First, tell us, in your own words, a little about you.
I was born in Amherst County Virginia. I really wasn’t expected to live, but here I am! I was born at home, an eight month baby, at a time when almost all babies were born at home, especially in the country, and many preemies didn’t survive. My sister, Inez, we call her Nez, was also premature, and we’re both blind. The doctors feel that the optic nerve didn’t develop properly. She’s seven years older than I, but we’re like twins. I had another sister, Fay, who in turn was seven years older than Nez, and a brother, Lively, who was a year older than Fay. Both Fay and Lively have passed away. I’ve worked as a teacher, youth transition coordinator, peer counselor, organist and accompanist at a ballet academy. I’ve been writing professionally since the 60s. I’m currently employed as organist at Faith Lutheran Church in Staunton, Virginia. When I was seven we left the farm, and Daddy took a job in Staunton, at Western State Hospital, the state mental hospital for the western part of Virginia, located close to the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, where Nez and I attended school. We lived on the hospital grounds. In those days, mental hospitals were huge. To us the patients were just people. Well, they didn’t exactly act like everybody else, but they were people to get to know, and although I didn’t realize it then, grist for my writer’s mill. I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer, going back to when Nez and I made up stories and acted them out, and I’m sure that all of those early experiences, on the farm, at the school for the blind, and at home, have shaped me as a person as well as a writer. I’m sure my family wasn’t perfect, but I was fortunate enough to think they were. I met Chuck, my husband, in 1965, and we were married in 1967. To say it was love at first sight, probably isn’t true, but neither of us ever thought of another love. In 2013, I walked with him as far as I could go, as he walked through that door we call death, after a long illness. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will continue to share our love through eternity.
Where do you live?
I live in Staunton, Virginia, the proud home of the Statler Brothers, and oh yes, the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson.
Who, are the special people in your life?
There have been so many special people in my life: my husband, my family, teachers, so many of them, who walk with me only along the road of memory. It would be impossible to name all of them. I still have my sister, Nez, childhood playmate, girlhood confidant, comfort in later years. There is one special person, who has encouraged and guided me through my life as a writer, Barbara Brett, of Brett Books. As editor at Avalon Books she bought my first book, which many think is my last because it was reprinted a few years ago. Later when she opened her own publishing house, she asked me to write a book about myself and my animals, “Friendships In The Dark.” Although I’d been writing short pieces, these books were milestones for me. Although Brett Books is no longer in existence, we continue to correspond, and she still encourages me to greater heights.
Do you have any pets?
I no longer have pets of my own, but love and spoil everybody else’s.
What are your likes, and dislikes?
Oh, I like lots of things. Let’s see: blowing leaves, the smell just before and after rain, children at play, the purr of a cat, hey I could go on here all day! Dislikes, intolerance, a siren, especially in the night, people who constantly whine about how badly life has treated them, cruelty to children. Those who tell others how they should live their lives.
What are your hobbies?
Knitting, reading, listening to music, collecting recipes and cooking.
What keeps you going?
My faith in God, books and music.
What is your favorite song?
Now, that one I’m not even going to try to answer. I love almost all music, and what I listen to depends on the mood I’m in or the mood I want to be in.
What is your favorite movie?
I confess I’ve never been much of a moviegoer. I’m an avid reader, and dislike intensely some of the things Hollywood has done to my favorite books.
What is your favorite book?
This is another of those hard ones. One day it might be something by Patricia Cornwell, the next Harry Potter, the next the Mitford series, and the next I may visit Victorian London with Dickens. My husband said it, my books are my friends.
Who is your favorite author?
Oh, dear, I just answered that one, didn’t I? Serves me right for not looking ahead.
What is your favorite food?
Food! Chicken, prepared in almost any way, with, I confess, a well loaded hamburger as second. Okay, let’s not forget chocolate chip cookies.
What is your favorite quote?
Lo, I will be with you always, even until the end.
What is your favorite affirmation?
To live my life in such a way that those around me are as a part of myself. Do I accomplish this? No, but this is what I strive for.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Those who fail to see their own blessings, and the needs of those around them.
What do you think your best strengths are?
The ability to at least try to see the other person’s point. The ability to grant others the right to live their lives as they wish.
How do they help you in your work?
