Archive for the ‘writers I identify with’ category

Rejection: Just Say No (When I Strike Out I Ain’t a Bum)

January 6, 2010

        As writers, we all get rejections.  Ain’t writing just a microcosm of life?  We all get rejected at one time or another.  Maybe something is wrong with me, or I’m just so old it is hard to hurt my feelings, but I never take it too personal.  In baseball if you bat .100 you’re a bum, but as writer that makes you a star.  I have to admit rejection does bother me more for my young friends out there though, especially if people are harsh or cold.

        One of my writer pals in Newfoundland got a rejection letter and posted her feelings on the subject on her blog.  I sent this comment to her post to cheer her up.  If Steven King can start out with a stack of ’em on a spike by his bedside, me and Val can be every bit as as good as him.  We ain’t nothing but human, and as they say in the sports world, ‘We all put our pants on one leg at a time.”  (I don’t know whether the lady writers say that or not.)

        My pal Val liked the comment, and I thought I ought to circulate it some more, so I posted it today.  I’ll title the response to her post  ‘Rejection:  Just Say No.”

        “Tell them you have it on good authority that in real life Charlie Brown married the little red-haired girl, owned a string of franchise hamburger joints in the Southeast, had a net worth of twelve million dollars, and was a successful writer under a pen name. They had six beautiful children and seventeen lovely grandchildren.

        Lucy ran a high-falluting publishing company, only took on material she deemed ‘Literary fiction of publishable quality,’ went broke, and never had sex.  So there.”

        I always did think Lucy was sorta cranky.

        Okay, so I was in a whimsical mood.  I gotta go see a bunch of sick folks in the AM and figure out some way to help them.  Art is the only way I know how to deal with it all.  Maybe I won’t get on base 90% of the time, but just ’cause I strike out a lot doesn’t make me a bum.  I gotta play, and write too.  It keeps me, my readers, and my patients happy.  Who’d want to see (or read) an old doctor who was a grump?  

Dr. B


Flipping Burgers, Doctoring, The Writer Gig and Stephen King

December 28, 2009

        My daughter got me Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ For Christmas.  I started right after the evening news, and finished before ten o’clock.   (Mama put me in a speed reading course years ago which is how I wound up in medical school.)  Now I plan to go back and digest it.  It is worthy of more than one cruise through.  As I read back through again I’ll tell you much more about his book.

        In medicine, we say things come in threes.  Before I read this I had two writer books I considered essential.  One was ‘The Elements of Style.’  The other was ‘Self Editing for Fiction Writers,’ which my agent made me do a book report on before he would agree to take me on. Now I have three.

        ‘On Writing’ is not a ‘how to become a rich and famous writer’ self-help book.  It could not be that because Mr. King writes the truth, and insists we do the same.  Instead it is a detailed story of the process he went through to learn his craft.  It was so similar to my own saga it was eerie.  I bet the same holds true for every writer ever published.

        Not long ago I watched a documentary on Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s.  Mr. Thomas didn’t learn his profession to become rich.  He just wanted to be his best.  He started out as a teenager and got his first job because he impressed a restaurant owner he would start with the basics and learn it from the bus boy position on up.  He never forgot the fundamentals.  If you cook a lousy hamburger no one will buy it.  If you write a lousy story no one will read it. 

        When I started med school, I was determined to learn every possible nuance of the profession and be my best at that too.  Getting rich never was part of the equation.  (I also made that goal and didn’t get rich.)  Like Mr. Thomas and Mr. King, I stuck with the basics.  To this day I try to hear out every patient’s story.  If I don’t understand it 100% then I try to find them some more help. 

        Who’d want a doc that looked at it any other way?  I’m proud to say I don’t consider my patient as a financial opportunity.  If I ever do, I’ll quit and pray for forgiveness right away.  I’d be scared I might die before I settled up on the score and wind up in hell for such a sin.

