Lois Strachan – Author

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Musings on Another Life

The image shows a dark-haired woman looking at the camera
 
You’d be amazed how often people ask me what I think my life would have looked like if I hadn’t become blind. I usually shrug and tell them I have no idea. But for  some reason, I’ve been thinking about it recently. To be honest, when I do think about it, I tend to have more questions than answers. So, here are a few whimsical musings on my (possible) alternative life…
 
I was in my final year of my Bachelor of Arts degree when I lost my sight, studying English literature, ancient history and law. I had a vague idea that I might become an archeologist. Considering that I’m not  an overly outdoorsy person, I guess it is more likely that I would have landed up in academia, or perhaps working at a museum of some kind. But maybe not. Because who knows what might have happened…  
 
Would music have played such a major role in my life if I hadn’t become blind? Well, in some ways yes, because I almost certainly would still have loved listening to music. But it’s unlikely that I would have joined a band as a singer, keyboardist, and guitarist. Because it was only after I lost my sight that I had the courage to follow that particular  dream. I struggle to believe that would have happened if I  had remained sighted. But perhaps it would have. Who can tell…
 
The same is true about writing. The idea of becoming a writer had never even crossed my mind. I probably would have laughed if anyone had told me I would publish even a single book, let alone the six I have authored so far. Besides, since all my books relate to blindness and disability, I would have had nothing to write about. AT least, I don’t think I would have. But you never know…
 
And what about my professional speaking? Again, until I became blind I wasn’t interested in standing in front of an audience and sharing my story, or training, or facilitating workshops, or coaching, or any of the work that I do now. In fact, though I might have had other life stories to share as a speaker, depending on where my life had taken me, those stories would have been totally different. Somehow I think it’s unlikely that I would have become a speaker. Which means I probably wouldn’t have become part of Toastmasters, the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa, or the Global Woman Speaker Mastermind that have all been such fundamental parts  of my life. But, you never know…
 
And of course it’s unlikely that I would have got to meet the wonderful friends and colleagues I’ve had the privilege to work with over the years. I would almost certainly have had a totally different circle of people in my life. With the exception of my family, because I’m almost certain they would still have been part of my life regardless. Well, almost certainly. One never can tell.
 
One thing that’s for sure, I wouldn’t have been partnered with my three gorgeous, wonderful, beloved guide dogs, Leila, Eccles and Fiji. And my heart hurts just a little even thinking that I might not have had them in my life, walking beside me.
 
I would almost certainly still have been a voracious reader.  It’s one thing that has been constant in my life. Apart from the first two years after I became blind, when I didn’t know how to access books. I felt that loss,  until I learned how to find accessible audio and digital books. So I would certainly have still been a bookworm.
 
It’s also hard to know if I would have landed up living in Cape Town. Who knows where my life and my work would have taken me? It’s a question I have absolutely no way of answering.
 
I know I can’t answer any of these questions. But it’s been fun speculating. 
Which isn’t all that strange, since alternative history and speculative fiction are amongst  my favourite genres of book. 
 
But now it’s time for me to reel in my wandering imagination and come back to reality… because Fiji has just nudged me to remind me it’s time for her and her doggy siblings to have supper.

Audio Book is Finally Here

The image shows the cover of the book, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an “Ordinary” Life in an Extraordinary Way, with a dark-haired woman hugging a pale yellow Labrador.
 
It is finally here! The audio version of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an “Ordinary” Life in an Extraordinary Way has finally been released.
 
You can get hold of a copy of the book on a number of different audio book outlets, including Audible.
 
Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/A-Different-Way-of-Seeing-Second-Edition-Audiobook/B0B3BVSTNL
 
Here’s a little about the book:
 
“Have you ever wondered how a blind person pours a cup of coffee? Or how they and their guide dog know when it’s safe to cross a busy road? When Lois Strachan lost her sight at the age of 21 years she had to learn the answers to these and countless other questions of how to live as a blind person in a sighted world. In this delightfully quirky and entertaining book Lois shares some of the secrets she discovered about how to live an “ordinary” life in an extraordinary way despite her blindness”
 
You can listen to a sample of the book here: https://www.audible.com/pd/A-Different-Way-of-Seeing-Second-Edition-Audiobook/B0B3BVSTNL
 
 
Every time I listen to the book I am blown away by the amazing narrator, Julie Norman. She did an excellent job of bringing my words to life in the audio book. And I’m sure you’ll agree when you hear her!
 
