Friday, September 10, 2021

Things Changing on HUP

 1. Submissions for the blog will be open from February 1st through April 30th and August 1st through October 31st. We will be closed to submissions all other times. 

2. The mentor program will follow the submission schedule. This will give us more time to find and confirm with our mentors. Not sure if other changes need to be made.

3. The Peer-to-Peer initiative was never utilized, so we shut it down. We are also considering closing the Disabled/Neurodivergent Creatives List as there aren't many entries for it.

4. Only nonfiction (including reviews and interviews) submissions will have the requirement of being connected to disability/neurodivergence and art at the same time. Poetry, fiction, visual, and performance art will not. Of course, submissions are still only considered from our community.

* We'd like to keep The Cripendy Contest, but we have to see how much interest there is in it going forward. 

Questions? Contact us!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Video Games: Overcooked 2 & Wheelchair-User Rep

The Overcooked franchise (debuting in 2016) is a game series where little chefs work together in obstacle-laden kitchens to deliver food to customers within a time limit. Each level amps the difficulty into a chaotic frenzy of tossed food (no health inspectors involved), fires, and lost orders. Players must get high enough scores to unlock new areas and characters.

The first Overcooked had a raccoon in a wheelchair (he's also unlockable in the sequel). Some people, like me, adored the furry little guy and how he could keep up with the rest of the chefs. Others weren't as thrilled, "why isn't it human?" I still don't have an answer, but it never bothered me much. 

Image: A brown raccoon with no legs sits in a gray wheelchair with a yellow seat. He is smiling and giving a "thumbs up" with his right hand (but has no arm). His chef hat is a soft blue and his uniform is white and red with six black buttons down the front. He wears a red cravat. The chair has no armrests or foot pedals (none do).

Overcooked! 2 (debuting a bit over three years ago) added another wheelchair-user to their roster with a DLC pack. She is a stunt woman... an Evel Knievel on double the wheels! I was immediately drawn to her boldness. A badass woman zipping around and killing it? Yes, more of this!

Image: A caucasian, puppet-like character faces the screen. Her wheelchair is red, white, and blue with stars on the back tires. Her hands have white gloves with a red star in the middle and her outfit is similar to the raccoon's except for the pilot's hat and goggles under her chef's hat with a star on her cravat. A cape is hinted at behind her. She has a smear of batter near the left side of her mouth. A rocket is seen by the right side of her head (attached to the chair).

Skins (changes to an existing character) brought us a Black grandmother who has a dynamite pair of glasses. She looks like she's in on the world's biggest secret which is quite a feat... considering the somewhat simplistic artstyle of the series.

Image: On a two-tone gray background sits a Black woman with full cheeks in a gray and steel blue wheelchair with grip-rims on the back tires. She's holding one hand to her mouth and holding up the other in either a "hello" or "wait" gesture. Black, curly hair sneaks out around the bottom of her light blue chef's hat. Her uniform is a medium blue and looks like the raccoon's. She wears gold hoop earrings and neon pink cat's eye sunglasses.

Every being in a wheelchair goes the same speed as everyone else. People in manual wheelchairs still have both hands ready for serving up requests... without someone pushing them. The lack of realism isn't a deal breaker when your fellow chefs are a unicorn and a walrus, though. 

I haven't seen other types of disability representation in the franchise, but that doesn't mean it won't exist down the road. It might even exist now, since there are characters I came across in my research that I never saw while playing either Overcooked game. It's nice to see a crip is allowed to burn down a kitchen just like everyone else.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Review: Morgan Silver's All the Beautiful Horses by Su Zi

The self-published memoir is rarely expected to be a literary reading experience; however, valuable reading experiences can occur from unexpected books. The memoir, by its nature, seeks to add to our collective wisdom, and that impulse is no more altruistic than in small press and self-published work. Indeed, due to technological mechanization, uniform trade volumes are within the realm of consideration for writers, are easy to shelve in bookstores, and can be interesting curiosities to educated readers. Readers comfortable with online book buying will see a publisher’s imprint as a single detail, and many shopping options will post the most humble publication and the most marketed titles on the same view.