        I want you to know I don’t consider my reader a financial opportunity either, although I hope enough of you buy my book to where they’ll let me write another one.  I view my reader as someone to bounce ideas off of; someone to laugh and cry with and try to make some sense out of this crazy a^^ world.  Mr. King talks in ‘On Writing’ about the IR, or ‘Ideal Reader.’  As he writes he tries to envision how some passages might bring tears to the IR while other words bring hope.  He wonders if his work will resonate with the IR and if they cry at the same places in the story he does as he writes it.  I wonder the same thing.   Like the doc gig, it ain’t about money, it’s about communication.  I hope I did my job.  If I didn’t, I’ll work some more.

        Mr. King has made a bunch of money but in his book he says not a single word was written with that as his motive.  I believe him.  His story rings too true for it to be otherwise.

        In music we have a phenomenon called cross-over appeal.  It is a great thing to have a fine bluegrass record, but if the project has the potential to attract other genres, then there is always an extra buzz at the record label.  “Hey dude, this one is special.  I can hear it on public radio and Sirius, but also commercial country, Americana, and gospel.  Who are these guys?”

        Of course, Mr. King is no unknown, but his book has a similar cross-over appeal for other disciplines.  Not only is it a good book for writers, but the same lessons are applicable for flipping hamburgers or the doctor life.  I suspect they hold true in most artistic endeavors, and many business ones.  I know it applies to the music biz.

        I came away from my first read encouraged.  Other than some fifty best sellers and millions of dollars, I’m not one bit different from Mr. King.  I can see myself in every milestone of his journey even though I’m still only a step past the stack of rejection letters he used to keep on a spike by his bed.

       Even though I finished his book, in real life I’d say I’m only about half way through the process, but I’ll get there.  I ain’t Stephen King.  I’m only Tommy Bibey, but like Mr. King I have a story I have to tell, and there is no way I could ever stop.

        Mr. King’s book does show the process takes a lot of time.  I consider myself lucky.  I’ve got a day job as a doc I love, so I don’t figure I’ll be flipping burgers any time soon, though Mr. Thomas showed there is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I suspect Mr. Thomas did better than me and Mr. King put together.  I’m certain he dispensed a whole heap more burgers than I did medical advice.   That’s okay, and I’m not jealous or envious.  We all gotta be what we are and I got to be me the whole way.  I wasn’t perfect but I liked me okay.

        I’ve reached  the stage in life where all I do is walk around and be Dr. B, and at the end of the month someone sends a check.  I’m that way with my music too.  I’ll do the same with my writing and see what happens.  It’s like my Dad told me.  “Son, don’t get into anything for the money, but because you love it.”  I better stick with the doctor gig, picking my mandolin, and physician bluegrass fiction.  Old Dad was right, I love that life. 

        Besides, it is all I know.  Mr. King said what you know was the best thing to write about, at least if you are a novice like me.  My agent told me the same thing.  As Jerry Clower said, “if you hear it twice it’s scripture.”

        So there you go.  Mr. King says it is true, and so does Jerry Clower.  My agent agrees with them.  If it’s scripture it can be traced back to the King James and the King James is the bedrock of Southern Literature; my agent told me that too.  

        A good Southern boy will never go against the Bible, so I better keep on writing.  But for now on this Monday morning it’s back to doctoring.  Gotta write about what I know, and the doc gig is a big part of it.

Dr. B

Three Chords and the Truth

December 26, 2009

        Just a short post today.  My boy is a paramedic and had to work yesterday, so today is our family Christmas.  Like all of us, he has to work for a living nowadays.  It can never be like the old days with him right here at the house to hit golf balls as soon as I hit the door from work, but we still have a lot of good times.  He’s on his way.  The boy is never gone for long but when he walks through that door we’ll hug on him like the prodigal son.  

