Post Title: Spotlight on Jo Pinto, Love is a Verb
I’m so excited to welcome my readers to my last Friday Friends column of the year, and introduce you to Jo Elizabeth Pinto. I’ve known her for a few years now and appreciate her take on life. Aside from both being authors, we also share a love for cooking and Braille—though as you will discover, she is much more proficient than I am in the latter!. Jo is full of wisdom and lives by her beliefs. I hugely admire her. I hope you all had a lovely CHRISTmas and Happy New Year, everyone!
Hi, Amy. Happy holidays. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your Friday Friends column this month.
I grew up in a small Colorado town where I still live. The small town is quickly turning into a city around me. I was one of the first kids with disabilities to integrate the public schools when the IDEA laws opened the doors in 1976. Pioneering public education was both wonderful and terrible, honestly. The world didn’t know what to do with disabled people yet. Often it still doesn’t. I like to compare my school years to a ride in a clothes dryer. I tumbled around with my peers. Sometimes I experiEducenced warmth and softness, but I also got the wind knocked out of me a lot.
Education and Profession
I eventually earned two college degrees, one in 1992 in human services, and another in 2004 in nonprofit organization management. I’m not using either degree, but the skills I learned have helped me in my everyday life. I was a caregiver for my first husband, who succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease. I now have a thirteen-year-old daughter. I’m an author and a proofreader of braille textbooks, and her dad owns a watch and clock repair shop. Our family includes my black Labrador guide dog Spreckles and an aging gray tabby cat we call Sam-I-Am.
My Interests and Pastimes
In my free time, I enjoy gardening during the summer and cooking and baking, especially when it’s cold outside. I don’t really like figuring out what to fix for dinner every night, but I love trying new recipes and making them my own. I also enjoy listening to music, especially the older country hits I grew up on.
My Core Values
The three main values my life has taught me are gratitude, tenacity, and positive action. I do my best to live by those values every day and to reflect them in my writing.
Gratitude is a choice, the same as healthy eating, exercise, and getting rest. Mental habits are as important to good health as physical ones are.
Getting through life with a disability is difficult. Anyone who says it isn’t doesn’t have one. “Tenacity” is one of my favorite words. It brings to mind a dog playing tug-of-war, not letting go of a bone for love nor money. I’ve been called a driven person, but I prefer to think of myself as persevering. That’s why I’ve got three published books and another in the works.
I always tell my daughter, “Love is a verb. It’s something you do, not just a way you feel.” Love might be putting a hot meal on the table when your family comes home after a long day. It might be sponsoring kids you don’t know at Christmas so they’ll have gifts under their tree. It might be looking out for the youngsters in your neighborhood after school when you see them at loose ends. In any case, love is an action.
My Publishing Journey
I’ve published three books so far. My first, released in 2015, was a novel called The Bright Side of Darkness. My second, released in 2019, was a mothering memoir titled Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark. In 2020, I published another memoir, called Apples of Gold: Timely Advice When the World Doesn’t Seem Lovely.
I published The Bright Side of Darkness because, during the ten years I cared for my first husband as he dealt with Lou Gehrig’s disease, we lived in several low-income neighborhoods where we mentored kids who needed stable adults in their lives. I wanted to tell a story of resilience, second chances, and the power we all possess, if we only act, to change the world where we live.
Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark came about because I got tired of encountering blind parents who had either been given problems by Child Protective Services for no reason besides their disability, or lived in fear of that possibility. I wrote a book of short, mostly lighthearted vignettes designed to show that while blindness might alter some everyday logistics, it didn’t change the essence of family life. The idea was that if I could get people to laugh and relate on a personal level, they might learn without even realizing they were doing it.
Apples of Gold: Timely Advice When the World Doesn’t Seem Lovely grew out of my sense that people, myself included, needed to stay focused on gratitude as the Covid-19 pandemic dragged on. The well-being of individuals, families, and communities depended on a positive mindset. I collected stories and poems from various aspects of my life—some spiritual and some more practical—and put together a short, eclectic memoir I hoped would uplift my readers.
