Monday, May 3, 2010

Tumor Board

Months ago, Loreen Niewenhuis sent me this unbound copy of her manuscript. Receiving an unbound manuscript directly from an author is a thrill and an honor. Really. Advance reader copies come from publishing companies that want us to read, and then, of course, stock the sent item. But Tumor Board came directly from the author, and since Loreen is still shopping for a publisher, her only hope was that I would read it and enjoy. You can see by the folds, and bruises that I have had it for some time. I read it as soon as it arrived, and put off blogging about it since I know I can't do it justice. I will do my best, with apologies to the author.

You might recall that earlier this year Loreen stopped in Manitowoc to rest her feet. She was walking around Lake Michigan, journaling, and communing with the thing she loves most in life...water. She kept a fascinating record of her walk at

Tumor Board focuses on the past, present and future lives of a group of people all associated with Grace Hospital in Detroit. The title refers to a number of doctors who meet once a week to discuss treatments and the prognosis of patients with particularly challenging cancers. We see the devastating effects of having to make tough decisions, as well as the troubling gallows (or scalpel?) humor doctors use to disconnect from difficult realities. The cast of characters is wide and varied - each navigating the complexities of the board in varying degrees and with varying purposes.

Loreen' s style is fresh, and complicated. I remember talking with her briefly about her skill at writing in present tense - a technique that frequently results in an icy presentation, allowing for little connection between reader and character. But this is not the case with Loreen's work. Because she exposes characters in multiple phases of their lives, the tense ebbs, flows and blends effectively throughout the story.

The medical drama takes center stage in Tumor Board. Loreen, who has worked in medical research, knows the lingo, and applies it generously. Without stopping the tempo of the action, she manages to contextually clue pea-brain readers like myself into the meaning of each specialized term.

Last I heard, she was shopping for a publisher, and had one or two houses in New York giving it a second look. I am hoping for the best for her, and hoping that you all will get a chance to read this well crafted novel.

Note to Loreen...I know you're out there lurking. What was up with that Pablo scene? I laughed, but knew full well that I should not be laughing. I wanted to skip past it, yet I kept reading. It was too long, and yet not long enough. (Is this becoming too Dickensian?) Just thinking about it make me shiver!

*****I spent an interesting morning on Saturday with a friend, playing a firefly at the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association conference. Don't ask. Suffice it to say, I got up at 6:00, after two nights at Heart-A-Rama, to help a Wisconsin playwright with a reading. She handed me a script with four lines...just four lines...highlighted. My friend Chuck got one line. But, there were donuts and coffee.

The title of play escapes me, but it has won a couple monetary awards, and I need to stay on Ludmilla Bollow's (the playwright) good side. Her neighbor is a personal friend of Tim Burton, and she has given Lu's novel, Dr. Zastrow's Sanitarium to him. Apparently, my boy, Johnny Depp, has been mentioned for the lead role of the hypnotic Dr. Zastrow. I'm sticking close to this one. Ludmilla Bollow is the best writer on the face of the earth, perhaps in all the universe, and I admire her more than I can say. I am really, really, really lucky that I know Lu, and that I loved her book, and flitted like a firefly for her. Here's a picture of Chuck and me looking more like grizzly bears hopped up on caffeine than fireflies.

If you can, stop in on Saturday to meet Jennifer Kitchell, author of Girl with Skirt of Stars. Check our events blog for more info.
*****Heart-A-Rama ended on a nice high note. More on that next week.

Thanks for stopping by.

No comments: