Cheryl McNeill Fisher and Dr. Kathy King join us to talk about their Writing Works Wonders Podcast and the work they’ve done to bring more accessibility to the publishing world for visually impaired authors.
Encouraging, inspiring and accelerating success among authors, Cheryl McNeill Fisher and Dr. Kathy King co-host a skill-building podcast that is designed for both new and experienced writers. This engaging podcast is unique in that it provides valuable learning opportunities and resources for authors who may be visually impaired.
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Kathy King, Mark Lefebvre, Cheryl McNeill Fisher
Mark Lefebvre 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital. My name is Mark Leslie Lefebvre. And I’m the director of business development at Draft2Digital. And I am honored to have Cheryl and Kathy with me today. And they are the hosts of the Writing Works Wonders podcast. But first, before we get into that, I’d love them to introduce themselves, share with you guys a little bit about who they are. And we’ll start with Cheryl, please.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 00:31
Hi, everybody, I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for having us. I’m Cheryl McNeil Fisher. And I’m half of our dynamic duo. And I’ve published, you know, I’m a published author, and I’m gonna pass it over to Kathy so we can talk more about the two of us together.
Kathy King 00:55
I’m Kathy King, and I’m the other half of the dynamic duo, and I’m so pleased to be part of Writing Works Wonders, we’ve had a great time creating this, serving the writing community and seeing this develop over time. We’re both published authors in different areas. I started off in fiction, and I’m moving into fiction now. I’ve had a long career in writing. Cheryl has written children’s books, but also memoir, and nonfiction. And we’re just thrilled that we have the opportunity to help people reach their dreams and bring together a community of authors through Writing Works Wonders.
Mark Lefebvre 01:34
That is fantastic. Thank you, ladies. So let’s get into it then. So what is what is Writing Works Wonders in general. And then let’s talk about the Writing Works Wonders podcast that you host.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 01:46
Kathy, you want to take that?
Kathy King 01:48
Sure. So Writing Works Wonders is, it encompasses a website, a Zoom call, online resources, and the podcast. And it started off with a community Zoom call through American Council of the blind, I wasn’t even on the scene. And then you’ll hear this in a minute, we morphed it into a podcast. So we recorded it. And it’s recorded on a Zoom call with participants, we recorded it. Now we edit it, put it up on our website and send it out into the cyber universe, to all different podcast platforms. But the focus is to bring together new, inexperienced authors and create a community and we offer a diverse programming in Writing Works Wonders. It’s a weekly event that happens every Friday afternoon at 1pm Eastern, and you can sign up to get the Zoom links to join us. It’s particularly geared and has focused on the needs of writers who are visually impaired. But everybody’s welcome. Once in a while we talk about visual impairment, but it’s not our extreme focus. So we have major authors that we interview, we include workshops, open mics, all sorts of different activities.
Mark Lefebvre 03:06
Okay, so the focus then is basically the craft, the business of writing, everything that creative people writers would be interested in learning about. However, you make it fully accessible for writers with impaired vision.
Kathy King 03:21
Exactly. And sometimes we talk about those topics, and it comes into conversation, and sometimes we’ll have a special episode particularly on that.
Mark Lefebvre 03:33
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 03:34
And we have the authors on for a lot of our readers so that, once a month, we have a major author on with us. So if, say, someone’s not a writer, and they’re not into writing, but they read a lot of books, and so we have popular authors on with us. That also includes, you know, people, their fans, their authors, their readers.
Mark Lefebvre 03:57
Oh, that’s awesome. So there is an audience of readers then, as well. That’s fantastic. So they can hear from their favorite authors. Awesome. Who are some of the people you’ve had on the show recently?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 04:08
CJ Box, Craig Johnson, Sharon Salwa. We have Catherine Colter coming on. We have Ellen Hildebrand, Susan Mallory. Oh, Andrew Child, let’s not forget Andrew.
Mark Lefebvre 04:32
Oh, that list is awesome. Now, there was some good news recently, just in the last week, I want to congratulate you for. So the Writing Works Wonders podcast itself has garnered the 2022 Werner C. Henley Media Award from the American Council for the Blind’s Board of Publication. Congratulations on that win.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 04:54
Thank you. Thank you.
