The Goode Life - A Presentation

 Earlier this month, Susan Stanfield and I presented a workshop at the BCACL Conference in Penticton titled - you guessed it - The Goode Life. We were thankful that almost everyone who had signed up showed up for the presentation, which took place first thing Saturday morning, the morning after the big dinner and dance.

Our presentation focused, as most of you will have guessed, on the memoirs written by Barb Goode and published by Spectrum Press last year.

Barb herself was supposed to join us, but in the end she couldn't make it. So, we thought, how can we make Barb a big part of the presentation, even in her absence? The answer came quickly. We would videotape an interview with Barb.

We brought the video camera over to Barb's place, and after only two takes, we had what we thought was a great interview to share with the audience.

So, at 8:30 on the Saturday morning of our presentation, Susan started off with introductions. She introduced herself and Barb, and then she talked a little bit about some of the main ideas in Barb's book, before moving on to show the 25 minute interview which Barb and I had prepared.

For those few people who don't know Barb Goode, she really is a true Canadian hero. As Al Etmanski says, "[Barb Goode] is a hero who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Rick Hansen and Terry Fox." 

A lady who came to talk to me at our Spectrum Press book table at this conference picked up Barb's book, flipped through it, and said to me, "We Canadians do not take enough time to celebrate our heros." I couldn't have agreed with her more.

Anyway, in the video interview Barb talks about things like why she wanted to write an autobiography, how long she had been thinking about it, what some of her main subjects were, why she added humour, recipes, funny pictures, and quotes in amongst the serious topics like sterilization, institutionalization, plain language, and labelling. She read an excerpt.

After the video, I introduced myself, and then Susan put on her interviewer's hat and asked me several questions about supporting Barb to write her book, questions like: "How long did it take to write?" "What were some of the things you and Barb learned about supporting writers with disabilities?" "Was it easy for me as a supporter to write in plain language?"

In short, Barb and I learned that we needed to take the time to build up trust. Barb needed to trust that I wasn't going to hijack her book or be judgemental about the content. For my part, I had to learn how to support Barb in a way that best suited her, which meant getting together more often for shorter visits, allowing Barb to be scattered in her memories, and dealing with putting things in order later on. Barb taught me a lot about plain language, which, in fact, did not come that easily to me. Only once the trust was built up between us did I start to make any suggestions about the content and the layout of the book, and with that trust firmly in place, Barb was more receptive to the ideas I brought to the table. Still, it was always Barb's book, and by then she trusted that she would always have the last word on all aspects of it.

All in all (if I do say so myself) I think it was a great overview of what it was like to support someone like Barb to write a book. And it was, I think, a goode example for other self advocate writers and their supporters to draw from.

At the end of the presentation we showed a short video clip. I had put Barb on the spot while we had the video camera at her place and asked whether she would like to tell a story that wasn't in her book. She gladly accepted the challenge and talked for about 5 minutes about her trip to a conference in India in the early 1990's.

At some point I will upload the interview I did with Barb to youtube, but for now, take a look at Barb's India story...

After watching this video clip at our presentation for the BCACL Conference, I was able to point out to our audience one of the ways that Barb and I worked together on the stories for her book. You see, at our meetings Barb would often tell me stories like this one. I would then go home, write up my notes and go over them, coming up with questions about the stories Barb had told me - questions I would ask her the next time we got together. After watching this video, what kinds of questions might you ask Barb in order to flesh out the story, to make it fuller and more informative?

Jim Reynolds

ABC Book Update

Aaron Johannes and I had the pleasure of meeting recently with Dr. Susan Powell, creator of our upcoming ABC book, and Larry Wells, the project's photographer. 

Dr. Powell has assembled a focus group of adults with disabilities to create an alphabet book for children learning to read, with photos of models with disabilities participating in their communities for each letter. 

Dr. Powell and Mr. Wells have been meeting regularly with a group of adults to “imagine,” write, plan, and be models for the book. They are almost finished choosing the words for each letter, deciding how to explain each word so that young children will understand the concepts, and picking the community settings they will use for the photographs. The group originally came up with a list of 300 possible words and have been working to choose the best 26 for the book. They are now down to 29, and by their next meeting they will have whittled the number down to the required 26.

It sounds like this has been an amazing process, with a great group of self advocate collaborators. The words they have chosen so far are incredibly thought provoking, but totally in keeping with the target audience of elementary school kids - a task more challenging than it may sound. 

Our recent meeting focused on the format of the book and the style and layout of the photographs needed. We came up with a number of ideas, and there are still some choices to be made, but I am not letting out any spoilers here. Suffice it to say that this is a very exciting project and the final product is going to be a wonderful, fun and educational book for kids, and it is going to look fantastic.

The book will be sold to libraries, schools, groups and individuals, so that images of people with disabilities participating in valued roles will be available to all of those communities.

In the meantime, don't hesitate to check out our current selection of books and media. Also, look for us on Twitter - @101friendsbc and on Facebook.

