Author Admits to a Mistake: Voting is Still Open! Diversity Novel #5 in Book Cover Comp!

OK, here’s the scoop. Voting for my novel in the book cover comp did not end Monday afternoon after all. It ends Thurs. Oct. 31, at 2:30pm Eastern. My mistake, I assumed it was like previous rounds. So, if you haven’t voted in the final round, here’s your chance. “The Heart of Applebutter Hill” is #5. So close! Please help. Jaws users, instructions are below. https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

Book cover for The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill shows a cave scene - stalactites reflected in an underground lake, while a hand holds the Heartstone of Arden-Goth: photos, Rich Hill;, design, Lizza Studios.

Voting Instructions for Jaws Users

Go on over to: https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

  1. The page title is “Vote for The Heart of Applebutter Hill
  2. From the top of the page, use ‘h to next heading which is the book title The Heart of Applebutter Hill.
  3. Down-arrow past author & genre till you hear a number followed by “Vote button.” At this writing I have 258 votes, so it should say, “258 Sign-in Vote Button.”
  4. Enter.
  5. You will be prompted to sign up to the site; choose ‘author or ‘reader. You can establish a nice profile, but you don’t have to.
  6. Give your email, password and sign up. Thanks bunches, you’ve just voted.
Posted in AllAuthor, authors, Blindness, Book Cover, novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, Uncategorized, Visually Impaired, young adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blind Author’s Young Adult Novel #5 in Book Cover Comp: Please Vote Before Thurs. 10/31, 2:30pm Eastern!

At this writing, TheHeart of Applebutter Hill is in 5th place in the book cover comp. Don’t have time to read this? Go vote! https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

Introduction

This post was originally published by Stephanae McCoy on “Bold Blind Beauty.” These are her comments.

Advocacy is in my blood and fuels my spirit. So when my friend Donna Hill sent me an email asking for help to win a book cover competition I said YES! Since I’m always looking for opportunities to increase accessibility, inclusion, and representation this opportunity is a fun way to do this. Please join me in voting for Donna’s book cover HERE. Together let’s change how we perceive one another. Without further ado, it’s my pleasure to present Donna:

Visit the original post & follow Steph! Blind Author’s Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-Bullying Novel https://boldblindbeauty.com/2019/10/22/blind-authors-diversity-inclusion-anti-bullying-novel/

Some Background

Earlier this month, my educator-recommended, young adult novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, was chosen to compete in AllAuthor’s Cover of the Month competition. I remember the first time I visited my special page and hearing Jaws, my screen reader, say “0 Votes Button.” It seemed like a hopeless case – not that I haven’t been there before.

I entered, and Jaws said, “1 Vote Button.” Since that first day, I’ve been working my butt off, following every lead and using social media in ways I would have never dreamed of only a month ago. Through blog posts, status updates, newsletters, emails to individuals, posts to my many Facebook and LinkedIn groups and requests to authors on the AllAuthor site, I’ve been doing everything I can to get the vote out.

Some of the procedures are complicated, but I’m doing them so much that it’s like my hands are dancing around the keyboard. I’m happy to announce that The Heart of Applebutter Hill is now #5 in the fourth and final round! I’m using the opportunity to raise awareness about blindness, guide dogs and accessibility, & I would appreciate your help. If I’ve already convinced you, just go vote at: https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

Description of the Book Cover of The Heart of Applebutter Hill

Book cover for The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill shows a cave scene - stalactites reflected in an underground lake, while a hand holds the Heartstone of Arden-Goth: photos, Rich Hill;, design, Lizza Studios.

The cover of The Heart of Applebutter Hill shows a cave scene – stalactites reflected in an underground lake. In the bottom right, a hand holds the blue, heart-shaped Heartstone of Arden-Goth. Photos by Rich Hill; cover design by Bob Lizza, Lizza Studios.

The idea for the book cover, however, came from yours truly. I have a beautiful blue glass, heart-shaped paperweight, which was given to me by my “secret sister” when I belonged to a women’s circle at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania. The cave scene is a bit of a secret. I would like to find out if anyone recognizes it. I will say that my hubby Rich and I have been there twice, and without seeing it in the ordinary sense of the term, that cave formation dug a whole right into my imagination and provided one of the novel’s most exciting, scary and intriguing scenes.

