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Staging an (Accessible) Online Reading: A Step-By-Step Guide

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz_sonyaBy Sonya Huber

The typical literary reading presents an obstacle course for many people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. From finding transportation and parking to staying up late to navigating stairs and chairs, every decision involves stress and difficulty. My recent essay collection, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays From a Nervous System, deals with the twists and turns of living with chronic pain, and I knew that I needed to find ways to connect with people with chronic pain. I was surprised to find that an online reading was easy and fun, and I believe this is something other authors can easily do to extend their own audiences and make literary readings more accessible.

My first foray into online readings was through a Facebook Live Event. I hadn’t seen this done before so I kind of winged it, and in the end I think it turned…

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Women Are Not Here For You. You Do Not Own Us.

Oh my God, yes. This.

Drifting Through

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A guy walks up to a girl in a bar. She’s laughing with her friends, engrossed in conversation. He slides in next to her to introduce himself. Offers her a drink. I’m just here to hang with my friends she says more than once. He proceeds to ask her “get to know you” questions, ignores her icy stare. Oblivious to her friends rolling their eyes. He appears immune to her Not interested‘s and her No thank you‘s. Finally, she sighs, I HAVE A BOYFRIEND. He backs away grudgingly, defensively, hands in the air, It’s cool, it’s cool. I got it.

Her rebuffs weren’t enough. Her refusals were dismissed. It was clear that what she wanted wasn’t of much concern to him. But another man’s woman? That’s a record scratch. A stop sign. A no trespassing sign.

This story isn’t unusual. It’s not even rare. Most women at…

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I Knew Not #HarryPotter #AtoZChallenge

Wine. Water. Whales. Writing.

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These were all contenders. Nope. None of these. Instead, why not go with a little blasphemy?

The A to Z Challenge – W is for Witchcraft and Wizardry

As in…

Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Feminists today speak of being descendants of those witches once tried for practicing witchcraft and burnt at the stake.

I see Emma Watson on TV and walking the red carpet with Tom Hanks. She’s doing just fine after playing one on screen for a decade.

I knew very little about witchcraft until I was in my mid twenties. I always heard the word and thought of black magic, frowned upon by God.

I knew not.

Now I picture that giant castle (Hogwarts) and I wish I could have received my letter.

A classic tale of good vs evil, but as the story eventually makes clear, none of us have only, strictly one or the other inside of us.

All those religious groups and parenting groups who protested the Harry Potter books and movies originally thought of evil too, without reading the books themselves, to see what treasures were waiting to be discovered.

Claiming Godliness does not automatically make one an all good person. I think Harry Potter and the many witches and wizards throughout his fictional world can teach valuable lessons about what is right and what true decency looks like.

For fiction, this story was wonderful. It was a magical world, coexisting alongside the non magic world, both containing good and bad. The power of witchcraft had terrible misinformation attached, leading people to judge something without getting to know more about it. Rowling did a wonderful thing, an important thing, in bringing these subjects into the mainstream.

I am particularly affected by the themes in the HP series, as being misjudged is never a welcome place to find oneself.. I don’t want to judge anything unfairly, if I’ve hardly even given it a chance. I would hope all of us could learn from the witches and wizards in the story that J.K. Rowling created.

I sure wish I could wave a wand right now and make things different from what they are, in several areas.

Don’t you?

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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The Only Sure Things #FTSF #AtoZChallenge

“grief is the price you pay for love you see.”
—Miss Josephine Barry, “Anne The Series”

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Truer words have never been spoken.

The A to Z Challenge – T is for Taxes

How we pay for everything else.

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes and nothing free either.

After love, all we are left with is grief, but that love is always there.

Then there are those dreaded taxes. I consider myself lucky that my sister works at a tax office. She is learning the ropes. It’s nice to have that in the family because I am absolute rubbish with numbers.

So this time is a tense one, for many people and reasons, full of stress. April is tax time and time for bloggers to decide on whether or not to tackle doing the dreaded A to Z thing. It’s a lot of work and I haven’t even arrived at the hardest letters of the alphabet yet. Oh boy.

