Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Writers - A Fat Lot of Good!

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Writers - A Fat Lot of Good!

"What do you do?" The small, bird-like doctor with a British accent asked me with no apparent interest.

"I'm a journalist. A writer."

No longer a virgin. Yes! This was the very first time I had called myself a writer in public.

"What? So you write for fun?" he asked as though the lump sitting before him in an open-backed hospital gown - I can never figure out how to tie those things up — couldn't even write his own name.

"Well. Not just for fun. I've had a book published and I'm Writer in Residence this month for Open Book Toronto."

There the conversation about my abilities stopped, if I may use the apposite expression for that moment, dead. And also endeth the first lesson. Never try to let on to doctors that you could possibly possess an ounce of intelligence. They won't believe you — especially, as I found out, if you say you're a writer. What could you possibly write that would interest their superior brains? Admittedly this one did think to ask about my posture and he lauded the fact I used a large computer screen. I didn't tell him it was not so much for ergonomic reasons rather that I could read my magnificent prose in and bigger and bolder type at eye level.

I have no fear that the doctor will read this and treat me with even more disdain, since there is not a computer in the office. This he bemoaned, for instead of Googling the anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory and mood-stabilizing drug Gabapentin, he had to clean-and-jerk the massive CPS tome off the floor. In the process he tore a rotator cuff (okay, I was dreaming) in a rather poor execution of a move expected of all but deceased physicians. In case you've ever wondered, the big, usually-blue book is really called, wait for it: Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties: The Canadian Drug Reference For Health Professionals. It costs over two hundred bucks, has two thousand, six hundred pages and weighs in at nearly four kilos – about the weight of a sack of potatoes.

And that's what I resembled, according to the doctor — not the CPS but a sack of Yukon Gold. He opined that writers don't get much exercise sitting on bad chairs pouring out rubbish all day.

"And don't eat bread. Bread is very bad for you. I'm a vegetarian. Now I think we'll get you swimming and riding a stationary bicycle."

"Both at the same time?"

"Don't be stupid. No, that'll get the weight off and cure the pain. You must have been a runner many years ago if your Achilles is sore."

Partly true. But "many" years ago? A few, may be. Well, okay, damn! Many years ago.

"Do I have rheumatism of arthritis?"

"No. You're just fat. And a writer. There's not much more to be said, is there?"

I guess not. Except next time, no writer. I'll try nutritionist instead. That'll fool him.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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John Scully

John Scully has been a journalist for almost fifty years and has covered stories in seventy countries for major international news and current affairs organizations. His book, Am I Dead Yet? A Journalist's Perspective on Terrorism, was published in spring 2008 by Fitzhenry and Whiteside.

Go to John Scully’s Author Page