Blind author shares the healing power of tears

Author Leonie Pye with guide dog Franklin… “The book shows us it’s okay to cry, because tears help our heart to heal.” Photo by Kathryn Vukovljak

DESPITE progressively losing her sight, author Leonie Pye has written a second children’s book, which she says has become the next stage of her grieving and healing process.

“The Broken Shell” follows on from Leonie’s debut book “The Little Shell”, and is the story of how a seagull breaks the shell and the characters heal through allowing sadness and forgiveness.

“The book shows us it’s okay to cry, because tears help our heart to heal,” she says.

“So many people wear a mask these days, and we can end up comparing ourselves to others and thinking we’re the only ones with difficulties. Tears for me are very healing.”

Leonie, a former accountant, says the shell that inspired the first book was accidentally broken by her sister.

“I was just totally destroyed when it happened, I was a mess,” she says. “It was at that point I realised that I wasn’t just the blind woman in the story, I was also the little shell.

“When that shell broke, it was like my heart had been broken, too.”

Leonie says a series of people encouraged her to write the incident into a sequel.

“I talked to a very perceptive school librarian, while I was doing a book reading, who said she felt it was part of my healing. A few days later a friend told me she thought it was spiritual, and then during a school visit, a class of grade 2 students said my next book would be about the broken shell,” she says.

“It took a while before I wrote it, but when I did, I sat at the computer and the words came from my heart.”

Leonie, 55, has been legally blind for almost 30 years, having been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when she was 19. The condition initially affected her peripheral vision and she now has minimal functional vision, relying on her guide dog Franklin.

“Each time I lose more of my sight I grieve. It’s scary and emotional,” she says.

“I never intended to write another book, because for someone who can’t see it‘s quite a difficult process.”

“The Broken Shell” has been illustrated by local artist Susan Hey, and although Leonie says she can’t fully see the illustrations, she has had them described to her in detail.

“I’ve been told that Sammy the seagull looks very cheeky,” she says.

“It’s hard for me to read anything now, and that’s been stressful because I couldn’t look at the book by sight and say, that’s how it’s meant to be.

“I had to trust and have a real sense of faith in those friends who helped bring the book to the place where it was ready to go to print.”

Leonie says the books mean a lot to her because they represent so much of who she is.

“They’re both very personal, the first book is about my journey through depression, and the second looks at how we all have an element of brokenness, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“We can grow and learn through life events that leave us feeling broken.”

Leonie has raised more than $2000 for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT through sales of “The Little Shell”.

“The Broken Shell” costs $15. Leonie will read the story at a book launch on Wednesday, February 28, at Rocksalt Restaurant, Hawker Shops, from 3.30pm-4.30pm. It’s free and tickets can be reserved at the-broken-shell.eventbrite.com.au or call 0428 330073 by Sunday, February 25, for catering purposes.

The original watercolour artworks from “The Broken Shell” are for sale and will be on display at Rocksalt. Proceeds from the sale of paintings and $3 from the sale of each book will be donated to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

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