AVIATION STORIES-1: DYING TO FLY
Chriselda Barretto, a multi-genre author and speaker, with a background in Business Administration lives in Belgium and has mixed roots, namely Anglo-Indian and Goan-Portuguese.
Having travelled the world extensively, as an Inflight Safety Training Instructor, she has worked in the Aviation industry for nearly two decades.
Always with a touch of artistic creativity along with being a professional modern jazz dancer, she also loves music and is passionate about writing! She is fluent in 5 languages & loves writing poetry, stories, and quotes. She isn’t counting, but she has published nine books in six months!
Her writing covers fiction and non-fiction, with the likes of poetry, horror, thriller, romance, supernatural, children’s illustration, but she enjoys telling a story in narrative poetry the most! She currently has four WIPs and is also working on her Self-help/image-building book, that she first started on her blog: ‘chriselda.blog’
A qualified Life Coach and Motivational Speaker, she also practices NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) and Mindfulness. Aiming to share her knowledge and experiences, she is a speaker on many topics ranging from creative writing and personal development, to Aerotoxic Syndrome, aviation safety and self-publishing. Be on the look-out for her podcast!
Hi Chriselda! Thank you for joining us today on Reader Views! Tell us about your latest book, Aviation Stories -1: Dying to Fly.
Hi Sheri, thanks for having me!
Aviation Stories-1: Dying to Fly is my first book in a non-fiction genre, based on a true story.
The story follows the life of Ellen, a Senior Flight Attendant, who loves her job but whose health is deteriorating rapidly, and she can’t seem to explain why.
Through the story, we discover together with her, what is causing her deterioration in health and as a consequence the actions she decides to take to better her health and improve her life as a whole!
What inspired you to write this book?
I have worked in aviation for nearly twenty years and the most part as a Safety Training Instructor. While I trained crew daily, I had never heard of the term: “Aerotoxic Syndrome – AS,” during my tenure as an instructor. I worked there until 2014 and strangely “AS” was never mentioned or trained to the crew either, which I now find alarming, because this terminology has existed since 1999!
A couple of years after I left the profession, I was approached by an ex-colleague to be part of an online group on Facebook dealing with the ill health effects of cabin air on cabin crew and passengers, after so-called “fume events.” I decided to at least take a look into it because I still had so many friends working in aviation. I had been suggested by my ex-students, because of the respect and authority they thought I had on the topic of aviation safety. I was honored and decided to take up the challenge and started researching into it. What I discovered shocked me!
I soon began to realize that I probably also suffered from it, but due to lack of knowledge on the subject at the time I flew, I did not recognize the symptoms. I find it alarming that even after so many logged reports of sick crew, it still isn’t accepted as a health hazard due to their exposure to toxic chemicals in the aircraft cabin.
Hence the inspiration to write this book. During my research on the subject, I had also met “Ellen,” who to me was a prime example of a survivor and fighter, and whose story I thought was very touching and would be the best way of getting the issue out there, with a more humane touch!
So, the protagonist in the story, Ellen Sanders, suffers from Aerotoxic Syndrome. What is Aerotoxic Syndrome?
Aerotoxic means toxic air!
Simply explained Aerotoxic Syndrome is the term given to the illness caused by exposure to contaminated air in jet aircraft.
Crew and passengers have shown to suffer short and long-term ill-health effects caused by breathing airliner cabin air which contains contaminated to toxic levels of engine oils or other chemicals; mainly ToCPs, which is an organophosphate compound known to cause neuropathy!
Some of the symptoms related to AS are:
- Fatigue – feeling exhausted, even after sleep
- Blurred or tunnel vision
- Shaking, tremors, loss of balance, vertigo
- Seizures, loss of consciousness
- Memory impairment, headache
- Tinnitus, light-headedness, dizziness
- Confusion / cognitive problems
- Feeling intoxicated
- Nausea, Diarrhea, Vomiting
- Coughs, breathing difficulties (shortness of breath)
- Tightness in chest
- Respiratory failure requiring oxygen
- Increased heart rate and palpitations
- Irritation of eyes, nose and upper airways.
- And many more!
YIKES! It doesn’t appear to be a well-known issue. When was it first discovered?
That is so true Sheri!
