Today I’m sharing a very inspiring guest post from Mimi Thebo, author of Hospital High, about how what happened to her when she was a teenager inspired her to write her novel.
When I was 14 years old, I died in a car accident. I didn’t stay dead, obviously, but I was badly injured. I spent my high school years in and out of hospital. Then, when I was patched up sufficiently, I started my life and never looked back.
It had been a grim time. Dad left the family before the accident and my grandma died after it – all within nine months. My mother and I suffered poverty…we couldn’t afford to heat the whole house and we went without food. The car might have hit the tree, but I’d lost more than my voice and my health in that time…I’d lost my whole way of life. My best friend had been driving the car, and so, inevitably, we grew apart and, by the following summer, I had lost her, too.
It was no wonder I never looked back on the events of 1974.
I got on with my life. I was lucky enough to go to university, and even with health and mobility challenges…and my father refusing to pay the agreed maintenance…I eventually graduated with a good degree. The doctors had told me I’d never be strong enough to work, but I pulled long shifts as a waitress to make the money I needed and was just fine. They’d also told me I should never marry, since I’d be ‘a burden’ to any future husband. But I met a boy who wasn’t frightened of that. We married and I moved to the UK.
I continued to prove the doctors wrong. I climbed mountains. I worked double shifts, sometimes 80 hours in a week. In London, I learned to type and was soon running whole offices. But then I confounded everyone – I quit work, did an MA in Creative Writing and, within a year, had published two books and began lecturing at a university.
I had put the misery of my youth completely behind me.
Only I hadn’t.
I write stories of hope and recovery and redemption. I write not just because I want to be a writer or want to make money, but because I want to inspire other people, to help them in their life journeys. And I wasn’t sure I was doing that. My books were good – good enough to get published and sell reasonably well. But they weren’t best-sellers or winning important prizes. There was something missing in my writing, something that made it too fluffy and light, even when I was trying to write about serious issues. And I knew what it was.
I hadn’t really dealt with that horrible time in my past. It was an editor who first suggested that I should write the story of my accident, but I didn’t even consider her suggestion. Ten years later, however, I was ready to listen. I had to confront my past and I had to do it the only way I knew how. I had to write it.
It took five years. At times, I was afraid reading my hospital records and remembering the things that had happened would re-trigger my PTSD. I didn’t want to try writing about it during the teaching year or when I was solely responsible for my young daughter’s care. So I wrote it in the margins of school life; when school was in session and university wasn’t.
At last I finished writing about the most horrible time in my life. And then I wrote my breakthrough book for children, Dreaming the Bear – it was nominated for every prize in children’s fiction. Writing my trauma had worked for me. And it had worked in more ways than one. It made my writing stronger, but it also made me stronger.
Now the story of my accident, slightly fictionalised, is being published. I hope Hospital High helps other people to deal with their own trauma… Perhaps it might even inspire them to get the pain of their past down on paper and out of their minds forever. It would make me very happy if it did.
Did you know writing can help you heal from physical as well as mental wounds?
Studies have shown that writing for a few minutes a day helped cancer patients respond to treatment, made people’s wounds heal faster and even lowered T-cell counts in HIV sufferers.
According to research, writing for twenty minutes a day has a profound effect on anxiety and depression.
You don’t have to write stories or poetry to get the benefit –and you don’t even have to write about worries or illness. You can get the benefit by writing about anything – even scribbling about fashion, football scores or gardening can improve your mental and physical health.
If you begin to enjoy writing for pleasure, there are writers groups and evening classes in every area. Contact your local library or the Arts Council to find one near you.
Hospital High is out now in ebook and paperback!
About the Author
Mimi Thebo is a Carnegie-longlisted author for children and teens. Her work has been translated into twelve languages, adapted for a BAFTA-winning BBC film, illustrated in light and signed for deaf children by ITV. Born in the USA, she is based in SouthWest England, where she is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol and a Royal Literary Fellow.
About the Book
My life had been saved…and boy, was I annoyed. Humour and attitude keep Coco going when things get grim. Her relationships with her mother, hospital staff and other injured teens sustain her when her school friendships fall apart. But although everyone’s working to give Coco a normal life, Coco doesn’t think ‘normal’ is enough… When she was fourteen, the author Mimi Thebo died in a car accident. Hospital High is a young adult novel based on the day she died and the subsequent three years spent recovering from the accident.