by Cheryl Brooks
Wow! Can you believe it's already November 14th???? Thanksgiving is only ten days away. My turkey is in the freezer, and I've already bought stuffing mix. All I have left to get are the crescent rolls, the ingredients for my traditional cheesy potato casserole, and the pumpkin pie. I baked a pumpkin this year, so I'll have lots and lots of pumpkin to make pumpkin bread with. I'm going to have to wait until after Thanksgiving to bake it though, because I have to work Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights that week. That's one of the downsides to working in a hospital. Someone always has to work the holiday.
Which brings me to a bittersweet decision I made recently. Last year, our hospital was purchased by a large healthcare corporation that led us to believe conditions would improve and that the hospital would grow. However, to our collective dismay, we have found that rather than growing, our hospital is now shrinking. About the only good thing to come of it is that we now stock full-size boxes of Kleenex for our patients instead of the tiny little boxes of sandpaper we used to supply. Staffing has been cut to the point of being unsafe, patient numbers are dwindling, and many services are now outsourced. They're also talking about cutting the ICU to two beds and shipping the more critical patients to their larger facilities, which makes my 35 years of ICU experience superfluous. We're getting put on call so often that full time nurses, many of whom are the sole support of their families, aren't getting a full paycheck.
However, with a writing career in the wings, a husband who earns more than I do, virtually no debt, and a son who is almost finished with college and another son who actually has a job, I feel that it's time for me to make a change. Therefore, I'm cutting back to four nights a month starting the first week in December. This will enable my coworkers to be more assured of their hours and give me more time to write. I'm hoping to self-publish more books and possibly sell a few to Siren in addition to the books I have published with Sourcebooks.
Like most decisions in our lives, this one was made for me, or rather, conditions have changed to the point that this is simply the best option for all. I would quit entirely if it weren't for the fact that I'd be leaving behind friends that are more like family than mere coworkers. We've been through so much together--marriages, divorces, grandchildren, vacations, life, death, and sickness--I'm just not ready to cut the ties completely.
The support and encouragement of the truly wonderful people in the Indiana chapter of RWA has also helped me to make this decision. Judie Aitken, a long-time chapter member emailed me not long after Slave
was published and invited me to join the chapter, a gesture for which I will be eternally grateful. My critique partner Sandy James, also a member, has helped my writing in so many ways I simply can't thank her enough. Critiquing her work and the work of others in the chapter has been a tremendous learning experience, as well as being a judge in our chapter's Indiana Golden Opportunity writing contest.
I attended our IRWA writer's retreat this past weekend, and, as always, I learned a great deal and had a wonderful time on top of that. Each year, I'm thankful for good health, a loving family, and good friends. But I'm also thankful for all of the wonderful people I've met since I embarked on a career as a romance writer. Family and friends can be very supportive, but fellow authors are the ones who truly understand what it means to be a part of this business. We share our joys and our sorrows and are stronger for it.