I Need You

2016-02-04 13.44.51After trying various traditional publishers in South Africa to get my memoir published, and waiting an age for answers, it’s been disappointing, to say the least.

Everybody’s response was similar: “well written”, “inspiring story” but “not suitable for our list at the moment”, “we trust that you will find the right publishing house for your story”, “we wish you all the luck”.

My confidence waned and I became despondent, doubting my writing abilities and whether my story was indeed worthy of being told and shared, despite your (my blog readers’) continuous encouragement and support.

One person in the publishing industry (and I can’t remember who) put it all into perspective; “The reality, in South Africa, is that unless you are VERY famous, publishing houses don’t generally take on a memoir.”

That’s it. Like everything else in life, it all boils down to money.

Tracey Macdonald Publishers were the only ones to stick up their hand. Although encouraging, it was a hybrid deal and I needed to come up with close on R100,000. If I’d had cash, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give it a go, not only because it’s been a long time dream, but because I believe that my story is too important to be left stored on a hard drive.

Clearly, Tracey Macdonald agreed because, a year on, she undertook to help me put together a crowdfunding campaign to get my memoir published. I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me – to have someone, not only professional and organised with precise attention to detail (which is what I love), but caring and willing to hold my hand through every step of the way. I’m in awe of Tracey’s commitment and look forward to meeting her in person sometime soon.

I am determined to see her book, titled BRAVE LOTUS FLOWER RIDES THE DRAGON, published.” Tracey Macdonald.

Click HERE to read her press release.

Initially, I was scared and doubted whether we could raise so much.

But, once again, my ‘friends’ on social media showed their support.

Brenda Klopper sent me this encouragement via my inbox on Facebook: “All you need is to find 1000 willing people to each give R100.”

That perspective made me realise that perhaps our dream goal was achievable, after all.

Dave Walters, a special Facebook friend and supporter added: “It’s the price of one large pizza and many people can afford that.


Shaun Naude, a young man I taught many moons ago and now living in Australia, also commented that if you’re living overseas, your small contribution can make a huge difference, especially with our weakening Rand (ZAR) and the current exchange rate.

I’ve also had tons of support from my amazing community.

So let’s do this.


Click HERE to go to our campaign page on Thundafund, where you can read a little more about our project, what the different pledge amounts are, and what the associated rewards are for each pledge level.


So far, we’ve met milestone 1, so the project is a GO!

But, that doesn’t give me a printed copy in my lap. Neither does milestone 2.

I doubt that anything would give me more gratification than seeing my book for sale on a shelf in a well-known bookstore. I’m overwhelmed by the support and grateful to each and every one of my backers so far.


If you’ve enjoyed my blogs and would like to be a part of my dream, I’m asking for your help. Please. And this is how you can be of assistance:

  • If you can afford to, please pledge funds towards our campaign. And ask your friends and family to do the same. Click HERE and follow the links to make a contribution. You can pay via credit card, EFT or PayPal. You don’t have to stick to the reward amounts. It may be a custom pledge. Any amount would be deeply appreciated.

https://www.thundafund.com/project_fund/5123376058204160 .

  • Please share the campaign via email or on your social media channels, and ask your ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ to share the campaign link. Most times the success of crowdfunding campaigns comes down to reaching as many people as possible and you can help spread the word.



Holding thumbs and thank you for sharing.


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Me Before You


Okay, so the movie, Me Before You(based on Jojo Moyes’ novel of the same title) has been hitting the big screens and is getting a lot of hype at the moment.

Click here to watch the trailer.

This is my two cents worth.


I read the book after many of my (able-bodied) friends convinced me that it’s a “must read”. Some even commented on how well the author gets inside the guy in the wheelchair’s head. But the book is not written from the quadriplegic’s perspective. It’s written from his companion/carer’s point of view.

To be honest, I hated the book.

Despite it being a love story, it has a really crappy ending and it left me feeling incredibly sad. I’m a romantic at heart and a real sucker for happily ever after. We have enough sadness to deal with in everyday life, so I prefer to find refuge in feel good stories.

I also found the book to be unrealistic in places and it’s clear that the author has never been personally affected by disability. From what I’ve seen and heard about the movie so far, the producers and actors also have no real clue of what it’s like to be quadriplegic. How could they? They’re all able-bodied. So should they really be the ones to be telling our stories? I’m not so sure.