Mark Lefebvre 04:57
What does it mean to win an award like that for the type of work that you guys are doing?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 05:06
It leaves me speechless, because it’s a community of people that puts this all together. Kathy and I, we are the captains of the ship. And but we have, it’s everyone who shows up. We have a community, we have an advisory board. And we have really created a community within the ACB community. So we are grateful for the opportunities. And then it’s up to us. And what we’ve done is, we’ve just flourished. And Kathy, you want to finish that up?
Kathy King 05:48
Sure. I think that it really recognizes, they articulated the fact that they recognize the hard work that we do, the amount of effort that it takes to plan, publicize, and then carry off the events that we hold, the fact that what we’re doing is professional. Cheryl and I were both authors and professional keynote speakers before we met and started doing this. And we’re not only creating a positive, helpful environment for writers and readers to grow in our community of the American Council of the Blind and far beyond. But we’re also helping the larger community in the world to understand that people with visual impairment can be active, vital participants in different walks of life. And that’s what the Media Award is all about, is about the quality of what we’re producing in media, and what that demonstrates to the world at large. And so we’re really appreciative of that. We were very, very surprised. We were very surprised at receiving that award. It’s a big honor.
Mark Lefebvre 06:56
Well, congratulations. It’s awesome. So I’m gonna go back to sort of the beginning, why you started it. And I guess, are you now starting to see the realization of that of that vision, of that dream?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 07:09
Yes, when I first started, I was by myself. And I knew as it was growing that I wanted someone else to work with. But I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen, who it might be. And when I met Kathy came on, happened to find the call, the Zoom call. And within that next month, we were working together, I asked her to join me on it. And at that point, I was only doing them once every two weeks. And it took us probably four months, six months to really get into a rhythm, a rhythmatic schedule of who does what, because we are … At first we were like, well, edit if you want, or you know, we were hesitant. But now it’s just, we edit each other’s work. And we don’t take it personally. And we have interns working with us now too, right Kathy?
Kathy King 08:13
Yeah, and I came with a background in podcasting, I’d been podcasting in the early days, 2004 I had several podcasts, and my career got super busy, I wasn’t able to anymore. Then visual impairment hit me just three years ago, and that’s why I was on that call, trying to make sense of it and find people for support. And I bumped into Cheryl, and I’m like, this is a group of writers, this is who I am. And here’s this wonderful woman putting on this Zoom call to encourage writers. And so I started attending it. And then we thought we’d work together and bringing together our talents and finding that we enjoyed working together, finding out how to do that. The biggest challenge was holding ourselves back and not trying to accomplish everything we were dreaming of at once. You hear her laugh? Yeah, because we were ready to just blow it out of the park, you know? And I said, now come on, we’ve got to do stage one, stage two, stage three. I’m the outliner. And so then we backed up a little and said, okay, what can we do in the next few months? Let’s set these goals. And we’ll put this aside over here. And so we’ve done so much in the past year and three months, but we have more on the plate, more in our plan that we want to accomplish. And it’s been so thrilling. The biggest thing to us is seeing how, when we do a call and bring together people, they learn from our guest authors. That’s fabulous. But it’s also fabulous when we open up the call and say let’s talk about outlines, let’s talk about storyboarding, let’s talk about whatever. And the participants in the Zoom room share information with one another and encourage each other to try different strategies. It’s not all about Kathy and Cheryl sharing their wonderful insights. It’s about providing a platform for this community to flourish. We’re facilitators, and it’s just so exciting to see that happening. And we’re seeing our community grow through this.
Mark Lefebvre 10:18
I love that. I love that. So just to clarify, before this co-hosting, working together on Writing Works Wonders, you two did not know each other through the writing community at all?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 10:30
Mark Lefebvre 10:33
And this is, you are probably not in the same location, you’re geolocated in different spots?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 10:41
I’m in New York state.
Kathy King 10:44
And I’m in Knoxville.
