Welcome to Author Janet Gilsdorf
I spent my childhood along the banks of the Red River of the North, whose murky water flows backwards—from little puddles in South Dakota up to Lake Winnipeg. It was both the land of the prairie wind, which roared across the plains with only a rare shelter belt or grain elevator to slow it down, and a place of raw, stark beauty and unsurpassed simplicity.
Growing up in North Dakota introduced me to an endless series of adventures. I pedaled my bike all over town and out into the countryside. My friend Mary and I organized neighborhood parades and plays, and, one summer afternoon, we tried to dig to China. During the long, dark winters we built snow forts and, on the coldest days, made paper clothes for our paper dolls, guided by the fashions in the Sears, Roebuck, and Co. catalogue.
My first love affair occurred in kindergarten. I fell desperately, passionately in love with school and wanted to live forever in Horace Mann Elementary, where Miss Brown’s room would be my bedroom, I’d have my own private bathroom (the girls’ lavatory), and the library and its books would be mine alone. Learning to read opened a world of new places and ideas to me. In fact, I’ve never really left school. After high school, college, and then medical school and medical training in Nebraska, California, and Minnesota, with stops in Alaska and an Indian reservation spanning the Idaho-Nevada border, I landed at the University of Michigan as a faculty member, where I continue to love school.
As a scientist, I pursue the secrets of nature and in my field of infectious diseases, those secrets are microscopic in size yet powerful in impact. As a pediatrician, I counsel my young patients and their families during their finest, as well as their worst possible, moments. As a teacher, I guide young physicians and scientists through their journeys toward successful lives and careers. As a literary writer, I integrate the scientific, medical, and personal truths I witness and make emotional sense of their meaning.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
What inspired you to want to become a writer?
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Which authors have influenced you most? How?
Favorite places to travel?
I love to travel to out of the way places where I can observe ordinary people living their seemingly ordinary, but really complex and interesting, lives. Such places have included Lake Five, Minnesota; Croatia; Tuscany in Italy; Ischia (off the coast of Naples, Italy); El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain; upper, coastal Maine, in the dome cars aboard the Amtrak Zephyr and Empire Builder.
Where do you write?
Favorite/most influential teacher
What is your favorite scene in the book? Which scene or characters were the most difficult for you to write and why?
How do you go about revising/editing?
Revising/editing is the most important, and time consuming, aspect of my writing. I generally start each chapter with a “skeleton” of actions and narratives relating to the characters and the situation, and then, later, fill in the details of each scene. I read out loud, as hearing the narrative gives a different kind of input than just reading it. I obsess over each word, making sure I choose those that best convey whatever I’m trying to say.
Although Anna and Jake Campbell interact with the world in very different ways, she as a cautious worrier and he as an optimistic realist, they successfully navigate the everyday problems that percolate through their marriage until the night their young son becomes ill. Anna has a bad cold and longs for the peace of evening and Jake, an orthopedic surgery resident, spends the night at the hospital, taking care of other people’s sick wives and children. As a result of their irreversible, achingly regrettable inactions, Anna and Jake face losing their child.
Anna, who works part time as a linguist, is devoted to her two young children—Chris, who irritates her with his friskiness, and Eddie, the placid baby that everybody adores. With Eddie’s illness, she is both crushed with guilt and embittered with blame toward Jake. As she withdraws into her distorted perceptions, she becomes increasingly unable to trust the medical system that is as familiar to her husband as a stormy spring evening.
Like many surgical residents, Jake has blindly embraced professional commitment to the point that he is wedded to his medical responsibilities and a relative stranger to the concerns of his family. Once Eddie’s diagnosis becomes clear, Jake struggles to orient himself to his new position in the medical sphere – parent of a seriously ill baby – about which he has no understanding, no patience, and no control. In his misery, he reaches to a former lover for solace.
If she weren’t the widow of a no-good guy who left her nothing but debts and two bossy adult daughters, Rose Marie wouldn’t have to run a day care home to support herself. Rather, she and Beefeater, her wine-loving Jack Russell terrier, would lead leisurely lives loading the bird feeders and weeding the petunias. Two cases of meningitis among the children in her day care bring her nose to nose with the public health system and threaten to close down her business.
Illness, particularly that of a child, is heartbreakingly cruel but Anna, Jake, their healthy son Chris, and Rose Marie, like most people who face daunting life challenges, find their way.
1 copy of Ten Days
Open to US only