Behind Our Eyes

This month we heard from Abbie Johnson Taylor, the president of Behind Our Eyes. She will discuss how this organization enhances the opportunities for writers with disabilities. Hear how this diverse writer's group can offer inspiration, encouragement, and friendship.

March 10, 2020

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Audio Transcript

Hadley

Writer's Circle - Behind Our Eyes

Presented by Debbie Worman and Diane O'Neill

March 10, 2020

Debbie W: Okay. Good evening, everybody. This is Debbie Worman. I am a learning expert facilitator of discussion groups at Hadley. I've been at Hadley for ... Oh, let's say since 1988 and you can do the math. Okay? I am host, co-host with Diane O'Neil for Writer's Circle. I also co-host the discussion group that Hadley ... The Hadley Growers and also Resource Roundtable.

Diane, you want to go ahead and introduce yourself?

Diane O: Sure. Hello, everybody. I've been at Hadley since 2002. You can do the math for that, too. In my other life, I like to write, and I have an MFA in creative writing. I've had about 20 things published in the last 10 years. I love tending this group. I'm always inspired to do some more writing of my own. I think we all get inspired just hearing each other talk about our writing. Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing more about Behind Our Eyes.

Debbie W: Thank you everybody for joining us tonight and thank you for any newcomers for joining us. I hope you enjoy your experience and I hope you keep coming back. Tonight, our topic is the organization called Behind Our Eyes. It's an organization of writers with disabilities. I have to say, I first learned of Behind Our Eyes when we started this Writer's Circle. We started having people join Writer's Circle who were members of the group and we're so blessed that you join us, because you add a lot to our group, and we appreciate that.

At some point, Diane and I put our heads together and we thought, well let's have somebody talk about Behind Our Eyes. It's an interesting organization. We reached out to Abbie Johnson Taylor, who often joins us for Writer's Circle, and asked her if she would be willing to present about the organization, what it is, who they are. She is the current president. Abbie is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. She's been busy. Her work has appeared in Magnets and Ladders, which is an online magazine, I think it's through Behind Our Eyes. The Weekly Avocet, A-V-O-C-E-T, which I just recently learned avocet is the name of a bird. We talked about that before we started our discussion. And, other publications.

Abbie herself is visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, she cared for her totally blind late husband who was partially paralyzed by two strokes soon after they were married. Before that, she worked for 15 years as a registered music therapist in nursing homes and other facilities serving senior citizens. She also facilitated a support group for visually impaired adults, taught Braille, and served on the advisory board to a state trust fund that allows blind and visually impaired children and adults to purchase adaptive equipment and services.

Tonight, Abbie will be talking about the organization, Behind Our Eyes. From reading, and I hope from your hearing Abbie's introduction here, I hope you hear that she's a very caring and warm person. I'm sure that will come across in her presentation. Abbie, did I do you justice in my introduction?

Abbie J: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely you did.

Debbie W: Okay.

Abbie J: All right. Thank you. Thank you all for coming. Debbie and Diane, thank you so much for inviting me. I'm thrilled to talk to everybody about Behind Our Eyes. We're a great group of writers who enjoy writing and sharing each other's work and helping each other whenever we can. I'll just start by reading you just a short excerpt from an article that's on our website, just to get you an idea of how we got started. This is called A Brief History of Behind Our Eyes Incorporated. In case you're wondering, we are a 501C3 corporation. This article is written by one of our members, Deanna Quietwater Noriega.

This group started in 2006, when Sanford Rosenthal brought together ... and he was a writer who lived in Florida. He brought together 24 other writers and they had phone conferences; I believe it was weekly. When we get to questions, those of you ... Marilyn, you've been with it as long as I have, if I goofed or miss anything, you can certainly jump in and correct me. The group met once a week. They had guest speakers, they had critique sessions. This was back in March 2006. I became involved with the group soon after that.

I was reading in the Matilda Ziegler magazine about ... there was an announcement in the, I believe it's called the special notices section, of that magazine. I'm sure many of your older people probably remember reading that. I believe it was called where people could just announce they were wanting to sell something or buy something, or a particular service, or whatever. Sanford had put an advert in there about Behind Our Eyes. At the time, my late husband Bill was in a nursing home, recuperating from the first of two debilitating strokes. I felt like I needed a distraction, so I emailed Sanford and told him I was interested. He sent me the call-in instructions.

