From nurse to mother to writer

What do you do when your son’s leaves home for his first day of kindergarten? Return to nursing or become a writer?

Robin Oliviera had been a registered nurse who specialized in critical care and bone marrow transplants before she stayed home with her two children for five years. She loved nursing, but she also had  loved books and reading her whole life.

Oliviera decided to become a writer.

What do you do when you’ve filled one drawer full of bad short stories and another drawer full of a draft of a novel you can’t get published?

Oliviera decided to learn how to be a better writer. “I thought that there probably was something that I didn’t know that I should know,” she explained at a lecture sponsored by the Friends of the SMU Libraries at Southern Methodist University on April 21, 2011.

“I am a great believer in education.”

What do you do when you see a vision of a young woman bent over a microscope?

Oliviera, who went back to school and earned an M.F.A. in writing, explains that she was dusting the dining room when she saw the vision. The young woman in a shabby dress was seated at a trestle table, bent over the shaft of a brass microscope with a slide, a shallow candle burning under its glass stage.

At first, Oliviera wasn’t sure what to do with that vision. Then, she learned that 17 women who worked as nurses during the Civil War studied and became physicians.

Oliviera spent eight years writing about that young woman in her vision. In “My Name is Mary Sutter,” she tells the story of a midwife who became a Civil War nurse and her dream of becoming a surgeon.

On her website, Oliviera describes Mary Sutter as “flawed and intelligent…stumbling forward out of courage and stubbornness.”

I bought a copy of “My Name is Mary Sutter,” and Robin Oliviera signed it for me. I’ll tell you more about this Resolute Woman after I read the book.


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