        Today I want to tell you about  a new blog I found, 3 Chords a Day.  The link is below, and I’ve added them to my blogroll.  There is an old saying in Nashville- ‘Country music is three chords and the truth.’  I try to write that way too, as I believe the truth is simple. As my daughter says, “Daddy, you’re so simple you’re complicated to people.”

        Sure, I understand about money and that we all have to make  living, and I hope to sell a few books someday.  However, I told my agent I didn’t care if I sold three thousand or three million as long as I wrote what I believe to be the truth.  (So far we are far closer to three thousand but several publishers have it under review)

       I think this fellow writes what he believes to be true about country music just as sure as I try to be the most honest physician bluegrass fiction writer I can be.  If you love classic country, and believe it and bluegrass should be back on the radio in full force, check it out. 

        KNP.  Hold to the dream and have a fine holiday.

Dr. B

‘My Stroke of Insight’ Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

September 13, 2009

        I have not read this one yet, but it is on my ‘must’ list.  Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroscientist by profession who shares her insight into the illness of stroke.  Her book is titled ‘My Stroke of Insight.’

        She knows, and both from a right brain and left brain perspective, because she suffered a stroke herself a few years back.  Like many of us as medical professionals, prior to her stroke she was a left brain human.  Logical, organized, driven, time pressured etc.  I am not judging.  Lord knows I have plenty of ‘Type A’ to go around.

        When she had her stroke she knew it was in the left side of the brain, because she began to lose the use of her right hand, and her speech began to get garbled.  As it progressed, an odd thing happened.  Her right brain took over, and she began to experience an unexplained tranquility.  It was like she was able to step outside herself and look at the situation with near bemusement.  She began to think, “Well, isn’t this interesting?  My, my.  It sure is peaceful over here.”  (Paraphrased)

        The left side fought back.  “What are doing?  You are a scientist.  This is a stroke.  Call 911!”

       She never forgot the feeling, though.  Her full recovery took years, but as her left brain came back to normal, she was still able to tap into the right side and access all those warm fuzzies.  Even after the resolution of her stroke she did not lose that ability.  I think her book is very important.  If we read it with passion we might learn more about how to access both sides of our brain with equal ease.

        I am reminded of the early days when I began to write my book.  Some days I’d come in from work and start to type.  I was still in left brain mode.  I’d send it to my agent and he’d say, “You wrote this like a doctor.  It’s terrible.  Do it over.” 

        He thought about how to break this pony for a while. One day he called.  “I don’t want you to ever write a word until you have strung your mandolin around your neck and played until you have logged into your right brain.”

        It worked.  In fact, what few times I tried to get speed up the process and get it by him he’d notice right away.  “Tear it up.  Go get out your mandolin.”

        The last time I saw Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson we got into a discussion about Ms. Taylor’s book. I told Kristin that I looked forward to the read, but at the same time I had a notion I understood what the doctor was trying to say. 

        Kristin looked at the mandolin case at my feet and smiled.  “That’s how you get there, Doc.”

        How come woman are so intuitive?  She 100% got it.  The mandolin and writing has always taken me over to the tranquil side.  I just didn’t have to suffer a stroke to get there.  I bet there is a lot to learn from Dr. Taylor as to how to access it with more efficiency.  Or maybe I am just too danged left brain-ed analytical about it all, who knows?

      In my next post I plan to share some about the Wayne Benson left-brain right brain balanced mandolin method.  One time I told Kristin it seemed to me Wayne understood the why of how he played better than any great player I’d ever worked  with.

       She just smiled and nodded.  I’m sure she must have wondered how old Doc could be so slow to understand.  To her, as a woman, an artist, and as Wayne’s wife, that understanding was second nature.  It takes a community to make a right brain artist out of a left brain doc, but with the help of ‘The Mandolin Case,’ I’m getting there.

Dr. Taylor’s web site is:

Dr. B

Mark Twain

August 29, 2009

        Now here’s a writer I can identify with.  Mark Twain always felt he was a bit odd and different from other folks.  He was so intuitive about himself that he predicted he’d ride out of here with Haley’s Comet, and then proceeded to do just that.