Some Thoughts on the Big Picture

Pink breast-cancer-awareness afghan, designed and knit by Donna W. Hill,  features twining vine surrounded by butterflies and candle flames: photo by Rich Hill

Pink breast-cancer-awareness afghan, designed and knit by Donna W. Hill, features twining vine surrounded by butterflies and candle flames with “Buddy Check” in Braille: photo by Rich Hill.

Why is this so important to me? It’s October which makes it “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” and a celebration for me of twenty-nine years as a breast cancer survivor. I am aware that life is short and that there is a reason each of us is here, a unique perspective on the human condition we hold in our hearts and share as a gift to Life.

It’s also “Meet the Blind Month.” I was born legally blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative condition, and I feel an obligation to smooth the trail a bit for the next generation. People with vision loss are still dealing with the devastating impact of misguided, erroneous and cruel prejudices and low expectations about our potentials. These prejudices are held by people who have limited imaginations when it comes to their own impressions of what it must be like to not have eyesight.

Sighted Folks Need Our Help

The sighted world needs to learn about and embrace us for at least two reasons. First, many of us have developed survival, coping and innovation skills that are far less common in the general public. We know how to press on. We don’t have the luxury of giving up after a few tries. We endure humiliation and find ways of coping with it.

It was the news about how average Americans were reacting to the Great Recession that enlightened me. So many people have no clue how to deal with adversity. They’re devastated after applying for and not getting ten jobs. They are thunder-struck when their “friends” don’t want anything to do with them after they’ve lost their homes or jobs. The socioeconomic structure in which they place their trust is a mirage, and when they finally figure that out, they don’t know how to continue. It’s sad.

Secondly, there are people out there, from children to senior citizens, who are unknowingly living as temporarily sighted people. Most of the people in the world who are now blind lost their sight as adults. They grew up as sighted kids, soaking up the negative stereotypes about blindness, until they found themselves having to give up on life or transform their thinking about what it means to be blind. Too many give up.

Social Change Through Literature

Blooming Amarilis with a print copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill, a fantasy adventure featuring some awesome flowers: photo by Rich Hill.

Blooming red Amaryllis with a print copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill, a fantasy featuring some awesome flowers: photo by Rich Hill.

Blind people come from every race, religion, ethnic, social, age and economic group. From genius to developmentally challenged, straight to gay, we are a cross-section of humanity. To open the minds of the next generation, we need to get our young adult novels & autobiographies into the classroom, where books can open young minds about the abilities and common humanity of visually impaired people.

I have been working on this issue all my adult life, using music, classroom visits, school assemblies and now literature. The prejudices – yeah, there’s that word again – are deeply entrenched in the human mindset. Whether due to unfamiliarity or something else, these roots need some serious tugging at to break free.

Yes, we can open minds about blindness through literature. A book can give sighted people a safe place to get to know a blind person. It’s also important that young blind people get to see themselves in an exciting adventure fantasy. I believe it can help bridge the gap between the sighted public and the blind community and help kids who are losing their sight realize they are not alone.

Blind Authors & the Publishing Industry: a Locked Door

The publishing industry, while occasionally willing to take on the nonfiction stories of blind people who make it into the public arena, has been more reluctant to embrace fictional portrayals of blind people by blind authors. The disability community has a saying, “Nothing about us without us.” So far, however, the industry is more open to fictional portrayals of blind people by sighted authors.

Some blind writers have been told that their portrayals of blind girls and women are “unrealistic.” Others were told that the public wants their fictional blind females to be demure, spiritual and in need of rescue. Despite the obstacles, more excellent blind authors than ever are establishing themselves as career authors.

Blind Authors Find Ways Around Those Locked Doors

Whether through self-publishing or by working with small publishing houses, their work is getting out there. Some of my favorite blind women authors include Deborah Kent Stein, Amy Krout-Horn, Kristen Witucki, Meredith Burton, Phyllis Campbell, Jo Elizabeth Pinto, Patty Fletcher and Lynda Lambert. As for blind men, there’s Jerry Whittle and Justin Oldham for starters.

Fiction by blind authors, however, is not on the bestseller’s lists. Several years ago, I ran across a report by the diversity watchdog group “Diversity in YA.” They track the Publishers Weekly bestsellers for young adult novels with main characters and authors with minority status, including disabilities. In 2013, there were no blind main characters. There were also no black main characters. Only the gay community even came close to having a percentage of books in line with population.

