Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Image: A crow at the top part of the image dips a very large wing until it touches the bottom edge.  It is on a background of grayish-white stormy clouds.  Individual feathers splay out from the bottom half of the wing.  The title starts where the wing starts and is written is curly white letters.  There is red subtext that reads "Six dangerous outcasts.  One impossible heist."

Kaz, a well-known lieutenant for the Dregs (a street gang) is given the opportunity for the payday of a lifetime.  The catch?  He and his crew must break into the Ice Castle, a fortress with a prison no one has ever broken into (or escaped from) and bring back an important prisoner… alive.  In a world of magic, rival gangs, and shaky alliances, the greatest heist in the land may turn into the worst decision ever made.

Kaz is a bad guy doing bad things in a worse world.  He walks with a limp, using a cane as both a mobility aid and a weapon.  Kaz cannot stand to be touched, skin-to-skin. His backstory was interesting and his character’s actions felt real because of it. 

The book is really about an ensemble cast, and the author gives all characters dimension and diversity.  Outside of Kaz we have Inej, the religious spy who hates killing (I read her as Native or Latina). And Jesper, the gunslinger with a gambling problem (he isn’t white, but am unsure what he’d be considered).  Wylan, a young man with a privileged past and an uncertain future accompanies them as well as a Grisha (magic-user) prostitute, and a man raised to hunt Grisha into extinction.

This book has disability done well.  It covers mobility impairment, PTSD, and learning disability.

The settings were nice, but weren’t described into oblivion.  I knew where the characters were, enough details to imagine the places, and that’s it.

Kaz wasn’t the only one with a backstory, many other characters had one as well, breaking into the flow of the “current story”.  At first, this irritated me because I didn’t want to be pulled between the present and past.  But, the backstories kept my attention and provided richness to the characters developing in my mind as I read.  I began looking forward to the times I got another piece of the puzzle that made up each character.  There was a scene or two where I didn’t realize the time transitioned, but that was rare.

The action was plentiful.  There were explosions, gunfights, and breathless escapes.  The pacing seemed right, after adjusting to the presence of the backstories.

The magic system in this book was pretty solid.  There were different classes of magic with different Grisha able to do different things.  It wasn’t the most unique concept, but it was interesting and served its purpose well.

This book might not be for everyone.  There is violence, the presence of sex slavery (but no explicit rape).  There is also a drug in this story that makes Grisha (magic-users) almost immediately addicted and has a large role in the novel.

There is a small aspect of this book, almost easy to miss, that I don’t know how to feel about.  In this world, there are Grisha who are healers.  Kaz has a limp because of a leg that set wrong after breaking and chooses not to get it fixed. (I find nothing wrong with not choosing a cure, in fact, it’s refreshing in fiction.)  At one point, it mentions Kaz not fixing his leg because he there is no part of him that hasn’t been broken, or made stronger from the breaking.  As if it were a badge, I guess. 
(I have many thoughts on this, maybe best left for next week.)

I really liked and recommend this book.  There is a sequel (out now) I will definitely be reading.  I hope the next one is as exciting and rich as this one was.

 One small warning, this book ends on a cliffhanger.

Author Bio:  Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom and the Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: Out of My Mind By Sharon M. Draper

On a blue background, an orange goldfish jumps from it's bowl of water on the left of the image to the upper right.  On the bottom, there is a darker blue rectangle with the title in small, white words and the name of the author in a lighter blue across the bottom.

Melody, a brilliant eleven-year-old with severe Cerebral Palsy, receives an assisted communication device.  With the ability to voice her thoughts for the first time, she tries out for the school quiz team.  But not everyone is glad Melody can participate.
I loved Melody!  She’s funny, smart, and complex.  She longs for all the things “normal” kids have without falling into total pity and despair.  She loves her family intensely.

Melody is surrounded by people who want her to succeed.  Her parents are fierce in their love for her, advocating for her.  Her neighbor babysits for her and her baby sister, and is one of her first major allies.  A new aide at school helps open up her world.
But, for everyone who is good for Melody, there are people who dislike her.  There are teachers throughout her life who make things harder on her.  Students in her integrated classes make fun of her. 

The first eleven (or so) chapters of the book are like short stories of Melody’s life.  One is about the goldfish she lost.  Another is about her mom’s pregnancy and the fear her baby sister would be disabled, too.  The chapters follow the order of Melody’s life, so the reader is able to perceive her growing up.

The settings are okay.  They aren’t overly descriptive, they just have enough detail for a reader to visualize them.

Even though this book is for “kids”, I had no trouble relating to it.  The author doesn’t over-explain or gloss over the more difficult aspects of Melody’s life. 
In one scene, Melody’s quiz team goes out to eat at a restaurant.  The handicapped-accessible entrance doesn’t work, so Melody has to be maneuvered up the steps outside by her mother.  Once inside, her teammates make conversation with each other, without involving her.  Melody dreads eating in front of her peers because she needs assistance and doesn’t want them to see.  It is an uncomfortable scene, but an honest one.

 A couple of minor plot points felt like they didn’t really lend much to the story, but that’s all I can really say in regards to negatives.

I got teary-eyed twice reading this book, the first time being when Melody was finally able to tell her parents she loved them using her device.  I also smiled and became angry at different parts. What happens to Melody before the national quiz competition wasn’t shocking, but was infuriating nonetheless. 

This is definitely a worthwhile read.
Author Biography:  Sharon Draper is a two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, most recently for Copper Sun, and previously for Forged by Fire. She's also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent for Tears of a Tiger and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho and November Blues. 

Her other books include Romiette and Julio, Darkness Before Dawn, and Double Dutch. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years. She's a popular conference speaker, addressing educational and literary groups both nationally and internationally.

There are books where (I wish) I could spoil the entire plot because I want to tell you so badly what scenes caused me to love (or hate) a novel. 

I’ve also thought about live-tweeting a book.  Maybe someday.

A quick note:  After today, this blog will be on hiatus until June or July.  I have a lot of things going on in my life right now, and I don’t have anyone I trust to take the reins while I’m gone.  I will still be on Twitter and checking my email.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Diverse Writers/Diverse Worlds Grants, Updated Markets

The Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds grants are open to speculative fiction writers.  Applications close July 31st.

The $500 Diverse Writers grant is intended to support new and emerging writers from underrepresented and underprivileged groups, such as writers of color, women, queer writers, disabled writers, working-class writers, etc. — those whose marginalized identities may present additional obstacles in the writing / publishing process.

The $500 Diverse Worlds grant is intended for work that best presents a diverse world, regardless of the writer’s background.

Writers can apply for both grants, if they want/fit the criteria.
The Inclusive Mainstream Publications tab has been updated with every resource we have available.  The literary/periodical section now has thirty-two entries.  The most recent ones are:  Teen Vogue, Magma Poetry Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, Polychrome Ink,  Cosmonauts Avenue,  The Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed READER.

We'd love to add more places!  Please let us know if you can recommend any others.
Reminder:  We are open for submissions of guest posts and book reviews.  Pay is $3 via Paypal.

Books reviewed must have a disabled/neurodivergent main character and/or a disabled/neurodivergent author.

Guest posts must be about writing/books and disability/neurodivergence.  A post about writing through brain fog, for instance, counts.  A post about training guide dogs doesn't... unless you can tie it back to writing, somehow.

We are also looking for writers/editors to interview.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Do You Read/View #OwnVoices Books Differently?

Do you purposely search for Own Voices books?  Do you approach books with disabled/neurodivergent protagonists differently if you know they're written by a neurotypical/nondisabled author?

As a reader:  

I used to only care about the story.  Almost every author I was introduced to in school was able-bodied and neurotypical and, if a writer wasn't, it wasn't discussed.  I went through most of my childhood with a scant handful of famous disabled/neurodivergent in my head; I just thought there were too few of us doing great things.  I didn't think that a great person's disability wouldn't be talked about.

Reading books with disabled protagonists was (and often still is) unsatisfactory.  A disabled person is used as the obstacle in a nondisabled person's life.  A neurodivergent person is a villain.  We can't be regular people.  Well, we can, we just have to be miserable.  Or hateful.

A book by an Own Voices author is an invitation to explore a story without trepidation.    And, while a novel by someone who is disabled/neurodivergent writer isn't a guaranteed enjoyable experience, I don't have to worry as much about ableism or botched portrayals.

As a reviewer:

I review books by both disabled and nondisabled writers.  My review process is the same regardless of the writer, though I ponder motive a bit when a nondisabled/neurotypical author writes disabled/neurodivergent narratives:  Did the main characters come to the author on crutches, or is it a gimmick?  

It is important to me to review Own Voices books and I try to give them priority.  Publishing (and related industries) tend to "innocently" neglect books by minorities and I refuse to add to that problem.  But, I can't turn my back on nondisabled authors who write disabled characters; I'd lose out on some great reads if I did.  

As a writer:

Reading Own Voices books and connecting with disabled/neurodivergent writers is nourishing.  One of the best things for anyone's art is being around those who "get it" without a mile of footnotes.  Picking up a novel and knowing there's a landscape inside that doesn't erase you, or twist lives like yours into something lesser, is a thing of beauty and comfort.

I like knowing there are other disabled/neurodivergent writers succeeding.  And holding the proof of it in my hands.  

Friday, April 28, 2017

Links of Interest Page Has Been Updated

We have added three new publications to the Links of Interest page.  We are starting to run into roadblocks regarding sites that have been abandoned.

Next week, we'll hopefully have a larger update for the Inclusive Mainstream Publications page.  That is, if brain fog or chronic pain doesn't keep us from it.
Final note:  Found this listed on the Writers and Poets with Disabilities Facebook group and thought it might benefit some of you to have it listed here.

Stormé DeLarverie writing residency for under-represented writers (writers of color, both American and international, including Native peoples, as well as, disabled people, and those who identify as LGBTQ+).

An honorarium of $500 will accompany the residency.

The application fee is $15.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sagamihara: Fear and Anger

The second the news hit, the media put the butcher in the same category as his victims.
He's sick.  He's mentally ill.  We should pity him, really.  He's just like them.

No.  He isn't.  Don't twist it so that he's "a victim himself".  To describe a horrible person's actions as mental illness harms the disabled/neurodivergent community.  We needed the focus on the true victims.  Things like ableism are due to ignorance, hatred... but not mental illness.  This attitude makes it easier for future violence against disabled/neurodivergent people because it paints us into "the volatile other".
Then, there are the people on the perpetrator's side, people who see disabled people as having a partial life (as though having no life is more merciful-- better than having limits).  People who see disabled people as leeches who give nothing to the world.
The people who think disabled/neurodivergent people don't deserve something as vital as breath scare me.  People who don't see the humanity in others should scare everyone.
All these months later, and I still haven't found one update on the survivors.  I haven't heard if any new security measures were added to care centers.  No one outside of the disabled community spoke up after the attack beyond the usual words of "terrible", "tragic", "poor people", or similar.

