Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's a thrill to have my friend, Sharon Donovan, here as a guest logger to discuss her inspiring memoir, Echo of a Raven. She will be donating a portion of the proceeds from book sales to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

With America in the lead at 20.8 million, there are more than 230 million diabetics
in the world and the number is rapidly increasing. More than half of these diabetics
will develop some stage of retinopathy during his or her lifetime. This condition
causes fragile blood vessels to grow and rupture in the back of the eye and can lead
to progressive blindness.

I began hearing the frightening phrase diabetic retinopathy at the age of six when
I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. During a routine visit to Children’s Hospital
when I was twelve, a doctor predicted I would be blind by time I was twenty-five.

His harsh words echoed in my head to the point of obsession, affecting every major
decision I made for years to come. But even though these words haunted my subconscious,I never spoke them aloud. Then they might come true.
The closer I got to twenty-five, the tighter the noose around my neck, sucking the
life out of me like a garrotte.

I worked as a legal secretary at the Court of Common
Pleas where I prepared cases for judges in Family Court. But painting was my passion.
I spent my weekends painting picturesque scenery, the ruins of ancient Rome and reflections on the water. Through my artwork, I escaped to a place of peace and tranquility.

No more heartache. No more pain. But one day while painting a Tuscan landscape, I
had the first bout of blindness. And for the next two decades, my vision came and
went. Now you see it—now you don’t. And after a rocky road, nine years ago, I lost
the battle, losing all hope and my will to live.

But through an organization for the blind and visually impaired, I found the courage
to face a sighted world I was once part of. Some of the curriculum I endured for
eight grueling hours every day for sixteen weeks was mobility training with a white
cane, group therapy to deal with anger issues and the use of a computer with adaptive
software. It was a heart-wrenching journey filled with endless challenge. Part of
the reason I was reluctant to enroll in a program for the blind and visually impaired
was because I thought clients would be uneducated. I was a professional, after all.
What could I possibly have in common with “Those people?”

I was wrong. I met doctors and nurses, teachers and engineers, all with one common
thread. We were all facing vision loss due to circumstances beyond our control. Some
had the extra burden of facing a marital problem because a spouse could not or would
not accept the blindness. We laughed and we cried. We connected in a way words could
never express. I was one of the lucky ones. What didn’t kill me made me stronger.
And after a long and winding road, a new dream resurrected. Today, instead of painting my pictures on canvas, I paint my pictures with words.

Echo of a Raven is a must read for diabetics, those facing a vision loss and for intelligent people who want to put an end to this world-wide epidemic.

In my memoir,I give a prolific account of my stay at Pittsburgh Vision told from an insider’s
point of view when institutionalized for sixteen weeks. Echo of a Raven is not for
the weak at heart. But through my darkest hour, I found light at the end of a tunnel.
Only when I reached out and asked for help did doors open. And doors have continued
to open for me.

There is a plethora of opportunity for the blind and visually impaired. In my memoir,
I give the names and addresses and websites for several organizations that have been
invaluable to me. Please help me in my mission to find a cure for diabetes and its
number one complication—blindness. If I can prevent one child from living in fear
of losing his or her vision, Echo of a Raven will be a smashing success.
A portion of all proceeds of Echo of a Raven will be donated to JDRF Juvenile Diabetes
Research Foundation fight for a cure. I thank you for supporting my charity.
Sharon Donovan
Echo of a Raven
CTR Recommended Read Award for outstanding writing

YGR You Gotta Read rating
Available in paperback and eBook
Visit my website:

My blog

or contact me at:


As the blind man sweeps the streets with his white cane, I look away. As the blind man jingles his cup of coins on corner sidewalks, I look away. As the blind man sells his mops and brooms, I look away.

“You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five,” a doctor at Children’s Hospital predicted. “Your blood sugars are way too high.”

I began hearing the frightening phrase diabetic retinopathy at the age of six when I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. This condition causes fragile blood vessels to grow and rupture in the back of the eye and can lead to progressive blindness. And at the age of twelve, when a doctor at a routine visit made this prediction, his cruel words changed the entire course of my life, affecting every major decision I made for years to come.

His words haunted me. They consumed me. They devoured me. Wherever I went or whatever I did, these words echoed in my head. The only time I found refuge was through my artwork. Painting became my sanctuary, a place where I could escape to another place and time. Peace and tranquility. No more pain. But one day when painting a picturesque Tuscan landscape, the initial bout of blindness struck with no warning.

