Lois Strachan – Author

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Can You Think of Book Characters with a Disability?

Books

How many books can YOU think of with a disabled character? I’d love for you to drop me a message or a comment listing the characters and books you know of. I think it would be an interesting exercise for us all.

You see, if it’s true that art mirrors reality, then for every eight characters in the books we read, we should find one with a disability. Because that’s what the statistics from the World Health Organisation website tell us– 15% of the global population lives with a disability – https://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report/en/#content

I understand some of the reason’s writers may not include us.

  1. They don’t see us out there in the world
  2. They don’t want to offend us
  3. They don’t want to misrepresent us.

Sure, I recognise that it doesn’t appear that every eighth person we pass in the street has a disability so writers may not be aware of how many of us there truly are. Also, many disabilities are invisible – psycho-social, cognitive, reading, some hearing impairments, to list but a few – so perhaps it appears we are a smaller group than we are. Then, because unemployment figures for persons with disabilities are so high, people don’t see us in the workplace. And sadly, sometimes when people do see us, they see the disability first and ignore the person as an individual. Finally, if you don’t have contact with a person with a specific disability, it may be hard to know what we can do.

I also understand the other concerns I listed. People have often told me they are nervous about approaching someone with a disability in case they cause offense by saying or doing the wrong thing. That’s due largely to a general lack of awareness of how we accomplish the tasks we do, the technology that enables us to live mostly “normal” lives, and the tools and techniques we have at our disposal. And yes, we are often scathing in our responses when we see a fictional character with a disability who is poorly represented. Or when disability is represented as being an unendurable catastrophe that cannot be overcome.

I want to challenge my fellow authors to be more inclusive when creating characters. Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Your lead protagonist doesn’t have to be the one with a disability; it could be a supporting character – but let us be included in the world you’re creating.
  2. Do your research – There is so much information out there about the way we live our lives as persons
    with disabilities, so research this as you would other aspects of your book. Or reach out to someone with the specific disability you’re trying to represent.
  3. Don’t be scared to ask for input – just as you have beta readers to give you feedback on your book, ask someone with a disability to do the same, preferably someone with the disability your character has; most of us are willing to help, I promise.

Books are by no means the only medium where we are under-represented. Movies and TV are much the same. I’m excited to notice an increase in the number of characters with disabilities over the past few years. But we’ve still a long way to go.

We’re by no means the only minority that face this situation – Recently I’ve seen articles from other minority groups and, in some cases, majority groups, who are not well represented in the publishing world and other media. It’s starting to shift, but I believe we need far greater diversity of voices amongst those writing books. Having said that, a note for other authors with a disability – don’t feel obliged to write only about disability issues – you should feel free to create whatever you want.

So, there it is: my challenge to authors writing fiction – help us feel more included and less invisible in the world you’re creating. Help us see the world we inhabit in the books we read. And help us feel that we’re part of society as we experience it in all ways.

Now, who’s going to start the list of books with characters with disabilities? I’d love to see how many I’ve already read and how many I still have to discover…

Women in Publishing: A Free Online Conference for Writers and Aspiring Writers

he image is a close-up of Lois’s face with a banner
I know I’m supposed to be sharing more of my writing with you today, but I’m hijacking my own post for an important announcement for any writers or aspiring writers – especially women writers and aspiring writers.

Tomorrow, the 2020 Women in Publishing Summit kicks off – and I’m excited to be one of the speakers on the first day.

The summit is an online conference where authors, editors, designers, and publishers share valuable information to help anyone who is already a writer or is dreaming of becoming so. I’ve listened to the last two summits and have learned so much from the speakers that had been immensely helpful for my writing.

Registration for the WIP Summit is free, but you’ll gain vast amounts of additional information and resources if you upgrade to the Full Conference Pass. The conference starts on 2 March and goes on for 5 days – the free registration gives you access to each day’s content for 24 hours – and the Full Conference Pass means you can access the videos, audio and transcriptions for each session whenever you like, not to mention the many additional resources presenters have made available to the Full Conference Pass holders. And a Facebook community with year-long workshops and supports for writers and aspiring writers. Totally worth the investment you’ll be making when you buy the Full Conference Pass!

Here’s the link to the free registration: https://loisstrachan–writepublishsell.thrivecart.com/2020-wip/

I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned over the past two years from the Women in Publishing Summit. And I look forward to learning even more from this year’s speakers. Why not join me and also benefit? Register today…

Where Am I At Now?

the image shows the cover of a book, with the title A Different Way of Seeing by Lois Strachan

It feels like ages since I filled you in on my progress towards converting my book A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way” into audio.