Maybe things changed that I didn't hear about because I'm in America.  Maybe people are more protected now.  I can hope that's the case-- hope and remember what happened.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Our Mentors

Are you a disabled/neurodivergent writer who mentors?  Are those you mentor disabled/neurodivergent?  How did you find each other?

Most writers find their mentors at college or, failing that, at conferences/workshops. So many disabled/neurodivergent writers never had the opportunity to go to college (or were forced to drop out).  Few conferences are affordable or accessible.  The ways for us to find mentors are limited.

The Internet is often the only way disabled/neurodivergent writers can find one another.  But, even with social media, connections are mainly tenuous or peripheral.  We congratulate one another, share the occasional submission opportunity, commiserate about ableism in the industry, and then go back to the grind alone.

A lot of writers, especially disabled/neurodivergent writers, are self-taught.  Some of us write in secret, not having a single person in our lives to encourage us.  We're used to not having someone to guide us.  But a lot of us wish things were different.
Few of us believe we're capable (or accomplished enough) to become mentors.  There is always an invisible mark we feel we must meet before we reach out, a place in our careers that grants us the ability to lend our knowledge.  It's a falsehood, but a persistent one.

Then, there are disabled/neurodivergent writers who would love to mentor but can't and feel horrible because of it.  I wish they wouldn't.  As an artist, your creations should come before assisting someone else with theirs.  If you can barely sling words, don't worry about everyone else's.  
I wonder how many of us have mentors-- or want them. 
Do you want a mentor?  If so, does it matter if they're disabled/neurodivergent?  
Are mentors overrated in this technological age?

Let me know your thoughts!

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Real" Disabled Writers

I saw a conversation on social media about disabled artists needing more resources.  I nodded along as I read, having seen this play out a hundred times in various forms.
About halfway through the conversation, I paused.  Someone said something to the effect of, "Writers with Bipolar and Depression aren't real  disabled writers because the nondisabled populace is accepting and supportive of them and people expect writers to be depressed."

So, some people being (somewhat) more supportive in certain circumstances and in certain ways negates a disabled and/or neurodivergent writer's needs?  Negates their disability and/or neurodivergence entirely?  Makes their creative output not part of the disability community?  What utter bullshit!

The sentiment that Condition X, Diagnosis Y, or Disability Z is not as deserving because it's supposedly not as stigmatized smacks of Oppression Olympics.  People with mental illnesses and/or neurodivergences are often not believed, not taken seriously, and so on.  Wishing for a bigger spotlight on disabled/neurodivergent writers is a good thing, wanting to steal another person's candle because you consider them not as worthy is shitty.

Why the hell are we spending time bitching about the faint light our neighbors may be getting and not banding together to procure larger portions for us all?  Focus your energy and frustration on creating something better, not destroying someone else.  We are all in this together.  This is our community, enrich it!
One last note:  There is NO hierarchy of disability/neurodivergence.  People who acquire their disability/neurodivergence are not "better" than those who were born with theirs.  Physical disabilities aren't more chic than cognitive ones.  Quit that.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Writing Rules (are Often Alternate Facts)

I get tired of endless "writing rules" lists given out by every halfway decent writer and craft blog.  Most rules aren't rules, have never been rules, and will never be rules.  They are merely tips, helpful to some writers but potentially harmful to others.

Below are some of the more common "rules every writer should follow" and why they aren't always beneficial.

1.    Write every day.

Many disabled/neurodivergent writers can't write every day for various reasons.  Telling a disabled writer with migraines the week he can barely function should be spent writing is damaging.  It tells him (and the rest of us) we're not dedicated, that it's a moral failing and we'll never reach our goals because we are too lazy. It might cause us to hate ourselves or push ourselves until the point of injury.

2.  Nothing beats a pen and paper.  Get away from the screen.

And what about writers who can't write longhand?  Some of us can't hold a pen, much less compose a novel with one.  Every rule that states there is only one way to do something is almost always wrong and excludes a bunch of people.

3.  Keep a journal.

Journaling can be a healthy outlet and a primer for future words.  But it can also take the little bit of time someone with chronic illness has to devote to their current project away from them.  A person might only have two days a week (or less) where they feel good enough to write. The focus should be on where the writer needs it most.

4.  Never take more than X amount of time for Y project.

Why?  Why does a task have an expiration date (if not trying to meet an editor's deadline)?  Even the people who give this kind of rule can't agree with one another on time limits.  How long is writing the first draft of a novel supposed to take-- three month, a year?
A lot of writers use these as a yardstick to measure their success.  If it takes them longer... they feel like a failure.

5.  Seek advice on your work... and act on it. (Said at points with no caveats.)

Another set of eyes on a writer's work is helpful.  Telling people to trust that someone else automatically knows the work better than they do is not helpful.  Some people have confidence and/or social issues that make a blanket statement about near absolute trust almost dangerous.

I could go on with these.
Many writers admit there are few (to zero) rules of writing that can't be broken.

Write when you can, as true as you can.  Learn new things when you get the chance.  Read in whatever format works (braille, audio, large print, etc.).  The rest will come.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Someone Wrote It, Already!

"There are no original stories/concepts left," someone says.
"But they haven't been told/covered by you," another replies.
We know this exchange between writers.  One person states the first line, often as a lament, while the other leans on their crutches in determination (or cheer) and recites the second.

Once the battle is won within the self, the writer begins the work for themselves (and their readers).  Then, the waiting public can start the doubts all over again.

