Sometimes writing can be like sailing solo across the ocean, and you may find yourself wishing you had another hand on deck. I am ready to jump on board. The level of my assistance is up to you. I can keep things tidy or help with navigation: clean up your spelling, punctuation, and grammar, or assist with content, structure, and voice.
I’m especially interested in assisting people with their memoirs. I feel honored to be invited into the story, and excited to see it, in turn, being honored on the page. I offer support in the process of reflection as I believe each writer’s voice is shaped by their reflections on the story they’ve lived, more so than by the events themselves.
Fees vary with client’s situation. Generally, $25/hour. No charge for initial conference. References available.
I have recently had the pleasure of editing Howard Sachs’ memoir, Skydiving into Medical School and Other Adventures, from the Slums of New York to the Himalayas. The first half chronicles his life journey as a doctor in third world medicine; the second half are his humorous and passionate reflections on elder culture in this country, and how it should be improved.
Broadside Books, 247 Main Street, Northampton, MA, 01060
Collective Copies, 93 Main Street, Florence, MA 01062
Collective Copies, 71 S. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002
or online at collectivecopies.com
After the book came out, Susan Sachs re-discovered six letters Howard had written to her and her sisters Linda and Nancy while on a medical internship in Sir Lanka in 1976. They are letters full of his love of learning, his eagerness to experience new cultures, his compassion for the suffering of the poor, especially the children, and his attraction to Buddhism. We decided to collect them into a booklet, adding a few pictures of the holy places he writes about.
from Sri Lanka and India
by Howard Sachs, PhD, MD
These six letters to Susan, Linda & Nancy Sachs were printed in Northampton, Massachusetts, on December 7th, 2011, to celebrate the adventurous and compassionate spirit of our beloved father
July 12, 1925 – December 6, 2011
c/o Jayasena Medical School
Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Tuesday, February 10th
Got your letter today & it reminded me that once I lived in the U.S. So much has happened; my head is swimming. The plane never left N.Y. Sat. night & I arrived in Colombo Tues. vomiting & barely able to stand up. However, met a German couple who drove me home with them in Kandy (near Peradeniya) & let me sleep. Next day, met my friend who installed me with a lovely Ceylonese family where I now live. Started working on Thurs. & am now dividing my time between the Pediatric ward in the Gen. Hosp. in Kandy & the outlying rural clinics. The pathology & poverty (median income $100/yr) is stark; there’s much malnutrition (often with brain damage), malaria, typhoid, hepatitis, TB, etc. The working conditions are rather crude with 2-3 babies in 1 cot, few lab. facilities, & drug shortages. The staff, however, is pretty competent & I’m learning things. Also the country is beautiful, the weather like L.A., the people friendly & helpful & the food is really not bad – it’s just that my mouth feels like it’s on fire after each meal – but I love it.
The Lion Mountain, Sigiriya
On Sunday I visited 3 ancient citadels of Ceylonese grandeur & Buddhist culture – it was an ‘overkill’. In Sigiriya I stood in ecstasy atop the ‘fortress in the sky’ with its 1500 yr. old frescoes; in Dambulla, there were cave temples with about 150 statues of Buddha & disciples & Polonnaruwa was a vast ancient city of palaces & temples & an awesome 60 ft. lying Buddha hewn out of the rock.
Next weekend I’ll go far to the north to Anuradhapura, the seat of Buddhism, which is supposedly even more impressive. The following weekend my friend & his girlfriend are taking me to the East Coast for some swimming & relaxation – it’s a great life.
If I don’t get my internship in L.A. I’ll consider converting to Buddhism – but maybe that wouldn’t go over too well in Israel. Right now I’d rather be Greek – I wish she were here.
