Monthly Archives: January 2008

the writing thing …

I haven’t written much about writing and I don’t think I will. Every once in a while, though, I get a glimmer of insight into how and why I do what I do.

I have a book to write, I am pretty sure of that right now. And so there is writing to do.

And there is research to do, a ton of research. There are places to go and … activities to observe.

There are also many conversations to have. Interviews are part of research, but I differentiate. Research prepares me to have good conversations.

But it occurs to me, in the end, that when I go to actually write my next book, I won’t be ready until …

until I can sort of remember the whole book, even though it hasn’t been written. It will get written when, in some way, I can remember the words to it and how they sound.

It’s a strange plan, but I think it works for me.

For those who want less esoteric advice, I recommend Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Even if you don’t like Stephen King’s bestsellers (I mostly don’t) and even if you think he’s a hack writer (he’s not) … if you care about writing, read his book about it. I think I need to read it again, in fact.

There’s been this pile next to the bedside table for more than a month now. It’s great to have new things to read.

Globe and Mail: Sun, Sand and Surgery … Today

The Globe and Mail, the newspaper of record in Canada with a weekly circulation of something like two million, leads their travel section today with a big article on medical tourism. Dave McGinn does a nice job looking at the phenomenon from the Canadian perspective, and I’m not just saying so because he interviewed me and mentioned my book, Beauty from Afar (though that certainly doesn’t hurt him, here.)

“As the demand for prompt, affordable medical services grows, more and more countries are encouraging foreigners to visit and take advantage of their health-care systems – for a fee.”

That’s how McGinn’s editor sums up the situation.

Among the chief reasons I like what McGinn did is that he didn’t body-surf the tidal wave of publicity for Thailand and/or India and researched other up-and-coming destinations. McGinn looks at Cuba, which I’d like to know more about and is more of a destination for Canadians than for U.S. residents; and also covers Costa Rica, Portugal and Spain, South Korea and Taiwan.

It was just the other day that my dentists in Costa Rica were telling me that they are seeing more and more Canadian patients.

The Globe and Mail couldn’t resist the almost cliche headline of “Sun, sand and surgery,” though I am sure that is not Dave’s doing. Copy editors | page designers are in a hurry. Been there, done that as well.

(article link to Globe and Mail Story)

The New York Times said ‘fuck’ … once

I’m doing research for my next book, which I’m not ready to write about yet though I have been contemplating that I might sort of ease into it at some appropriate point in time — which isn’t now, so I’m going to have to leave you guessing as to why I was searching The New York Times web site for the word “fuck.” You might surmise that I’m writing about journalism, or censorship, or sex, or somesuch, and I would give you that much.

But anyway, The New York Times, I have read in quite a number of places, does not print the word “fuck.” This would also be true of the vast majority of daily newspapers in the United States and we all know that you really can’t say it on TV or radio, either. In more than 20 years in journalism, I have only gotten the word into print once, in a minor column in the New Haven Advocate in 1995. (Thanks, Josh.)

So, forgetting for a moment as to why I wanted to know: Just what the, um, heck, is “fuck” doing in the New York Times archives?

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Today is a “Bestseller” Day …

When Beauty from Afar first came out, I was afflicted with Amazon Sales Rank Syndrome, a phrase I apparently just coined because a Google search for it finds nothing, nada. ASRS sufferers have mood swings linked to the mysterious ups and downs of how their book is doing according to Amazon, as measured by Sales Rank. Hardly anyone, including people in the publishing industry, has a clue about how Amazon calculates Sales Rank.

This morning, Beauty from Afar was at about 16,000, high enough to make it the No. 1 book in the “Plastic Surgery” category at Amazon. Yippee, huh? BFA has been as high as about 900. It also, on occasion, plummets to 400,000 or so. Continue reading

Quoted on CNN.com | Surgery Overseas

CNN.com did a nice piece today on traveling outside the U.S. for cosmetic surgery; I knew it was coming because the writer, Neil Schlecht, interviewed me a couple of weeks ago. I’m quoted briefly in the story, as an expert, and my book gets mentioned.

Neil apologized a little for the brevity but we both know that’s the way things go, what with editing, rules about space and length, etc. Neil found someone going to South Africa for surgery (hence, “safari” in the headline) … which was interesting to me because most of the recent journalism about medical travel has been focused on the Far East and/or Central and South America. South Africa can also be a fine destination but it gets more attention as such in the U.K. than it does in the U.S.

Beauty from Afar” has been out for more than a year now, and it is nice that it still gets noticed and sells pretty well online. Maybe with other books out now on the subject of medical tourism, bricks-and-mortar stores will notice that there’s a growing body of literature and a lot of interest … and they’ll free up some precious shelfspace.

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