Minority authors (and women) often face the Already Been Done (ABD) criticism from many types of people interacting with their work, regardless of how unique the concept is or how beautiful the prose.  A book about a disabled artist?  It's been written.  Coming out as homosexual in the Bible Belt of America?  Got it covered!  Yet another cancer story?  We have enough.

If one well-known piece of literature exists pertaining to a struggle or life of a minority person, people consider it Already Been Done and discard it as such.  A lot of the same people dismissive of these stories will generally applaud another coming-of-age story about a (cishet, white, neurotypical, etc.) guy.  Why is one "unimaginative and derivative" but the other is "paramount literature"?

It stops people from telling the stories they want to tell, from books and essays getting to the readers who need to know they aren't alone or that they're valuable enough to write about.  It also gives everyone less variety to choose from.
If you receive feedback that your work has been written before:

1. Consider the titles the person lists in comparison.  Are they recent?  Do they have your slant, or just your topic?  How is their writing style?  Analyze.
This will (mostly) put your fears to rest.

2.  Consider the source.  Do they have varied tastes?  Are they outright dismissive of you and/or your work (maybe a bit cruel)?  How many times have you been told this, just once by this person or by five different people?  What is their background?

Always find multiple people to give you opinions, never let one person deflate the passion you possess.  If nearly everyone you trust tells you that your story is too much like another, examine it then.  Maybe you just aren't taking the right slant or you're distancing yourself from the hard parts.

Remember:  There are no truly original ideas anymore, but there are original "voices".  Use yours.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sagamihara: Time

Time dilutes the potency of grief, of shock.
Memory and mind erase the impact of time, dragging us backward.
We never know what will send us to the place history rubs upon us.

Distance dulls the initial feeling, blunted.
Those not ours, not close, feel more abstract than essential.
How can we hold onto strangers, then?  Those so far?

We understood the sadness, it brought our fears home.
Are the ones who claim us able to fight if we can't?
Will it bring our family more grief than relief to lose us?

How will our nations (and community) respond?
Are we so forgettable?
We pause as the world changes each day.  And we fight when we can.

We remember you as we'd want to be remembered, as humans deserve to be.
Even past time and separated by distance and beyond our fears because you are never forgettable.  You were ours, too.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Submit DisLit Facebook Event (April 8th and 9th)

Submit #DisLit is an event where disabled and neurodivergent writers take time to get their work into the inboxes of literary magazines, presses, etc.  Participants can share information on publications to submit to and cheer each other on.  It is a public event.

"Participation is simple: submit the work of your choice to the outlets of your choice during this weekend, and disclose (in whatever way feels most comfortable / authentic for you) your disability / illness in your cover letter. Submit as many or as few pieces as you choose, and to as many or as few outlets as you'd like."

It takes place on April 8th and 9th and was started by Cade Leebron.

There are many ways to find potential places to submit your work.  I hope you are getting work into the world, with or without participating in this event.

Miscellaneous notes not about Submit DisLit:

1.  We Need Diverse Books Internship Grant is open for this year.  Applicants must have a paid internship with one of the partners listed on the page, though can apply for the grant while applying for those specific internships.  Any literary agent internship must have a focus in children's books, as that's the organisation's arena.  There are five grants available for $2,500 each.
The website lists other funding opportunities, but not the dates.  So, check it on occasion.

2.  The Submerging Writer Fellowship offers one writer $500 to go towards AWP 18 conference expenses, a limited chapbook run, a launch party at the conference, and more.  This is open to most writers, not just minority writers (though you must have a statement on why you're a submerging writer).  The deadline is August 31st.
I realize The AWP Conference (and organisation) is problematic for disabled and neurodivergent writers.  Some go, regardless.  I'm just listing a chance for those who may want to try for it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: Autism Goes to School by Dr. Sharon A. Mitchell

A note:  The following review comes from a neurotypical person without children of any kind.  Those on the autism spectrum or who have children with autism may feel differently about this book than I did.
Synopsis:  Ben, a business man, has his life changed by receiving surprise custody of his son, Kyle.  Kyle is in Kindergarten and has autism.  Father and son don’t understand each other but, with the help of Kyle’s pretty teacher, they just might make it work as a family.
First, I can’t review this without saying something about the title:  Autism Goes to School.  The child’s name is Kyle, not autism.  All kinds of children go to school every day.  Is there Abused Goes to School?  Cerebral Palsy Visits the Dentist?  I understand it tells readers there is a little boy with autism in this book… but, ick.

Ben, the father, is a complicated man.  He will shift moods drastically, often within one scene.  He is also excessively virtuous, dealing with Kyle’s mother’s demands on him ever since he knew of Kyle’s existence.

Kyle’s neurodivergence, I thought, was explored thoroughly while giving him space (at times) to be a little boy.  Ben has difficulty with Kyle’s differences and messes up a lot.  In fact, I would consider Ben an ableist when Kyle first comes to live with him.

For instance, he thinks: “What if there was a special school just for morons or kids who had things like autism?”
And:  “Could she tell already that he was the kind of father who would create a kid with autism?”

I almost quit reading more than once in the beginning.

The teacher is cold towards Ben at first, thinking he’s a hands-off father.  She, of course, realizes later how wrong she is and just how much Ben wants to do right by Kyle.
Another note here:  The teacher was said to have a “Master’s Degree in autism”.  I knew you could have a focus in certain areas, but I didn’t know they handed those specific degrees out.

Scene transitions are somewhat confusing, not leaving any indication of a switch within sections.  One paragraph you’re on one day, the next another.  There are a few grammatical errors, but nothing major.