It would be great if you could write a quick one or two line review once you’ve listened to the book – reviews help new readers find the book. Thank you in advance for taking the time to do that for me – it really does help!

A Conversation on How Disability is Depicted in Literature

Book cover

Over the past few years I have noticed that more characters with disabilities have been appearing in works of fiction. In many ways this is wonderful to see, as we have been a largely under-represented group when it comes to fictional characters. But, as with so many other facets of life, there is also a shadow side – I seldom feel that the characters with disabilities are accurately drawn. Instead, they tend to be depicted as either inspirational or tragic figures. Which, like most other polarities, results in a highly simplistic view of what life with a disability is like.
 
On a recent episode of my A Different Way of Seeing podcast, I raised the topic with fellow author and advocate, Elizabeth Sammons. Together we explored the way blindness is represented in fiction and the often harmful consequences it has for us as persons living with a visual impairment. It was a fascinating conversation and I’d encourage you to take a listen and think about some of the points raised by Elizabeth.
 
Here’s where you can find the conversation: http://iono.fm/e/1173132
 
I also loved the advice that Elizabeth offers to authors wanting to create believable characters with disabilities. Her suggestions on how to research and test the accuracy of the depiction of the disability are great and can be used by writers with and without disabilities.
 
Here are the books mentioned by Elizabeth, as well as the speech she referenced during our conversation, in case you feel inclined to dig a little deeper into the subject.

“Blindness: Is Literature Against Us?”
By Kenneth Jernigan, 
July 3, 1974
https://nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/convent/banque74.htm
 
“Being Seen:  One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism”
By Elsa Sjunneson  
“There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness”
By M. Leona Godin.
 
You can learn more about Elizabeth’s own writing at https://www.dldbooks.com/elizabethsammons/
 
And, if you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to receive these newsletters as soon as they come out – they will drop straight into your mailbox! It’s the best way to stay in touch with my news and events.

My Books on Bookshare!

he image shows the covers of the four Missy Mouse books written by Lois Strachan
 
I am excited to let you know that more of my books are becoming available on Bookshare.
 
So far, my memoir “A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way“ and the first of my illustrated children’s books, “Missy Mouse Goes to the Park” are already in the Bookshare library and the remaining books in the Missy Mouse series will be there soon.
 
I have been so impressed by the team at Bookshare India/Africa, who have been converting the Missy Mouse books and making them accessible to those who cannot read in the usual manner. I had always thought it wouldn’t be possible to add them to Bookshare because of the need to describe the illustrations, but the team at Bookshare have done a remarkable job of adding the descriptions to the text so that blind and visually impaired readers can learn what is happening in the images.

So, if you or anyone you know is a registered member of Bookshare, you can access some of my books – with more to follow soon.

And it won’t be long before Fiji’s book “Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog” will be there too!
 
If you would like to learn more about the Bookshare library, you can hop onto Bookshare.org or listen to the interview I participated in with members of the team from Bookshare India/Africa for the Global Rainbow Foundation, at https://fb.watch/bBQZIcmWar/

Where Did the Last Two Months Go?

In many ways I feel as though my year has only just started. For some reason I seem to have lost the last two months. My brain feels as if 2021 ended with November and 2022 only really got going this month.

There are reasons for this. My plans for December were derailed when I came down with COVID-19. So my plans had to be put on hold for a week or two while I recovered. Having said that, I’m immensely grateful that I wasn’t seriously ill as a result of the pandemic, just immeasurably tired most of the time. So my productivity plummeted.

The strange thing is that January wasn’t a whole lot better for me. And I have absolutely no excuse for my general apathy and lack of progress on the projects I’ve been working on. Somehow they just didn’t seem to happen.

Until February.

In contrast, the first half of this month has been wonderfully and crazily busy as my year has finally got going. I published my speaking show reel after having it waiting in the wings for almost a year. I also published a book promo video for Fiji’s book “Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”, which was a fun mini-project that Charlie Dyasi created for Fiji and me.

I’ve started making a few changes in my business, thanks to incredibly valuable coaching from Heather Cresswell, from Business Brilliance. At least part of my flurry of action is the result of the shifts Heather’s coaching is creating in my life and business.

