by APRIL LEWIS Cascade A&E Feature Writer
When Redmond author Patricia Bennett Wilson published her children’s book, I Can’t See But…I Can Imagine, in 2003, she couldn’t have predicted its second life in a print/Braille edition in 2012. This book was originally inspired by the desire to save Wilson’s blind grandmother’s music, to capture the musical notes and lyrics of children’s songs written by Persis Beach Bennett.
Working with old 78 rpm recordings proved to be a challenge, but with persistence and her own creative talents, Wilson was able to recreate her grandmother’s music. Her grandmother had five grandchildren and had written a song for and about each child; each song is lyrically written and portrayed with whimsical illustrations. In the book, an illustration of a young Wilson with her “Grammie” walking downtown duplicates the actual building on a street in their New England hometown.
“[Being young] I remember feeling so proud that she would trust me to walk her down the street,” said Wilson. She was fascinated by her blind Grammie and recalls watching her measure out ingredients with her hands while cooking. Wilson learned about imagination and the ability to overcome a disability from her inspiring grandmother.
Her first motivation was to try to market children’s music but Wilson discovered she had to try a different approach. With her enjoyment of writing, she decided to write a children’s book around the five songs and to include a musical CD in the package.
To be able to share her grandmother’s music with children and show a positive point of view of blindness was Wilson’s motivation to work on the project around her day job as a dental hygienist. Local vocalists and musicians along with illustrator Sharon Bean helped Wilson realize the music and book project; I Can’t See, But…I can Imagine was published in December 2003.
The first thought of producing the book in Braille came from a reader who enjoyed I Can’t See, But…I can Imagine with her children who had a blind father. With the idea in the back of her mind, she wasn’t sure how to approach it. In 2009 she met a teacher of the visually impaired who took an interest in the book. After some research, it was discovered there are limitations in doing a print/Braille edition including production costs along with the challenge of transcribing the book into Braille.
After the book was transcribed and with a few tries of using Braillon, a sticky-backed plastic to overlay on the pages of the existing book, Wilson wanted to take this a step further. More networking brought her to the American Printing House for the Blind. This printing house produced a book with separate plastic Braille pages added in between the print pages, to offer the visually impaired and the seeing the experience of reading together.
As an author, Wilson is enjoying watching her book taking on another life as a Braille book for the blind to enjoy. She was recently invited to San Francisco State University, to speak to future Braille teachers. In March 2013 Wilson will be conducting a workshop at the 54th annual conference of California Teachers and Transcribers for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In the same month, Wilson will also be speaking at the Tuscon Festival of Books.