Lois Strachan – Author

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Paws for Thought on Finally Writing My Book

Fiji guide dogDate: 2 February 2021

Hi everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

The most exciting thing is happening! After four years of procrastinating, mom and I have finally started writing my book. In fact, we’ve finished writing it and are just busy doing other, clearly less important, stuff like spell checking, editing, proof reading and formatting the book now. Even though mom keeps telling me that these are all very important parts of the writing process, I just can’t see it – surely writing my story is the important bit?

I guess mom and I will just have to disagree about that.

Anyway, while we’re busy with all the stuff that mom has to do on my behalf, we’re also busy with other things. We’re discussing the cover design, and are playing around with a number of different titles and sub-titles for the book.

I don’t exactly know how we’re going to distribute the book. We have a few ideas but nothing has been decided yet. I’m sure we’ll let you know as soon as we have all that in place.

In the meantime, just to whet your appetite, here’s a sneak peek into a bit of the story. Mom told me I ought to warn you that this hasn’t been edited yet, so it might change before the book is published.

“I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 30 August 2014, one of a litter of eight puppies. My mom is a Golden Retriever named Fiesta and my dad is a black Labrador named Jay. My dad lives in America –I still don’t know if I’m eligible for a Green Card because of that fact. I’m a bit confused about the whole process since I don’t think my dad came to South Africa to meet my mom. But I really don’t want to know about the details – there are just some things I don’t need to know.

Actually, I’m a bit confused about the whole mom and dad thing. Because I have had several moms and dads through my life – with my forever mom and dad being the humans I live with now. Especially mom, for whom I work as a guide.

But, if they are my forever mom and dad, does that mean the other people I thought of as mom and dad should have been called something else? Because there have been quite a few of them. First, as I said, there were Fiesta and Jay. And the human who is mom to Fiesta, too. Then I went to stay with Jenny and Mike in Johannesburg and they taught me lots of things, played with me, took me places and also took me to puppy school. They also gave me lots of toys – ropes which I chewed to pieces and a fluffy sheep toy that I didn’t, which was my favouritest toy when I was little.

I have lots of wonderful memories of the time they were my mom and dad – like playing in the garden and chewing my way through the stems of the strelitzia plants, grabbing the garden hose and pulling it through the house to put it in my bed with all my other toys, and going to wake mom up carrying my tennis ball in my mouth. I still do that sometimes, bringing my tennis ball with me when I want attention from my forever mom and dad.

This was also when I first started being called Fiji. Mom-Jenny and dad-Mike called me Fiji because they said my coat was the colour of the sand on the beaches of the volcanic island of Fiji. Though my forever mom also sometimes tells people that she believes it is because I have something of a volcanic personality.

I was very sad to say goodbye to mom-Jenny and dad-Mike and move to Cape Town for the next phase in my life. It all seemed very strange to me at first. But then I was introduced to my new mom and dad – Beata and Piotr, and I soon adjusted to my new place and my new routine.

That was when I started proper training to become a guide dog. I would go to school every day – well, every weekday – and Aunty Cheryl and Aunty Charne would teach me all sorts of exciting lessons I would need if I wanted to become a guide. I was surrounded by lots of other dogs who also wanted to become guides, as well as lots of friendly humans who worked with the South African Guide-Dog Association for the Blind, getting us ready for our exciting futures.”

So that’s a little of my story – you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more. After we’ve finished with all the bits we’re busy with. I promise either mom or I will let you know when it’s ready to go.
XXX

My First Podcast Appearance for 2021 – the Phemale Phoenix Podcast

Phemale Phoenix logo

I am regularly startled by the mails that arrive in my in-box. Thankfully I’m not referring to adverts for things that I neither want nor need, though I do receive a few of those as well – but remarkably few thanks to my anti-spam software.

Rather I’m referring to a number of incredible opportunities that have come my way over the past few months – like an invitation to appear on national TV… but more about that as the details emerge. And opportunities like guesting on some wonderful podcasts. Like the Phemale Phoenix Podcast with Lauren Deal.

The Phemale Phoenix is a podcast about women who have overcome challenges and, to quote the podcast show notes, “turned their mess into a message”. It turns out that Lauren read one of my Beyond Sight blog posts and decided I would be a good fit for her audience.

It was wonderful to chat to Lauren earlier this month. Her podcasts are usually 15 minutes since she wants her audience to be able to slot the episodes into their busy lives without too much difficulty. And the topics she covers address a number of issues faced by women across the world.

Here’s the interview we did: https://thephemalephoenix.podbean.com/e/episode-20-lois-strachan-unseen-ambition-in-a-sighted-world/

If you have a story to share with Lauren’s audience, why not reach out to her and see what is possible.

