Do you write the book or does the book write you?

Deep Water Dream Blog

Do you write the book or does the book write you?

Posted on March 28 by Gretchen Roedde in Non-fiction, Recent Releases
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

Having just completed my second book, Deep Water Dream, as well as a second edition of my first book, A Doctor’s Quest, I am reflecting on the process of creating a book. It feels a bit like the Indigenous carvers, who take a piece of wood or soapstone, and listen to it to slowly understand what they are to create. Writing is a craft like that, the ongoing refinement, reordering, restructuring, and adding of sudden new insights that change the shape of what you are writing. A Doctor’s Quest changed its name, its cover, its publisher, and the organization of its material — many times. At one point in Papua New Guinea, I was sitting in the rain, under a tree in a village clearing, when I heard Theresa lament her sister who had died in childbirth; I found the structure of the final book with each section a line in Theresa’s lament. “I am Poor,” “I Do Not Have the Freedom that You Have as a Woman,” “One Day My Child Was Playing, the Next Day He Had Died,” “I Have No Education,” “Why Are Women Dying Giving Life,” “I Am Tired of Seeing HIV as the Price of Wealth,” “Where Are Our Leaders? Why Have They Forgotten Us?,” and “We Are Still Waiting” became the way I addressed the determinants of maternal and child mortality — poverty, low status of women, illiteracy etc. — as a more powerful, personal story.

 

In Deep Water Dream the structure of the Indigenous Medicine Wheel, with its themes and sacred animals and foods, became the organizing principal for a book that wrote itself, though it required months and months of rewriting to polish the final creation. The title came as a metaphor, with the dream-like state of our lives on many levels, as well as the link between Lake Temagami, where I lived and worked with an Indigenous community, and Lake Temiskaming, where I now live and work with non-First Nations people. Both words mean “Deep Water” in Ojibway. My writing mentor, Karen Connelly, was a powerful source of inspiration. A tough critic who, like an athletic trainer, could push me past the limits I thought I had so that I could become more than I dreamed I was. She also helped me find the courage to share the personal side of the story of a doctor who was also a mother, wife, and patient — my own suffering and to transform this as an act of resilience. The cover of Deep Water Dream also changed. The painting of the original cover, which I created with my friend Linda Mustard (she had also created the cover of my first book), lived in my house and I would see it every day. I thought, Wait a minute, I have a second cover! So I guess I will write a second book. So even though the cover changed, it gave me the inspiration and courage to begin writing.

 

 

Gretchen Roedde

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
Gretchen Roedde photo

Gretchen Roedde

Gretchen Roedde, assistant professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, has been a physician since 1978. Working with Indigenous and marginalized communities, she practises near Lake Temiskaming. She has also worked as a public health doctor in the developing world, specializing in mother-and-child health and HIV/AIDS. Gretchen lives in Haileybury, Ontario