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Author Interview: Ken Brandt

May 16, 2021

I’m very excited to introduce you to Ken Brandt. Author of Positive Vision: Enjoying the Adventures and Advantages of Poor Eyesight.

About the book:

Poor eyesight never impacted author Ken Brandt’s vision of what life could be. Positive Vision makes a rollicking good read from cover to cover.

Whether galloping across the Montana range, exploring claustrophobic (and fiery!) caverns, chasing a thief through the streets of 1980s New York, or taking a plunge from a plane, his adventures are sure to entertain.

Complementing the adventures are amusing and relatable anecdotes demonstrating the advantages of poor eyesight. Enjoy the exciting escapades and interesting insights. Seeing the bright side makes life more fun for you and those around you.

Well, thankfully today I am not racing around the streets of New York , exploring dark caverns or jumping out of a plane! Eeeep. Instead I am sitting here enjoying a lovely coffee in a Melbourne side street. The aroma tickles my nose – which is a slowly thawing out thanks to the steam. I puff on my icy fingers and wrap them lovingly around my coffee cup. It’s a brisk *freezing* winter morning in Aus — though we are still two weeks out from winter — and my coat, scarf and hat are not doing much to block out the chilly wind.

Hi Ken, It’s so fabulous to chat to you today. First up, tell us a bit about yourself.

I am retired, so almost everything I do is pretty fun. Most mornings I work out: three days/week with friends in an outdoor exercise group and then the gym, three other days/week I go for a run.  I spend part of each day publicizing my book via social media and interviews, which involves meeting a lot of interesting people (like you!). When most people are fully vaccinated, I am looking forward to re-joining the bands I am in, plus traveling around giving book talks. Most days I play a bit of jazz trumpet. My wife and I enjoy socializing with friends and family, and as things open up: seeing more art exhibits, listening to more live music, participating in more meet-ups, and helping out at charity events. Living the dream!

Tell me about a little about your writing journey…

There are only two phases to my writing career. The first phase was pretty much the opposite of preparing to write Positive Vision. I was an information technology and information security senior executive and management consultant for many years so wrote a ton of reports and proposals: bullet points, checklists, strategies, project plans, budgets, risks, risk mitigation steps, etc. – exactly the kind of thing you DO NOT want in an interesting memoir, adventure, humor book. The second phase was writing Positive Vision. I fought off the influences of my first phase by writing the book in the same style I use to recount interesting incidents over coffees or beers. Sticking with stories that people liked hearing made the book lively and conversational. Of course, having a great editor (Elzy Kolb) helped a lot too!

So, then what age were you when you started writing?

I was 64 or so when I started, and spent about two years (with many breaks) writing Positive Vision.

How did you know you wanted to write?

I always had a very minor, vague, back-of-my-mind thought that it would be fun to write a book, and travel around giving book talks, but didn’t give too much thought to it. Then, a few years ago, it came to me: I have had the joy of many fun and humorous adventures, many people have enjoyed hearing me talk about them, why not just write them all down to create a book?

Growing up, I was not comfortable discussing challenges I faced with people of normal vision. They might realize that my vision is worse than they thought, feel sorry for me, or treat me differently. Instead, I found it worked for me to just silently fight any fears and enjoy my everyday adventures. Another reason I avoided discussing the subject of poor eyesight until now is that I thought it might be detrimental to my career and job prospects, and I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me, or trying to help with things that I don’t need assistance with. Now I am retired, so I don’t care about my career. Plus, I hope this book will help and amuse people with poor eyesight and their friends and families. In addition, I think it will be a lot of fun running around Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Ireland, the UK, etc. giving book talks.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Go Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman. When I was a little kid I thought it was action packed and hysterical. I haven’t read a kids book in many years, but I bet that if I re-read it, I just might still think so.

So, favourite book as an adult?

As the author, I am highly biased, so would pick Positive Vision: Enjoying the Adventures and Advantages of Poor Eyesight.  However, I am sure that is not where you were going with your question, so I’ll pick another one.

Biographies, memoirs, and history are generally my favorite categories, but I also like some science, self-help, and occasional science fiction and spy books. If I have to narrow it down, I would say it is a tie between many of the books by historian David McCullough. For example: Path Between The Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914; The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge; The Johnstown Flood: The Incredible Story Behind One of the Most Devastating Disasters America Has Ever Known; and Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt. I love their combination of well researched history and fantastic story telling.

Tell me about your book Positive Vision: Enjoying the Adventures and Advantages of Poor Eyesight?

It is an adventure, humor, memoir: an upbeat exploration of how I manage life with poor eyesight. It is full of rollicking adventures and humorous incidents. My adventures galloping across the Montana range, exploring claustrophobic (and fiery!) caverns, chasing a thief through the streets of 1980s New York, taking a plunge from a plane, etc. have entertained many people. Complementing the adventures are amusing and relatable anecdotes demonstrating the advantages of poor eyesight. I think your readers will enjoy the exciting escapades and interesting insights.

