Today’s guest post is from author John Sanders. He write on all different kinds of topics including the eye condition, Nystagmus. Thank you John for being a guest. Please be sure to check out John’s social media links and his books and posts.
- Tell me a bit about yourself? – Born in the UK in the late 1950s, I moved around a lot as a child which was an education in itself. I worked as a translator, journalist and manager of the Nystagmus Network. Now I live in Wales and am fortunate enough not to have to do paid work anymore. That said, I still give the occasional talk about Nystagmus and volunteer with several charities. I also try to grow vegetables and fruit on an allotment which means struggling against slugs, pigeons, weeds and weather.
- What made you want to choose a career in journalism or writing? – No great plan. It was mostly by accident. My mum saw a job ad which didn’t involve driving. One thing led to another and I became a translator. Eventually that opened up an opportunity to become a journalist where the pay was better and the work more interesting. I missed my colleagues from translating though.
- What has been one of the hardest pieces you have written? – Not so much written, but the Dunblane school massacre in Scotland in 1996. That day I was sub-editing for an online news agency as the story unfolded. That meant I was the person checking the copy and pressing the button and sending the story out to screens around the world piece-meal as it happened. Initially all we had were reports of an incident at a school in Scotland. As the minutes and hours ticked by, it became apparent that children were dying and it wasn’t accidental. That was a horrible day. The British Government changed our gun laws following the Dunblane massacre. We’ve not had an event in a school like that here since.
- What made you want to write the Northwick stories? – Through fiction and drama you can often reach a larger audience – and have a greater impact – than simply trotting out facts and producing information sheets (although these have their place). Opinion-changing films about illness and disability that spring to mind are “My Left Foot”, “Rain Man”, “The Elephant Man” and “Children of a Lesser God”. One year I had to write up the Nystagmus Network annual open day for the charity’s newsletter. I was fed up (as a journalist) of reading dreary reports about meetings and events. So from almost nowhere sprang the idea of taking a humorous look at the open day through the eyes of the bear we’d raffled to raise money. Some people liked the story (others didn’t), but there was enough support for me to carry on writing about the world from Northwick’s flickering perspective.
- What has been the most challenging part of having Nystagmus? –What has probably frustrated me most is how hard it is to learn about how nystagmus affects us. And I’m sorry if this upsets anyone, but after years of thinking about this issue I’ve concluded that – based on the evidence available — much of the blame lies with the medical profession. I know some wonderful people in the medical world who are exceptions to this rule. But so many people’s lives would be so much easier and less stressful if the world of ophthalmology in particular changed the way it communicates to patients who have nystagmus. And, from talking to other people, this applies to other eye conditions too. Instead of simply complaining, I’m one of a small group of people developing a Nystagmus Care Pathway (see https://www.bioj-online.com/articles/10.22599/bioj.126/) which we hope hospital eye departments will adopt one day.
- If you could give any piece of advice to a beginning freelance writer what would it be? – A few things: Read good writers. Write short sentences. Be wary of how you use adjectives. And try to write something every day.
- What was one of the hardest things that you struggled with in school? – Sport obviously (because of dodgy sight), seeing the board, having to take part in activities I couldn’t see, glare from windows. But also the dreary uniformity — which contributed to making life harder for anyone who didn’t quite fit the norm.
- Has Nystagmus impacted your career choice? – I suppose so, but I think most of us are limited one way or another: for instance where we are born, who our parents are, where we live, the subjects we choose to study and to drop early on in school. I was lucky to find work I could do and enjoyed (most of the time anyway).
- Has Nystagmus influenced you as a writer (as in how you actually get the writing done, etc)? – Possibly in more ways than I realize. If you’re vision impaired and going along to news conferences you have to develop strategies to get hold of information other people can see and take for granted. On a positive note, not seeing very well has made me more aware of other senses and therefore not limiting myself to describing the world purely in visual terms when I write. Nystagmus was one of the factors that prompted me to go freelance and work from home, mostly by phone and email. It’s so much easier than working in an open plan office (crazy environment for writing anyway) where people generally forget you don’t see the way they do.
Let’s have some fun with these last few questions!
- Sweets (which is the British word for candy) or Biscuits (which is the British word for cookies)? – Dark chocolate (candy).
- Tea or coffee? – Both.
- Bed made or unmade? – Not something I ever think about!
- Favorite author? – I’m impressed by people who can choose favourites (English spelling). I’ve read a lot of books by very different authors and know that my tastes have changed and continue to change.
- Favorite Food? – See my answer on books. Maybe I’m just indecisive?
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