Lois Strachan – Author
As I do on occasion, I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook and happened on a post about a magic show. I don’t recall the exact words of one of the comments, but the sense behind it was very clearly based on an assumption that magic shows aren’t for those without sight.
I know there are many things in the world that are highly visual – after all, we live in a world that’s dominated by the sense of sight. And sure, there are lots of things that are hard for those of us who don’t have the option of seeing.
But that doesn’t mean that an activity is totally meaningless to us.
I replied to the comment saying that I’d enjoyed the magic shows I’d been to despite the fact I’m totally blind.
And that was how I came to write an article for Marcel Oudejans, of Magic.Africa, sharing how I experience magic shows without sight.
Hopefully that’s teased your curiosity enough to make you want to find out more. So, here’s the link to the article so all can be revealed: https://www.magic.africa/stories/now-you-see-it-now-you-dont-my-experience-of-magic-as-a-blind-person/
Just to be clear, Marcel wasn’t the one who posted the comment I responded to – he happened to read it and was curious to learn more.
I love having the opportunity of sharing a little of my experiences with others to help them understand how I do things without sight and hope I’ll be able to write more for other websites and publications in the future. Now, that would be magic!
As some of you know, I’m getting more and more involved in accessible travel, both through my writing and the Accessible South Africa Travel Podcast.
I’ve now written seven articles on travel as a blind tourist for the Blind Perspective e-newsletter. These articles are written for a visually impaired audience to inspire them to go out and see the beautiful and diverse world we live in. I also try to answer some of the questions and concerns that blind and visually impaired travelers may have. But, my point is, I’m writing for a visually impaired audience.
A few months ago I spoke to a sighted audience and shared a little about how I use my other senses to experience travel and places I’ve never been before. I was completely amazed at how many people came up and spoke to me afterwards saying how fascinated they were to hear what I had to tell them.
Which makes me wonder if other sighted people might also be interested.
So I’m asking for your help – I’d like to find out the names of magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, podcasts, and any other publications that have articles about travel. Obviously, if you can give me contact details of who at the publication I should approach, that’d be great, but it’s not a necessity – I can do that myself.
Can you help me take accessible travel into the mainstream? I really hope you can!
I’ve been rereading my book,” A Different Way of Seeing – A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way”, before starting the journey of turning it into an audio book. I can’t tell you how many people have asked if the book’s available on Audible. I’ve been meaning to get it into audio for some time – and that time is now!
It’s been really interesting comparing the person I am now to the me who wrote the book three years ago. In truth, it’s been quite a revelation!
Here’s some of the things that’ve struck me:
- How much my writing style’s evolved –I’m over the moon when people who’ve read my book tell me I write just like I speak. I wanted the book to have a conversational tone and people tell me that’s how they feel, too. I also feel my writing “voice” has developed from writing regular blogposts. But I frowned when I reread my book because my language was more formal than I remembered– “It is” instead of “It’s”, “I have not” instead of “I haven’t”, just for two simple examples. And I’m worried the audio version will sound unnaturally stilted because of the language unless I change it a little.
- How much has changed–the number of things I’m doing that I wasn’t doing then, like podcasting, playing the occasional game on my iPhone, using online meeting software to run interviews, and becoming more involved in the accessible travel community; how much the work I’m doing has been refined; how much more comfortable I’ve become in trying new technologies; how much Fiji and I have grown and developed as a team, to name but a few of the ways my life has changed since writing the book.
- How much I’ve learned– time and time again I found mention of tasks I couldn’t do without sighted assistance at the time of writing that I now do on my own using technology. Often I’d smile at my prior self, knowing how more independent I’d soon become. Not to mention shaking my head in wonder at a few things I considered improbable, if not impossible, back then that are now also completely routine to me.
It’s been a valuable experience for me and given me plenty time to reflect on my growth.
Some of you may be wondering why I’m going to the trouble of rereading my own book just to turn it into an audio book. The answer is that I plan to update the content for the audio version. Because, while most of what I included is still relevant, the things that have changed are so significant that they’ve altered how I do things which, after all, is what my book’s about.
I’ll keep you updated on how things are going as I carry on with this journey – most of the details are still vague, but I’m keeping my eyes firmly on the prize!
So, this is 2019. Can you believe it?
Like I’ve done over the past few years, one of my final acts of 2018 was to read my first post for last year and reflect on whether or not I’d met the intentions I’d set. I was thrilled to realize I’d done fairly well – with one very notable exception.