To see the other person’s point of view, helps me to develop characters. Even if I’m creating someone the reader will thoroughly dislike, the character has to be shown as a person. Believe it or not, I’ve sometimes wanted a character to act differently, but to be true to the personality of said character I must let her/him have their fictional way.
What are your weaknesses, and, how are you working on making them stronger?
My greatest weakness, at least in the past few years, has been that what I’m doing isn’t good enough. I also find it almost impossible to ask for help, who knows why? I’m working hard to tell myself that I’ve worked on a story, column, book to the best of my ability, and unfortunately, that’s all I, or anybody else, can do. As for asking for help, well, what can I say? A friend is coming to write a check for me. See, I’m trying!
What is your dream for the future?
I have the usual dreams, a world where all live in peace and harmony, where all have at least the basics, food, medical care education, and where children can grow up without fear. Like most people I have personal dreams, and I have one in particular.
My book Friendships In The Dark did quite well. My dream is to do another book, and since I’m dreaming, one that will do better. Where Sheep May Safely Graze, deals with a young couple whose plans and dreams have been forced to change because of his blindness. I want the world to know their faith, their struggle and their triumph. Still dreaming, I want to create a series similar to the Mitford series, that follows this couple through life’s experiences.
How, does that relate to your work, as a writer?
Oops, didn’t look ahead again.
What is your preferred way of communicating?
How, can someone reach you if they’re interested in buying from you, or working with you, in some way?
More, About Phyllis Campbell
Phyllis Staton Campbell, who was born at home in 1937, and is blind, writes about the world she knows best. She calls on her experience as teacher of the blind, peer counselor and youth transition coordinator. She says that she lives the lives of her characters: lives of sorrow and joy; triumph and failure; hope and despair. That she and her characters sometimes see the world in a different way, adds depth to the story. She sees color in the warmth of the sun on her face, the smell of rain, the call of a cardinal, and God, in a rainbow of love and grace.
Although she was born in Amherst County, Virginia, she has lived most of her life in Staunton, Virginia, where she serves as organist at historic Faith Lutheran church, not far from the home she shared with her husband, Chuck, whom she married in 1967, who now waits beyond that door called death.
Her upcoming book, WHERE SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE tells the story of, how, Pastor Jim and his loving wife, Amy see their future as a palate of vibrant color, until a bullet shatters the symmetry and they see the will of God.
ABOUT THE BOOK
When Jim, the pastor of a prestigious city church, is blinded in Iraq, he and his organist wife, Amy, find their faith challenged. Not only must they adjust to Jim’s blindness and a new marriage, but to the loss of his pulpit, when the congregation asks him to step down because of his blindness, in spite of his successful rehab training.
They go to serve a congregation in a rural village, where in addition to the usual duties of a pastor and his wife, they pray for animals, cope with a huge drafty parsonage, befriend a young couple, secretly married, and help bring a baby into the world in the middle of a flood. The characters are like animals and people the reader may meet every day, those people who will invite you in for iced tea and the latest news
The reader will laugh, and cry and find inspiration as Pastor Jim and Amy struggle and find the will of God.
Amy stood in the dimly lit narthex. The day was warm for March, and she could hear the faint hum of the air-conditioning. From the sanctuary came the strains of Bach’s, Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring, that beautiful tribute to the ultimate love that is God. She had played it many times for others who had stood where she stood now, but not until she had met Jim had she understood just what this moment of joy could mean.
In a matter of minutes Amy Brandt would be gone, and Amy Miller would take her place. No longer would she be Amy, the lonely child raised in the quiet of her grandmother’s home, following the sudden death of her parents.
“I’ll do my best by you, child,” Grandma had told her the day of her parents’ funeral, “but I’m an old woman. Your mama came along when I’d lost all hope of a child. Your grandpa and I could hardly believe it. She was the apple of his eye, as they say. He only had a few years to be with her, though, before God called him home. Now, here you are.”
Amy had to fight the desire to tell her that she hadn’t chosen to be there.
Grandma went on, winding a ball of blue yarn as she talked.
“Who would believe that both your mama and daddy would be taken at once like that, in an accident that wasn’t their fault?”
“Whose fault was it, Grandma?” Amy had asked, struggling to push away the tears that kept trying to fall. She wanted to understand why those bright, loving presences had suddenly become the cold, lifeless things she had seen at the funeral home.
