We introduce this series to give our writers an opportunity to share their own experiences and stories with you. Each one will offer a different perspective of the phrase, “the way I see it.” Kelli was born blind and developed a passion for the written word as a child and worked hard to overcome her obstacles to become a published writer.
Anyone living with a disability must master the ability to adjust to their situation. Despite the strides made with assistive technology and accessibility, many current roadblocks hinder success.
I learned to read and write braille at the age of five. As a kid, I subscribed to The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. I received books on tape to read. This sparked my love for stories and the written word.
My master’s degree is in social work, but my career path changed after a story of adventure, romance and passion set sometime in the past unfolded in my mind during a class. As soon as class was over, I wrote down my idea. I felt excited and inspired. At the time, I didn’t understand the challenges I’d face on the path to getting published.
Improving your craft as a writer requires regular writing, reading books on the writing craft and learning to critique the work of others. I also take online workshops. Some are related to craft, while others cover specific research topics.
I use assistive technology to download workshop lessons and respond to group messages. Navigating the workshop platforms can be challenging. During one particular class, I could not find the messages. After the moderator knew about the challenge, I received the lessons in an email after multiple attempts to navigate the forum.
Before emailing my manuscript to an editor or agent, I would format them using Microsoft Word. I learned how to use the spell and grammar checker with my screen reader. I also received feedback from others on my work.
I told them about my blindness, and they pointed out any issues they found with my story or anything mechanical, such as extra spaces or missing punctuation. When sending work out for consideration for publication, it must be your best.
My first book accepted for publication was a contemporary western romance written under my pen name, Abbey MacInnis. I did not realize how much more work I’d have on my plate after signing the contract.
I learned how to read and understand publishing contracts and how royalties work. Now, I had to carve out time for editing, too. I learned how to use track changes in MS Word. Reading comments are easy. The difficulty was in understanding what the editor either inserted, deleted or changed in the text. To show what changes I wanted, I used the backspace key to show my editor I wanted something removed because I couldn’t erase it myself.
To promote myself, I needed a website. I hired someone to design and maintain one. I figured out the ins-and-outs of advertising on social media. I needed to set up these accounts. Some platforms required me to find accessible programs to make posting and interacting on them more streamlined. I use my iPhone to communicate on sites like Facebook and my laptop to post on Twitter.
Whether writing adult fiction or children’s fiction, I hope to bring the reader a few hours of relaxation, a smile to their face when they’ve had a rough day, or return a feeling of optimism when things look bleak and hopeless. The right words can uplift and empower, excite and entertain.
As of this post, I have been published three times. I look forward to continuing my writing journey. I know my environment will not change for me on this journey, so I will need to adapt to see my dreams remain a reality. I am determined to continue using creativity to express myself and bring my kind of love, joy and peace to the world by telling stories.