Where did you get the idea to write this as a series of anecdotes and adventures?

Most memoirs are generally chronological, but I thought it would be more interesting to group stories together by topic. It is a bit like reading a magazine. For example, four of the chapter names are: Longer Life; Adventure and Discovery; Beauty, Relationships, Racial Harmony; Mayhem, Curiosity, Mystery, Thief.

That’s such a clever idea! What are you hoping readers take away from this story?

I hope they see the bright side of everything! Everyone with poor eyesight must be a bit adventurous to do some of the same things routinely done by people with normal eyesight. If you are not there yet, you might be in the future: Many people’s vision deteriorates a bit as they age, pushing them into this adventure zone.

Clearly good sight is better than bad sight, however, in my experience, there are some positives to having poor vision. For me, a longer life, more adventure and discovery, and greater creativity and imagination are the bright side of poor vision. I believe my bad eyesight has contributed to better hand-eye coordination, balance, presentation skills, and enhanced use of my other senses. Poor vision also makes it easier to enjoy a more beautiful world and improve racial harmony. Seeing the bright side makes life more fun for you and those around you.

On the other hand, many (maybe most) readers have good vision and just like the book because of adventures, humor, and insights. That is good too.

Without my glasses I can’t see into the distance without everything becoming a big blurry mess! Never get in a car with me if I’m not wearing them! What about your writing process?

I would do a lot of writing for a few days or weeks, not write for a few days or weeks, then come back to it. The gaps enabled me to remember other stories, think of things that I may have left out, double check what I had written with other people who were involved with the adventure or incident, and keep the writing fresh.

How long did it take you to write?

It took about two years, but there were a lot of non-writing and non-editing gaps during that time period.

Are you writing anything new? What can you tell us about it?

The audio book version of Positive Vision should come out in a few months, which is exciting. Narrating was fun.

That is super exciting!!

I might compile a book about other people’s poor eyesight adventures and anecdotes. A few people have already volunteered some of their interesting experiences.

Separately, a friend of mine thinks that we should write a book about pizza. We would travel around eating pizza at lots of different places and write a book about each place and their pizzas. It might be a lot of fun.

Ha! Now that would be an entertaining book, though I foresee a lot of hungry readers at the end of it! What was your publishing journey like?

The editing process was a very collaborative back and forth process that lasted for months and was invaluable. The book design was also a collaborative process that went on in parallel with the last few months of the writing-editing. I am very lucky to be married to my wonderful wife, who just happens to be a super experienced graphic designer and art director who has worked with firms of all sizes in New York City and Melbourne, Australia. She created the book cover and designed the interior of the book, which I love, and which has received great feedback. The time between finalizing the book wording and design, and distribution to bookstores was very short. The process was fastest with Amazon. It was a bit, or a lot, slower with other book sellers.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book?

  1. Don’t rush. You want to give yourself plenty of time to get it right.
  2. Ask a bunch of your friends and associates to read a draft and provide you with their honest feedback: what should be changed, moved around, deleted, added; proofreading; any ideas no matter how big or small. You will be surprised by the time generosity of your friends and appreciative of their valuable ideas.
  3. Employ an excellent editor.
  4. Read drafts out loud to yourself a few times, editing as you go to ensure that it sounds like you talk.
  5. When you are at the point where you and your editor think you are done, and you love every part of the book: force yourself to cut 10% of the book. Only keep the best 90%. Addition by subtraction.  It is painful but worthwhile.   

Thank you so much for your time today, Ken. My coffee is gone and my fingers are freezing. I pop back into the coffee shop for a takeaway cup before heading off.

You can find out more about Ken Brandt and his book Positive Vision: Enjoying the Adventures and Advantages of Poor Eyesight at the below links.

Website: https://www.kenbrandt.com/

List of where to buy Positive Vision: https://www.kenbrandt.com/buy-book

LinkedIn (author page): https://www.linkedin.com/company/kenbrandtauthor

LinkedIn (profile page): https://www.linkedin.com/in/kenbrandt2/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KenBrandtAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kenbrandtauthor

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20695347.Ken_Brandt  

About Ken Brandt

Ken Brandt has led a fun and adventurous life and had a successful business career despite (or perhaps in part because of!) his bad eyes. He has always had poor vision and slightly crossed eyes, had six eye operations (including a detached retina and cataract operation in each eye), and spent parts of his life legally blind. 

Prior to retiring and writing Positive Vision: Enjoying the Adventures and Advantages of Poor Eyesight, Ken held senior management and management consulting positions in information technology and information security with firms and clients of all sizes in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.  Ken is an entertaining speaker and an amateur New Orleans style jazz trumpeter.   He and his wife Judy Roberts Brandt have been married for over twenty years, lived most of their lives in New York City, and now live in Melbourne, Australia.

Ken and Judy Brandt. Ken is an amateur trumpeter, shown here just before leading one of many New Orleans style jazz parade BBQ fundraisers to help feed the hungry and homeless. Judy created Positive Vision’s book cover and designed the inside of the book.
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