Friday, October 29, 2021

Using the Addi Express (Two Sizes) by Spazzy Crafter

Image: A round, black, plastic machine with red pegs (except for two white near the shuttle). There are a few rows of blue yarn on the pegs, and the yarn ball sits a few inches away. The background is a tile floor.
If you like to loom knit and are looking for a way to do it more independently, then the Addi Express (with 22 needles) and the Addi Express King Size (with 46 needles) are for you. They are a series of hand-crank knitting machines from Germany.
We should now talk about the price. The Addi Express and the Addi Express King Size price varies depending on where you get them and if you want them as a bundle. They can run anywhere between $170 to $430 USD.

Yarns that work:

It takes a lot of trial and error, but medium weight yarns are generally recommended. Since the machine is made in Germany, DK (double-knit yarn) might be the best; the US equivalents are gauges seven, eight, and nine. If you use thicker/thinner yarn, the machines will drop stitches. Performance can also vary between yarn brands and amount of tension.

What comes with:

Extra needles in case they break, one tapestry needle (per machine), stoppers (these are included with some machines), instructions, and the machines themselves. There is a row counter on the machine.

Using the Addi:

Cast on the yarn by starting at the first black peg on the right. All the pegs have a hooked top. Put the yarn in the hooked part, then put the yarn behind the next peg, and continue alternating going in front and behind the pegs until you make it all the way around the loom. Place the yarn strand in the shuttle and close the little door. Rotate the handle to cast on all the pegs and keep rotating until you get the desired number of rows. The tapestry needle is used to collect the stitches from the pegs when you’re ready to finish the project.

Pros and cons of the Addi Express:

The major pro for me to the Addi Express is that I only need help with the casting on and the binding off. It takes about a half hour to make a hat. It can also make panels for things like baby blankets; there is a switch for round or panel knitting.

The major con is the price. It can drop stitches because it doesn't come with a tensioner.

Extras for separate purchase:

A tensioner makes one-handed use easier
Suction cups for the legs (I haven’t tried them yet)
Clip weights might also help with dropping stitches
Image: The left side has a smaller machine with white yarn cast on and a ball of yarn nearby. The background is a quilt of varied colors with rounded shapes separated by small, checked squares. The right side of the image is the finished product... a white hat.
There are cheaper knitting machines out there (like the Sentro), but I haven’t tried them. Some come with a tensioner built in. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Interview with Author Ciaran J. McLarnon

Image: A headshot of a caucasian man in a printed, button-down shirt. He has thick, black glasses and receding dark hair. He is outdoors (grass, trees, and sky visible).

When did you figure out you wanted to be a writer?

When I was studying for my MSc I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and was blown away by what she had achieved. Until that point I had been making a choice between being a scientist and being a writer, but that book made me think I might be able to do both. A few years later I accepted that being an ecologist was no longer on option for me, and I decided to focus on writing. Now I can't imagine ever being anything else. That feels strange because (if I wasn't disabled) I'm not sure how I would have ended up being a writer, but I really think I was never going to be anything else.

Who are your influences?

Rachel Carson has been a major influence, as have many other nature writers; I really enjoyed reading Henry David Thoreau and like to keep him in mind when I write. I spent my childhood in the area where the poet Seamus Heaney had grown up 50 years before and aspire to write stories with the panache of his poetry. There are many Irish writers who inspire me to try and be better every day. Of more recent writers Kazuo Ishiguro is a favourite, an excellent storyteller with unrivalled technique. Like many writers, I’m also a keen reader and hope that every book I read influences me in some small way.

Where did you get the inspiration for your debut novel New Shores? How long did it take you to write?

New Shores first started its life as a short story about six years ago. At that time I had no desire to write a novel, but I knew that if I ever did, that story would be the place from which I would start. About 18 months later that opinion had changed and I began to write the first draft of the novel. I chose New Shores because it was an area where no amount of research would be too much, and because I thought I could add something to the work available that tackled the same subjects.

The original short story was inspired by a lecture series I attended at university on the native tribes of Papua New Guinea, and by a TV report which detailed how tribes in Papua New Guinea moved away from the coast after a tidal wave because they were scared of the sea. Hunter/gatherer tribes in places such as Papua New Guinea are often used to examine how prehistoric people might have acted in certain situations.