Closing the Chapter on My 2020 Reading Challenge

Bus

First, a very happy new year to you all! May 2021 be a year with many wonderful adventures for you! Let’s hope the year will bring a little more stability than the last one.

My tradition over the past few years has been to start off with a post about my intentions for the year ahead. Frankly, with so much uncertainty, I don’t really feel like writing on that subject. So I’m doing something else instead.

In 2020 I set myself a goal of reading at least one non-fiction book per month. While I have always been a prolific reader, somehow I’ve just never found myself drawn to non-fiction books. Last year I decided to try and change that. At least a little.

And I think I succeeded – in total I read 17 non-fiction books during the year. So I met and exceeded my target. In a previous post I listed the books I read in the first half of the year. You can find the list in the post published on 14 July 2020.

Here’s the list of the non-fiction books I read in the second half of the year:

9 Make Money from Non-Fiction Kindle Books: How to Maximise Your Royalties, Get Paid to Capture Leads, and Rapidly Build A Successful Backend Business – by John Tighe.
10 Timeless on the Silk Road: An Odyssey from London to Hanoi – by Heather Ellis.
11 One More Croissant for the Road – by Felicity Cloake.
12 Walking without Skin: A Journey of Healing from Fear to Forgiveness to Freedom – by Lois Wagner.
13 Kong Boys: Seven Friends from Hong Kong Take on Eleven European Cities for Their Thirtieth Birthdays – by Gerald Yeung.
14 Fundamentals of Leadership: Your Treasure Map for Leading in a New Era Where Everything Has Changed and You Have Become Lost – by Rowan van Dyk.
15 Podcast 101: Simple Steps to Create Your Own Podcast, Build Relationships and Grow Your Business – by Paul Brodie.
16 Ditch the Fear and Just Write It: The No Excuses Power Plan to Start Your First Book – by Alexa Bigwarfe.
17 Adventure by Chicken Bus – by Janet LoSole.

This year I have started another reading challenge – to read books by authors with diverse voices, experiences and from different cultures and geography from myself. I’m starting with a book called Homegoing, by Ghanaian author Yaa Gyasi.

I also plan to read a few classics that I either missed when I was younger, or that I disliked as a teenager and that I’d like to try again to see if my impressions have changed. The first of these is The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald, which I couldn’t stand when I originally read it. I’ve decided to give it a second chance as so many people hold it in such high regard. It’s always possible that I just read it at the wrong time. Only time will tell…

I think I’m in for an exciting reading year!
XXX

2020 – A Retrospective

Lois and Fiji

2020 is now almost over and I’ve been reflecting on the year that has been.

My year got off to a great start. I had planned three main projects to move me forward in my business. Those intentions were to release my audio book, complete a marketing show reel for my speaking business, and to totally revamp my website.

Then COVID-19 happened and, like everyone else in the world, my plans changed.

At a first glance, it would appear I achieved little this year. While I’m about 75% through the show reel project, I’m only 33% of the way through the recording of my audio book, and my website revamp hasn’t even started. To be honest, I was feeling pretty dismal about my progress.

Then I attended a seminar facilitated by Lesley Callow and she got me looking at my year completely differently. By challenging the way I was thinking, Lesly got me to focus on what I had achieved. More than that, Lesley also got me to acknowledge that I hadn’t been celebrating my successes because I was so busy beating myself up for not having completed the tasks I had set myself. And suddenly my year looked very different.

Sure, I may not have made the progress I had hoped on the three projects that had been my focus when the year started. But I had achieved a large number of other wins instead – I’d published the second edition of my book, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Way, which I hadn’t even known was a requirement for me to release the audio book. More than that, wit the work I and my ARC Team (Advance Review Copy) did prior to the launch, my book became a No1 bestseller in two Amazon categories for at least 5 days (it might have been more as I had stopped tracking the ratings).

Like most speakers I’d been forced to shift my business online and, while I had perhaps not done as much speaking as I might have wished, I’d grown my online speaking skills significantly.

And I’d been busier with my music than I’d been in many years – doing 4 lockdown gigs on Facebook Live, and performing for several conferences, and fundraising events. And I’d been a feature artist for an arts festival run by Artscape Theatre. Shifting my music online had been remarkably easy!

There were many other smaller successes that happened during 2020 but those were the ones that I’m most proud of. So even in small ways I’ve continued learning and growing through the crazy year that has been 2020.

We can’t know what 2021 will bring, but it’s almost time for me to start setting my intentions for the coming year. And, whatever those intentions are and no matter what the year throws at me, I’m confident that I will continue moving forward.

