Writer’s Circle at Society Expands with Virtual Setting

Brad Buchanan taught English at Sacramento State for 15 years, but it was not until he lost his vision from a stem cell transplant for lymphoma in 2016 that he realized the healing power of writing.

“Throughout the process of being diagnosed and treated for cancer, I used writing as a tool for coping with all kinds of problems,” Brad said. “Even though there were challenges with writing while visually impaired, I found it to be really helpful.”

Brad’s vision eventually improved after four eye surgeries, including corneal transplants and cataract surgeries, and his medical situation stabilized. He had a book of poems accepted for publication and decided he wanted to give back to some of the communities that helped him in his journey through cancer and vision loss. Brad began facilitating a writing workshop at UC Davis Cancer Center, using writing as a strategy for coping with issues of illness, disability and recovery.

Photo of Writer's Circle Instructor Brad Buchanan

Brad Buchanan

He decided he wanted to offer a similar workshop at Society for the Blind. He remembered how our staff had come to his hospital room to teach him how to use his white cane, and he was grateful for the skills he had learned. When he approached us in 2019 about providing a workshop offering positive feedback for writers of all ages, we heartily agreed. The Writer’s Circle was born with an average of two to four people attending until the pandemic hit. When the group moved to a Zoom format, the community expanded.

“We weren’t able to do much writing together when we met in person, since most participants couldn’t bring their technology with them,” Brad said. “Meeting virtually has done us a favor as a community of writers – gathering from our homes gave us the opportunity to write together and expand our reach.”

Since moving to the virtual format, the group has doubled, meeting every two weeks on a drop-in basis. The Writer’s Circle now includes participants from Salinas County, the Bay Area and even out of state. About half were writing regularly before joining the group, and the other half had not written in a long time. Brad provides prompts, but mostly focuses on encouraging writing. Some participants even write in Braille.

“There are probably as many different modes of writing in our group as there are writers,” Brad said. “But everyone finds ways of sharing their words.”

While Brad writes some academic articles for journals, he mostly writes poetry, either revising or writing from scratch during the Writer’s Circle.

“It’s inspiring and gratifying that people seem to be connecting with their creative impulses,” Brad said. “I benefit from that space and time too. We’re all here to help each other take the time to sit down and write words on the page, and we’re now in a position where we can welcome anybody from anywhere.”

Writers of all ages can learn more about the Writer’s Circle at Society for the Blind by visiting our Upcoming Events webpage or emailing Richard Rueda at [email protected].