        I loved Twain back to late grade school.  At first glance, his writing seemed simple.  He wrote in a way that a kid could read it and dream of a Mississippi raft ride or of being Tom Sawyer on a date with Becky when he grew up, but an adult could read it on another level.  Twain painted word pictures.  When I read Twain I could visualize the river or the cave or the whitewashed fences just as sure as if I was there myself.

        I grew up in a very segregated society.  Twain showed me a lot about race.  You remember the scene when Huck Finn was riding down the river with Jim?  Huck was conflicted wasn’t he?  Society said it was wrong to help a black man escape to freedom, and yet Jim was a good man and a genuine friend.  Finally Huck comes to grips with the dilemma and says, (paraphrased) “Well, if helping Jim is wrong then I guess I’ll just have to go to hell.”  I thought that was pretty brave for a fellow no older than me. 

        If a black child ever played Little League with us I don’t recall it.  We played a lot of sandlot ball in a vacant field near the house.  We’d take a break and go to the store to get a pop.  All you has to do was go down the street, cut in behind my piano teacher’s house, and then go through the woods by an old pond and you’d come to a clearing.  We weren’t supposed to go there ’cause it was the black section of town.  There was an old general store there, the kind of place with wide wood plank dusty floors and raw peanuts in big washtubs.  Old men in overalls would sit and play checkers or cards.  I recall they had the best baseball cards in town.  It was my first memory of any human being of color.

        Some of the kids played ball, and I thought we should invite them to our game.  A couple of our older guys nixed that.  ‘Them is ‘N’….(The ‘N’ word) you can’t do that.’  Even as a boy it seemed wrong to me.  Now that I am older I realize I should have stood up to them.  I hope the Lord has forgiven me for not doing so. 

       Later we’d skip Sunday School and hang out at the  Gulf station where we’d drink Co-Colas and eat nabs.  Some of the guys would smoke cigarettes.  My Dad was a doc and said that’d kill you and I believed what he told me so I didn’t get started on that.  The subject of race came up every so often.  By then I was reading Twain, so I’d quote the river scene.  Some of them made fun of me, and said I was  a ‘N’ lover.  By this age I’d learned better how to stick to my guns.  I told them if they didn’t hush I was gonna tell their moms they were skipping Sunday School to smoke cigarettes.  I guess I figured they’d be just as scared of going to hell as Huck, but not as brave.  They backed away.  I learned the concept of leverage at an early age.

        Twain also taught me it was okay to hang out with questionable characters if their heart was right, which is how I fell in love with Dr. Indie Jenkins as a father like figure.  Twain also taught me to love words.  I got along okay with Thoureau but wasn’t a ‘Wuthering Heights’ kinda guy.  When we read it in English class I tended to play hooky and go to Popeye’s store to pick the blues.  I read the Cliff’s notes and got an A- for that one.  But Twain I loved, and read every word whether it was assigned or not.

        So, tell me what you guys like about Twain.  He is my all time favorite.

Dr. B

Writers I Identify With- Clyde Edgerton

August 26, 2009

        Today I want to start a new category on my blog; writers I identify with.   My long time lit hero is Mark Twain, but he was not available for an interview, so I decided to start with a hero I could talk to; Clyde Edgerton.  Over the next few months I plan to cover several writers, and also get back to my book tour plans.  I put those posts on hold while Julius was here on his med student rotation.  He still has two weeks left, but he has also become more interested the Lit and bluegrass world while he is here.  I like my personal mix to be 80% doc and 20% artist, and Julius is headed in the same direction.

        In this series I am interested in how and why folks became writers.  What is it that compels a human beings to write?  For the most part writers struggle over manuscripts for years at lonely odd hours.  They have no guarantee of any award other than the satisfaction they have created a story, but that thrill is more than adequate reward.  For me writing offers a sliver of hope for a bit of earthy immortality.  The thought my great-grandchildren might read my story someday drives me more far more than any hope of Earthly reward.   

