>Meet the Writers Leading the Workshops at the 2010 Creative Nonfiction Conference

>On Monday I blogged about the agents, editors and publishers who are on the faculty for the 2010 Creative Nonfiction Conference in Oxford in November. Today I’m going to introduce you to the WRITERS/AUTHORS who are leading the pre-conference workshops on Thursday, November 11 and Friday November 12. (See Conference Schedule for a description of each workshop.)

Workshop leaders (writers) and names of the workshops they are leading:

Thomas French (“Reporting for Story,” 18 openings left) a teacher and author, worked as a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times for 27 years, writing serialized book-length narratives that appeared in the newspaper one chapter at a time. One of his projects, Angels & Demons, was awarded a Pulitzer prize for feature writing. French now teaches at Indiana University and in Goucher College’s MFA program for creative nonfiction. He also teaches at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and at writing conferences around the world, from Paris to Singapore to Johannesburg. He is the author of three nonfiction books, including Unanswered Cries, an account of a Florida murder case, and South of Heaven, the story of the secret lives of high school students. His most recent book, Zoo Story, is based on seven years of reporting and research and chronicles life and death inside Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. A New York Times bestseller, Zoo Story was recently featured on The Colbert Report, in People Magazine and on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

Lee Gutkind (“The Personal Essay, with Neil White” 14 openings left) is the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction. He is also the editor of The Best Creative Nonfiction, an annual anthology, and Keeping it Real: Everything You Need To Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction, both by W.W. Norton. Vanity Fair proclaimed Gutkind “the Godfather” behind the creative nonfiction movement — an undisputable force whose efforts have helped make the genre the fastest growing in the publishing industry. His book Truckin’ with Sam will be released in the Fall of 2010. (Note: Lee is also reading at Thacker Mountain Radio on Thursday night, and giving a keynote lecture, “The 5 Rs of Creative Nonfiction” on Saturday morning.)

Kristen Iversen (“Manuscript Workshop: Memoirs-in-Progress,” 5 openings left) is the author of the bestselling biography Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth, winner of the Colorado Book Award for Biography and the Barbara Sudler Award for Nonfiction, now in its ninth printing. Her textbook, Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction, was the first textbook to cover the major subgenres of creative nonfiction. Iversen’s forthcoming memoir, Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Shadow of Rocky Flats, chronicles her experience of growing up near—and eventually working at—Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear bomb factory that produced the plutonium heart of every bomb manufactured in the U.S., resulting in extensive radioactive contamination of local communities. A travel writer in Europe for several years, Iversen teaches at The University of Memphis, where she directs the MFA program and is also Editor-in-Chief of The Pinch, an award-winning, nationally distributed literary journal.(I participated in Kristen’s manuscript workshop in 2008, and it was wonderful!)

Dinty W. Moore (“Manuscript Workshop,” Memoirs-in-Progress, SOLD OUT) is the author of the memoir Between Panic & Desire (University of Nebraska). His other books include The Accidental Buddhist, Toothpick Men, The Emperor’s Virtual Clothes, and the writing guide, The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. He has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse, and edits BREVITY, the journal of concise creative nonfiction. He teaches creative writing at Ohio University.

Michael Rosenwald (“Making Words Cinematic,” 14 openings left) is a staff writer at The Washington Post. He is also a magazine writer whose work has been published in the New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, Popular Science, Garden & Gun, Smithsonian, Tin House, Creative Nonfiction, Men’s Journal and ESPN the Magazine. A former finalist for the National Magazine Award in feature writing, Rosenwald’s story “The Flu Hunter” appears in the anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007, edited by Richard Preston. A story he wrote about the future of his body — which is good despite his accomplished eating habits — was anthologized in Best Creative Nonfiction Vol. 1. He has an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh.

Neil White (“The Personal Essay, with Lee Gutkind” 14 openings left) is the author of the best-selling memoir In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. The book was one of three national finalists in the 2009 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” award competition. It was a finalist in the 2009 “Books for a Better Life” award. And it was a finalist in the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance nonfiction 2009 “Book of the Year” award. White operates a small publishing company in Taylor, Mississippi. In his spare time he writes plays and essays and teaches memoir writing. (Neil is also co-director of the conference, and is teaching a workshop on Thursday afternoon, November 11, “The Art vs. The Craft of Creative Nonfiction — & Creating Vivid Scenes.” This workshop is open to everyone attending the conference, with no limit on the number who can attend.)