Huge thanks to Lesley Callow for transforming my perspective of the last year. If you’d like to find out more about the work that Lesley does, you can contact her on lesley@e2lifecoaching.com

Shift Online Art Festival 2020

It was such an honour for me to be asked to participate in last month’s Shift Online art festival hosted by the Unmute Dance Co from Artscape Theatre. I’ve been impressed by the online performances shown on the YouTube channel throughout November. They have featured some talented artists from across Africa and the world and, of course, from here in South Africa. So it was really special for me to be asked to contribute to the festival.

There were two segments focusing on my work. The first was a mini-documentary that was premiered on Sunday, 29 November, which featured videos of me talking about my work as a singer/songwriter, author and motivational speaker.

Themba Mbuli, Creative Director of Unmute Dance Co, was responsible for putting the content together into a mini-documentary, and he did a really great job.

Here’s the link to the mini-documentary: https://youtu.be/l50KD6d8f5o

A second segment was released on the penultimate day of the festival, Wednesday, 2 December and featured me talking about how I wrote one of my songs – Here Be Dragons – and a little about how I play keyboard. Also featured in that segment was a solo performance from Lone Loh.

Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/f0CUpXmC0J0

I can’t even begin to think of how challenging it must have been to produce a month-long art festival online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full respect to Themba Mbuli and his team at Unmute Dance Co for such an amazing show! And congratulations to all the artists for their creativity in adapting their art to an online space.
PS: Don’t think that the festival is aimed solely at persons with disabilities – we are artists first, sharing our art with you. Our disabilities are just a minor part of who we are.

PPS You can also hear the first paragraph of my audio book on the mini-documentary.

What I’d Like You to Know about My Blindness07 – Sight-related Words

The image shows Lois speaking in front of an audience

A few days after I was declared blind, I chatted on the phone with my grandmother. During the conversation she asked me if I’d seen an article in the newspaper. Then her voice tailed off into silence. I waited for her next words, wondering why she had suddenly gone quiet.

When she next spoke it was to apologise profusely for her thoughtlessness in using the word “seen”.

This has happened to me regularly since losing my sight. when talking to me, people try desperately to avoid any word that is related to sight. Because they feel it might be insensitive for them to use those terms considering my blindness.

In some ways it’s sweet of them to try so hard. But it often makes a conversation a lot more stilted than it would otherwise be.

And, in truth, I have absolutely no problem with words relating to sight. Few of the blind and visually-impaired people I know do. We use them all the time. And most of us are totally okay with others doing the same.

Most recently a few people who have read my book have mentioned they initially felt a little uncomfortable with how often I use terms relating to sight. And people occasionally also mention it when they hear me speaking at conferences and events. But gradually, as they become more familiar with my style, they come to understand that my view of sight is simply a little different from what they are used to.

For me sight includes insights I gain from my remaining senses. Which is the reason my book is titled Ä Different Way of Seeing”

Because in a way I do still see… just a little differently from how I used to.

To get hold of a copy of my book, hop onto Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9
XXXXX

Some International TV and Podcast Exposure

the image shows Lois speaking into a microphone

One of the best ways an author can introduce their books to new audiences is to talk on podcasts and media stations. I’ve had the opportunity to do so twice in the past few weeks.

The first interview was with one of my favourite podcasts, Blind Abilities. It was my third time being featured on the podcast – the first being back in 2017, and the second being a few months ago. This time the interview focused on the release of my book and a little of my background.

Jeff Thompson, from Blind Abilities, is a skillful interviewer and I have learned a lot about conducting interviews from listening to him. Which, in turn, makes me a better podcast interviewer… At least, I hope so!

You can listen to the interview at https://blindabilities.com/?p=6317

The second interview I did was with Accessible Media Inc – AMI for short – who are a cable station based in Canada. This one was a little more nerve-wracking as it was both a TV and radio interview. The team at AMI were fantastic in guiding me through what would be expected of me, even running a test call to check everything would work properly with the video and audio transmissions.

I am immensely grateful I’ve had the opportunity to become comfortable with platforms like Zoom and Skype in the last 3 years, so I was comfortable with the technology being used. It was just the concept of appearing on TV that made me anxious.

You can hear the podcast from the NOW with Dave Brown Show here.

I hope you enjoy listening to the interviews –they gave me the chance to answer questions about the book that don’t often come up when I talk about it.

Final Warning and Another Song

the image shows a book cover, with Lois hugging Fiji and the text A Different Way of Seeing (second edition): A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Way

Today is the start of my birthday month – my birthday is actually 14 November and I’ll be turning… well, a year older than I am right now. This month I want to share a very special song with you, from out of the archives of songs I’ve written over the years.

