Friday, July 15, 2016

Visibly Disabled Writers and Media Gigs

We all know attractive authors get more publicity and there is evidence that better book deals are given to beautiful writers, regardless of what people may say to the contrary. We also know inspiration porn is pretty prevalent in our society.  So, where does that leave writers with visible disabilities?  I could be wrong, but I'd say nowhere good for most of us.

Disability is considered unattractive (and media is responsible for perpetuating that viewpoint).  We are already at a disadvantage then, before we even submit a manuscript.  And if we aren't the thin, white, cishet, person who acquired a disability instead of had it from birth?  Oh, geez.  Even getting published could be an exercise in immense luck, much less finding outlets for promotion.

Society's need for inspiration porn might get certain disabled writers an interview (and again, the "right" kind of disabled) but the focus would shift from the book to the writer.  How wonderful that a cripple can write!  How much harder is it to write a book as a disabled person?  Wow, folks!  Your book will now be "that novel written by that gimp who appeared on that show".  Don't get me wrong, people might remember your television/radio debut that way anyway, but the focus the segment takes will almost guarantee it.

I suppose some of us, if we want, could attempt to play on media's need for our "uplifting" stories.  I'm certain some disabled writers out there wouldn't mind trying to capitalize on their difference.  And, while others will condemn them for adding to a problematic cycle of crippled misrepresentation, I'm unsure how I feel.  Should we press our every advantage (no matter how slim or unconventional) or are some things just not worth it?

I want to know:  If your disability could help you into the spotlight as a writer, would you use it?  Would you care if you became another case of inspiration porn if it meant getting your name out in the world?
And before anyone starts the "but" train:  Yes, I know all writers have problems getting media coverage.  I know the vast majority of writers wait years to (if they ever) get published.  I'm not downplaying anyone's struggles, so no ableist harassment, please.


  1. I would never let my "inspirational" disability help me in my career, and have actually turned down an offer of free editing help because I suspected there was some "I should be nice to the poor girl" in the motivation. I think I have too much pride for my own good sometimes.

  2. I understand where you're coming from, I have similar thoughts, myself.
    I don't put my disability in the biography on my cover letter because I don't want it to influence anything.