The movie has caused outrage among many in the disability sector.  Most of the quads I know are tired of the media portraying our disability in a negative light and really wish that the storytellers in our world would do more research before creating unrealistic characters that pander to their own ignorance and insecurities. We don’t all want to die. Many of us are living full, meaningful lives and contributing positively to society and some are doing more than a lot of able-bodied folk. Most of us are too busy living to get busy dying.

The movie’s determination to romanticise assisted suicide leaves me wondering if I’ll ever be accepted. Do people think that I should also just kill myself because I am paralysed from the neck down?

I keep reminding myself that this is only a story with one fictional character’s negative outlook on life. It certainly doesn’t represent who I am as a proud quadriplegic woman.

There is always a silver lining and, as they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity. The controversy over this movie has highlighted the plight of quadriplegics the world over and ignited discussions around disability in general. That in itself is a good thing. We can all learn something from healthy debate.

At the end of the day, this is a story about one character’s freedom of choice. Isn’t that what many of us fight for? Our freedom to choose. Who are we to judge? It does worry me, however, that his choice is presented not as selfish and cowardly, but as sacrificial, brave and even noble. Should I also be sparing my family the burden of caring for me? Am I the one being selfish by choosing to live?

None of the other characters supported Will Traynor’s decision to end his life, which sends out a good message that not all quadriplegics are simply abandoned. It also tells the world that irrespective of physical ability, we can love and be loved.

The good thing is that movies like this create awareness and opens doors for people like me to share our stories, which in contrast could have a powerful, positive impact and make a real difference to people’s mindsets. The mere fact that many of us haven’t given up and don’t intend to any time soon  can give society a new appreciation for our daily struggles and in turn become stories of hope and promise rather than abandonment and despair. As, after all, disability can reach out and pull anyone of you into its nasty club at any time.

I think that the film producers missed a perfect opportunity here to make a real difference to our world. Think about how powerful and transforming this movie could have been if it had had a different outcome? And, I’ve no doubt that the story would still have been a massive hit.

For me, I want people out there to know that there is life (and love) after a devastating spinal-cord injury and it can be a good quality life, depending on one’s attitude. I certainly don’t want to kill myself or be pitied in anyway.

What happened to fairytales with happy endings?

They do exist in real life.

I know because I’m lucky enough to be living one at present.


If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, I’d love to hear what you have to say.


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Angel Personified

Today is the 50th birthday of one of my most treasured friends, the motherboard of an earth angel, Henda Moolman. We met a couple of days after I’d moved into my new place after my divorce in 1999 and she carried me through some of the lowest periods of my life. Naturally I’ve written a lot about her in my memoir and in honour of her birthday, I thought I would share a short extract…


It was hard in the beginning, but I persevered in my stubborn campaign to show everybody that I could live on my own. The days dragged. When Chad was with his dad, the loneliness and silence wore on my nerves. My mind became my worst enemy and time was its ally. There are too many hours in a day to think. If it wasn’t for a few faithful friends, besides my parents who visited often, I would probably have driven myself over the edge.

“What can I do to help?” The question was asked by friends and strangers eager to make a difference, but didn’t know how.

“I don’t know. Pop in for coffee,” was all I could come up with.

That was until an angel walked into my life.


Henda stood barefoot on the top rung of the stepladder, balancing confidently, in a cute pair of denim shorts and a T-shirt. Her spiky dark hair barely moved as she executed textbook ‘W’ motions with the paint roller. The yellow paint gave an instant lift to my sparsely furnished lounge.

I watched in awe of her skill with a touch of envy. She’d also been a gymnast in her teens and I knew what commitment that took. Muscles are earned.

When the roller started making a peeling, sticky sound, she turned to apply more paint and caught me staring at her toned legs. Our eyes met. My cheeks flushed and I quickly lowered my head. The truth glared back at me. I’d grown thin and my muscles sagged. I hardly wore shorts anymore.

“Can I offer you something to drink,” I asked Henda to avoid becoming emotional.

“No, thank you.” Her bright orange lips parted in a smile of perfectly straight, white teeth. She dipped the roller into the paint tray and rolled it back and forth.

The floral curtains framing the extra big window had been altered by a friend we both knew, which is how we met. Henda used to be an interior decorator, I was told by our mutual friend, and she’d offered to paint the inside of my house. After years of tenants, the house was in need of attention, so I gladly accepted. She’d admitted to being nervous about meeting me. I remember being taken aback. It always surprised me when people told me that. Was I really that scary?

I asked Betty for some Rooibos tea, even though I craved coffee. I’d learned the hard way that caffeine stimulated the bladder, which increased the risk of bladder infections. I’d had enough of those to deal with to last a lifetime. I felt self-conscious as Betty held the cup to my mouth so I asked Henda about her family.

