Terry Ratner RN, BS, MFA - nurse, writer, educator - click to return home
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"I hope that I shall be able to confide in you completely,
as I have never been able to do in anyone before,
and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me."
- Anne Frank, Inscription at the beginning of her journal


Creating poems and stories in my younger years filled a world of loneliness. I'd journal in pink leather diaries-locking them with a twist of a gold colored key. My best friends were Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and the Bobbsey Twins. It wasn't until later that Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, made her way into my life giving me a glimpse into the world of nursing.

When I was ten or twelve, I would close my schoolbooks without protest at bedtime, but after my mother left the room, I'd flip the switch of my bedside lamp and snatch a stolen hour or two or three of novel-reading, my heart beating wildly when I heard footsteps in the hallway. Had my mother glimpsed the light under my door? If she did, she always had the grace to pretend she hadn't. Her steps would grow fainter, the book would grow shorter, and I would fall asleep at an ungodly hour.

On a recommendation of my English high school teacher, I enrolled in an advanced creative writing class. I remember the instructor holding up a black and white photo of an elderly Native American woman asking the class to write about what they saw. It was my essay he chose to read out loud, which embarrassed me at the time. Before he began, he told the class they had missed the meaning-it wasn't just a photo of an old haggard woman. Then I heard my words, "There's beauty in every line on her face, each furrowed crease across her forehead, every wrinkle signifies abundant wisdom, and the dark folds buried under her eyes symbolize life's adventures."

I've always been drawn to photographs. Pictures are a life-raft-a way to connect with a memory. I use a process called Ekphrasis, which explores who we are through words and images. I study photos, searching for identifiable objects which bring back larger memories. My memoirs seep into particular photographs, while others challenge me to fight for the underlying currents that lay beneath the glossy finish. I seek out those fragmentary details within them, in hopes of a living resurrection-a certificate of presence.


Terry Ratner is a freelance writer, registered nurse, and writing instructor in Chicago, Illinois. In June of 2004, she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Writing has always served a purpose in her life, but it wasn't until her son died in a motorcycle accident in March, 1999, that she began to publish her works. What's unique about Terry is the way she balances the life of a nurse with the life of a writer. "Nursing allows me to give back to the community and then write about those experiences."

Ratner teaches creative writing in a variety of settings from community colleges to a school for homeless children to wellness communities. In 2004, Terry launched an Arts and Healing program for children undergoing dialysis. She has published numerous personal essays, cover stories, interviews, and book reviews for national and regional publications. Her manuscript, a work in progress, features a series of twelve essays, ten of which are introduced with black and white photos, dealing with issues of family and identity.

Ratner worked at a level-one trauma hospital in Arizona for 23 years before moving back to Chicago in 2016, where she was born and raised.