This is a work in progress.
When people ask, “Why did you write BURNT,” I always hesitate because there’s more than one answer. The generic one is the same a mountain climber gives: “Because it was there.” Fire has been an influential part of my life for as long as I can remember. And for thirty years, firefighting was what I did and who I was. That made fire memoir a no brainer.
But this answer is deceptive in its omission. The truth is I didn’t want to write BURNT. I wanted to quit fire cold turkey when I retired. So, I wrote about other things I knew. But fire couldn’t let our break-up go. It scorched larger and larger swaths of earth. Feeling helpless out of uniform, a laptop became my metonymic sword—if I couldn’t be a firefighter, I could at least be a fire writer and illuminate fire’s intentions in these climatic times. BURNT is what came out.
Another answer focuses on the curiosity people have about what it was like for me as a female in such a testosterone-laden environment. I struggle with this answer because it’s difficult to be a firefighter no matter how you’re built. But there are additional challenges when only four percent of the profession is female, and the word fireman is still in our lexicon. Writing this book was my way of sharing the terrifying, funny, gut-wrenching business of fire and rescue, but through the eyes of someone expected to fail who instead excelled. My hope is that BURNT encourages readers to continue the fight, to continue torpedoing typecasts that hold us back as humans.
And finally, I have a rant answer aimed specifically at the astonishingly sparse number of female career memoirs. You can find female memoirs about love, hate, family, relationships, dysfunction, alcohol, celebrity, self-help, etc.—many of which are life-changing reads. But it’s as if someone decided females don’t have interesting enough stories about work to carry the day. The f**k we don’t. Here’s BURNT.