How did you become interested in environmentalism and history?

I grew up in a very rural area, so I've always had an affinity for nature because of that. My studies in Marine Biology and Ecology focused heavily on the environment. To me environmentalism just makes sense; it's a little like recognising that a house is going to need maintenance occasionally, and that you should avoid doing things that might damage it.

I also like to know the source of ideas, and that's where my interest in history comes from. Plus, history is full of great stories and interesting characters that I think people will enjoy learning more about, and the ideas from history can teach us a lot about human nature.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to research or write about people and things outside of their culture?

It's tricky since most writers don't want to be accused of cultural appropriation. I try to be respectful and understanding, and if you can do that, then people are usually more forgiving if you are inaccurate. You will make mistakes and people will see things in a different way, so try not to be too controversial. I'm from Northern Ireland so I have heard people try to advise on the situation here, so any researcher might want to avoid a very complicated situation. But subjects outside a person's cultural experience shouldn't be too daunting - everyone has their opinion and an objective opinion could be useful. Any comments should be necessary, as simple as they can be, and show people you have tried and want to understand.

What was the aspect that surprised you most about the publishing process? Is there anything you wish you would've done differently?

I thought being in control of the final book that emerged from the publishing process didn't really matter that much to me, so I was surprised to find out how wrong I was about that. Through Atmosphere Press I felt like I had the final say in the design and editorial process, which I found empowering. I suppose, after spending so long thinking about my words, I didn't want anyone else to have that much control over them!

Do you have a writing routine?

I do have routine, but it's become more flexible recently. I do like to try and follow the advice of Stephen King to try and write every day. Three days a week I go to the gym after breakfast, and physical exercise is an important part of my process. I often take breaks during writing to exercise. After I get back from the gym, or straight after breakfast on the mornings that I don't go, I like to read for about 90 minutes. I then write for about two or three hours or until I get stuck. Then read again for about 90 minutes, something different from what I was reading that morning. If I have something I really need to do, I will read/write in the evening. Having a strict routine helps me to avoid procrastination and write when I’m not motivated.

Are you more of a "plotter" or a "pantser"?

For New Shores I was definitely a pantser; I just had a vague idea of how things were going to go before I started writing. The world and the story got more solid with each draft that I wrote, but because I was researching and reading as I went, I'd written three or four drafts before all the major plot points appeared. Plotting probably would have made editing faster. For the next book, I'm writing a three-sentence summary before I begin each chapter, but I don't want to plot too much because making up the story as you write it is part of the fun!

A lot of writers seem to recommend plotting and I do like to have a vague idea of the beginning, middle, and end before I start. But, I change my mind so often that I don’t think I should plan too much. I think a writer should have a plan but needs space to be creative.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a disabled writer?

Because of my medical condition, I have difficulties holding small objects and can’t use a pen and paper. It has never been a problem that has made me reconsider writing, but I do get the feeling that my process is a little different from the process of authors who can use pen and paper. For example, I have never written in the margins of a book or used a highlighter pen. I'm a slow typist too and I have used several methods to get over these problems.

The first method I used and by far the best was a note taker, a person whose job it is to take notes for you and to write down what you say as appropriate. I used this method in a creative writing class I attended a few years ago, but it was in a large university that could afford to hire a note taker and had empty classrooms I could use when dictating.

The computer programme that I use for dictation now works out pretty well. I'm using it to complete this interview. The programme does pick the wrong words sometimes, but I think that problem is mainly due to my thick accent! When using any kind of dictation is inappropriate, I often use a tablet. This is the solution I normally opt for when I'm attending a writing class or workshop. I produce shorter pieces than most people in that situation, but I still enjoy learning about writing and listening to other people’s work.

What project are you working on next?

I usually split my time between writing novels and writing short stories. I write short stories until I need to stop and start working on my novel again, which usually takes four months. Then I'll write that novel until I feel like writing short stories again. Right now I'm on the short story part of the cycle, but I’ll turn to the 3rd draft of my next novel by January 2022.

The novel writing is going pretty well and I think it’s starting to take shape. With a little planning, I think I can reduce the number of drafts and maybe complete the book in 2022. Some interesting things are happening to the main character so I'm quite looking forward to seeing how it all works out. I'm trying my hand at dark fantasy in the short story I'm currently working on and the short stories I've been working on most recently are historical fiction and for a nature writing competition. I just heard that my historical fiction piece will be published so I'm pleased by that.