Several buses pulled up, hissing and spewing as slush and mud splashed in all directions. People jumped back to avoid the mud-stained snow. It was a 71 and it was going downtown.
As I stood shivering, waiting for people to file out, a blind woman approached the bus stop, sweeping the snow covered pavement with her white cane. Her flat, monotone voice cut through my thoughts. “Does this bus go downtown?”

“Yes,” I answered her. I wanted to turn my head as I’d done so many times in the past, but my heart went out to her. It was so slippery out and she was so vulnerable. What if she got on the wrong bus—or got stranded somewhere? That could be me some day. Fear welled up in my throat as I watched her maneuver her way on to the bus. She cleared each step with her cane and stepped aboard.

A man in the front of the bus stood up. “Here, miss. Take my seat.” He tapped her arm. “Behind you.”

She wordlessly took his seat without uttering so much as a thank you. I sat in the seat directly across from her, not wanting to watch her--but unable to take my eyes off her. She wore dark glasses and a blank expression, so isolated in a world of utter chaos. She pulled a book out of her bag and began feeling it. Braille, I sucked in my breath. A foreboding premonition hurled through me and I thought I might be sick. I couldn’t take this. Visions of my future flashed in front of me, filling me with an uneasiness that had me completely undone.

How could she have the patience to read Braille, feeling all those bumps. After reading small print on legal documents all day, I would never have the tolerance to learn Braille. No way. How could a sighted person adapt to an unsighted world? Would that be me some day? Or was I just hitting the panic button. Then to my horror, the words screeched in my head. “You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five.”

Precisely one week later, I was down in my garage, putting the finishing touches on my painting. The rich fertile vineyards of the Tuscan landscape shrouded an inland harbor of mirror still waters. Age-old olive trees framed the hillside. Sitting back to admire my work, I smiled in eager anticipation. Just a few more strokes of the brush for fine detailing, and my masterpiece would be complete.

But suddenly, a huge splattering of black paint covered my beautiful painting. Confused, I wondered how paint had managed to get all over my masterpiece. I blinked several times, but it was still there.

Slowly but surely, my brain received the message. It wasn’t black paint covering my canvas at all; it was blood covering my retina. My worst nightmare had just come true. I’d had a massive retinal hemorrhage.

Dumbfounded, my paintbrush slipped from my fingers and rolled across the floor. I felt like I was drowning, losing consciousness. I sunk into a chair, clasping my hand over my mouth. Heart-wrenching pain stabbed at my gut. Nausea threatened. Then the tears spilled. “Nooo! Not yet. It’s too soon.”


Kathleen said...

Welcome Sharon! It's great having you here. I ordered your book and can't wait for it to come.
Your writing is wonderful and I can see that you do now 'paint with words.'

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Sharon,
You are truly an inspiration my friend.You could have fallen down in a heap and stayed there, when your blindness set in, but you didn't You still kept painting beautiful pictures, this time in words instead of paint.
Best wishes

liana laverentz said...

Way to go, Sharon. It's so inspiring to see the way you've adapted to "being an author." Your excitement and enthusiasm shines through, even with as serious a subject as this. May you have many sales and help many people with your story

Sharon Donovan said...

Hello Kathleen! A warm thank you for inviting me to guest blog with the ladies of the Lark Journal today and tomorrow. I feel truly honored to be in the company of such awesome authors! Thank you so much for your kind words and for supporting my cause. God Bless!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hello, Margaret! As always, your kind words inspire me to keep right on plugging. I am thrilled to be here today with you ladies! Wishing you all good things,

Sharon Donovan said...

Hey, Liana! Thank you so much for your encouragement and for being there for me when I needed help the most! You were that angel put in the right place at the right time when I was ready to give up on a career in writing. Thank you, dear friend!

margaret blake said...

Inspirational and heart warming. You are one very brave lady.

I love the excerpt too, beautifully written and touching as well.

I wish you the very best of everything, Sharon.

Miss Mae said...

No matter how many times I read that excerpt, it still provokes the same gut-wrenching reaction -- I want to dissolve into tears. I can just imagine if that were me, what would I do? The hopelessness, the despair...one just never knows the direction Life's road will take. And I just wonder how I'd cope.

My hat's off to Sharon for battling perhaps one of the most terrifying trials in her life. She came through it, scarred, yes, but she can certainly claim victory.