Check back on Friday to meet 5 more authors/writers who will be participating on panels during the conference. It just keeps on getting better!

Conference website with registration information is here. Be sure and register for the pre-conference workshop of your choice, if you can join us on Thursday and/or Friday!

>2010 Creative Nonfiction Conference Faculty Spotlight: Agents, Publicists, Editors, and Publishers

>If you haven’t decided whether or not to come to the 2010 Creative Nonfiction Conference in Oxford in November, here’s a little incentive: In addition to the fabulous authors heading up the workshops and panels, we’ve got five other industry professionals bringing us their wisdom in the areas of publishing. Two of them—Jeff Kleinman and Gillian MacKenzie—will lead one of the pre-conference workshops, “A Day with Literary Agents (10:00 am-Noon; 2:00-4:00 pm).” As the CNF Conference website says of this workshop:

Renowned literary agents Jeff Kleinman and Gillian MacKenzie will spend a day with participants covering query letters, secrets of nonfiction book proposals, everything you need to know about working with agents and a “Buy this Book” role-playing workshop. Space is limited. 14 openings available (closing fast!) (This is the one I’ll be participating in.)

Here’s a little info (also from the web site) about Jeff and Gillian:

Jeff Kleinman
is a literary agent, intellectual property attorney, and founding partner of Folio Literary Management, LLC, a New York literary agency which works with all of the major U.S. publishers (and, through subagents, with most international publishers). He’s a graduate of Case Western Reserve University (J.D.), the University of Chicago (M.A., Italian), and the University of Virginia (B.A. with High Distinction in English). As an agent, Jeff feels privileged to have the chance to learn an incredible variety of new subjects, meet an extraordinary range of people, and feel, at the end of the day, that he’s helped to build something – a wonderful book, perhaps, or an author’s career. His authors include Garth Stein, Robert Hicks, Charles Shields, Bruce Watson, Neil White, and Philip Gerard.

Gillian MacKenzie has spent her career creating—and helping others create—products for the marketplace. Her agency represents a wide variety of nonfiction writers and thinkers (as well as a select list of children’s and adult fiction author/illustrators), including Nobel-Prize winning geophysicist, Henry Pollack; Stanford Prison Experiment social psychologist, Philip Zimbardo; best-selling author and journalist, Ulrich Boser; and award-winning literary nonfiction writers, Peter Trachtenberg and Ellen Graf; among many others. Before starting her agency in 2005, she was Vice President of Jane Startz Productions, Inc., where she spent over eight years scouting, optioning, and developing books into feature films with major studios. Prior to that, she was a product developer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she conceived of and developed merchandise based on works of art in the collections. She began her career at the literary agency Curtis Brown, Ltd.

In addition, we have three more publishing gurus participating in a panel and pitch fest during the conference:

Stella Connell
, previously of Doubleday, Random House, Inc. and G. P. Putnam Sons, founded The Connell Agency in 1998. She has over 15 years experience developing and implementing successful public relations and marketing campaigns for some of the most well-known writers in America today. Connell has been the sole publicist for over 100 books, including many New York Times and regional best-sellers, and has been referred to as “the best book publicist in the United States,” by a major independent bookseller.

Donna Levine
has worked in publishing for twenty-four years. After starting as a puzzle magazine editor for Dell, she was the copy chief at Vogue, the copy editor at Discover, a writer and editor at Restaurant Business, the copy editor at Golf Illustrated, and the managing editor at Waterfront Publishing. Most recently she was the managing editor of Garden & Gun in Charleston, South Carolina. She has recently moved to Oxford, where she continues to work for G&G, now as the freelance copy chief.

Margaret Lovecraft
is acquisitions editor for general interest and regional trade books at LSU Press. During her years in book publishing, she has also worked as an editorial assistant, copyeditor, advertising manager, publicist, and marketing manager.

Conference Website and Registration information is here.

You can read about the 2008 Creative Nonfiction Conference (with photos) here.

Watch for future posts about the authors on the faculty, coming soon!

>Getting Saved, Sex, and Writing

>It’s my turn over at the Southern Authors’ Blog, “A Good Blog is Hard to Find.” Please read my post there, “Getting Saved, Sex, and Writing,” (click on the title) and leave a comment, either here or there!

So, I cleaned up my desk today (see left) and then I couldn’t get online, so I
went to Davis Kidd Bookstore and worked all afternoon. Then, when I got home tonight, I called my daughter (duh, why didn’t I do this first?) and she walked me through re-setting our AT&T wi-fi modem and ta-da! I’m back in business.

