Friday, January 19, 2018

Honoring Limitations During Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatment and writing don't go together. At least, they didn't for me. I thought I'd keep up my blogs, write, and submit while traveling five days a week, managing side effects, juggling my schedule, etc. Workarounds aren't new to me, so I didn't see a problem.

Well...  my hubris didn't last. I began to nap daily. Brain fog (an occasional visitor in my life before) stayed all day, multiple days a week. Side effects whisked me away to the bathroom fifteen times within twenty hours. Poetry didn't flee me completely, but it was erratic and strained.

I felt so terrible about letting my blogs go (especially this one). I'd berate myself for not being there for my readers. "Workarounds," I reminded myself as I dozed off. It didn't matter that I was busy saving my life so I could continue the work I do. Nope. All I knew was work wasn't getting done.

"Honor your limitations," I tell people around me a lot. But I never apply it to myself, regardless of what I'm going through. Not without a pile of guilt, anyway.

I'm feeling more like myself these days, though I'm not at 100%. In February, I find out if my cancer is gone. It's also the month submissions are open for mentor applications for The H.U.P. Mentor Program, something I've wanted to bring to our community for a very long time.
Each time life is upended, you must re-examine what you need and honor it. You don't have to thrive every moment you exist. Surviving is enough. It ensures you're still here to do whatever you planned on doing tomorrow... and beyond.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

H.U.P. Mentor Program

Guidelines are starting to take shape, but nothing is definite. Things will be revised as feedback is given.  We want this as inclusive as possible, so a variety of perspectives are badly needed.  By February, everything will be finalized.

I'll say this a lot:  We need applications from disabled/neurodivergent writers with multiple marginalizations.  Please, please apply.  We want this to be an accurate representation of our community, not just white, not just cishet, not just Christian.  We want everyone comfortable enough to apply.


The H.U.P. Mentor Program will give promising new/emerging disabled and/or neurodivergent writers one-on-one attention from an experienced, established disabled and/or neurodivergent writer in their field.  The mentee doesn't have to have a completed, novel-length manuscript to polish, but can also ask to be mentored on querying agents, writing a book proposal, submitting to literary magazines, revising short stories, pitching articles, etc.  

The program will take place for two months over the summer/fall, with tentative dates being from August 1st to September 30th.  We may extend the period or add an extra one next year, depending.  

Mentors and mentees must agree to a minimum of two interactions a week.  Since travel is difficult for most of us, all correspondence will be done via phone, e-mail, Skype, Facebook, etc.  Mentors and mentees will list on their application which methods of correspondence work best for them.

This program is free. 

How it works:

Early February, applications for mentors will be accepted and reviewed as they come in.  By March 20th or so, the application window for mentors will close.  Mid-April, chosen mentors will be contacted and a post listing all the mentors for the year will go up on the blog.  The post will have each mentor's name, photo, genres worked in, experience, methods of communication, etc.  I'm uncertain about listing anyone's specific disability/neurodivergence publicly... so I may not include that on the blog.

In May, applications will open for mentees.  Mentees can select up to three potential mentors to apply to.  If the mentee meets the requirements for the program, their application will be given to the selected mentors.  Mentors will review their applicant pools and make a choice.  Mentors will be aware of each other's progress and choices so no one picks the same mentee.  By the middle of July, everyone should be notified of the mentors' decisions.

Mentor Qualifications:

Mentors must have some type of publication history (it doesn't have to be a traditionally published book, magazines are fine) and/or three years of teaching or professional editing experience, minimum.  An MFA or other graduate degree isn't required.  If you've been a mentor to other writers before, please mention it.  If your editing business has lead to a client getting a book deal, let us know! Self-published authors will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but it's a tricky situation.

Mentors will be asked what types of writing they have experience with.  They will also be asked what aspects of writing and publishing they're "good at" and which parts they hate.  If a poet is a pro at submitting but can't help organize a chapbook, tell us!  The more specific you are, the better.

