NEXT GENERATION INDIE BOOK AWARDS – GOLD MEDAL WINNER
My Extraordinary Life has been named by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group as one of the best indie books of 2015. The book details the life of a congenital triple amputee overcoming many incredible odds in life.
Vickers’ book is the winner of the Inspirational Non-Fiction category in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the world’s largest not-for-profit book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors. The awards are judged by leaders of the indie book publishing industry, including many coming from long-standing careers with major publishing houses, to identify books that deserve to reach a wide audience.
“Our awards program is known as the ‘Sundance’ of the book publishing world,” says Catherine Goulet, Chair of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards program.
In an article at CNN.com titled “If it’s cool, creative, and different, it’s indie,” journalist Catherine Andrews wrote: “The term ‘indie’ traditionally refers to independent art – music, film, literature or anything that fits under the broad banner of culture – created outside of the mainstream and without corporate financing.”
Independent book publishing companies are independent of the major conglomerates that dominate the book publishing industry. The indies include small presses, larger independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors. According to Goulet, “Like other independent artists, many indie book publishers face challenges that the industry giants don’t experience. The indies have to work much harder to get their best books into readers’ hands.” “Authors and publishers who compete in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards are serious about promoting their books,” adds Goulet. “They aim to stand out from the crowd of millions of books in print.”
According to Bowker’s Books in Print database, more than 2.3 million books were published or distributed in the United States alone in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available. A majority of these (more than 2 million books) were “non-traditionally” published, including print on demand and self-published titles. The number of self-published titles produced annually in the U.S. has increased dramatically, growing 437% from 2008 to 2013.
To help indie authors and publishers reach a wider audience, the top 70 books in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards will be reviewed by New York literary agent Marilyn Allen of Allen O’Shea Literary Agency or one of Ms. Allen’s co-agents for possible representation in areas such as distribution, foreign rights, film rights, and other rights. Ms. Allen has worked with many best-selling authors including Stephen King, Ken Follett, Barbara Kingsolver, John Gray, Mary Higgins Clark, and many more.
READER’S FAVORITE GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Reviewed by Michelle Robertson
“My Extraordinary Life” was written by Monica Sucha Vickers. This easy-to-read, well-written, inspirational, uplifting book is one for all ages to enjoy. Monica Sucha Vickers describes her life’s struggles, joys, hardships, griefs, frustrations and everything else about how it was to grow up with a disability. Having a disability in today’s life is more commonly accepted than when Monica grew up. In the 1950s, hard work, dedication, strict family values, and unspoken words, as well as a “do it yourself attitude”, were more prominent than now. Monica was born with missing limbs and was not expected to survive even a few weeks in the hospital, let alone live a full adult life. Throughout the book Monica tells the detailed story of her life’s challenges and stories of her childhood home, family members, and schools. We find that she had never realized as a small child that there was anything wrong with the way she lived her life.
The stories the reader will find among the pages of this book are very powerful, inspirational, and very honest. Monica grew up at a time and with a family that did not allow self pity. She learned right from a young age that despite her disabilities she would learn to do things for herself, before she asked for help. This may seem cruel and unusual for a young child with three missing limbs, but actually the “tough love” type of life Monica lived ended up being the best way of life she could have created for herself in her situation. Monica’s perseverance and will power are outstanding, and will give the reader a new perception of and respect for those who are disabled.
ROYAL DRAGONFLY BOOK REVIEW – 2ND PLACE
‘My Extraordinary Life’ Wins Coveted Royal Dragonfly Book Award
CHANDLER, AZ (November 2014) – The judges of the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards contest, which recognizes excellence in literature, have spoken, and My Extraordinary Life by Monica Sucha Vickers from Florence, Arizona, won 2nd Place in the Religion/Spirituality/Philosophy category.
“Winning any place in the Royal Dragonfly Contest is a huge honor because in order to maintain the integrity of the Dragonfly Book Awards, a minimum score is required before a First or Second place or Honorable Mention will be awarded to the entrant – even if it is the sole entry in a category,” explains Linda Radke, president of Five Star Publications, the sponsor of the Dragonfly Book Awards. “Competition is steep, too, because there is no publication date limit as long as the book is still in print.”
