February 18, 2020

Writing With Your Eyes Closed

“Joel Burcat’s debut novel, “Drink to Every Beast,” isn’t climbing best-seller lists or getting attention from prominent critics. But it’s remarkable for a different reason.

He finished it after he became legally blind.

An environmental lawyer in Harrisburg, Pa., Burcat, 64, had been writing in his spare time for many years and had cranked out several novels, including an early version of this one. But none had found a publisher and gone out into the world.

Then, in early 2018, he lost much of the vision in his right eye to the same affliction that a year and a half earlier had ravaged his left. To cope with the physical and emotional adjustment, he stepped away from his legal work, and soon realized that he had extra time to write. More than that, he had extra determination.

“I had to prove to myself that I could do something that one would not normally say a blind person can do,” he told me during a recent phone conversation. “It was really, really important to me.””

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