Friday, October 26, 2018

7 Tips for Writers Facing a Hospital or Rehab Stay

 If you have advanced notice:

1.  Decide what's important.  Can your blog be put on hold?  Are there certain deadlines you can't miss?

2.  Do what you need to before going.  Don't just assume you'll feel well enough to complete brain-intensive work.

3.  Back up your files.  You know, just in case.

4.  Prepare your "away" messages for cellphone and email. You can also schedule social media posts ahead of time.

5.  Pack your preferred writing method.  No one wants to have a great idea with nowhere to put it.

6.  Bring a book and (perhaps) a device with Internet access.  Maybe for work, maybe for pleasure.  Always keep your options open, but don't overdo anything.

7.  Remember, your well-being is paramount.  Writing can be put on hold as long as it takes to get back to your normal.  If you suffer, so can your work.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Interview with Editor Sarah Packwood (Submit to Her Project!)

Sarah sits with trees behind her. She is wearing a yellow blazer and a white blouse. She has short dark hair, round black glasses, and is smiling at the camera. She has jewelry in her bottom lip and ears.

If you want to submit to the project, please click here.
If you want to see the original call on Twitter, please click here.
How did you come up with the idea for your disability anthology?

Rebel Mountain Press, a publisher local to me, did a presentation on their previous anthologies in my publishing class one day. Their catalogue includes LGBTQ+ and Indigenous voices anthologies, and I was wishing for there to be a similar anthology for the Disabled community. I sat through the whole class daydreaming about what a disabled voices anthology would look like and who would be involved in making it, and considering the importance of having safe spaces for the Disabled community to be open, honest and raw with our experiences. I was considering all the amazingly talented disabled writers and artists out there, and thinking about how there isn’t enough representation of disability in any forms of media. Finally, by the end of class I realized I should just pitch it to them! So I walked right up to Lori Shwydky (a Rebel Mountain Press founder), introduced myself and said I wanted to help them make a disabled voices anthology. She showed immediate interest and plans to move forward were set in motion shortly after.

Why choose Rebel Mountain Press as a publisher?

Of course every writer dreams of being published by big houses like Penguin Random House and HarperCollins, but there is more freedom in working with non-corporate or local publishers. Some of the topics and narratives we’re going to see in Disabled Voices do not fit the mainstream idea of what the Disabled community is, so I don’t think most larger houses would care for that enough off the start to even accept my pitch. The concept of “nothing about us without us” so often cited in Disability culture is important to me in the creation of this anthology, and I am grateful for and respect Rebel Mountain Press for being willing to go there with us.

What makes a submission really "pop" to you?

I’m a bit of an enthusiast of any ideas or works that challenge mainstream thought. Anything that dismantles or deconstructs ableism is so wonderful to read because I think it’s empowering to witness other disabled people take a sledgehammer to ableism, and work like that often makes me think “yeah, I felt that way about this thing that happened too and now you’ve helped me understand why I felt that way.” It’s enlightening to read that kind of work, really.

Are there any elements of a submission that would make it a definite "no"?

Inspiration porn. This anthology is for the Disabled community, not for abled people. If abled people can learn something from this anthology or if the anthology helps break stigmas and intolerances, then that’s wonderful and I’ve accomplished one of my goals with this. But if work perpetuates ableist narratives like inspiration porn does, it will be unlikely that I will accept that work for publication.

Who are some of your favorite disabled/neurodivergent writers?

I love reading Kim Sauder and Imani Barbarin’s blogs. Alice Wong and Ace Ratcliff are both so fantastically educated and nuanced in their writing. I mean, I could go on… Artists I’m loving right now include Ruby Allegra, Michaela Oteri, and Karolyn Gehrig. My Instagram feed is constantly full of beautiful artwork by them!

What (do you feel) will make this disability anthology different than the ones already available?

I don’t know of any contemporary disability anthologies that include such a broad scope of works. We’re accepting writing in nearly all forms and all traditional forms of art for submission, and I am hopeful that the completed anthology will be broad not only in forms and genres but also in topics.

Can you explain the selection process pieces will go through?  (Are decisions made by multiple editors?  How many times does a submission get read?)

After the October 31st deadline, Lori and I will read all the submitted writing and select the pieces that stand out the most to be published. After that, I will do the first round of substantive editing on all the pieces and work with the authors to improve upon or polish their work where needed. Then Lori will do another round of lighter editing where she will give final approval for the pieces to be published and they’ll go on to be copyedited from there. With artwork, I believe the process is simply Lori and I deciding which pieces to accept but there may be some back-and-forth with the artist to make sure file formatting is satisfactory.

How has ableism impacted your life in (and out of) publishing?

