The Department by Dr. Norman Schachar with Zoey Duncan
comments 7

I smelled the book I wrote for the first time

I’ve been holding off talking about it because I am constantly worried I might jinx it.

But now that I can physically hold and smell the covered and bound 320 pages in my hands, it’s officially real. Real, really, real!

I started working on The Department: A Surgeon’s Memories… Before I Forget as a ghostwriter with Dr. Norm Schachar in December 2012. He’d just been tasked with writing the history of the Department of Surgery at the University of Calgary. Dr. Schachar (or “Norm” as I would eventually call him after dozens of hours together) told us that plenty of his distinguished surgeon friends and colleagues had written books, but that they tended to be too dry. Basically, nobody wanted to read ’em. He didn’t want that to happen to his book.

“I’m a surgeon not a writer,” his first email to us read, after he came across our business card with the tagline Our Business Is A Joke!. “(I) would like to get your take on a humourous twist on this project.”

From there, we outlined the project and I started to learn Norm’s stories. He has a lot of them. At first, the story was going to be told as a wiki-type website, where people could later add their own versions of history. Quickly though, it began to evolve. We decided we’d tell Norm’s story from his first diaper change (when his parents began to wonder whether he would be a doctor or lawyer) through medical school, internship and residency and through the years of his career. Most of that story happens to align with the growth of the Department of Surgery at the University of Calgary. A perfect fit.

I interviewed him for dozens of hours and together we interviewed more than 25 of his surgical colleagues, bosses and former students-turned-bosses. We scrubbed up the storylines, put in a story his wife did not want to read, found jokes in the fourth retelling of stories and he insisted I put my name on the cover with his.

It’s real.

When the manuscript was finished, edited a million times (give or take 100,000 proofreads in my dreams), and proofed, it was time to design the interior. That was my job too. Oh, and the cover.

I’m not a designer but I’m nitpicky enough to do a decent job. Designing, though painful while I was relearning InDesign, was a different part of my brain completely from writing the book. As I emailed back and forth with the book printing company, I could believe that The Department was going to be a real book for people to read. Not just a PDF they download and then mostly forget about. Something that Norm can sign his doctor signature in and carry around with him for the rest of his life. Real!

The book officially launches at Surgeon’s Day on June 12, 2015 in Calgary. It will be available at the University of Calgary bookstore around that time.

(It smells a bit like Shreddies.)

Zoey Duncan holds a copy of her co-authored book, The Department

New book smell!

Filed under: Blog, Writing

About the Author

Posted by

I am a writer living under a pile of scrap paper and unopened fan mail from the cable company. I believe a messy desk is simply a sign of inspiration waiting to be uncovered. But I’m biased. More from me on Twitter: @zoeywrites


  1. Woot, woot! That’s a great accomplishment! I remember all of those emotions and details that I had to work through in the process of publishing my first novel. Very fun, and lots of hard work! 🙂


  2. Candace Bergman

    Congratulations! This is a huge accomplishment. I can’t say that I ever had a reason to visit the surgeon section of the book store, but now I do!


  3. Erma & Bob Armit

    Zoey, we are SO proud of you & feel privileged to have shared a small piece of your life with you. Congratulations. Love, Erma & Bob


  4. Pingback: A compelling argument to choose Zoey Duncan to be East Village Resident Ambassador | Zoey Writes

Tell me something

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s