writing

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Digging in the Musical Archives – The Girl in the Mirror

The images shows Lois singing into a microphone

It may sound odd, but sometimes I don’t know what my song lyrics are about. I find myself studying the words and shaking my head in bewilderment. Girl in the Mirror is one of those songs.

At a best guess, I can see that I may have been questioning my identity after losing my sight – to me it is hard to know who is the reflection in the mirror by the end of the song. And it leads to the question of whether I am still myself or just a reflection of who I was when I was sighted?

Perhaps you see something completely different in the lyrics. That is totally fine with me – songs, like poems and metaphors should mean something different to each of us. That is why we connect with some lyrics more than others.

Listen to Girl in the Mirror, played by my band, tuesday’s child, here – with two additional songs thrown in for good measure: https://www.loisstrachan.com/music/

The Girl in the Mirror

There’s a girl in the mirror every time I pass
Held captive there behind the glass
Who is she? Why is she there?
And I wonder

There’s a girl in the mirror; she looks like me
If I saw through her eyes, what would I see?
Who is she? Why is she there?
And I wonder

Chorus:
Mirror, mirror upon the wall
Is there anybody there at all?
Mirror, mirror upon the wall
Or is my mind simply creating it all?

There’s a girl in the mirror she’s smiling at me
Trancelike, hypnotic I can’t turn away
Who is she; why is she there?
And I wonder

Chorus

Am I creating it all?
Simply creating it all?
Am I creating it all?
There’s nothing real there at all.

Chorus

There’s a girl in the mirror she’s there every day
And as I watch her, she’s turning away
The girl in the mirror turns and slowly walks away.

Digging into the Archives Again: Seas of Time

the image shows Lois on stage singing into a microphone

Here’s another song from my archives – this one is complete but I can’t remember if I ever put it to music. If I did, it’s probably a keyboard song… it just feels that way to me.

It’s a song about the way I experience the process of writing. though it may appear a little whimsical. Especially when I think of the times I sit at a blank computer screen waiting – sometimes for what feels like an eternity – to find words to express what I want to say.

Anyway, here it is:

Seas of Time.

Waves of Words spiral round
A blank page lying on the ground.
Unwritten thoughts catch at my mind,
Washed ashore on seas of time.

Thoughts are tossed through time and space.
Trapped in the mists of this ancient place.
Pictures form as words collide,
And then are lost as waves subside.
As rhythm, structure, form and rhyme
Come sailing in on seas of time.

My ship lies at the harbour wall.
A refugee from the rising storm.
The page lies anchored line by line,
A product of the seas of time.

So Much Time on Our Hands

the image shows Lois and her guide dog.Over the past month or so, it feels like every time I hop onto social media or download my e-mail, I’m overwhelmed by the most amazing offers, urging me to sign up for an online event (now discounted), a webinar (also discounted), or an online course (ditto).

And I’ll admit I’ve been sorely tempted to take advantage of more than one of these fantastic offers.

But here’s the thing. Even though, like much of the world, I’m working from home, I’m struggling to find all this free time that the mails and posts tell me I ought to have. Because I can’t seem to find it.

I’m spending as much time at my computer as I was before the lockdowns came into place. And regularly find myself standing up at the end of the day wondering where the time went.

Admittedly, I’ve been taking advantage of the time to finish things that have been languishing on my “to do list” forever – things I really want to get round to but never seem to have the time. I’ve also picked up playing music again and am having vast amounts of fun sharing songs with friends and family on Facebook Live every week or so. And I’m finally starting to catch up on all the podcasts that have slowly been accumulating on my feed. Apart from the French language tutorial podcasts, which seem to have fallen by the wayside a little since lockdown started.

And then, of course, there’s my usual work developing my writing and speaking businesses – radio interviews, my regular blog articles, the international magazine I write for every second month, the travel podcast I host, and the ongoing work to update my book and convert it into an audio format.

Not to mention housework. And being a captive slave to the whims of my dogs, who are overly full of vim and vigour because they aren’t able to go for walks and runs like they usually would. I know Fiji’s frustrated that we haven’t been out and about as usual, though she’s hiding it well.

So, I’m perplexed about where to find all this spare time I keep hearing about. Any idea where I should look? I’ve searched around the house, checked in case it’s hiding in the back of a little used closet, and even looked under the bed (much to the confusion of Fiji, who was sleeping there at the time, but to no avail.

But I’m going to keep hunting, because I’d really love to take up some of those (very discounted) offers that keep coming my way!
XXX

Another Foray into the Archives – A Fragment of a Story.

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In my archives I have a stack of files with fragments of stories, poems and songs. No-one else has had the chance of digging through those fragments, but I decided to share one with you today.

It’s the opening paragraphs of a fiction story. And, interestingly, it’s the only one that has a basic plot outline. I had the idea for this story back in June 2014 and wrote the opening paragraphs. Then I drew up a very basic outline for most of the story… except for the very end.

My question for you is this – what do you think is going to happen next, and what genre of book do you think this will land up being?

PS Please remember this is a first draft… and first drafts always need lots of work. At least, mine do.

****
“Hey, Laura! Aren’t you supposed to be meeting people for lunch?”

Laura Michaels looked up from her computer where she was frantically trying to get the month end figures to balance.

Most people, on meeting Laura for the first time, would dismiss her as being “average”. Laura was 28, though she looked younger than her age. Her youthful looks were accentuated by her diminutive size- at five foot, four inches she was the shortest of her female friends, a fact which she had never reconciled herself to. She had a serious face that was quietly attractive until she smiled, when people around her would be amazed that they had not seen her beauty before. Her short ash-blonde hair was at present tucked behind her ears, a habit which she had tried for years to break, but which she always resorted to when she was stressed.

The slight frown that was another mark of her current tension softened into a quick smile as Laura looked across the partition at her colleague.

“Sorry Kathrine, I didn’t quite get that. What did you say?”

“I was just reminding you about your lunch date today, Laura. You are going out to lunch today, aren’t you?”

“Yup, I’m meeting some old friends in town at 12:30. Why?”

“Because it’s getting pretty late. It’s almost quarter past already.”

Laura glanced up at the clock on the office wall, and her smile faded. Briefly her face reflected shock as she registered that it was already 12:15. The shock turned to dismay as she quickly calculated the logistics of time and travel.

“Shit!” she said with feeling, “I’m going to be late!”

It was almost one o’clock before Laura got to the neighbourhood of the restaurant where she was due to meet her friends. She turned off the main road into the sheltered street where the restaurant was, and started looking for parking. For once Laura’s luck seemed to be with her and she found a parking space almost immediately. Sighing with relief, Laura parked and climbed out of her Golf GTi. Locking the car, she slammed the door and set the alarm before tossing her keys into her oversized bag and setting off down the alley towards the restaurant.

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.

Shh! Don’t Tell Anyone…

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I’m going to let you into a secret – right now I’m sitting in a small town in the middle of Normandy in France. Yes, I’m actually taking a break from what has turned out to be a wonderfully busy and exciting year.

I’ve been in France for more than a week already and have lots of stories and experiences to share with you when I get back home to Cape Town. At least Fiji’s still keeping the home fires burning, or there wouldn’t have been a blog post last week!

Anyway, I hope you don’t mind if I keep this post short. I still have lots of things to do and places to see and don’t want to wait a moment longer to get out and see what else Bayeux has to offer.

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.
XXXXX

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