This is evidence of the rejection of diversity by the publishing industry and in my opinion something we need to change to create an atmosphere of inclusion in the general population. Here’s a link to the report: http://www.diversityinya.com/2014/03/diversity-in-publishers-weeklys-2013-young-adult-bestsellers/#more-3170

Voting Instructions for Jaws Users

Go on over to: https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

  1. The page title is “Vote for The Heart of Applebutter Hill
  2. From the top of the page, use ‘h to next heading which is the book title The Heart of Applebutter Hill.
  3. Down-arrow past author & genre till you hear a number followed by “Vote button.” At this writing I have 310 votes, so it should say, “310 Sign-in Vote Button.”
  4. Enter.
  5. You will be prompted to sign up to the site; choose ‘author or ‘reader. You can establish a nice profile, but you don’t have to.
  6. Give your email, password and sign up. Thanks bunches, you’ve just voted.

More Links

Facebook Fan Page for The Heart of Applebutter Hill: https://m.facebook.com/TheHeartOfApplebutterHill/

Donna’s Profile on Facebook Mobile: https://m.facebook.com/home.php?r5af25bf3&refid=8

FaceBook.com: http://www.facebook.com/donna.w.hill

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dewhill

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dwh99 

Donna’s WordPress Blog: http://DonnaWHill.com

Posted in acceptance, Accessibility, advocacy, AllAuthor, authors, Blindness, Book Cover, breast cancer, bullying, Disability, Education, fantasy, Guide dogs, Indie Authors, Knitting, novel, publishing, Self-Publishing, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, Uncategorized, Visually Impaired, Wrighting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Outside Myself by Kristen Witucki: A Stunning Portrayal of Blindness Reviewed by Donna W. Hill

When you hear that someone is “having trouble adjusting to blindness,” you may be tempted to think that they need to accept the “fact” that they simply cannot do a laundry list of essential human activities. Can you set that aside for a time and consider this? Perhaps they need to learn that the sighted people around them don’t have the answers and in many cases may be holding them back.

Book cover of Outside Myself by Kristen Witucki, shows profiles of dual protagonists on background of warm tan parchment with title in Braille: photo courtesy Kristen Witucki.

The book cover of Outside Myself by Kristen Wytucki shows profiles of the dual protagonists on a background of warm tan, slightly wrinkled parchment . Both facing in the same direction, Tallie’s is nested inside Benjamin’s. Benjamin’s profile is slightly lighter than the background, and Tallie’s is a little lighter still. The profiles cast a shadow, as if someone cut each out of paper and laid them on the cover. The title is in black text. It also appears in Braille in the same color as the shadows: photo courtesy Kristen Witucki.

Superbly written, Outside Myself by Kristen Witucki gets to the heart of the human experience. Blended and broken families struggle with issues that tear parents and children apart. Trying to do their best, they are fettered by incomplete and often false information. At the center of it all, two very different blind characters, determined to create their own place in the world, grapple with the negativity in their families, communities and themselves.

Witucki gives the reader a candid look at a blind person who wonders why so many people want her to be sighted. Whether through medical advances or faith healing, their actions tell her that they can’t accept her as she is. She also shows us a person, who should know what being ostracized and bullied means, grappling with insensitivity to others. This happens in the midst of the joys and frustrations of everyday life.

This beautiful and honest story of a mentor relationship reaches into several worlds to expose the deepest pain and the greatest triumphs of the human spirit. It is told by two narrators, Tallie and Benjamin. Their names appear at the beginnings of their chapters along with the date and subject. They represent different age-groups, genders, races, belief systems and causes of blindness. They grew up in different eras with different rights under the law.

Most blind people lose their vision as adults. Yes, most blind people used to be able to see. This fact alone should compel everyone to learn about living in a sighted world without sight. Still, misconceptions and stereotypes persist. Blindness is insurmountable. Blind people can’t do this, that or the other thing. Independence, a fulfilling career and even love are all too often considered simply out of reach. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Outside Myself is recommended for senior high and older readers. Learning about the struggles and triumphs of life without sight within the pages of a gripping novel is a great place to start. It’s sorely needed, especially for young people still forming their world views. Rehab counsellors will tell you that the biggest obstacles their newly blinded clients face are their misconceptions about blindness – Misconceptions they gathered while living in the sighted world.

Writing a novel that provides an authentic overview of blindness, however, is a monumental task. Adults or children, male or female, genius or intellectually challenged, rich or poor, blindness is a part of the human experience. It’s not even possible to predict with any degree of certainty what any one blind person can or cannot see.