So here’s what’s going on…

After doing some research I discovered that I’m unable to work directly with Audible. Their processes require authors to be a taxpayer in USA, UK, Canada or Ireland. Which I’m not. I guess it might be easier if I was signed with a traditional publishing house, rather than self-publishing, but maybe I’m wrong.

It turns out that there are a number of companies who can assist me with publishing the audio book on Audible and a whole range of other platforms. I’m grateful to members of the writing and publishing Facebook groups that I’m a member of for letting me know about a few of these companies. And, after even more research, I think I know which one I’m going to use.

I’m also thrilled to let you know I have a narrator to read the audio book for me. Julie is probably my longest-standing friend – we’ve known each other since we were about 3 years old. And I think her voice will be perfect! Besides, having known me for so long, who better to read the story of my life since losing my sight?

A number of people have asked me why I’m not reading my own book. The honest truth is that I couldn’t think of a way to do so – my Braille isn’t good enough, and I really didn’t fancy the idea of memorizing my story and recording it paragraph by paragraph.

Anyway, we’re about to start the process of recording and I’m excited to hear my story as it comes to life in this new format!

It’ll still be while before the recording is available. I’ll let you know more as it happens…

Where Did Last Year Go???

Lois sitting on a chair

Is it just me, or does it feel like the year 2019 went by very fast?

It feels like it was yesterday that I sat down to write my annual post setting my intentions for the year 2019. Yet, here we are, already more than a week into 2020 and it’s time for me to do the same for the coming year.

As I sit here, pondering what I’d like to achieve in 2020, I find myself reflecting on all that happened last year.

I managed to take my speaking beyond the disability sector and spoke at a number of events on the topic of overcoming challenges. Since much of my focus last year was on building strategic relationships to support the work I’m doing, it’s hard to say whether I achieved that – it’s an ongoing task, as any entrepreneur will know. I consolidated my social media profiles to better show the work I’m doing. And, though I haven’t completely finished the writing project I was busy with, I have only a few steps to go – but more on that in my intentions for 2020.

  • Talking about that, here they are: 
  • Writing: I plan to publish my first audio book this year. Most of the work on this was done in 2019. I just need to complete the final tasks. 
  • Podcasts: I plan to continue publishing 2 podcasts on accessible travel each month, and have a few exciting other possibilities in the pipeline for the coming year – watch this space for news! 
  • Speaking: I’d like to build on the speaking I did last year, and grow this aspect of my business. If you’d like to motivate your teams while giving them practical techniques to help them overcome their challenges, I’m the speaker for you!
  • Website: Last year I updated my Facebook page, and my Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. My website is next on the list, and I hope to get that done in the next few months. 
  • Music: I know, I know. This is on my list every year. Hopefully, sharing some of my lyrics and writing on my blog each month will help me make my music more of a priority in 2020. 
  • Travel: I’m not sure where my travels will take me this year, but I’d like to include a trip to Durban amongst my travels – I have family and friends I’d really like to visit.

What would you like to achieve in 2020? Have you thought about your own intentions for the year ahead?

You know, the strange thing is that I don’t really check back to what I’ve written in this annual blog post during the year. And yet, I seem to achieve them. I think creating this post each year is enough for me to understand the strategic areas I want to work on. So I don’t need to be constantly checking up on my progress.

I’d like to challenge you to think about your intentions for 2020. And write them down. Whether you check them on a regular basis to see how you’re doing, or simply use them as a guide for the coming year as I do, is not the point. I truly believe that the simple act of determining my strategic areas helps shape my actions and my plans for the coming year. And perhaps it’ll be the same for you.

May I wish you all a productive and impactful 2020 – I look forward to connecting with you in the year to come.

Makhanda: And what About the Books?

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I was preparing for our first Blind Date Show when my phone pinged to let me know I had a voice message. It was from Paul, a Capetonian colleague, who told me he’d just seen my books in an art exhibition in Makhanda.

And yes, while all the excitement of the Blind Date Concert was happening, my books weren’t forgotten. They were having an adventure of their own!

I’ve mentioned before that the Blind Date Show was part of the 100th year celebration of the SA Library for the Blind. Apart from the show, they also decided to put on an exhibition of creative art works created by blind and visually impaired artists from South Africa. And I was honoured to have been asked to allow my books to be part of that exhibition.

