The Sea Turtle Hospital

 JP_080424_13805.jpgJean Beasley, the founder and director of The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach, gave John and me a private tour of the hospital yesterday. Jean is a dynamo, and the turtles are her passion. I’ve heard about the hospital for years, but this was my first visit and I had to share it with my readers. John took these pictures. He had to take them with natural light–and there’s not much of it in this little building. The turtles’ eyes are too sensitive to light to use a flash.

The turtles come to the hospital from all over the east coast. Many of them are injured by boat propellers, JP_080424_13842.jpglike this one above who is fortunately healing well. Some have lost flippers to sharks. Others have fungal or viral diseases. The goal is, of course, to eventually release the rehabilitated turtles to the wild. Every one of these tanks has a huge turtle in it. You can see the building is bursting at the seams. In another year or two, the hospital will be able to move to a much larger facility on the mainland. (If you’re moved by the plight of these magnificent creatures, you can contribute to the hospital on its website. Although the hospital staff is made up of volunteers, the vet bills are staggering). Although I’m working on my second book set on Topsail Island, you won’t read about the turtles in either of them. That’s because of my good friend and fellow author, Mary Alice Monroe. Several years ago, Mary Alice and I participated in an author event here in Topsail. I fell instantly in love with the island and asked her if she minded if I “took” it for one of my books. (This is typical author-speak among author friends.) JP_080424_13931.jpgShe said I could have the island, but she got the turtles. Mary Alice is a turtle volunteer in her home state JP_080424_13943.jpgof South Carolina and she writes beautifully about them. They have her heart.  So that is why you won’t read about the turtle hospital in my Topsail books. However, I never said I wouldn’t write about them in my blog! John and I leave here tomorrow. I’ve gathered loads of info and I’ll write more about that in a day or so. Meanwhile, here’s another turtle, and then Jean and myself in front of the hospital.  


alll images copyright 2008 John Pagliuca 



  1. Julie on April 25, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Oh, I forgot about Mary Alice Monroe! I read Skyward and The Four Seasons a few years ago and loved them both. In fact…my daughter and her best friend both read The Four Seasons behind me when they were only 12. There was only one scene, as I recall, that was pretty iffy for their age, but they were both very mature and handled it quite well. I think they felt rather sophisticated as they passed it back and forth. 🙂 I’ll have to get my hands on her other books.
    Thanks for the pictures. That one of the sad little guy near the bottom is priceless. He looks like he’s longing for his home.
    I am so envious of your friendships with all these amazing women in your part of the country. What a great community of writers you have found there!

  2. Gina on April 26, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Wow Diane – I just love your blogs. That little turtle is so so cute. I love Mary Alice too. The only book I’ve read of hers so far is The Book Club and I read that many many years ago. I’ve always wanted to read more of her books.
    I agree Julie, it truly seems like a wonderful community of people. Writers are awesome!

  3. brenda on April 26, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    I have read all of M. A. Monroe’s books. My favorite-THE BOOK CLUB…after reading that one, I started an online bookclub with friends across the country. That was our first book. That bookclub is how I discovered Diane…
    On another note, Margo, have you read FAMILY PLANNING by a somewhat new author, Elizabeth Lett? I enjoyed it.
    I am eagerly awaiting my Hilderbrand books from the library.
    Diane-am so excited waiting for your new one…

  4. Diane Chamberlain on April 27, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Lol about the “little” turtles, Julie and Gina. They probably weigh 200+ pounds. It IS hard to see these creatures in tanks, but realizing they would be dead if they had not been rescued and treated is sobering.
    Brenda, Family Planning is on my to-be-read list. I just finished Anita Shreve’s latest, Body Surfing, and enjoyed it very much. I like how Shreve experiments with different ways of telling a story. This one is written in paragraphs separated from one another, and the language is stilted and distancing. Yet she manages to connect the reader with her central character with great skill. The story is quiet but engrossing.

  5. brenda on April 27, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    I am curious as to why authors change things that are not BROKEN…Some authors are so great…their name sells their books…then we are disappointed. Just read the lastest out by a male mystery writer-whew…the language was so NOT CREATIVE as the kids would say. It was he says, she says…
    I have been rereading Elizabeth Adler…I like the different locales in her books…she write basically the same…although the story lines are different…
    I am not saying that books can’t be different-they should be-a variety is great–but sometimes when I finish a book by a popular author, I exclaim to myself, “Who wrote this one?””

  6. Diane Chamberlain on April 27, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Brenda, I think authors want to experiment and grow, just as most people do in their chosen careers. Sometimes the change is a winner and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the change will appeal to some readers and not others. The Bay at Midnight is a good example. I wanted to write in first person for a change, and some people loved it and others–long time fans–didn’t even read the book because they hate first person. Being in a creative field is a difficult balancing act–an artist or writer or musician needs to please herself in order to maintain her passion in the work, but she needs to please the audience as well and occasionally those two things don’t go together. Sigh.

  7. Julie on April 28, 2008 at 1:15 am

    He may be 200 pounds, but he still looks like a sad little old man longing for his old front porch when he’s stuck in a nursing home. :0) Hehe
    We’re just talking about striking that balance between pleasing ourselves and the reader in a voice class I’m taken. Sounds like that never changes, from new writers to seasoned ones.

  8. Julie on April 28, 2008 at 1:16 am

    …a voice class I’m a-taken’…
    Yeah, that’s what I was saying. In my other voice, I’d say “taking.” 😉

  9. nsgee1 on April 28, 2008 at 6:47 am

    The turtles are amazing. What an experience to remember. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Margo on April 28, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Diane, I LOVE the pics that John took! These turtles are precious and what an amazing woman Jean must be! I’m sure that if I lived on the NC Coast I too would have a passion for saving the turtles…I wish I could help! Back to the pics, for John to use only natural light he did a wonderful job. I love how he captured the ‘love’ in the turtles eyes and their natural brown colors next to the brilliant blue is an artist’s dream…would John mind if I used these 2 pics to do a painting?
    Brenda & Diane, I have never read E. Lett but will put her book on my list. Mary Alice Monroe is a great inspirational writer and I adore her books on the turtles. Diane, what a good friend you are to not touch the turtle theme in your books because of your friendship…they are such incredible creatures & it would be hard to not include them somehow in your stories.
    Brenda, let me know when you read E Hilderbrand.

  11. Diane Chamberlain on April 28, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Julie, the idea of a voice class is interesting. I’d be curious to know what you’re learning. I think that voice is something that emerges naturally over time for a writer and that it rarely changes. (If we’re talking about the same thing, that is). If you gave me five paragraphs from five of my favorite writers, I would be able to tell you which writer wrote which paragraph because of their voice. Do you feel as though you’ve “found” yours yet?

  12. Diane Chamberlain on April 28, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Margo, I thought of you when I visited the turtles. You would indeed love them. John says “sure” with regard to using his images to inspire your paintings. Here is the gallery with more of the pictures he took.
    Toward the end is one turtle that will break your heart (metal bars holding his shell together). But he (or more likely, she) is healing and will one day be swimming free again.

  13. Margo on April 28, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Thank you for sharing John’s fabulous pic site and plz thank him for letting me use his pics for inspiration! I teared up when I saw the injured turtle with the metal bars. Thank goodness for people like Jean who devote passion, time and energy to help these lovely creatures. You were so lucky to meet her and the sea turtles at the hospital.

  14. Diane Chamberlain on April 28, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Margo, in the hospital, there’s a huge wooden sculpture a man made of a sea turtle. It’s attached to the ceiling and the turtle looks like it’s flying. in the 4th picture in John’s gallery, you can see the shadow of the sculpture in the water. i love that!

  15. brenda on April 28, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Margo, Picked up one of the books that came in for me from Hilderbrand…however, I have to read a couple of 7 day ones-James patterson “Sundays at Tiffany’s”
    That’s the example I was thinking of Diane, changing…I enjoyed his Alex Cross mysteries in the beginning…I liked the Women’s Murder Clubs at first…however, this one is something else-an imaginary friend…whew…
    I think that the appeal of authors such as Nicholas Sparks (to the public) and of course, Shakespeare, to those of us in the academic world, is that we know what to expect. As to your Bay and first person…I don’t think of that as a huge change…it was great…
    As to voice—I can read any essay written by any of my students (after the first few weeks) and recognize the voice…that is what I like when I pick up a book by a favorite author…you said what I was trying to say…if it is not broken…good for you-very intuitive…
    Julie-I still love your Blog-just can’t get signed into it…so I’ll write you here.
    P.S. Diane-John is so talented…

  16. Margo on April 29, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Oh Diane! Photo 4 is FABULOUS! I remember seeing some type of reflection when I first looked at the gallery but didn’t realize it was from a sculpture. I can just imagine how outstanding it must be, suspended from the ceiling! I know that I MUST get to Topsail Island now…not only to see where the new books take place put to also visit the Turtle Hospital! I think John should enter photo 4 in a contest. Really, I absolutely love it along with the others surrounded by beautiful shades of blue. (-:

  17. Margo on April 29, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Diane, I’m so inspired by these beautiful photos John took that I’m actually tempted to design a new weaving. Not sure if you knew that I also weave by hand but I can just picture a collage type design of turtles intermingled in a sea of BLUE, all woven into a unique design on a HUGE

  18. Margo on April 29, 2008 at 8:22 am

    D…oops…my fingers are typing so fast this a.m. I didn’t finish comment #17 (LOL)…as you can see, I’m pretty excited about the turtle design idea. To finish my sentence from above, I would weave the whole thing by hand and it would be HUGE with these gorgeous creatures swimming in a sea of blue. Wish there were more hours in a day…sigh…(-:

  19. Diane Chamberlain on April 29, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Brenda, I’ll pass your compliment along to John.
    Margo, I had no idea you weaved. I can’t wait for you to get a website (or maybe just put your artwork on a snapfish or flickr gallery to share?). I know you must be tired of my nudging, but when you announce that you weave in addition to paint, I can’t help myself!

  20. Margo on April 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    LOL D! I don’t mind you nudging…it is very unlike me to procrastinate but in the case of the website it really does go on the back burner for now…I seriously mean that there are just not enough hours in a day for me right now. But I promise to have the site 1 day and you will see my work all in 1 place. I use to weave constantly but it fell by the wayside when my painting started taking off more (and don’t forget I play piano at events too, but I’ve had to cut back on that also in order to pursue my painting). The last weaving I designed and created was of the continent of Africa all in earth and rust tones…I attached the top of it to a huge piece of driftwood and gave it to my sister. She has since divorced and quess what…my ex-brother-in-law took it! )-:

  21. Julie on April 30, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Diane, the class I’m taking (it’s actually the second in a series given online by Barbara Samuel) explores our voice through our origins (language, family history, place, etc.), raw writings (many timed so we don’t self edit), seminal events in our lives, and so on. Definitely not “teaching” voice, but learning about it through these things. The first session was more hands on writing, the second has been about our calling as writers, so to speak, and practicalities of where we fit with our writing. The classes are pretty much seminar where she gives us jumping off questions and we talk and talk and talk. They’ve both been great and also have created some small circles of writers beyond even the classes.
    I am also reading a book about voice by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall (Finding your writer’s voice) that is fantastic. Lots of the same stuff, and lots of practical exercises to help you identify what’s special about your voice.
    And no….I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve “found” my voice, but I certainly am further in the journey than I was a couple of years ago. I can definitely see it taking several books published (at least!) to really know it.
    Brenda, I’m sorry you haven’t been able to comment!! You might be able to anonymously and just leave your name in the comment, but I know you’re there anyway and I’m glad you enjoy reading my rambling. 🙂

  22. Diane Chamberlain on April 30, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Julie, it sounds like you’re really getting a lot out of those classes! Super!
    My apologies for being tardy in getting up a new post. I’m working on the new website and trailer and revisions, but hope to get a post up tomorrow. I hope I hope.

  23. Liz on May 2, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    What a Twilight Zone moment!! I am in the middle of Swimming Lessons by Mary Alice Monroe, (the 2nd I’ve found re: the sea turtles) and the picture of Jean Beasley and you, Diane, and the turtles! A moment of confusion, then delight that there is this strong connection! Wish I could be part of it. Margo – I love your weaving ideas. Should we plan a trip to Topsail Island? That is my destination -actually, the Carolina Coast, etc. OK, my husband will have to take precedence, but if he declines, my offer stands. I retire July 1 – after that, who knows? Maybe I will find my creative “voice”, whatever that is. Diane – I enjoyed John’s website. My husband teaches photography at our local community college as an adjunct, but still has to keep his day job. So, you know, he understands the techology way better than I do, and we thought they were beautiful, poignant. Thank you for sharing them. Can’t wait for your new book.

  24. Ann on May 2, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    We will be on Topsail Island all of next week – we go there too early in the season for the hospital to be open to the public and after seeing these pictures I am sorry that I have missed the opportunity to see these wonderful creatures. I bought and have worn my “Topsail Island Turtle Project” sweatshirt for years and now it means more to me! Thanks for sharing these pictures.

  25. Diane Chamberlain on May 2, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Wow, Liz, I bet that WAS a Twilight Zone moment! I hope you do make it to the Carolina Coast. Just be prepared that it is totally different (very very crowded!) in the summer than the peaceful times of year.

  26. Diane Chamberlain on May 2, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Ann, have fun on Topsail Island! Wish I could go with you.

  27. Liz on May 2, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Well, I expected it to be crowded – high tourist season, and all that. But…so far, that’s been our pattern of vacations because I’ve only had summers and spring breaks, working for a school system. Part of me loves the tourist crowds because everyone is on vacation and part of me craves the peacefulness of “off-season”. Until I become spoiled with no people, I will not know what I’m missing, yet. We did go to Cape May once in mid-June and it was lovely. Not many tourists yet. Also, don’t know if I want to try to “reason with hurricane season” by going later.

  28. brenda on May 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Julie-reading your blogs-you have FOUND your voice…I love it…
    As to crowds and beaches-having visited Myrtle Beach for dozens ofyears in the summers when the kids were out of school (FROM OHIO and WV)…having lived near there for 5…I love the crowds.
    When I am on Miami Beach where my son lives-it is weird-so uncrowded…in fact, it was more crowded in Dec. than in August…but too many jelly fish then…
    Enjoy your trips…

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