My Extraordinary Life is a true-life story of a congenital triple amputee who discusses her life struggles and accomplishments in a matter-of-fact fashion without any melodrama. It is an epic story of a very ordinary, yet truly extraordinary, life that will enhance every reader’s perception of a disability.
A poignant memoir about the author’s struggles as a congenital amputee.
Born with no legs and only one arm, Sucha Vickers is all too familiar with the physical hardships facing disabled people. In her insightful memoir, she also details her confrontations with able-bodied stereotypes targeting the disabled. “[T]he absolute worst thing about a disability is that people see it before they see you,” she writes in her typical matter-of-fact style. Vickers believes her disability is the result of her mother taking the anti–morning sickness drug thalidomide while pregnant with her—“She spent a lifetime wishing she could have that one swallow back.” As a child “quite oblivious to the fact that [she] was different,” Vickers took to heart her father’s advice: “Try it first and if you can’t do it, then ask for help.” She could even play baseball and type as fast as her classmates in high school. Reality began to creep in when, as a young adult, she was denied a promotion because her supervisors feared her physical appearance would be a “turn-off” for future job applicants. “I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck,” the author recalls of experiencing “discrimination in its purest form.” While trying to “live normally in the able-bodied world,” she learned, she says, that “to some people would never be anything more than the stereotype they created in their mind.” Often, she can’t seem to bridge “the huge gap between what people assume about me and the person I really am.” She nonetheless maintains a remarkably positive outlook: “I do have an extraordinary life.” Vickers wrote this book to keep a promise to her late grandmother, who had been a major influence on her. She’d be proud of how her granddaughter has so effectively helped people see the disabled as they really are—beyond their bodies.
A touching look at the effect stereotypical attitudes have on the disabled.
CHANTICLEER BOOK REVIEW, 6/06/2017 ***** 5 stars
Monica Sucha Vickers was born in 1954, her parents’ first child. Their love for her overcame the shock they experienced when they saw that she was severely handicapped.
Born without legs and missing her right arm, Vickers was probably a “thalidomide baby,” although her mother’s medical records are mysteriously lacking the proof of that speculation. Advised by doctors to institutionalize their tiny daughter, her parents took her home instead, and, without discussing their secret sorrows, they raised Monica with courage and without barriers.
Her father pushed her to try new things—navigating stairs and participating in sports. Initially sent to a special needs school, she complained that she was out of place there, so she was transferred to typical schooling.
In college, she and a roommate took a long trip out west in the author’s hand-controlled auto, inspiring her to move from the Midwest of her birth with its icy winters to sunny California. She became an expert medical transcriptionist, typing twice as fast with one hand as most of her co-workers could with two. It was here she met and eventually married a construction engineer who designed special office space for her home business. Together they happily entertained their large extended families.
After her rather sheltered upbringing, the author gradually saw that the world can be cold and hurtful to people with handicaps; she speaks out boldly on that subject. She states that her grandmother, who taught her to bake, prepare fresh garden veggies, ride a tricycle, even sew and embroider, provided the impetus for this memoir. Her grandmother was, and still is, her hero.
Vickers writes with a rare combination of gusto and aptly chosen phrasing, reflecting her own spirited but well-planned approach to life’s adversities, of which she has had more than her fair share. Her prose is plain and her observations frank, showing her creative talent along with the ability to objectify her experience in an unusually balanced manner.
The book contains many photographs showing not only the extent of her disabilities, especially in early childhood, but also the means she has used to overcome them over the course of her tough but courageous life: the heavy but cosmetically sculpted artificial legs, the various wheelchairs, her hand-operated car, her athleticism as a swimmer, her unconventional but very effective typing method. Here, Vickers admonishes readers about what not to do and say to handicapped and wheelchair bound persons is especially enlightening and edifying.
Avoiding any temptation towards bitterness, especially in the matter of the probable cause of her disabilities, Vickers has boldly included numerous honest appraisals penned by family members and friends about growing up with and knowing her. This willingness to see herself as others see her sometimes brings her back to the awareness of the adage, “People will see your disability before they see you,” a hard lesson that took her a long time to absorb.