Rather than summarizing what happened last year and comparing it to the intentions I’d set, let’s just say I felt I managed to build my profile within the disability sector through my speaking, writing and through the Accessible South Africa Travel podcast I host twice a month. It’s been a real pleasure to work with organisations like the SA Guide-Dog Association, Cape Town Society for the Blind, The Unmute Dance Theatre Company and with Accessible South Africa. And, as I play with new technologies, I find it easier and easier to improve all I do. All of which reflected what I’d hoped would happen in 2018.
To my chagrin, one of the primary intentions I set for 2018 was to start my new book. And, what with one thing and another, it just didn’t happen…
As I do each year, here’s where I set my intentions for the coming year:
- Write another book – okay, I know I said that a year ago and did nothing about it, but I already have 2 writing projects lined up for 2019 so hopefully I’ll get it right this time.
- Accessible travel– broadening the markets for the podcast and my travel writing into the mainstream market.
- Employability – building strategic relationships to help me shift the mainstream thinking on employment of persons with disabilities.
- • Speaking – much of the work I’ve done this year has been in the disability sector; over the coming year I’d like to branch out as a speaker to inspire a more diverse audience with my story.
- Music – I’d like to steal a bit more time out of my schedule in the coming year to focus on music and perform live at least once in 2019.
Finally, I’d like to challenge myself a little more to try new things – be it accessible ziplining, adaptive surfing, horse-riding, exploring more of the tourist experiences that Cape Town and South Africa have to offer. Basically, I want to challenge myself to get out and play more in our beautiful city and beyond! And, of course, to travel!
Whatever your intentions for the coming year, I wish you a wonder-filled 2019. I look forward to sharing my adventures with you during the year!
When I started as the travel feature writer for the Blind Perspective e-newsletter earlier this year I never dreamed one of my articles would land up on an American radio service. But that’s what happened.
A while back I received a mail from one of the producers at Gatewave Radio in New York asking if they could read one of my Blind Perspective articles on air.
Of course I said yes.
I asked them for a link to the recording. Here it is so you can hear it for yourself:
Next time I’ll return to my amazing European trip and our final destination – Berlin!
I know, I know, it’s been ages since I published an article. It’s certainly not for lack of anything to write about. After all, I recently got back from an amazing trip to Germany and Poland about which I have lots to share. I also need to gather my courage and write a final post honouring my retired guide dog, Eccles, who passed away after a short illness. Then I want to tell you about some of the exciting blind travel work I’m starting on, and a media interview I did recently.
So yes, I have plenty to share with you.
But somehow I’ve just fallen out of the habit of settling down to write…
Today I took the decision that it was time to fall back into that habit. so here’s just a short note to let you know that I’m back – back home, back writing, and back willing and eager to share more of my experiences living my ordinary life without sight.
I was startled to see that Fiji also neglected to write an article while I was away – clearly she was just having too much fun on her holiday from guide dogging. Maybe I’ll wake her up just now and ask her if she actually plans on writing a post this month. But you know what they say about letting sleeping dogs lie?
All I’m saying is watch this space…
Should an author/blogger write like they speak, or should they use more formal language when writing?
Several people who’ve read my book, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way, have told me they love the fact I write just like I speak – that they can almost hear me telling the stories I use in my book. I’ve always taken it as a compliment.
So I’m sure you can imagine how startled I was when one of the presenters in the Women in Publishing Summit I’ve been attending online made it quite clear she didn’t think it was good practice.
To go back a step, the Women in Publishing Summit was a week-long online event covering diverse topics about the writing, publishing and marketing of books, highlighting some of the amazing women in the industry. I’ve been slowly working my way through the presentations and have found it hugely valuable for me as both a book writer and blogger.
But, back to the point…
My first response when I heard the presenter’s comment was to shake my head vehemently and reach for the track forward button. But then I thought well, let’s hear if she expands on her comment. And, of course, she did… and I’m glad I stuck around to listen.
What she said (and yes, I’m paraphrasing) is that we tend to pepper our spoken communication with filler words. Anyone who’s gone through the Toastmasters programmes will be familiar with the concept of filler words when we speak – they’re those words that we habitually use when we want to give our brains a moment to catch up. They’re typically words like “just”, “Like”, “actually”, “so” and well, I’m you can fill in a few of your particular favourites.
Her point was that these words don’t add to the value of what we’re saying – if anything they detract from it. As an editor she spends a lot of time removing these filler words to bring out the power of the writer’s message.