Now that my year is well and truly underway, you may be wondering what I have planned for 2022.

I’ve realized how much work I’m doing within the disability sector, speaking, training, coaching and mentoring. And it’s work I love doing! Being able to support others with disabilities, especially those who like me have a sight-related condition, is probably the most rewarding work I can envision doing. I am grateful to have so many opportunities to interact with people around the globe and encourage them to reach for their dreams. So I plan to build this aspect of my business this year.

In terms of my writing, the honeymoon period following the publication of Fiji’s book is over and it’s time I sat down to consider my next writing adventure. I’ve been chatting on and off with a friend, Meiki Motshabi, about a possible collaborative book project but we haven’t yet settled on the details of what that might look like and who might be involved. So, you’ll have to wait to find out more as our plans develop. Needless to say, writing will definitely remain one of my major activities in 2022.

There are also big changes happening in the podcasting work I’m doing. But more on that next time…

All told, I think it’s clear that I have managed to shrug off whatever lassitude affected me over the past two months and I am finally diving into 2022 with a wildly wagging tail… much to Fiji’s confusion since wagging tails are usually her responsibility.

And if you’d like to watch Fiji’s book promo video, you’ll find it at at https://youtu.be/y3rqzxUFbV0.

 

 

Yes, I Am Still Working on the Audio Book of My Memoir

The image shows the cover of Lois’s book A Different Way of Seeing.

Wow, where has this year gone? I can’t believe we are already heading towards the end of October. And I still have so much I want to have completed by the end of the year. And I’m definitely running out of time… fast!

One of the projects I had expected to have finished long before now is the publishing of the audio book of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way. After all, the book was published a year ago tomorrow.

Somehow 2021 has been swallowed up by the writing, launching and marketing of my guide dog Fiji’s book called Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog. Fiji and I started working on the book in January 2021 and published it in September – a whole lot faster than any of my earlier books!

Somehow I never seemed to get around to the next steps in the process to launch my audio book. Till now.

Over the past two weeks I’ve listened to the recordings of the book and have once again been reminded what an amazing job my narrator, Julie Norman, has done with the book. It is sounding fantastic!

Now that I know the recordings are ready to go it is time for me to investigate getting the book into the various outlets that sell audio books. So that will be the next, and hopefully the final, step in what has become a much more complicated project than I originally expected.

But it will be available soon… after all, it’s been long enough!

As an aside, I am also working on the audio versions of my children’s books, so watch out for more information on that project as well.

My Book is Here – Wag, Wag, Wag!

the image shows a close up of a yellow Labrador’s face

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji,

I’m jumping up and down and bounding around in ecstatic circles to tell you that my book has finally been published.

Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog is full of stories about me and my human and doggy family, from my puppyhood right up to the present. Although, to be fair, it’s not entirely up to the present because we had to stop writing so we could get the book ready to be read by you. So we decided to make the end of 2020 our cut-off. But let’s be honest, what with the pandemic and all, not much has happened in 2021 anyway. Except that we’ve been busy with the book.

You may be wondering why you should read my book.

It is full of stories about me and my doggy siblings, lots of stories about the many different ways I help my mom, information about the work a guide dog does, and explains why I think humans are sometimes strange. And it’s fun.

Maybe I should let you know what someone else thinks of the book. Because I admit I’m a little biased because I wrote it… with a little bit of help from my mom. Here’s a review from Amazon.
“Fiji the Labrador retriever is a witty little blond that shares her adventures with her owner in a fun and educational way. It is a fun and easy read about the challenges Lois and Fiji faces together. It would be a great gift for dog lovers or a book for the family to read together for young and old.”

I’m so happy that people are reading my story. I’m going to buy lots of dog treats with all my royalties… And maybe I’ll even share them with my doggy siblings, Emily, Allie and Onyx.

Oh, I almost forgot, here’s how you can buy the book for yourself:
Amazon/Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FGYPYP4?ref_=pe_3052080_397670860

South African paperback: https://www.loisstrachan.com/order-form/

Paws for Thought on New Arrivals

The image is a close-up of Lois and Fiji’s faces with Lois holding a glass of bubbly up in a toast

Hello everyone – it’s me, Fiji!