Here’s a photo of the exhibit where my books were displayed – both A Different Way of Seeing and The Adventures of Missy Mouse.

With thanks to Craig Strachan for the photograph, and to Francois Hendrikz of SA Library for the Blind and Catherine Baron, of Inkanyezi Events, for inviting me to be part of both the show and the exhibition.
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At Long Last!

There have been times that it’s felt like the never-ending story, but I’ve finally finished the first draft of the update to my book, A Different Way of Seeing. In fact, I’ve even spell checked it.

So, what’s the next step towards getting it released as an audio book, you may ask?

Finishing the first draft may sound like a huge milestone, but the truth is that I still have quite a way to travel with this project.

After all, I haven’t even read the entire manuscript myself and know I’ll make considerable changes before I’m even vaguely happy with it. Then I want to get input from a few people, both those who have already read A Different Way of Seeing, and those who have not. And update the manuscript according to the feedback I receive from them. And only then will I take it to a professional editor.

Only then can I start the process of getting it converted into an audio format. Like I said, there’s still lots of work to be done. But at least I’ve completed this step…

For those of you who’ve been waiting for me to share some of my experiences at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, I’ll be getting there soon, I promise…

It’s about Time I Updated You

Lois book front cover

It’s an embarrassingly long time since I updated you on my project to convert my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing, into an audio book. Which isn’t to say there’s nothing to report. It’s just that I haven’t got around to blogging about it.

Till now.

Admittedly, when I started the project in December 2018 I expected it to be a quick task. But, what with one thing and another, I’m still working on it.

When I went to India, I found time to make notes on what needed to be updated. I honestly expected to have a page or so on each chapter. To my surprise, my notes were 22 pages!

Right now I’m creating the first draft of the content for the update. I’ve completed 8 chapters so far, with 3 to go. And I’m on about 25 000 words.

Once I’ve finished the first draft, I’ll do an initial edit myself and then pass it on to a professional editor for them to do their magic.

And then I’ll start looking at the recording of the updated manuscript – both the original content from A Different Way of Seeing, and the updates, which I’ve taken to calling Filling in the Blind Spots.

I promise I’ll try to be better about letting you know how the project’s coming along…

Smile FM Interview

Let’s take a short break from the heat of Kolkata and return briefly to Cape Town…

Here’s a recent interview I did with Andre du Toit, the Big Positive Guy on Smile FM. The interview was broadcast on the Honest Truth Show with Benito Vergotine shortly before I left for India.

Hope you enjoy it.

Next time we’ll be returning to India for a cricket match… or maybe a rock concert. You’ll have to join us next time to find out which it was.

I Know This Too Shall Pass…

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A few days ago I got a message from a friend who was concerned that she hadn’t seen any blog posts from me for a while. And it’s true – I haven’t blogged for the past two weeks. It’s not that there’s been nothing going on. Actually, I’ve been crazy busy with some exciting stuff. Rather I’ve been in a bit of a funk and haven’t been able to pull together the energy to write.

Sometimes life’s just like that.

Even now, as I write this, I can feel the difference – usually I can sit down and share a story or an experience with you and the words just flow from my fingers as they dance across the keyboard of my laptop. But not today. Today my fingers are sluggish and I find I’m having to contemplate every word, every sentence I write.

Some years ago, when I was going through a really tough time, a friend of mine reassured me by saying, “This too shall pass.”! and indeed it did. As I know it will this time.

I guess you could argue that by explaining this I’m already moving beyond the funk that’s stopped me writing. And maybe you’re right. I hope you are!
But if I’m a little quieter than normal, please know that everything’s okay and I’m just taking some time out to re-gather my energy.

Filling in the Blind Spots

the image shows the cover of a book and the text: A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘’Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way

I’m taking a moment away from my time in France to update you on my progress with turning A Different Way of seeing into an audio book.

As I think I shared in a previous post, I realized I’d need to update the content since so much had changed since writing A Different Way of Seeing. I wrote that update as a separate volume, which I found myself referring to as Filling in the Blind Spots.

I’m currently creating a single script from the two volumes which will be used as a basis for the audio book. which will most likely land up being a single recording comprising both books.

At the same time, I plan to release Filling in the Blind Spots as an e-book.

I still have a few details to work out, but the edited manuscripts are almost ready to go so hopefully it won’t take me too long to move onto the next phase – creating the audio and e-book. I’ll let you know more as I make progress.

And now, back to France…

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