As long as we’re here, you might be wondering what the stack on the left side of my desk is. It’s a few rejections, from The Oxford American, The Sun, and a couple of others. But I’ve still got 2-3 essays floating around out there, so I’m hopeful!

And the bulletin board to the right of my desk? I call it my “storyboard.” I put note cards with ideas for various aspects of my novel-in-progress, outlines, internet research, artwork, etc. It feeds my imagination as I work. (Thanks to Sue Monk Kidd for the idea!)

Thanks for stopping by. And be sure to check out “A Good Blog is Hard to Find.”

>An Abuse Survivor’s Message for the Vatican

>This past spring I did a couple of posts about Kim Michele Richardson, author of “The Unbreakable Child.” Kim’s story of surviving abuse at the hands of clergy in a Catholic orphanage in Kentucky is powerful. But she didn’t stop with the memoir.

Kim continues to be an advocate for victims of abuse. Her letter to the Vatican hit the Huffington Post top page religion section this morning and is going global. Read it here:

“An Abuse Survivor’s Message for the Vatican”

Kim’s book is also about forgiveness. But forgiveness doesn’t mean not working for justice. Kim spends most of her time these days helping others. She’s an amazing woman. Want to know more? Read her book. It’s coming out in paperback on October 1. Kim also has a blog where you can keep up with her crusade. And here are a few resources if you want to learn more. (They are all organizations Kim supports.)

Companions In Hope
Cultivating Healing, Protection, and Understanding

Family & Children’s Place

Dedicated to helping families find solutions through counseling.


Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests
A national self-help organization of victims of abuse by clergy.


Provides treatment programs for severely traumatized children who may be victims of sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse in Kentucky.

Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network

William F. McMurry
For more information regarding Mr. McMurry, including updates on the KY Vatican case.

>Twelve Years Ago Today

>Just flew in from Denver tonight but couldn’t put the day to bed without remembering my precious Goddaughter, Mary Allison Callaway, who died twelve years ago today, at age 20.

We’ll have memorial prayers for her at St. John Orthodox Church here in Memphis tomorrow.

Mary Allison was a joy to everyone who knew her, and her young life was cut tragically short by a drunk driver. She was living with our family at the time. It felt very much like losing a daughter. Here are my posts about Mary Allison last year and in 2008.

May her memory be eternal!

>On Writing Essays

>I love the personal essay. As a literature genre. As reading enjoyment. But most of all, I love to WRITE personal essays. Since I discovered this in 2007, I’ve had eight personal essays published (see list with links on the left side of this page) and one was even a finalist in a literary competition. So, whether or not my novel-in-progress ever gets published, I know I’ll always write essays.

If you’ve got a hankering to write them, I have 3 words for you:

Creative Nonfiction Conference

The one in Oxford, Mississippi, that I’m co-directing in November.

And if you register for this conference, you get to choose from among the pre-conference workshops, including Neil White‘s workshop on “The Personal Essay,” and also Dinty Moore‘s manuscript critique workshop.

Okay, Dinty’s workshop isn’t specific to essays, but I took his critique workshop in 2008 and it was awesome. And October’s Writer’s Digest Magazine has a great article by Dinty called “Write Your Essay the Reader-Friendly Way.” Whether or not you’re coming to the conference in November, if you write essays, or want to write them, you should read this. Here’s a teaser:

1. Be clear about the destination. “An essay needs a lighted sign right up front telling readers where they are going.Otherwise the passengers will be distracted and nervous at each stop along the way, unsure of the destination, not at all able to enjoy the ride.” I think here about the phrase, “keeping the reader safe.”

2. Stay On Track (more or less).

3. Find a healthy distance. “Why is finding a distance important? Because the private essay hides the author. The personal essay reveals.”

Intrigued? Get the October issue of Reader’s Digest and read the entire article. And come to Oxford to meet Dinty in November!

>Thanks for Reading!

>Since I left my laptop in Memphis while I’m in Denver visiting my kids and grandkids this week, this will be short. I just wanted to say, after three years of blogging, THANK YOU FOR READING!

And to ask a favor. My hit counter tells me I get between 100 and 200 hits a day, but I’d love to have MORE COMMENTS–either here or when I post to Facebook. I always love to hear responses to my posts, whether I’m writing about art (everything from graffiti to abstract expressionism to Byzantine iconography) or Alzheimers, Orthodoxy, psychology or spirituality, family or writing. I seem to get the most comments when I write about my mom (who has Alzheimer’s) or about emotional and spiritual struggles.

And if you don’t already SUBSCRIBE to my blog, it’s easy. Just put your email address in the box on the left where it says “Subscribe” and you’ll get an email notice each time I post. That way you don’t have to keep checking back every few days to see what’s new. When you get the email notice, just click on the link and you’re here.

Meanwhile, I’m in Denver enjoying my four-week-old granddaughter, Anna Susan, her 14-month-old sister, Grace, and their parents, my son, Jason, and his wife, See.

And my daughter, Beth, who just moved to Denver a week ago, and her fiance, Kevin. They came over to Jason and See’s on Saturday and Sunday for football-watching.

Today we went shopping at Babies R Us for a two-seater stroller and a few other goodies.

Then we went out for sushi.

Back home, Grace tries on her new boots (it’ll be snowing in Denver in a few weeks!) and then everyone took naps. Now we’re just chilling. So… I might not post again this week. But you never know. Just to be sure you don’t miss something, you could subscribe:-)

>Looking Down

>In April I did a post about my 82-year-old mother—who is in a nursing home due to Alzheimer’s—called “A Right to Fall.” It was about restraints, and the reasons they aren’t used for many patients in wheelchairs. Fortunately, my mother has never figured out how to undo the “lapguard” that slips under the side bars of her wheelchair, and most of the time, the guard doesn’t bother her. She doesn’t seem to feel “trapped.”

When my daughter and I visited Mom in August (see “A New Take on Eldercare”) she still seemed fairly content in her wheelchair, but she wasn’t moving herself around much anymore. In fact, when we wheeled her down the hall to the front lobby to visit, I had to keep reminding her to pick up her feet.

Yesterday’s visit was a difficult one for me. When I arrived, I looked for Mom in her usual “place”—parked in the hall with several other residents, right in front of the nurses’ station near her room—I couldn’t find her. I looked in her room, and she wasn’t there, either. I was about to ask one of the aides if Mom was in physical therapy when I spotted her. She was around the corner from her usual spot, parked (with her wheelchair wheels locked) on the other side of a laundry cart, with no one near her to visit with. I approached her slowly, observing that she was slumped over in her wheelchair, reaching down with her right hand, trying to pull herself forward as she held onto the cart next to her. She couldn’t move, and no one was paying any attention to her. I fought back the tears as I approached her. She couldn’t see me, because she was looking down at the floor.

“Hi, Mom.”

She didn’t lift her head or let go of the cart, but her eyes looked up at me, and she offered a subtle smile. “Oh, hi.”

“I’ve got some cookies for you—let’s go up to the lobby and visit, okay?”

“Cookies?” A bigger smile, but still not lifting her head.

“Yeh, those big chewy ones you like, from McAllister’s Deli.”

It took us a while to make our way to the front, as she dragged her feet most of the way. She continued to slump forward in her chair. Once I parked her next to one of the couches with a view out the front windows, I got out the cookies.

“Um, what are those?”

“Those are the cookies I brought, Mom. Let’s see if I can sit you up straighter so you can eat some with me.”

I walked around behind her, placed my arms under hers, and tries to lift her up a bit in her seat. Then I pulled her shoulders back until they almost touched the back of the chair. As soon as I let go, she returned to her slump.

“Mom, look up at the ceiling. You’re looking at the floor. Can you look up at me?”

Only her eyes looked up. I physically tried to move her head up and it wouldn’t move, so I just sat down on the couch beside her and opened the cookies. I broke off small pieces at a time and handed them to her, wiping the drool from the side of her mouth and her chin as she ate. It has increased quite a bit since my last visit. Finally I had to get up and get some wet paper towels. When I returned, she said, “my back is hurting.”

“It’s probably because you’re slumping down in your chair, mom.” I repeated my earlier efforts, but she continued to return to a slumped position. At one point I noticed her reaching towards the floor (which she couldn’t reach) and I asked what she was doing. “See that?” Her hand shook a little as she pointed at the carpet. There was a tiny speck of cookie. Later she was picking at the fabric of the couch, which had a busy upholstery pattern. Picking at things is a common behavior among people with dementia. According to one book on Alzheimer’s, “Picking” is the inexplicable fixation to touch, handle, or work at and remove small items bit by bit….” I’ve noticed Mom doing this more and more, but at least she’s not picking at her skin. Yet.

Over the next hour or so, we at the two large cookies together, bit by bit. Once I cleaned up the table I commented, “boy, those were good cookies, weren’t they?”