In publishing, I’ve definitely experience the fear of submitting my work anywhere. I fear that publishers will do nothing more than strip my work down to be palatable enough for abled audiences. I think that’s where creating a safe space for other disabled writers with the Disabled Voices Anthology is so important to me. Outside of publishing, ableism touches every aspect of my life. In a broad sense, my relationships with other people and with myself, medical care I receive, educational experiences, career-building and future planning, and more all seem to be tainted at least a little bit by ableism. In my day-to-day life, the ableism I experience can range from hearing stigmatizing or derogatory language to getting stalked and harassed by strangers for parking in an accessible stall while not presenting disabled.

Do you plan on starting more "disability-centric" projects in the future?

Yes! Aside from personal projects, I don’t have anything in the works yet. I hope to make disability rights advocacy and activism my life’s work. There is not much else that gives my life meaning besides using the tools and skills I have to create a more tolerant and inclusive future. I am not going to have children of my own, but I want to be able to look back on my life and know that the projects I took on, like the Disabled Voices Anthology, made a difference to make future disabled kids’ lives easier.

Sarah is the editorial intern for Rebel Mountain Press’ forthcoming Disabled Voices Anthology. She is a 3rd year Creative Writing major and Sociology minor at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, Canada. As Co-Chair for her student union’s Disability Club and local advocate for Disability rights and awareness, she considers herself an emerging Disability activist.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Clichés of Disability in Poetry

Blind, she made my heart stumble, starless.
Losing her, an amputation of my soul rendering me mute. 
She might be the crutch I'm crazy for.
Knocking me out like a bipolar boxer.  
A paralyzed being, helpless.

Abled poets will say there are many things wrong with the hackneyed (almost nonsensical) lines above.  However, few will point out the disability imagery as a flaw unless it's to mention the overabundance.  Disability and neurodivergence in poetry isn't just fair game, it's often celebrated.  Ten minutes of an Internet search yields dozens of examples of abled poets using our conditions. 

As abled writers mainly composing for other ableds, each word or phrase goes to ableist, societal default.  Does someone trip when they see the person they desire?  Lust blinds them because blind people can't navigate and often falter!  Do you feel like you can't go on without someone?  They're your crutch!  They make you insane.

Because our disabilities, divergences, and conditions are frequently made into metaphor, they become cliché by themselves.  How long do people use something before it's old and trite?  How many times did we have a part of us repeated back to us until it emerged as boring and lifeless?  

And yet, people still do it.  They are still celebrated for penning metaphors with a sprinkle of disability imagery that only means the default because society doesn't know anything else. They don't want to reach for new comparisons and language.  They're comfortable with their hands around our belongings, and they sure as hell don't want to listen when we give them new words to their worn-out phrases.

I'm not saying I don't believe ableds should be barred from using disability and neurodivergence in their poetry, but merely that they should be mindful of what they're actually saying when they allude to something.  They should know who they might impact and why.  They should listen to us.  And, if they can't do those simple things, they should leave our terminology, conditions, and identities alone.

We are not their metaphors.

In the interest of total transparency, I've used imagery in my poetry that doesn't belong to me.  I try not to.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Inspiration (Without the "Porn")

While reading the essay, "My Disability Story Isn’t For Your Catharsis" I was brought to a question I sometimes ask myself:  How can I be inspiring to other cripples (or helpful in a significant way to humanity in general) without tripping the inspo-porn wire?  I don't have a definitive answer.  Maybe there isn't one.

We can attempt to mitigate it, though.  When we write, we can subvert genre expectations like Katie Rose Guest Pryal suggests.  We can amplify each other's accomplishments so they flood out beyond the echo chamber and become commonplace.  We can rally for more authentic representation in media and defend against inaccurate information.  We can protest.  We can create.

But, it will take more than us, I think.  We didn't start the trend.  We aren't even tending to it.  Ableds just take what they want from us after a while.  If they saw our complete humanity, it wouldn't shock them that we sing, dance, climb, paint, own businesses, become lawyers, or have families.  If they saw our complete humanity, they would argue for an accessible society.

There is one good thing about inspo-porn.  Ableds may spread it for "the feelz", but it sometimes ends up on one of our feeds—not as a way for someone to shove another gimp's accomplishment in our face, but as happenstance arriving just when we need it.  Feel like your dream won't come true?  Well, your colleague shared the story of a paralyzed mountaineer an hour ago!  Ableds, in their attempt to motivate each other, can carry a previously-unknown story about us to us.  They can be unintentional pollinators of hope (as long as we ignore some of the framing).

We can't let how the ableds try to define us stop the progress we make.  We can push back against their ignorance.  We can forge new words and our own definitions.  After all, we're writers.