October 1, 2014

Interview with Amy Bovaird

I've recently had the great joy of meeting new writers, both published and unpublished, through the My 500 Words group which I joined in January of this year. While my expectation goal was to use the group as a tool to rebuild a daily writing habit it has offered so much more. I have found the interaction there truly enjoyable and gained several new friendships.

One friend, who I am getting to know better, with all of her spunk and good humor is author Amy Bovaird. We all have a story to tell and Amy's is extremely inspiring. Her memoir Mobility Matters is coming out in just a few days.

Amy is, in her own words, a vision-challenged globetrotter. She's been to places that I have only dreamed of and has much to share from her experiences. I love her writing voice and the way it reflects her zest for life.

You can currently you download the first chapter of Mobility Matters for free on her blog. I highly recommend that you subscribe while you're at it. She is a delightful storyteller who is fun loving and adventurous. Not to mention the fact that you'll find her very encouraging.

I recently interviewed Amy about her life as well as her upcoming book. Here's what she shared:

Could you share a little bit about yourself with my readers.
Yes, certainly. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where most people knew each other. I’m the third of four siblings, and with me back home, we all live in the same town where we grew up!

Why did you choose to teach overseas? 
I graduated with a new major: Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL). Back then, no one had heard of this, at least in Pennsylvania. Besides, I was drawn to missions. I thought teaching overseas would allow me to support myself and work in the mission field.

Where did you teach? 
In Latin America, the Far East and the Middle East over a twenty-five year period. I taught from pre-school to adult military, at language schools and at a women’s college. I loved my students and used to travel during our school breaks. I was so blessed!

What is the eye condition you deal with and how has it affected your life? 
It’s called Retinitis Pigmentosa, RP for short. Although it’s hereditary, no one in my family or any of my relatives has it. I’m like the Lone Ranger! It’s different for every one who has it but some common characteristics are night blindness, a continual narrowing of peripheral vision, which leads to tunnel vision and ultimately, blindness. I’ve been legally blind since 1988. For me, the progression of vision loss has been gradual, so it hasn’t affected me overnight. I lived it with it for years without telling anyone. People just thought I was air-headed and clumsy when I ran into things. Aside from that, I lived my life like anyone else.

At what point did your situation change?
In 2006, my vision had deteriorated to the point I was stumbling and people thought I was drunk or on drugs, or something. I had returned to the United States and started noticing other problems connected to my hearing as well, especially over the phone. I still never talked about my RP. That year, I started two new teaching jobs. To maintain my jobs, I knew I had to get help. That’s when I discovered the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and learned how to use a cane, and received hearing aids. I had 50% hearing loss at that point. My hearing loss is a condition that sometimes accompanies RP, and is marked with progressive hearing loss and ends in deafness.

Let’s talk about your book.  What is the significance of your title? Is it a play on words? 
Yes, it plays on the concept that mobility is important, and it also focuses on all my mobility lesson—thus, the double meaning.  Mobility Matters is all about how important it is to keep living life and being connected to others. I couldn’t do that without help in getting around. So, the book is about coming to terms with terminology like “blindness,” and “vision-impaired,” and using a cane.

Exactly how mobile are you now with your cane? Can you get everywhere you need to with it? 
I’m as mobile as I need to be at this point. I can get around well. That doesn’t include the occasional truck trying to back over me!

How do you let people who see you with your cane know that you are not 100% blind? Or do you just let them assume that you can't see anything? 
That is a great question! And one I grapple with often. I’m getting much better when it comes to talking about my vision loss. Sometimes people don’t understand why they see me running without a cane but walking down the street on the same day with one. They don’t understand how I can see my cell phone and read a book but I need a cane to walk across the street. They might even think I’m faking it, especially if I have a good vision day.  People often say, “But you’re making eye contact with me. How can you be blind?” Sometimes I tell them and sometimes I let them think what they want.

Familiar places are probably easier to navigate? What about places where you've never been before?
I can travel on public transport like planes and trains without too much difficulty. It’s always a little strange because this is when people assume I can’t see anything and want to do everything for me, including printing out my e-ticket and putting me in a wheelchair to make my next leg of the journey. It robbed me of my pride and made me actually feel more blind than I was. I can tell people now just what help I need.

What is the take-away value of your book? What do you want readers to remember? 
Really, it doesn’t matter what kind of problem you are struggling with, if you trust God to help you through the difficulties, you’ll get through it. He may not change your situation, but He will change you. Also, we need to have a good sense of humor to get through the mishaps, of which we all face. Those who don’t know much about vision-impairment will learn a lot about it through my experiences, and those who do know about it will be comforted that someone else is going through what they are. It’s dramatic, it’s funny, and it’s fast-paced. I want readers to look at blindness in a new way, without pity, instead, to view it as any other characteristic that a person has but not one that defines.

Amy is one of those people who I have only met online but desire to meet in real life. For now, I am doing that through the pages of her memoir. I hope that you'll take the time to do the same. You can get more information and connect with Amy Bovaird in the following places:

Amy's Adventure's (offical website)

Amy Bovaird, Author FB Page

Amy's book will be released and available on Amazon.com on October 5th but don't forget to download the first chapter to free in the meantime here. You won't regret it!


Amy Bovaird said...

Thank you so much, Melinda! I love this piece! It's going to be held in a place of honor in my Mobility Matters launch scrapbook, which I just decided to have! ♥

Tonia Hurst said...

I love this! Amy, I'm so excited for you. Melinda, you do a nice job interviewing. I'm going to follow that link and get the first chapter. Thank you.

Kendra Burrows said...

Sounds like a great read! Thanks for sharing. {And I'm glad you're writing and posting again. More please! ;-) }

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