Becoming an Author Changed My Life

December 13th represents my publishing anniversary. On December 13th, 2011 my memoir Off Balanced hit the e-book market (Kindle and Nook). Last year I commemorated the occasion by reflecting on the publishing process.

This year I want to explore how becoming a published author changed my life, really in unforeseen ways. Thinking back these changes could only occur unforeseen. In 2011 I focused on staying the course with the publishing process. If you watched the embedded video above, you know that means marketing my book.

Belief in Off Balanced’s ability to empower others with cerebral palsy and educate their parents, teachers, classmates, friends, etc. left me fully concentrated on promotion. No thought entered my mind about how becoming a published author could change my life.

Webinar panelist Zachary Fenell

Sound checked and ready for “Finding your Way: Transitioning from High School to College.”

As the time passed though, I began noticing changes both professionally and personally. Professionally the changes proved multiple. Opportunities came to me due to Off Balanced. For example, last December Parent to Parent of Georgia asked me to serve as a panelist for their webinar “Finding your Way: Transitioning from High School to College.”

Another change manifested through learning new skills. Social media played and still does play a vital role in getting Off Balanced out there. Subsequently I ended up enhancing my social media skills, especially with Twitter and Youtube. Without my online book marketing experiences I never become qualified to hold a position like Online Relationship Manager for Handicap This Productions (HTP).

Plus, who knows what my relationship with HTP or author/motivational speaker John W. Quinn looks like without Off Balanced. Going back to early 2011 I read about Handicap This and John, looking up to them awed by their stories. Upon my inquiries both Tim Wambach from HTP and John agreed to read Off Balanced and provide promotional blurbs. Those inquiries seem like pivotal moments leading to stronger connections with people I possess utmost respect for.

Now the aforementioned offers a solid transitioning point to discuss personal change. Receiving respect back from those you look up to supplies a confidence boost. So does writing a book warmly received by readers. The average reader review for Off Balanced stands at 4.5 stars. Awesome for a five-star system!

Possessing such confidence boosts helps to maintain confidence, not always an easy task since life hits hard. As star power and mushrooms aid Mario, my confidence boosts aid me to keep going during trying circumstances.

To anyone out there contemplating writing a book, I recommend you pursue the ambitious endeavor. From my experience your hard work will pay off in rewarding ways.

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#CPChatNow Hits One Year Milestone

#CPChatNow

Graphic (put together by Sarah Wambach) used to promote the first #CPChatNow

This past week the live cerebral palsy Twitter chat #CPChatNow reached the one year milestone! Yes, one year passed since John W. Quinn, Handicap This’ Tim Wambach, and I hosted the very first live #CPChatNow discussion Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013.

As public figures in the cerebral palsy community we welcomed people with CP, their family members, caregivers, and whoever else to come ask us questions about CP. Demands for another live #CPChatNow chat rose leading #CPChatNow to quickly turn into a weekly deal.

Each week new and familiar faces alike joined in. A few months later the demographic shifted to mostly people with CP evolving #CPChatNow into a support group. Every Wednesday at 8pm EST we took to Twitter to announce exciting news, vent our frustrations, and bond over experiences others with CP could best understand.

The connections we made transcended Twitter and the Internet. Two young women with CP who actually attended the same elementary school (albeit grades apart) re-connected due to #CPChatNow. Through their travels Handicap This met different #CPChatNow regulars in-person.

So far I personally enjoyed meeting in-person Blake, a young man with much potential. 2015 should see me getting the chance to meet more #CPChatNow kin in-person. No matter what 2015 brings though, the aforementioned demonstrates the real, meaningful connections made by the live chat.

Now the year also saw other commitments leave my #CPChatNow co-hosts John and Tim to step back from the weekly chat. Upcoming events however should stir new excitement within the live chat’s community.

Like the #CPChatNow Facebook page to stay informed. Join the conversation on Twitter every Wednesday starting at 8pm EST. Do so with these three easy steps listed in the following graphic.

#CPChatNow Instructions

#CPChatNow takes place every Wednesday at 8pm EST.

FYI we do still welcome participation from everyone. In other words cerebral palsy parents, caregivers, and curious strangers. Come join us! You might just find our feedback helpful.

Disability and Asking for Help

A subject reoccurred last weekend spent at my alma mater Notre Dame College (NDC) for their Homecoming & Alumni Reunion weekend, asking for help. Friday evening the topic arose while talking to a face from the past. Saturday during tailgating and at the homecoming football game asking for help surfaced through actions.