Mark Lefebvre 10:45
Excellent. I just love the way that we can leverage technology to connect with one another. And then you’re using that same technology to empower other authors out there. This is fantastic.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 10:57
This technology and the pandemic has opened up our world, because the more sighted people want this, the better it is for us, because here I am talking with you and Kathy. I don’t need to worry about transportation, I don’t need to worry about how I’m going to get there and all those plans. I can do this right here from my home, or wherever I might be. And so it’s taken, one of the biggest barriers for blind and visually impaired people is transportation. And so when we started this, it all started because of somebody through the American Council of the Blind, Cindy Hollis, who decided at the beginning of the pandemic to bring people together, find a way that people could communicate. And it started out with eight zoom calls per week. And now they’re up to 80 to 100 calls per week in the ACB community. And so when she had asked me, Cheryl, I’d like to see you do something on journaling or whatever. That’s how this started. And you know, it’s just amazing how this has just, it’s opened our world. Amazing, just amazing.
Kathy King 12:23
The other aspect of that is that everybody that facilitates these calls, we also break up the facilitating from the person that handles the raised hands and calling on people in Zoom, we use the Zoom platform. And if we edit it, and we also stream these live over ACB media. All of this is done by people who are blind or visually impaired. And that kind of blows your mind. So our main technical host is Chanel Allen, she’s phenomenal. She’s so great at what she does. And what she’s doing on the technical side for us is allowing Cheryl and I to focus on facilitating. We have a script that we loosely follow. It gives us guidance to where we’re headed. But we do a lot of improvisation, but we can really connect with and follow the conversation while Chanel is taking care of the technical needs. And then we also have somebody usually that’s streaming us. And it’s just amazing. I mean, your audience, I don’t think might realize yet, but Cheryl and I are very visually impaired. For instance, we can’t really see the video right now that we’re connected to. And so you know, that’s the degree to which we’re visually impaired. And I like to use a script when I do a podcast. That’s been my history. I was a geek, I was a professor. So I like to have things planned out. I have to use 54-point font in order to see that script. So that gives those that are listening an idea of what we mean by visual impairment. There can be a huge range of this experience.
Mark Lefebvre 14:01
Yeah. And I imagine that there are listeners to your podcast and users of your resources that do have varying degrees of visual. Now Kathy, you had said it happened just in the last three years. Was that something that that changed over time in terms of your visual ability, or did it all happen at once?
Kathy King 14:19
For me? No, my story is quite different from Cheryl’s. I was jumping in my pickup one morning, and all of a sudden couldn’t see the street signs. No, it happened overnight. All of a sudden, I was severely visually impaired.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 14:36
And I had low vision all my life, but I had 20/30 vision with contact lenses. And then one year my one retina detached, and then I was driving my car, and I saw a flash of light. And I knew the other retina had just detached. And within an hour, yeah, that was the last day I drove.
Mark Lefebvre 14:58
Now I want to go back to something else Kathy said earlier that you two had these grand dreams and ideas and things like that. So how has the podcast and the platform, how has everything evolved since its inception?
Kathy King 15:16
Well, one of the things is that we started with the Zoom call, then we started editing it, and Cheryl’s learned more and more how to edit it. And we both do the editing. We put it up on the platforms, I built a website for us, because that’s one of the things I do. And I figured out how to be able to do that, despite my visual impairment, I’m still able to do that. And then we’ve developed the programming so that it has a variety of programming, Cheryl does this phenomenal work reaching out to all of these major authors and scheduling them for once a month, it’s just amazing who she gets to come onto our show. And then we’re also publishing books. Now we have Writing Works Wonders Books, we have our second book that’s getting ready to go to press. So we’re actually publishing together as well.
Mark Lefebvre 16:07
Oh, that’s fantastic. I love that. So it’s just an ongoing thing where you guys are growing and learning together while helping others.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 16:16
Yes. And we have this phenomenon of, we call it round robin, or if you want to call it , it’s a storytelling, and we do it through Zoom, and it’s very fast paced, and Chanel calls on people and keeps us going. And we just take a storyline. And we don’t know where it’s gonna go. It’s just amazing. But it’s that improv creativity. And so it allows people and helps people feel more confident about what they’re able to do. And also, people speaking, they hear how much better they sound on the recordings, because that’s all part of public speaking, representing yourself as an author. And, you know, there’s just so much, it’s just a big … And Kathy’s got the hook. She’ll say, Cheryl, slow down. Because I’m like, we could do this, we could do that, we can do this, we could do that. And she’s like, take a breath.
