To those familiar with my writing, you will likely recognize the name John W. Quinn. I first learned about John through my daily “cerebral palsy” Google Alert emails. From these messages I discovered Quinn wrote Someone Like Me- An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy, a book noting how John overcame his cerebral palsy to enjoy a 20 year naval career. Back in April I reviewed Quinn’s book for Yahoo! Voices, calling the book “a valuable read.” Moved so much by the author’s story, I included him in my Yahoo! Voices article “Role Models with Cerebral Palsy,” which also featured 2006 Last Comic Standing winner Josh Blue and the previously profiled Rollin’ With Zach host Zach Anner (read here). I even name dropped the former naval officer along with his praise for my memoir Off Balanced on this blog while promoting my book (currently available on the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook, excuse the cheap plug but I’ve got to pay the bills).
I highly recommend adding Someone Like Me to your 2012 reading list.
Now before you think John and I are nothing but two self-indulgent dudes giving each other virtual high fives and pats on the back, know otherwise. Someone Like Me left me genuinely awed by John W. Quinn’s dedication and physical discipline. Quinn could’ve given up on his naval ambitions after failing his first Navy physical and getting heavily ridiculed for the failure by his recruiter. Instead John spent a year in his basement secretly practicing the part he failed, the duck walk. He then retook the test and passed, becoming the poster boy for the cliche “Anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it.”
Perhaps most impressive about Quinn involves the physical discipline he exhibited in order to keep his cerebral palsy hidden from the Navy, not such an easy task considering the physical affects the disability holds over the human body. For instance, awkward gait and slumped shoulders proved vital to avoid. I don’t believe an able-bodied person can truly appreciate how mentally stressing this can be. Personally I probably can’t even maintain proper posture for five minutes but yet Quinn did this all day, ALL FREAKING DAY, for 20 years, 20 FREAKING YEARS!!! Eight plus months following reading Someone Like Me and I’m still wowed by this fact.
Well, that’s why John W. Quinn remains a reoccurring name within my writing. Honestly, when I emailed John an advance copy of Off Balanced I didn’t expect him to reciprocate my overly positive sentiments towards him. Yet the former naval officer called my book “honest, compelling, and heartfelt” going on to say “Off Balanced should be required reading in every high school in America.” While I didn’t expect such a strong endorsement, the words further my conviction for Off Balanced. I’m certain too I’m not the only one John W. Quinn motivates.
With great pleasure I wish to announce you can now purchase my teenage memoir Off Balanced for the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. For the official press release head over to http://www.zacharyfenell.com and click the “Off Balanced Press Release 12-14” icon. Like the press release mentions Off Balanced the book explores how having cerebral palsy influenced me socially as a teenager. I really want to reach discouraged teenagers with disabilities and inspire them to view their handicaps positively so they can live fulfilling youths.
Overall all people with disabilities should be able to relate to Off Balanced. As disability advocate Anita Cameron points out in her feedback from the advance review copy I sent her “Every child with a disability takes that journey to self that Zachary took; some having nearly completed it in early adulthood and some, though in middle age, who have barely begun it.” Youth speaker Tony Bartoli who also received an advance copy commented “I believe this book is a need to get into the hands of kids, teenagers and adults. I don’t say this because I have cerebral palsy too, but rather it captures the human spirit to keep going.” Bartoli who encountered bullying as a child due to his CP now travels across the country spreading an anti-bullying message.
Between this post and my December 1st entry “Book News: Off Balanced Sneak Peak Preview Now Available” you know what some prominent figures in the disability community think. Now comes your turn! Purchase Off Balanced for the Kindle or get Off Balanced for the Nook today and let me know your thoughts.
With us less then 24 hours away from the debut airing of Rollin’ with Zach (NOT ME, a different Zach) on OWN there seems no more appropriate person to profile here at Off Balanced than the man himself Zach Anner.For anyone unfamiliar with Anner, the new television star made his presence known to America during the summer of 2010 with an audition tape (watch here) to win his own show on OWN, Opera Winfrey Network. The video quickly gained enormous support, even catching musician John Mayer’s attention who volunteered to (and did) supply Anner a theme song for his show. Now before I move on, I really want to encourage you to click the link to the audition tape because despite how talented I am as a writer, you should really witness Zach Anner yourself.
Zach Anner's wheelchair lives in his personality's shadow.
