Intro: At first glance, one might assume it was the fact that they share the experience of living with disabilities that brought them together. The actual drawing card was their love of writing. Meet DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, one of those writers.

The Story: Michael lives in Ireland, Bobbi in Maine, and Dian in Las Vegas, Nevada. In March of 2006 they joined 24 others, brought together by Sanford, who lives in Florida. At first glance, one might assume it was the fact that they share the experience of living with disabilities that brought them together. The actual drawing card was that they all love to write. For over a year and a half, they met by telephone conference calls and exchanged email messages as members of the Written Word Partyline Workshop. Each Sunday night they alternated between working in critique sessions and listening to presentations from writers, poets, journalists, teachers, and people in the publishing industry. One of these presenters, Susan Driscoll, made the group an unbelievable offer. Susan is head of IUniverse, a print-on-demand publishing house, and offered to help them bring a book of their collective works to print—at no cost to the group.

The real scramble was on as Marilyn Brandt Smith, chief editor, and her team of fellow writers worked to winnow out the best of what our group had produced. The outpourings of group members ranged all over the map in style, subject matter, and genre. Poetry, essays, short stories drawn from life experiences or pure imagination had to be organized in some semblance of order. Before Christmas of 2007, Behind Our Eyes became available for purchase on the IUniverse, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon websites.

Twenty-seven thrilled authors across the country soon received their authors’ copies of a slim book of writings that is hard to categorize. If there is a single characteristic to be found in this book, it is diversity of voices. Poet, humorist, or stark realist, the book introduces you to the world as it is experienced in the realm of the mind.

“I’m always impressed by pioneering efforts. This anthology represents a noteworthy beginning for this group of writers. From the triumphs over adversity dramatized in the first section, to the heartwarming and heartbreaking stories and poems of the final grouping, they show us sensitivity and inspire strength. They show us disability as it is lived—honestly. Fables, fantasies, and tips about writing add something new, making this publication a unique contribution to disability literature,” said Erik Weihenmayer, author of Touch the Top of the World and The Adversity Advantage. Former rehabilitation counselor and novelist, Christopher Fahy, says this book is a must-read for anyone in the rehabilitation field.

For me, one of the 27 Sunday night friends, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think I have been a writer since before I knew how to write. My great-grandfather taught me to read when I was three, but by age eight, glaucoma had left me totally blind. Braille reopened the door to books for me; I could even read undetected under the covers after lights were out. Sometimes a word will set my mind in motion, and before I know it, I have woven a story, poem, or essay out of it. I am not rich or famous, but pieces I have written have appeared in various magazines and newsletters. I don’t expect to be able to give up my day job and devote myself to writing as a career, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the creative process.

If you have a lively imagination, are good at explaining things, or just want to keep a record of your life for yourself or future generations, you might consider writing. I belong to two online writing groups for disabled writers. I have had the pleasure of writing two short plays that I talked friends into performing at Guide Dog Users Inc. national conventions. I have been able to give friends and family poems to mark special occasions. And, I had ten of my pieces chosen when I helped my Sunday night friends bring out the anthology of our work. I have had my poems, articles, and stories appear in print here and there, but having this chance to hone my writing skills and help others to do the same was both a challenge and a pleasure. The book we created together is well worth space on your shelf, to share with those wishing to understand what goes on in the hearts and minds of visually impaired people. We are old, young, adventurous, and just trying to live our lives in the best way we know how.

The Contact: DeAnna Quietwater Noriega