The plot could be better, everything I thought would happen in the novel occurred. There were absolutely no surprises.  A couple things were foreshadowed so heavily, I felt hit in the head with them.  Some minor characters, like Ben’s sister, had awkward lines and were just thrown in to move story.

The subplot of Ben’s romance with the teacher felt awkward and went from slow burn to inferno right near the end of the book.  It never felt totally genuine and the awkward pacing didn’t help, though a couple of scenes were sort of cute.

Sometimes, tension was killed off quickly or introduced fast.  A meeting at the school about shutting down the classroom Kyle was in brought much anxiety for the teacher and Ben, but it gave Ben a heavy-handed scene to stand up for the class and show how he has changed.  It felt forced.

Every thread left near the end was hastily tied together.   The young family needed a different place to live and got it by a foreshadowed solution.  A minor character’s parents disapproving of a career choice just had to come to his place of employment a few times to change their minds.  It was like the author felt like she needed to end the story, but didn’t know how to do so gracefully.  But that could be because the novel is fairly short (and ended at around 70% on my Kindle).

It may be a decent read for parents who have kids on the autism spectrum (especially those who are having difficulty coping or have recently-diagnosed children) or those who want their “Autism 101” with a little plot.  Otherwise, I feel this wouldn’t appeal to many of you. 

But, if you still want to check it out, it’s free on Amazon. 
Author Bio:  Author Dr. Sharon A. Mitchell has worked as a teacher, counselor and consultant for thirty years. Her Master's and Doctorate degrees focused on autism. She has delivered workshops and seminars to thousands of participants including at national conferences. Her passion is helping young people who have autism to become as independent as possible.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Biographies and My Decision to Disclose

Back in June, I wrote a post on the difficulties of disclosing disability status as a writer.  It's something I think about a lot, especially since I started this blog.

I went for years without mentioning my disability in my cover letter.  While I put it on my social media profiles, I knew most editors wouldn't check the links in my biography.  I didn't worry about it affecting anyone's decision on my work.

My old biography:  Jennifer Ruth Jackson can't draw or act so she writes poems and short stories.  Her work has been published in Diverse Voices Quarterly, Kaleidoscope Magazine, and more.  When she's not writing, you can catch her playing video games or making jewelry.  She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their houseplant, Hubey.

It felt safer to me that way.  No one could claim I was using my Cerebral Palsy (and other disabilities/conditions) to sway an editor's opinion and editors were less likely to discriminate.  But, it didn't make me feel I was representing my true self.  I am not my disability, but it shapes me and makes me who I am.

I really enjoy seeing disabled/neurodivergent writers in print.  There is a tiny thrill each time I come across a piece by "one of us".  It reminds me that I am not alone, that I am not a magic cripple who is the last of her kind.  In a world where nondisabled/neurotypical writers claim most of the spots in literary magazines and presses, it is vital to see one another succeed.  It's also good for nondisabled/neurotypical readers.

So, to that end, I wrote a new biography.  It does not outright say I'm disabled, but it does.

My new biography:  Jennifer Ruth Jackson is an award-winning poet and fiction writer whose work has appeared in Verse Wisconsin, Kaleidoscope Magazine, and more.  She runs a blog for disabled and/or neurodivergent writers called The Handy, Uncapped Pen from an apartment she shares with her husband. Follow her on Twitter @jenruthjackson

The mention of this blog (while possibly shameless publicity) will lead most editors to the correct conclusion... that I'm disabled.  I wanted to broach the subject without framing it in a way that would elicit pity or conflicting emotions.

Maybe, if I'm not afraid to proclaim my disability status, it will encourage others to begin writing or take a chance on the publishing industry.  Even if it doesn't, it still feels like I'm putting a truer version of myself out into the world.  And that alone is worth it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Support as a Disabled Writer (Anonymous Guest Post)

What follows is from Anonymous #742.  Details have been changed to protect the writer.

I started this thought yesterday on Twitter.  What follows is a sort of illustration, generously sent to me for this blog.  The author doesn't mind if you take this for fiction, as long as you take it seriously.

At The Handy, Uncapped Pen... you (and your work) are valued.  If I ever make you feel differently. please let me know why.  I want this to be a resource and a community.  Conversation should be part of this.

As always, feel free to contact us.


My father doesn't "get" my work.  He's supportive, I guess, but doesn't want to read it. He says I'll be famous someday.  If I do work he thinks will get me there.  Nah.  I can't. Won't.  I don't write that way.

My older sisters are aloof-to-passively-hostile about my career choice.  One is better than the other, a cold momma bear, she encourages rarely but in lavish fashion.  The sister between us nearly never has a kind word.  Picks each success apart.

Fitting in places isn't something I do.  Attempts are made and recede quick.  I've never found a group to share triumphs with, torn between relief and wishing.  Support from family, few friends, wasn't much beyond congratulatory back-pats on acceptances.

One person in my life goes beyond.  Is always there for me as artist and human.  Luck smiles.  It is luck.  People don't even get that, at times, the one who believes in them with unshaken faith.


I told my family I'm ace.  Finally.  It's taken forever to identify.  I held off.  I'm married, no one has to know besides my spouse. I told them, still.  They laughed it off, mocked me.  Asexuals don't exist for them.  Doesn't help my case that I'm married, have and talk about sex.  Ace people can't be married.  They're all celibate.  It hurt.

Makes me question everything, again.  My brain screams they're right.  I don't "act" asexual.  I have sex.  I enjoy romantic love.  It took me years to figure out why certain things don't affect me.  Why I don't "act/feel normal" when it's normal to me.   Ten minutes erased years.  I won't label myself as ace to people.  Won't take that, again.


