Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lipreading Mom

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


I am very excited to have Shanna with us today. She and I went to college together, um, a few years ago. Her life has changed infinitely since then. Today, she's sharing with us about her debut release, Lip Reader, as well as her hearing loss and a cause close to her heart.

Let's get to know Shanna!
Your blog is
Tell us about what led to your Deafness and how you chose to face it.

At age 27, I had just given birth to my first child, a healthy boy. While sitting at home with him, I noticed in quiet rooms that my ears rang uncontrollably. Conversations became distorted, and I had difficulty hearing voices on the phone. When I was diagnosed with tinnitus (ringing of the ears) and progressive hearing loss in 2001, I attributed the loss to hormonal changes from pregnancy. Later, I investigated my family history of hearing loss and discovered that genetic deafness went back several generations on the paternal side of my family. Exploring this family history and journaling about it helped bring me out of the initial denial, anger, and funk of having hearing loss.

What has been the biggest challenge of losing your hearing while raising three children?

My children---ages 11, 8, and 4---have adapted by speaking to me quite loud. When they can't get my attention, they also tap me on the shoulder (best case scenario) or scream (worst case). My daughter took baby sign language classes with me and seems to be more proactive in speaking clearly, facing me when she speaks, and using sign gestures so I can understand her. The challenges are there. My home is filled with loud voices, but also laughter. I remain concerned for their safety. At the swimming pool when I can't wear my hearing aids, I pay close attention to them. My eyes are my ears.

You focus on lipreading, but you also use sign language. How do you decide which communication mode to use in each situation?

My daughter is likely to use her hands while she speaks to me. My oldest son speaks clearly and has a deeper voice, so he is easier to lip read. My youngest son has quite a loud voice and is more inclined to place his chubby hands on my cheeks to get my attention.

At church, a woman and I sign the worship songs, and I teach Bible verses in sign language for my daughter's Sunday school class.

Tell us about Lip Reader. What was your inspiration? Which character did you enjoy writing the most? What do you hope your readers take away from the story?

Lip Reader is a novel loosely inspired by the genetic hearing loss in my family. The book takes place in Oklahoma where I was born and raised. My intention with writing Lip Reader was 1) to explore the history of my family's hearing loss and 2) educate and entertain readers with a compelling story about a special abled family. The main character, Sapphie, is a 12-year-old girl coming of age when she first meets her deaf family. The lesson she receives is one of inclusion, tolerance, and compassion. Sapphie also learns sign language from her warm-hearted Grandma Bebop. There is an unexpected surprise about secret-keeping that readers must discover for themselves.

What led to your decision to self-publish? What would you tell someone thinking of taking that step?

From start to finish, the book took just under two years to research, write, and publish. I felt a sense of urgency to share this book with others because it sheds light on hearing loss. More than 34 million Americans face hearing loss, and that number grows annually due to aging baby boomers with age-related hearing loss and noise exposure. After researching self-publishing options, I found an independent editor who proofread my manuscript two times before I submitted it for publication.

Self-publishing isn't for everyone. There is a cost involved, and the writer must pay for copies of the book to sell at signings. For the determined writer who can market the published book and has the financial means, self-publishing is very rewarding. It can open doors to speaking opportunities, media coverage, and community networking. A self-published author must take on these responsibilities: 1) hiring a professional editor to proofread the manuscript before publication and 2) setting up a marketing plan and following through with it. Social media, blogging, and online book events open up plenty of marketing possibilities. It's hard work to promote my book, but I like the sense of control and creativity that come with being a self-published author.

What has been your favorite moment while speaking about your book?

At speaking events, I use some sign language and plenty of drama! One of my favorite events was bringing by oldest son and daughter on the stage during a college speaking event in Missouri. They acted out a typical day with me as their hard of hearing mom. My son was shy, but my daughter stole the show with her honesty and smile.

You are also passionate about captioning services. What have you accomplished in that battle and what challenges are still ahead?

Captioning is vital to all people with hearing loss, as well as individuals learning to speak English as a second language. I became involved with captioning advocacy after repeated trips to the movie theater with my family. None of the movies were captioned. While watching Toy Story 3 at the theater, I sat stone-faced while my husband and kids laughed at Woody and Buzz's antics. What were the characters saying? I relied on my kids to repeat missed dialogue. That wasn't fair to them or me. After that trip, I partnered with the Hearing Loss Association of America  in contacting theaters about the importance of movie theater captioning. Since then, AMC Theatres, Cinemark, and others have begun showing first-run movies with captions.

I became concerned about the lack of online captions after watching YouTube and videos with my kids. What could my kids hear that I couldn't? My responsibility while my kids are at home is to guide and nurture them in their choices. Without the ability to understand the videos they watched online, I wasn't fulfilling that job. I partnered with the Collaboration for Communication Access via Captioning  to inform websites about the importance of captioning all online video content. The 21st Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act of 2012 is a landmark ruling by the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that news websites and other sites caption their videos. The challenge is with captioning individual videos on all websites, particularly YouTube. How is it possible to enforce the captioning of so many videos? Yet it is important, and the CCAC and I continue to work together through the Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign  and other efforts to promote universal captioning.

When do you manage to write? What is your writing routine like?

During the school year, I write when my kids are at school---usually mornings. During the summer months, I tend to write more at night after the kids are in bed. Occasionally I can grab a few minutes during the day to write a blog post or work on a book chapter. While writing Lip Reader, I waited until my kids napped or had afternoon quiet time to write. My goal was 20 minutes a day, five days a week.

My new book, Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom, is my true story of juggling motherhood, hearing loss, and the unexpected twists of life. It will be published by CrossRiver Media  and should be available in 2013. I spent four months writing two hours a day on the book while the kids were at school. Much of the fodder for Confessions came from my blog . Besides hearing loss and parenting, I deal with family depression and two unexpected deaths of loved ones. There is a lot of humor mixed in with the serious subject matters. Plan for a few laughs, tears, and shocking twists.

How did your stories in the A Cup of Comfort series come about ?

Writing true stories is cheaper than hiring a therapist! I love to share stories and inspire people from my life. One of my stories, "Signed, Scared, Delivered," was about delivering my daughter without the ability to hear the doctor or nurses. Once I began working with two different A Cup of Comfort editors on projects, I gained the confidence to repeatedly submit my short stories for publication.

If you had a week to do whatever you wanted with no consideration to cost, what you do?

My husband and I would have unlimited babysitting and would stay in a bed and breakfast way out in the middle of nowhere. The innkeeper would provide all the luxuries of home without all the chaos of home! 

Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Shanna!
Would you like to know more about Shanna? 
You can connect with her at her blog, Facebook or @lipreadingmom on Twitter.


Teri Anne Stanley said...

Wow, what a profound inspiration! It's always amazing to me when people make lemonade instead of wallowing in challenges (not that I'm ever inclined to whine myself, *ahem*).
And how awesome that you don't have to employ selective deafness when your kids say things you don't want to hear, LOL.

Shanna Groves said...

Teri Anne - Thank you for your comment. It made me laugh about the selective hearing part because I actually have days when I don't wear my hearing aids so I can give my ears a rest from kid noise. :) Now that's something for which to be thankful!

Blessings to you,