Resqellie is a blogger who’s been writing since February of 2005. She’s a dear friend of mine and a fabulous writer. I had a chance to catch up with her at EMSToday 2013 and, after plying her with good food and booze and Busboys and Poets in DC, she agreed to an interview.
Ellie is warm, engaging and witty, much like she comes across in her blog. She had scheduled herself for 8-12 hours of classes per day of the conference was was looking for ways to get herself into more. She said that since her employer was paying for her to be at EMS Today, she wanted them to get their money’s worth.
As we sat down in a booth, she looked both frazzled by and excited about the things she was learning at the conference. Even with the enthusiasm she was obviously feeling, she couldn’t hide the wry humor that colors everything she says and does. She is passionate about what excites her and comes across as exactly the person you want showing up when you call for help.
Check out her blog here. In fact, bookmark it and return again and again. It’s worthy.
Read on for the interview.
You were a student when you started blogging in 2005 and it seems like you were doing it to see what was going on. Why did you start blogging?
Appease the parents so they could see what was going on.
Did your blog change while you went through school?
Everything was still new and shiny, you know? A lot of "first times." It changed after I was in school. It began, eventually, to encompass my whole life.
When did you first notice you had an audience and how?
Well, Gosh, I don’t know. I remember when I got spammed with comments. Like, I got spam comments. I had to put on the captcha thing to confirm that people were human.
People that I didn’t know would comment sometimes. It was always nice. A little self-gratifying. Maybe it was only you.
It wasn’t just me.
What type of interaction did you develop with your audience?
Not real good interaction, I guess, in the sense of saying something nice. I learned that I could get more people to read it if I put comments on other EMS blogs but that waxed and waned as I read TONS of other blogs. I got tired of reading them all!
Then I became personal friends with one person who was a stranger who was an EMS blogger in Edinburgh. He’d had some rough things happen but he’s got some beautiful writing. I actually met up with him. I went to Edinburgh. He showed me his ambulance and spent a lot of time showing me around. It was really nice. That was like how social media can bring people together, in a weird way.
So, now, eight years later, you’re still writing and you claim you’re not writing a whole lot. Do you still feel you have an audience?
Certainly a familiar audience. My mother still reads it. (laughs) And my cousins read it on occasion; you read it on occasion.
All the time!
But I would not say I have a huge following at all.
How does it make you feel to know you have an audience?
My mother always said it was brave of me to blog about a job like this where she thought I would be judged a lot by my colleagues or my contemporaries. It never even occurred to me that I would be like, "Oh, this is my first time intubating someone." and they would be like, "Oh you stupid noob." or whatever. But I never had that feeling of judgment. It was more like a supportive community, you know? For a while it was important for me to have an audience because I want to be justified in what I’m doing.
Did you feel your audience is mostly EMS professionals?
Yes and no. There are definitely a few lay people who read my blog.
You started commenting on other blogs. You started talking to other people.
Here and there. I liked to read other’s stuff. It’s like free con-ed. The blog became therapy for me. I had a string of mad suicides and things you take home with you. Then I’d write about it and some other people write about similar things and I’d say, "Oh, I’m not crazy." or "I’m not going to lose my mind. I’m going to get through this. It’s going to be OK."
You have a very human and accessible style of writing. When you write about the technical aspects of your job you don’t get mired down in the terminology and technical speak. You don’t write your blog as if you are writing to other EMS providers nor do you dumb it down too much for lay people. Who do you imagine your audience is?
Besides your mom.
People who are like my mother? (laughter) She does complain when I use big words but she likes when I use them because she feels she paid for them. If I say "Super-ventricular tachycardia." she’s all like, "Yeah! That college education was totally worth it."
I don’t like to get bogged down in the technical mojo because that’s not what it’s about. It’s what the job is about sometimes but I like the social aspects. I like people to find it readable so I imagine it’s lay people or people who have just a little know-how.
When I got my first real job and I was working there for a little while, one of my colleagues, who I didn’t really know yet, came to me and said, "Are you Resqellie?" I said, "No!" I didn’t know what to do! I was all, "Uhhhhh I don’t’ know you!" It freaked me out! At the same time, I thought it was kinda cool. All I had on my blog was a picture of the top of my head as I was starting an IV. It wasn’t even my face. I didn’t realize how easy it was to figure me out.That was an interesting experience but it did make me more cautious about easy it is to figure me out.