I understand what she’s saying, and agree to a certain point. However, I also feel that filler words can be part of our writing style and if, like me, we wish for our writing to have a conversational tone, then they can work as long as they’re not overused.
So, while I feel the casual tone of my writing style works for me and makes my stories easier to read, I’ve found myself being more critical of my writing and removing a few of the filler words. And yes, I’m becoming hyper-aware of how often I drop the words “Just” and “Actually” into a sentence!
As I begin thinking about my next big writing project -ghost-writing a book for Fiji – it’s going to be interesting to see how much what I’m learning from the Women in Publishing Summit will add to the process.
“I can’t imagine any visually impaired person would prefer reading books using a computer voice rather than a human voice!”
I’m probably misquoting the words but that was the sense of a comment I heard on one of the assistive technology podcasts I regularly listen to. My immediate response was to disagree vehemently… and then I paused and thought about it for a bit.
You see, I actually do prefer reading using a computerized voice. And I seriously doubt I’m the only blind person who does so. So I hopped onto Facebook and asked the question, tagging all the visually impaired people I’m connected with on that platform.
It wasn’t just curiosity that drove me, though anyone who knows me will agree that I have a finely developed sense of curiosity. I also wanted to find out to help me reach more blind and visually impaired people with my own books.
It turns out that most of the people I asked preferred human voice books in the form of audio books or services like Audible.com. When chatting to a friend about this startling (to us both) fact he offered a few reasons why this might be so, but his rationale was fairly complicated and this is only meant to be an article, not a thesis!
When I first lost my sight I used to listen to audio books and found that my opinion of the book often depended on the quality of the reader and, in some cases, how well I felt the reader’s voice fitted the genre of the book. Of course, that was back in the days when my only source of books was the library service, Tape Aids for the Blind where the readers were all volunteers so the quality varied quite a bit. Thankfully there was only one instance that the reader was so bad that he totally killed the book for me! But I truly began to feel like I was juding the books, not by their covers but by their readers.
Then someone introduced me to reading on computer using a screen reader and my life was transformed. I loved the ability to scan any book I wanted and read it. I loved the ability to change the rate and pitch of the voice – if you try that with a human voice it often lands up sounding like Minnie Mouse on helium which really isn’t pleasant. But most of all I loved that I was free to interpret the words in whatever way I chose to rather than having my impressions of the book determined by the reader– to me that was the closest I’d found to reading as I’d done when I still had sight.
Ultimately I don’t think there’s a right and wrong way to read when you’re visually impaired. The important thing is that we have the ability to read in whatever format we each prefer, whether it’s using human voice, computer voice, or braille.
But my investigations got me thinking that I really ought to do an audio version of my book, A Different Way of Seeing… Anyone interested in reading for me?
I’m wagging so hard right now that I think my tail might just fly off! You won’t believe what’s happening!
Mom and I are going to write a book together… In fact, I’m going to write the book and mom will just co-write it with me. Don’t you think that will be exciting?
We’re only in the planning stages right now but we often have long conversations about what we think should and shouldn’t go into the book. I still disagree with mom that we should include stories of me being naughty – she says it will make me more human (I think she means canine). But ultimately I’ve never written a book before and mom’s written five, so maybe I ought to listen to her.
What I really wanted to say is that if you have any ideas about what you’d like to see in the book, you must just let mom and I know… I promise we’ll consider them!
And we’ll most definitely let you know how we’re getting on as our plans develop and we start putting paw to paper.But no pre-orders yet, please – it’s a little early for that.
Wow… me, a published author… wag wag wag wag wag wag
A few months ago I started writing for an e-newsletter called The Blind Perspective. What’s so great about this newsletter is that it’s written by visually impaired people for a visually impaired audience. My articles focus on why I love traveling to different places, and how I do so.
What’s interesting for me as a blogger and writer who has written extensively about travel is that I’ve had to really think about the fact I’m writing for a non-sighted audience. The way I write, and the stories I share, have a slightly different focus to them and it’s really making me think about what and how to bring my message across. At the same time, I hope my Blind Perspective articles can also be enjoyed by a sighted reader – so why not take a look and let me know?
Here’s a link to the first article, published in February 2018 – hope you enjoy it!
Just a brief note before you click on the link – you may feel the visual impact of the site is unusual. That’s because certain low vision conditions are more easily able to read print like this – remember I said the newsletter is by visually impaired people for visually impaired people, so it makes sense to present it in the most accessible form for that audience.
You can find out more about the Blind Perspective and read the most recent issue here: