It’s been about a year since I joined Behind Our Eyes (BOE), a 501(c)3organization which promotes the writing of blind and disabled individuals by way of a virtual writer’s group, as well as its own magazine, Magnets and Ladders. And I am privileged to find myself in the midst of some pretty amazing people. While we sometimes share common challenges, issues around disability are not our only creative focus. We are writers after all, writers like writers everywhere, whose inspiration is multifaceted, and whose efforts result in poetry, memoir, fantasy and much, much more, spanning the veritable cosmos of ideas.
Today as my guest, I welcome Abbie Johnson Taylor, newly elected BOE president. Abbie delivers soft-spoken compassion through a straight forward communication style, in her writing, as in her life.
Me: Abbie, how nice of you to drop by.
Abbie: Thank you for having me. You have a lovely home.
Me: Thank you. As we chat, would you like a cup of tea, or coffee, perhaps? And I have a few tidbits to nibble. How about a cookie or maybe a
piece of fruit?
Abbie: Actually, a glass of water would be good. Thanks.
Me: And where would you feel most comfortable: here at my kitchen table? Or would you like a comfy chair in the livingroom?
Abbie: The living room sounds good.
Me: Ah, now that I have my peppermint tea and we’re all settled, tell me a little about yourself. What part of the country do you live in?
Abbie: I live in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Me: Have you been there long?
Abbie: Yes, my family moved there in the summer of 1973. My paternal grandfather had recently passed away, and my grandmother needed help with the family’s coin-operated business. My dad felt obligated to do this since his siblings weren’t interested.
Me: What do you like best and least about living there?
Abbie: Although Sheridan is a small town, it has some perks. There’s an excellent transit service, and the senior center has a great help at home program. The downtown area has plenty of curb cuts, and some intersections have audible crossing signals. This makes it easy for folks like me with a visual impairment to cross streets safely. There’s also a nice walking path by a creek that I use often for exercise when the weather is good. I can’t think of anything I don’t like about living in Sheridan .
Me: Sounds wonderful. Is your writing influenced in any way by living there?
Abbie: Yes, my first novel, We Shall Overcome, is set there, and I’ve written some short stories where the action takes place in Sheridan.
Me: Can you describe your writing process for me? For example, do you have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?
Abbie: I do most of my work in my office. I use a PC, and because of my limited vision, I use text-to-speech software that helps me navigate the screen, reads material, and tells me what I’m typing. I also have a braille tablet that works with my PC as a display. It also has a word processor, email, and other programs, so at the end of the day, I work in my recliner or outside if the weather is nice. On weekdays, when I’m not at my water exercise class at the Y or other obligations, I’m usually either writing or editing something, whether it be a story, poem, or blog post. I’m currently working on a new novel.
Me: What got you started writing?
Abbie: Well, that’s a good question. I’ve been writing off and on my whole life. As a teenager, I wrote stories and poems but never saved any of them, although I shared them with family and friends. In the earlier part of this century, I was a registered music therapist, and I’d been working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities for over ten years. After taking a creative writing class at the Wyoming Lions Summer School for the Visually Impaired, I started to take it seriously and even wrote a novel. It was
frustrating, though, because I was working forty-hour weeks most of the time, and it was hard to fit writing into my schedule.
Me: Whew, I can only imagine.
Abbie: Then there was Bill. I’d been carrying on a two year, long-distance relationship with Bill Taylor, whom I’d met through a magazine called Newsreel. He was living in Fowler, Colorado. In January of2005, he sent me a letter in braille, asking me to marry him. This was a shock, but long story short, I accepted his proposal two months later when he came to Sheridan. He moved here three months after that, and I quit my day job and started writing full time. In September, we were married.
Me: Awww, what a sweet story!
Abbie: Three months later, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side.
Me: Oh, no, I’m so sorry to hear that. What did you do?
Abbie: I cared for him at home until he passed in 2012. This is the subject of my latest book, a memoir entitled My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.
Me: Oh my, that must have been such a challenging time for both of you. So what keeps you writing now, Abbie?
Abbie: I write to inspire and enlighten others.
Me: Well, all that you’ve gone through…I’m sure readers benefit from your example. Do you mind a few somewhat offbeat questions, so I can get a better glimpse of you as a person. What do you like to do on a rainy day?
Abbie: When I’m not working, I enjoy reading and listening to podcasts.
Me: What’s your favorite part of going grocery shopping? What do you think that says about you?
Abbie: I don’t go out shopping for food much anymore. My groceries are delivered weekly from a local supermarket, and I order from Schwan every two weeks. This may tell you I’m a recluse, but actually, there are other reasons I go out. As I said earlier, I attend water exercise classes at the YMCA, and I sing in a women’s choral group and participate in a couple of local writers’ group meetings.
Me: I think it says more about your resourcefulness, Abbie, you found an efficient way around the challenge of grocery shopping, that’s great. And you are involved in a wide variety of interests which express your creativity. Oh, look at the time, I know you need to get back to your busy life, but before you
leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?
Abbie: Sure, I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry
collections, and a memoir. I’m currently working on another novel. My work has appeared in Magnets and Ladders, The Weekly Avocet, and other publications. To learn more about me and my books, you may visit my website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com and my blog at
Me: Thank you so much for visiting with me today, Abbie. I hope you’ll come back very soon.
Abbie: Thank you again for having me, Joan, it was nice visiting with you.
Gratitude eases into me as I hug my guest goodbye, close the door, and ready myself to welcome Shabbot–gratitude for the week, its purpose, and its blessings. I carefully arrange two candles on the mantle, flick the switch on the candle-lighter, and bring the flame to the wick. Then I close my eyes and sigh:
Blessed are you Beloved One who enables us to kindle the Sabbath lights
And let us say: Amen
PS- If you would like to be featured in an upcoming *Kindling Friendship* please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org