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Check Out the Examined Life Conference: Update and Call for Proposals

The Examined Life Conference, presented by the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, explores the intersections between the arts and medicine. How can they be of use to each other? How can they interact to make each more than they were without the other? Enjoy discussions and presentations on how the arts can be used in medical education and patient and provider care. Experience works by others like you: people who are trying to get along in the world of healthcare.

“As a student in Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Graduate Certificate in Narrative Healthcare program, I was delighted to attend several of the workshops offered by the Examined Life Conference last year,” says Amy-Lyles Wilson, a writer and spiritual director in Nashville, Tennessee. “The presenters were knowledgeable, personable, and committed to interacting with participants in meaningful ways. I shall sign up again this year!”

After extensive consideration, the College has decided it will be unable to hold the Examined Life Conference in person this year. Instead, as in 2020, it will offer a virtual program with opening dates remaining October 21–23, 2021.

This difficult decision is based primarily on a continued concern for protecting the health and safety of the Examined Life community, but also on the many logistical and operational obstacles encountered in trying to deliver an in-person event this year.

The College is disappointed that it will not be gathering in person again this year but it is their goal to continue to be innovative and find new, dynamic ways to connect virtually. Toward this goal, the deadline for submitting proposals has been extended to May 1, 2021. Call for Proposals to May 1, 2021. We can’t wait to see what wonderful ideas you have for virtual sessions!

Please look for news about featured speakers, program details, and other exciting updates in the coming months. And be sure to check out the Examined Life Journal in the meantime.

Narrative Healthcare Writing Opportunities

Thanks to Facilitator Carol Scott-Conner for letting us know about these spring 2021 submission opportunities. Please let us know if you hear of other such opportunities and/or are published anywhere we might read your work. We’re always looking for guest bloggers here, so reach out through the Contact page if your spirit and schedule allow and we’ll put our heads and hearts together. We appreciate your supporting the efforts of the Narrative Healthcare Program at Lenoir-Rhyne University.—LRU Narrative Healthcare Editorial Team

Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine is a weekly online publication that reaches a very wide readership. Here is a link: Pulse: Voices From the Heart of Medicine (Links to an external site.). You can sign up for free (voluntary contributions are welcome, of course) and receive a piece of writing—poetry or short nonfiction—every Friday. Every month they also issue a call for short nonfiction prose pieces (40-400 words) on a particular topic. These are then collated and web-published under that topic as the feature “More Voices.” 

The Examined Life Journal is a print journal published once a year by the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, where Scott-Conner resides. It publishes short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The submission period will be open through April 1, 2021. Fiction and nonfiction must be 5,000 words or fewer. For poetry, you can submit up to three poems as a single submission. There is a modest submission fee ($3). Here is a link to the journal with a bit more information. The Examined Life Journal (Links to an external site.)  I regret that the information on the website is so scanty. Staff (all volunteer) are spread thin right now. I am the fiction editor and have been on the ed board since it started. If you are interested in this journal but can’t find enough information on the site, contact me ( and I’ll send you anything that might help.

Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine is an online journal published by Columbia University. They have just opened for submissions. See their site: for further information. Note that this is a relatively short submission window and you only have up to March 12 to submit.

The Perkoff Prize of the Missouri Review is a new competition for medically-themed writing. See: and note that this closes March 15, 2021.


I am writing to welcome you. I am Laura, the founder of the Narrative Healthcare program at Lenoir-Rhyne University. I work closely with my students on developing this simple little site. I am very glad you have “subscribed.” A few days ago, just before class, I made a Tweet thread on Twitter. Normally my tweets receive a like from my teenager, and that suffices. After class, I looked at my phone and saw the tweet was doing something said teenager calls “blowing up.” Thousands had liked and retweeted it.

287,000 people have liked it. More than 50,000 have retweeted it. And more than 2.5 million have “engaged” the entire thread. I wish to share my favorite comment with you:

Perhaps Dr I speaks for all of us. We all “need more humanity” in our lives right now. This is why we made this site.

May you find what you need.

We cannot thank you enough.


Laura Hope-Gill

Witness Fatigue and Narrative

Narrative Sessions on Saturdays at 3 p.m. in May

Witness Fatigue is that particular exhaustion that comes from seeing awful things happen to others. Call it empathy fatigue and witness fatigue as well. Photojournalists, journalists, healthcare providers, first responders all experience this: exhaustion from seeing. While we cope with the changes of the quarantines we are also seeing horrific treatment of people—utter neglect and even active cruelty in which the vulnerabilities are taken advantage of and exacerbated. We are seeing reckless endangerment of “essential workers” and global public health. This fatigue is one of the many that we are communally enduring. It is one of many stresses in this moment.

Also, we are hearing of friends’ loved ones—and of the loved ones of strangers dying unwitnessed, alone, and how no funerals are happening, people are grieving unwitnessed.

We, too, are facing challenges and stresses we once could talk over with friends for hours in person. We experience them now for the most part unwitnessed.

So, we are witnessing a lot and we are in need of being witnessed. There are dimensions of witness. Witnessing ourselves, witnessing ourselves bearing witness, and bearing witness. This is a lot to carry without some means of processing.

This is a cornerstone of narrative medicine work. On Saturday at 3 pm Eastern, I will facilitate a Narrative Session in Zoom. I’ll post event. We will close-read a passage or a poem and then engage in an informal reflective-writing session. Then we will listen to one another in a entirely non-judgement and purely witnessing posture. After, we will feel we have processed some of this story and have an instrument to maintaining the witness stance and posture going forward.…

Meeting will close at 3:10. Be on time.

A Lesser Known Work, Recently Discovered

Daniel J. Waters, DO, MA

Stratford-on-Avon, UK   Bard scholars are abuzz about a newly discovered manuscript thought to be an early draft of perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous drama, Hamlet. The single section of decipherable text appears to be a portion of a longer soliloquy. The draft is thought to have been written during the cold, damp spring of  1609  when England’s most well-known playwright had a bad cold or perhaps might have even been suffering from the influenza virus.

The play was originally titled Droplet and only later in the year was it renamed. The speech is given by Droplet, the main protagonist of this early version. Perhaps due to the infectious nature of the author’s illness, the soliloquy questions – as we do today – whether obscuring one’s nose and mouth with an opaque physical barrier confers any true benefit in times of epidemic:

To mask or not to mask,
That is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind
To suffer the slings and arrows
Of outrageous aerosols
Or take PPE against a sea of capsids
And by opposing resist them
To cough, perchance to breathe,
Ay, there’s the pleural rub

The references to acute  upper respiratory illness were later removed (perhaps once Shakespeare had recovered) and the speech revised, becoming what is perhaps the most quoted block of text in the English language.

Shakespeare purists have decried the find as a hoax, citing the anachronistic medical terminology and dismissing it as “FakeBard.”  This has ignited an unbridled and often pithy Tweetstorm of rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. Jeff Chaucer, a Professor of
Classics at Oxford, opined that “Sometimes the funniest things are true.”

Definitive authentication of the manuscript is ongoing by what a spokeswoman for the Royal Shakespeare Society referred to as “top men” and was incomplete when this report was filed.

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