Martha H. Fitzgerald has kindly agreed to guest post here about her work, and share her inspiration for becoming a writer in honor of her newest release, The Courtship of Two Doctors.
About The Author:
Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald, an award-winning journalist of 27 years, served the Shreveport Times as columnist and associate editorial page editor. Now an independent editor, writer and publisher, the Louisiana native earned a B.A. in history and American studies from Loyola University-New Orleans and a master’s in history from Louisiana Tech University.
She’s the youngest child of the late Drs. Alice and Joe Holoubek, who met as senior medical students from New Orleans and Omaha and corresponded for two years before their marriage.
Fitzgerald drew on this collection of nearly 800 letters to create The Courtship of Two Doctors: A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing (Aug. 15, 2012). Proceeds from book sales benefit Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport, which her father co-founded, a local marriage ministry, and other causes she shares with her parents.
Fitzgerald owns Martha Fitzgerald Consulting and Little Dove Press. She edited and published her father’s 2004 novel Letters to Luke, which won the Writers Digest Award for inspirational literature and the Independent Publisher Award for religious fiction.
Fitzgerald also writes a blog, “Catholics & Bible Study: Sharing Our Journey Through The Wilderness.” She serves on the board of Shreveport’s LSU Health Sciences Center Foundation.
She and her husband enjoy living on a quiet country road in a bend of the Red River in Louisiana. Like her parents, she has an adventuresome spirit and relishes far-flung travel
Compilation editor wrestles with Point of View
I must be an editor at heart—one who thrives on shaping and polishing a written text rather than creating it. I held more than a dozen jobs in my 27 years in journalism, but only two entailed full-time writing. The rest involved copy editing or assigning and working with reporters and the public. I learned to derive satisfaction from working behind the scenes, helping reporters nail a story and write their hearts out to make it compelling to readers.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that the biggest challenge of my new book—my first solo byline on a title page—involved creative writing, even elements of fiction.
“The Courtship of Two Doctors: A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing” draws on a private collection of nearly 800 letters. It’s at once an epistolary history and autobiography and a true-life medical romance. It comprises excerpts from my parents’ courtship letters, written from 1937-1939 when they were senior medical students and interns. Selecting the letters and extracting excerpts presented its own challenges.
In all, I used parts of about 310 letters to present the storyline of medical students separated by 1,100 miles and falling in love long-distance. But what to do about the prologue?
My father wrote the first draft five years ago. We had decided to have all the letters transcribed and edit them together. The prologue would relate how Joe Holoubek of Omaha and Alice Baker of New Orleans met in 1937. They were among 22 medical students selected for a summer fellowship program in pathology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
He wrote the piece in first person – how he was first dismayed to find a girl in the class, then fascinated by her Southern accent and impressed with her intelligence. Applying my 27 years in journalism to the task, I drew out more details of that summer: where they lived, what kind of car he drove, what cigarettes they smoked. To answer some of my questions, he pulled out, to my surprise and delight, a five-year diary he kept during medical training.
Then, a few months later, my father died unexpectedly.
I knew he would want the project to continue, to preserve my late Mother’s story as much as his own. So I continued my plans for further research. I traveled to Rochester in July, 70 years after they met, to absorb the feel of midsummer in Minnesota. I walked to their boarding houses—still in existence; visited the historic Plummer Building on campus, where they attended staff meetings and he did library research; and observed for myself the light from the Plummer tower shining across Silver Lake as the sun set and the moon rose.
I could now flesh out that first draft of the prologue with rich detail. But should it be third-person or remain a first-person account? I tried it both ways, much like a novelist trying on Point of View. I and we …. Or he, she, and they?
My training as a journalist and my two degrees in history insisted on third-person. But my heart pulled me back to first-person. And so I created scenes and dialogue to move the story forward, describe the setting, and introduce characters to be found in the letters.
I satisfied my need for veracity by addressing historians in my preface: “In editing the prologue, I relied on diary entries and fiction techniques to reconstruct events and conversations of seventy-five years ago.”
The letters are most definitely historical. The prologue? It is both fact and fiction, written from the point of view of a young man from small-town Nebraska who met the love of his life one hot summer in Minnesota.
The Courtship of Two Doctors:
Trade paper, $19.95
Biography/Medical, 400 pages
Little Dove Press, Aug. 15, 2012
The Courtship of Two Doctors: A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing
Edited by Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald
Adapted from The Holoubek-Baker Letters, 1937-1939: An Annotated Collection
From a private collection of nearly 800 courtship letters, the daughter of two remarkable physicians has crafted a timeless valentine to long-lasting love and the healing profession.
Senior medical students from New Orleans and Omaha meet in 1937 and begin a two-year
correspondence across 1,100 miles. They set their sights on a return to Mayo Clinic, the medical mecca where they found each other and danced to the haunting “Harbor Lights.” Grave illness and career setbacks shake their confidence, but the two decide to face an uncertain future together, trusting in each other and the relationship they built letter by letter.
The Courtship of Two Doctors recreates the medical era before antibiotics, when health workers were at risk of serious infection, and vividly illustrates the 1930s social barriers challenging two-career marriages.Find The Courtship of Two Doctors Online:
Happy reading until next time!