Rappahannock Review Nonfiction Editors: In “Somewhere Strike One,” we’re drawn in by the themes of recovering after a tragic event. How did you decide which aspects of the recovery process to focus on in this piece, in regards to both you and your husband?

Stephanie Buck: As soon as Cameron had his stroke, I knew it was about me too. This event immediately impacted both of us. I saw “Somewhere Strike One” as a way of staking out my own trauma and its effects on my mind and body. It felt critical to give myself the space to process, because the many kinds of labor that go into caregiving are so often overlooked. While Cameron’s physical recovery largely drove the logistical narrative of our lives (and this essay), my own healing became integral to our wellbeing as a family. In the last section of “SSO,” I finally begin to disassociate my identity from my caregiving tasks, and what remains is tenderness for myself and my marriage. 

RR: We love the narrative voice in this piece, which allows us to feel the complicated anger and grief. How did you approach balancing the anger, grief, and sympathy?

SB: Part of my goal as I was writing “Somewhere Strike One” was to map the fickle nature of grief: how it seems to hop around and latch onto different emotions. I like thinking of grief in that way, as if it were a little tree frog that doesn’t really have a plan but is a bit impish and unpredictable. The narrative voice in my essay reflects that emotional intractability. For instance, I wrote plenty of humor into “SSO” because, as my husband and I faced some of our darkest fears, I was shocked by my compulsion to giggle at how ludicrous our reality had become, how out of control, and how quickly. Zooming out and seeing what really matters in life often feels that way to me: totally depressing and also utterly hilarious.

RR: There’s so much intensity in this piece. How did you approach the drafting and revision process?

SB: As soon as Cameron was stable in the ICU, I pulled up my Notes app at his bedside. I realized I had already started a note titled “Basal ganglia hemorrhage,” which I apparently jotted down when the ER doctor informed me of Cameron’s type of stroke. I had no memory of even writing it. That scared me—not because a person’s brain forgets details during trauma, I knew that, but because I didn’t want to forget anything. So I just kept adding to that note. Like all the weird shit Cameron was saying because his brain was misfiring (he kept saying “Amazon” when he meant “hospital,” for example), or when I gave his paralyzed hand a massage, and even the weird stuff happening at home (like when my mom insisted she saw a ghost on the baby monitor).

Drafting the actual essay started a couple months later. I began looking back at all the tiny memories and details I had documented in an anxious frenzy. Then I pulled a few of the biggest emotional moments and packed the narrative around those. 

Ironically, revisions involved editing out a lot of those small details, whether because they didn’t flow or because one or two I wanted to save just for my and Cameron’s memory. That act became part of my process, too. 

RR: We read in your bio that you work for UC Davis Health. How did your experiences in your line of work influence the writing of this piece?

SB: I got the job offer from UC Davis Health on a Friday, and Cameron had his stroke the following Monday. I even had a missed call from the recruiter when I was in the ER (another detail I find hilarious now). So while my new job in health care didn’t directly influence the writing of “SSO,” I wouldn’t have been able to process my grief and access a creative headspace were it not for the kindness and flexibility of my workplace. Since then, when I’ve been in the hospital for work and heard a “code blue” over the loudspeaker or interviewed a patient at their hospital bed, I’ve definitely felt the pang of our family’s recent trauma. But I already see how my daily exposure to these kinds of experiences is greatly informing my worldview and, I hope, my future writing.

RR: As a writer and journalist, what do you most enjoy writing?

SB: Thank you notes. I’m not kidding. I often cry when I write them because I’m finally able to express the gratitude that feels too awkward to articulate in person. Maybe in a bigger sense, I most enjoy writing stories that make me cry. I’m always chasing that emotional release, whether it’s a magazine feature about someone brave or a fictional character who’s working through some familiar challenges. I don’t necessarily write a story hoping it brings readers to tears, though after reading “SSO” one of my best friends finally broke up with her boyfriend. So, that’s something?


Read “Somewhere Strike One” by Stephanie Buck in Issue 11.1.