       In many ways, Clyde Edgerton’s background is similar to mine.  He grew up in a rural North Carolina, and loved to fish and play baseball.  I once read many creative folks come from rural areas.  I have often wondered if it was the freedom to run and play in the woods and a childhood of innocence and lack of fear that frees one up to be creative.

        His childhood is described as idyllic.  He was close to his mother, and also spent a lot of time outdoors with his Dad.  On his web site he says as a youngster he hoped he might grow up to be pro baseball player or play in a rock n roll band.  I can identify with that.  I often tell my young patients who are not sure what they what to be when they grow up that I wanted to be a rock star but it didn’t work out.  They always laugh.  The image of old Doc as a rock star is so wildly improbable they never fail to get the idea; is is okay to dream of anything.

        Some of my early memories of music are from when my mom played the piano.  Mostly it was hymns.  Whenever we had a birthday party she’d play ‘Happy Birthday,’ and I thought it was the coolest thing.  Clyde Edgerton’s mom put him in piano just like my mom did.  I wonder if Clyde was like me. I often skipped out on practice to play ball, a fact I regret now.

        We both like to read as kids, but I don’t think either of us could be characterized as book worms.   After that our paths begin to diverge.  He became an English major at Carolina and began to write an an early age.  He now has a number of book under his belt and a long list of awards old Doc couldn’t to live long enough to see.  I wrote stories in grade school, but then put it aside and spent most of my life as a Doc.  Still though, I always kept notes and scribbled down ideas.  I knew I would come back to it someday, and after I turned fifty, the compulsion became stronger every year.  I didn’t want to leave this Earth without compiling some sort of written record.

         But in spite of his wild success as a writer, and my obscurity, I still feel a kinship.  He is compelled to tell his mostly Southern story, and so am I.  I am certain he writes because it is in his blood, and not for financial gain. 

        Perhaps an even more certain sign is his music.  He plays with a bluegrass band, ‘The Rank Strangers.’  I have seen him play both both banjo and mandolin and my guess is he can play some guitar too.  Most bluegrassers are that way.  I saw him do ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’ when I was at the Southern Writers Conference in Chattanooga.  Afterwards, I took my mandolin down front and we traded a few licks.  In spite of magnificent sucess in the literary world, he remains a polite Southern gentleman who is respectful of his elders.  As Lester would say, he ‘didn’t get above his raising,’ a high compliment in the bluegrass world.

        Clyde Edgerton will be in Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday Oct 24 for a book reading and to play with his band.  I have a late afternoon gig that day, but I hope with some luck I might get to the end of the session.  If I don’t, I will be there in spirit.  Any baseball playing, mandolin picking writer is good by me.

        Visit his website at and pick up one of his books.  He wrote ‘Raney,’ ‘Walking Across Egypt’ and many others.  His new release, ‘The Bible Salesman,’ is one I plan to get to soon.  Go to one of his book store gigs, and tell him Dr. B said to come by and sing one with him.

         If you guys are familiar with his work I hope you will comment as to what you like about it.  I am still learning as a writer. (I’m certain that will never end) As I go through my last edit on ‘The Mandolin Case,’ I enjoy thinking of your ideas as I work. 

        It is much like my mandolin lessons.  When I play if someone says they believe Doc has been working with Darin Aldridge or Wayne Benson that tickles me because I know my playing has evolved.  I am 100 % against plagiarism, but if someone were to read my writing and say, ‘I think Doc has been reading Clyde Edgerton,’ nothing would thrill me more.  It’s like we say in bluegrass- ‘Only steal from the best.”

        What makes a guy like Clyde Edgerton an author?  How can I be one?  What can I learn?  As my agent says, you always learn from your readers.  When I get there a large measure of credit goes to you, and I forever appreciate your comments.

Dr. B