I never thought I would write a book. I wrote my thoughts in a diary. I wrote when I was angry or frustrated. I taught creative writing at Duluth Middle School when I could see.
I like the touch of the keys and having something to do with my hands. Sometimes I just move files around like I am organizing the computer. In January of 2000, the doctor told me my vocal cords needed a rest for two months. Me, not talk? Unheard of! I am a storyteller! I have been a professional storyteller since 1984—three years before I became blind. I thought not speaking was impossible for me, but the doctor at the Voice Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital told me that it was imperative if I didn’t want permanent damage.
My friend, who was living in my basement apartment, liked to write and edit. With her encouragement, I sat at my computer and started writing about my family history and things I remembered from my teenage years. That was fun. My editor would read and comment right on the document—mostly saying, “flesh it out," "show me, don’t tell me." I was reporting it like this happened next and so on.
Eventually, I started imagining each scene as if in a movie. I wrote for six months every day—four months after recovering my voice. By the time I’d finished I had written 49 stories from my personal experiences before and after becoming blind.
I found that I needed someone to read the stories aloud to hear the inflection and understand what needed to be improved. I couldn’t “eyeball” the piece and move paragraphs around as easily as a sighted person. That became the job of my editor.
After six months, I became tired of the whole project and put it aside. It will be a legacy for my grandchildren, nothing more than that, I told myself.
My editor friend did not give up. She nudged me often. She said my stories were worth writing. I began to share the stories with others to get their opinions. Then one morning a strange thing happened. I was straightening up the house, wondering what I will do next. I am not a do-nothing person. I get bored easily. The phone rang. I listened to the marketing person tell me about a book that included articles by some well-known writers in the business of “self-help." I recognized the names. I had even heard some of them speak at the National Speakers' Association workshops.
She invited me to contribute to the next volume of Exceptional Accomplishments, a motivational book with contributions from members of NSA. This was just the motivation I needed to start writing again. Hmm, I thought, maybe God is telling me to get back on that manuscript. I told my friend and it snowballed. We started the re-writes. As my writing improved, I felt encouraged to publish.
The next dilemma was figuring out how a person who is blind, not up on current trends, unfamiliar with the internet, with no knowledge of how to find a publisher, could get a book published. Another hurdle—I didn’t know how to get on chat rooms or do a webinar.
I joined the Atlanta Writers Club, went to their meetings—and listened. There I met an award-winning writer who was also an attorney. She explained to me how she had created her own publishing company. I asked her to write an evaluation of my book. She was the perfect choice, offering me much guidance and encouragement. That spurred me on. Later I sought advice from two other professional editors. I invested in editing, typesetting and proofreading.
This was expensive. I knew I needed it and didn’t know there are financial resources available to help people with disabilities. At the time of this writing I have sold over 330 books in a year without the benefit of a publicist or marketing person.
I have also self-published a children’s book, “Bettina the Bold: A Blind Butterfly Discovers How to Make Friends.” My friend, Jerilyn Nighttraveler, who is an amazingly talented artist, prepared illustrations using crepe paper so I could feel the pictures. Ken Medema, my blind musician friend, wrote and recorded a song to accompany the story. A storyteller friend, B.J. Abraham, has a special talent for creating voice characters.
Together B.J. and I recorded the book on CD. The book and CD are available as a package. In fact both books can be purchased on my website or on Amazon in print or e-book format.
I hope my writing experience brings encouragement to many with visual impairments. I want them to know that they too, with persistence and determination, can accomplish anything they set out to do.