~*~

Biography:  Ciaran J. McLarnon is a Northern Irish writer who lives in the town of Ballymena, north of Belfast and close to dramatic scenery that has inspired many filmmakers and other artists. Renowned poet Seamus Heaney, winner of a Nobel Prize for literature, was born in the area and is one of many writers who inspire Ciaran.

Ciaran has a BSc in Marine Biology and an MSc in Ecology, both of which strongly influence his writing. Medical problems encouraged him to develop a life-long passion for fiction since that time. His continuing quest to hone his craft has explored many different subjects including history, the natural environment, horror and crime. Although this is his first novel, his words have featured in many publications, and he was long-listed for the Adelaide Literary award. More information on Ciaran J. McLarnon and his works is available at ciaranjmclarnon.blog.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Giveaway: Leaf Memories by Carol Farnsworth (Autographed)

Image: In the center is a photograph of a girl semi-covered in a pile of brown leaves. The girl is wearing a red sweater, white sneakers, and light colored pants. Her eyes are closed. She has straight, dark hair. The top of the image is a sand color with the title of the book in khaki. The bottom of the image is the same with the author's name.
We are giving away an autographed copy of the poetry chapbook Leaf Memories by Carol Farnsworth! The giveaway starts October 8th and ends November 30th. The winner will be notified on December 1st via the method they used to enter the contest. 

Rules: 

1. Open worldwide.

2. People may enter by leaving a comment on this post, via email (handyuncappedpen@gmail.com), or on Twitter @HandUnPen. Please mention the contest when contacting us.

3. Only one entry per person.

4. If you win, please be sure to contact us with your mailing address in a timely manner. We will do our best to get the book to you.

5. Void where prohibited.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Disability Theory by Su Zi

Image: A thin, bare torso in sepia tones. Across the belly are the words "This is a disabled body".
I am turning invisible.
Discuss.
When is when
Where's the line
Why are there lines?
Birds don't recognize any logic
to fences. Everyone should
feed the birds
Discuss.
It says so in Mary Poppins.
But that was a bird herself
They can talk, you know.
Discuss.
Discuss in your best bird, your
best Charlie Parker, your best
dangle from a career criminal
already dead in Louisiana.
I dare you
Discuss
Discuss disability
Okay dare
~*~
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 FezAlien 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, September 24, 2021

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (Review/Rant)

Image: Two drawn figures lean in for a kiss. The man is blond, tall, and lean wearing a black and gold coat with black pants and gloves. The woman is shorter and fat with red hair in a white dress. They both have closed eyes. His one arm is around her waist and her one arm is around his neck with a hand on his chest. The background is teal with white line drawings of trees, buildings, and what looks to be the Golden Gate Bridge.
Marcus is an actor who secretly writes fanfiction about his own show. April is a fat geologist who writes fanfiction (unknowingly) with Marcus and does cosplay. When April's plus-size interpretation of a character goes viral in a mixed way on Twitter, Marcus asks her out to stick it to the trolls... realizing only during the date that she's the beta reader and friend he's had online for two years. But, if anyone finds out he writes fanfiction, he will never work in Hollywood again. 

I really wanted to like this book. It seemed a little like a fat girl fairytale with a bunch of geeky stuff thrown in. Meeting up with your server pals at a convention? Yes, please! Size acceptance in a romance? Always welcome. However...

April's body is basically described as a bunch of circles and softness. On repeat, really. We never know her dress size, just how spherical she is with red-blond hair and brown eyes. Oh, and freckles!

She has body image issues, which I understand, but she has them to such a degree she should not be dating. Marcus invites April to the gym with him because he has to maintain his figure, and she sees it as him trying to change her; she does not ask him if this is what he is trying to do... she just ends their outing coldly. Afterward, he proposes a date she does agree to:  Taste-testing donuts! Nope, not kidding. April sabotages things due to her size more than once, and Marcus is always floundering to please her.

Marcus pretends to be vapid and shallow as a shield because his parents made him feel unintelligent due to his undiagnosed dyslexia. They were teachers at a prep school, but never figured out their kid had dyslexia and how best to help him... they just made him feel lesser. I don't buy that they never considered it or tested him. 