“I have two daughters, Monet and Cézanne, aged six and four, born on the same day, two years apart.” My jaw dropped. “I planned it that way.” She smiled.

Her eyes welled up several times as I told her how my life had changed and she shared a bit of her life with me. In time, it became clear that this talented woman wasn’t only passionate about her art, but her compassion for others ran deep.

“I wish I could fix you,” she said months later, lip quivering and eyes brimming with tears.

“Me too,” I sniffed. She squeezed my hand and tugged at her outfit.

“Maar ek kan jou huis mooi maak.” She always reverted to Afrikaans when she was emotional. She grabbed a tissue from her handbag and disappeared outside. By the time I’d manoeuvred my wheelchair to follow her out the door she’d taken the spade from my gardener. His face was a stunned mixture of confusion and amusement. Despite her long manicured nails and stiletto heels, she dug the last hole for the standard roses he’d been instructed to plant. He wiped the sweat from his brow and glanced my way. I grinned. He shook his head and busied himself with adding compost to the holes. Even with the hot, humid weather, Henda looked as if she’d stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine.

She found projects in my home and garden that she said had to be done. Then she campaigned tirelessly to raise the funds to do them. I soon learned that it didn’t help to argue once she’d made up her mind. Besides, it felt good to see my house being transformed into a wheelchair accessible haven with all her practical ideas. Her gregarious nature and sophisticated sense of humour were like a tonic for my troubled soul. She came back, day after day. The more time we spent together, the closer we became. She was the first real friend I’d made since the accident, one who never knew me to be anything different than paralysed from the neck down and still chose to spend time with me…

She often held me close until we were both all cried out.

Henda was that kind of friend, the one who is always honest with you, the one who stands up for what is right, the one who tries to take your pain upon herself, the one who wants to fix everything and make things right.

Henda had greater wisdom than anybody I’d ever known. She knew that the responsibility of providing for me was too great a burden for my parents alone. She gathered a community of volunteers to give of their money, time and talents to make my life bearable. I call them my earth angels. Henda became such an integral part of my existence that whenever anybody asked, “What can I do to help,” my standard answer was, “Ask Henda.” I hated to be the one to ask for anything.

Thanks to Henda, angels came in their droves.

It wasn’t long before I was back in a manageable routine and life was running a lot more smoothly.



Happy, happy birthday to my dearest Henda. You’re beautiful, inside and out, and I am privileged to be able to call you my friend. Wishing you another half-century of love, joy, peace and happiness.

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Helping Others

Imagine not being able to move any part of your body except your head. You’re completely immobile, but not unaware. You have 20/20 vision. Your hearing is perfectly in tune. Your mind is alert. You can speak. You have very little sensation on your skin below your shoulders, but you can feel external pressure and internal pain. You have needs – thirst, hunger, warmth, comfort, company, stimulation and entertainment, but you’re unable to help yourself and you’re stuck alone with your thoughts. Emotions overwhelm you, but there is nothing… nothing you can do. You can’t wipe away your tears or rub the itch on your cheeks.

To be in a motionless state, trapped inside a paralysed body with nothing to do is hell on earth. No company. No radio, television, books, telephone or computer. Nothing, just you, staring into space.  It’s how I imagine solitary confinement to be, but worse, because you’re not guilty of any horrific crime against humanity, so the punishment almost seems unjustified.

Phumla was given that life sentence, but she was only fourteen years old. Her life had barely begun, yet she’d already faced more challenges than most people do in a lifetime.

Phumla Innocententia Charles was born on 28 March, 1996 with a hole in her heart. She spent a great deal of her childhood in and out of hospitals. In 2010, she was in an ambulance, between Mbombela and Pretoria en route to see her specialist. The ambulance driver fell asleep at the wheel and smashed into the back of a truck. Phumla was left paralysed from the neck down, like me, and robbed of the best years of her life.

I only just met Phumla recently through her dedicated occupational therapist, Mariaan Teubes, who’d come seeking advice from me on the specific needs of quadriplegics. When I heard Phumla’s story and how she dreams of finishing school, I knew that I needed to get involved. Since my accident in 1998, the rapid advancement of technology had saved my sanity by restoring a small part of my independence. Therefore I had a clear understanding of the difference it could make in Phumla’s life.