Kathy King 17:18
But the fascinating thing about the round robin storytelling is that we started that off as, well, let’s try this. It was like a game we were going to try with the authors. And we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were trying it, kind of flailing around. We had heard about how people did collaborative writing. And so we wanted to try this with the group. And the group was willing, they tried it out. And the next time we did it, Cheryl and I figured out a way to be able to do these what we call story starters better. And then we throw in some twisters as people start answering, then all of a sudden, we throw something in and throw the story off in another direction. And now she’s calling it a phenomenon. Because people in the community, they’re like, when is the next round robin? And people show up just to be part of this craziness. They love it.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 18:09
They’re not writers, they just come to participate in our …
Mark Lefebvre 18:13
Oh really, they just enjoy it so much?
Kathy King 18:17
And the problem is, there’s one problem, I have to keep going on mute, because I’m laughing so hard, I’m banging my glass. And there are tears streaming down my face. Because it’s so funny what people are doing with this. So you can hear those on our website at writingworkswonders.com, do a search for round robin. And you’ll hear different ones of these episodes. And that’s our second book, no it’s our third, our third book that will be coming out in a couple of months will be about round robin storytelling. And we’ll reveal to the world our techniques about how to do this and suggestions.
Mark Lefebvre 18:57
That link will be in Writing Works Wonders when the third book is out as well?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 19:01
Kathy King 19:02
The first book is writing prompts, we have a writing prompt every week. And Cheryl is the one that usually comes up with those, they love her writing prompts. And then they come back the next week, and they read some of those out loud on the air. And they can also post them on the site. They asked us if they could post them on the site. So we built that capability in. So we have a whole book of writing prompts. And then the second book is how to build your website for authors. Yeah, website design for authors, even with your eyes shut, right? Even with visual impairment. So that’s kind of like my baby.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 19:41
Yeah, we’re calling it the Visionary Series. We do it with our eyes closed. So who better to teach you if we can do it? Then we can tell you how to do it.
Mark Lefebvre 19:53
And the thing is, I think website design, especially website design that’s friendly for the visually impaired, is something that not a lot of people think about. They think about mobile, and all kinds of other things, but maybe not necessarily, is there some sort of program that’s reading this site to somebody else? Right. And is that accessible?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 20:17
I use my iPad, and may I talk about your site now?
Mark Lefebvre 20:23
Sure, yeah, of course.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 20:25
So this is what this is about. Because being part of, you know, Jim Azevedo told us about Draft2Digital, and so, what I like about it, I’m the one that works mostly on your site, is how it’s very easy. It’s easy to navigate, I will use my iPad and the voiceover on my iPad, and almost everything I believe is all accessible. I have some difficulty with the back cover if I do a print, because the colors are not labeled as colors, they’re labeled as numbers. However, your customer service representatives are fabulous, because they take their time. And they’ll help out with what I’m asking, whether I email them or talk to them by phone. But that’s the only thing that I’ve found a challenge for. Everything else seems to move very smoothly. I like the way too that when the book is up on your site, there’s just one image of the book. And then I can go over to the [inaudible] and click on that. And on the side. you might have there is a price for the print or price for the digital version. The icons underneath I don’t believe are too, they’re not very accessible, meaning the text to speech, speaking out loud. But everything else, and the difference is that when you go to KDP, there’s, say, we have the writing journal book, or my time capsule, I’ll use one of mine. There’s three different pictures there. one for hardcover, one for one for paperback, one for ebook, instead of putting it in. So then I gotta navigate through all of those instead of having one image. And then I can click on it and see what’s going on with all of my other, you know, those formats. So yours is very easy. And then what I like too, is that they’re different colored buttons, they’re big buttons on the right-hand side of the screen. And they’re different colors. And you know, your site is very accessible for people using a text to speech technology.
Kathy King 23:03
Really important for web design, because I do the web design and what you’re hearing Cheryl describe, and we’ve had lots of conversations about Draft2Digital, about what’s working there, is that the buttons when you put your mouse over it, our voiceover or screen reader will read aloud to us and tell us what they are. And that’s really critical. Or if there’s an image, then there’s a description of it. That’s really important for us to be able to navigate.
