Welcome to the Sunday Interview series, exclusive to the authors in the Cafe and Bookstore.. details of how you can participate and join the other authors in the cafe can be found at the end of the interview.
My guest this week is author and proofreader Jo Elizabeth Pinto who has recently released her latest book Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark.
Jo Elizabeth shares the inspiration behind her love of books and her own writing and lets us peek into her latest book with a humour filled extract that definitely entices you to read more.
Welcome Jo Elizabeth and perhaps you could start by telling us how long have you been an author, and how has your writing changed between your first and most recent book?
I’ve aspired to be an author since I figured out that words could be written down and enjoyed again and again. When I was a little girl, barely in school, my dad read a book aloud to me. I remember cuddling up with him on our living room couch, hearing a story about Osceola, the brave Seminole chief who fought the brutal attempts by the U.S. government to remove his people from Florida during the early 1800’s.
When my dad finished the book, I said sadly, “It’s all gone.”
“It’s not gone,” My dad told me, putting the book in my hands. “We can turn it around and start again at the beginning. Not tonight, though.”
The magic happened. I knew from that moment on, I wanted to capture words in books so they could be read from beginning to end, over and over. I had a poem printed in “Jack and Jill”—a magazine for kids—when I was eleven or twelve years old—and my author fever blazed after that.
I published my first novel in 2015, some thirty years after the poem in “Jack and Jill.” The novel, called “The Bright Side of Darkness,” is a coming-of-age story about a group of kids from the projects. It focuses on second chances and the power of mentoring. The book is fiction, but I drew heavily on my life experiences as I wrote it.
My second book, published this last July, is nonfiction. It’s a compilation of short vignettes, most of them lighthearted, a few more serious, detailing my adventures as the blind mom of a sighted daughter. It’s written in a completely different style from my novel, and the subject matter isn’t the same, but I again drew on my own life experiences as I wrote.
Where did the inspiration for your featured book come from?
When I told people in 2007 I was expecting, I knew they would be surprised. After all, I was. But I didn’t think people would be hostile or horrified. I didn’t think they would doubt my ability to raise a child because of my blindness. They did. It happened to me, and it happens to disabled parents regularly. This spring, yet another blind couple in Missouri nearly got their baby taken from them at birth simply because social workers doubted their ability to care for her without sight. I’d had enough!
I’d seen the usual “how disabled parents care for babies” pamphlets floating around. I decided to do something different. I thought if I could write a lighthearted, humorous book that would appeal to blind and sighted parents alike, I’d have a chance to show them that the trials and triumphs of parenting are much the same for everyone, regardless of disability. At the same time, I could educate parents, social workers, legislators, and other professionals, and perhaps stop some of the discriminatory nonsense that has caused so much unnecessary grief for families headed by disabled parents. I gathered blog posts, journal entries, and other writings I’d done about my adventures with my daughter over the last seven years since she started preschool, and “Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark” was born.
How did you conduct your research for the book you are featuring today?
Every bit of my research for “Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark”—the fun, the frustrating, and the fantastic–has come from lived experience. What makes the book ring so true is that while the experiences were being lived, I never intended to write a book about them. I just wrote them down for the sake of memory. The book came later.
How do you feel we should be encouraging the next generation of writers during childhood, at school and in the home?
First of all, readers are writers. Children must be exposed to books as often as possible. If they get books at home, that’s wonderful. I wish people would donate books to food banks, preschools, daycare centers, etc, so all children can have access to them. Libraries and public preschools need to be funded. Language arts education in schools needs to go beyond the basics. Good grammar and creativity are both important. If you have children in your lives, talk to them. Encourage them to describe the world around them, to use their words. Even adults aren’t using their words these days.
Do you belong to a writing group and if so what benefits do you feel it offers an author?
I belong to the Brighton Writers Group, which meets weekly to support its members and critique their works in progress. I’ve made some dear friends in the group over the years. But the greatest benefit authors receive from meeting in groups, in my opinion, is accountability. Having an upcoming meeting has been my motivation to write on many occasions. It has been a cure for the blank screen blues more than once. Bouncing ideas off other people often improves them, and having a network always helps when you get to the publishing and marketing stages of the writing process.
Extract “Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark”
“Mommy, what’s a street walker?”
The question took me by surprise. I paused at the corner a block away from the school, ready to cross the street, with my guide dog’s harness in one hand and my second grader holding tightly to the other. The wind sent the dry autumn leaves scuttling around our feet.
“Well …” I thought fast. “A street walker is someone who …. Someone who goes around looking for trouble. Where did you hear that word? Anlyn, forward.”
My daughter Sarah trotted to keep up as we crossed the busy street. “A mean boy in my class called me a street walker because I have to walk places with you and Anlyn all the time instead of riding in a car. Everybody laughed at me. I wish you could drive like other moms.”