Cave Temple at Dambulla
Monday, February 16th
I just spent a delightful weekend in Anuradhapura (the cradle of Buddhist culture) & on Sunday was in Mihintale where the disciple Mahinda built a magnificent temple on a rock 1000 – 2000 ft. up. Met 2 urchins aged 8 & 10 who attached themselves to me on Sat. & I then took them with me on Sun. morning. They were delightful to be with, & in the afternoon we came on a lake, undressed & swam – later they told me that the crocodiles were on the other side of the lake. Coming & going was somewhat rigorous – 5 ½ hours by bus in a jammed mass of humanity, hot & with the stenches, lice, scabies & what else. It just sounds romantic ‘to travel with the people.’ Jumped into a shower at both ends; stayed at a gov’t rest house (usually located at the ruins), $2.50 a night, $1 for a full course dinner, & quite clean. By this time I’ve had my fill of Buddhas, temples, stupas, etc. & this weekend am planning on climbing Adam’s Peak – 7000 – 8000 ft.; the pilgrims walk up at night & then wait for the sun to rise.
Really bombed out on the camera; took 15 pictures & the f–––n thing then jammed. My friend took it to the workshop at the Univ. & they put in a new shutter & now it works only intermittently. Also made a mistake on my luggage – i.e. will never use my jacket & about half the things I took; hope that I’ll be able to send it on to Israel before me or else I’ll just leave half my things in Ceylon. No kidding, when you pack – after you’re done, discard half of it & repack – you won’t regret it.
Sunday, February 22
She was a nice looking 3 yr. old, of Gypsy parents who showed little remorse as a local farmer & part-time coroner started cutting her open, removing each organ with amazing deftness. Her gut was distended & worm-filled, liver & spleen enlarged, heart shrunken, extremities cyanotic & swollen & eyes with the classical stigmata of Vit. A deficiency. This was all taking place on a makeshift bamboo-canvas table, in a makeshift lean-to, draped hurriedly with canvas with the villagers standing quietly at a distance. The police had asked the District Med. Officer to do a post-mortem because of the child’s ‘sudden’ death & he asked me to help out. It was an incredible experience.
I’m now in a rural med. facility which has about 50 beds, an ‘OPD’, one M.D. (the D.M.O.) just out of internship, an assist. med. practitioner, a midwife & 2 nurses. There’s one blood pressure apparatus, no ophthalmoscope, not even indicator paper for urine testing; there’s penicillin & aspirin. I live with the D.M.O. who’s a nice chap, terribly lonely & delighted to have somebody to talk to. The hospital itself is situated in magnificent country in a place called Madugoda. I expect to stay here for about 10 days, spend another week at Kandy Hosp. & then fly to Delhi on the 24th. God! – It’s going fast.
Right now am trying to recover from diarrhea & vomiting – but it’s all been fantastic.
Love – see you soon,
Sunday, February 29th
I knew that they were poor as I saw them in the hospital carrying their sick babies, but never fathomed the depth of poverty until last week. I went out with the Public Health Inspector riding the back of his motorcycle into the villages where he checks immunizations, incidents of communicable disease, if latrines are being built, etc. The dwellings were miserable bamboo & mud, 2 room affairs, with little ventilation, open fire for cooking & hopefully an adjacent pit latrine; their rations, 1 lb. of rice per week & rarely fish or meat, trying to eke existence out of the soil or at jobs paying a few rupees (1 rupee = 8¢) a day. Next month I hope to be able to live & work in a rural health facility & this should provide a more valid test as to whether I want to work in (or can withstand) developing countries.
Had another lovely weekend with a few other medical students climbing Adam’s Peak (Buddha landed here) all night long with hundreds of pilgrims to see the sun rise; they, to kiss the ‘footprint’ of Buddha. It was amazing to see old women, women carrying children, chanting, praying, compelled upwards by religious fervor. We came down after dawn (I almost froze to death) & continued on to the tea country which is the highest elevation in Ceylon. The landscape was splendid except for the ‘slate lines’ which are lines of shacks where the tea workers & their families live.