The term Aerotoxic Syndrome was first introduced in a published paper in 1999 by Dr. Harry Hoffman (U.S), Professor Chris Winder (AUSTRALIA) and Jean Christophe Balouet Ph.D. (FRANCE):
Interested readers can find more information about it at www.aerotoxic.org
Talk a bit about how your series will unfold – will each book have a different protagonist and issue, or will they all revolve around Ellen?
My original plan was to write on different issues related to aviation; like health dilemmas, safety aspects, environmental impact, etc. Issues that are either covered up or not spoken about openly, for fear of being criticized, judged or ridiculed. My intention for the series is, therefore, to follow the life of different protagonists and uncover their problems!
My upcoming book features Lea – Ellen’s ex-colleague who introduced her to “Aerotoxic Syndrome.” I also have other survivors lined up, whose lives have been severely impacted due to this illness.
I am surprised at the positive reaction this book has generated, which also gives me a feeling of deep satisfaction at being able to help victims, who thought that they had no voice and were too little to be heard by the world. It has given them the opportunity to come forward with their heart-wrenching stories and vent out with the hope of creating better awareness of AS!
My schedule is getting filled up quickly, trying to set dates to be able to meet up/talk with all of them and record their experiences!
It is going to get better, so stay tuned!
Why did you choose to write this story as fiction?
I promised to protect the identity of “Ellen.” We know that the Aviation industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry. I didn’t want the victim to suffer further repercussions because as history has proven in prior occasions, when dealing with a strong, legally protected industry, they do what it takes to protect their assets, and might even resort to severely criticizing the victim, maybe even questioning his/her reputation or mental health!
I wanted to focus and expose the issue at hand which is the sickness itself and the fact that it still isn’t being recognized by the Aviation industry!
Secondly, I also considered that many crew may still be actively flying, while still suffering quietly from it! I consciously wanted to remove that aspect of fear; that they might lose their job because of coming forward or worse be labeled a whistle-blower!
So the easiest and safest way was to keep the characters anonymous and write the story in realistic fiction, though it is “nonfiction” and based on real events! Finally isn’t it more comfortable to grasp information when told as a story?
Absolutely! So, what is the SHIFT movement?
My main aim when I started writing this series was to be a spokesperson for the airline community and help give them a platform to be able to express their concerns and worries. With that in mind, I launched the “SHIFT” movement through my social media channels calling forth victims, survivors, and people having an impactful story to tell/share which would help expose existent bias and aid the community as a whole!
SHIFT is the acronym for Sharing Helpful Information For Tomorrow!
Of course, my invitation exceeds to other areas, outside of aviation as well, where due to lack of information and sustainable knowledge, people may be put in harmful situations and may fear coming forward with their story.
Hopefully, this series continues to help those that need a voice to expose hidden issues, leading to a better future!
This would be my way of giving positivity back to the universe!
Sounds like you have a new calling! Let’s talk about you for a bit! You write in multiple genres – what is that like and how do you switch creative gears from one genre to the next?
It’s amazing! I have to confess that I didn’t write much before, but ever since my adorable grandmother passed away last year, who was an avid reader, a pure genius in the written word and loved collecting quotes, the writing bug hit me!
I started writing long texts, poems, quotes instantaneously. Sometimes there is so much in my head that the need to get it down on paper is overwhelming!
I love experimenting, and I have written poetry, romance, horror, thriller, and I enjoy telling a story through narrative poetry in different genres. I am finishing the third and last book in ‘The Creep Series’ which I wrote in narrative poetry in a thriller/horror genre. Another WIP is “Hadiss,” also a narrative poetry story with a supernatural/romance twist. I am also working on a follow-up book to my Children’s Illustration Book Series, titled “Melina’s Galaxy.” You can also look out for my first crime-suspense-thriller genre novel titled “Candy Mum”! I am also excited about finishing up my Self-help/Image-Building Book that I had first started as a series on my blog: ‘chriselda.blog’
I love the feeling of freedom and calm I achieve when I write. My writing is mostly visual, and I let my thoughts and my frame of mind guide me in choosing the genre I feel most in the mood of writing! Generally, I decide pretty quickly what I would like to continue working on. I close my eyes and go back to where I am in the story, to feel it and I become the observer. I let logic slip in at times, but it’s my creativity that I leave free flowing. Strangely after a certain point of writing down, I can visualize the end, and from that point on I drive the story, filling in characters to coincide with the end I have already perceived.
