Q&A with Kelly Grayson

An acclaimed EMS storyteller shares what shaped his writing, and what could shape yours

Excerpt from En Route: A Paramedic's Stories of Life, Death, and Everything In Between

A paramedic in Louisiana and acclaimed writer and blogger, Steven "Kelly" Grayson is garnering strong reviews for his book En Route: A Paramedic's Stories of Life, Death, and Everything In Between, published earlier this year by Kaplan Publishing (www.kaplan.com). In an exclusive interview with EMSResponder, he shares the story behind his stories. Read more at www.kellygrayson.com and http://ambulancedriverfiles.blogspot.com.

How did your writing career get started?


I was working nights in a system status management system, and started writing as a way to keep myself from losing my mind. I'd sit in the ambulance when we were posting, and haul out my laptop and just start typing stories about old EMS calls. Pretty soon one story became another, then another, and those would remind me of more. Pretty soon I had 50 pages, and my partner started asking, "What are you writing over there?" I let him read some, and he suggested I should try to do a book. I'd already e-mailed a couple of the stories to a friend, and unbeknownst to me, she'd e-mailed them to Lou Jordan at EMS Books (www.emergencystuff.com). Lou sent me a publishing contract, and next thing you know, I was a published author.

That was the first book (Life, Death, and Everything in Between: A Paramedic's Memoirs). After it'd been out a couple of years, an editor from Kaplan was cruising the Internet and found my blog. He read some stories there, none of which were in the original book, and e-mailed and inquired whether I'd consider a publishing contract. I told him I had a book out, and sent him a copy. They asked if they could republish it, and that's where we are today.

What kind of reactions has it gotten around the EMS world?


Nothing but good feedback. People will call me or e-mail me or pull me aside at a conference and say, "You've been in my ambulance! Some of these people you deal with are the same people we deal with!" Everybody has their frequent flyers, their memorable calls. They're all memorable for unique reasons, but it's amazing how similar some people's experiences are.

The other feedback I get is that it's just as raw as an actual career in EMS. There's nothing sugarcoated in it. Lou once said there are so many "Look at me, I'm a hero!" books in the EMS genre, he couldn't stand 'em. And he said this one is anything but "Look at me, I'm a hero!" It paints the ugly part of EMS as well as the good parts, and I make some fun of my own foibles and failures. That's what he liked, and it turns out a lot of people who read it feel the same way.

How long have you been blogging?


I started the blog in December 2007, mainly as a way to publicize my book and serve as a trial balloon for new stories, and to kind of hone my writing skills. It's had the desired effect of bringing attention to the book and the book to the attention of a large publisher. And I think since I started the blog, my writing has improved a good deal. Hopefully we'll get enough stories for another book compiled.

What advice would you give others in EMS who feel they have something to say or experiences worth sharing?


People worry so much about patient confidentiality, and that is an important concern. But it doesn't take that much effort to obscure the identifying details of a case to satisfy your patient confidentiality laws.

People pay too much attention to the conventions of writing, I think, when what they should do is just tell the story. Telling the story in your own words and finding your own voice ? that was the hardest part for me. I didn't want to sound like every other writer who writes about EMS calls: "So there I was, with a box of 4x4s and a busload of hemophiliacs." I tried to find a style that was unique for me. And it has to be unique for everybody. Bottom line, you've got to tell the story in your own way. And if that means you flaunt some of the conventions of writing, and ignore things like run-on sentences or sentence fragments, or even make up your own words occasionally, if it adds to the story and helps you tell it better, that's what you should do.

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