Who to Be? Dr. Eugenie Clark, Marine Biologist, or Cherry Ames, RN?

By Connie Goldsmith, for TFCB (check out Connie’s Health Blog too)


When Domenica asked me to blog about being a nurse and a writer–and about my new titles in the USA Today Health Reports series (recently named a Top 10 Health Series for Youth by Booklist Online)–I jumped at the chance. (That’s Cherry Ames on the cover at left. She was a mystery-solving nurse in a series of popular YA novels in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Some of the titles are again in print. Click on the link above for more information.)

clip_image002[4]I didn’t grow up wanting to be a nurse or a writer. What I really wanted to be was a marine biologist. Dr. Eugenie Clark (right), known as the Shark Lady because of her research on sharks, was my idol. She spent part of her career in Sarasota, Florida, where I went to high school. We had the nation’s first high school marine biology program. We combed the beaches for horseshoe crabs and plucked sea urchins from the shallows. Back in the lab, we mixed urchin eggs and sperm and watched urchin embryos develop through our microscopes.

clip_image002Once, I needed some cash in a hurry, so I waded through the mangroves and collected buckets of fiddler crabs (right). Male fiddler crabs have one huge claw and one tiny one; they look like they’re playing a violin. I sold them to local fish stores and made enough money to buy the book I wanted more than anything: Field Book of Seashore Life, by Roy Miner.

But I digress. Life happens, and I was not to become a marine biologist. So there I was, a sassy young divorcee with a toddler, one year of college, and working as a secretary. The local community college ran an ad: “Be an RN in 18 months.” I began about ten years of working full-time and going to college as a single mom. I made my way through the RN program, the BSN program, then a master’s in health care administration. I’m still catching up on my sleep.

Becoming a nurse turned out to be a fortuitous career choice that I’d recommend to anyone. It’s interesting, portable, challenging, and opens so many paths. Nurses can work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, public health, home care, the military, and for health insurance companies as I do now. (So if your insurance company denies your request for a nose job, it isn’t some “bean counter” making that decision, it’s me.)

Also, nurses write. My decision to start writing professionally hit me as suddenly as becoming a nurse did. I wrote to the editor of a California nursing journal with an idea for a continuing education article for nurses. Since then, I’ve written nearly 100 feature and continuing education articles for that now-national journal, Nursing Spectrum/Nurse Week.

Next, I started writing health articles for children’s magazines. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and found that a school & library publisher was looking for writers for a series on the brain. I’d been a neurology nurse and I’d written for children on neurology topics. The publisher was looking for me! Thus came my first book.

The Sacramento Bee ran an article about emerging infectious diseases with a world map showing which diseases were spreading where. Ebola. Hantavirus. SARS–the first new disease of the twenty-first century. I love that stuff! From that article came my first TFCB book, Invisible Invaders. Developing a relationship with such a prestigious publisher is a writer’s dream come true.

Check in next week for more from TFCB!

[Photo credits: Cherry Ames cover, www.alibris.com; Eugenie Clark www.sharklady.com; fiddler crab, www.wikipedia.com]