Wheelchair-users can't go everywhere, always.  The AWP Conference is one of the largest gatherings for writers.  Can't go.  Money is one issue.  Lack of accessibility is the kick.  It says people like me are unwelcome.  People like me aren't worth notice.  Are we writers?  No one cares but us.  The world has enough writers.  

There isn't a true organization for disabled writers right now.  Not in the way there is for LGBT writers, Asian writers.  Groups for Native American writers and all the rest, usually can't/won't accommodate disabled people of their minority.  
The disability community often isn't great for including people with intersectional identities.  I'm white, but I notice how we can be.  Look at what happened with #DisabilityTooWhite.  It became all about us white people.

The disabled writing community can most easily include intersectional writers with disabilities.  We'd be set for it.  All we'd have left is to not be assholes.  We can manage.

We'd rock our own space. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sagamihara: Tapestry

Beautiful humans:  Somewhere, for someone, you changed their life.  Everyone who ever existed has made an impact, our threads in the tapestry of this world are adjacent to others... complementing and contrasting.  You were important.  You were vital.  

Those who love you the most will be your historians in this world, reminding it of you... sharing you with those who haven't known you.  This is the gift they can give.

Thank you for your presence.  May those you loved carry your stories in their hearts, so they may be repeated back to you when you reunite.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Writer's Journey

It's difficult, being aware of your mortality or possessing copious limitations.

Sometimes, being disabled/neurodivergent means complicated medical histories--surgeries, specialists, medication lists longer than a grocery list, susceptibility to illnesses, doctors disbelieving and misdiagnosing.  We often have to be careful with ourselves.

For people with chronic pain or illness, pushing themselves can be risky to their health.
People on the Autism Spectrum can become exhausted with too much stimuli.
Those with memory issues may have extra difficulty when they take on too many projects.
It goes on.

But, we all try to push ourselves because we're taught that's how we reach our goals.  We push, strive, and sweat until we ache with it, until we shake with exhaustion and tears.  If we don't, we don't really want to succeed, we're just lazy and don't deserve it.

Some of us have a more tenuous life span than others.  When people feel like they're racing a clock, they tend to push too hard, jeopardizing their health faster (and more often).  It creates a catch-22:  Race and risk your life or take it easier and don't accomplish what you want/need before you die.

So, what do we do when one day of furiously fast work can set us back days or weeks?  We prioritize, figure out the task most important.  We start small, with only a five-minute task if needed.  We know our limitations and honor them, not pushing to the point of injury or illness.  Progress does not have to be made every day, either.

If you're a short story writer, start writing Twitter-fiction or shoot for one short story a month.  The writing will add up.
Poets can write haiku or other short forms.
Novelists can start by paragraph... sentence if they must.
Creative nonfiction writers can write in micro-journals.

It doesn't matter where the starting point is as long as the journey happens.  It doesn't matter how slow it goes, if it's moving.  Some writers take years off between projects and no one thinks less of them, their journeys are just more leisurely.  There are benefits in downtime, too.  Just keep the path in mind, and visit it whenever you can.

There are no true destinations in the writing life anyway, merely way stations.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Grants for Disabled Artists (Time for Disappointment)

I'm frustrated.  When I began, I knew finding grants for disabled/neurodivergent writers and artists wouldn't be easy.  And it exceeded my expectations.


I've stumbled across many broken links or outdated sources, the bricked-up alleyways of the Internet.

I've found grants for diverse writers where nearly every difference is accounted for... every one but disability.

I've found resources for nondisabled people to make their art and/or events accessible for the disabled/neurodivergent.  This aim is great, but wasn't what I was looking for.

There are grants supporting the arts as hobbies or therapy, not careers.


Below, you will locate what little information there is.
I don't know much about grants, so I can't provide insight.
Most grants are tied to region and/or genre.
Some require 1 to 1 funding.
Always read guidelines carefully. 

The Arts Council's Art and Disability (Ireland)
There are many funding opportunities for artists given, including a few specifically for artists with disabilities in Ireland.  (Scroll down the page.)

Tangled Art + Disability has two grants for Ontario-based disabled artists.

Exhibition Assistance Grant:

"This program is open to Ontario-based professional visual artists, craft artists, media artists and artist collectives who have a confirmed, upcoming public exhibition. Exhibitions in Ontario, in other Canadian provinces, and in international locations are all eligible. Tangled accepts applications from artists who identify as disabled, Deaf, and Mad."

Theatre Creators Reserve Grant:

"Tangled is currently accepting applications for the OAC’s Theatre Creators’ Reserve funding. This program provides grants of $1000 to $5,000 to assist theatre creators, playwrights, and informal collectives with costs related to developing a theatrical work, including developing relationships with other theatre artists."

Dates for the 2017 grants haven't been posted.
The website also talks about a residency, but doesn't have anything there beyond an article from 2013.

California Arts Council gives disabled California artists grants between $500 and $1,500 for things that would advance their careers (like travel to workshops or residencies in California, supplies to finish a work, etc.).

VSA Minnesota Emerging Artist Grant Program for Minnesota artists (and seems to include NYC artists, as well).
Has a "general grant program" which isn't currently open.
There are also programs for composers and those working in film.
Extra information:   The "eligibility quiz" asks if someone is applying through a fiscal sponsor.