On Friday I saw Mrs. Clemson, who happened to teach my graphic arts and fiber design classes back in high school. Turns out Mrs. Clemson graduated NDC in 1970. While talking to her I mentioned a specific part from my memoir Off Balanced (buy for your Kindle or Nook) about a time in high school I faced a physical challenge, three step without a rail. Rather than ask a nearby classmate for help I struggled down these steps on my own. Why? I felt too embarrassed to ask for assistance.

HelpMoving forward to Saturday walking over from the tailgate area to the football field I asked my friend to carry my drink since we needed to go across a grassy area. No big deal. I’m so use to asking friends for a helping hand the task remains second nature, a second nature I still appreciate very much and I try not to take for granted.

Anyways the real interesting asking for help came later on. I stayed outside to eat my hamburger and finish my drink. However, my friend went ahead and found seats. After I finished eating and drinking I headed inside Mueller Field. To sit next to my friend I asked four current female college students if I could get past them on the bleachers. They stood up to let me through.

Tentatively I made my way across, but I found the space still too tight to maneuver around comfortably. So without much thinking I asked “Do you mind if I use your hand?” Basically I asked strangers “Could I hold your hands?,” totally a premise to power an awkward moment. Yet I didn’t even think about the potential awkwardness until after I sat down and settled in. Emphasize potential since the girls obliged without a problem.

No I didn’t think about the potential awkwardness because I remained focused on what I needed. Really the situation speaks to a sentiment I blogged about for Handicap This Productions earlier in the year, eliminating “embarrassment” from your vocabulary. One thought I shared in said post echoes today’s point very well.

“Why is the question embarrassing? I need help and I’m mature enough to realize that.”

The same principal applies to awkwardness. Bottom line and the lesson I learned over the past 10 years, do not allow your needs to make you feel embarrassed or awkward. Ask for help if you need help and do so proudly.

*Above image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Online Work Success Story

Not driving causes obstacles, some which the Internet can help circumvent. For example, non-drivers like me remain at a disadvantage finding work. Thankfully I possess abilities I can implement online to work and make money. In fact my non-driver status heavily influenced my decision five years ago to pursue freelance writing.

Within those previous five years writing on a freelance basis I learned new skills, many revolving around different social media platforms. Prior to freelancing I knew little about social media. Outside Facebook and an abandoned Myspace page I didn’t exist on social networking sites.

Handicap This promotes Zachary Fenell to Online Relationship Manager

Screenshot capturing the announcement about my promotion.

Fast forward half a decade and Handicap This Productions (HTP) announces my promotion to Online Relationship Manager. Talk about an online work success story! How did I go from a social media novice to someone a respectable company trusts to expand their online presence?

The answer includes past clients and self-publishing my teen memoir Off Balanced. The now defunct Disaboom pretty much mandated their writers share their work on two platforms. So I ended up creating a Twitter account (@zacharyfenell). A conference call Disaboom held provided advice on how to use Twitter. Additionally I learned through trial and error.

In late 2012 Special Education Guide became my first client to request I join Google+. Seeing how well Twitter worked out for me, I welcomed Google+. Google Hangouts alone makes Google+ worthwhile.

Researching publishing made evident to me my best chance to reach readers as a self-published author involved social media. The more I put myself out there on social networking sites the more dialogue I could start or partake in. Over time I began my blog here, expanded my Twitter following, joined various author groups on LinkedIn, and regularly uploaded video blogs to my Youtube channel.

Overall a motto Tim Wambach and Mike Berkson often say comes to mind “Improvise, adapt, overcome.” When set upon graduating college I improvised to adapt and overcome my transportation challenges by focusing on freelancing. Freelancing I improvised to adapt and overcome the populous Internet by sharpening my social media capabilities. That positioned me to become HTP’s Online Relationship Manager and tell others my online work success story.

Please offer your own online work success story by commenting below.

Life Update

Six Fridays without a post, time can sure move rapidly sometimes. Yet ironically enough the past six weeks felt like months. Hard to believe just one month ago I tagged along with my uncle to fly out to Tucson, AZ to visit family, specifically my aunt. Touched by Aunt Ellen’s dedicated support for my writing the last five years, I wished to reciprocate the support via visiting her as she bravely battles leukemia.

So my trip out west held somber roots but the positive person I am left me determined to make the most from the situation. Rather than rescheduling my appearance on Sarah Sweeney’s online radio show Differently Abled, I planned around the live show. You can listen to the archived version here.