Way to go, girlfriend! :)

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi, Margaret! Oh, your words humble me! Thank you so very much. I am so thrilled to be here today and hope my book can help others facing such a loss to never give up.

Sharon Donovan said...

Oh, Miss Mae! You make me cry with your sweet and moving words. I bow my head in graciousness. Writing this book was one of the hardest things I've done since losing my sight. In order to write it right, I had to go to the darkest recesses of my mind and stay there until the emotions flowed out of me and onto paper. Well computer. LOL Well off I go before I cry in my coffee mug! Thank you, dear friend.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Sharon,

Someone asked me once, if I had to lose one of my senses which would it be. I said I rather lose my hearing because I'd never be able to write if I couldn't see. Until I met you, I always believed that. Thanks for sharing such a painful time in your life. Your touching story is inspiring to everyone.

Linda LaRoque said...

Hi Sharon,
You're an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing your story so others can see there is always room for hope.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for your sweet words of encouragement. Who knew I could write without vision? And with the advances in modern technology, making computers read the text aloud, it's just a matter of time before all vision problems can be remedied. It was great to meet you at the Penn Writers conference last May. Good luck with all your books!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Linda! Without hope we have nothing. Challenges present themselves to us and we have to decide if to rise or fall. Not an easy decision. But my writing and all my friends inspire me to face each day. I love escaping in books and in writing. Good stuff!

Linda Banche said...

Sharon, you leave us with hope for the world. Too many people moan and groan about hangnails. May all your books be mega sellers.

Autumn Shelley said...

Wow! That excerpt was powerful! The imagery you gave me with the woman taking the seat was very poignant. By being able to do that with words, you most certainly have a gift!! Can't wait to read it!
Autumn Shelley

E.A. West said...

What a powerful excerpt, Sharon! I wanted to cry as I read it. You have such an amazing way with words.

It takes a lot of courage to write about such a difficult and personal journey and then share it with the world. Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring us all.

Candace Morehouse said...

Sharon, your words are so beautiful and eloquent. I am so glad you chose to use your artistic gift for writing because we are all the better for it. Thank you for sharing your story - and your gift.

Mary Ricksen said...

You are amazing Sharon. Your talent knows no bounds!
Diabetes is an insidious and horrid disease. My DH has it and his brother lost part of a leg to it. I hope you are able to maintain those good numbers!!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Linda! Thank you for your encouraging words and for dropping by. You know the funny thing is, I still complain about hangnails! But not nearly as much as breaking one of my pride and joy long fingernails!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Autumn! Thank you for dropping by and for your kind words. You know I remember that snowy day like it was yesterday. It kind of had a freeze frame in my brain and that is probably the reason I can portray it with the compassion and fear I felt. It was almost too much. I wanted to look away but couldn't keep my eyes off her. I was mesmerized, caught up in a trance and felt as if I were peering into a looking glass. Surreal!!

Cate Masters said...

Sharon, what a wonderful post. So inspiring, you brought tears to my eyes. I hope your book will bring hope to those who need it most. Thank you for putting your writing skills to such a worthy cause.

Sharon Donovan said...

E.A.! Thank you for dropping by and for your awesome words. Yes, sharing such intimate parts of myself was not something I chose to do. But during my writing classes, I began taking in bits and pieces of my stay at Pittsburgh Vision. My instructor and the instructor after that encouraged me to take it to the next level. The man who taught a memoir class wrote for a paper and introduced me to the editor of the Life Support column and challenged me to write an article. It was so well received and I got so many emails and calls asking where certain items could be purchased I knew the choice was made. I had to bone up and get the facts out there. And I'm glad I did.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Sharon

As always your words move me to be thankful and humbled to have you as a friend, even if we never meet physically it's as if we've always known each other. As everyone else has said, you have a wonderful way with words and continue to be an inspiration.

Your elequence, and humour in the face of everything you've been through are truly uplifting. This book is yet more evidence of your remarkable courage.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Candace! Oh, you humble me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I cannot feel alive without a creative channel. I thank God for modern amenities and modern technology. The things the adaptive software can do is amazing!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mary! You're too sweet. Thank you so very much. I can't even tell you how many people say these words...my so and so is a diabetic. This is why we must beat the odds and wipe this disease off the face of the earth. Keep your hubby balanced! And, Mary, I know you can do it girlfriend!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Cate! Thank you for dropping by and for such moving words. Sharing these memories and pieces of my heart was a challenge and one I had to often walk away from and escape for a while in the wonderful world of fiction. How do I cope? I just kill someone in the wonderful world of fiction in my suspense novels!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Lyn! Oh, you are too kind, dear friend! I am honored to have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful authors through these great online connections. And yes, we live an ocean apart but I feel as if I've known you forever and it's all possible through adaptive software. Now that in itself is progress. So I have no doubt in time, in the not so far off future, all good things will come to those who wait.

