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Computers, Electronic Readers and Eye Strain

I’ve joined the world of e-readers—we got an iPad mini for Christmas! So far I’ve only read a couple of children’s books on it and a magazine. It will take time for me to get used to turning pages with the swipe of a finger.

On the news the other day was a segment about e-readers versus printed books and eye strain. It’s sometimes referred to as computer vision syndrome. They said that reading a book in print, the old-fashioned way, is easier on your eyes. For those of us with vision problems, that’s meaningful. I decided to do some checking on line.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Eyestrain occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as…reading or working at a computer. Although eyestrain can be annoying, it usually isn't serious and goes away once you rest your eyes.” If your symptoms persist after rest, then you probably want to see your eye doctor.

Do e-readers really cause eye strain? From what I’ve read, it depends on many factors. An article in the New York Times on line says, “It depends on the viewing circumstances, including the software and typography on the screen,” among other things. And that also included the ink on the paper of a traditional book!

Here are some tips for reducing eyestrain while using an e-reader or working at a computer:

Blink more often—
Many people blink less than normal when working at a computer, which can lead to dry eyes. Blinking produces tears, which moistens your eyes and prevents dryness and irritation.

Exercise your eyes—
Another cause of computer eye strain is ‘focusing fatigue.’ Follow the "20-20-20” rule. Look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at an object that’s at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and reduces fatigue.

Use proper lighting—
Be sure that your light is directed on what you're doing. Use a brighter light source if you need one. You can also try turning down the backlight on your e-reader. Make sure that your entire room is well-lighted to reduce shadows, but not brighter than your work area so as not to create a glare.

Minimize glare on your screen—
The glare from other sources of light makes it difficult to view the screen and causes eye strain when you try to see past the glare. Position your computer so that neither you nor the monitor faces a window, or close the blinds to reduce glare. LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface.

Adjust your display settings—
Consider brightness, text size and contrast. Try pressing 'control +' to make print larger, and 'control-' to make it smaller again. For more information on this, go to the All About Vision website.

Take breaks—
If you sit at a computer or are using your e-reader for a long time, take mini-breaks. Focus on something else for five minutes or so. Give your neck and back muscles a stretch while you’re at it.

Modify your work area—
Tilt your monitor so that the top of the monitor is slightly farther from the eyes than the bottom of the monitor. If you’re typing from a written page, place your pages on a stand next to the monitor. Make sure the pages are well lighted.

Maintain good posture—
Poor posture not only adds to neck and back strain, it also contributes to computer eye strain. If you are at a desktop computer, adjust your chair to the correct height so that your viewing area is just below eye level. It’s best if your computer screen is at least 25 inches from your eyes.

More tips for those with vision problems:

--Use a larger print size.
--Use bold type.
--Avoid decorative fonts, italics or all capital letters.
--Use 1.5 or double spacing when reading something online.
--Use black rather than colored lettering.
--Try reading with lighter lettering against a darker background.
--Use a font with more space between the letters, such as courier.
--Make sure your eyeglasses are clean and free of scratches. You might consider a separate pair of glasses for use on the computer or e-reader.

Read more on the following websites:

Read Simple.com
American Foundation for the Blind

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new electronic reader. It’s quick and easy to get connected online. It’s easy to hold and read on when I’m eating lunch, or in bed at night. I like that you can make the text larger, and change the appearance of the page. It’s less to carry when I’m away from home. And I found a Sudoku app that’s more user-friendly than pen and pencil and eraser! As I get more used to it, I’ll enjoy testing out reading books on it, too!

Happy Reading, everyone!  Read More 
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Creating Some Creative Energy During Winter!


Why does the new year have to start in winter?! It’s cold outside, even here in Missouri! Your brain seems to want to hibernate with the bears instead of sparking those creative juices. If you’re feeling less motivated this season, check out one of my past blog posts featured on the Indiana Writers' Consortium blogsite this month and find some suggestions that might help you out of that slump! Happy writing!  Read More 
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Happy New Year’s Resolutions!


I personally think the official new year should start a couple of weeks into January. By then you’ve made your new year’s resolutions and know which ones you’re going to keep. You’ve got your Christmas decorations put away, probably, except for the ones you didn’t see. Holiday visits and parties are over, and you’re ready to settle back into a routine.

As for those new year’s resolutions—how about changing it to ‘new month’s’ resolutions? That way we get to start over, fresh each month! So January is only half over. Here are a few of my resolves that relate to writing.

Read a book, other than a picture book, each month—by making it a resolution I give myself permission to stop everything and read! I read Glen Beck’s THE SNOW ANGEL, and Richard Peck’s A SEASON OF GIFTS. So check that one off for January.

Write at the very least three days a week—this means working on a manuscript of some kind, and does not include blogging or other writing related things. Ok, I’m going to blame this one on the holidays. I’m giving myself a chance to make up the work these last two weeks. I think I can do that. ReviMo is helping me with that, too. (Click on the picture on the right for some great inspiration).

Submit something to a publisher, be it a book manuscript or something to a children’s magazine, once a month—I have two great manuscripts ready to go. I also have quite a few poems polished. So I just have to get them out in the mail. This is a ‘can do.’

Taxes: have them ready by the end of February—that’s a tough one, since although I keep my records and receipts all in one place, I neglect to log them on my computer throughout the year. I am one of those people who is organized by having everything in neat piles, or spaces. It takes me a day or two to organize and categorize everything for the past year! I think I’ll add a resolution—

Organize my writing expenses, mileage, etc. monthly—ok, that can work since this is still January!

Attend at least two events for children’s writers this year—maybe I made this one too easy. I’ve signed up for the Missouri SCBWI program on Learning to Work With the Common Core in March, and I just signed up for the Indiana SCBWI Spring conference in April. I know I’ll also attend the Missouri Fall Conference in September. So this one’s a done-deal.

Work on my website and networking—this one is harder for me, so I’m just going to leave it up as a general reminder. I also want to visit other websites and blogs by children’s writers more often.

I’m a list person. So making a list of new year’s resolutions helps me to stay on track. For some people, this can take a negative turn if it bothers you when you fail at keeping a resolution. Here’s a more positive way to look at it.

1—Make your resolutions things that you will likely be able to accomplish. Make some easier, and some a little more difficult. For example, if I say that I’m going to write every day, I know that won’t happen because there is work to do, and I also like to do things with my family and friends, and I know that sometimes other things will get in the way. So I made it three times a week instead. If I do more, then I really feel good!

2—Reward yourself when you reach your goal. Ice cream, a day out, or a movie night works for me.

3—Don’t let yourself feel down if you don’t accomplish your goal. Every day is a new start! Re-evaluate your goals each month and revise them if you need to—we’re familiar with revision, right!?

4—Instead of looking at how much you didn’t do, look at how much you did do. Maybe I didn’t get my three days of writing in one week, but I did write two days, for a long time!

5—If you reach all of your goals too easily, then you probably need to revise them.

Here are a few quotes to leave you with:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” - Zig Ziglar

Happy writing 2014 to all!  Read More 
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