John W. Quinn & I

One of my #CPChatNow co-host and fellow author (Someone Like Me) John W. Quinn

Additionally I met John W. Quinn in the flesh, complete with a tour around his office containing the memorabilia one collects serving in the Navy 20 years. Even better I enjoyed the sunny Tucson winters John likes to quip about on social media. In fact between the weather and Aunt Ellen’s uncertain future, I possessed little desire to return to Cleveland.

Finally a week after my return I started regaining my normal day-to-day enthusiasm. Then I received a massively deflating phone call. My good friend Alex Dumas unexpectedly passed away Saturday, February 1st. Every single day the previous 20 days I found myself thinking about Alex. His friendship meant a lot to me. I hope you will take the time to read my Handicap This team blog post about him “A Friendship Transcended Abilities” and watch my video remembering him.

Back on the happy side I managed to begin working with a new client this month, Brilliant or Insane? Fun fact, I know the man behind the blog Mark Barnes because he taught my eighth grade English class, pretty cool right? I’m covering a Cleveland beat for his site. Checkout my first two pieces “Jim Thome Statue- Brilliant or a Shame?” and “Jason Aldean to Play Cleveland’s Progressive Field This Summer.”

Well now you know my whereabouts since January. I look forward to resuming my regular posting schedule. If you can relate to anything I mentioned in today’s post, feel free to share your insights by commenting below.

#CPChatNow Recap for 02-19-2014

#CPChatNow

Next Live Twitter Chat: Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 8pm EST

If you possess any connection to the cerebral palsy (CP) community, I encourage you to join our weekly live Twitter chat #CPChatNow Wednesdays at 8pm EST. Last night saw riveting conversation on everything from Handicap This Productions’ Web TV series and disability in film to dating and the pressures CP places on each gender. Personally though what I felt stood out the most revolves around the actions our chats drive.

Walk of Hope for Cerebral Palsy

Walk of Hope for Cerebral Palsy Logo

Hannah also shared a pretty awesome fun fact with everyone.

Reuniting Former Classmates

Like the Walk of Hope for Cerebral Palsy Facebook page to stay updated on Hannah and Alena’s event progress. Moving forward to last night’s riveting discussion, disability in film received much attention.

Disability in Cinema Disability in Cinema Inquiry Part II

John Quinn on Actors with Disabilities

Zachary Fenell on Actors with Disabilities

Lacking Opportunities for Disabled Actors

Guild for Disabled Actors the Answer

Ryan also created a lot discussion by asking about how men and women handle disabilities.

Gender Difference Inquiry Gender Difference Inquiry Part II

Alan's Gender Response P1Alan's Gender Response P2Alan's Gender Response P3

Equal Gender Pressures

Models with Disabilities

Also worth noting while wrapping up this recap, we shared t-shirt ideas last night. By making t-shirts we aim to help spread CP awareness. Please submit your ideas to our Facebook page Cerebral Palsy Twitter Chat #CPChatNow.

CP is Sexy T-Shirt Idea

Until next week remember those words from Tim Wambach.

“We can make anything happen!”

#CPChatNow Recap for 02-05-2014

#CPChatNow

Next Live Twitter Chat: Wednesday,February 12th, 2014 8pm EST

With each passing week I am increasingly impressed by the supportive and helpful nature emerging from the #CPChatNow community. In a way these weekly recaps provide evidence John Quinn, Handicap This, and my continual praise for the community remains well deserved.

You know what else demonstrates we started something special? The fact an imposter surfaced.

  @CPChatNow Account Warning

If you know anything about the person behind the account, please contact us on our Facebook page. Make sure to congratulate John too on his continued success promoting CP awareness.

John Quinn Magazine Spread

Green Bay CP Telethon

Feel free to wish Mike Berkson a belated Happy Birthday too.

Mike Berkson turned 25 years old February 4th.

Enough about us though. #CPChatNow works because we all find connection through shared experiences.

Walking with Hot Beverages

Awkward Staring

These commonalities turn #CPChatNow into a place to find emotional support and practical advice.

Rejected Accommodation

Appeal Process

Advice to Keep Warm

My Advice to Keep Warm

Sometimes we need to seek encouragement.

Handicap This Advice on Fear

John's Insights on Fear

Think big but remember thinking only begins your journey.

When plans fall apart improvise, adapt, and overcome

Together we can keep making Hump Day enjoyable! 😉

Enjoy Wednesday Nights with #CPChatNow

*Note to my regular Off Balanced blog readers, I will resume my Friday postings tomorrow, explaining my infrequent schedule recently and teasing information on some content I’m currently working on.