“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.
Watch this blog for additional Profiles.
*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.
Ask Toronto writer Carol Malyon and the narrator of one of her published stories.
Last Saturday during Sarnia’s Bluewater Readings Series, Malyon pulled an empty chair from the audience, sat down, got comfortable and joked about reading from her children’s picture book. She made the adults laugh and relax. As a novelist, poet, short story and children’s picture book writer Malyon has often shared her work on stage and with others. She knows how to hold an audience’s attention and she did.
“It is easy to read short stories,” she said reading the first line of “Pencils” a whimsical yet heart-wrenching story from her book Lovers & Other Strangers (The Porcupine’s Quill). “There are lots of them around. Some of them could be true; they could have happened already or be happening right now.”
In her story, the narrator touched on the act of strangers reading stories by others strangers. “You don’t know the author” she read.
So how do writers feel about sharing their work?
Afterwards in a private dinner conversation, Malyon explained it isn’t easy for authors to find locations to read short fiction. “Poets are lucky. Most of the reading series and open mics in Toronto and other large centres tend to focus on poetry. Whenever, I have a chance to read my short stories, I grab it.”
Sarnia’s Bluewater Reading Series mixes both poetry and fiction as well as celebrates both local and out-of-town talent. Malyon was one of four writers spotlighted in May.
Another guest London poet Andreas Gripp launched his new poetry collection The Better Kiss and surprised the audience with a sneak peek at his ‘hot-off-the-press’ chapbook All Here Sail in a River of Light, a collaborative effort between Gripp and southern Ontario poet Katherine L. Gordon.
Sarnia writers Norma West Linder and James Deahl launched their first poetic collaboration Two Paths Through the Seasons. (Read a review here.) Linder also read a short story from her book No Common Thread.
For additional biographical information, see below:
James Deahl has been part of the national poetry scene for over 40 years and was a co-founder of Mekler and Deahl, a publishing company that produced 50 books for established and emerging writers. Now a Sarnia resident, he is the author of 22 books including his most recent work North Point (Hidden Brook Press), Rooms The Wind Makes (Guernica Editions), and North of Belleville (Hidden Brook Press).
He also edited In A Springtime Instant: The Selected Poems of Milton Acorn 1950 -1986 (Mosaic Press) and Under the Mulberry Tree: Poems For & About Raymond Souster (Quattro Books). Two Paths Through The Seasons: Poems by Norma West Linder and James Deahl (Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, Israel) is his first collaboration with Linder.
In addition to literary activities, he has taught creative writing and Canadian literature at the high school, college, and university levels and for several years has been a full-time writer/editor/translator.
Andreas Gripp is the author of 18 books of poetry, including The Better Kiss (Harmonia Press, 2014) and Selected Poems 2000-2012 (Harmonia Press, 2013). He lives in London, Ontario and works in a used bookstore. Vegetable gardening and nature walks are among his activities. Work by Andreas Gripp has recently appeared in What We Carry Home (Ascent Aspirations Anthology), Window Fishing: The night we caught Beatlemania, Under The Mulberry Tree: Poems For & About Raymond Souster, The Prairie Journal, and Quern: An Anthology of Contemporary Poets. He was shortlisted for the Acorn-Plantos Award for Peoples Poetry in 2010.
Norma West Linder is a prolific and award-winning Sarnia writer who taught Creative Writing and English at Lambton College for 24 years. A member of numerous national writing organizations and proficient in various genres, she is the author of five novels, 14 collections of poetry, a memoir of Manitoulin Island, a children’s book, a one-act play and a biography of Pauline McGibbon. Her poetry has been published in The Antigonish Review, Fiddlehead, White Wall Review, Room of One’s Own, Quills, Towards the Light, Prairie Journal, FreeFall Magazine, R & M Journal, Mobius, and other periodicals.
Her latest work includes Adder’s-tongues: A Choice of Norma West Linder’s Poems 1969 –2011 (Aeolus House) and No Common Thread: The Selected Short Fiction of Norma West Linder (Hidden Brook Press).
Two Paths Through The Seasons: Poems by Norma West Linder and James Deahl (Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, Israel) is her first collaboration with Deahl.
Carol Malyon has written novels, short story collections, poetry books, and a children’s picture book. In her fiction, Malyon writes of women and their relationships with lovers, mothers, and children. She is interested in the fundamental and irreconcilable discord between men and women: their differing views of the world, of themselves, of others; and their disparate modes of communication.
Malyon has been writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick, led fiction workshops at the Maritime Writers Workshop, and at Canadore College in North Bay, owned a book store (Beaches Book Shop), and worked in health research.
Her latest book, Griddle Talk, co-written by bill bissett, consists of 52 breakfast conversations at the Golden Griddle where they discuss “love and life and anything else you want.”
Carol Malyon lives in Toronto.
The Bluewater Reading Series is a new literary offering organized by Sarnia writers: James Deahl, Venero Fazio, Debbie Okun Hill, and Lynn Tait. This May reading was the second event in the 2014 season.