Am glad to hear that Paul has written to you; make sure that you go 1st class on the Orient Express. Haven’t booked my flight to India yet but expect to leave Ceylon around the 23rd; am trying to arrange to send my suitcase, most of my clothes & books back to the U.S. via sea mail in which case you’ll have to bring me 1 or 2 small items. Give my love to Grandma; good to hear that you’re keeping in touch with her.
P.S. By all means go to Greece – it’s possible that my friend (Rodanthi) will be there & maybe you could meet there.
Sunday, March 21st 7:00 A.M.
Just finished my 2 mi. run around Kandy Lake & am now sitting at its edge, writing to you, probably for the last time from Sri Lanka. Will go to Colombo tomorrow & fly to Delhi on Wed. The lake is serene & calm & I too feel that way with an under layer of sadness & many mixed emotions. Feel that within the short time that I’ve been here, it’s almost been an overkill of experiences, from the ecstasy of the holy mountain & ancient temples, to the bleakness of the Kandy Gen. Hosp., to Madugoda District Hosp. in its idyllic setting surrounded by human misery, to the simple pleasures that I shared with the young Dist. Medical Officer & crew at the Hosp. Once removed from the struggle for existence, I suppose that it takes very little to find pleasure & meaning & savor life; but unfortunately we forget & are caught up & led by a vulnerable ego which is molded by the insane values & trivia of society. In any case, I feel very fortunate to have been here & to have you as my daughters. It’s been a profound & beautiful experience, made so largely by my stay at Madugoda where I was able to perceive & touch the lives of a number of Sinhalese people. I suppose that this also confirms that I’ll be able to derive satisfaction from my future work as a physician.
Back to mundane matters, thanks for sending those bastards at the IRS the $; did you ever hear from Calif. (traffic violation)? Could you bring a few small items when you come such as: 2 rolls of film, 1 pkg pipe cleaners, 2 pkgs Borkum Riff, 1 pipe (bought at duty free shop – I’m running out of money & my pipe is cracked) 1 small tube Nivea & shampoo.
Am really happy about the internship but hope Lee was able to switch me to choice #2 (Rotating) at LAC-USC.
Will probably be writing infrequently during next month. Feel great, wish you were here – looking forward to Israel.
Am. Exp. Lahore
Tuesday, March 30th
Left Sri Lanka 1 week ago & flew to Delhi, a city of many contrasts & also hot, teeming, busy & dirty. Then took Taj Express for Agra & got up at dawn to look at the Taj Mahal, with overwhelming feeling of being transported back in time & space. Went to deserted medieval city of Sikri & am now in Benares, the holiest city in India where Indians come to bathe in the Ganges & die. I suspect that after 1 – 2 baths they usually do; really wanted to swim in the river, got down to the edge & overcome with stench of human excretia & sewage: Have been well so far & don’t want to fuck it up so I practiced restraint & instead watched the funeral pyres taking place all along the shore. With the chanting, temples, burning bodies, holy men & hawkers ripping off the tourist – all give this place an eerie quality. I had no notion of what to expect in India but it’s vast, rich in history & culture & complex. Unfortunately, in contrast to Sri Lanka, where I made many friends & was beginning to handle the rudiments of Sinhalese & understand the country, my only interactions here have been (with few exceptions) as a tourist ($). Am taking a night train to the northern border & then will go by bus to Katmandu (Nepal). Will pick up a trekking permit as soon as possible & take off for the Himalayan foothills where you stop at villages along the paths. Hope to hook up with another group since I don’t trust ‘my sense of direction’ & have been talking to persons coming from Nepal with bona fide stories of banditry & violence done to hikers. These are isolated instances & it’s really too bad because the treks are supposedly exquisite. I’m planning about a 6-7 day trek & this may put me in Lahore (Pakistan) about April 10th-12th. With no unforeseen delays (getting train reservations here is one big pain) I should make Istanbul by 27-28th.
Don’t take any more luggage than you can carry easily in one hand – you won’t regret it & you really don’t need very much for the short interval that you’ll be away.