The entire process of creativity that begins with a little thought and continues blooming into unimaginable ideas, plots, and twists, finally forming my storyline. Giving my thoughts a persona, a character and bringing them to life is my inspiration. Each time I write, I try pushing my boundaries further as a writer or poet, in the hope of creating pure emotion on paper!
Do you have a favorite genre to write in?
I consider myself to be more of a poet. So I think my favorite literary genre would be poetry in all its forms. However, narrative poetry is my emotional playground!
Talk about an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Language has always fascinated me. I remember when I first moved to Belgium in 1996, I was very young and had to learn two new languages: French and Flemish simultaneously. I already knew then that it would be difficult and challenging but achievable, giving me an advantage in finding better career prospects…so it was! Also out of respect for the country and to be able to integrate and mix with the common folk, I thought it only natural to learn and adopt it into my daily life! Speaking of which, I feel happy to mention that I have recently started a German course. Science has proven that learning foreign languages stimulates brain cells and energizes entire thought processes! I feel languages help revitalize your mind and keep it agile.
My kids are fluent in English, Flemish, French, Greek, and German, and I am very proud of them and what they have accomplished. I have on numerous occasions referred to them as my walking dictionaries, but I know that it has influenced them positively, enriching and opening up their minds to creativity and better communication!
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Knowing when to stop! I sometimes have so many creative plots and stories in my head that I find it difficult to stop and get back to my daily chores. As soon as I see the words forming in my head, I need to note it down right away, but realistically sometimes it isn’t that easy! So probably that’s the most challenging part. Truth be said I could go on writing undisturbed for hours on end!
Something else, though not that big a deal is that because I write different genres simultaneously, it can be challenging to remember character names from stories that I have left sitting for a bit. So, each time I introduce a new character, I make sure to write down the name at the start of that chapter or to highlight it, for easy reference and continuation to my story.
What do you like to do outside of writing?
Lots of reading, in fact presently I have decided to take a little break from writing, and binge read some of the great, classical work by legendary Anton Chekhov!
I am a trained modern jazz dancer, so keeping fit is quite important to me. I practice Zumba and even decided to take up becoming an Instructor a few years ago, but due to lack of time, I don’t give classes anymore! It helps me stay physically fit and agile while enjoying the music and the different dance styles!
I am also looking into Speaker opportunities, with a view to sharing my knowledge and expertise, to help motivate other individuals.
I will soon be launching my podcast (with 3 themed pillars: Aviation, Self-help, Writing) and am available as an Expert Guest Speaker on other podcast line-ups. You can find my Guest Speaker profile here: https://podcastguests.com/expert/chriseldabarretto/
So, what can you share about your next book?
Last year, I had started writing weekly sessions on Image-Building on my blog: ‘chriselda.blog’ to help individuals better understand themselves and the joy, confidence, and liberation one finds through self-healing!
I had stopped after a couple of sessions, as I was busy trying to get all my accumulated writing published! Now nine published books later, I realize that I still have much material from my sessions which I would like to get into a book with a simple, step-by-step process to building one’s Self-image.
I hope to help motivate people to achieve their real potential, which is so essential to be successful in our life!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing or life in general?
The best piece of advice I ever received was to work hard, be self-sufficient and to never stop learning and evolving!
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging authors?
Yes, and it would be never to forget why you are writing! There are different reasons why we write; it could be to vent, to tell a story, to relate, to inform, to guide… whatever it is, it must give you joy and satisfaction.
“Keep writing and keep making time for it.”
Every morning as soon as I am up, I make it a point to write something…a quote, a poem, a continuation to one of my stories! Anything to keep it flowing.
“Make it a daily process, no matter what!”
If you have a dry spell, take a break and read A LOT… it always gets me back on, real quick. Also, lastly have fun with it and be creative!
Where can readers purchase your book?
Digitally my eBooks can be found at Kindle, B&N, iTunes, Tolino, Kobo, Scribd, Playster, Overdrive, 24Symbols, Bibliotheca, Angus & Robertson, Indigo, Fnac, Bol, Walmart…Link to my books
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I want to invite people once again to use SHIFT as a platform to contact me and get their story out there. Remember to tune in to my podcast, which will be running very soon. Follow on: chriselda.blog
Thank you again Chriselda, for being with us today at Reader Views and sharing your amazing story!
Thank you for having this lovely catch up with me. Good luck and a brighter, more positive future to us all!