When I called in, I believe, to that first meeting ... This may sound strange, but one of the first people I ended up talking to was Deanna Quietwater Noriega, who wrote the article. Of course, she wrote the article years later. Anyway, Deanna knew my late husband, Bill. They had worked together in the Colorado Council of the Blind. I had seen some of Deanna's work online in other places, so I knew who she was. And so, through her, I felt a connection to Bill because of course, at the time, he wasn't at home with me. He was in the nursing home. I felt more of a connection to Bill through talking to her. I know it's not a very irrelevant thing, but that is one of the things that drew me into this organization.

After I got involved, several months later we had changed our name from ... It was, at that time, called The Written Word Party Line. Then, we changed it a few months later to Behind Our Eyes. Our first anthology was published in 2007. I'll tell you something interesting about that. We had one of our guest speakers, in 2006, was a publisher from ... somebody who worked at iUniverse. She gave us an amazing offer. She heard about our project and our anthology, and she offered to publish the book. iUniverse is a self-publishing service, in case you don't know. She offered to publish the book with iUniverse for free. Naturally, we jumped at that chance.

If you go to behindoureyes.org, you will read the full article. And so, you'll know all the gory details. I'm just going to give you a brief overview. In 2007, the first book, our first anthology was published. And then, I believe in 2010 was when we launched Magnets and Ladders. This is an online magazine. It is through Behind Our Eyes, as Debbie said, but it does have a separate website. You know what? I forgot to send Debbie that link.

Debbie W: I have it, Abbie. I found it. Yeah.

Abbie Johnson T...: Oh? Magnetsandladders.org? Oh, okay.

Debbie W: Yeah. I found it.

Abbie J: Yeah. That is simply magnets, M-A-G-N-E-T-S, and, A-N-D, ladders, L-A-D-D-E-R-S, dot org. You go there, you can read the current issue and find the guidelines, and then you can find the archives of past issues. That was launched in 2010. This magazine, plus all our anthologies, contain work by disabled authors, most of whom are our members. Our first anthology, I believe we accepted a few members who were not. Magnets and Ladders, of course, is open to anyone with a disability. You don't have to be a member of Behind Our Eyes to submit something to Magnets and Ladders.

In 2013, our second anthology, which we titled Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look ... the first one was simply just Behind Our Eyes. In 2013, the second anthology was Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look. It's more of the same, but this anthology ... yeah, I think we did open it up to submissions from others who are not members of Behind Our Eyes. We're currently working on a third anthology. We don't have a title for it yet. It's still in the works. I don't know if we're going to be opening that up to non-members or not. We have a lot of submissions, as far as I understand, from members. We're using a lot of work that was submitted to Magnets and Ladders, but not used. It may not be open to people who aren't members, but if you're not a member, you can still always submit work to Magnets and Ladders. We publish that twice a year. The deadlines are February 15th and August 15th. We publish fiction, non-fiction, poetry. We even publish articles on writings. We do some ads, as well. Check out our guidelines to learn more about that.

Nowadays, we've switched from reading once a week to more like three times a month. Our Sunday night meetings, we have ... Excuse me. Our Sunday night meetings, we have guest speakers, we have critique sessions, we have round table discussions on certain subjects. Those are the first and third Sundays of the month. On the second Monday of the month, we have a new activity that was started last year. It has been very successful. It's simply called Leaders Workshop. It's where our members can read their work aloud to others. Some people like me use braille or they use large print, or they have their computer read it line by line, and they repeat how their computer is doing. They do it in many different ways. However, they do it, they do it and we have a lot of fun listening to those selections.

We've had some special events in the past. Back in November, we had a book fair. The recording of that is available on the website. This is where authors in the group got together for a couple of hours and we each shared some information about the book, maybe read an excerpt, whatever. That's on the website, like I said. And then in April, we have a special poetry ... besides our regular Sunday night teleconference calls in April that will be talking about poetry, we have a special poetry celebration event where people can come together and read aloud their poetry. That will be taking place on April 14th. That, of course, is open to members. If you join, you can certainly come to that.