I’m so excited right now that I’m bouncing up and down and wagging my tail full speed. Because the book that Mom and I wrote is now available on Amazon.

Even more than that, we’re going to be having a launch party on Zoom and would love for you to be there. And you might win a free copy of our book, “Pause for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”

To book for the launch party, go to https://bit.ly/38C8uHz

The party will take place at 17:00 South African time on Sunday, 12 September and everyone is invited… your doggy companions as well!

And, to be amongst the first to read our book, the Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FGYPYP4?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

Mom and I hope you can attend our celebration… and that you feel inspired to buy the book and read my story. It would also be wonderful if you could tell your friends about the book and the online celebration – we would love to have as many people there as possible!

Oh yes, we are planning a South African print run of the book soon if you prefer to read it in that format… more on that as we get everything organised…

When Every Day Feels Like Blursday

the images show the book covers of Lois’s book Paws for Thought.

I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts recently when the presenters mentioned the word blursday. It’s described as the sensation that one day blurs into the next. The word fits the way I’ve been feeling over the past few days perfectly. And it’s exhausting.

For one thing, I’m finding it hard to motivate myself to do anything. Which is impacting both of my writing projects. I know I have work to do before I can publish the audio version of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing, and Fiji’s book, Paws for Thought. But it’s so hard to scrape together the energy to get them finished.

And because I feel like I’m not making progress I become more demoralized…

In reality I know I’m making progress, no matter how small. And I do manage to get tasks ticked off my To-Do-List every day. I’m just frustrated with myself that it’s not happening faster.

On the bright side… and looking beyond my somewhat self-pitying blursday reflections… I am now so close to publishing Fiji’s book that I can almost touch the finished product – the back cover is now designed and we are busy getting everything set up on Amazon. From there I need to start working on a local print run for those of Fiji’s friends who want paper copies, and then hit play on the Amazon pre-order of the book. And then start implementing our plans for a fun online book launch.

My audio book isn’t quite as close to completion. I’m still waiting for feedback on the audio quality of the recordings from my beta listeners, including myself. And then to move onto the process of actually getting the book listed on the various audio book platforms. So why is it so hard for me to become enthused about hitting the play button on the recordings myself?

When the blursday sensation sends me into another of those exhausting foggy states, I reassure myself with a phrase a friend of mine used to tell me – Don’t worry, this too shall pass. And I believe that is true. I just hope it will be soon.

PS: The podcast I was listening to when I heard them talking about Blursday is called Something Rhymes with Purple, a podcast about the English language and words. It’s fun and educational.

Progress on My Audio Book?

the image shows the cover of a book, showing Lois wearing a red dress and hugging Fiji, a pale yellow Labrador

It’s been forever since I last updated you on the progress of my project to publish an audio version of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way. Admittedly, when I started the project, I imagined it would take me only a month or two to get it done. Which only goes to show how naïve I am at times. Because that was almost two years ago.

Here is an update on my progress so far.

My wonderful narrator, Julie Norman, has completed the audio files of the book. This was the first, and definitely biggest part of the project. I think Julie has done a marvelous job and has brought my words to life with her reading. Admittedly, it felt somewhat strange listening to someone else read the words that I had written, but I’m still glad I asked Julie to narrate the book.

I’m currently working with several beta readers to check the audio quality and consistency of the recordings. It’s hard for me to listen objectively, both because it is my own words that are being narrated, and because I know how much time and effort went into the recording of the text. Hopefully I will get a more honest opinion from my test readers.

Once I’m content that the recordings are good to go, I will then start the process of getting the book into the various audio book platforms like Audible. This would be easier if I lived in USA, Canada, UK or Ireland, as I could then simply upload them to Audible myself. Because I live outside those countries, I need to go through an external company to publish the books. Which, of course, means there is yet one more person nibbling away at my income from the book. But, at least the book will be available for people to read in audio.

I wish I could give you an estimate of the timeline from here. In reality, like most other parts of the writing and publishing industries, it is hard to know for sure and much depends on the focus I give the project. Since I’m also busy getting Fiji’s book ready to publish, I have to be careful about the decisions I make on prioritizing my time. But I will get the audio book of A Different Way of Seeing out as soon as I can, I promise. Likewise with Fiji’s book, “Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”.

Phew, 2021 is turning into quite a busy ear for me when it comes to writing. Busy and exciting!

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