Why did you become a paramedic?
Ask my eight-year-old-self. That’s what I declared I would do when I was eight. I wanted to be a firefighter but I realized I was afraid of hot things. And heights. I’m afraid of taking hot things out of the oven so the thought of me being in a burning building is ludicrous. Paramedic? It’s all I wanted to do, ever.
Ummm…To help people? It’s really trite, I know but it’s also really cool.
How long have you been a paramedic now?
Um, about seven years.
And how do you feel about it?
Pretty good. I feel like I’m hitting my stride. I’m feeling pretty confident. I work at a single-provider, chase car 911 service and that can either make you really bad or really good. If you’re really bad then you can get away with being really bad because nobody really sees you. Whatever portrait you paint on your paperwork is what you really did.
But I think it has made me better: a better clinician and even a better EMT. Forget being a paramedic. Often times you arrive first and you have to do it all. You’re waiting for your loyal volunteer crew to back you up and they may not have done whatever you need them to do in months or even years. Then you gotta do it yourself!
Its still a good decision. Except the pay, you know.
You’ve continued to write. You started as a student, you wrote as you became a paramedic and you continue as you hit your stride. Do you think you’ll write and publish in your blog as you move forward?
Yeah. Definitely. Even if it’s less medicine now. I spent a full year abroad and there was a lot of travel but I think travel writing is boring unless you’ve already been there. I’m kind of selfish and don’t like to read about a place unless I’ve been there. "Yeah! I was there! That’s cool!’
My writing has evolved and I’m moving away from the first person and focusing more on narrative and building characters. I’ve been doing some other writing but I feel very self-conscious about putting it on the blog. I’ve been doing this writing because I feel compelled. Every time I buy or read a book that has evolved from EMS blogging, it’s been very disappointing to me. It’s like, "Title: entry. Title: entry. Title: entry." No continuity. No character development. No beginning-middle-end. It’s boring and I’m like, "I could have gotten this for free right off your blog!’"
EMS deserves a good narrative, good characters. It’s a funny career. It’s a touching career. It’s a weird career. You have strange shared experiences with strangers. You know, Andy [former partner] and I went on a call. It was a stabbing. A few hours later, as a joke, I threatened to stab Andy and he’s all like, ‘Too soon! Too soon!’ It’s these weird situations you get into that, no one normal would ever get into. I like that.”
Even if the narrative you intend to write takes off, do you think you’ll continue to write in and share your blog?
Yeah, No doubt. I’m loyal to the blog. I buy it an anniversary gift every year. (laughter) I always write an anniversary post and I always apologize for not writing more. I feel like the blog is this entity and I’m like, “I’m so sorry I didn’t write in you very much last year!” Even though it’s ridiculous because now it’s for me and not really for an audience.
I really love, love, love having a slice of your life forever digitally preserved. “What was I doing in March of 2006?” I can just go into the archives and be like, “Oh my god!” and see things I totally forgot I did and things that shaped me but I didn’t realize it! I have this resource that I can go back into and reminisce about myself.
Do you have any fans that you know about? Besides Mom?
(laughter) I won’t mention her any more!
Yeah, there’s this lady who commented a few times who I don’t know. Even one person that’s interesting to me who bothers. That’s all it takes: if one person’s interested. If I wrote a book and I sold one copy to a stranger, I’d be pretty frikkin’ thrilled! Not self-actualized but.. (laughs).
That’s up to you, Kid!
Working on it! (laughs)
Is there anything else you think would be cool for people to know about you, Resqellie the blogger or you, Ellie the paramedic?
I don’t think so. I’ve always thought it was boring and not very interesting. I don’t know. I like that the blog is no longer just EMS. I’m trying to be more comedic and write about my online dating experiences and travel and improv and that kind of thing so, yeah. I don’t know. It’s all in the blog. That’s why my blog description is, “The blog pretty much covers it.” If you’ve been reading it, you’ll know everything. So I don’t want my boyfriends to read it because then we’ll have nothing to talk about! (laughs)
Thank you very much!