I bit back a chuckle, but the guilt was right on its heels, followed closely by doubts and misgivings. How would having a blind mom affect a child socially? All blind parents worry about it. All blind parents dread the day their child comes home with it for the first time—the teasing, the discomfort. But street walker? Seriously? Still, at least neither kid had known what the word actually meant. I mentally pushed my worries aside and dragged myself back to the moment at hand.
“Hmmm.” I said aloud as we turned left toward home. “If I drove like other moms, what would we miss?”
Sarah wasn’t sure at first, but before we made it to our house, we stopped to blow the seeds off some big white dandelions for good luck. We paused to sniff some pretty pink flowers growing by the sidewalk. Sarah picked up three white rocks, a handful of acorns, and a perfectly round pine cone for me to tuck into my jacket pocket.
“We’d miss our nature adventures,” she decided.
“Exactly,” I agreed. “Besides, you know your way around this half of the city better than any of your friends. They get in their parents’ cars and don’t pay attention to where they go. You’re my little navigator, aren’t you? Now, I’m going to call your teacher.”
“Mom, don’t! I’m not a tattletale!”
“Don’t worry. I was a kid once, too—a long time ago. I won’t ruin your reputation.”
Two mornings later, I went with my daughter to school. While the kids sat on the sharing rug, my guide dog lay sedately on the floor in front of them. For fifteen minutes or so, I told the class about service dogs and how they work for blind people—helping them navigate traffic, guiding them in and out of stores and restaurants, etc, and how they’re allowed to go anywhere the public can go.
“Wow, Sarah’s lucky!” one classmate breathed as the kids took turns petting Anlyn’s soft tan coat. “Her mom gets to take her dog everywhere!”
“So Sarah?” the teacher asked, in a question I had rehearsed a bit with her, “What’s it like to have a blind mom?”
“Well,” my little girl said, in an unrehearsed answer, “it’s like a regular mom, except Daddy won’t let her drive his car.”
One of the recent reviews for the book
Jo Elizabeth Pinto’s beautiful collection of vignettes about the meaning of parenthood will leave you spellbound. Her candor and her ability to place you in certain scenes is beautiful. I loved how the author did not sugarcoat the challenges encountered by blind parents but that she also emphasized the wonderful aspects, too. This powerful collection of vignettes are perfect for anyone who loves heartwarming and thought-provoking accounts and who want to learn about the challenges and victories that blind individuals face. My favorite vignettes include:
1. The Streetwalker. A beautiful exploration of how to turn an awkward moment into a positive teaching opportunity.
2. “oh, Gnats!” An exploration of the challenges encountered by blind parents when confronted by the frightening prospects of Child Protective Services.
3. The Turkey Trot. An account of a race that emphasizes the necessity of perseverance.
4. The Ugly Duckling Cake. Outstanding vignette about celebrating imperfections. This one made me smile.
5. The Ice Cream Man Sat Alone.
Beautiful commentary on violence and how it affects us all.
Please take the time to read this powerful collection. You will laugh, cry and celebrate life. Perhaps you will gain a richer understanding of how disabled individuals would like to be treated. As I am blind as well, I appreciated the author’s appeal for us all to be treated with common decency. We want to be seen as individuals, not to be seen just for our challenges. Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car is thoroughly recommended! God bless you all.
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Daddy-Wont-Let-Mom-Drive-ebook/dp/B07VQ9GRWC
And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daddy-Wont-Let-Mom-Drive-ebook/dp/B07VQ9GRWC
And also by J.E. Pinto
Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/J.-E.-Pinto/e/B011AA6EQM
And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/J.-E.-Pinto/e/B011AA6EQM
Read more reviews and follow J.E. Pinto on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14120336.J_E_Pinto/blog
About Jo Elizabeth Pinto
Jo Elizabeth Pinto is a magnet for underdogs! Early in her married life, her home became a hangout for troubled neighborhood kids. This experience lit the flame for her first novel, The Bright Side of Darkness.
Pinto’s Spanish-American roots grow deep in the Rocky Mountains, dating back six generations. J. E. Pinto lives with her family in Colorado where she works as a writer and also proofreads textbooks and audio books. One of her favorite pastimes is taking a nature walk with her service dog.
The Bright Side of Darkness won a first place Indie Book Award for “First Novel over Eighty Thousand Words,” as well as First Place for “Inspirational Fiction.” The novel also won several awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association: First Place for “Inspirational Fiction,” Second Place for “Audio Book,” and First Place for “Literary and Contemporary Fiction.”
Connect to Jo Elizabeth Pinto
It was lovely for me to find out more about Jo Elizabeth and the inspiration behind her love of books and writing.. I know she would enjoy your feedback.. thanks Sally.
If you would like to participate in the Sunday Interview Series you can find all the details here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/08/18/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-series-sunday-author-interview-coming-soon/