But, before I do, I just want to give you a warning that today is the final day you can get hold of the Kindle version of my book, A Different Way of Seeing (second edition) at the special introductory price of US$1.14 – from tomorrow the cost will go up!

Here’s where to buy it: https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9

Now, back to the song lyrics…

the image shows Lois singing into a microphone

This song isn’t finished. It doesn’t have a tune. I’m not even sure if I hear it as a guitar or keyboard song. But, nonetheless, it has always been a song that I’ve really liked the feel of.

Hope you enjoy reading it – if you have any ideas of where the song might go next, please feel free to share them with me…

TUESDAY’S CHILD

Cross my palms with silver
Cross my palms with gold
Cross my path, my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

She moves through her history, leaves the past behind
She’s impulsive, vivacious, and quick with her smile
Gypsy woman, born wild and free
She answers to no-one

Temperamental and daring, she speaks her mind
She lives for the present, cares nothing for time
She puts all the might-have-been’s out of her mind
Leaves all the Could-have’s and should-have’s behind

Cross my palms with silver
Cross my palms with gold
Cross my path, my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

Verse 2???

Cross my palm with silver
Cross my palm with gold
Cross my path my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

Bridge:
Could I be like her?
Radiant as the fire
Could I be like her?
Could I be a Tuesday’s child

Could I be like her?
Dancing in the light
Could I be like her?
Could I be a Tuesday’s child

Chorus

Third verse???

My Book is Finally Available! My Book is Finally Available!

the image shows a book cover, with Lois hugging Fiji and the text A Different Way of Seeing (second edition): A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Way

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am! I am practically jumping up and down with glee!

The second edition of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing, is finally available on Amazon.com

The Kindle version can be pre-ordered at
https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9

For now, it’s available at an introductory price of US$1.14.

The actual publication date is Wednesday, 28 October, where all those who have pre-ordered the book will be able to access it on their Kindle device or in their Kindle library.

But,

If you want to take advantage of the $1.14 special price, you only have until 1 November to do so. From 1 November the price will go up.

So, again, here’s where to grab a copy of the Kindle book
https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9

And, happy reading!

Book Recommendation – Guiding Emily, by Barbara Hinske

the image shows the cover of the book Guiding Emily; the cover is a beautiful black Labrador

My previous article was about the non-fiction books I’ve been reading this year. Today, to show you that I haven’t been neglecting my love of fiction, I want to share a very special book with you: Guiding Emily, by Barbara Hinske.

I don’t often get to read books about people becoming blind as an adult. I guess it’s not really a popular subject for authors unless, like me, they have a personal connection with visual impairment. Yet, this is what happens to Emily, one of the main characters of Guiding Emily.

Guiding Emily tells the story of a young woman who loses her sight on her honeymoon – the impact it has on her brand-new marriage, on her family, friends, her work, and on the way she perceives herself. It’s also the story of Garth, a delightful young black Labrador who is determined to become a guide dog.

I found parts of Emily’s story hard to read because of the parallels with my own life. What Emily was experiencing emotionally, and the basic training she underwent, brought up strong memories of my own journey after I lost my sight. Emily’s journey is well researched and is credible – unlike some of the fiction books about blindness that I’ve read!

I’m sure I’m not the only reader who will find herself cheering Emily on as she triumphs over the mental, emotional, and physical realities of losing her sight and fighting her way back to independence.

I found the young Garth’s chapters of the story delightful. They were a tonic to brighten the more challenging parts of Emily’s journey. I laughed at his mischievous puppy self and the antics he got up to while being puppy-walked. He reminded me of my beautiful guides – Leila (who was also a black Labrador), Eccles, and Fiji. I could so easily imagine the puppy versions of my girls getting up to the same antics when they were being puppy-walked. Well, to be honest, I could also imagine them doing so after being matched with me. Which made the whole Garth part of the story even funnier and cuter for me.

Why am I telling you this?

My main reason for writing A Different Way of Seeing was to help people understand a little about the world in which I live as a blind person. I believe that we will only gain greater levels of inclusion in society and the workplace once people understand what we are able to do, and the tools and techniques we have at our disposal. Guiding Emily shows the way a visually-impaired person engages with the world around her. As Emily learns the techniques and tools, so too do the readers, even if they have had no previous experience with visual impairment. So, it is a great book for anyone who is interested to learn more about visual impairment. Not to mention that the book is simply an enjoyable read – with drama, betrayal, despair, triumph, and romance of a sort. But you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out what I mean.

Why not hop onto Amazon and get hold of a copy of Guiding Emily – I’ll bet you’ll fall head over tails in love with young Garth!

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