A Closer Look at '101 Ways to Facilitate Making Friends'

101 Ways to Facilitate Making Friends has been popular with individuals who want to have a handy resource to look up friendship tips. One self advocate told us that he uses it like an encyclopedia of networking ideas. "When I'm feeling lonely, I flip through my book and I try something new. Or, if I am going out to my photo club, for example, I flip to #38 in the book and re-read the section called Take Photos and Show them Around."

It has been a great resource, as well, for facilitators/educators who want to lead small groups in building their networks. Each 'way' has ideas to talk about, questions to discuss, things to practice within your group, or with your supporters, and concrete things to try when you're out in the community. 

On its own or as a companion to 101 Ways to Make Friends, this collection of strategies is for parents, leaders, and teachers of all kinds.

In his introduction, David Pitonyak says, "What I love most about 101 Ways… is that it is not just a book about making friends. It is a book about being a friend."

From 'way' #52 Be the Kind of Friend You'd Like to Meet -- "Create a vision of yourself as the kind of a person that you would like to spend time with. If you would choose yourself as a partner, you will be much more likely to be attractive to other people. And if you are someone who has the traits that other folks are looking for -- your chance for friendship increases."

Many people with disabilities are lonely, and this book was written to help them find ways to build their personal support networks. But other groups have found this book to be helpful, too. Seniors groups have used it. Kids have used it. People who are new to their community or new to the country have found it extremely helpful. In fact, anyone who has trouble making friends will find ideas in this book that will make their lives better.

I will close with another quote from David Pitonyak's introduction to 101 Ways to Facilitate Making Friends. "Ours is a social brain. When we are connected to meaningful and enduring relationships, we are significantly more likely to live longer and healthier lives… In short, we are hot wired to belong."

Jim Reynolds

Happy, Busy New Year

We hope you are having a great 2012 so far. Here at Spectrum Press we are busy getting three new books ready for release in the fall. 

One project has assembled a focus group of adults with disabilities to create an alphabet book for children learning to read, with photos of models with disabilities participating in their communities for each letter. Dr. Susan Powell will be working with adults to “imagine,” write, plan and be models for the book in community settings they use, and the book will be sold to libraries, schools, groups and individuals so that images of people with disabilities participating in valued roles will be available to those communities. Participants will be paid for their participation.

Another exciting addition to our catalogue will be Susan Stanfield's new book, Community Support Worker Essentials: supporting people with developmental disabilities in their pursuit of the good life. Susan had been looking for resources to use in staff training - current, Canadian content; practical information for staff supporting people in community settings – and discovered there isn’t a whole lot out there. So she decided to write something herself. There is an excerpt available on our 101 friends blog - Check it out!

And last but not least, we are planning to publish an anthology of current thinking about how people with disabilities can be supported. The essays in this anthology From Institutions to Individuals: On Becoming Person-Centred, will be directed to college  students in Community Support Worker or Disability Studies programs and new or experienced community support workers.

If you haven't already, please follow us on Twitter - @101friendsbc and like us on Facebook - Spectrum Press: books and media by, for and about people you care about.

By the way, we are currently running a special on-line offer. The next 5 people to buy anything from our on-line store will receive a free first edition copy of 101 Ways to Make Friends. So don't delay. Buy now!

Gift Giving

In these trying economic times, we rightfully want greater value for our money spent. We are also getting more concerned about whether our money is supporting or defeating community. Doing good or doing bad in the world.

Christmas is approaching and it seems like a good time to talk about our spending and gift giving habits. Value and values. I personally think people are looking more and more toward social enterprise to provide values-based gift choices. If a consumer can find what they are looking for from a company with a social conscience, why wouldn't they buy there? Social enterprises benefit community. 

Many social enterprises have a three tiered mission. At Spectrum Press ours are: to make money to enable us to provide real paying jobs to people with diverse abilities, as writers, collaborators and packers/shippers; to support the mission of the non-profit (in our case Spectrum Society); and to do good for the greater community by sharing our knowledge.

I may be biased here, but I feel strongly that Spectrum Press books and products are a great value. 

Take Barb Goode's memoir, The Goode Life, for example. Since the 1970's Barb has been quietly working towards equal rights for labeled people, and in her mission she has made the world a better place for all of us. Her story is unique and compelling - perhaps one of the most important and inspiring recent works in disability rights literature.

In Patrick McDonagh's DVD documentary And That is How I got Free of My Isolation, he interviews self-advocate leaders with disabilities about their lives and relationships as they move from segregated to integrated and interdependent lives. 

101 Ways to Make Friends is a workbook that has been popular with self advocates, but also with anyone who needs help making friends. Each page is one easy-to-follow way to make friends. With original artwork by Aaron Johannes, it is full of fun and concrete ideas for building networks. It is a great resource for kids, too -- many of whom have told us that they like to colour in the drawings while they learn.

If you want to delve more deeply into the 101 Ways to Make Friends, then 101 Ways to Facilitate Making Friends might be just what you are looking for. For teachers of all kinds who want to lead groups in small workshop settings, or who want to help one person to build their personal support network, this manual lays out, in plain language, steps that help move people in the direction of friendship. This educators manual expands on each of the ways to make friends, giving your students and their supporters things to think and talk about, things they can practice together or on their own, and ideas for them to try out in the community.

This Christmas, I urge you to consider giving the gift of friendship and community.