The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Retired counselor publishes memoir

John Koenig

A recent book candidly portrays the life lessons of a retired UW-Eau Claire counselor who has been blind since birth.

Kathie Schneider said she used personal experiences to write her self-published memoir “To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities.”

Schneider said she worked with Ruth Cronje’s Technical Editing class in the spring of 2004 to edit her book previous to publication.

Each chapter has a specific theme, said Schneider, such as technology, her career as a psychologist and questions kids ask. With this unique setup, Cronje said she was able to assign individual chapters to her students for editing.

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“It was a very rich experience for my students because they not only got to work on a manuscript, but they got to work with a real author,” said Cronje.

Rebecca Hutchinson, a 2005 Eau Claire graduate with a degree in English, was a member of the editing class that worked with Schneider.

“It was really fun, especially when you know you’re working on something that will eventually be published,” Hutchinson said.

Despite Schneider’s reliance on a computer’s voice reader, Cronje said her work is very clean. In fact, Cronje said she put additional errors into the manuscript so her students would be more challenged when doing the assignment.

Schneider spent hours working with each student going over the changes they proposed, Cronje said, just like they will encounter when editing books as a career.

“I think she was the more patient and generous of the two parties,” she said of Schneider’s work with the English students.

Hutchinson said she took on the role of reading the entire book to work on consistency issues and consequently spent many hours with the author.

“(Schneider) is very professional and you could tell that she really enjoyed working with students,” Hutchinson said.

The content of the book is not what Schneider describes as a “walk on water” type, she said, as she believes many books about living with disabilities tend to be.

Instead, she takes a more down-to-earth approach writing about practical issues facing everyday people with disabilities, she said.

As for living with her lifelong disability, Schneider said “some days it’s wonderful and some days it’s a pain in the anatomy.”

Schneider lives close to campus with her Seeing Eye dog, Ivanna, a black lab. She said Ivanna is the seventh guide dog in her lifetime, and dedicated a chapter of her book to the dogs she trusts her life with.

One of the observations Schneider said she has made over the years is the genuine honesty of thousands of people. She said that even though every monetary transaction she makes is based on the trust of the vendor in correctly identifying what her bill is worth, she only has been cheated once in all her years of blindness.

“I honestly don’t care if people buy the book,” Schneider said. She would rather have people come down to the book signing at 1 p.m. on May 13 at Borders to talk about living with disabilities or the issues of self-publishing, she said.

Schneider worked as a senior psychologist, headed Counseling Services and taught classes as an adjunct faculty member during her 14 years at Eau Claire. “I loved my job because it was never the same two hours in a row,” Schneider said.

She still guest lectures in various classes even though she is retired, she said. With extra time on her hands, however, she is anything but idle.

“I think the thing I like best about retirement is I can decide what projects I want to do,” she said. “I really feel it’s important to reach back to people with disabilities.”

In addition to the book club she helped found at the Ecumenical Religious Center, Schneider belongs to several boards of organizations that affect disabled people.

Teachers and students alike have gotten favorable impressions of Schneider over her years living in Eau Claire.

“I think she’s a very, very decent person who is paying attention to the important things in life,” Cronje said. “She doesn’t have an affected bone in her body and has dedicated her life to making the world a better place.

“She wants to be inspirational to people and teach them that they can overcome obstacles in their life,” Hutchinson said.

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Retired counselor publishes memoir