Mark Lefebvre 23:32
Okay, well, thank you, and we are recording this. So what are some of the things that you wish we would improve or fix about our website and our experience for visually impaired people? Maybe the icons, those little icons you said?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 23:51
The icons for color, I guess they could be better. And the back cover, when you’re doing the back cover, I have to go back and forth when I’m doing the description. I can’t be specific. I don’t know specifically what it is. But I know it’s a challenge at times, you know?
Mark Lefebvre 24:16
What we will do, our challenge then is to work with you to figure out how we can make it better. So I hope I can count on you to help me through that process as we improve it.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 24:26
Because I think that’s, yeah, that’s the best way to do it for me to be with someone else and say, okay, this is what I see and what’s happening right now, so that the other person can actually see it too because you know, sometimes … We use visual, you know, Kathy and I being visual for so many years, we still want to use as much vision as we can. And we think visually, so that’s where sometimes it’s challenging for us, because we still want to be visual but we are depending more on our accessibility tools as we write.
Kathy King 25:03
Different people with visual impairment use different tools. And what Cheryl and I both do is, we use a combination of magnification and this text to speech, the screen reader voiceover. People who are entirely blind will use the text to speech entirely, and the screen reader, which reads the menus, and the buttons, and everything on the screen. So that’s a little different. So you have people all the way along the spectrum using all sorts of different tools to interact with websites. And that’s what makes it a little tricky for website developers. But you’ve got to think about these different tools that people are using. Some are using magnification, some are using text to speech, it’s not just one or the other.
Mark Lefebvre 25:50
Right. Which means that yeah, you’ve got to be flexible in that design. Okay, great. Thank you. So what are some of the things that you wish that book publishers or other people in the industry, service providers, or maybe just people in general in the book industry, what you wish that they knew about visually impaired authors?
Kathy King 26:12
I think one of the things that’s come up on our show is that publishers sometimes will have templates that they want you to use to be able to submit a proposal, or, you know, online publishing might have a template that they want you to input things, and the templates might not be accessible, we can’t navigate them. You know, this happens a lot. The other thing is that PDFs, a lot of times, are not accessible. If you’re going to use PDFs on your site, please make sure they’re accessible. Yes, yes. In other words, I can use a PDF and stretch it and magnify. But somebody totally blind can’t do that. They’re dependent on that text to speech. And not all PDFs are set up that they will read aloud. So please be aware that PDFs need to have text to speech configured well in them. Forms are another issue, forms are a big issue for people using text to speech. Because sometimes the tab in between doesn’t work, or the fields aren’t labeled well. I build forms for different websites I have, and people who are using the screen readers will write to me and say Kat, this one’s mislabeled, or that one’s mislabeled. And I go right in and fix it. I depend on them to tell me, you know, so it’s a constant tweaking process. Cheryl, what else can you think of? Labeling images?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 27:46
Yeah, like say, for you as a sighted person, you’re used to going into a form with the mouse or whatever, and we tab through everything. We tab through, and it should tab, it tabs right to the next one. And so if you were to use, go to one of our forms that we have on our website, if you just use the tab key, you’d see how things would go right to the next in the next form. And that would make it easier for you to do forms. Images, images is another thing with our book covers. And if you have a book cover, those of us, people who are visually impaired, even if someone just has some low vision, if there’s no description to it, we don’t know what’s on that book cover. And so I think it was, was it Andrew Child, I think, who went right in and changed his? I’m not sure. But we told them that someone had mentioned, they wanted to know what that book cover looks like, the new book cover. And so you can go right in and there’s something called alt text, and you fill it out. And then it shows up. And you know, that happens on a lot of public sites that people post things or, you know, I’ll say Apple because I have an iPad and iPhone, they’ve gotten better, where even with a photo, if there’s text in a photo, it will read it. And that’s only recently, because that has not been so. So if there’s a, say you have a poster, and it’s got something written on it. We don’t know what it says. There’s a lot of things, like say on Facebook that they put up events, those events that they put up, and a lot of people just post the poster. We don’t have a clue what’s up there.