That's basically all I have to say, except if you want to join the organization, you can go to www.behindoureyes.org, and you'll find a membership form. You just fill that out and submit that, and then you should receive instructions on how to subscribe to the mailing list. If you need help with that, the list moderator who sent you the email, you just email her back if you're having trouble, and she can help you. Once you get subscribed to the list, then you'll be sent instructions on how to call into the meetings. Of course, the email list is where people can share work or any other writing related material. If you find an article that you thought was helpful or if you run across a publishing opportunity like Ann suggested earlier when we started, about the Australian 500-word story contest, you can send that to the list, as well. Of course, there are specific guidelines that are sent every quarter to help so that you can remember what can and cannot be sent to the list.

That's basically all I have to say. Diane, if you want to open it up for questions ... If anybody has any questions, that'd be great.

Debbie W: Okay. Well, Abbie, thank you so much for that wonderful presentation about Behind Our Eyes. It's a wonderful organization. I've got to know more about it through everybody that joins this discussion group, as well as visiting the website. I encourage everybody listening to go ahead and go to behindoureyes.org and check it out. It's wonderful.

I thought it was very interesting, as I was exploring the website, to learn how the name Behind Our Eyes came up. It was Sanford Rosenthal, your founder I guess, who said that it was behind the keyboard, many disabilities disappear.

Abbie J: Right.

Debbie W: I love that. I think that's wonderful. I think that's a real fitting name for your group. I also liked, Abbie, when you were talking about feeling connected to Bill when you joined the group. I'm all about making connections. Making connections, as writers, is so important. Really, thank you so much. Do you know how many members you actually have in your organization?

Abbie J: We have ... I'd say close to 60.

Debbie W: 60?

Abbie J: Yes.

Debbie W: Great. Great.

Abbie J: Not all of them are active. We have quite a few who are on the list but haven't participated, they haven't pinned anything to list. They haven't come to our meetings. That's fine. If some people just want to be on the sideline, that's fine. We try not to push people to participate if they're not comfortable doing so.

Debbie W: Yeah. It's like any organization that anybody joins, is you find your comfort level. It's like even joining our discussion group. Sometimes people just come and listen, and we don't force people to talk if you don't want to. You find your own comfort level. I do encourage everybody to check out those anthologies, Behind Our Eyes. Stories, poems, essays by writers with disabilities. There are two anthologies you said, right Abbie? And you're working on the second?

Abbie J: No, actually working on our third.

Debbie W: On the third. On the third. You're right.

Abbie J: On our third. On our third.

Debbie W: You know, I just don't do well at 7:00 at night. I'm sorry.

Abbie J: Join the club.

Debbie W: Yeah. For some reason, my cat is acting up tonight. He wants in the room terribly bad.

Abbie J: Oh, dear.

Debbie W: Anyhow ... Excuse me for that. I encourage everybody to look at that anthology, Behind Our Eyes. I checked out the reviews on Amazon and they're stellar. One of them had all ratings of five, so I think people are enjoying your anthology.

Abbie J: I forgot to mention that both anthologies are available on Bard and Bookshare.

Debbie W: Right. Great, great. Good. What we'll do now, Diane, did you have anything that you wanted to follow up with Abbie about?

Diane O: I think I had a question. Do many of your people go to your ... You have meetings on site, I assume? On location, where people meet face to face? Is that true?

Abbie J: No, because we're scattered across the country. [crosstalk].

Diane O: Okay. I wasn't sure. I couldn't tell. So, it's all over the phone?

Abbie J: It's all over the phone, yes.

Diane O: That's wonderful. People all over the country can join.

Abbie J: Right, right. Absolutely. Yes.

Diane O: Do you have any international people?

Abbie J: We do. Unfortunately, because of the time difference, I don't think they can come.

Diane O: Sure.

Abbie J: We usually meet at 8:00 PM Eastern on those Sunday nights and, of course, I think that's 1:00 in the morning in most places overseas.

Diane O: That would make it difficult, yes.

Debbie W: And Abbie, you have recordings of your teleconferences on your website, don't you?

Abbie J: Yes, they are on the website. I have to ask Marilyn, because I'm not sure if they're all available to the public. Some of them are, some of them aren't. Marilyn can tell you more, if you want to unmute her and ask her.

Debbie W: Okay. We have some hands up. Again, if you have questions or comments or if you, yourself, know of other writers' groups that you like to share information about, we'd be happy to hear that. All of this information that we're sharing, the websites and how to find the anthologies will be in our show notes. I'm going to unmute Kim. Go ahead, Kim.

Kim: Hi. I'm wondering, to join this organization, does it cost money?

Abbie J: No. No, it's free. It's free.

Kim: Oh.

