Publishing Student’s Indie Company Releases Book by Blind Author

Publication Sparked by Project in Applied Ethics Class

Nancy Cleary, GW Publishing master's student
Nancy Cleary, GW publishing master's student
April 20, 2018

“I will never look at anything the same again,” wrote Nancy Cleary, a master’s degree candidate in GW’s Publishing program, after reviewing the pitch her indie publishing company received for a young-adult novel written by a blind author. While she was initially apprehensive about how she would work effectively with the author, she embraced the book project as a learning opportunity as part of an Applied Ethics class assignment to “Make the World a Better Place.”

After several phone calls with the smart and funny author, Kristen Witucki, they began actively working on the publication, an emotional story told from two perspectives---a blind teenager and an older blind librarian. The young girl is desperate to know if surgery can give her sight and the unexpected mentor tells her she might as well die since her sight’s not coming back. While the book is about two people living with blindness, it is also about loneliness, friendship and the impact that one person can have on the life of another.

Outside Myself, released on March 6, 2018, is available in Braille for free through Bookshare, a nonprofit organization that works to remove reading barriers by delivering accessible format books (audio, Braille, large font) to those with qualifying disabilities.  

“I’m incredibly proud that my small publishing company is now making our books available in Braille and that over a half-million print disabled members of Bookshare and Learning Ally can receive them at no cost,” said Cleary. “We’re now qualified as an official Bookshare Publisher Partner, and because of the project all of our books can now be included in their distribution.”

The author who has three master’s degrees teaches at the Learning Ally, one of the nonprofits that is helping distribute the book. She is also a young mother to two sighted toddlers.

Cleary launched Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Inc. in 1998 after she spent a decade as a professional graphic designer and author branding expert. Her company has published hundreds of products over the last 20 years. Their publications have won every major indie award.

Cleary has “Made the World a Better Place” just by publishing the book and making it available in multiple formats to reach blind and sighted readers. The process of working with Witucki opened Cleary’s eyes to new perspectives on publishing and how technology is used to make books accessible to blind readers.

Her project diary revealed nuggets of wisdom found along the road to social improvement. For example, she tried out text-to-speech tools, learned about braille labelers and needed to change her assumptions about book design elements, such as use of columns and color. The most valuable thing she gained was an enhanced understanding of accessibility publishing.

Click on the book’s cover image to begin reading the captivating story and stay tuned for the release of an audio book version with two professional voice actors bringing the story to life.

Book cover of Outside Myself by Kristen Witucki

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