So, how did Witucki do it? She hit one out of the ballpark. Her experiences have placed her in an ideal position to tell this story. Born totally blind, she earned three master’s degrees in teaching gifted students, the creative writing of fiction and teaching students with visual impairments. Witucki is a wife and mother of three. She is also Curriculum and Content Editor, Blindness and Visual Impairment at Learning Ally, the world’s largest library of volunteer-narrated books.

The novel comes right out of her daily life. Tallie, a young and precocious blind girl, and Benjamin, a withdrawn grandfather who works at a library for the blind, meet on the phone. Witucki interweaves the two “points of view” with an uncommon agility. Her ability to blend action, dreams and memory allows their stories to unfold smoothly, drawing the reader into their separate worlds, even as she brings them closer together.

Music, literature, and the love of learning are lifelines throughout the book. You will encounter a commentary on Heidi, Swiss author Johanna Spyri’s classic children’s novel, that has probably never crossed your mind. Tallie’s concern for dry leaves and Benjamin’s relationship with the moon provide glimpses into their inner lives.

Outside Myself is set primarily in New Jersey, with a train ride to Raleigh and a skiing trip to Vermont. The Ski for Light event, where Tallie learns to cross-country ski, is real. I’ve attended it twice. It is accurately portrayed. All in all, an inspiring read, carefully constructed with clear, concise language, nuanced characters and unexpected twists. There’s so much in this book that I couldn’t resist a second read.

Purchase Outside Myself in Print, EBook & Audio Formats

Outside Myself is Kristen Witucki’s first full length novel. Purchase it and The Transcriber, a story for
adolescent emerging readers, and follow Kristen at: https://www.amazon.com/Kristen-Witucki/e/B00BCQVL4K%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Audible has Outside Myself Narrated by Stephanie Keefer and Royal Jaye. Listen to a Sample at: https://www.audible.com/pd/Outside-Myself-Audiobook/B07CY6KGFQ

Options for readers with print impairments

Outside Myself is available through the National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress. Both novels are also available through Learning Ally.

Posted in acceptance, Accessibility, ADA, authors, Blindness, Book Reviews, bullying, Education, Kristen Wytucki, novel, Outside Myself, Uncategorized, Visually Impaired, young adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blind Author’s Inspiring Message Transforms Book Cover Competition

October is one of my favorite months. It’s a great time to take a vacation, but this year, I’m doing no such thing. In fact, I’m working harder than I ever have. Earlier this month, my educator-recommended novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, was chosen for the AllAuthor “Cover of the Month” Competition. I’m so excited to report that it is now in round three – the top 50 vote-getters!

Blooming Amarilis with a print copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill, a fantasy adventure featuring some awesome flowers: photo by Rich Hill.

Print copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill and Blooming Amaryllis: photo by Rich Hill.

Getting the Vote Out

I’ve been working my butt off, following every lead and using social media in ways I would have never dreamed of only a month ago. I need your help to get into the fourth (top 25) round. If you just want to go vote, here’s the link. Instructions for people using the Jaws screen reader are below, along with a description of the book cover. https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

Can you help me? Options include spreading this news via your social media pages, direct mailings or word of mouth. Re-blog this post. Share my social media posts. I’m @dewhill on Twitter & Donna W. Hill on LinkedIn & Facebook. The Heart of Applebutter Hill has its own FB fan page – the links are at the end of this post.

Description of the Book Cover of The Heart of Applebutter Hill

Book cover for The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill shows a cave scene - stalactites reflected in an underground lake, while a hand holds the Heartstone of Arden-Goth: photos, Rich Hill;, design, Lizza Studios.

The cover of The Heart of Applebutter Hill shows a cave scene – stalactites reflected in an underground lake. In the bottom right, a hand holds the blue, heart-shaped Heartstone of Arden-Goth. Photos by Rich Hill; cover design by Bob Lizza, Lizza Studios.

The idea for the book cover, however, came from yours truly. I have a beautiful blue glass heart-shaped paperweight, which was given to me by my “secret sister” when I belonged to a women’s circle at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania. The cave scene is a bit of a secret. I would like to find out if anyone recognizes it. I will say that it is a spiritual location that inspires me.

Some Thoughts on the Big Picture

Why is this so important to me? It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a celebration for me of twenty-nine years as a breast cancer survivor. I am aware that life is short and that there is a reason each of us is here, a unique perspective on the human condition we hold in our hearts and share as a gift to Life.