Mark Lefebvre 29:38
So that’s where adding the alt text, and I know I’ve done that on Twitter when I’ve shared images, add the text to either explain what the image is, you know, a man sitting at a bar and smiling, whatever. Or you put some of the text in so that a reader can read it. Okay. So that actually makes me want to ask the question, I’m going to want to send you ladies the form that we use at Draft2Digital to send to authors to apply for promotions, I want to make sure then that that form is accessible that we use to send out. So I’m going to go through that, Megan and I’ll take a look at that, maybe send it off to you, maybe get some feedback, so we can make it even better.
Kathy King 30:19
But like one of the publishers that I used to work for, I was an editor for a publisher, a series editor. And they would make a flyer for every book that came out in our series. And those were PDF files, and you could click and download them. Well, those weren’t accessible, I now know, you know? I’ve gone back and looked at them. And so if I had sent that to a visually impaired person, they wouldn’t know what was in that file. It had a table of contents and a picture of the cover, all this great material, but it didn’t have any content for somebody using text to speech. And Cheryl brings up a great point, you know, when we post a flyer or an event or a graphic to advertise something on our site, I’m building these all the time, a little graphic, or Cheryl does too, little graphics, we always put in that alt text. We have multiple audiences, we have to realize that with websites. And so we want to reach all of them. The other one is PowerPoint slides. Oh, my goodness, it’s so difficult when we’re on a webinar, and people are using PowerPoint slides, we can’t tell what they say. And we don’t want people to necessarily read their slides. That’s a pretty boring presentation. But at the same time, it’s … so just posting your slides is not helpful, either. So thinking about the different audiences, can you share your outline in a text format? Then that would be very helpful.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 31:53
I was just gonna say real quick, when you think about it, a lot of sighted people are using the voiceover or text to speech in there, because they’re using their phones, a lot of them use it to read books. And so they’re just trying out some of these other things. So, again, we’re talking about visually impaired low vision people, but I know that there’s more … But they have the advantage because they have sight and they can figure it out. But sometimes, you know …
Mark Lefebvre 32:24
Well, that almost leads me to wonder, for writers who are looking to reach larger audiences, how valuable, for example, having an audiobook may be. Not that it’s just another format to sell in, but that it’s a format that may be actually just for accessibility reasons. I recently ran into, I had created an audiobook for one of my books. And I had a reader who was having trouble holding the book. It wasn’t a visual impairment, but he wanted to still read it. But he was having difficulty holding the book. And therefore, the audiobook made that experience so much more accessible for him. And that was the first time I really thought about that. Is that something that you encounter as well, like in terms of your own reading and things like that?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 33:09
Um, for me, I do a lot, I do a mixture, and I’ve listened to audiobooks for years. But now I find I do Kindle books or Apple books or whatever ebooks, through Barnes & Noble or wherever, right? And using my iPhone or my iPad, it actually will read it to me, some of these apps have it where they can read it to you. But they’re doing a better job for accessibility. But the audiobook a lot of times, like say for my children’s books, if you listen to one of my audiobooks, it tells the children as well what the illustration is in the book. So my books are chapter books that can go anywhere from first to fourth grade. And so I put illustrations in there, and so I made sure that there were captions that could be read aloud so that people would know what the illustration is, so they can enjoy it too.
Kathy King 34:13
The other thing that’s curious is that, as somebody that was sighted for 61 years, the transition to only audio, because I can’t read a large print book, trying to read on Kindle even blown way up is like three words a page.
Mark Lefebvre 34:33
You said 54 point font right? Is that what it was?
Kathy King 34:36
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s pretty fragmented, you know. So switching from reading text just to audio. Just, not as an option, but solely, was a big adjustment to me. It was very frustrating, because I’m very visual. As Cheryl said, we’re both visual, which is pretty ironic. And I hadn’t realized how much I use my eyes to read, that I was memorizing where things were on the page and scanning ahead, and I had to develop more focus with my listening. So that’s an adjustment that we go through. And I think that even sighted people, when they start listening to audiobooks, they have to figure out how to listen to audiobooks. I’ve been telling friends, you know, you can speed up your audiobook, and a lot of them don’t realize they could speed up the pace. And when they do it, they’re like, oh, my God, this is so much better.
Mark Lefebvre 35:34
It drives my partner crazy because I listen to most audiobooks or podcasts at 1.5, maybe 1.75 speed. And she says, you’re listening to chipmunks. I say, no, I’m digesting information at the speed I want to.