You watched the video? Good! You saw how through his animated humorous personality Zach Anner makes his wheelchair and cerebral palsy become secondary to his person. Back in June of this year I included Anner in an article titled “Role Models with Cerebral Palsy” for this exact reason. Zach Anner not only breaks the mold for what a person with a disability should be but he reshapes the broken plaster into structures which will get you to roar in laughter. Anner doesn’t appear as a “victim” or “sufferer” of cerebral palsy. Instead he benefits from the disability, embracing what he calls “the sexiest of the palsies” to bring out the best of himself. I sincerely believe disabled and able-bodied folks alike can learn a lot from Zach.
Rollin’ with Zach debuts on OWN at 8:00pm ET Monday, December 12th with a double dose of episodes. At 8:00pm Rollin’ with Zach follows Anner to Los Angeles, CA and at 8:30pm Anner visits Chicago, IL. Will you be watching? Me? I already have my DVR set. 🙂
P.S. Make sure to checkout Zach Anner on Twitter at @zachanner. Heck, while signed into Twitter you might want to follow me too at @zacharyfenell.
Daddy Bent-Legs by Neil Matheson (read review) and How We Roll by Tim Wambach (read review) brings the misconception “different means wrong” to light. As a kid Matheson recalls getting asked “So, what’s wrong with you?” often. The crutches Matheson walks with due to his cerebral palsy usually triggered the question. Such a question from an innocent, curious kid proves acceptable but Daddy Bent-Legs reveals Neil use to get that exact question mostly from adults. Matheson explains “This awkward phrase is uttered mostly by adults, not children. No, young children don’t ask vague questions. They are a lot more direct. Kids ask things like, ‘Why do you have to walk with those sticks?’”
In How We Roll Tim Wambach delves into the cause for the “different means wrong” misconception when discussing a trip to the mall with his friend Mike Berkson. Pushing Mike’s wheelchair Tim observes a young child point to Mike and ask his mother “Mommy, what’s the matter with him?” The kid’s mother hushed her child and told him “It’s not polite to stare and point.” Wambach reflects on the experience with the following thoughts.
“Somehow we are preconditioned, perhaps by parents who chide our curiosity, to judge appearances. If only that mom would have smiled and told her pointing child ‘Yes dear, that boy has a blue shirt just like yours.’ how different an impression she’d have made.”
Now to be fair, the idea “different means wrong” extends beyond disabilities to life in general. Imagine you’re in a room with 99 other people. You need to answer “2 + 2.” Obviously you write down four but then you learn everyone else in the room writes down three. You start second guessing your answer, don’t you? Why? A minute ago you held complete confidence in your sum. However, since your response differs from everyone else you begin to wonder “Did I miss something? Perhaps I should go against my own logic and change my answer.” DON’T! Two plus two does equal four and different doesn’t always mean wrong. Please keep that in mind next time you see somebody with a disability.
Do you have a disability? The soon to be released Off Balanced gives you a knowing nod to reassure you you’re not alone. Do you have a classmate with a disability? Take a minute and think about life from his or her perspective by planning to read Off Balanced. Here’s an official synopsis for the teenage memoir:
Off Balanced dives into the thoughts of a teenager with the neurological disability cerebral palsy. Just like how CP can throw one off balance physically, the condition can create mental unsteadiness. Learn how less than stellar balance, muscle tightness, and other cerebral palsy symptoms influence the emotional teenage mindset. From coping with the disability and relating to classmates to building self-confidence and making friends Off Balanced provides first hand insight about teenage life with CP.
The soon to be released teenage memoir will initially be available for the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Nobles Nook. Select individuals in the disability community already received advanced copies, welcoming the book with praise. Author John W. Quinn (@johnwquinn), who shares his story about overcoming cerebral palsy to enjoy a highly successful 20 year naval career in his book Someone Like Me, says “Off Balanced should be required reading in every high school in America.” Disability activist Anita Cameron (@adaptanita) ensures the memoir will transcend the cerebral palsy community and resonate with individuals living with other disabilities stating “I think that most people with other disabilities (than cerebral palsy) would see quite a bit of themselves in Zachary in the way that he carried himself and in the way that he approached life.”
To get a sneak peak preview of Off Balanced go to www.zacharyfenell.com and click the “Off Balanced Sneak Peak Preview” icon. Stay tuned to this blog for news about the official press release coming soon!