Happy Polyp to Me

Dear Writers:

My birthday is on Halloween. This year to celebrate being 53 years old, me and my cervix, whom I call Fred, headed to the OB-GYN clinic at 7:45 in the morning to get our polyp removed.

For my special day, the team at OB-GYN is dressed up like characters from The Wizard of Oz. An affable Cowardly Lion checks me in at reception. Then a smiling nurse in a pink-and-white tutu takes me back to one of those little rooms and writes down stuff that’s wrong with me and what vitamins I take.

“Have you seen The Wizard of Oz?” she asks me.

“About a thousand times,” I say, not much of an exaggeration since I had the movie soundtrack on 33 LP when I was a kid. I knew right off that her costume was one of the Lullaby League ballerinas that welcomed Dorothy Gale to Munchkinland, and I can sing you the song on our next road trip.

“It was kind of hard to make a tutu,” she says, strapping a blood pressure cuff around my arm. “Everybody said a tutu would be easy, but it wasn’t.”

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I stop myself from saying that she just needed to lightly tack the muslin to the lining waist before gathering the ruffles to get them straight. I stop myself from saying this not because I’m being polite but because I have a damn polyp on my cervix and the contrast with a nurse in a tutu is a little much to take at 8:08 in the morning sans caffeine.

My mom was a wicked-good seamstress and made me the most amazing Halloween costumes. Being in a stuffy little room with a nurse wearing a droopy tutu and knowing the gist of the medical procedure that is coming my way makes me all of a sudden miss my mommy. A lot.

Nurse Lullaby takes my blood pressure: 116/74 with no caffeine in my system. Who in hell has time to do the pre-how embarrassing if the OB-GYN sees how much hair grows behind my knee caps type of shower, feed dog who takes forever to eat, walk dog who takes forever to pee, find the damn medical referral slip, forget to get gas AND make coffee and still get over to the clinic on what street is it on again? at this ungodly hour?

In a few minutes, in comes the doc, who is dressed in normal clothing. Although she looks quite a lot like my college biology teacher, so it does seem befitting that she is an OB-GYN.

“It’s going to be OK,” I whisper to Fred.

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Fred is my cervix, in case you forgot. Fred is a girl, and this isn’t a piece about gender identity unless you decide it is, which is your prerogative as its reader.

The doc wants to know if I’m sexually active.

“No, I abstain when I’m not in a relationship,” I reply. That’s Latin for No man will talk to me unless he’s trying to sell me electronics or a car, and I’m fairly sure the mannequin in the Macy’s window is getting more action than I am this decade.

“About how long has it been?” asks the doc, reminding me that lots of medical terms have Latin root words, i.e., I am so busted.

“End of 2012,” I confess.

“Ohhhh, it’s been a really long time.”

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Thanks, doc. Yes, Obama was just starting his second term the last time my hoohaw saw any hoopla.

She stares at me, and I think she’s wondering how on earth Fred grew a polyp in my sensory deprivation chamber, but she explains that sometimes polyps bleed during intercourse (that’s Latin for GETTING IT ON, in case I forgot), but “we can’t know that in your case,” she says.

She shrugs, perhaps a little disappointed at the not knowing. I get that. In order for a scientific experiment to work, there needs to be both a control group and a test group, and I’m a boring control group. It’s like a thin plot line without any dramatic climax, and believe you me. Continue reading

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Three-Act Structure Paradigm

Dear Writers,
I was delighted to again serve on the faculty of the Chuckanut Writers Conference last week in Western Washington. Here’s a snippet from a session I taught on how writers can draw from film storyboarding concepts to create a text-driven version of a storyboard. In this moment, the discussion centered on the three-act structure paradigm.

Let’s turn to our friends the screenplay writers for a moment. It’s some of their tools that we are borrowing and modifying to make our stories. Looking at conventional film structure is useful in gaining a better understanding of story action and plot points.

The conventional three-act structure looks like this:

In Act I, is the setup. The character(s), the action of the story, the problem or question of the story is established. Continue reading