Rebecca J. Clark said...

Sharon, you are such an inspiration. Next time I'm whining and griping about my petty troubles, I'll think of you. It'll be your virtual kick in my butt. :)


Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Becky! Aw, thanks so much for dropping in today. And ya know what? I'm still the biggest whiner! We're only human, after all and it's part of the deal!

Kathleen said...

Just got Echo of a Raven in the mail today and I'm excited. IT'S a gorgeous looking book and I can't wait to read it. I had never ordered from lulu before but they made it so easy and the book came fast and was well packaged. An added bonus -- there are photos of some of Sharon's art on the back cover.

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks so much, Kathleen. So glad you like the cover and my art on the back. You know I just wrote this to you in an email but I'll tell everyone. I painted more than one hundred pictures. After the last surgery when all remaining sight was so brutally stolen, I was so devastated, so disillusioned, my heart breaking because I could no longer pursue my passion, I took a magic marker and destroyed the vast majority of my paintings. I couldn't fatham not seeing them, the pictures I'd poured my heart and soul into. But something stopped me when I got to the huge painting of the cougar. On the back cover, there is a painting of a cougar on black velvet. He holds a special place in my heart. I painted him while blind in one eye and legally blind in the other through magnification. Because I wanted to paint so badly, I held my brush in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other and literally got on top of the canvas to see it. I did the intricate detailing of his eyes. I had a migraine for days afterwards, but the result was so rewarding. To me, he was my masterpiece. He was my final painting.

Susan Macatee said...

Hi, Sharon! You are beyond brave and such an inspiration!

M.Flagg said...

Hi Sharon. This was a breath-taking excerpt - so visual, so real and tangible. What you now paint with words is a miraculous gift. You are a talented lady with a very warm heart. I'm proud to know you and your work.

Wishing you mega-sales for every story you write ~ Mickey

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Susan,
Thank you so very much for your sweet and moving words. Wishing you all good things,

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mickey! Thank you so very much. So glad you enjoyed the excerpt. I would be devastated now without my writing. It fulfils me in a way painting did by allowing my creative muse to come out and play.

Beth Trissel said...

Sorry to be so late in arriving, Sharon, but it looks like you've had a good day here. I thought your post was very moving. You are indeed an inspiration. Your lovely book is one I intend to get. Beautiful title, btw.
Speaking of fingernails, I'm a terrible nibbler, a habit I badly want to break.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Beth! Thanks so much for stopping in and for such lovely words. I struggled with the title but wanted it to portray my inner fear, my subconscious. And Rae Monet brought it all to full circle with her awesome graphics on the cover. You bite your nails! Oh shivers! You must do what I did to remedy this problem. I found the most amazing nail gloss from all places--QVC. Let me know if you want to try it. No kidding, I should do a commercial for them. It really works!! And I have the nails to prove it, even with typing like mad all day long!

Sharon Donovan said...

I would like to thank everyone for coming by and for leaving such beautiful words. Your well wishes leave me speechless. A huge thank you to the Lark Journals for having me and a special thank you to my dear friend, Kathleen for inviting me. A heart-felt thanks for such warm hospitality.On behalf of JDRF I thank all that purchase Echo of a Raven. A portion of proceeds will be donated to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes and its horrendous and devastating complications. God Bless.

Now I promised an autographed copy of Echo to one commenter. It was a randam drawing. And the winner is...
E.A. West. Congratulations, E.A.!

Farewell, all, and remember. Never give up on a dream!
Love and blessings,

Sharon Donovan

Kathleen said...

So nice to have you here, Sharon. Thanks to all who left comments and a big congratulations to E.A. West

Jamie said...

I loved this excert. I can't wait to read the book. :) I admire people that have disabilities, no matter the type. I also have a disability that is physical. I commend those that are impaired im some way, but still make it from day to day. Thank you for sharing your story Sharon. :)

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Jamie! Thank you so very much for your kind compliments. God bless you in all your challenges. To each darkness, light shall come at the end of the tunnel.