Abbie J: There's no fees.

Debbie W: There's the magic word. Free. I love it.

Abbie J: Nice word.

Kim: Okay. Thank you.

Abbie J: You're welcome. You're welcome.

Debbie W: Thanks for your question, Kim. Thanks for joining us again. Marilyn, you're unmuted. Go ahead, please.

Marilyn: Hi, thanks. I wanted to also point out how effective our list is at helping people to get encouraged to write and to attempt to self-publish a book, or to write articles and submit. There is a lot of networking that goes on behind the scenes, which maybe does not appear on the list, but members get to know each other, and then they form communications off list with each other. If they're working on the same genre, or if they submit to the same magazine by chance, or something else ... They want a critique; you can ask for a critique. If someone responds to you, you don't have to wait until the phone conference to do it. You can work it through with a person off list, privately, and find out who you work well with. Lots of teamwork goes on that.

In fact, we have had some people who got together and wrote poems together or wrote stories together. You'd be amazed at what wonderful friendships develop between writers. Also, Abbie asked about the conference. I'm the web liaison, and past president, and past vice president, you name it, I've been there. The conferences, the back log, the archive, is not available unless you are a member. However, there is at least one, and that is the book fair, which was a teleconference, which is up on the website. You can see how we interact, and that sort of thing. We do keep our ... We don't want to open the conferences so that anybody can just drop in and drop out. We have certain rules that we like to follow about people keeping the noise level down, and that sort of thing.

We do have a confidentiality agreement in part of the membership, so that you know that none of your information will be shared, and so that you know that there's not going to be any flaming on that list. There's not going to be a lot of huge controversy you have to deal with. Security is one of our primary concerns. I just want to say that I don't think I ever would have attempted to edit anything big if I hadn't joined Behind Our Eyes. We were in need of an editor for the first anthology and I timidly volunteered and was accepted. From then on, I've been editing all kinds of things. I began the Magnets and Ladders thing. Incidentally, Magnets and Ladders is a wonderful web magazine. It's quite long, because we have lots of submissions. This time, for instance, we had 47 poetry submissions.

Debbie W: Wow.

Marilyn: We had 20 non-fiction and 15 fictions. I just talked to Mary Jo last night, our editor. It's a couple of months between the time, the final deadline, and when it actually comes out. We have committees who judge the pieces. There is prize money for first and second places in the categories, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

Debbie W: Thank you so much for sharing that. What I like is you're sharing how it helped build your confidence with not only your writing, but it sounds like your editing. Right?

Marilyn: Yes.

Debbie W: Yeah.

Marilyn: Absolutely.

Debbie W: And how the group really just supports each other. I'm hearing that it's a safe place to come if you're an experienced writer, someone just starting out, you want to test the waters. This sounds like a really safe group to do that, don't you think?

Marilyn: Very much so.

Abbie J: Absolutely.

Diane O: Wonderful.

Debbie W: People, again, can join at their level. Test the waters, see what it feels like. It feels like it's a real warm, fuzzy group that, yeah, you're going to critique things but it's going to be done in a really acceptable way, where you're really encouraging and enhancing writing rather than being critical, and really supporting each other. I really like that. I'm just thrilled at how big Magnets and Ladders is. I wouldn't have thought that would have so many ... So much articles in there. That's great.

Marilyn: We circulate the magazine ourselves to about ... Between 250 and 300 people who are on our list. Anybody can get on our list to have it circulated online to them; however, the Perkins Institute does also record it. People who write to them or get in touch with them can get the audio copy. It comes out quite a few months later than our text copy, but it is available that way, too.

Debbie W: Okay. Did I read correctly on the website that also, if you're on the NFB, the National Federation of the Blind news line, it reads Magnets and Ladders, as well.

Marilyn: I'm not sure about that.

Debbie W: Okay.

Marilyn: I don't ... I'm not sure about that.

Debbie W: I thought I read that. That's another way that people could have access to it. Marilyn, you want me to leave you unmuted in case you have anything to add? You seem like a ...

Marilyn: Sure.

Debbie W: Okay. I'll leave you-

Abbie J: Marilyn, did you say that's also available in digital cartridge from Perkins?

Marilyn: Yes. You may have to work it through ... You can write to Perkins, see if they'll do it. Otherwise, you have to work it through your regional library.

Abbie J: Your regional library [crosstalk]. Yeah, I think that's probably the best way to do it. That's what I thought. Okay.

