Margaret talks about her work

January, 2021

 I’m well and hope you are, too. This past year has been a rough for everybody, and, as most of our work depends on travel and meetings, we haven’t escaped unscathed. But we got a PPE loan that helped us pay our wonderful employee, Jill Scott.  David continued some of his coaching of managers on line. As much of my work is about interpersonal face-to-face interaction, it didn’t translate to Zoom as well.  However, our phone consent workshop did. In fact, the content is particularly suited to distanced teaching and learning.

I’m also happy to say that our research on getting DCD donors was at a point where it could be continued into publication in the midst of all the disruption. It was published last month in Transplantation Proceedings, and you can find links to it elsewhere on this site. I look forward to teaching a one-day workshop based on our findings when we can meet in person again.

I’m also happy to announce that my new book, When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky, will be released October 12, 2021.

Stay well. We’ll meet again.

July, 2020

In many areas of work, I’m on hold until this pandemic passes. Air travel isn’t yet safe, and most of my clients are just getting back into their offices in a socially distanced way. So I’m hunkered down in my home office, just like other people all over the world. But things are moving. The research we’ve done with four OPOs on DCD donors has been written up, submitted to a journal, and has survived the peer review processes. Judy and I are currently working on revisions. I can see the finish line and am excited about this work.
I am also happy to say, that since I last wrote an update, Cherokee America has won the Spur Award for Best Western and was named a finalist for the Reading the West Adult Fiction Award. I have other good news on the novel-writing front, but I can’t reveal those details yet.
I don’t want to wish my life away, but I do look forward to getting through this particular period and getting back to my consulting work. I miss my clients and participants. Please stay well.

January, 2020

I’m as busy as I’ve ever been. Maybe busier. I’m updating and designing workshops for clients in Ohio and Colorado, working on two different book manuscripts, and writing up the results and discussion sections of a research study we’ve been running with four organ procurement organizations across the country. I’m happy and excited about doing this work.

The research study is particularly exciting to me.  It’s on objections families raise to donating the organs and tissues of their cardiac dead loved ones and what can be done about those concerns in order to increase donation rates. There isn’t much good research on this already, it’s a big problem in the organ transplantation world, and we have found some things that I think are surprising. Writing the discussion section of any research paper is a creative process. You have to go beyond the facts, assemble them in some meaningful order, and make real sense out of them. Hopefully, that sense will then take accumulated knowledge another step forward, and lead to new ways of looking at things and to new practices that make a difference; in this case, save many lives.

I’m also excited about these books I’m writing on. One is a book I’ve written over and over again and have never been satisfied with. But I’m liking it more every day, and maybe this time have gotten it right. The other is a book I’ve been writing for about two years now. I researched it for a year before that. And in the past few weeks, it’s been out to readers. That’s a scary time in a book’s life. And in an author’s life, too. But I’ve been hearing back from those readers this week. I think we’re going to be fine.

January, 2019

 Right before the holidays, Judy and I spent a week in central Florida teaching workshops for our new client, Translife. This went extremely well and was a good way to wrap up 2018. I have a few weeks until I teach my next donation workshop, but I’m helping Judy in a study she’s running with five of our OPO clients to establish a better research base to address the concerns of families who decline DCD donation. The data we see from all over the country tells us that these declines are costing hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. We’re determined to find a way to help our clients find better ways of dealing with this.

And my writing life also goes on. Actually, it’s ramping up into a higher gear for a while. Cherokee America will be released in about six weeks. I’ve been writing articles for publications that want to feature it, been tinkering with promotional materials, and working with bookstores and others who are staging readings. This has the potential to be pretty exciting, but I sort of like living a calm life. So a lot of my energy right now is going to just keeping a lid on things. Centering. Chilling. Worrying a little.

July, 2018

I’m back in the office today from Richmond, VA, where I taught two master class workshops for LifeNet last week. They were energizing for me, and, I hope, helpful for them. I’ve known some of these coordinators and managers for a long time, worked with them at other agencies in the past, and I’ve worked at LifeNet several times in the last two years. The content of these workshops was based on LifeNet’s own data, and Judy and I believe the real bang for the buck for our organ and tissue procurement clients comes in these master classes. We’re trying out new strategies in them. Tackling problems as they emerge.


In my other life, I’m working with my publishing team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in preparation for the launch of Cherokee America. They tell me that some authors just want to write and won’t take any responsibility for marketing their books. That seems crazy to me. Without readers, a book is just imagination and marks on paper. I like my readers, like taking questions, like speaking in public. I’m more introverted than I was when I was younger, but haven’t turned into a hermit. Don’t see that on my horizon.

