I spoke for over an hour, about twenty people gathered around some tables that were pushed together in the middle of the small function room at St. David’s on the Hill listened. They had invited me to speak at their 2018 author event, so I told them how I learned how to put words suitable for publication together, and what to expect when the fruit of my labor was complete.
Worse than that, a whole lot of nothing. Dozens of query letters, painfully written and sent off to agents and publishers with the prerequisite SASE for a quick reply.
Ten years later, I’m still waiting for most of them to return.
I told them about the one publisher, and one editor who found value in my work and gave me a chance, thus beginning my second career.
They listened politely, I think they expected to hear about the struggles most writers endure. But what truly captured them were the stories that make up most of my work. The stories of people in need of other people trained and willing to do what it takes to help.
What I found most gratifying was the people who came to listen’s appreciation of the humanity I write about concerning us; the ones in the fire stations, patrol cars, ambulances, emergency rooms and on scene at every crisis, everywhere.
I was asked if it is like TV, where we do our job without emotion, more concerned with our love life than the kid who just died in a fire. I told them the truth. I let them in on our best kept secret; the absolute and devestating grief we experience when we lose the battle, and one of the people we are sworn to protect slips away. I let them know that death is as solemn to us as it is to friends and family, and the lives lost on our watch matter. I told them how we soldier on, sometimes minutes between tragedies, and put our loss away for another day. Then I told them about “another day;” that abstract time down the road when the smoke has cleared, the sirens have gone silent and the memories come back.
I ended on a positive note, for ours is not a life of doom and gloom, and I thought it important they know that. There is life after our service is through, life made more meaningful because of what we did while we were doing it.
One of the people in the audience wrote this after our talk, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to tell our story to folks who want to hear it.
“Among the clans of prehistoric humankind, the keepers of oral history were held in high regard. Around the night fires, their voices told the true, the remembered and the myths to spellbound audiences. They are with us to this day in the form of gifted authors who can bring us into places we would never go and events far from our everyday lives. Michael Morse is one of that tradition.” Fredrick Michaelson
Image by Eric Norberg