Joel Burcat’s life changed dramatically during 2018, in what must have seemed like a biblical plague of locusts followed by manna from heaven.
Until that moment, Joel had a regular day job, just like many other writers. He worked as an environmental lawyer, and apparently was very good at his job. Because Joel was in demand for resolving all manner of environmental disputes across the state of Pennsylvania, working from his home town of Harrisburg.
But he loved writing. So on the side Joel kept churning out short stories which won recognition in various contests. And he drafted novels which never quite made it to publication. Then came the devastating blow that clearly made it impossible for him to write as he had before. He became legally blind due to an optic nerve condition.
But it seems Joel was just a bit stubborn, as many of us writers tend to be. Because he took the loss as a challenge. Forced to step back from his law practice, he had to do something. So he threw himself into his writing. Buying some voice-recognition software helped. Hiring an editor helped. But most of all, he found his writing had changed.
No longer able to see as well, he had to rely on his memory and his imagination to describe things that happened in his stories. And Joel has one hell of an amazing imagination. This is immediately evident in his first published book, Drink to Every Beast. The opening passage, in which a terrible tragedy occurs, feels so real that it is almost impossible to go on to the next page. But of course you have to go on, because you feel someone really, really has to pay for what happened.
I would never wish blindness on anyone. But in Joel’s case, this seems to have produced a beautiful gift. It is a literary gift we should all hope keeps on giving for many years to come.