January, 2018

I’m fortunate to have work that’s intellectually stimulating, socially worthwhile, and creative. Recently, during the middle of my workdays I’ve been designing a new workshop for procurement coordinators who have to ask for organ donations over the phone. These are never ideal situations. But they happen for a variety of reasons. Judy and I have taught our telephone tissue requesting workshop for years, so this is a matter of adapting old content, drawing on new research, and redesigning role plays.

In the mornings, in the dark, before I come to the office, I write. Currently, I’m pecking out the first draft of what I hope will become a novel. At this stage, you never know. Novels are strange creatures. They become themselves of their own volition. Sometimes they grow up to be engaging, sparkling, deep, and/or witty. Sometimes they’re twisted little fiends who won’t cooperate, and who the novelist, ultimately, just has to club to death. We’ll see about this one.

But, most importantly, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt has given Cherokee America a release date of February 19, 2019. They’re currently preparing the galleys for my next round of edits.

July, 2017

So summer has rolled around, and I’m speeding down the tracks of two entirely different lines of work. First, I’ve re-designed a workshop Judy and I taught for the Brits when we were helping them change their donation model. We called it “The Long Contact Model,” and, basically, it provided the rationale and skills for getting in early to build rapport with families before asking about donation. It’s what all the U.S. research points to. But, for political and historical reasons, it isn’t actually much used here. This has always frustrated me. But next month in Miami, I’m teaching a new version renamed, “The Early and Long Contact Model.” I hope we’ll be teaching it elsewhere soon. Donation, like the rest of the medical field, needs to be evidence-based.

Secondly, in the category of “Breaking News,” I have a new novel coming out! I’d give more details, but titles can get changed during the publishing process, and all I currently know about the timing is that Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt will release it in either the spring or the fall of 2018.

March, 2016

I’m tardy in updating this because I’ve been waiting on the publication of an essay I wrote for the Authors Guild Bulletin. It’s on my life as a writer, and about the road to the publication of Maud’s Line. That essay appeared in print a couple of weeks ago, and was picked up on-line by a blogger last week. The link is:

If you’re wondering about my work in organ and tissue donation, that’s another reason I’m tardy. I’m slammed. I just got back from Gift of Life, Michigan. Am going to LifeNet next, and, after that, will be working for the San Diego Eye Bank and LifeSharing. I hope to squeeze a vacation in sometime this spring, but will hit the road to Nevada Donor Network and Donor Network West before I update this little piece again.

Am I happy working this much? I sure am.

July, 2016

People keep asking me what it’s like to be named as a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It’s rather like being sprinkled with pixie dust. Something magical falls on you from above, happens to you out of the blue. I’m a lot smarter than I was six months ago. And Maud’s Line is a much better book. Pixie dust spreads wonderful illusions.

No, I haven’t given up my day job of working with organ, tissue, and eye procurement agencies. I find that work interesting, and it’s a moral commitment, not a nine-to-five, have-to-do-it-to-make-money endeavor. We have five workshops at three different agencies coming up in the next four weeks.

And I’m working on a new novel. I’m on the eighth draft; which, for me, is a comfortable place. The plot (the scary part for a writer) is set. Now, I’m just playing around, trying to make the book better, beautiful, and bold. All the things a second novel needs to be. So I’m told.

January, 2016

I have a bifurcated work life, but not a bad one. If you’re interested in my organ and tissue donation work, I’m still teaching workshops, analyzing data, and making presentations. The data analysis has led me down some prickly paths, but if you don’t follow the data, and stick only with popular opinion, knowledge never progresses. Specifically, I’ve been looking closely at the data on the growth in donor registry signers and actual donor numbers. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation. The jump in donors in 2015 seems to be more closely related to the epidemic of drug-related deaths among white people and a greater willingness among OPOs to pursue DCD donors. After 20 years of using the registry strategy, I think it’s time to admit it isn’t helping and to focus our resources on new strategies. My new presentation, Public Education, Registries and More Donations, is on that topic. It can stir up an audience. Fortunately, I enjoy that.

If you’re curious about my fiction writing, I’m into the fourth draft of a new 170,000-word novel. It’s set in 1930, in Tulsa’s tenderloin district, and has a male protagonist. But if you’ve been wondering what happens to Maud (from Maud’s Line), you won’t be disappointed.

July, 2015

I want to draw your attention to a new white paper up on our Organ and Tissue Donation Publications page, EENA – Way to YES. As Judy and I have been working with organ procurements organizations, tissue and eye banks across the country, we’ve received a lot of feedback on the power of this questioning and relationship-building technique. But it’s a hard skill for some to master, so we hope that those of you who are responsible for speaking with families of potential donors will find this paper a useful reminder.