I was born legally blind, and I feel a deep obligation to smooth the trail a bit. People are still dealing with the devastating impact of misguided, erroneous and cruel prejudices about our potentials. These prejudices are held by people who refuse to accept the truth of our common humanity.

The sighted world needs to learn about and embrace us for at least two reasons. First, many of us have developed survival, coping and innovation skills that seem to be far less common in the general public. We know how to press on. We don’t have the luxury of giving up after a few tries. We endure humiliation and find ways of coping with it.

Secondly, there are people out there, from children to senior citizens, who are unknowingly living as temporarily sighted people. Most of the people in the world who are now blind lost their sight as adults. They grew up as sighted kids, soaking up all of the negative stereotypes about blindness, until they found themselves having to give up on life or transform their thinking about what it means to be blind.

Social Change Through Literature

Blind people come from every race, religion, ethnic, social, age and economic group. To change the minds of the next generation, we need to get our young adult novels & autobiographies into the classroom, where books can open young minds about the abilities and common humanity of people with vision loss. I have been working on this issue all of my adult life, using music, classroom visits, school assemblies and now through literature.

Yes, we can open minds about blindness through literature. A book can give sighted people a safe place to get to know a blind person. It’s also important that young blind people get to see themselves in an exciting adventure fantasy. I believe it can help bridge the gap between the sighted public and the blind community and help kids who are losing their sight to realize they are not alone.

Voting Instructions for Jaws Users

Go on over to: https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

  1. The page title is “Vote for The Heart of Applebutter Hill
  2. From the top of the page, use ‘h to next heading which is the book title The Heart of Applebutter Hill.
  3. Down-arrow past author & genre till you hear a number followed by “Vote button.” At this writing I have 167 votes, so it should say, “167 Vote Button.”
  4. Enter.
  5. You will be prompted to sign up to the site; choose ‘author or ‘reader. You can establish a nice profile, but you don’t have to.
  6. Give your email, password and sign up. You’ve just voted.

More Links

Facebook Fan Page for The Heart of Applebutter Hill: https://m.facebook.com/TheHeartOfApplebutterHill/

Donna’s Profile on Facebook Mobile: https://m.facebook.com/home.php?r5af25bf3&refid=8

FaceBook.com: http://www.facebook.com/donna.w.hill

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dewhill

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dwh99 

Donna’s WordPress Blog: http://DonnaWHill.com

Posted in AllAuthor, authors, Blindness, Book Cover, breast cancer, Cats & Dogs, Education, fantasy, novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, Uncategorized, Visually Impaired, young adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inspiring Trail-Blazer Passes the Torch: Remembering Marca Bristo

The following tribute to the late disability rights pioneer, Marca Bristo, was written by Fun For The Disabled’s Vanessa Harris and Access Living’s Bridget Hayman. It is being re-printed with permission. Anyone with a disability, whether from vision loss, birth defect, injury or other, owes the freedoms and rights they enjoy at least in part to this brave and relentless champion of equality. It’s time to pick up the torch.

Remembering Marca Bristo

Disability rights pioneer Marca Bristo, founder of Access Living, in 2011, Chicago: photo by Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune.

Internationally renowned disability rights leader Marca Bristo died September 8th, 2019 from cancer. Marca founded and built Chicago’s Access Living, one of the nation’s leading disability rights and service organizations. She had recently stepped down from her role as CEO because of her prognosis.

Paralyzed from the chest down in a diving accident at age 23, Marca became a staunch disability activist early in life, starting Access Living just two years after her accident. From there, her work expanded to the national and international stage.

Almost 40 years after Marca founded Access Living, the organization has continued to be a highly influential voice in the fight for equity and inclusion of people with disabilities. It is run and led by disabled people, and in addition to high profile advocacy efforts, Access Living provides essential services to nearly 2,000 Chicagoans with disabilities so they can live the lives they choose in the community.

Marca was an early champion for people with disabilities and one of her crowning achievements was helping to author the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark legislation that granted people with disabilities civil rights that was signed into law in 1990. However, Marca’s advocacy never stopped – her efforts led to the first fair housing program in the country to address disability discrimination, the inclusion of disability issues in domestic violence law and the requirement for all televisions to have close-captioned decoders.