Debbie W: Okay. Marilyn, I'm going to lower your hand, but I'll leave you unmuted. Just jump in if there's a question that you or Abbie could answer.

Marilyn: Thanks.

Abbie J: Great, thanks.

Debbie W: Okay. Alice, I'm going to go ahead and unmute you. Go ahead, Alice.

Alice: I'll answer at the point that was recently brought up and then I have three additional points that I would like to add to what Abbie and Marilyn have said. First of all, in the earlier years, Magnets and Ladders, for a few years, was available on NSB new line, but it no longer is. When we did not have that as part of our service anymore, that's when we went to the Perkins Library, and it's a beautiful recording. The recording studio at Perkins does an outstanding job with the audio recording, if you prefer that to the computer speech or reading it in Braille, or however you access the online version.

Three other points and I'll try to be quick about them. First of all, I wanted to add to what Abbie said about Reader's Workshop, that another branch of Behind Our Eyes that has been extremely successful during the past almost four years, it'll be four years this July, is an opportunity for small group critique session.

Abbie J: Oh, I forgot about that.

Alice: Currently, Behind Our Eyes has two small group critique sessions. They are led by Leonard Touchner, who also has published a book. He also does a face to face critique group, locally in his community in Virginia. He is in charge of these two small group critique sessions. Each of these has five writers from Behind Our Eyes. This is a wonderful way if you want to have the opportunity to fine tune your work. I know Leonard has thought about adding, eventually, not right now but eventually, a third group as well. I really enjoy this small group critiquing opportunity through Behind Our Eyes, as well. It's wonderful when you have a big branch ... a main organization that's able to branch out the way Behind Our Eyes has. I think that shows the strength and durability of this organization. It's long standing and-

Debbie W: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Alice: And many years it will be to come. Finally, I'd like to mention, besides this type of guest speaker that I've mentioned, we've had through the years such a wide variety of guest speakers. Of course, many have been from our own membership, because we have such a great membership. We also have speakers that have really been quite famous people. Probably many of you have heard of Christine Ha, the blind cook. She has her own restaurant now in Texas after winning that big prize on one of the cooking television shows. She was so kind to give us an hour or more of her time and speak with us when she was at a high point in her celebrity. That was just great fun.

More recently, we had Greg Renz, R-E-N-Z, who wrote Beneath the Flames. That book has been so acclaimed. He just, by chance, sent me an email this morning and said that he had finished the recording of that book. That was a result of his being a guest speaker on Behind Our Eyes when I suggested his recording his own book, because he read, of course, a selection from his book to us at our meeting. He did such a great job, and I told him afterwards he really should contact the library and try to arrange, and he did, and it's just now finished.

We've been blessed with just such a variety and wealth of great speakers and, as I said, round table discussions. We've had panel discussions. So many types of meetings. They're not all the same, so if you like variety, that's another reason to consider joining Behind Our Eyes. Thank you.

Debbie W: Thank you, Alice, for all that wonderful information. If you can shoot me any of that information about those upcoming presentations, if there's any links or anything you want in the show notes, go ahead and give me an email. I think that's valuable information to share.

Marilyn: This is Marilyn. Can I add that we also have ... just over the past year or two, we had Rhonda Brunstetter. Many of you are familiar with her Amish fiction. We also had Ron Charles, the famous book reviewer from the Washington Post book world.

Debbie W: Wow, those are some really good names. Thanks for sharing that. I have Anne Harrison Barnes. Before I unmute you, I want to wish you a happy birthday. If we could, we'd sing to you, but we won't assault your ears with that. We do want to wish you a happy birthday. Anne, go ahead please.

Anne H: Thanks for those birthday wishes. I would share birthday cake with you, but I can't do that over here. Came into the group when they had first started it, and then I had to step out for a while, and then I came back in. I think this group has encouraged me to, along with some other writers, has encouraged me to just try to submit to different magazines, and things sometimes, they haven't worked out. Still, I've been trying to do that, and writing poetry, and stuff. What a great bunch of writers.

Debbie W: I just love the encouragement. It's rare that you find so many people say this really helped me over that hump. I wasn't comfortable before, I now am. This group really helped me. You're really providing a valuable experience for people. That's a wonderful, wonderful thing to do. I wonder if other people on the call tonight belong to any other groups, writers' groups, that they'd like to share. Any other things that have been helpful for them. If you do, go ahead and we have time for you to talk about that.

