crashes. At least I hope so, I'd hate to return to station and find my P45 waiting for me.
Really I just want people to think a little about the work that the ambulance service does, something that acts as an antidote to the TV dramas that seem to think that we fly around wearing our underpants on the outside of our trousers and shout 'C'mon Bob! You can make it!' to every cardiac arrest that we go to. I'd also like people to maybe take a bit of interest in the hidden folk that you don't think about normally - the alcoholics and the junkies and, most importantly, the elderly and vulnerable.
We are hopelessly inquisitive here and love to know about your writing day which I'm thinking must also be your working day, so is it a notebook in amongst the resus equipment, OK defibbing now, stand clear and jotting down a few things, are you thinking about how it will write up as you work, has it changed the way you see your working day?
After a job I might jot down a sentence of two
in my iPhone or notebook - nothing too detailed but just something to jog my
memory when I get home. For example I might write 'NOF on floor - staff
try to pick up' to remind me of the little old lady who broke her hip falling
from bed and must have been in awful agony when the nursing home staff tried
picking her up to put her back to bed. I can then spin off from there.
Other times a job stays with me until the end of a shift until I can put finger to keyboard and offload it from my brain. A classic example of that would be elder abuse, I can't sleep until I've written about it.
My crewmate (who is a saint) somehow manages to put up with me when I start talking about how the last job will make a good blogpost.
What writing has done is make me a better practitioner - take for example the alcoholic patient. You can only write about going to an alcoholic so many times before it gets stale, so what you find yourself doing is writing about their family, or you take a look at the place in which they live, or they way in which they get their alcohol, or why they started drinking, or the attitudes of different staff towards them, or... Well you see my point. By looking at people in all these different ways it lets me be more thoughtful about them, their families and the problems that they have. All of which are good things.
That and of course the worldwide fame has meant that I can't be beating up annoying patients and pushing them out the back of a moving ambulance anymore, after all someone might notice. However when I'm running short on interesting stories to write about I do have to start pushing people in front of cars and off tall buildings, just for something interesting to write about.*
*Dear Boss - this is an attempt at humour, I don't really do this. Honest. Despite the rumours that you may have heard.
Are you a reader and if so who do you read and who should we read?
Are you a reader and if so who do you read and who should we read?
I try to read as much as possible, although
that isn't as much as I'd like - As my real life is quite full enough of
tragedy and real life I like to avoid that in the books that I read. I'm
a huge fan of good SF, so I read things by Charles Stross, Neal Stephenson,
Warren Ellis and Cory Doctorow but I will read pretty much anything that is put
in front of me. Besides recommending my own books *ahem* can I also
suggest 'Blue Lights and Long Nights' by Les Pringle about his experiences in
the ambulance service in the 70's and 'Six Months in Sudan' by James
Maskalyk about a MSF doctor which is what I'm reading at the moment.
What I am doing at the moment is picking books that are available in e-book format, I have limited space in my flat so being able to read things from my Sony Reader is a real space-saver. Sadly it would seem that publishers seem to be ignoring non-American markets for their e-books, what they really need to realise is that it is a global market now and restricting sales of books based on where you live is an easy way to lose money.
Tom, I hate to do this because I know people are always dialling 999 needlessly, but could you just check Rocky over for signs of life while you're here? I'm a bit
concerned about his GCS, (Glasgow Coma Scale) he's been like that for about 3 mths.
Tom, I hate to do this because I know people are always dialling 999 needlessly, but could you just check Rocky over for signs of life while you're here? I'm a bit concerned about his GCS, (Glasgow Coma Scale) he's been like that for about 3 mths.
I don't know how to break it to you but I think Rocky is a catnip addict, it's the glassy stare and slight drool that gives it away. I recommend rehab...