Jenni Fagan talks books and Braille

Posted: 07/10/2014 | ,

To launch National Braille week we met award winning writer of The Panopticon Jenni Fagan, on a bright and blustery Portobello Beach. Jenni was speaking at the Portobello Book Festival but took time out to support National Braille Week and discuss her work with writers who have visual impairments.

Jenni Fagan launches Naitonal Braille WeekJenni's interest and understanding of accessible formats stems from a previous job teaching creative writing at Norfolk Blind Association. During this time she did some specialist training to understand the various different kinds of sight loss much better and she also learnt how to guide.

She said of the experience: “I really enjoyed working with the writers there – they were great, very entertaining and dedicated to their craft.

Jenni's students all used different techniques to overcome their visual impairments and express their ideas: “The writers were all completely varied in approach and style. There was a chap who had tunnel vision who used a magnifier to be able to write. Another person recorded straight to audio by talking, and edited using another recording. One was writing sci-fi novels, and he was the only one who had been fully blind since birth. His work was great, really imaginative and distinctively different in a good way.

“I found them all great, committed writers.”

Jenni is a strong advocate for all formats of accessible media, with Braille an important part of the mix: “I think all books should be available in audio and braille, it is hugely important that readers are able to engage with any work they choose.”

“I do not know how someone with visual impairments feel about Braille, but I believe it is a written art in its own right. If I compare it to touch-typing (which is how I write novels) there is something about the tactile part of this process that allows me to write well.

“The more choice there is for every reader, the better.”

Jenni’s debut novel The Panopticon is available in audio format. Watch out for the film version, in production with Sixteen Films. Jenni’s second novel The Sunlight Pilgrims will be out next year.