*The application is being worked on.*


No one applying to be a mentee should have published books, advanced degrees, or an agent.  (Self-published books might be permissible, depending.)

A writing sample in the genre you're seeking a mentor in is required along with the application.  Five to ten pages of prose (double-spaced) or three to five poems will suffice.

Mentees should have a clear goal in mind when applying and should state the goal:  A cozy mystery polished, pitches to magazine editors refined, query for a memoir ironed out.

*Application is being worked on.*


Application questions will be emailed to applicants as an attachment or questions can be pasted in the body of an email.  If someone needs another method, I'll try to oblige.

I understand certain people hope to work with someone with a similar disability or neurodivergence, but that won't always be possible.  Some of us aren't "down from the attic" and are afraid to disclose specifics.  Not every genre of writing will have mentors with every disability or neurodivergence.

I considered giving mentee applications to mentors stripped of personal information.  But, that won't guarantee everyone gets a fair shot... having a rich diversity of people will.

As people point out things I've missed (or ways to make this better) through the rest of January, I'll be making changes.  The final version (for 2018) will be completed by February 1st.

Friday, December 1, 2017

December Submit Lists, and #BoycottToSiri

My dear lovelies, I'm not starting up this space full-time yet.  December is going to be busy and I'm still slowly finding my strength (and thoughts) after radiation therapy.  I did, however, want to leave you with a few things.
First, all the new Calls for Submissions lists are out today!  Everyone is so preoccupied with holidays in December that there's generally less competition for some markets.  It's a great time to send some breathtaking work.

1.  The Review Review Classifieds

2.  36 Calls for Submissions in December 2017 - Paying markets Some are due as early as the first.  None should have fees.

3.  62 Writing Contests in December 2017 - No entry fees

4.  Comps and calls for December 2017 I don't think any of these have fees.  The writer who runs the site is in the UK, so a fair number of markets are focused there.

5.  Where to Submit: December 2017 + January 2018

6.  The Practicing Writer Newsletter for December This is a fantastic newsletter with markets, resources, etc.
A hashtag going around neurodivergent/disabled reader Twitter is #BoycottToSiri.  If you haven't come across it yet, I recommend you check it out.  It was created in response to an "Autism Mommy" writing a memoir about her teenage son without his consent or input.  There is ableism and eugenics.  It's fucking trash, my darlings, so remember self-care.  Neurotypical disabled folks should be especially aware of this book and its consequences; we need to support our autistic people.
When this blog begins again, I will need guest posts and book reviews.  I will still be paying $3 via Paypal.  Interview requests are awesome, but interviewees aren't paid.

I might attempt reviews of smaller works like individual short stories or issues of literary magazines.  I'd love to start doing more cover reveals and new release coverage/promotion.  

Have any feedback or ideas for me?  Get in touch! @HandUnPen on Twitter for email.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Freebie Writer

Not every disabled and/or neurodivergent writer is on a program like SSI/SSD (or your country’s equivalent).  But, for those who are, writing can be a dangerous game… well, publishing can be.

Writers are told never to write for free, never set our books at “zero”, and never let anyone take advantage of our skills.  Writing is an art, yes, but also an act that takes a fair bit of work.  Setting aside how small projects like literary magazines often can’t pay, we’re all supposed to go out and remind people that ours is a profession and should be treated as such.

If you’re on a government assistance program however, the amount of money you can make is limited (at points, extremely) and the release date of a book might inspire more fear than feeling of success.  Those of us on “welfare or benefits” know how little it can take for the government to look at your income and say:  “Well, you don’t need us anymore… or your medical insurance”.  For the majority of us, no medical insurance means death.

So, those who still long to be published writers seek out ways to get their writing into the hands of readers in ways that won’t mess up their (literally life-saving) insurance.  They self-publish and offer books for free (or ninety-nine cents).  They embrace literary journals that don’t pay.  They take writing assignments more for the byline than the check.

