- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - For 11 hours a day Steve Salmon secludes himself in his office, decorated as a shrine to the Green Bay Packers, to work alone - save for the company of his sweet-tempered cat Lindy.

Most people wouldn’t find such long hours ideal, but for Salmon, it means getting one step closer to his dream of becoming a well-known author, the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/2qLbiwR ) reported.

“Someday people will know me,” he said at his home in April.

Salmon, 49, is living with severe cerebral palsy, which affects his muscle control. He has trouble speaking or using his hands and arms and must use a wheelchair to get around.

His mother Mary was told to institutionalize him when he was in nursery school, and he was placed into special education programs in grade school.

When he was 18 years old he was labeled “unemployable” by the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, but he knew he could take on the world. He was determined to prove DVR wrong and set off to college.

“I earned my liberal arts degree from Madison College in the early ‘90s, but I wanted a bachelors,” Salmon said in an email. “I transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where I majored in English with a minor in writing.”

Inspired by Christy Brown’s autobiography “My Left Foot,” Salmon was determined to be an author following graduation.

If Brown could overcome cerebral palsy and find success in authorship, he could too, Salmon said.

Instead of typing using his feet, however, he uses Morse code signals by pressing the sides of his head against pads called “buddy buttons,” which are attached to his wheelchair. The buttons then translate the Morse code into text. He is then able to draft his books and send emails to his publishers, care team, loved ones or anyone else he needs to chat with. This program was an advancement from a previous program that transcribed Salmon’s speech.

“All that I wanted was a chance to succeed,” he added.

And succeed he has. In the last several years, Salmon has published five novels, acquired a literary agent and made appearances at several book signings as well as the Wisconsin Book Festival.

The last two years, however, have had their fair share of growing pains since Salmon lost his mother suddenly after a heart attack in July 2015. Following his mother’s death, Salmon’s life was turned upside down.

“Everything changed overnight when my mother passed away,” he said. “She made all of my decisions for me except for writing and publishing. … Imagine losing your parent after living with them for 47 years and you have a special relationship with her, but now who is taking care of you and where are you (going) to live?”

The blur of events that came after losing his mother are outlined in one of Salmon’s latest books, a memoir, titled “It’s a New Life! Mom is Gone.” In it he describes the drastic changes that his life has taken since then.

From living in a group home to being able to roam the city, the changes in Salmon’s life have been both difficult and freeing at the same time.

Going out on his own around Madison would have been “unheard of when my mother was living,” Salmon said. Now he enjoys heading out to the bars, the farmers’ markets and Memorial Union, which are some of his favorite places.

Another recent book by Salmon, “A Very New Day,” is about a middle-school-aged boy with cerebral palsy who begins mainstreamed schooling after having been in special education programs, something Salmon himself experienced as a young man.

He said he spent most of his time in the special education classes staring at the wall waiting for a teacher to help him.

Salmon is currently working on a book where the main character finds love and success with his writing. He’s hoping it’s a sequel to “It’s a New Life.”

“He can do anything, this guy is amazing,” said Tina Schwartz, Salmon’s agent and owner of The Purcell Agency.

While many authors find a niche and keep their work in that area - Salmon doesn’t work that way. He’s written everything from a children’s book to his memoir, which includes adult content.

“He’s just checking off all the boxes,” Schwartz said. “They say, ‘Write what you know.’ He’s going in every direction which his life touches. … He’s a super hard worker and he does whatever it takes - it’s really refreshing.”

Salmon uses his books and writing to communicate his story to the world even if that story is told through someone else’s lens. It’s his clearest voice and means of communication.

He said his story is the long path against “tremendous odds” to becoming an author full-time.

Although he gets frustrated with the recent changes in his life, his mother’s devotion to him is what motivates him to keep reaching for his dream of being a well-known author.

“Recently, I have realized that my mother is my inspiration for my books,” Salmon said. “She gave her entire life for me to pursue my dream to become an author and have a career. … It would be easy for me to quit. There are times that I want to when things are going wrong and demands are piling up.

“It’s on me to solve problems and to think ahead before problems develop. I’m an author and I have to keep moving forward. … I owe it to my mother to keep pushing onward.”

___

Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj


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