The SayWhatClub conducted an interview with Shanna Groves, author of two books on hearing loss. She was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss after the birth of her first child at 27 years old. In the years since, she and her husband added two more children who provide creative fodder for writing. Her books include Lip Reader and the just-released Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom. The philosophy, “One person can make a difference; it takes many people to make the difference permanent,” inspired her blog, LipreadingMom.com, which advocates for hearing loss awareness. Her pet projects are: The Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign, Show Me Your Ears, and Stop Hearing Loss Bullying. She speaks and teaches classes on hearing health, lip reading, and creative writing to people of all ages.
SWC: Can you give us a little background and how you became interested in writing?
My first foray into writing was in middle school when I joined the yearbook staff. One day while laying out a yearbook page, I learned that I had won the Outstanding English Student Award for my school. A gigantic trophy and tons of writing confidence followed. I grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and developed quite a memory for people I had met and places seen. All those memories came in handy years later when I put a magazine editing career on hold to become an aspiring novelist. It was a good thing I knew how to write because it helped channel my feelings about living with progressive hearing loss into words for others to read.
SWC: What lead you to write Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom?
Biographies and memoirs are my favorite genre of books, and I wanted to write one for years. A writing instructor once asked what was so special about my life that it warranted a book. It took eight years for my life story to materialize into Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom. I had to live life, not just write about it, in order to have a story worth telling. My book is about living with hearing loss while taking care of children, living with depression, and trying to make sense out of a progressive health issue. Writing this book was my therapy. Each chapter invites the reader on roller-coaster experiences that may surprise, educate, and inspire them.
SWC: Tell us about getting your mind in a creative mode. How do you begin your writing process?
The library is my writing muse. I go there once a week to browse the shelves for new and old books, and I check out a stack of them to read almost simultaneously until one grabs my interest—then I read that one to completion. That is how I discovered Maya Angelou’s work and the life-changing power of her creative nonfiction and memoirs. I journal and blog about what I’ve read, and other writers’ stories inspire my own words to flow onto the page. My goal when writing a book is to park myself in front of the computer to write a minimum of 20 minutes a day, five days a week. I don’t edit what I write, nor do I read the previous day’s writing, until the entire book is complete.
SWC: Many writers utilize a writing group. Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback?
When writing my first book, Lip Reader, I posted each chapter to a private blog read by a small group of writers who offered feedback and helpful suggestions. For Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom, I worked with another writer, who helped me polish each chapter before submitting to the publisher. Mostly, I’ve found writing a book to be a solitary experience.
SWC: What is Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom about?
In 2001, I became a new mom to a healthy seven-pound boy. While on maternity leave, I noticed a persistent ringing sound inside my ears and went to a doctor. The diagnosis: progressive hearing loss in both ears; cause unknown. My book spans the first six years of my life as a hard of hearing mom. How could I take care of my babies if I couldn’t hear their cries from the other room? Would I become completely deaf and, if so, how would I communicate with my children? The doorbell’s chime, the phone ringing, and my toddler’s first words were silent to my ears. After two years of denial, I began wearing hearing aids—but I didn’t like them at first. They magnified the sounds I didn’t want to hear—temper tantrums! Eventually, I learned to navigate the uncertain waters of hearing loss with my sanity and humor barely intact. I became an online hearing loss community advocate, known as Lipreading Mom. This wasn’t my lifelong plan in the beginning, but it is something I have come to embrace now. Besides being a wife and mom, I believe my purpose on earth is to tell this story.
SWC: What was the hardest thing about writing the book?
While writing, I had to make sure that the book didn’t take up too much of my time or concentration. My children and husband needed me. Oftentimes, I had to force myself away from the computer to do the afternoon school carpool or start dinner. I experienced guilt if I wasn’t writing and guilt when I wasn’t there for my family. As moms, I’ve learned we are tougher on ourselves than anyone—and I’m still working on this whole mom guilt thing.
SWC: Now that Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom is out in bookstores, do you have any projects you’re currently working on?
I am developing a series of lesson plans on lip reading for people with hearing loss. My goal is to combine the book and blog writing with creating meaningful teaching materials to help others with hearing loss. Eventually, I would like to also develop video lesson plans to teach lip reading online and by DVD.
SWC: When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
My older kids and I are antique and flea market store enthusiasts. We like to find treasures at bargain prices. My oldest boy and I have chatted about opening our own antique store booth some day, but that’s a far-off dream!
SWC: Where can readers find your book?
Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle, as well as at CrossRiverMedia.com.
SWC: Anything else you would like to add?
Three hearing loss awareness projects I am excited about are:
- Show Me Your Ears: This is my online photo gallery of people who wear cochlear implants and hearing aids, children with hearing loss, and even a few animal ears! The goal is to make hearing loss awareness a fun and visual experience. To date, there are more than 200 ‘ears’ on display at LipreadingMom.com/Show-Me-Your-Ears.
- Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign: I have partnered with the Collaboration for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC) to develop an email campaign to encourage networks and websites to caption 100-percent of their online videos so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have full access to them. Visit the campaign page at LipreadingMom.com/Lipreading-Mom-Captions-Campaign.
- Stop Hearing Loss Bullying: As a person with hearing loss, I have experienced teasing, name calling, and outright bullying—and I am not alone. In schools, communities, and the workplace, people with hearing loss may experience ridiculing and prejudice because of their hearing ability. This campaign has an online petition and is working on a series of videos to heighten awareness that people who can’t hear deserve respect and that hearing loss bullying is wrong. Learn more at LipreadingMom.com/Stop-Hearing-Loss-Bullying.
AUTHOR: Shanna Groves
BOOK TITLE: Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom
BLOG ADDRESS: http://LipreadingMom.com
WEB ADDRESS: www.ShannaGroves.com
FACEBOOK ADDRESS: www.Facebook.com/AuthorShannaGroves
TWITTER ADDRESS: www.Twitter.com/LipreadingMom