Backstory

Most of the time parents get it right when their children are ill. They recognize the problem, accurately assess its magnitude, and appropriately seek medical care. But, what if that doesn’t happen? And, what if one of the parents is a physician? This is the essence of the novel Ten Days.

The novel began, years ago, as a short story. It didn’t work (some of those elements are now in the epilogue). Then I decided to write it as a cautionary tale about vaccine-preventable diseases, but a sermon makes for terrible fiction. Finally, after many, many revisions, it evolved into its present form.

I recognized early that readers would tire of the endless angst of the desperate parents, so as relief, I included chapters spoken in the voices of supporting characters. Originally I had three chapters in the voice of Len, the gay technician at the state health department laboratory. His narrative focused on the laboratory methods used to determine the causes of the meningitis cases in the day care and the community “outbreak.” Although I really enjoyed writing about pulsed gel electrophoreses and PCR primers and DNA extraction, my book group convinced me it was too much. So, even though I loved Len, he and his chapters had to go. They currently reside in a file on my computer, awaiting their appearance in another piece.

In the middle of writing this novel, I set it aside to write the memoir Inside/Outside: A Physician’s Journey with Breast Cancer. Upon publication of the memoir, I returned to Ten Days, which benefited greatly from the literary skills and perspective I acquired while writing Inside/Outside. I continued attending summer writing workshops: the Split Rock conference in Duluth, Minnesota; the Stone Coast conference in Brunswick, Maine; and the Tin House conference in Portland, Oregon…all chosen for their terrific locations and highly regarded writing programs. An agent at the Writing the Medical Experience workshop in Squaw Valley suggested I begin the novel with a functional family rather than beginning the night the baby became sick. I revised and revised and it kept getting stronger and stronger.

Finally, satisfied with the manuscript, I began searching for an agent and eventually found Cynthia Manson through my continued contact with Mary Bisbee-Beek, the former publicist for Inside/Outside. Cynthia used her considerable skills and literary network to identify the right publisher, Kensington Books. After an incubation period of about ten years, Ten Days finally arrived.