Kathy King 35:48
You’d fit right in with us. You’d fit right in. Because when you hear our community listen to voiceover, it’s buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh.
Mark Lefebvre 35:58
I love that. Because I mean, some people read fast, and I listen fast. So that’s how that works, right? This is a phenomenal conversation. I love it. I am curious if, as writers, you dictate? Or what’s the process that you use for that?
Kathy King 36:17
I’ll answer, I’ll answer that. I’ve gone through a tremendous struggle. I’ve published many books as a sighted person. And I was really frustrated when I lost my sight. I was so angry, because I said, my whole system is gone. Because it was typing and editing hardcopy, and then inputting edits, and scanning pages. And I knew that was all gone. And I said, this is my system. And finally, this January, I was at a place emotionally and mentally, I could step back and say, okay, wait a minute, how can I modify this? And I finally came up with another way of approaching my outlining and development, etc, and gradually worked it out. But it’s very hard to transition, especially if you’ve been a writer. So I do a combination of typing in my giant text and dictating. But the dictation still is not perfect. And I write sci fi. And so just for an example, every time I say, you know, Bridget McCabe went onboard the spaceship, it writes it as Bridget McCabe on bored on the spaceship, you know, it cannot get the word onboard. You know, it’s just a very boring book instead, you know. So, you know, there’s limitations to it. But I can sit back, get my thoughts together, and flow with the dictation, and then go back and edit. But the detail editing is very difficult, because I still want to trust my eyes. And I have a lot of blank spots with my vision. And I’ll be missing ends of words. So I do a combination of listen, when I’m editing, and also looking when I’m editing. So editing is really much slower than it was for me, and frustrating. But I have a great editor that works with me. And he’s also a wonderful coach and cheerleader. Cheryl, what about your process?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 38:27
I still write and I’ll write, when I’m writing, I’ll write in 20 font or 18 font, whatever, and go back to it. But I find if I’m dictating, it works better if I have a microphone on. It’s more apt to pick it up better, what I’m saying, and remembering to put a period, otherwise I get one long, long sentence. But I do both. I record though a lot sometimes too. I’ll record if all of a sudden I got something in my head and I want to get it down. Where years ago, it was about writing in a little notebook, having notebooks around all the time. And now it’s about using my, getting in that habit of a voice recorder or something. And one of the hardest things, and it’s still after 27 years for me, is I lived by my Day-Timer. Now people who have grown up using their phones or their devices or whatever, they’re automatically into the calendars and everything. And that’s one of the hardest things. I think most of us who were sighted and are older because we used those, that visual calendar that we wrote in, still struggle with that. And I’m finding different ways to maneuver through, whether it’s a list of things I need to do, to be able to put it over here that it’s done, or the timing, etc.
Mark Lefebvre 40:00
Ah, thank you. So I’m gonna bring up some comments and questions from the folks who’ve been watching this live. I will read those. So we’ve got, and of course, I don’t have my reading glasses on. So I think it says Tall Aaron, and my apologies if I’m misreading that, because my reading glasses are elsewhere right now. “Where would I find your podcast? I think you two would have a lot to teach new writers like myself.” And I think, do you want to read the URL out? Because I did pop it up on screen, but I want to make sure that people can hear the website.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 40:37
Kathy’s our website master.
Kathy King 40:42
Writingworkswonders.com is the website and the main page has listed the latest episodes, you’ll find everything there. You can also sign up, hit go to contact us and you can sign up to be on our email list. And every Thursday an email goes out so you can participate in the live Zoom call if you would like. We’re also available on Alexa, Google Home, Spotify, pretty much any app that you’re using for podcast applications.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 41:17
Pandora, everything. Wherever you can get a podcast, that’s where we are. Just look for Writing Works Wonders.
Kathy King 41:23
On Alexa all you actually have to say is, “Alexa, play the podcast Writing Works Wonders.” And it’ll play it.
Mark Lefebvre 41:31
I’m gonna play that with my other Google thing. But my phone might start acting up. Another comment that popped up, and now my partner passed me my reading glasses, she found them for me. So, Amagara Jerome says “Great stuff.” And then Tall Aaron also said, “Round robin storytelling is very similar to role playing game groups. You use the same techniques in the games with friends. This might be an avenue to look into.”
