Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I started writing in my thirties, around the start of my hearing loss. Writing has been a godsend for me – both to express my feelings on paper and to share my work with others. My hearing loss has been a slow process, and for a long time I identified myself as “hard of hearing.” But recently, due to increased hearing loss, I’ve chosen to identify myself as “deaf” and, as a result, become involved with both hearing writers and other deaf writers. As a deaf writer, I was invited last year to present my books at two local events in Northern California: Ohlone College’s 50th anniversary of their Deaf Studies Program, and the California School for the Deaf annual Open House.
Receiving positive feedback from others helps one overcome those feelings of “imposter syndrome,” which is prevalent among those of us with hearing loss. We are constantly self-critiquing. Is my work good enough? Am I good enough? Is it possible for me to be successful with hearing loss? I’ve received a lot of positive feedback – many of my poems and short fiction have been published in literary magazines and anthologies, and I’ve been a guest on podcasts. I have two books now published: a children’s picture book I co-authored, Who Wants to be Friends With a Dragon?, and a poetry anthology, Remember This Day. Another poetry anthology of mine, called, The Lighter Side of Horse Manure, will be published in the next few months. My work has received positive reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and independent book reviews. I’ve also been asked to lead workshops in conferences for those who are late-deafened, one in Florida and one in the Netherlands, about my writing and how it has helped me cope with hearing loss.
I am also an advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing. In 2010, I, along with another late-deafened individual, sued Cinemark Theatres for movie captioning, which was almost nonexistent at that time. We also took a similar approach with AMC Theatres. In both cases, the theatre chains agreed to provide closed captioning for almost every new movie release. I have also been a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit System’s (BART) Accessibility Task Force for a number of years, successfully advocating for accommodations on BART trains for the disabled. I served as a board member and was national president of the Association of Late-Deafened Adults, and I currently serve on the boards of California Communications Access Foundation and Ability Central Philanthropy.
My husband and I live part-time in Barcelona, which is no harder than living in California. I still can’t hear, still need a captioning app on my phone, still look for people who know sign language, but everyone is generally accommodating to my communication access needs.
How many unpublished and unfinished books do you have?
I currently have one completed unpublished novel, The Peccadilloes of Filamena Phipps, that I hope to have published. And, as I mentioned, I have a second poetry anthology, The Lighter Side of Horse Manure, that will be published later this year. I am also working on two additional poetry anthologies.
Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
The children’s book I co-authored, “Who Wants to be Friends With a Dragon?” is about a dragon who withdraws from others because he believes he is so different that no one could possibly want to be his friend. He hides, shies away from friendships and from parties where he is sure others will be afraid of him. This book is the reflection of the feelings suffered by many of us who have lost our hearing. We withdraw because we believe others could not possibly want to be our friends. This feeling is supported in many cases by others we encounter who cannot, or will not, create a bridge to include us in conversations and social activities. What I found, however, is that many people feel isolated for many reasons, with or without a perceived disability – they don’t think they are smart enough or athletic enough, or they are of a different religion or background. By writing this book, my co-author and I have enabled others to discuss the issue of inclusion with their families, and children have been given a guide to reach out to others.
My poetry book, “Remember This Day,” presents my observations and reactions to situations I have encountered. The poems enabled me to make sense of things, such as a tree struggling to survive the torrential waters of a raging river, the terror attack in Nice, France in 2016 that my husband and I survived, or my horse’s desire for dignity in his old age despite the barn manager’s desire to have him put down. By using metaphors, I have found that others identify with the sentiments of these poems. My father-in-law identifies with my 34-year-old horse in the poem, “Old Man,” and my friend, who suffers from a debilitating illness, identifies with the poem, “The Torrent and the Tree.”
How did you develop your plots and characters?
Becoming deaf and advocating for others like myself has had a definite impact on my writing, the kinds of characters I choose to include in my stories, the obstacles they face, and the nature of the solutions and outcomes they embrace. In my unpublished novel, The Peccadilloes of Filamena Phipps (the first couple of scenes have been published in Embark Literary Magazine), a young immigrant from an unnamed country must deal with the upwardly mobile American community she finds herself in, deal with the rejections of others because she is different, and learn to create a community of her own. Much like myself, but with a bit of magical realism.
The dragon in the children’s book represents my own feelings of not belonging and how I learned my life has merit despite my hearing loss. My co-author, as someone who is half-Mexican, also identifies with the dragon, and so does our illustrator, who is the son of Filipino immigrants.
How do you get inspired to write?
What inspires me is, first, the ability to record my feelings at a particular moment and second, to connect with others. There is the cathartic act of writing itself, expressing myself on paper, trying to make sense of the trials and traumas I endure. Sometimes I can even move on when I’m stuck emotionally – journaling, recording my feelings about a situation, can help me leave it there on paper. I find that is how I feel – if I want to go back to those feelings, I can simply read what I wrote. And when I share what I’ve written it builds a bridge with others who feel the same way.
What are you currently working on?
I am always working on improving my unpublished manuscript, The Peccadilloes of Filamena Phipps, and am working on more poetry, always. I would also like to write more short fiction.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Looking at a blank page is daunting – write for fifteen minutes every day, jot down whatever thoughts you have. Don’t worry about grammatical errors or even if what you write makes sense. Just get your thoughts on paper; you can always revise what you’ve written. And keep reading – see how others play with language to convey their ideas. Finally, never give up on yourself; works of mine that were rejected numerous times eventually were published in magazines and anthologies. Search for small presses that are looking for works in specific areas of interest that may align with yours.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is the joy of creating something that wasn’t there before, and that ability to find something positive even about a negative situation – a poem or a story is formed, and what one has written can have meaning and impact for someone else.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
The Lighter Side of Horse Manure will be published by Finishing Line Press this year. They are the same publishers of my poetry anthology, Remember This Day.
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.)? Please provide links.
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