My interview with Nathan Bradford at the recent Writing Institute

April 18, 2014

 

From Laurie Sheerer:

Dear DCS Staff and Friends,

 

I would like to share this blog post with you this morning.  Nathan Bransford, a former agent-turned-author was part of our Writers’ Institute a couple weeks ago.  He took the time to interview Steve Salmon.  Steve, a writer with cerebral palsy, has been an important member of our writing community for many years.  As the director of the Writers’ Institute I am honored to present this lovely interview – kudos to Nathan for taking the time to interview Steve and bravo to Steve for all of his hard work and beautiful writing.

 

By the way, Nathan’s blog has 10, 042 followers on google+, with 17,171,937 views and 104,000 Twitter followers.

 

Onward, onward indeed!

 

Laurie

Steven Salmon on writing with cerebral palsy

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

At the Wisconsin Writer’s Institute a few weeks back I had the pleasure of meeting Steven Salmon, a blog reader with Cerebral Palsy who has published three books, an impressive output not least of which because he writes using morse code.

He agreed to an interview and here are the responses:

NB: What made you decide to start writing?

SS: I became a writer to show people that a severe physically disabled person can be and are productive valuable members of society if given a chance to succeed. All of my life, I was told “you can’t” by disabled advocates. When I graduated from high school with honors, the government labeled me as “unemployable.” The government didn’t believe that I could work and wouldn’t help me go to college. For two years after I graduated from high school I stayed at home doing nothing watching TV and reading sports autobiographies. Living in isolation made me angry. Boredom ate at my heart.  My dream was to attend college. I even contemplated committing suicide. But my mother put me through school herself. I vowed to be the best college student once I enrolled in college.  My strong determination made me want to prove the government wrong. I used my anger to become a productive person: a writer and eventually an author.

 

NB: What’s your writing process like?

 

SS: I use Morse code to write along with a word prediction program called CoWriter. Morse code allows me to use a mouse. I swing my head back and forth between two buddy buttons attached to a portable metal stand on my wheelchair. I spell out each word one letter at time. CoWriter predicts words that I start to spell allowing me to choose a word that I want from a number list. CoWriter automatically leaves a space to start the next word. When I enter a sentence into a word document or an email, CoWriter automatically leaves two spaces to begin a new sentence. I used to use voice recognition to write, but it didn’t work for me anymore because voice recognition started using words instead of using sounds for letters that I was using. A couple of years ago, I started using Morse code to write. Morse code is more accurate than voice recognition for me. I can edit my writing now.

 

NB: I was amazed to learn that you write using morse code. Does this process mean you plan your scenes ahead or do you still have room to improvise?

 

SS: Morse code and CoWriter are just tools giving me the ability to write fast.  When I write, I have a scene in my head.  Usually I write very detailed scenes without outlines or notes. I want a good “working” first draft.  Something that I can build on for a second draft. I want to be able to give it a friend or my literary agent who will edit it.  Then like all writers, I will rewrite the manuscript and edit it again. I write all day every day. Morse code and CoWriter allow me to write late at night. That is important I have care attendants to manage, a manuscript to rewrite for my agent, publicity to do and postings to write for my blog. I love writing at night with a baseball or a basketball game on TV.  I’m all alone writing with my black cat at my side.

 

NB: Is there an advantage to thinking about every letter as you go?

 

SS: There is no real advantage to spelling out one letter at a time. Morse code and CoWriter are just tools allowing me to write like a paintbrush for a painter. It’s up to me, the writer to make the words come to life for the reader. There is nothing like knowing that a manuscript is coming together like watching a house going up. A writer is a creator and seeing your writing come together is something to be proud about. At the end of the day the writer has satisfaction seeing the writing in their mind like a carpenter admiring a hard day of work as the sun sets. Only the writer can see it!

 

NB: Who is your writing hero?

 

Larry Watson is my favorite author. He wrote White Crosses, Justice, Orchard and Montana 1948. He taught writing at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point when I was a student there. Larry is my mentor and helped me get my first novel going. He doesn’t talk much. But I was one of the few students that he opened up to. It was a privilege to have Larry teach me. We are friends now and email each other.

 

NB: Any advice for aspiring writers out there?

 

SS: My advice to writers is writing is hard work! Writing a day or two a week is not writing. Larry told a writing class once if you want write to get rich writing get out now. If you want to learn how to write to write stay. In my opinion a real writer needs to be passionate about their writing and believe in their writing. There are very few rewards to being a writer. You don’t get paid. A writer needs people to confide to sharing the highs and the lows of writing. My college classmates are my confidants. Writers need to have confidants to lean on when nothing seems to be going right or they are pursuing a literary agent. A year ago, I was in a pursuit of an agent trying to impress her by doing several rewrites. I grew frustrated with her, but college classmates kept me focus. They gave me strength when I needed the most. But I got the agent thanks to my classmates. They are my inspiration.

 

I’m living a writer’s dream. But it’s a lot of hard work and long hours just writing. Not many writers are willing to make that kind of sacrifice.  But if a writer wants an agent the writer has to work!  If I have a literary agent, then other writers can to by working each day.

 

Not bad for “unemployable” person according to the system.

 

Thanks to Steven for participating! Check out his books here.

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