12.18.2004

other people's lives

One of the things I value most about being a writer is being able to tell people's stories.

I've interviewed a few well known people - Chuck Close, Chamique Holdsclaw and Jean Driscoll come to mind - but usually I write about so-called "ordinary" people, who are well known only to those whose lives they've touched.

I've sat across the table or on the phone with dozens of survivors of rape and relationship violence, young women recovering from eating disorders, athletes with disabilities, adopted people, people with disabilities doing interesting and surprising things. Then I've tried to represent their stories to the world, fairly, sensitively, in a way that will educate and not exploit. And, with any luck, in a way that will make people want to read about them.

Recently it was my good fortune to meet Brooke Ellison, a brilliant woman who is a high-level quadriplegic. Christopher Reeve, who had the same injury level as Ellison, made a movie about Ellison's life, and I happened to write about her shortly before Reeve's death.

By coincidence, a few months earlier I had interviewed another person with the same injury. (There are only a few people in the world living with this level of quadriplegia, so speaking to more than one was a strange quirk of my writing niche.) Devin K-B is eight years old and one of the coolest kids I've ever met. I was able to introduce Devin and Brooke via email, which was extremely gratifying.

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