Marca served as the Chair for the National Council on Independent Living for many years after co-founding the organization in 1982. President Clinton appointed her as chair of the National Council on Disability from 1994-2002 and she was the first person with a disability in the role. As the vice president of North America for Rehabilitation International, she participated in the negotiation for the United Nations’ Convention (UN) on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the UN adopted in 2006.

She was given the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States in 1992; the Henry B. Betts Laureate, considered the Nobel Prize in the disability field in 1993; and the 1993 United Way of Chicago Executive of the Year Award.

Near the end of her life, Marca said she had no bucket list — that she had done what she set out to do and seen what she wanted to see. She also shared her firm belief that the disability activism work she started was in good and capable hands to be carried on by the staff at Access Living.

Marca is survived by her sister, Gail; her husband, Bob Kettlewell; their two children, Sam and Madeline; son-in-law Pierce Nahigyah; and her two-month old granddaughter Beatrix who stole her heart from day one.

Fun for the Disabled

Vanessa Harris, the founder of Fun for the Disabled, is an environmental engineer who loves to dance. She enjoys “chair dancing,” moving to the music in her wheelchair. She just launched a new not for profit organization: The Strategy for Access Foundation NFP.
“Our mission is to provide short documentary subjects and inspiring stories about people who manage to have a good life and create a legacy while they are alive regardless of their disability or circumstances. We also cover entertaining and educational information about products, organizations, places and events for the disabled and their friends and families so that they can share memorable experiences.”

Visit Fun for the Disabled: https://www.fun4thedisabled.com/

Follow their blog: https://www.fun4thedisabled.com/blog/

Access Living

Bridget Hayman is Access Living’s Director of Communications. She is a 2018 University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow, a 2017 ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Fellow, and a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in visual culture from Lancaster University, England, and a triple bachelor’s in English, journalism, and public relations from the University of Northern Colorado.

Access Living is a diverse group of people with deep experience in disability advocacy, service, and social change. Over 60% of their staff have disabilities or lived experience with disability. At the heart of everything they do is the mantra of the disability rights movement: “Nothing about us without us.” Their core services include advocacy, independent Living skills, transition support, peer support, information and referrals. Learn more about Access Living at: https://www.accessliving.org/

Posted in Accessibility, ADA, Disability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Horrific Massacre Inspires Authors: International Writing Project Supports Terrorist Victims

On September 18th, representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter met with members of Congress to discuss ways to curb extremist behavior on social media. They referred to the Christchurch, New Zealand Mosque attacks this past March. Remember? That was another mass shooting. That time the terrorist was a white supremacist; the victims Muslim worshipers.

What Happened in Christchurch?

Haven is an international anthology to support victims of the 2019 terrorist attacks on two Christchurch (New Zealand) Mosques. Book cover shows a peaceful setting - dune grass and path near body of water: courtesy Plaisted Publishing House.

Haven Book Cover: photo Courtesy of Claire Plaisted, Plaisted Publishing House.

Any slaughter is horrific, but attacks on schools and worship services always seem to hit me the hardest. Freedom to believe and worship as you see fit is the cornerstone of the American experiment in democracy. An attack against any faith is an attack against religious freedom in general. In reality, it’s an attack against our right to think for ourselves.

You can’t have it both ways. If we don’t allow one set of beliefs, then someone else is limiting our ability to make our own decisions about what we do or do not believe. That isn’t religious freedom; it’s mind control. What we do limit are actions that harm others and their property. And that applies to actions based on religious or nonreligious beliefs.

During Friday prayer services on March 15, 2019,the gunman videoed the first of two attacks on Facebook Live, and played military and anti-Muslim music while carrying out the massacre. In all, 51 people were killed, and dozens injured.

When I heard about the attacks, I was horrified and saddened, like most of us are whenever these mass shootings occur. My heart went out to the people of New Zealand. I felt so helpless, I wished I could do something. I wasn’t in the best place to be of help; I was trying to get back in the saddle after three years of medical issues and the loss of my fourth guide dog, Hunter.

The Haven Project

I had just started working with Patty Fletcher of Tell-it-to-the-World Marketing. We were trying to jump-start my novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill. A couple of months later, Patty suggested that I submit something to an exciting and unique project, which I did. I soon learned that I am one of ten traditional and independent authors from around the world selected to contribute to the Haven project, sponsored by Plaisted Publishing House, Ltd. New Zealand.

Butterfly on Milkweed Flowers in Various Stages of Bloom:  photo by Rich Hill.