Perhaps in niche topic perusal do curious volumes occur. Morgan Silver’s All the Beautiful Horses (2017) is, at first glance, a memoir about a woman who spent her life with horses, and might be too easily dismissed as a summer read for horse-crazy children only; however, Silver’s memoir goes a bit past stories about horses she has known to stories about who she, herself found herself to be:

      "By age 13, I was at my heaviest, almost 200 pounds, and it was not easy to find clothes in my size. The only used hunt boots I could find that were anywhere close to fitting my calves were men’s size ten with my feet size 8. Even then, I had to have the calves cut open and sew a piece of material into the boots”(28)

Stigma is a familiar topic in memoirs—often overlooked in third person biographies, but often also a distinctive event in an individual’s life. Silver additionally experienced academic problems:

      "School was always hell. I was always the fat kid in my grade […]I remember fearing the walk home from elementary school […] the cruelty of the other kids continued […] Back in those days, learning disabilities were not recognized in an otherwise functional child”(28-29).

Silver makes occasional mention of her weight and her unhappiness at school as a motivation for her life with horses, where she found herself beginning to “win every pony pleasure class we entered”(29). As the memoir continues, we discover a learning disabled woman making a successful career for herself as a professional equestrian.

The Art of Equestrianism is a topic that Silver discusses in each chapter, which is also about a specific equine character. From how to correctly drive a horse trailer, to how to report starvation and abuse, Silver’s memoir covers a lifetime of learning. While horse people are notorious for having their own way of doing things, Silver’s memoir discusses topics uncommon to general horsekeeping and horseshowing; of note is the discussion of side-saddle riding, which was the only way women were allowed to ride a horse in western culture until recent times, but which is now a speciality endeavor. “[…] I slid all over the saddle. I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t sit this horse”(49). Silver goes on to take lessons and attend a summer camp run by Helen Crabtree, who Silver calls “the grand dame of Saddle Seat Equitation”(50). The memoir details study with a number of professional horse people, as well as employment at notable facilities. In traditional equestrian education, this apprenticeship system was the only route to knowledge, and Silver traveled the country to do so.

The reader ought not to be lulled into thinking that this memoir filters out the realities of the horse world. Silver begins with the harsh realities that every horse must collectively fear, and details incompetence at every turn. Yet, if ever a reader seeks to go beyond romanticized notions of the horsey life, or seeks further evidence about the positive effect horses have on stigmatized children, Silver’s memoir is worthy evidence indeed.

Biography:  Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare.
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red Fez, Alien Buddha, and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Diversity Lip Service by F.I. Goldhaber

The literary community has always catered to white, abled, neurotypical, cis, straight, (mostly) male voices. The entire establishment is structured to privilege those who have money, which usually doesn't include Black, Indigenous, Latino/a, neurodivergent, trans, disabled, and/or Queer writers.

Achieving success in the literary world requires access to funds for submission and contest entry fees; money to pay for rent, food, and transportation while serving unpaid internships; resources to cover large tuition payments plus travel, living expenses, and forfeiture of any day job paycheck to attend weeks-long workshops or Master's of Fine Arts programs; etc.

Of late, there has been much discussion in literary circles about the need for diversity in what voices are published. But the entire conversation around submissions from disabled, neurodivergent, LGBTQI+, Black, Indigenous, etc. writers is meaningless when publications continue charging fees, or giving weight to expensive pedigrees, that make it cost-prohibitive for all of those marginalized writers to actually submit.

Declaring a desire for diversity, while charging reading and entry fees, is oxymoronic and hypocritical.

I write poetry and essays from the perspective of a queer, xgender, disabled former newspaper reporter published on three continents. For more than four decades publishers of every ilk have paid me to write articles, editorials, reviews, advertising copy, marketing materials, signs, poetry, fiction, personal essays, etc. I often submit my work on spec. I sometimes submit (especially poetry) to non-paying markets. But, I never pay for the privilege of having my work considered for publication.

Recently I learned of a non-fiction contest and, after reading over the guidelines, I realized that a piece I had just completed was a perfect essay for this particular contest. I didn't enter it, however, because this contest required a submission fee.

As is often stated on guidelines pages, the entity claimed to want submissions from writers of color, writers with disabilities, writers who are LGBTQIA, and writers who belong to other marginalized groups.

But, it still charges fees which make the cost of submitting prohibitive, especially for those specific writers.