Debbie W: To me, there's a power in community. In a writer's community, there's just a sense of you learn information from each other and you're encouraged by each other. Anne, you have your hand up. Go ahead, please.

Anne H: Okay. Well, a couple of things. A couple of things you said you wanted me to share about contests, and I entered the Furious Fiction contest through the Australian Writer's Center. I will definitely send that link to you so that everybody can sign up in the show notes and I'll send it to the list, Abbie. It's 500 words or less, short story, the first weekend of every month. They give you criteria. You use this criterion to write your story. You submit it online. It's very easy, it's very accessible. It's actually fun once you submit it. They give you some real fun thank yous that are really cool. I just want to tell you about that. I'll let you know whether I win, or not. Even if I don't, it's a story I can use elsewhere.

Debbie W: I want to try to get some things in before we end for the night. I don't mean to cut off the discussion at all. If we have a little bit of time, we'll come back to it. I do want to thank Abbie Taylor for joining us tonight, and all the members of Behind Our Eyes for sharing information about the group. It is well worth checking out. Very much so. I think you hear the enthusiasm the members have for the group and what it's meant for them. I hope that encourages people who are listening to this discussion to check it out.

Maybe, Abbie, you'll have a few more members join up. I hope so. Let me know if you do, if you see an uptick in some membership. We did have a question come in. I want to get to that question from the Survey Monkey. As you know, those of you who get email about the groups, you can submit questions ahead of time. This question that came in has to do with how do blind or print disabled writers share their work with an audience? Do they memorize it? What are some of the work arounds? I think Abbie-

Abbie J: That's one of the things ... I did cover that. There are different ways you can do it. We've got a gal in our group who uses a ... Linda Lambert. She uses one of those digital readers. She has the book, and whatever she's going to read, in the reader and she just has it ... Uses headphones and she has it read it line by line, and she just repeats the line. You can do that. You can memorize it, of course. You can also read it in braille. You can either use hard copy braille or use a braille device and hope that what happened to me doesn't happen to you. Either way, there are different ways of learning how to read.

We actually did have a conference on that, where different writers shared how they read work to an audience. There are ways of doing it.

Diane O: That's one of the things we-

Abbie J: You have to experiment and figure out what works for you.

Marilyn: That's one of the things at our Monday night workshop is good for. It gives people a chance to try different methods and see which one works best for them.

Debbie W: Right. Absolutely. Right. The second part of this question had to do with editing and proofreading. I'm thinking this is a topic that we can have in the future, maybe for our discussion group, is editing and proofreading. Diane, I know you have some resources that you wanted to share with the group tonight. Why don't you go ahead and present those?

Diane O: Sure. This is Diane speaking. As everybody knows, next month is National Poetry Writing Month. There's a couple of resources that I found that the group might be interested in. One is connected with the Academy of American Poets. It's poets.org. P-O-E-T-S dot org. On their site they have 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. We will put that in the show notes. By the way, if any of you don't have access to the internet and you want some of this information, feel free to call us, too. We're very happy to talk to you.

Another resource is National Poetry Writing Month or National Global Poetry Month. That site has a challenge to try to write a poem a day. You don't have to prove it to them that you wrote it. If you have a blog and you want to share it with them, that's fine. If you just want to do it yourself, it's more for motivation. What's nice is, if you go to their site, every day they have a different prompt for a different poem. Whatever prompt it is ... Suppose they say an autobiographical poem. They share an example of one. It's cool. Again, that will be in the show notes. And again, if anybody wants to call me for information on it too, feel free or call Debbie.

One of my co-workers, Lydia, she found this writing contest called Pen to Paper, which is a disability-focused creative writing competition. It's out of the Coalition of Texans With Disabilities, although you don't have to be Texan to participate. In fact, you don't even have to have a disability, as long as it's about disability. They take fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. The deadline is August 14th. We will have a link about the information ... There's a $5 entry fee.

Last but not least, there was a class that one Writer's Circle member encouraged us to share with you. It's called the Creative Way. We will put that on there. Apparently, it's about encouraging your creativity. I believe there was a cost to it. When I was looking at it ... The way some people referred to it ... Somebody referred to me as the best thing that ever happened to them, as far as writing, but some people did say it was expensive. But check it out. Like with any writing class, always check with the prices because you can spend a lot of money in writing courses, and sometimes it's worth it, and sometimes you can find a lot of good information for free.