I’m tempted to keep this post light, but talk of grief is on my mind, as it is impossible to escape forever. Love and loss are wrapped up in one another. It’s inevitable. I may keep my distance, afraid of loss and getting hurt, but love is still the best thing I know. I can’t close myself off from it, simply because one day it will end in heartbreak.

I’m facing down thoughts of death all the while, I’m leaving the tax part in my sister’s more capable hands.

***This is my late contribution to
Finish the Sentence Friday
(three days late) because the prompts just happened to fit.

Finding Ninee’s perspective is an interesting one: nothing to lose and everything to lose, all at the same time. Check it out.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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TToT: Being the Heroine of My Own Story – Lucky, #EarthDay2017 #WorldBookDay #10Thankful

“There, sitting on the warm grass, I had my first lessons in the beneficence of nature. I learned how the sun and the rain make to grow out of the ground every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, how birds build their nests and live and thrive from land to land, how the squirrel, the deer, the lion and every other creature finds food and shelter. As my knowledge of things grew I felt more and more the delight of the world I was in. Long before I learned to do a sum in arithmetic or describe the shape of the earth, Miss Sullivan had taught me to find beauty in the fragrant woods, in every blade of grass, and in the curves and dimples of my baby sister’s hand. She linked my earliest thoughts with nature and made me feel that ‘birds and flowers and I were happy peers.”

—Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

I’m trying to have the sense to live in the moment and to enjoy myself in that moment, whatever it might be, like Helen Keller and her teacher Miss Sullivan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rlQqWbp7rY

The only time things seem to make any sense is when I am with my nieces or nephews, holding my niece.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for more time spent, just myself and my little buddy Mya.

She didn’t want to sleep the entire time. She didn’t want to miss one second of her time with Auntie Kerry.

Then Kim told me there are a few photos recently taken where Mya looks like me. I may never have my own children. My sister will never know how much this small thing, one I won’t ever likely fully understand because I can’t see the pictures, means to me anyway.

I am thankful for my last violin lesson for a few weeks.

Last time we missed multiple weeks it was I who was going away. This time my teacher is traveling.

I hope, like last time, I don’t fall too far back in my progress.

I hope her trip is everything mine was to me, all she hopes.

I am thankful for my return to the library.

I haven’t been to my writing group (The Elsewhere Region like I like to refer to it) since February, for a few reasons.

Everyone there seemed pleased to see me, a few even saying they missed me. I missed them and their wonderful imaginations.

We had little scraps of paper with a few lines of story prompt written on them, thanks to one of the members of our group, and mine included: a frog prince, a talking donkey, a cloud castle, and Betty’s wish list.

Who is Betty you ask…well I asked myself that same question. It was the first try for me, in a while or at all really, at writing fantasy. I liked what I came up with, though I have no idea where I was headed with it, but then my equipment decided to cause a problem.

I was reading my story in progress out loud to the group, they were riveted, and then the second half of what I’d written seemed to vanish. I am sure I wrote it, but my technology doesn’t always cooperate.

I am thankful I could answer a few questions about how I’ve learned and lived as a blind person, for a good cause.

My sister’s sister-in-law works with a young boy who is blind. She helps him in his neighbourhood school, but she had some questions about how I’ve grown up, how I learned, and how my mom saw it all from the parent perspective.

She had the coolest keychain on her keys. Instead of a cube with coloured squares, she has three blocks that move from one side to another, and they contain tactile dots. They are braille dots and they make different letters in braille when you mix and match them.

A fun thing to do with your hands. She sounds like an excellent teacher who wants to keep learning the best possible ways to teach her student to be as successful in his life as possible and it seems he is lucky to have her.

I am thankful for a friend reaching out, mentioning me to her friend, and a new and possible connection made in the world of women writing and women’s storytelling.

Thank you Lizzi. Women helping and supporting other women. We can always use the help. I appreciate it.

Who knows what will or will not come of it, but that is what making connections is all about.

I am thankful for a lovely first visit with my new neighbour in my home.

We had a nice talk. Many more to come.

She even warned me about the roofers coming to her house and called me this evening, to check on me, when she thought she heard a noise over here.

I am thankful for this earth.