At the beginning of this year, Phumla took a giant leap to do grade 10 via correspondence which is no easy commitment, not even for an able-bodied student. She relied on others to turn the pages of her books and scribes to write her assignments and exams. Her big, beautiful eyes and shy smile, despite her severe circumstances, immediately touched my heart and I knew that this young lady was special. So I posted an appeal on Facebook, hoping to find a willing Earth Angel to help us get Phumla a laptop, powerful enough to run the specialised voice activated software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This will enable her to, once again, do what most people take for granted – read, write and learn on her own without help.

Some very special Earth Angels answered my call.

Miles Crisp from the Tarsus Technology Group offered to donate a laptop. He set his Johannesburg team in motion, and before long the Nelspruit branch manager, Jacques Robinson delivered a brand-new, state-of-the-art laptop. Going the extra mile, Jacques has committed to walking (rolling) this journey with me to get Phumla set up with everything she may require from an IT point of view to follow her dream of getting her matric. He is also working on getting her quality broadband connectivity at home, which will grant her the privilege of being able to do her own research for future school projects. She’ll also be able to navigate social media and thus engage with others who live with similar physical circumstances and find much-needed emotional support. She’ll be able to cultivate personal and intimate relationships and not feel so isolated. In time she will be able to work and contribute meaningfully to society and, once again, truly live.

Computer whiz, fourteen-year-old Ernst van der Merwe gave up some of his holiday to help me teach Phumla to use her new voice programme. He also loaded the WhatsApp web version onto her laptop. The smile on her face when she sent her very first message on her own was priceless.

Some of my amazing Facebook friends also made generous donations to fulfil some of Phumla’s other needs because they don’t stop at a laptop.

There aren’t enough words to express gratitude to the Earth Angels who give of themselves, physically, emotionally and financially to make a difference.

Look out world, Phumla Charles is on her way.

Jacques Robinson handing over the new laptop to Phumla.

Jacques Robinson handing over the new laptop to Phumla.

Ernst van der Merwe setting everything up.

Ernst van der Merwe setting everything up.

And away she goes.…

And away she goes.…

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Monday Motivation: At the heart of story, a wretched conundrum

Wow! I feature in a Monday Motivation for writers. Honoured.


​​​​Image courtesy ​​World of Good

Paul Smith was a business owner who devoted 80 hours a week to keeping the business afloat. (That is, as you will see, an apt metaphor.) The work was so demanding, and the Great Recession so crippling, that he found himself managing a bankrupt business, and presiding over a dysfunctional marriage.

When things were falling apart, he sought work as the groundsman on a large canal marina, and took up residence, sans wife and family, on a venerable and clapped out narrowboat called James.

He had no money, he had no resources, he had no partner to shoulder the burden of failure.

Slowly he started putting his life together once again…

Tracy had everything going for her. A husband she adored. A baby she would have given her life for. A vital, energetic and beautiful woman, she lived with her family on an…

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The secrets behind the practice of good writing: 16

Guilty, as charged. I love how writing teaches you more about yourself and life.


16 SecretsThe Secret of the Tic’ing Clock

Anything becomes a tic if you use it more than a couple of times. It’s a funny thing about writing. A reader might happily notice an action taken once, twice, even three times. But after that, it begins to irritate.

It’s not that the action itself is wrong, or even that it might not happen that many times in real life. This became abundantly clear when reading the completed manuscript of one of our mentoring participants.

She wrote a memoir – a deeply moving and uplifting memoir of her superhuman effort in overcoming extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Believe me, you and I would have cried many, many more times than she mentioned in her manuscript.

When reading her monthly submissions, I didn’t even notice the tears, because there was so much strength in her other actions. It was only when we read the full manuscript…

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Dark Torment by Tracy Todd

My first interview as an “author.”

I can’t help feeling proud that my short story was selected to be published in the book 36 Hours. It’s only a baby step, I know, but all part of my dream of having my memoir published which is currently in the hands of a publisher who has yet to decide whether they will publish it or not.

Keep holding thumbs.


We asked the authors who jointly contributed to the 36 Hours anthology a number of questions about their writing. Here are Tracy Todd’s responses:

Tracy Todd (2)

Is your short story fact or fiction – or a mix of the two? My story is fact.

What was the inspiration behind your story? Frustration. You’ll have to read the story to understand why.

Have you written many short stories? Is this your genre? No. Never. I’ve only ever written blog posts and a few magazine articles, reflecting on life as a quadriplegic.

Any novels? That is on my ‘to do’ list.

What do you prefer to read – short stories or novels? Or what do you love about each one? Why? Both. Depending on what mood I’m in. Short stories are lovely to read when you want something to read, just before bedtime to take your mind off your own troubles. Novels are great for long…

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