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Me & Kairol & the NY Times September 10, 2009

Posted by PAS in survivorship, the 'net.
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I was doing one last quick email check before shutting down the office to head home — usually just a quick scan of senders and subjects to make sure nothing needs attention, no problem exists that can’t hold for a couple of hours. But this time, Kairol Rosenthal’s name jumped out of the email senders’ list in my inbox.

Last year while I was recuperating from surgery #3, I started reading Kairol’s Everything Changes blog. I enjoy Kairol’s perspective so much that I have EC posts delivered via yahoo! reader, and I’ve linked EC in my blog roll. When a post moves me, I sometimes add a comment. I comment on several blogs each week — but it’s pretty rare to get an email from the blog owner or writer.

Even more surprising was the email subject line: You are Famous in the New York Times. Huh? What? I stopped packing my briefcase and opened the message.

A few days ago, Kairol asked in her blog “Do You Like Being Called Strong?” She wrote about the conflicts survivors and patients can feel when someone says ‘You’re so strong,” and since I feel conflicted every time I hear those words, I added my two cents in a blog comment. In the September 10th NY Times Well blog, which appears in the health section of the online edition, blogger Tara Parker-Pope did her own riff on the topic of ‘strong’ cancer survivors, quoted Kairol’s blog — and quoted my comment, with attribution.

Kairol makes cancer real for a lot of people, and she says out loud what is too often not said about being diagnosed with and living through cancer. She wanted me to know about the NYT blog post. On my end, I was pretty surprised to read that my comment had been included, too. I confess, my first thought had been that maybe I’d said something silly or stupid — but Kairol thanked me for commenting, and for adding my thoughts to her blog.  I replied that I very much appreciate her perspective.

When I started writing and getting published, Woodward and Bernstein were heroes and journalists were the good guys. I went to J-school in that atmosphere, got a job while still in school, and have written for publication or hire in some form or another since my first poem was published in 1969 (I was 13.) I used to dream about working for the NY Times. That dream of being an NYT columnist changed over time — but writing still drives and fulfills me, and seeing my byline still gives me chills. Seeing my name attached to a quote in the NY Times? I admit, I’m still a little pumped!

Never in my wildest journalistic fantasy did I ever imagine I’d break into the NY Times by commenting on a blog — even a blog written by a well-known, newsworthy cancer advocate and writer. In 1969, real writers used typewriters, dictated stories into land-line phones and scribbled in longhand. I journaled in spiral notebooks. In j-school in the 70s, I learned how to hand-set type (a lost skill that’s now seeing new life as fancy and unique letterpress work for stationery and logos.) My first job was for Syracuse’s underground (aka ‘alternative’) newspaper, the Syracuse New Times, and my next writing gigs were at a series of advertising agencies. Now I do technical writing in the pharmaceutical industry. I didn’t go the investigative reporter, conventional media route — I shifted early on to writing for money, not causes.

Eventually, though, no matter what I was writing for hire, my personal writing returned to the subjects I’m passionate about: dog training, cooking, and these days, cancer. Now I journal here, online, and I do a large part of my writing on a netbook. I publish three blogs and contribute to five online forums and support communities. But I have to confess, I also still write in a spiral notebook. Yesterday, the package inside my front door was the Smith-Corona Galaxie ’60s manual typewriter I found on eBay (that’s another post…) At the end of the day, I’m still an old-school-trained journalist and a passionate writer, no matter the venue or tools. And in some ways, I’m still used to the old-school writer interactions: when I started writing, contacting another author got you (maybe) a press release — not a personal response in your (e)mailbox. But blogging not only allows but encourages personal interaction with the writer — and that immediate feedback makes all of us better at what we do. Keep the blog comments coming — they make us all think!

Like Randy Pausch, I know that for the most part, I’m living my dreams — but some days I need the reminder that it’s still possible. I appreciate the opportunity that writers like Kairol Rosenthal give me to ask myself questions and grow in understanding by writing out the answers.

And for what it’s worth, I’m amazed and a little awed to read a quote from me in the (online) NY Times.

Are you living your dream(s)? Are you giving yourself permission to express yourself, to be passionate about the things which are important to you?

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Comments

1. azahar - September 11, 2009

Well done you!

Are you still going to remember us little people when you are big and famous?

And yes, I give myself permission all the time to express myself. Unfortunately this often makes for people running away in the opposite direction… back to “normal”.

2. gaelenscafe - September 11, 2009

LOL — At five-foot-nothing, it’ll be more like ‘short and famous.’ 😉
The irony that I had to get cancer to experience small moments of fame is not lost on me. If I could trade any amount of fame for wellness, I wouldn’t hesitate one second before making the trade!

3. Kairol Rosenthal - September 12, 2009

Fantastic post. Nice to learn more about your life.

Best,

Kairol

4. Barrie - September 12, 2009

Well I hate to post a comment after the most meaningful comment up above me but I do want to say that that is WONDERFUL and I very much believe you got quoted in the NYT despite the cancer, certainly not because of it!!!! You were destined to be quoted in the times, it just happened that the first time happened to be in relation to your diagnosis 🙂

5. gaelenscafe - September 12, 2009

Barrie – maybe next time it will be about the importance of being a responsible pet owner. But if my quotes from the ‘first dog’ post didn’t make the cut, I may have a ways to go on that front!
Kairol – thank you so much. As I’ve said before, you make me think (and in a good way!)


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