I watched Bill Maher say that 45 needs to forget “Make America Great Again” and instead “Make Earth Great Again.”

I totally agree. Mars is cool and everything (says this fan of planets since childhood) but we don’t have licence to be careless, reckless, and destroy this planet, just because some want to get there. It is not the answer to our problems of environmental and climate changes. Taking care of this place, the one already with plenty of water and life and the air we breathe, that will benefit us all in the end.

As many said, every day should be Earth Day for us all.

I am thankful for science.

All Around Us and Everything Essential

I thank all the scientists in my life: my oldest friend, my many excellent doctors over the years, my cousin and his wife, my new friend who is also a writer, Bill Nye The Science Guy (for teaching me to love our solar system when I was a child), and to so many who are much smarter than I am in these matters.

I owe science big and I believe those who marched all around the world were warranted in doing so. We need to make a statement. Science is worth fighting for.

I am thankful for another excellent episode of Anne The Series.

A young girl runs through a dark, snow covered forrest, carrying a lantern and wearing only a thin layer of night clothes.

Ahead By A Century.

I am glad Anne and Diana are allowed to be friends again so soon, but I didn’t expect these three things to happen, all in this one episode of Anne The Series: Diana’s sister almost dying, Anne meeting Great Aunt Miss Josephine Barry, and Gilbert suffering a huge loss.

The fist fight is one of the memorable parts of this one, likely brought on by grief and a need to defend a newly growing love and respect, even if the source of that love and respect doesn’t make it easy, like one before her.

Though Anne is conflicted about what her future should be, between romance that most young girls are desperate for and her strong ambition, she knows when she listens to her heart.

This episode is all about letters, long lost pleas that will now never be addressed and unfinished business and apologies.

More flashback with Marilla this time, as a young girl, about Anne’s age. Sadly, youth cannot last and family obligations altered everything, but not necessarily for the worse, for some more than others.

Matthew offers to help Gilbert, Marilla and Gilbert have a enlightening conversation about place and time, and Anne finds a kindred spirit in old Miss Barry, who the writing hints as having had a long same sex relationship with another woman. This was never even alluded to in the series I loved growing up, but the times are changing and I am glad for that. It was one of the pleasant surprises of this week’s instalment.

Some of my favourite themes explored in this narrative are those exploring grief, loss, stubbornness, regret, and how decisions can or may influence the future.

Anne goes to give her apology when she finds an abandoned house, Marilla is stuck with her regrets, and Matthew goes to the bank to make some mysterious financial transaction.

Season finale already next Sunday. That went fast and I hope the break isn’t too long, that a second season is in the works.

“Romance is a pesky business. No sense to be made of it.”
—Miss Josephine Barry

I am thankful for books, but not only them, but books in accessible formats.

On World Book Day, I am not just thankful for books, though I am always thankful for those. It’s being able to read them, hold them, learn from them, and to access them in either e-format, audiobooks, or in braille.

This wasn’t always possible if you couldn’t see to read and it still isn’t always made easy. I just want to be like Helen, with her love of reading and learning. Or Anne and hers.

And so one more week ends and another begins. It’s all still an endless, giant enigma to me.

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Only When I Breathe #SongLyricSunday

How can I put this? How can I possibly make people understand how it feels?

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I struggled with these kinds of questions for many years. Pain can be physical or emotional. Both, I know now, are comparable.

This song is not her biggest hit. I’d say Melissa Etheridge was at the top of her game in the nineties, but this one came out a few years after I’d started experiencing daily pain around the year 2000, from either headaches or somewhere in the rest of my body, mostly my limbs, but really a sensitivity to the touch.

This song was likely about emotional pain, which most songs are about, but by this time Melissa probably experienced both, within relationships or physically because of the breast cancer she was diagnosed with.