Artists with Disabilities Access Program for Ohio artists is not for just one artistic discipline.  Individual applicants can request up to $1,000.
Deadlines:  "June 1 annually (for activities taking place July 15—next June 30) and, if program funds are not expended, December 1 annually (for activities taking place January 15—June 30)"
From the Website:  "The Artists with Disabilities Access Program (ADAP) provides funding that gives artists with disabilities the necessary resources they need to further their artistic development. The OAC believes that creative expression by artists of all abilities is essential to building dynamic and diverse communities throughout Ohio."

Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds Grants are given by The Speculative Literature Foundation.  Both are small grants of $500.  The application process is from May 1st to July 31st.  These are for speculative (horror, sci-fi, fantasy) fiction writers who have an in-progress project (preference given to book-length works).

The Diverse Writers Grant is for minority writers whose "marginalized identities may present additional obstacles in the writing/publishing process".

The Diverse Worlds Grant is "intended for work that best presents a diverse world, regardless of the writer’s background".


There are probably (hopefully) more grants out there for disabled and/or neurodivergent writers.  Contact your state/regional arts councils.  Maybe they just don't put each grant offered onto the Internet.  Email organisations for disabled/neurodivergent citizens.

I will report more grants if I come across them, lovelies.  I hope this helps some of you.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Now Live: Inclusive Mainstream Publications!

Our page on inclusive mainstream publications is now up.  It has nineteen "literary" publications, and six "speculative" ones, each recommended by a disabled/neurodivergent writer.

While we wrestled with it, we decided we are not including magazines with reading fees.  They are prohibitive for many in our community... which limits inclusion.  If a publication has online fees, but doesn't charge for submissions by mail, we'll put it up; a "fee-free" window lasting more than a week is acceptable, as well.

There are notes at the top of the page explaining why we might leave out some places and what we tried to do.  We hope all the information is helpful.

We are still taking recommendations and will continue to expand it indefinitely.  Please, if you've had a positive experience with a publication not listed, let us know!  We would love a longer list.  Share with us in the comments, on Twitter, or via email (

Friday, February 3, 2017

Author Collectives, Independent Together

A lot of writers want to go indie, but are scared of the whole process.  As a self-published author, you have to hire people (or have extensive knowledge/learn) editing, formatting, cover design, etc.  It's quite daunting.  Marketing is something authors are required to do (mainly) on their own, regardless of what route to publication is taken.

There is a skyscraper of information out there on how to self-publish, and no shortage of companies offering to do all the work of getting your work in print... for a price.  While there are some very reputable freelance editors, cover designers, etc. out there, many more bilk authors out of thousands of dollars.  Publishing services offering all-in-one packages generally aren't reliable and try to upsell authors.

So, more indie authors are starting author collectives (also called author co-ops) to navigate a landscape where traditional houses aren't sheltering them and unscrupulous people wait.  It provides writers with feedback, recommendations for services that are good (or even an exchange:  one writer's editing expertise for another's incredible cover design help), a "company brand" where the publishing house logo would feature, etc.  Most collectives/co-ops don't pool money for anything (other than a joint marketing campaign, maybe) and copyright always remains with the author.  Promoting books in a group has more reach than what most people have on their own.

Some authors, though, haven't had good experiences.  They've tried to partner with people who expect different things or take more than they give.  A co-op can get too large with certain authors being lost in the deluge.

But, if you organize with people you trust and work out everything beforehand, an author collective can make a self-publishing journey more like a road trip with friends.  If traditional publishing takes too many royalties, finds your work too niche, or if you're overwhelmed by self-publishing alone, this might just be your ticket to a greater horizon.

For more information on author collectives, click this.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Upcoming Changes (Need Your Help, If You Can)

In the next couple of weeks, we will be adding more resources to this blog.  There will be two new pages, one for "mainstream" literary magazines found to be inclusive/receptive to disabled/neurodivergent writers, and the other will be for what little information we have dug up on grant opportunities.  Each literary magazine will be recommended by at least one person in the DisLit community.

For those of you who don't know, we are going to begin paying for guest posts in the spring (probably May).  Writers will be paid $3 per guest post, regardless of length.  At this time, we can only make payments through Paypal.  We will also pay the same amount for book reviews.  We will be acquiring two guest posts and/or book reviews a month.  Interviewees do not get paid.  We are trying to practice what we preach, writers should be paid.

We would also love to run a writing contest this year, but don't know if we have the financial means to do so.  If you know an organization that would like to sponsor it, have them get in touch.

Now, the "help" part:  If you know of any grant opportunities, inclusive mainstream literary publications, accessible conferences/retreats... please let us know.  We're trying to grow huge resource lists, but we can't do that without help and feedback from the community.  When we put up our lists, and you find a resource that's truly not welcoming, let us know and we will remove it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sagamihara: Six Months

Half a year.  Such a small thing, weeks and days marked off a calendar, seasons change.  A milestone no one would ever want to exist.

I can find no new developments on the trial of the murderer.  And, as thought, no new information on any victim has been released.

Did Japan's disability activists begin working after the tragedy?  Is there better safety now for those who live in group homes or care facilities?  Were there any new regulations passed?  Was there concern on the part of lawmakers at all?

We are vulnerable, but we are also fierce.  As the future seems more precarious. I think of Sagamihara more often.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Future of Our Disabled Writers

Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos is either incredibly ignorant or downright vile.  She thinks equal education for disabled students should be a state issue, not a federal one.  This comes not long after the concern over remarks Jeff Sessions (Trump's Attorney General pick) made in the year 2000.
Here is another article on the DeVos issue.

The budget cuts Trump wants to make while in office are trickling into the light.  A few of the (many) things of note include The National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and privatization of National Public Radio/PBS.  Arts and culture aren't important in this new age of coal plants and corporations, regardless of how little funding they consume when compared to the entire budget.
Funding is difficult enough to secure as an artist.

