Thursday, September 20, 2012

Authors in our midst

Creative co-workers are finding publishing success; here are three CoxHealth writers and their latest works.

Dr. Mark Ellis
"The Granddad Tales" 

Mark Ellis’ sons, Ryan and Garrett, were about 3 years old when they started telling their dad stories about their granddad. He recalls coming home from work as a family practice physician and being met at the front door by the boys, who would then immediately tell him about something their grandfather had done.

The stories started out simple, and believable enough, but before long they evolved into tall tales that mixed the boys’ admiration of their grandfather with a healthy dose of imagination.

“One day, I came home and Ryan told me, ‘Daddy, I was taking a hike with Granddad and a skunk jumped up and bit him in the pants!’” Dr. Ellis says. It was around this time that Dr. Ellis started to see the creative seeds of a series of stories. “I knew I had to preserve the memory of their priceless statements.”
He had always had a fondness for a story well told, and he began writing down the boys’ adventure reports, spinning them into larger stories and even including elements of his own childhood. Before long, Dr. Ellis had a series of eight tales based on the boys and a fictional granddad modeled on his own father.

Those stories formed the basis of Dr. Ellis’ first book, “The Granddad Tales,” which was published this spring.

“It’s really inspired by Ryan’s and Garrett’s creativity; it’s not biographical per se, but it includes foggy ‘memories’ of both imagined and true happenings,” Dr. Ellis says. “Anyone with kids or who loved their childhood will enjoy it.”

For Dr. Ellis, writing the book was a chance to stretch his literary skills. He’s had a passion for writing since his years studying English as an undergraduate.

He had previously focused on poetry, with several pieces published in medical and literary journals. After he completed “The Granddad Tales,” he spent several months searching for agents and publishers before reaching a deal with a company that specializes in undiscovered authors.

In that time, he was able to continue writing and seeing his first book in print has inspired him to pursue two new projects: “Tales from My Tea Garden,” a children’s book of short stories and “The Park,” a novel for teens and adults.

“When I first started ‘The Granddad Tales,’ I just wanted my sons to have a memory of story-telling time,” Dr. Ellis says. “But writing it has stirred a passion in me for helping others see the power in the shared act of storytelling. And now, my sons and I love to create stories together after their reading time; and, they love to tell me their own stories. So, the gift comes back to me.”

“The Granddad Tales”

“The Granddad Tales” is available at and in the Allenbrand Resource Center on the ground floor of Hulston Cancer Center. More about Dr. Ellis’ work can be found at:
Glenna Muse
"Warm hats for Wee Noggins” 
Over the last few years, respiratory therapist Glenna Muse and a knitting group at Cox South have been lending their talents to create knitted hats for premature babies in the NICU. Now, the success of Muse’s knitting hobby is driving her in the pursuit of another passion: writing.

In 2011, Muse collected 19 of her own hat designs and wrote a book proposal for arts and crafts publisher Leisure Arts. Just 40 days after her submission, she had a contract in hand for “Warm Hats for Wee Noggins,” which was published late last year.

“I’ve been so blessed and the reviews have been great,” she says. “It’s nice that people appreciate what we do for our patients.”

The book has been so popular that a follow-up is already planned. She’s currently gathering 20 new designs that will be published in 2013.

Muse was pleasantly surprised to see that the first book included a three-page introduction adapted from her book proposal. For someone who has loved writing her whole life, it was exciting to see her work in print. And it’s a thrill she hopes to repeat soon with some of her other writing projects.

Right now, she’s about 50,000 words into her first novel, with an outline crafted for the remaining chapters and time set aside to complete it. The book, called “Letters From My Bath,” is the story of a woman who is encouraged by a life coach to write frank letters to the people who have been sources of tension in her life. The letters are a writing exercise only, just for her. Or at least that was the intent, before her well-meaning husband stumbled upon the sealed envelopes and mailed them.

Muse plans to complete the manuscript this fall and then find an agent who can help in the search for a publisher. The novel has been years in the making, but she says the personal rewards of writing make the effort worthwhile.

“Only so many people can support themselves through fiction; there’s only one Stephen King,” she says. “I’m lucky to have a job I love. I work three days a week, 12- hour shifts, and that gives me time to pursue other things I love.”

Muse says her work in the hospital has provided inspiration for some of her writing. “There are no better stories than being in a hospital,” she says. “It’s a microcosm of human nature.”

It was the perspective that only health care workers have that inspired both Muse’s desire to work in respiratory therapy and her first published piece, a poem called “Code Blue. ” She wrote the poem, which appeared in a journal at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, after responding to her first code.

“It was the first time I had done compressions and felt someone come back to life under my hands,” she says. “I had seen death in my own life, but to work it and see someone pink up, come back and start fighting is such a unique experience medical people have.

“I just watched someone die and come back; it’s a miracle I knew I wanted to be an RT before, but that sealed it.”

“Warm hats for Wee Noggins”

Glenna Muse’s “Warm hats for Wee Noggins” is available at local craft stores, Amazon and at the publisher’s website, Muse also writes a cooking blog at:
Jean Rosenow 
“Blessed are the Pure in Heart” 

Storytelling has been a part of Jean Rosenow’s life for as long as she can remember. During long road trips with their parents she and her brother would make up stories to pass the time. The pair would see something as simple as a patch of daffodils in a field and spin a story about a family that had once lived in a cabin in that spot, with flowers near the front door.

The siblings’ storytelling habit continued into adulthood: Rosenow and her brother would send one another a list of three or four unrelated words and ask that the other send back a story based those words. Her brother has since passed away, but that tradition of storytelling links Rosenow to a part of her childhood, and to a simpler time she works to share with readers.

“My childhood was a very different time than what people experience now,” she says. “Back then, there was a real sense of community. It was a good way to grow up and I wouldn’t want it to be lost.”

Rosenow spends her days as a dietetic assistant in Food and Nutrition Services, but in her free time she writes nostalgic stories for publications like “Looking Back” and “Good Old Days.” This summer, her first novel, “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart,” was published by Avalon Books.

The book focuses on a woman, Emma, who has dedicated her life to caring for her younger brother, Rodney, who has Down syndrome. A local farmer, Ira, places an ad in the personals section of a newspaper and Rodney decides he might be perfect for his sister.

“It’s a story about community and good people,” Rosenow says. The novel captures the spirit of the spirit of rural southern Missouri that she observed first-hand when she lived on a farm near Alton. “I just think the Ozarks are wonderful and I’ve always wanted to write about that experience.”

Rosenow says she enjoyed building a story around people like those she’s met in this area. She tends to write by building from a seed of an idea, without plotting out where the story will go beforehand. Working on a novel gives her enough time to see characters develop, a process that begins to feel like getting to know actual people.

“Characters take on a life of their own and they tell their own story and what they want people to know about them,” she says. “The most rewarding part is seeing where the story is going and seeing it come out.”

Rosenow says her co-workers are excited and supportive about the book and it’s been a little overwhelming preparing for its publication.

“It can be scary,” she says with a laugh. “You realize your personal thoughts are no longer private; they’re launched into the world!”

The rewards are worth it, though. Rosenow is already hard at work on her next project: an historical novel about the lumber boom in the Ozarks that began in the 1880s.

She says the biggest challenge is to find the time to do it.

“I’m not a full time writer, there are too many things to do. I still have a few books in me and I’d like to write them.”

“Blessed are the Pure in Heart” 

Jean Rosenow’s “Blessed are the Pure in Heart” is currently available on Amazon. A full list of her published works can be found on her website at