People not receiving SSI/SSD would consider this horrible.  Why, if we can make money, would we ever decide not to?  Don’t we want to be independent?

Writers rarely make the type of money that would cover the expenses of multiple medications, hospital stays, power wheelchairs, weekly counseling, and a number of other (quite expensive) necessities.  Many of us would need hundreds of thousands per year to cover our costs.  And writers like J. K. Rowling are the exception of what a writer can earn, not the rule.  If we could support ourselves (and be rid of bigots who turn our lives into a cost-benefit analysis) we would. Maybe a few of us will even get to that point.

We will write however we can, for as long as we can, and do whatever possible to get our words out there.  But, we must also be safe and secure in the knowledge that we will have insulin tomorrow, or the ability to go to our dentist appointment next month.  No one else is asked to choose between their passion and their lives, and it shouldn’t start now.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Cancer Treatment Hiatus

Dear everyone,

After much consideration, I've come to a decision today to share my secret.  I'm still uncertain about it because I don't want to hurt or scare anyone.  I don't want people angry I didn't say anything sooner.  This is not a joke, or a lie, or plea for attention.  But, I feel selfish for revealing it all.

I have cancer.  I was diagnosed in late June with Uterine Cancer, grade one.  A mass was found on my cervix in April.  A surgeon has said I'm definitely at stage two and (possibly) stage three because a couple of nodes in my pelvis also show signs of the disease.  Outside of the nodes and residual cancer from where the tumor was, no other cancer exists.  I started external radiation therapy on Wednesday.  I'm not a candidate for a hysterectomy.  I refuse to ask about my odds, but seem curable.

I'm telling everyone this so people understand when I'm not posting on my blog, responding on social media, or have to say "no" to gatherings or opportunities.  Treatment is five days a week in a town about 45 minutes from my apartment... it leaves me drained and hurting due to chronic pain.  I'm not used to going out so often.

Please be patient with me as I go through this.  It's been a rough year.

For more information:
I have some automatic posts going up this month on my blogs, but then they'll go silent while I heal.  I will still be active on Twitter.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Desperation Gives a Pass

We know there are few resources for disabled and/or neurodivergent writers.  We want it to be different, but it isn’t.  There are, however, a ton of resources for writers in general, some we can use… many we can’t.

Disabled and neuordivergent writers are often excluded from the world of “general” writers.  If it isn’t a workshop being up ten flights of stairs, it’s a literary magazine editor admitting they dislike working with neuordivergent writers (yes, it has happened).

Because there are so few places open to us, because there is so much out there for writers most of us cannot access, we often make excuses for the very people who don’t think about, or care about, our inclusion.  We hope they’ll do better and defend them when they repeatedly fail to make their spaces welcoming.  We hope, if we keep reminding them that we’re here, they will decide to fix everything.

A prime example of this is AWP (one of the largest organizations for writers).  Every year at their conference, things are not accessible.  Every year, people with disabilities are treated like crap by some of the volunteers when they need help.  Every year, there are stairs where there shouldn’t be.  They have gotten a fair amount of criticism for what they haven’t fixed.

But, a frighteningly large amount of disabled/neurodivergent writers make excuses for them, berate other disabled/neurodivergent writers for taking AWP to task, and cheer the organization whenever one little thing out of a thousand is addressed.  I hope The AWP Conference continues to improve upon their commitment to ALL writers but, after this long, I’m not holding my breath.

Just because a group, organization, conference, or residence caters to a lot of people, doesn’t mean the lack of accessibility should automatically be brushed aside as the organizers being “too busy”.  Something that is established with a lot of people behind it has even less excuse, I think, because there is enough money and time to include EVERYONE in their plan.  Well, everyone who can afford to attend an event, which is a different post.

Even things like online classes and workshops can have barriers, though it is probably more accidental than intentional.  I, myself, am still not sure how to make a website completely friendly for all my disabled/neurodivergent people and hope (if one of you comes across a problem) you’d let me know how I may best rectify the issue.