This is an important memoir that serves to bridge a gap between people of all shapes and sizes – no matter what their condition. An honest and courageous chronology of a life that truly deserves to be called “extraordinary.” Monica can be reached via her Facebook page or her website, which is listed at the top of this review.
CHRISTINE HOWARD, GOODREADS REVIEWER
I went to hear Ms. Vickers speak last week. I wondered what a woman a triple amputee would say. I hadn’t read the small print carefully – this woman was born that way. What did she say? What she said is not as important as what she did. She inspired me! To realize what she did, what she underwent and what she endured is mind-blowing.
It was her first presentation and signing and I got in line to buy her book and then have it signed. Do you wonder if she could write? Not only can she write but her handwriting is leaps and bounds better than mine.
I went home and read her book in two days. As I read about some of the stupid things people say and do to someone who is handicapped I was reminded of Justice Susan Day O’Connor’s talk when she visited Yuma. She spoke of the prejudice she faced in the male dominated world of lawyers. How one asked her if she could type then maybe he could hire her. She didn’t. But she was persistent and we know where she went. For Ms. Vickers it was the prejudice of the able-bodied. Again typing was part of the subject but now it was a secretary of an employment agency speaking loudly telling her how to turn on the typewriter before taking a typing test. Now Ms. Vickers (Monica) is not deaf and is no stranger to typing – she took the test and did 124 words per minute with only two errors. Another skill I don’t have.
She had an unconventional love story – one I think everyone should read. She excelled in a career she loved as a medical transcriptionist. How she accomplished what she did has to be traced to her upbringing, because her parents didn’t treat her any different than her other brothers and sisters. She had to do chores around the house like they did and if there were jobs they did that she couldn’t, she was back at home doing other work.
This is a book that anyone with a disability could read and take heart from. This is a book all of us able-bodied souls could read and take a lesson from, this is a book for the young and the old.
I know in the future when I am having a pity party because of some of my physical ailments I’ll think of Monica and know I really have nothing to complain about.
This is a book everyone should read. The disabled should read it. The able-bodied should read it. The young and the old should read it. This woman is a testament to the enduring spirit of a human being.
WRITER’S DIGEST 21st ANNUAL SELF-PUBLISHED BOOK AWARDS
Commentary by Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards
Structure and Organization: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
Character Development (if applicable): 5
The initial reaction to MY EXTRAORDINARY LIFE might be, “Ugh, I don’t want to hear about this. It is depressing.” Yet once one starts reading author, Monica Vickers’ inspiring story, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to put down. Born a “Thalidomide baby” in 1954, she came into this world as a congenital triple amputee with only one usable arm. Her parents were told that not only was her survival unlikely, but that she was blind, deaf, and mentally impaired, and best abandoned to a home. But her family felt differently, especially her grandmother (father’s mother) who proved to be a guiding light as Monica proved doubters wrong, her intelligence and senses intact, successfully navigating childhood, teenaged years, young adulthood and marriage to Mike, the love of her life.
The book is well organized, with evocative pictures throughout. Monica’s voice is compelling, persuasive and emotionally engaging. She has a knack for anticipating the reader’s questions, providing details about thalidomide, her reasons behind remaining childless and dealing with discrimination and various physical and emotional challenges.
Perhaps not unlike the author herself, once readers get to know this book, their lives will be richer because of it. They may never look at a “handicapped” person the same way again.
EXCERPTS FROM BOOK REVIEWERS
“Anyone with a disability should be aware of this book and know how to purchase it for friends.” (San Francisco Book Review)
“… should be required reading for lawmakers and those involved with regulations regarding disabilities.” (Los Angeles Book Review)
“It’s not what people expect in a story, or in a book.” (Paris Book Review)
“… compelling narrative will alter everyone’s perspective who reads it.” (San Francisco Book Review)
“Excellent story telling.” (Paris Book Review)
“… an uplifting story that will help people with their own troubles find ways to overcome them.” (New York Book Review)
“… in the league with “Still Me” By Christopher Reeve, or “Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by JD Bauby.” (Great Southeast Book Review)
“…would make for compelling film… would attract actors and filmmakers. “My Left Foot” comes to mind, the film that launched Daniel Day Lewis’s career.” (Los Angeles Book Review)
“… the kind of book that should be in rehab and physical therapy waiting rooms.” (San Francisco Book Review)