WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Fractured feary tales …

Monday afternoon, my wife and I were hiking a trail above the American River, aiming for a spot we’d seen from below all these years but never knew how to get to. There’s some kind of structure, a picnic canopy or something, on a promontory overlooking the river from what seems to be the highest point around for miles. That day we knew we’d found the trail that led to it and we were no more than a quarter mile away from the big payoff when Sue slipped on a muddy patch and fell.

Her cry as she went down was stark. I knew right away this was bad. When I ran back to her she said on an inhale, “I think I broke my arm.”

I helped her into a position where I could see what I could see, and it was clear something was wrong with her left upper arm. Nothing poking at the skin from inside, no blood or bruising, but it just didn’t look right. I sat her up and started feeling around, but I stopped the moment I felt a crunchy texture inside. That thing was busted. We worked to get her on her feet, and as soon as she was up she said her arm wasn’t connected anymore. It was just hanging there.

Three hours later, after hiking a mile and half back to the car and making our way to the hospital, we saw the x-rays. Her humerus was in two pieces, snapped like a pretzel stick, way off line too.

After a long stint in the ER, we left with her arm in an immobilizer and instructions to see a bone man in a couple of days. Sue declined pain meds, preferring to keep her wits about her, so it was a tough night.

Early the next day I got an email from an agent who’d had a full manuscript of mine for almost four months. She declined to offer representation.

A break of a different sort, but you know—considering the humerus context—I didn’t really care. I’m jaded about publishing. I admit it. My wife was in trouble and all I could think about the agent was, What else is new?

On Wednesday, the bone man fitted Sue with a much more stable splint and told her what to expect over the next couple of weeks. It won’t be pretty, but the doc wants to avoid surgery if possible so we’re going step by step. Unfortunately, Sue’s left-handed, as am I, and it’s her left arm that’s cracked, so I’m her personal writer/typist now. I’m sure this will turn out to be some of the most useful writing I’ve done in a while.

Incidents like this, sudden and shocking, always provoke a change in perspective. I’ve realized these last few days that writing is a gratifying form of expression and something of a luxury, but like so many similar pursuits it pales in comparison to the biggest things in life. Sometimes I feel grossly spoiled, bellyaching about agents and editors and gatekeepers who stand in the way of my self-defined destiny, but at times like this I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones. In fact, I love my daily existence so much that I often question whether I’d really want to swap it for the life of a successful novelist—the readings, the interviews, the compromises, the pressure. Might be better, all things considered, to be a gentleman-writer who puts out his own stuff on his own terms and keeps his eye on the much more important things that give life its real depth.

Meanwhile, Sue is taking little steps each day, and we have a long process ahead of doctor’s appointments and rehab. She’s blowing me away with her resilience and inner strength. I’m overflowing with pride for her.

Things are improving a little more each day. We’ll get there. Healing is a journey.

The best thing, only four days after the accident, is that Sue’s already laughing again. I’m laughing too, because there’s a lot to appreciate in realizing that you already have what you hoped a lifetime of writing would bring you, and much more.

Like the man said, the road to heaven is heaven.


Photo by Doctor Jana via a Creative Commons license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en).

14 comments on “Fractured feary tales …

  1. loristory
    May 24, 2019

    Wishing for a speedy recovery for Sue. I love the quote.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 24, 2019

      Thanks, Lori. She seems determined to come through with flying colors. 😎

  2. Phillip McCollum
    May 24, 2019

    “Might be better, all things considered, to be a gentleman-writer who puts out his own stuff on his own terms and keeps his eye on the much more important things that give life its real depth.”

    Hear, hear!

    Wishing your wife a speedy and minimally-painful recovery. Losing the use your good hand for so long must be beyond frustrating.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 24, 2019

      Much appreciated, Phillip! I can’t imagine not being able to use my left hand, so I’m already agog at how she’s adapting. Of course, I get to be her left-hand man, so that’s good. 😉

  3. John W. Howell
    May 24, 2019

    My thoughts are with you both. I’m getting over a fractured knee cap so I have great empathy although I don’t write with my knee.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 24, 2019

      Thanks so much, John. Ouch, on that kneecap! 😨

      • John W. Howell
        May 24, 2019

        I know right? Like Sue, no meds and in a immobilizer.

  4. Audrey Driscoll
    May 24, 2019

    Gentleman-writer — I like that! I hope Sue’s arm heals quickly.

  5. kingmidget
    May 24, 2019

    Hope your wife continues to heal and that you’re both out there hiking those trails again before you know it. I’m not going to tell my wife about this — it’s the kind of thing that will give her more ammunition against my solo hikes.

    You change in perspective is a valid and valuable one. It’s something I struggle with as you know. I hope you find a way to publish your work in a way that gives you peace and fulfillment. It may be that, as you say, all of those things that come with being a successful writer actually really aren’t an improvement.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 27, 2019

      Thanks, Mark. Maybe you should tell your wife she has to come with you! 😏

      As far as publishing goes, the writing does appear to be on the wall, but like I’ve mentioned before, I get huge pleasure out of doing everything myself, including covers. The problem is you don’t sell many books that way. Alas.

      • kingmidget
        May 27, 2019

        Yep. It’s the thing that holds me back from moving forward with The Irrepairable Past. Unless I come up with a marketing campaign and follow through on it, I struggle with what the point is. And who has time (or desire) for all that marketing?!

  6. 1WriteWay
    May 25, 2019

    I love this: “Might be better, all things considered, to be a gentleman-writer who puts out his own stuff on his own terms and keeps his eye on the much more important things that give life its real depth.” On Twitter and FB, I follow authors who are regularly published, have their agents and editors and their fan base, but these authors are also constantly hustling and the vast majority are teaching and running around the country doing book signings and workshops etc. It probably seems glamorous from a distance but then you realize that they probably just break (no pun intended) even at best. They don’t make enough from book sales to rest on their laurels, and they don’t sell their books unless they graciously turn up for every single effing book signing scheduled for them. Some might actually enjoy the hustle but I suspect most of them would rather stay in their own bed in their own home. I hope Sue continues to laugh and mend. I’m glad you have each other 🙂

  7. cinthiaritchie
    May 27, 2019

    I love this post and especially love, “Sometimes I feel grossly spoiled, bellyaching about agents and editors and gatekeepers who stand in the way of my self-defined destiny ….” (I also love that both you and your wife are left-handed. That is so cool.) You mentioned whether you’d want to trade your life for that of a successful novelist. I thought the same thing after attending a writers’ conference and master workshop a few months ago. I learned so much and met some great people yet I remember returning home after the last day, slumping on the sofa and telling my husband, “I never want to be a successful writer.” Traveling around to conferences where everyone plays up to you and wants a piece of you and you have to go, go, go and are always in the public eye–no thank you. The “famous” writers all looked exhausted by the last day. P.S. Glad you’re both laughing again. P.S.S. Hugs to Sue.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 28, 2019

      Thanks Cinthia! It definitely is a double-edged sword, success. You realize that everyone you meet wants something from you, and you have to keep dancing the dance or lose your status. The business doesn’t let many do the J.D. Salinger thing!

      It’s taken this long for me to understand that writing is onlypart of my portfolio. Diversify, people! 😜

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2019 by in Et alia.
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