mad in pursuit notebook


The Adult Writer -- Why? (Part 2)

[Continued from yesterday] This is the second moment that finally got me writing a novel:

MOMENT #2 (1988)

My job at the Institution (a residential treatment center for troubled youth) was to worry about Quality (hence the activity with the Safety Committee). In 1988 we were due for a tri-annual survey by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The accreditation was required for the organization to collect Medicaid.

Anyway, quality of care is big in accreditation circles. But I was supposed to be the monitoring person -- the checklist girl -- not the one actually responsible for delivering services. The executive director and the program directors were truly responsible for seeing that services were delivered with the utmost quality. But here we were coming down to the wire and no one seemed worried but me.

It was one of those classic situations: "Yeah, yeah. Your're doing such a great job, Susan. Tell us if you need anything." And out the door they'd race. You could almost see the little exit streaks in the air behind them.

Then one of the most important honchos disappeared into alcohol rehab. Unfair!

It was the Friday before Labor Day weekend -- the JCAHO survey only a couple weeks away. We weren't ready for the survey, but they all assumed I'd "take care of it." But I'd had enough.

I would be GODDAMNED if I spent my Labor Day Weekend worrying about the Institution when they were all off with their plans. And that one in the drunk tank -- give me a break.

I went to the library. To the writing section. There was a whole row of books on How to Write Mysteries. No way! If there are instructions manuals on this subject -- that means I CAN DO IT! Just read the instructions, right?

My weekend was absorbed with reading those books and starting to write. There was no turning back! "Murder in the Underground Athletic Club" was begun.


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