“What cookies? Did you bring cookies?”

I’ll remember not to mention them after they are gone next time.

Claire, another daughter who was visiting her mother, Emma, sat near us in the lobby, so I introduced myself and Mother. Mother didn’t acknowledge her presence, and as Claire and I visited, Mom would occasionally turn her eyes towards me and ask who I was talking to. Claire’s mother no longer speaks. She just sits in the wheel chair, looking out the window at the trees.

“Do you live in town?” I ask Claire.

“Yes. I come about twice a week to get her laundry, take it home and wash it, and return it. We usually just sit here by the window for a while—she likes the view.”

I fought back tears as I watched this loving daughter sitting with her silent mother. I wonder how long it will be for Mom and me. I thought about the documentary I watched a while back about how “Emotions Outlast the Memories” and I prayed that Emma, and my own mother, could tap those stored emotions—the happy ones—as their memories are being erased.

Before leaving, I tried to find the head nurse to mention my concerns about Mom being “stuck” in the hall alone, and about her slumping, but she was rushing to a meeting, so I waited and called her from Memphis this morning. She had been out of town for a week, and hadn’t noticed Mom’s slumping yet, but she said she would have her assessed today—probably with a physical therapist.

“It’s normal for her to start slumping at this stage—she’s probably reaching for things she sees on the floor, even a tiny speck. If she’s reached the point where she can’t, or won’t sit up straight, we might need to get her a reclining chair, to relieve the pain in her back.”

I cringed, as I thought about the other residents that I see at the nursing home in reclining chairs, or even in beds permanently.

Leaving the nursing home, I found myself in tears, just overwhelmed with sadness. And a little anxiety for my own future, since my mother’s mother also had Alzheimer’s. (That’s my mother, feeding her mother, at the same nursing home, back in the 1980s, when she was about my age, and her mother was about the age she is now.)

I stopped at a favorite watering hole before leaving Jackson, to get a gin and tonic and something to eat. Sitting alone at the bar at Julep’s, I felt a little of the pain starting to numb as the Tangueray and tonic slid down my parched throat. I ordered a sashimi tuna salad and stared at the flat-screen television above the bar. A middle-aged man sat next to me, ordered a pink-ish martini, and tried to start up a conversation. I wanted to move to a different seat, but I didn’t want to be rude.

Right about then three young woman came in and sat in a booth near the bar. I recognized their voices and looked up to see two precious young friends whose mothers I had known for over 40 years. And then Wisdom, another dear friend’s daughter walked in. They waved me over and we all hugged as Laura and Sarah Anne introduced Wisdom and me to their nursing school friend, Whitney.

Laura and Sarah Anne were best friends with my Goddaughter, Mary Allison, who was killed by a drunk driver almost twelve years ago. (That’s Sarah Anne, Mary Allison, and Laura, at Mary Allison’s high school graduation.) These girls and I share a lot of wonderful memories. As we drank, chatted, and laughed together, I felt the sadness lift, even as I shared with them the difficulty of my visit with my mother. Friendship and fellowship really do lighten the load, and I’m so thankful for that brief encounter at Julep’s.

As I drove home to Memphis in better spirits, I found myself thinking, I only hope the emotions will outlast the memories.

>2 for 1 Feast Day: Nativity of the Theotokos and Kursk Root Icon

>Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Mother of God) in the Orthodox Church. We had a liturgy and potluck at St. John here in Memphis last night, as feasts are sometimes celebrated the evening before when they fall on weekdays.

Last year’s post on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos is called “Stories,” and has a different approach.

But this year I find myself thinking about this feast day from the vantage point of someone who isn’t Orthodox, or Catholic. (Catholics also have a great love for the Mother of God.) Growing up Presbyterian in Mississippi, I didn’t hear much about the Mother of God. But when I became Orthodox in 1987—and really, years earlier on my journey as I learned about Her importance in the Christian faith—I found myself surprised that most protestants don’t hold her dear. She is, after all, the Mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With so much respect and love often being given to our own earthly mothers, it’s just puzzling to me that all Christians don’t “call her blessed.”

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos,
ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you!

Want to read more about this feast? Here’s a nice article, which is really a lesson plan that can be used in a class: “Examining the Nativity of the Theotokos.”

