I tell stories about African
communities, about communities that affect African communities. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2014 v8n1 0217
I have always told stories, they bubble and flow and burst out of me, I have to use effort to stop them.
was 6 when I started putting stories into verse, and when I was 8, an
assignment on insects turned into rhyming verse, which so impressed my
Standard 2 teacher in New Zealand that he wrote my poem on cardboard and
displayed it around the classroom.
Which was the pinnacle of my career as a poet.
never stopped writing poetry, but I wanted to tell bigger stories, and
turned to writing short stories when I was 26 and had just completed my
PhD thesis in the School of Physiology and Pharmacology at the
University of New South Wales Faculty of Medicine. On blood. I know
first story was about my bicycle Framboise, which was the cherry color of
blood saturated with carbon monoxide (I know blood) which I bought in
France in Lyon. After it eventually arrived in Arras, 4 days after I put it on a train, after I had joined an archeological dig and met a sparkly American
adventurer, I rode it through the graveyards of the Maginot Line to
Dunkirk, and onto the car ferry to Dover, and around the British
country-side until I found a caravan park. Which happened on the day
Writing effective stories is
difficult, because the writer must have something to say, the story must
be believable, grammar and syntax must not get in the way of the story.
The writer must speak your language effortlessly, unselfconsciously.
And she or he needs to be a guide to truth and love, and make us
understand that we should never stop fighting for human rights, never
lose sight of the humanity in all of us.
I left the lab in 1996, the burden of being a single mother with 4
children collapsed my career as an academic scientist. I had been an
academic scientist for 23 years, and my title was Research Associate
Professor of Physiology at the University of Pennsylvania. I wanted to tell stories and realized that
I did not have the skills of Ernest Hemingway or Virgina Wolf. I knew
that to tell stories, I had to learn to see, and so I enrolled in art
classes. And drew pictures. In chalk pastels, and later, colored
At the same time I was swallowing
whole grammar books, style books, reading everything I could get my
hands on. After 3 years, the 2 fathers of my 4 children decided I was
having too much fun, so they colluded, and cut off all child support. So
I had to go back to work, and on the first day I glanced through a
newspaper, found 3 advertisements for medical writers. Which is how I
became a medical writer. Which paid my bills while I continued writing, continued publishing and fell in love with all things originating in the continent of Africa.