On the other side of my professional life, I’ve been preparing for the release of Maud’s Line, on the 14th of this month. That includes writing pieces for various on-line publications and getting ready for signings, readings and interviews. All of this is something I’ve never done before, and I anticipated that this near the release date I would feel, well, heavily pregnant.  But I don’t. I just feel weird. Like this is happening to somebody other than me. I suspect Margaret Verble, the novelist, and Margaret Verble, the person, may turn out to be two different people. We’ll see.

January, 2015

This first real day of the work year finds me in my office getting ready to pour over data sent by one of our clients to help us design customized advanced consent classes for his organ procurement organization (OPO). Judy and I have been teaching our The Language, Principles and Variations of Good Donation Conversations to this client’s staff all this past fall, and now, with this data, we have a chance to see where they still need work and where new problems have arisen. This kind of targeted, customized instruction is what we think really pays off, and we’re glad our clients here in the U.S. have come to the same conclusion.

But before I ever got to the office this morning, while it was still dark outside, I spent two hours at my dining room table going over the page proofs for my novel, Maud’s Line. It’s tedious work, and I am now working on my fourth rounds of edits. Most writers complain about the quality of editing help they get from their publishers, but Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has provided me with wonderful editing support. Maud’s Line with be released on July14 and may now be pre-ordered from your favorite bookstore or online bookseller.

July, 2014

I feel as excited about my work as I’ve ever been. I’m focusing on two entirely different things, and switching off from one to another is a pleasure, not a jolt. One focus is a continuation of my work in organ and tissue donation. Yesterday, I finished designing a presentation for NATCO on our experience working with the organ donation folks in the U.K. The talk is about our role in helping them achieve a 50 % rise in their donor numbers and also about what we (Judy and me) learned from them that we think would be helpful to apply in the U.S. In the next three months we have consent workshops scheduled with OPOs in Michigan, Missouri and California. This part of out work is taking off again in the U.S., and, since I believe it’s worthwhile and have years of experience doing it, I’m pleased about that.

My other focus has caused me to drop the rest of my practice beyond donation work. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has recently bought my new novel, and I am currently working with their editor on revisions. (This morning that was 3 hours of writing between 6:30 AM and 9:30 AM.) I would mention the name of the novel here, but final decisions about that are made in NYC, not Lexington, KY. I’ll have veto power, but I’m also confident that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt knows what they’re doing. The release date is July, 2015.

January, 2014

I’ve spent the last couple of work days revising and updating our new workshop on Phone Requests for Eye and Tissue Donation: What to Say, What to Avoid. Judy and I never teach a workshop without learning something new or thinking up a way to teach it better. Continuous improvement has kept our consent workshops alive in one form or another for over thirty years. But we also see changes in our markets and audiences. It seems, right now, there is a renewed interested in the skills involved in telephone requesting. I don’t know if that’s a delusion of ours because we’ve spent so many years out of the country teaching face-to-face requesting, or if it’s a growing need because the workforce at many phone centers is young and hasn’t relied on the telephone as a way to communicate as much as their elders did. What does remain constant is that this particular line of work – requesting organs and tissues – attracts dedicated, ethical people who want to do a good job. At one point in my life, I wanted to be courtroom lawyer. I’m glad I didn’t do that. Decent and ethical clients are so much better than distressed and criminal ones.

July, 2013

I’d like to take this space to congratulate our British client, ODT, for achieving, at the end of this past March,their target of a 50% increase in organ donors over a five year period. When that target was set, many didn’t think it was attainable. It involved hiring a whole new workforce of coordinators, training them to talk with families (that’s where we came in), and changing the U.K. culture of relying on doctors to request organs. As of now, three and a half months into a sixth year, British donors are up another 7%. I wish I could say the same about donors in the U.S. and hope to get more chances to do something about that.

January, 2013

My business partners have all the big news around here. They have a new book out, Perfecting Patient Journeys, about the use of Lean thinking and strategies in health care. It’s wonderful. I hope you will read it and find it useful.

Me? I’ve just been crunching numbers, writing papers and tediously designing instruction. Fortunately, I find all of that interesting, and one of the papers, “Telephone requests for donation: concerns expressed by families and the impact of the donor registry,” is about to be published in Progress in Transplantation. Judy and I, and one of our co-authors, Jeff Penta, the Executive Director of the San Diego Eye Bank, have long been concerned about the lack of an adequate research base for the requesting of eyes and tissues for donation. This paper remedies some of that, although there is still a lot of ground to be covered in that area and we hope to publish more on the subject in the future.

Some of the instruction I’ve been designing is linked to that paper. We have a new workshop called, Phone Requests for Eye and Tissue Donation: What to Say and What to Avoid,that I created for American audiences last summer. Although our contract with the Brits is about to expire, we like the workshop so much better than our old one for telephone requesting, earlier this week I Anglicized it to teach in Liverpool in March.