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Professor sees hope, healing in latest book project

Pamela Fletcher, associate professor of English and director of writing for St. Catherine University.
Pamela Fletcher, associate professor of English and director of writing for St. Catherine University.
Andy Ferron

Sometimes one’s vocation has a divine way of healing. That’s certainly been the case with the latest book project for Pamela Fletcher, associate professor of English and director of writing for St. Catherine University.

Fletcher is one of three editors of The Way We See It: A Fresh Look at Vision Loss (Arcata Press). Chronicling personal stories of vision loss, the book was published this fall to honor the centennial anniversary of Vision Loss Resources (VLR).

Fletcher is not only an editor of the book, but a contributor as well. A reaction to steroids after routine eye surgery in 2011 left her blind in one eye and with significant vision loss in the other.

“Because steroids have an adverse effect on my body, I suffered cellular eye damage in both eyes. I now have steroid-induced glaucoma, which is the cause of my impaired vision,” she explains.

She’s since had several eye surgeries, including implants in both eyes to control ocular pressure and a laser procedure to restore vision in her left eye.

It was during this arduous road to recovery that Fletcher was approached to work on the book as an editor.

“I had no idea that such a wonderful organization existed. While working with the writers, most of whom are VLR clients, I became aware of the invaluable resources and services the organization offers,” says Fletcher. “I also learned from the writers that being visually impaired or blind is not the end of the world, that one can still have a fulfilling life in a sighted world.”

Working with the other contributors — a project she refers to as a “Godsend” — was both empowering and inspirational for Fletcher as an individual and as an editor.

“A story becomes a bridge between and among individuals, fostering understanding and creating community. It also has the potential to engender empathy and to yield enlightenment,” says Fletcher. “While getting to know the contributors as we worked together, I learned to see life through my heart, not through my eyes. The contributors, many of whom are blind and are good writers, exhibited an incredible level of confidence, insight, and joy.”

The relationship with the contributors was healing for Fletcher as she struggled through her recovery. “Their wit and humor buoyed me throughout the summer of 2013. I learned to travel lightly through the world. If I had not witnessed their abilities to live well, I would have allowed gloom and self-pity to overtake me,” she says.

In addition to working with individual writers, Fletcher also held monthly workshops where she facilitated group critique and support. “I would read their works aloud, and everyone would offer a comment, question, or joke. These workshops and the individual sessions yielded the mighty stories that appear in The Way We See It.”

Fletcher hopes that the book not only provides inspiration for patients, families and friends, but also raises awareness among health providers of the local resources available to patients.

“I hope that this book will fill the gap between eye care and social service, tending to the whole individual,” she says.

St. Kate's Professor of Biology Deborah Wygal also contributed her personal story to the book.

Two local independent booksellers are offering author readings by Fletcher and Wygal:

  • SubText (below Nina’s Café)
    165 Western Ave N, St. Paul, Minn
    Saturday, October 18 at 2 p.m.
  • Magers & Quinn
    3038 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, Minn.
    Sunday, November 2 at 2 p.m.

Related content:

The Way We See It: Select Readings and Reflections Video (VLR)

New local book gives hope after vision loss (KARE-11 interview)

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Oct. 17, 2014 by Sharon Rolenc

See also: Arts, Faculty, Healthcare, Liberal Arts