What do you folks think?  Do some disabled/neurodivergent writers give too many passes and make too many excuses for the larger literary community, or am I wrong?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Interview With Romance Writer Dahlia Donovan

Photo:  Dahlia Donovan

What influenced you to start writing and how old were you when you started?

I’m not sure what really influenced me to start writing. Reading was always part of my life since I was taught to read at the age of three. The first story I ever wrote was about bears—I was eight. The first romance I wrote was much, much later in life. It was inspired by a crazy dream.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it? If not, why not?

Not a routine, per se. I need white noise, so I usually have both music and the TV on at varying volumes. I’ll often start writing by hand, and I have to have a certain kind of pen and paper, or I can’t write.

In your book, The Misguided Confession, the protagonist (Elaine Gibbs) is autistic.  How did you come to the decision that she was/should be? Are any of the other characters in your books neurodivergent and/or disabled?

Elaine actually appears first in the Blackbird series, a paranormal romance series that I indie published.  I knew from the moment I included her that she’d be autistic. I’ll fully admit to putting quite a bit of myself into her.  I tend to be a ‘pantser,’ I fly by the seat of my pants when I write, so characters tend to evolve organically and not so much as a product of plot or outline.
After the Scrum featured a character with anxiety and PTSD. My current series, The Sin Bin will feature a pair of autistic twins, a disabled military veteran, and a man who suffers from PTSD.  Almost all of my stories have featured at least one neurodivergent or disabled character.

You write (mostly) gay male romance.  What compels you to pen stories of men loving men?

So, being a pantser comes into play here as well, I just enjoy writing love stories. Sometimes those stories are about two men who fall in love and sometimes they aren’t.

Did you struggle with writing from a male character's perspective when you first started out?  Do you have any tips on writing different genders?

I don’t really remember struggling to write from a male POV. People are people, after all. Mannerisms and reactions are slightly different, but I’ve always been a people watcher. I think this is where being autistic comes in handy. I’ve spent so much of my life observing people to avoid ‘standing out’ that I’ve learnt quite a bit about how men and women behave.

Rugby appears fairly often in your stories.  What draws you to it as a story aspect?

Is it shallow of me to admit that the men are often very attractive? That’s part of it. I think what draws me to it more is the idea of rugby players who have retired. All of the rugby stars in my stories have left the game whether voluntarily or forced. What intrigues me is exploring how someone who has excelled to the point of being a sports star responds to losing that aspect of their life.

The Caretaker (published July 2017) features a May-December romance. Were there challenges in writing a love story with characters from different generations?  If so, what were they? 

Not really, at least not for me. Almost all of my romances have featured an age gap of at least a few years if not more. I think the only challenge is making sure to acknowledge there is the potential for issues either between the couple or amongst their extended family and friends.

Who are your literary influences/favorite writers? (They need not be disabled/neurodivergent.)

My favourite author of all time is Jane Austen. I love her sense of humour and how she approached the absurdities of humanity. She didn’t shy away from showing people at their worst but managed to make it tragically funny.

What were some mistakes you made in writing/publishing when you first started? What has been your biggest validation as a writer to date?

The great mistake I made when I started was underestimating the importance of a good editor and a good book cover. I was very lucky to find a brilliant editor to work with rather quickly, though.

Biggest validation? I’m honestly not sure. Seeing my book in print was pretty epic. Or, perhaps having another author tell me that I was their favourite writer, which was a special moment for me.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on The Lion Tamer. It’s the sixth book in The Sin Bin series. I’m about a third of the way into the novel and enjoying it immensely.
Biography:  Dahlia Donovan wrote her first romance series after a crazy dream about shifters and damsels in distress.  She prefers irreverent humour and unconventional characters.  An autistic and occasional hermit, her life wouldn’t be complete without her husband and her massive collection of books and video games.

Buy The Caretaker physically here.
Buy The Caretaker digitally here.

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