“It wasn’t anybody’s fault,” Grandma had almost whispered, and Amy had seen tears in her large brown eyes, so like her own. “There was ice on the road. It just looked like the road was wet. Black ice, they call it. A lot of people are fooled, just like your daddy was.”
It wasn’t the answer the ten-year-old Amy had wanted, but she had been unable to express what she wanted to know. Why was she left alone? Deep in her heart she knew Grandma loved her, yet she never seemed able to show it.
In years to come, Amy sometimes marveled that she had never blamed God for taking her parents. She could only suppose that it had been the early training, the prayer, the Bible reading that had been such an important part of that life with her parents.
“Always remember,” her father, a pastor, had told her, “that God has a plan for our lives. Sometimes, like when your kitten died, it is hard for us to understand His purpose, and often we never see it. Amy, never forget that, no matter what, He is in control.”
Although she had cried quietly in the night, the little girl had accepted her loss. She had missed her parents, and had wanted it to be a bad dream, still, she couldn’t remember ever blaming God.
She had tried to be grateful for Grandma, but sometimes it had been hard.
“Why can’t I go to Karen’s party?” the thirteen-year-old Amy had asked.
“Because I said so.” With Grandma, that was the only necessary answer.
It was much later before Amy realized that Karen’s parents didn’t live the way the parents of most of her friends lived. They sometimes had violent arguments, and took drugs, in front of Karen and her friends.
She would have understood if Grandma had explained, but she had gone on, frowning at the potato she was scrubbing, without a word of explanation. On the night of the party, Amy was not at all grateful to God for Grandma.
Even now, standing in the quiet church, Amy wondered what her life would have been like without her music. She had started lessons when she was five, and by the time she was eight, she had been ready to play for a church service, even the intricate service music. Grandma had never understood how the music spoke to her very soul. Amy knew, though, that Grandma was proud of her ability when she used some of the insurance money from her parents for the best teachers she could find. She had stubbornly refused to touch the money for anything else, no matter how hard Amy had begged.
“Only God knows what he’s got down the road for you, Amy,” she had said to Amy’s plea for the latest model of computer. “I’m saving your money. A body needs money in this world.”
Amy had buried herself in her music, never doubting where it would take her. She would use it to the glory of God. After graduating from Murray Conservatory of Music, she had gone to the seminary.
“You surely don’t mean to be a pastor!” Grandma had seemed almost scandalized when she told her she wanted to go to the seminary.
“No, Grandma,” Amy had said, smiling, “I want to be a minister of music. Pity the poor congregation that would have to listen to me preach every Sunday.”
“But blessed is the one that will hear you play,” Grandma had surprised her by saying.
Review by author, Patty L. Fletcher who blogs at
Not since the Mitford series have I read such a delightful book. I have laughed, cried, and become hopping mad, but through it all, Campbell’s love for, and faith in, God shines through, and quite literally lights up my soul. I was, given a beta reader’s copy of this book for the purpose of a Beta Reader Review.
Other books by Phyllis Campbell…
COME HOME MY HEART, 1985, REPRINTED IN 2001
FRIENDSHIPS IN THE DARK, 1996 Reprint 1997
The Evil Men Do 2006, true crime, written under contract for the family of the victim.Who Will hear Them Cry, April, 2012
A Place To Belong August, 2012
Out of the Night February, 2014
Books currently found at https://bard.loc.gov
Campbell, Phyllis. Reading time: 3 hours, 46 minutes.
Read by Mimi Bederman.
Dr. Susan Perry, an obstetrician, becomes blind after a brain tumor is removed. Once rehabilitated, she moves to a poor, rural Virginia town. In her new career as a social worker, she becomes an integral part of the community and falls in love. 1988.
Download Come home, my heart
Friendships in the dark: a blind woman’s story of the people and pets who light up her world DB47056
Campbell, Phyllis. Reading time: 5 hours, 32 minutes.
Read by Mimi Bederman.
Totally blind since birth, the author tells of growing up on a small Virginia farm and going away to a residential school with her older sister (who is also blind) and becoming a church organist. She describes in loving detail the animals and other friends she meets along the way.
Campbell also currently writes, Handicrafts, for Our Special magazine bi-monthly National braille Press; Hobbies and Such, bi-monthly, Our Special National Braille Press, and crafts column monthly for the Blind Post, which can be found, here on the blog.