***

I, played the fool today
I just dream of vanishing into the crowd
Longing for home again
Home, is a feeling I buried in you
I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe
And I can’t ask for things to be still again
No I can’t ask if I could walk through the world, in your eyes
Longing for home again
Home, is a feeling I buried in you
I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe
I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe
My window through which nothing hides And everything sees
I’m counting the signs and cursing the miles in between
Home
Home, is a feeling I buried in you, that I buried in you
I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe
I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe, when I breathe
Yeah, it only hurts when I breathe, when I breathe
Oh,it only hurts when I breathe

LYRICS

***

It’s hard to make people understand. We all experience emotional pain from loss of a loved one or other family troubles. Love ends. People leave.

Most of us get a headache or the flu or a broken bone at some point in our lives. I know that child birth can be painful, not from personal experience but from those who have felt it, but I know that pain fades because of the reward for it in the existence of a precious child. Most acute pain fades from our memory as time passes.

It’s chronic pain that is hard to explain because most people, like the thought of living life as a blind person, can’t or don’t want to think too hard about it, don’t want to imagine that happening to them, but living with chronic pain changes you. It’s changed me.

The awful pain scale is a familiar way to help people understand, but pain is subjective and one’s ten is another’s seven. If ten is the worst pain you’ve ever experienced, what was that worst pain? Everyone has had such varied experiences with pain that it makes it hard to rate sufficiently.

Stabbing…throbbing…dull…sharp…pounding…and so on and so forth.

I’ve only found a few people in my life who truly understood it. One of them is gone, so I am greatly familiar with both emotional and physical pain from many sources.

I decided this
Song Lyric Sunday
I would focus more on the physical side, as I’ve written plenty on emotional pain already.

I don’t talk a lot about living with chronic pain, here or elsewhere, because I don’t believe people truly want to hear about it too often. This song brings it up in the chorus though, as saying “it only hurts when I breathe.” While coming off sounding dramatic, this one line certainly gets the point across.

Don’t get me wrong, I love breathing, but I could do without the pain.

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All Around Us and Everything Essential #EarthDay #ScienceMarch #AtoZChallenge

Give me an S…give me a C…give me an I…give me an E…give me an N…give me a C…give me an E!!!

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What does that spell?

The A to Z Challenge – S is for Science

That is how you spell science, (yes I know…cheesy, but I am certainly no cheerleader) and yet I am dedicating today’s letter to a march, the Science March.

It’s happening, not only in the U.S. on this day, but in countries all around the world.

It’s turned political, but it shouldn’t be about some 45 foolishness, nor any other so-called public servant’s opinion or word as supreme law of any land. We all share this planet. None of us are totally immune. History has shown that eventually, even the very rich can fall from some unseen organism and that extreme weather is more powerful than any of us.

It’s all around us, every minute of the day, and people don’t even realize it. Everything is scientific. Religion is not, should not be the opposite of science. Today’s march shouldn’t be one or the other. You can have faith and believe in science.

Science is not all knowing. Scientists don’t know everything, but I leave so much of it to those a lot smarter than I’ll ever claim to be.

I am here because of science. I feel strongly about the march and wish I had the opportunity and energy to be in it, but I speak up here, even if I won’t make the news with a sign in my hand.

This blog is my hand and Facebook will be my sign and I will hold them both high in all places I can, as I admit that people much smarter than me are scientists who have discovered some of what keeps me alive to this day.

And make no mistake, I am glad to be here…or anywhere for that matter.

One day, at some point in the hopefully distant future, for me to become one with this breathtaking earth (which is worth fighting to protect) and the soil and the trees, like one’s donated organ living on in another’s body, once the dead have passed on.

This one is a little longer, perhaps, than the other letters this month, but I am glad there are those marching for discovery and innovation and every conceivable contribution to humankind and our planet, plus all the rest that’s out there.

I am sure I am not the only one who has chosen Science or Spell as my S word, but my love for science is my own.

Without the invention that is the dialysis machine I would not have made it passed age eleven..

Without the advent of organ donation and transplant surgery I would not have the physical freedoms I’ve had.

Without the innovation of medications that lower the immune system and fight a body that would otherwise reject any organ the system found to be foreign I would not be celebrating my twentieth year with one of my father’s kidneys, one which kept him alive for the nearly forty years before that.

Thank you science and scientists. May God bless you (the God who would give some of us mortals the ability and intelligence to study science.)

***This is also my contribution to
Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

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***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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