So, on this first feast day of the Church New Year, we find ourselves also celebrating the Feast Day of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God. Yes, icons can have feast days, especially when they are miracle-working icons. God’s incarnation sanctified material things, allowing us to use them in our worship, and in our daily lives. If icons are foreign to you, here are a few links to blog posts and articles that may help:

“Inform, Form, Transform”

“Icons Will Save the World”
(published in First Things, December 2007)

“Gabriel’s Day and Modest Copy Continued” shows some of the stages of icon-writing

And here are a couple of posts about an icon-writing workshop I led at St. John Orthodox Church back in 2008:

“Preparing to Receive the Gold”

“Gold Leaf and Beyond”

“Angels of the Lord Finished!”

For those uninitiated about how to look at icons and how to venerate them, I’ll leave you with these words of St. John of Kronstadt:

“When you look upon the icon of the Mother of God with Her Eternal Infant marvel how most truly the Godhead was united with human nature, glorify the goodness and omnipotence of God, and, recognizing your own dignity, as man, live worthily of the high calling to which you are called in Christ—that is, the calling of a child of God and an heir to the eternal Kingdom.”

>Who Says Hypertension Research Isn’t Sexy?

>When the finalists were named back in July for the Memphis Business Journal’s 12 Annual “Health Care Heroes” awards, my husband, Dr. William Cushman, Chief of Preventative Medicine at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, was surprised to be one of 4 nominees in the “Innovations” category. It was a nice honor, but he really didn’t think he had a chance to win because the other finalists were, well, sexier.

I mean, really, how could hypertension research compete with the other three nominees?

1. St. Jude NK (Natural Killer) Cell Research, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—who wouldn’t vote for cancer research for children?

2. Christopher Knott-Craig, professor and Chief of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery UT and Co-director of the Pediatric Cardiovascular Institute at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital specializes in surgery on children with congenital heart defects. About 100 babies are born annually with this condition.

3. Medtronic’s 3DX Spinal System product reduces the amount of stress on back surgery patients during both surgery and recovery. Hooks, rods and screws—very sexy.

So, we got dressed up and went to the awards banquet on Thursday night, where we ended up sitting at a corner table in the very back of the room, with a nice view of the 250 or so guests at the event. There were two large screens in the front corners, so when the nominees were introduced, their pictures and a little bio were flashed up for everyone to see. Joe Birch (local TV news anchor) was the emcee, and he read the information as each finalist was introduced. But first he read the category description for each award, including the one my husband was nominated for, “Health Care Innovations”:

“This category honors a person or organization for breakthroughs in medical technology. Judging criteria for this category include: that the innovation is expansive in scope, affecting many people or holding the potential to do so; that the innovator was someone who was dedicated to creating innovations in health care.”

Expansive in scope. Dedicated innovater. Suddenly I realized that those words described my husband’s nearly four-decade career in the field of clinical trials, including landmark research that could change the way doctors treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes.

Affecting many people. About 75 million adults (over age 20) in America have hypertension, and about 24 million Americans have diabetes. Additionally, about 75 million more Americans have pre-hypertension.

As thankful as I am for the work done at St. Jude and Le Bonheur—and I’m sure I’ll be a candidate for the fancy biomedical engineering products for my knees or hips one day—none of these nominees represent the dedicated work of one man’s nearly 40-year career, or the opportunity to affect the health of over 100 million Americans.

And so, when Joe Birch announced the winner, “William Cushman,” my husband just sat there in his chair, stunned. I stood up and started clapping, along with the other 200+ people in the room, as the words finally registered and he began making his way through the crowd to the stage. Tears filled my eyes as I watched him shaking hands with the dignitaries on stage and posing for a photo op with his award. He hadn’t planned an acceptance speech—seriously not thinking he would win—so he was unusually brief in his remarks, commenting that probably half the people in the room had hypertension, so he was just glad to be of help.

Back in April, Bill was awarded a national VA Research Award in Washington, D.C., which was exciting, but not surprising, in light of his work within the VA nationally. (It was a treat for me to accompany him on that trip to our nation’s capital, and to meet the other people involved in helping our veterans, and to hear him give a talk on the “Comparative Effectiveness of Research and Hypertension.”

If you’d like to read about the other 4 winners at the Health Care Heroes banquet, here’s a short article.

Congratulations to all the winners, and especially to our dear friend, Dr. Andy Kang, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his nearly 50-year career in medical research, especially in the field of connective tissue research, including rheumatology. It was humbling to both of us when Andy and his wife, Ellen, left their table to walk over and give us each a hug. I wish I had a picture of the four of us. The Kangs represent much that is good and honorable in the medical world—quiet, humble work dedicated to helping people. Kudos to Andy, and to my husband.

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