This particular entity offered a work around. Black and Indigenous writers could enter for free if they chose to self-identify. And a limited number of free entries were offered to low-income writers (which would include many disabled, neurodivergent, Queer, trans, etc. writers) if they were willing to beg for the favor of participating and identify themselves as "low-income".

Rather demeaning.

The publication obviously was aware that its fees present a barrier to many. But it apparently still didn't recognize that the options offered to avoid fees were also problematic.

Normally I just ignore calls for submission of this nature. This publication is hardly alone in charging entry fees while claiming to encourage submissions from marginalized writers, a point you will often find discussed in writers' groups, on Twitter, in forums for people with disabilities, etc. This has become more common since publications started using paid services to manage their submissions. But, this trend ensures the continued centering and advancement of cis, straight, abled, white voices, no matter how much lip service is paid to promoting diversity.

But by providing work arounds, the publication acknowledged that their fees were problematic. That moved me to reach out and send an email to the editors. I wrote on behalf of all writers who, as a result of our society's marginalization, can't afford reading fees and do not choose to beg for the favor of an exception. I also voiced my protest about literary publications monetizing the writers who offer the content that makes their publications possible. And I wrote that email with full expectation of burning this particular bridge.

You cannot imagine my stunned surprise when four days later I received a response from one of the editors that included a list of action points on how they intend to address my concerns.

It's taken me two weeks to recover from the shock enough to write about it.

Granted, this is a publication edited by queer, neurodivergent, activist multi-ethnic creatives. But, they listened. And they are discussing ways to make changes.

I have long advocated against writers submitting to publications that charge reading/entry fees. In 2020, I prepared 150 poetry, 21 non-fiction, and 34 fiction submissions. Each required a fair bit of time and effort: reading the guidelines, making sure each submission adhered to those requirements, formatting to the publisher's/editor's preferences, creating an entry that included whatever information the editor/publisher required. And this was always after reading samples of the publication and to determine whether any and which of my pieces might be appropriate to submit.

This is all a normal part of working as a professional writer. But, if I also had to pay fees for those 150 submissions, even if they only averaged $5 each, I would be out more than $1,000. In one year. And, there is very little correlation between the fees charged, rate of acceptance, and payments made (if any) for work published. For writers, unless they just want to pay to see their work in print, it's a lose/lose game.

So, I have two requests of my fellow writers. First, do not pay reading fees, particularly if you are among those privileged enough for it not to be a problem. Second, write and tell the publications why, especially if it's one that's featured your work in the past. If it's a publication that claims a desire to boost marginalized voices, point out the hypocrisy. If the editors make claims about the diversity of writing they offer or the voices that they uplift, call them out. Let them know that such assertions are specious because they don't know how many writers have never submitted work for consideration to avoid paying their fees.


Biography:  F.I. Goldhaber's words capture people, places, and politics with a photographer's eye and a poet's soul. As a reporter, editor, business writer, and marketing communications consultant, they produced news stories, feature articles, editorial columns, and reviews for newspapers, corporations, governments, and non-profits in five states. Now paper, electronic, and audio magazines, books, newspapers, calendars, and street signs display their poetry, fiction, and essays.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

EmpowerHer*Voice Creative Writing Competition

1. I'm not affiliated with this contest or organization in any way.
2. This competition is for anyone who isn't a cis man. 
3. Looking through their website, they seem to publish mostly people who use she/her pronouns, but the organizer swears they are inclusive and wants to diversify. She says they have changes coming.
4. The organization will be starting a literary magazine soon that doesn't seem to have the gender connotations that the site and writing contest do.
5. They ask for your date of birth... it's for demographic purposes. The organizer said you don't have to include this if uncomfortable.

There is no fee to submit.
Open worldwide.
The deadline is August 30th.
People of marginalized genders only. 
A beige, black, white, and yellow poster announcing the contest. The top has a black rectangle announcing the prize with a white rectangle announcing the theme, the length of work, the prizes, and how long the contest is going on for inside small squares. Underneath all of that, are bullet points and additional information.