Kathy King 42:03
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 42:04
Yeah, a lot of times they’ll do like, say if you’re in person, again, this is a visual that may be picking up a prompt or roleplaying. In fact, we did do one where we all came in character in October, and we had to guess who was who and what character we were. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 42:25
Oh, that’s fantastic. Another comment we’ve got from Lexi, part of our staff. Lexi says, “I’ve never listened to an audiobook at one times speed.” She’s probably listening to everything so she can consume far more books, because I know she’s an avid reader.
Kathy King 42:44
There you go. That’s the benefit. That’s the benefit. People can’t believe I get through three or four books a week. They’re like, how do you do that? It’s like, push up the speed.
Mark Lefebvre 42:55
An 8-hour book you can listen to in 5 hours if you’re really dedicated. So your website, the website, which again I’m going to pop up on the screen and I’m going to read aloud. The website is writingworkswonders.com Your website offers a ton of resources. Now, what are some of the most useful tools and resources that you recommend to your listeners of your podcast, based on feedback and obviously your own personal experiences?
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 43:23
Kathy, I’ll let you answer that because you do, Kathy does our website.
Kathy King 43:28
One of the main things and we believe it ourselves, and we hear it from authors all the time, is a writing group. And we actually are very connected. We’re both members of Behind Our Eyes, which is a writing group for people with disabilities, all sorts of different disabilities. And so the link for them is available there, Behind Our Eyes. And so finding a writing group is really important. And then we have resources for all sorts of tools, from outlining to thesauruses to newsletters to how to find avenues to publish your work. And we connect to those very often in some of our episodes, marketing as well. I think Poets and Writers is a very, very good one. They have a fabulous database to be able to look up competitions, and also who’s looking for submissions in your genre, in your area, you know, during a specific timeline, and that’s a good go-to resource.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 44:36
You did a new thing for authors too, right Kathy?
Kathy King 44:39
Yes. Yeah. A whole new area just for authors. Yes. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 44:46
Excellent. Well, thank you ladies so much. I’m gonna pop up another comment and read that. This is from Randall Wood, who says, “Excellent information. I’ll be looking into ways to make our own site more user-friendly for the visually challenged.” And I do know Randall is from ScribeCount, which is a tool authors can use for their prices. So thanks, Randall, I appreciate that. I can even put you in contact with these wonderful ladies so they can help you out and help make that site more accessible for more authors out there.
Kathy King 45:16
And let me also mention that Scribd is listed on the resource list, Draft2Digital is listed, and Scribd as mentioned quite a bit by our visiting authors and some of the people in our community, so we’d be very interested in talking to him. But we also highly recommend Draft2Digital and talk about it on the show as a user-friendly interface, and one that provides access to multiple outlets for our independently published authors. That’s a very powerful aspect of what you folks are doing. We’re so appreciative of that.
Mark Lefebvre 45:51
Yes. Awesome. Yeah. Well, again, Kathy, Cheryl, thank you guys for the wonderful feedback. I look forward to working with you to make our stuff even better for authors. I look forward to sharing links to your podcast, your website, your resources for people, and I really appreciate you guys hanging out with me this afternoon.
Cheryl McNeill Fisher 46:11
Oh, thank you so much for having us. We really appreciate it. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you.
Kathy King 46:19
Great pleasure. What a lot of fun.
Mark Lefebvre 46:23
And just a reminder that we do the Draft2Digital live every Thursday, at 1pm Eastern Standard Time, it will go to our podcast feed, you can check it out. If you go to draft2digital.com and log into your account, you will see a link usually seven days in advance, sometimes six and a half days in advance, to the live broadcast on Facebook or on Twitter. If you go to YouTube, for example, I said Twitter and I meant YouTube. If you go to YouTube, you go to youtube.com/draft2digital, you will find us. As a matter of fact, as my colleague Kevin Tumlinson often says, just go to any website and add /draft2digital at the end of it. Chances are you’re going to find us hanging out with really cool people like you ladies. Thanks again, ladies, and thank you everyone for listening. This is Mark Leslie Lefebvre wishing you all a great day.