“He’s not breathing….” Yes, I was a cruise ship nurse, the envy of all my friends at home who were doing the same old – same old. They envisioned me lying by the pool all day hobnobbing with the rich and famous, occasionally tossing a seasickness tablet to a passenger, visiting exotic ports of call and, of course, eating all that fabulous food. I tried to explain that it was a job. I had to work, often long hours and sometimes was unable to leave the ship for weeks. -Lorna Pominville*
Imagine…lost luggage…the scratchy itch…the scent of pescado…the taste of eel…the alarm of Alpha! Alpha! Alpha! As a cruise ship nurse, Lorna Pominville not only had a unique behind-the-scenes perspective of the tourism industry but she loved to inject humour into her storytelling.
Eventually, her world-wide adventures transformed into written travel articles for an on-line magazine and in 2011 she published a 276-page book titled ALPHA! ALPHA! ALPHA! Tales of a Cruise Ship Nurse. The collection included 30 humorous and insightful stories which still appeal to current armchair and experienced travelers.
Today, Pominville is retired from nursing, lives in Sarnia where she volunteers for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, attends writing groups and continues her writing.
Last week, I asked her to share her thoughts on her writing process as well as comment on her cruise ship stories. Below are her responses:
Describe your book in a short paragraph. Why did you write it?
While I was working on cruise ships there was always something new and interesting happening, both on board and shore side. I would describe these in letters to my friends and family, as well as when I was home on vacation. People started telling me that I should write a book because I had such great stories to tell. At first I thought, Yeah, right, but then the idea caught hold after I started writing travel articles for an old school friend who published an on-line magazine.
How does your work differ from others?
For one thing, the stories are all true. I’ve used real first names and have included a section of photos. I also wrote positive things about fellow crew. The positive incidents outnumbered the negative tenfold, hence the reason I stayed with the job for over ten years. The stories about the job are educational as well, giving the reader a realistic idea of what to expect in the role of cruise ship nurse. It’s not like Love Boat.
Why do you write the way you do? How does your writing process work?
I write short stories because I can’t seem to keep the story going long enough to become a novel – which I would love to be able to do. As a nurse, all our charting had to be concise and to the point so perhaps it’s a habit. Although I must confess, I am impatient and want to get the work done!
I have no particular process. I just write when I’m in the mood. I write non-fiction mostly because it is so much easier to write something you know about. It’s easy to flesh out or embellish it a bit but fiction, which I love by the way, takes a lot more work I find. Research needs to be done to make sure what you write is plausible, etc.
As a self-published writer, what do you feel are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
When you self-publish you can get your work out quickly. There are a lot of computer programs that allow authors to set up the format themselves for printing and then it’s just off to a printer. Even if you can’t do this yourself it is fairly simple to find someone who can help fairly inexpensively.
Many of the so-called “Vanity Presses” still get your work out fairly quickly. However, it usually costs a considerable amount of money for one of the packages they offer. None of the well-known publishing companies take unsolicited manuscripts and it is very difficult to find an agent to take you on as an unknown. It could take years to get your manuscript to the publisher and another couple before you hear anything back. However, a reputable publishing company does give legitimacy to your writing and will often help with publicity and promotion which you have to do entirely by yourself when you self-publish.
What are you working on now?
At present I am writing children’s stories and a bit of poetry. I did a series of “talking animals” for toddlers and some others for a little older age group. I have submitted several to magazines and contests but no success in getting them published as yet. Unfortunately I am not an illustrator. The toddler stories lend themselves to be picture books but I don’t have the capability to do illustrations and a good one is expensive. I wouldn’t mind paying if I was assured that the books would be published. I have had several of my poems published in the Halcyon and Twisted Endings magazines but have really not done much else with them.
What medical advice or other advice would you give someone going on a cruise today?
Please, please keep you medications in your carry-on. Do NOT put them in your checked luggage. Also, leave them in their original packaging or have a detailed list with name of drug, strength, dosage and when and why you are to take it. Also carry a medical history and who to call in a medical emergency (include telephone number). Remember that the medical staff may come from a country where these medicines have a different name, colour, format, etc.
Thanks Lorna for the interview. Wishing you much success on your future projects.
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*from the book ALPHA! ALPHA! ALPHA! Tales of a Cruise Ship Nurse Joheromach Press, 2011) Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2011 Lorna Pominville. Limited copies are still available for purchase at The Book Keeper, an indie bookstore in Sarnia, Ontario.