The EmpowerHer*Voice Creative Writing Competition wants poetry, fiction, and nonfiction on the theme "Stereotypes and Perceptions". Top prizes will be given out in the categories of poetry and prose. Winners will receive a donation of £250 to an organization of their choice, a Creative Writing Masterclass from a member of Princeton University, a gift package containing books and themed gifts from independent (marginalized gender) creatives, and publication to their new literary magazine. Runners up will receive the gift package/merchandise and up to 20 "laureates" will also be selected to have their submissions published in the literary magazine in October. All participants will receive a certificate (probably electronic).

 Submit up to three pieces via a Google form. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Diamond Painting Overview by Spazzy Crafter

The best way for me to explain diamond painting is it reminds me a lot of paint by numbers. The differences are that the project is sticky, and (instead of using paint) you use drills also known as dotz. The drills come in either square or round. 

Image: A portrait of a Yorkie comprised of little colored squares. You can see a reference key along the bottom.

Below is a list of what comes in a diamond painting kit:

Canvas (or other material) that has a pre-printed picture on it with adhesive. On the canvas kits, there is a number and letter key. Card kits come with separate instructions.

Diamond painting pen

Small tray

Small bags with corresponding numbers to the key or instructions

Wax square

Tweezers (in most larger kits)

Image: A red square of wax sits on paper that reads "Sunnor Group". On the right side, a pink pen is pressed into the wax.  A person's finger is also visible.  

The adhesive canvas has either paper or clear plastic on it. So, to start, peel the little piece of plastic off the wax. Take the diamond painting pen and dip the tip of it into the wax until the tip is full. Peel the corner of the canvas back until you see a number or a letter, then use the key on the side of the canvas to match the number on the bags. Open the bag with the corresponding number you want to start with, and put the drills in the tray. Use the diamond pen to pick up the drills by the shiny side; the flat side goes on the adhesive canvas. You do that until the project is complete. 

For me, the round drills are easier to use because you don't have to be as exact when sticking them on the canvas. The square drills, in my opinion, make a nicer-looking project.

Here are some accessories that might help:

Portable headlamp with magnification glasses for if you have trouble seeing the little diamond drills. 

I have never used it, but there is something called a diamond painting ruler. It is supposed to help you keep your diamond drills lined up. 

Does anyone else know of anything that will help make diamond painting easier? 


Additional Notes: 
If you have spasms, it helps to only put a few drills into the tray at one time in case you spill.
There are little storage containers for the drills that are similar to those for beads.
Gently shake the ridged tray to turn the drills face up, so you don't have to do it with your fingers.
Most drill colors have universal numbers so you can order more if you need.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Possible Changes (Please Read and Give Feedback)

This blog officially launched on May 25th, 2016. Since that time, I've seen amazing art, essays, poetry, and more from some of the most talented people in our community. It's been an absolute pleasure to work with a lot of you. But, I'm stretched thin... a feat for someone as fat as me.

So, why talk about this now?

The creation of The Handy, Uncapped Pen and all the work that goes into it was my choice, and I don't regret it. The launch of the mentor program was one of the most amazing moments I had doing this. But, I noticed my own creative output has suffered in favor of making this space better or more useful for our community. I was in the hospital last month due to infection (something that tends to happen more easily when I overstress/overwork). Something needs to change.

Possible changes:

1.  Requesting volunteers. It means asking someone to take responsibility for at least one aspect of H.U.P. like:  Soliciting interview subjects, curating the Twitter account, assistance with the promotion/running of the mentor program, updating market lists, and more.

2.  Soliciting guest editors. I'm not sure it would go very well after the first few months, but it's an option.

3.  The mentor program, blog, and everything else (sans Twitter) could shut down in two/three-month increments. People would still be able to submit during the months things are closed, it would just take longer for a response/publication. The three-month schedule would have us open: February, March, April, August, September, and October.

4.  Open everything to allies. It would give us more content for the blog and keep other programs running easier. I resist this idea, not because I dislike our allies (I value them so much!) but because I wanted this organization to stay as something specifically for us.

5.  The blog could become a place for more general writing and art from disabled and neurodivergent creatives, no longer restricting most creative writing categories to having a disability/neurodivergent component. It may solve the problem of submissions... but not everything else.

Feedback time: 

Please comment below or contact me and tell me which options you think are best. If you think of something else, feel free to let me know.


Twitter:  @HandUnPen