Butterfly on Milkweed Flowers in Various Stages of Bloom: photo by Rich Hill.

Proceeds from the sales of Haven, A Special Edition Anthology of Short Stories, memoir and poetry, go to charities supporting the Muslim community in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks. “Butterflies & Me,” my breast cancer survival story, was chosen for inclusion in the book.

Haven,” says Claire Plaisted, of Plaisted Publishing House, ”is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Christchurch Terror Attacks and their Surviving Families, as well as the Public Heroes, Police, Ambulance Personnel, hospital staff and all who assisted during this crisis.”

Meredith Burton, author of Blind Beauty and Other Tales of Redemption & Rebecca's Refuge, shown in a Red Sweater: photo courtesy of Meredith Burton.

Meredith Lee Burton, another Tell-it-to-the-World Marketing author is also a contributor. In fact, she has two pieces in Haven: “Journey to Freedom” and “The Physician’s Magic Medicine.” Meredith’s ability to create modern versions of fairy tales that elevate the human experience in new directions is pure genius. She has several books out including Blind Beauty and Other Tales of Redemption and her latest Rebecca’s Refuge.

Getting the Word Out

For most of my life, I’ve been writing press releases for one thing or another. Initially, when we lived in the Philadelphia area, they were about my music. The local newspapers, radio and TV stations covered everything from my work as a street performer, awards for special songs, my three albums and my performances everywhere from local schools and churches to events concerning disability rights sponsored by the federal government.

Then, when computers came along, things got a lot easier and cheaper. No more sending things snail mail, and I could write, edit and send without help. I donated my services to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Pennsylvania, the NFB’s Performing Arts Division, and the NFB’s Writer’s Division. I had great luck getting things posted around the nation. I always feel a secret pleasure when a newspaper just publishes my press release.

So, I went to work, writing press releases for our local area here in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, my old stomping ground in the Philadelphia area and my hometown of Easton, Pennsylvania. The first person I heard from was Julia Owens from Lehigh Valley Live, an online news source encompassing Easton, where I grew up. Here is the article she wrote after interviewing me. https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/2019/08/this-easton-native-was-one-of-ten-authors-chosen-for-an-international-writing-project.html

A couple of our local papers, including the Wyoming County Examiner, gave me a taste of that secret pleasure of having my press releases printed virtually verbatim, and with the two photos I included . Someone in our dentist’s office cut out the article, glued it to a postcard and mailed it to us. We got a fresh copy from the Examiner’s Tunkhannock office. It’s not online, so we scanned it.

Wyoming ty Examiner (Tunkhannock, PA): Author Chosen for International Writing Project, 7/28/19. pix Haven book cover & Donna W. Hill with yellow Lab guide dog Mo.

This article from the 7/28/19 edition of the Wyoming County Examiner (Tunkhannock,PA) contains Donna’s press release and two pictures she sent to the paper.

Haven is available through Lulu.com

eBook

http://www.lulu.com/shop/ebook/product-24115880.html

Paperback

http://www.lulu.com/shop/haven/paperback/product-24116746.html

Watch the Haven Book Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbxpBGpbVhA

Links to Authors & Publishers

Claire Plaisted, Plaisted Publishing House Ltd., New Zealand

http://www.plaistedpublishinghouse.com

Tell-it-to-the-World Marketing: Patty Fletcher

https://m.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

Meredith Lee Burton

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GC3HNYB/

The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill

Donna W. Hill, author of the highly recommended novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, takes a break to play with her yellow Lab guide dog, Mo, and his red Jolly Ball: photo by Rich Hill.

Donna Takes a Break to Play with Mo, her Yellow Lab Guide Dog & His Red Jolly Ball: Photo by Rich Hill.

Donna’s Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/donnawhill

Facebook Fan Page for The Heart of Applebutter Hill: https://m.facebook.com/TheHeartOfApplebutterHill/

Posted in authors, Blind Beauty and Other Tales of Redemption, Christchurch Mosque Attacks, Claire Plaisted, Haven, Meredith Burton, New Zealand, Patty Fletcher, Plaisted Publishing, PR, Rebecca's Refuge, Tell-it-to-the-World Marketing, Terrorism, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, Uncategorized, Wrighting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Indie Authors, Contests & Consternations: Win or Lose – You Can’t Do Either Without Entering

Winning a writing contest, no matter how small, seems to be a necessity for the modern author. Even if you aren’t qualified for the Pulitzer, there are more and more contests for indie authors. I’ve never won a contest, whether as an author or as a songwriter. It pains me – not that I’ve entered many.

