This past weekend marks the four year anniversary of when I published the first book from my press, Medusa's Muse. Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, by Laura Fogg, is a memoir of Laura's 30 + years teaching children with vision impairments, and ultimately what those children taught her about life, love, loss, and joy. Laura has been my daughter's teacher since Queen Teen was 3, and when I discovered Laura was also a talented writer, I offered to publish her book. After a year-and a half of edits, revisions, and debates over cover design and font choices, her book was launched at the California Association of Orientation and Mobility Specialists Conference. The other teachers were excited and impressed, and we sold almost 100 copies in two days. Laura was ecstatic and I was thrilled. I was also intrigued by the other O and M teachers I met at the conference and the work they so obviously loved doing. A few days after the launch of Traveling Blind, I decided to go to Graduate School and become an O and M teacher too.
Four years later, I attended the Orientation and Mobility Conference again, this time as a credentialed O and M Specialist with a Master's Degree and a job working side-by-side with Laura. I'm still a publisher, but I'm also a teacher, working with visually impaired students throughout all of Mendocino County. It was a long, exhausting crawl to get my degree, as many of you saw if you've been reading my blog for the past three years, but so worth it. I love teaching, I love Orientation and Mobility, and I love my students.
The conference is held every other year in Monterey at a hotel right on the beach. About half of my classmates from SF State were there, as were my teachers. My main focus as a teacher was learning about GPS systems for the visually impaired because I have a student who may benefit from using such a device (see, I already sound like a teacher. "may benefit from using such a device." lol). On Saturday was a GPS treasure hunt in downtown Monterey where teams of six competed against each other to find all the clues and get to the last location before anyone else. Our leader was a visually impaired man who just so happens to be the President and CEO of Sendero Group, the manufacturer of the GPS we were using. Is that why we smoked the other teams, arriving 20 minutes before anyone else at the bar, where we waited near a warm fire and drank cold margaritas? But the best moments for me were when I got to spend time with my classmates, catching up on our lives and our teaching jobs while sharing wine and champagne. I've missed everyone so much! It's like we're part of a submarine crew, a small group of highly trained people sharing very specific experiences that hardly anyone else can really understand.
There was a raffle to raise money for the scholarship fund, so I donated four copies of Traveling Blind. As I was sitting in the audience listening to a speaker talk about the pros and cons of using GPS on a smart phone, it suddenly hit me how much my life has changed since the first time I was at this conference. Last time I was a publisher sitting behind a table covered in copies of Laura's book. Now I'm a teacher, just like Laura.
I'll always be a book publisher; no way will I give that up. But it's very hard to make a living publishing books, so I teach to support my book habit. Thank goodness I love my "real" job.