Early in 2022, I’m planning to publish a book of nature poetry. Its working title is “Dancing with the Seasons: A Year in Simple Verse.” During the late spring, a piece of mine will appear in a Spanish cookbook that includes family memories along with the recipes. I’m also working on a piece for another Spanish anthology.
Braille Proofreader and Print Editor
Part-time since 1997, and starting full time from home in 2005, I’ve been a braille proofreader. I mostly work on textbooks, but I do some novels and other items as well. In the last few years, I’ve also begun editing projects in print on my computer for authors who intend to publish their work independently. Editing and proofreading have helped me become a better author by allowing me to take note of the multitudes of writing styles available to me. Also, I’ve had to stay sharp finding errors in the manuscripts of others, which has kept me noticing mistakes of my own. Still, I don’t ever publish my work without having it edited by at least two other people. We all write what we mean to say. We miss our own errors because our eyes—or ears—skim right over them. The mistakes jump off the page when fresh readers get hold of our manuscripts. Believe me, I’m no exception after all my years on the job!
My life hasn’t been easy. Growing up as the only blind kid in a small rural town was difficult. Facing job discrimination after excelling in college twice was difficult. But by far the most serious challenge I ever faced was losing my first husband to Lou Gehrig’s disease, caring for him alone as he slipped slowly away from me, and dealing with the crushing poverty that the government imposed on us because we both ended up as spouses with disabilities. Still, I would never have passed up the opportunity to have the amazing man I married in my life. The situation we found ourselves in allowed us to mentor kids of all ages who needed two available, empathetic adults to serve them breakfast, bandage their skinned knees, give them advice, bake cookies with them, help them with math problems, and otherwise open our home while their parents were either working double shifts to put food on their tables or off living it up somewhere.
I turned fifty years old last spring. Life hasn’t been easy. The thing is, though, short of opting out, I was going to turn fifty, one way or another. When I was twenty, I got married and my husband fell ill six weeks later with what turned out to be Lou Gehrig’s disease. As I took care of him over the next ten years by myself while he declined, a teaspoon at a time, I figured out that I had the choice every day to find something I could be blessed over or bummed out about. I still do. Some days I do better than others, but the decision is up to me.
To Learn More and Contact Me
To find out more about my books and me, please visit my Website at https://www.brightsideauthor.com or look me up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorjepinto. I’d also be glad to answer your questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a beautiful holiday season!
My name is J. E. Pinto. I was born three months too early in 1971 and lost my eyesight to retinopathy of prematurity. Blindness didn’t stop me from reading, though… I devoured all the great writers’ children should discover—Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl, Hans Christian Anderson and Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, John Steinbeck and William Shakespeare.
I always knew I wanted to be an author. From the time I figured out words could be written down and reread again and again, I knew someday I would write.
My novel, The Bright Side of Darkness, began as a short story assignment for a high school English class. I got an A on the assignment and fell in love with the characters who came to life in my imagination. Several years later, I gave my novel one last loving polish and kicked it out of the nest. In June of 2015, I finally published my book.
As I’ve marketed my novel, I’ve met many wonderful people and been drawn out of my comfort zone. I’m a natural introvert and a recluse at heart. But introversion and reclusiveness are diametrically opposed to book marketing, so I’ve had my limits stretched in exciting ways as The Bright Side of Darkness finds its place in the world. The novel won two First Place 2016 Next Generation Independent Book Awards, one for First Novel Over 80,000 Words, and one for Inspirational Fiction. It also won several 2016 awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association: First Place for Inspirational Fiction, Second Place for Audiobook Production, and First Place for Literary and Contemporary Fiction. Besides writing, I work from home as a Braille proofreader and hang out with my family, which includes my nine-year-old daughter and her dad, and my guide dog Anlyn.