A lot of Marcus' and April's issues stem from their parents. April's father was all about appearances to the point where the mom had to maintain a specific weight and therefore put her anxiety on her daughter. Marcus feels like he has nothing to offer but a pretty face because his parents made him feel like he had nothing else. There are difficult and angsty conversations with both of their families. I know families can be a difficult thing to navigate, but the way everything goes down makes it seem like April and Marcus are in their early 20s trying to figure out their identities (she is 36 and he's 40).  

Secondary characters are mostly bland with only a couple being fleshed out at all. Marcus' best friend is another actor who has ADHD, also looks like a god, is very rich, and loves extraordinarily fat ladies... what are the odds? But, at least Alex has more to him than most of the other side characters. I keep thinking most of these people are teenagers and not professionals who are adults.

The incident/secret that temporarily splits up the couple is ridiculous.

Sex scenes are graphic but also boring. There are only so many different ways a vanilla couple can get it on. There is plenty of swearing and dirty words for genitalia, though!

I did read it all the way, so the story must have been proficient in some form. But, ultimately, I do not recommend this book. What could have been fun and interesting became bland histrionics.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Crip Lyrics: The Unapologetic Poetry of Disability by Val Vera (Review)

Image: A man in a black T-shirt and gray pants faces an orange sunset across the water. He is in a power wheelchair and has his hand on the joystick. He has black hair and facial hair. The title of the book is above the sun in the sky and the poet's name is on the bottom left of the image.

Please note:  I was given a copy of this book in order to review it.

So, this chair thing
This, you’re kind of scared thing
This eye-catching, make you stare thing
The thought-prompting, curiosity-leading,
Cause you to wonder thing
Let me answer your everything
-from "Chair Thing"

Lyricists and slam artists are a subset of poet praised on the stage but often neglected on the page. It might be "proper poetry" having an aversion to modern rhyme. Possibly, it's due to the energy and sparks spit by performers that can't easily be replicated on paper or a screen. But, Val Vera's words don't lack fire... even in the quieter arena.

My Cripple is more than rubber tires, this chariot bathed in black.
Rolling on the spineless skin of ableism’s back.
-From "My Cripple"

Through twenty-two different poems, we're taken through an unflinching look at ableism, cripdom, gawkers, Karens, love, power, pain, and more. Each poem earns its place in the collection and says everything clearly. There is anger, incredulity, and softness in the narrator's voice. He weaves back and forth between the political and pedestrian, the lover and the display. So often, I found myself nodding as I read.

It’s time to collect.

From institutions that segregate.
Media that manipulate.
Police who violate
With force and guns.
Creating programs so we don’t run.
-From "Not Your Granddaddy’s Crip"

One of the pitfalls of collections of tight rhyme is that the pattern gets samey or sing-songy in some spots, which is something I occasionally found here. Luckily, it didn't happen often in Vera's deft hands.

I really hope there are performances for some of these lyrics out in the world. The way some lines sizzle on the page would be electric to hear/see live. It might be good advertising for the book, too.

Look what you’ve done,
what you’ve created
Quiet poster child turned Crip
Unapologetic and jaded
Shunned by abled news
Shaped by privileged views
-From "Creation"

Each poem in the collection is accompanied by a visual art piece by 
Melissa Marie Eckardt. I don't know how the collaboration started, but the end results are glorious. The beats in the lyrics and smoothness in the art make for a soulful duet.

There are slight sexual references and swearing but nothing excessive. One of the accompanying paintings in the collections is sexual in nature and depicts oral sex (though all the viewer sees is part of a butt and cupped genitalia).

I absolutely loved this short collection. I recommend it.
Will you add:

Crip Lyrics: The Unapologetic Poetry of Disability can be pre-ordered at this link.
~*~
Biography:  Val Vera is a Disability Justice activist, speaker, and writer. Originally from Chicago, Val began his Disability Justice career in San Diego and has served on several boards focused on disability culture and equity. His intersectional experience as a Disabled Latinx, coupled with his Disability Justice work, is revealed by the imagery and passion in his writing. 

Val currently lives in Denton, TX where he organizes, educates and serves with the local Disability Community. He is an avid moviegoer, music lover and sports aficionado. Above all, Val enjoys laughing and spending unscripted time with his favorite person Michelle. 

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!