Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Not for the Faint of Heart

Several art historians with excellent experiences of working at museums generously volunteered, over the last several weeks, to give me an intensive, behind-the-scenes look at what they did.

I discovered an entirely different culture than anything I experienced while working at an international bank (profit-centered corporate gamesmanship) or teaching college-aged students (collegiality among colleagues and intellectual freedom in my own workspace to nurture students).

Behind closed doors, museum staff offer a passionate mix of idealism, love of history and culture, and a desire to protect, preserve, and share artifacts that illustrate where we've been, what we can create, and what is possible for us all.

What did all this new research mean for my current story, The Seventh Tapestry, about a young woman who discovers thefts at a medieval museum?

At first, my characters and my story seemed as mired in mud as this warthog, spotted on a trip to Tasmania a few years back. After reviewing notes, building new administrative structures for my imaginary museum, and new plot lines, I set all aside.

One day passed without writing. Then, two and three. I fretted a bit as all writers do. And then I remembered a time when my very livelihood had been threatened.

It truly happened like this: I had been working for a large corporation for several years while attending night school. One of the administrative assistants in a different division began receiving abusive and sexually threatening notes left at her workstation. Because of the nature of the threats, an outside investigator was pulled in. 

I knew nothing of this situation until the investigator called me into the president's office and accused me of writing those notes. I was shocked at what the investigator knew of me, where I lived, and what I did outside of work. He interrogated me three times. Then he threatened to fire me, whether I confessed or not.

Despite the president warning my boss not to get involved, he asked me point blank if I were involved. I said no. He said I was not going to be ‘interviewed’ again without him present. I was encouraged to take my two-week vacation, not knowing if I would have a job when I returned. 

When I came back from vacation, the case was solved. Everyone knew that the administrative assistant had written those notes herself. She was gone. The investigator was gone. No one apologized to me for this devastating experience. 

What on earth does this experience have to do with my story? Remembering the shock of those accusations, that sense of betrayal, I began writing anew. All fell into place. I was ready to step outside job descriptions and 'torture' my characters. The joy of writing THIS story returned! 

This saying makes me smile.
We writers do play with words, but we are never 'faint of heart.'
The picture was taken near Redmond, Oregon.


  1. Holy smokes, Beth! What a terrible experience. In today's workplace, you could likely have filed suit for a hostile workplace and retired earlier. I'm glad it was resolved, but, still, yuck!

    1. Thanks, Annette. In reality, I could have sued then -- I felt violated and no longer had trust that my commitment to the bank was honored. So I did quit, and thus began the long journey that led me to teaching -- and writing!

  2. Wow. That’s quite the story and could be the plot of a book itself! I’m sure you didn’t have a relaxing two-week vacation, before returning to work. Darn! Unbelievable that nobody apologized to you. But... the experience eventually led you to become a talented and successful writer, so, maybe things DO happen for a reason. Glad you got through your writer’s block!