Abbie J: Diane, can I just add something? Another thing you want to check out with the writing class is how accessible is it? Some classes, online classes, aren't that accessible. Of course, if it's held live on Zoom, of course it's pretty easy to access. If it's held on some other platform that may not be as easy to use. Check that out before you pay for it. You don't want to pay for it and then find out you can't even access it.

Debbie W: Good advice, thank you.

Diane O: Excellent point.

Debbie W: Yes.

Diane O: Excellent point. I have to say, one thing I was impressed about Behind Our Eyes is that it's free and that anybody can join with a disability. Also, it just seems ... like Debbie was pointing out again and again, a lot of encouragement but also a lot of information, opportunity for critiquing. I'm just really impressed with your group.

Debbie W: One of the best things about the discussion groups is learning about all these resources. When you have so many people on that can share information that you don't have access to otherwise, and for people who are on their phones who don't have access to the internet, please don't let that discourage you. As Diane said, we're here to help you find the resources. Just reach out to us by telephone.

One more hand up. Let's get that in before we close. Area code 254, ending in 409. You're unmuted.

Sharon: Hi, Debbie. This is Sharon. I was wondering about something here. If somebody don't have a computer right now ... I don't have a computer right now, but maybe one day I will. I'm planning on being an author of books myself. I was wondering, how would I go about becoming ... I know I'm going to be a beginner of a writer for the time being. How would I start doing that?

Debbie W: How would you start writing?

Sharon: Yeah. How would I start doing writing books, and stuff like that?

Debbie W: Do you have any remaining vision? Do you see print or [crosstalk]?

Sharon: I do have some sight, but I am what they say ... I'm like just about everybody. I'm visually impaired, but I can see some.

Debbie W: Okay. My suggestion would be get a recorder and do some writing by recording. Does anybody else have ideas for Sharon?

Abbie J: You don't use Braille at all?

Sharon: Yes.

Abbie J: If you have a Perkins Brailler, that's a good way to write stuff down. Once you get a computer, you can just type it into the computer.

Sharon: But I also got a slate and stylus.

Debbie W: You know what they say, the slate and stylus is the pen and pencil. I would say go ahead ...

Abbie J: [crosstalk] Pen and paper. You betcha. You betcha.

Debbie W: Yeah. That's a wonderful way. I have ... Yeah. Use your Braille, use a recorder. Don't let that stop you from getting your thoughts out of your head and out to the world.

Diane O: People have been writing for a long time before there were computers. You know? Anything you write eventually's going to [crosstalk].

Abbie J: I wonder, how did people like Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck do without computers?

Debbie W: Yeah. Yeah. A couple more hands up and we have a couple more minutes. Let's try and squeeze people in. I have area code 201, ending in 406. This is Debbie. What's your first name, please?

Lisa: Lisa. I just wanted to mention, you can contact the Division for Blind Services or Commission for Blind in the state that you're in, and the Lighthouse, and they can get computers for you. There's also a place in Texas, for $150, to get computers that were refurbished for people who are visually impaired. There's a lot of resources in order to get tools out there that you need. Thank you.

Abbie, I really want to thank you again for taking the time to do some pre-planning with us, meeting with us, and getting this discussion group and going tonight. As I said, when we first started Writer's Circle, we had all these people come on and say, "I'm a member of Behind Our Eyes." It really ... It bumped my curiosity and so I'm glad we finally got to delve into your organization. What a wonderful organization and thanks for sharing. Again, we're so pleased that it's free. It's just a wonderful resource. Thank you, Abbie, for sharing your time tonight. We appreciate it.

Abbie J: Thank you again for inviting me. It was a pleasure sharing about our organization to those of you. I hope that those of you listening will consider joining us.

Debbie W: Yeah. We want to see a bump in your membership after this group.

Marilyn: Behindoureyes.org and you'll find a membership form.

Debbie W: Okay.

Abbie J: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes.

Debbie W: Behindoureyes.org. Okay, Diane. You take it away with your writer's prompt and then we'll end for tonight. We'll hopefully have everybody back in April.

Diane O: This is Diane. I'm going to share a couple of writing prompts from the book Fast Fiction by Roberta Allen. Write about an object that has been lost or write about a party. And, happy writing.

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Writer's Circle - Behind Our Eyes

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