Other countries are providing their own turmoil and anxiety for their disabled/neurodivergent citizens (Brexit, for example).

If there is no going back (and if things are as bad as they seem), future generations of our disabled artists might not be properly educated, much less supported in their endeavors.  Some might even be pushed away from creating altogether, something that can literally save their lives.  Students with multiple marginalizations (our children of color, our QUILTBAG kids, our Muslims, etc.) will be at an even greater risk of being left behind.

Of course, it could be a wonderful four years, though I'm beyond extremely cynical at this point.
The future generation of disabled/neurodivergent artists will always need the current generation to guide them, support them, show them it is possible to limp, roll, or walk this path.  They might need us a lot more in the next four years (please, please not eight).  Engage aspiring disabled/neurodivergent artists in discussion, become a mentor, Tweet about your favorite disabled writers or post your drawings on Facebook, buy books or art by neurodivergent people, submit to magazines or help someone else do it, volunteer with art organizations or start an after-school group, pass on information for grants.

There are a plethora of ways to support our artists, present and future, no matter what your budget or experience/activity level.  No act is worthless.

We will make it through this to a better, creative horizon.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Shunning Certain Types of Literary Magazines

"I won't submit my short story to Absolutely Awesome Journal because it isn't a publication on disability.  They won't accept my piece," one disabled writer says.

"I don't want to be pigeonholed as an autistic poet, so I only send to mainstream literary magazines, omitting my neurodivergence," confesses an aspiring poet.

I understand both points of view.

A magazine focusing on disability won't reject someone because of "hard to relate to" (read:  The disabled perspective) elements.  It can feel more welcoming.  Discrimination (against disability, no guarantee over other marginalizations) isn't a worry.

Few writers, on the other hand, relish the thought of becoming a "mainstream" journal's token.  No one wants their publications list suspected of being filled with "pity credits".  And, who wants the impact of their work plagued by the dreaded "inspiration porn"?  Keeping everything under wraps can seem the way to go if a person wants more options.

No way of piloting a writing career is completely wrong (though, certain things will limit success and opportunity) but there are some things to consider:

1.  Limiting submissions to disability-related publications means the audience reach of a writer going that route is small.  Spreading out equals more readers getting acquainted with a writer's work.
2.  Only submitting to mainstream publications means a missed opportunity to connect with the DisLit Community.
3.  There are thousands of "mainstream" literary magazines, but only a couple handfuls of disability-related ones.  Not submitting mainstream cuts off (most) chances to get work out there.
4.  Ignoring disability-related literary magazines steals more chances for publication, though not as many as ignoring mainstream ones.  Plus, editors might "get" certain references easier if a writer is struggling to find a place that understands a particular piece.
5.  Submitting to all publications writers admire/read/find suitable won't necessarily brand them "those neurodivergent artists".  Most literary magazines don't research a person beyond what's in a biography, so the flash fiction piece appearing in Dis(Advantage) Commons won't "out" someone who's afraid of discovery to an editor.

A writing career isn't easy.  Why put limits on yourself and where your work can go?
I have already put together a list of links for disabled and/or neurodivergent writers, including many literary journals with disability slants (which will grow with time).  I'm now endeavoring to make another list of truly inclusive literary magazines and presses without a disability/neurodivergent angle.  I'm taking recommendations for those who've had good experiences with a journal, or know of a magazine that publishes cripples beside the able-bodied, the neurotypicals beside the divergents.

And also:  If you have a great conference, retreat, or residency to recommend, I'd love to know about it.  I received one recommendation for a place suitable for Deaf and Hard of Hearing writers!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Difficulties With Resolutions

First, an announcement:  The group for disabled and/or neurodivergent writers is back on Facebook.  It is a closed group, so you have to gain approval.

Writers and Poets with Disabilities Facebook group.  "This is a group for sharing ideas, new publications, articles, and so on based expressly around being a writer who identifies as having a disability."
Each time a new year hits, everyone is awash in the euphoria of resolutions.  Some are going to get fit, others working, still more are going to quit something.  We all know by now that resolutions often fail.  We lose our enthusiasm, our drive.  It becomes too hard to keep up with.

I used to believe in resolutions.  New year, new chance.  It seemed like the best time to reinvent myself or alter my life.  But, like many people, I never stayed the course.  Unlike most people however, I would berate myself for months and make myself feel like a failure.  My resolution wouldn't take into account my body and it's various eccentricities (the stamina I don't have, the pain of daily life, the shoddy immune system).  It would be an impossible goal.

A lot of disabled/neurodivergent people do what I used to.  We push too hard.  We compare ourselves (and our accomplishments) to people who have no similarities to us other than being carbon-based lifeforms.  Add being writers into the mix, with aspirations of successful, prolific careers, and things get even messier.

And then there's the resolution-shaming.  Your aunt kept up her resolution to Jazzercise three times a week, so she always says she's more "committed" than you.  Coworkers make snarky comments about your "latest fiasco".

In lieu of a resolution, I pick a word for the year.  It could be a trait I want to pick up, or a reminder of something important.  In the past, I have chosen words like "believe", "persevere", and "hope".  So far, I haven't chosen my word (or short phrase).  I'll keep you posted on that.

If you are set on a resolution for yourself, please be gentle.  Pick something you can control, something that gives you leeway for your health or life challenges.  Don't stress over an incomplete achievement, one halfway done is often better than one not tried.  Celebrate your milestones (and yourselves) often.

May 2017 be amazing.