My book was a BookWorks Book of the Week selection

Medallion from Bookworks Book of the Week Prize for Donna’s high school adventure/mystery with excursions into fantasy The Heart of Applebutter Hill.

In July, however, my first and only novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, was named the Bookworks novel of the week. I think that put a bug in my shorts. Then, I received a mailing that Patty Fletcher of Tell-it-to-the-World Marketing sent out to her author clients. It mentioned the North Street Prize for indie authors, sponsored by Writer’s Market. It cost $75. Yikes, but I was off and running. Two things stopped me.

First, I went to the site and discovered what looked like a deal-breaker. It appeared that all authors of genre fiction, including young adult novels, had to enter the same category. That seemed ridiculous and a tad mean. There was a Children’s Literature category, but my novel isn’t for children. I must be missing something, right? So, I wrote to them. While waiting for their response, I enlisted Google’s help to find other indie author contests.

“It’s  nice to snuggle up with a good book,” says Goofus, a strawberry blonde tabby, getting cozy with The Heart of Applebutter Hill by his Mom, Donna W. Hill. Cover shows cave scene with a hand holding the blue Heartstone of Arden-Goth: photo by Rich Hill.

Goofus, Hills’ kitty, snuggles up with The Heart of Applebutter Hill:photo by Rich Hill.

That’s when the second thing happened. I found the Booklife Prize, sponsored by Publishers Weekly. It was more expensive ($90-something), but … “All entrants receive a Critic’s Report, which includes a score as well as a brief written critical assessment of their novel by a Publishers Weekly reviewer.” In other words, they offered a written critique of every submission that authors could use to promote their work.

Hmm, if contests are important, reviews are even more so. I couldn’t justify the expense of entering both contests. Then, the answer came in from the North Street people. I was right; I should enter my young adult novel in the genre fiction category. Ugh!

Well, the North Street prize’s July 31st deadline was fast approaching, and their answer paralyzed me. The Booklife Prize deadline was the end of August and I decided to take a deep breath, work on the Haven project (the anthology from Plaisted Publishing in New Zealand to help victims of the Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks) and the “Sizzling Summer Super Release Book Launch Party!” (the Facebook event that Patty had set up for us). I could think about contests afterwards.

Mo, a male yellow Lab guide dog, in the grass with a copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill by his Mom, Donna W. Hill. Cover shows cave scene - stalactites reflected in an underground lake, with a hand holding the blue, Heartstone of Arden-Goth: photo by Rich Hill.

“They don’t really expect me to read this, do they?” says Donna’s guide dog Mo: photo by Rich Hill.

Eventually, I went to the Booklife entry form. Lo and behold, they had a category for middle school and young adult fiction. That meant only one winner for what I would consider two categories – still better than the North Street contest with all genre fiction whether for general, middle school or young audiences lumped into one category. I still can’t believe that. I have the email, if anyone wants to see it.

So, on to the Booklife prize. Just one teensy little issue – the blurb mentions the Middle School/Young Adult category, but the form didn’t. I looked around and around, assuming I was missing something, because I’m always missing something, right? But, no, my happy little category simply wasn’t there. OK, where’s the Contact page? I found it and set about to ask my question.

When Booklife wrote back, they had fixed the problem with the form, and – hang on to your socks – they gave me a promo code that saved me $20 on my submission for pointing it out to them. Now, I could enter the contest in good conscience. Even if I don’t win (which is statistically likely), I had done a service to the authorly world by pointing out the missing category and earned myself a discount.

Author Donna W. Hill takes time to play with her yellow Lab guide dog, Mo, and his red Jolly Ball: photo by Rich Hill.

Donna playing with her guide dog, Mo and his Jolly Ball: photo by Rich Hill.

My financial prudence as well as my social responsibility sides having thus been appeased, I entered. Now, I wait. One way or another, in eight weeks, I’ll have that review in hand. We’ll see if I have the nerve to use it. Meanwhile, my Booklife profile enabled me to create a project which allowed me to apply for a Publishers’ Weekly book review.

Posted in adventure-mystery, authors, Book Reviews, fantasy, Indie Authors, marketing, novel, Self-Publishing, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, Uncategorized, Wrighting, Writing Contests, young adult | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments