hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

Arts & Entertainment

March 28, 2013

From Haverhill to Hollywood

Nurse by trade, city native finds success in writing

It’s a long-honored phrase among fiction authors: “Write what you know.”

That phrase worked for many of the great story-tellers, among them Ernest Hemingway. He was wounded during World War I, and later wrote a classic story featuring a wounded soldier and the nurse who cared for him.

That phrase has also been a guiding force for Haverhill native Karen (Lagasse) Struck. She left the city to marry a Californian and build a career in nursing. That work led to her becoming a writer for a TV medical drama now airing on TNT.

Struck’s TV writing career began when she sold her first script to the Hallmark Channel in 2007. Hallmark produced the movie “Charlie and Me” from her script in January 2008.

But the seeds of writing were planted for Struck decades earlier in a classroom at Haverhill High School. When Struck was a student there in the 1970s, she leaned towards literature.

“While the other kids had interests in history or social studies and some in math, I got my greatest enjoyment from words,” she said.

High school English teacher Lyn LeGendre gave the young girl’s interest some traction, introducing her to the way literature works.

“She was my greatest influence,” Struck said.

Years after being student and teacher, the women connected in 2008, after Struck’s Hallmark movie aired.

“Lyn had just found out she had cancer and was struggling with a thought that I imagine most teachers have, ‘Have I made a difference in my students’ lives?’’’ Struck said. “It was so amazing to speak with her again and to be able to say, ‘Wow, did you ever!’”

Struck remembered struggling with identifying a career path as high school wound down.

“I considered the writer’s life,” she said, “but knew that didn’t make sense, wasn’t a reality, and I went into nursing.” But she did not stop writing.

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