Friday, May 17, 2019

Changes (Feedback Appreciated)

My erratic brain can't cling to a topic that's important or meaningful enough to post about.  Instead, I'm thinking about changes.  Feel free to make suggestions or comment on anything.  Some things aren't decided quite yet.

Mentor Program 2019:

Mentees who aren't picked will receive rejection emails before the announcement post goes live.

Chosen mentees will have a picture up with their announcement.  (Kind of like the post the mentors have.)  If they're comfortable...

Mentor Program 2020:

A mentor will (hopefully) exist for teen writers.

People with advanced degrees might be able to apply as mentees, provided they received their degree at least ten (or fifteen) years prior.

On the Blog 2019:

We will open to flash fiction and poetry year-round.  When we do, it will be under similar guidelines and pay as reviews and essays.  Warning:  I'm picky.

The occasional giveaway will occur.  (Our first is expected to be in September with Keah Brown's The Pretty One.)

Our Next Step 2020:  

A Youtube channel for readings and vlogs?  Free, on-demand writing classes taught by other crips (I'd pay the instructors... not sure how much)?  I don't know.  What do you folks need as disabled and/or neurodivergent writers?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mentee Applications Open Through June 20th

You've read about our mentors.  You checked over the mentee application's guidelines and restrictions.  Now, it's time to apply!

A few things:

1.  An "advanced degree" is anything above a bachelor's.

2.  Preferred pronouns include "he/him", "she/her", or "they/them".  Basically, are you male, female, or nonbinary?  We try quite hard to respect your identity.

3.  You don't have to have a book-length project to apply.  

4. You can just copy and paste all the questions in the body of an email with your answers and attach your writing sample.  If you can't, please contact us and we'll try to work with you!

5.  If you have questions, please email us at: or find us on Twitter:  @HandUnPen

We're so excited to bring you this program another year!  

Friday, April 26, 2019

Meet the Mentors for 2019!

Su Zi - Literary and academic writing in a variety of forms (editing, development, chapbook organization)

Note:  This mentor will not read erotica or anything with killing of any kind.  She is also not fond of genre work.

Su Zi is equal parts writer, artist, and badass eco-feminist.  She holds an MA in English and has published in such places as Driving Digest, Exquisite Corpse, and Blue Heron Review (where she was nominated for The Pushcart Prize).  She resides in Florida with her horses, dogs, cats, and turtles where she runs The Red Mare Chapbook Series.

Methods of correspondence:  Twitter DM (another method may be agreed upon later)
Ann Stewart McBee - Short fiction/flash fiction/poetry (story development, putting a chapbook together, submitting, query letters)

Note: Her emphasis is flash fiction.

Ann Stewart McBee was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She graduated with a PhD in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where she taught undergraduate composition, creative writing and literature. She has published fiction and poetry in Ellipsis, Untamed Ink, The Pinch, Citron Review, and At Length among others. Her short story collection titled How Rabbit Went Down and other Mishaps is available at Hoot-n-Waddle press. She now teaches English at Des Moines Area Community College, and lives outside Des Moines, Iowa with her husband and a smelly terrier.

Methods of correspondence:  Email
Carey Link - Poetry (editing, submitting, offering feedback, query letters)

As part of a military family, Carey Link has had the opportunity to grow up in many places across United States and Germany. Carey has resided in Huntsville, Alabama for the past 20 years. In 2008, Carey completed a B. A. in psychology from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In 2016, Carey retired after 16 years of working in civil service in the Civilian Personnel Advisory Cener (CPAC) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) at Redstone Arsenal.

Carey has been writing poetry since she was a teenager. Carey has published a chapbook What it Means to Climb a Tree (Finishing Line Press) and a poetry collection Awakening to Holes in the Arc of Sun (Mule on a Ferris Wheel).

Methods of correspondence:  Email
S. Baer Lederman - Novels/Short fiction/Essays (copy editing, submitting, novel/story development, novel/story editing, essay editing/writing)

S. Baer Lederman hails from Rhode Island, but considers himself a Midwesterner at heart. Since finishing his Navy service, Baer has focused on writing, receiving his MFA from Roosevelt University in 2016. Baer’s fiction has appeared in Entropy, Chicago Literati, Dapper Press, and Nebo. He’s been featured as a finalist in Slippery Elm’s 2015 Prose Contest, Scribes Valley 2015 short story contest, Providence Journal’s H.P. Lovecraft short story contest, as well as the NOLA Literary Festival’s 2018 Tennessee Williams short story contest. Baer has been awarded an artist in residence positions at SAFTA in Tennessee and the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. He recently completed his first novel.

Methods of correspondence:  Skype or email
Drew S. Cook - Poetry (editing, arranging a collection, submitting, fundamentals of poetry reading/performance)

Drew S. Cook is a native of the Ouachita Mountains, and the sights and sounds of that region continue to influence his writing. Over the course of his life, he has been many things, including an expert in obsolete operating systems, a student of literature and writing, and a Bipolar I. Drew's MFA in creative writing from the University of Central Arkansas will be/was conferred in 2018, and he begins/began doctoral studies at the University of Louisiana Lafayette that same year. His poems have appeared in NimrodPleiades, and elsewhere, and he is a former co-executive editor at Trio House Press.

Methods of correspondence:  Email, Facebook, or Discord. 
Sarah Krenicki - Short/Flash fiction (submitting, writing/editing, identifying places to submit to)

Note: She really enjoys speculative fiction.

Sarah Krenicki writes short speculative fiction and has made attempts at poetry. Her fiction has been published in Syntax and SaltGemini Magazine, and Lumina. She studied English and Creative Writing in college and after a brief stint in insurance marketing, found her way to the nonprofit world. She lives in a yellow house with her husband and two noisy black cats, and she overthinks everything, including/especially this bio. Pisces/Slytherin/INFP, for those who want to optimize compatibility. 

Methods of correspondence:  Text, email, Facebook or Google Video chat

Friday, April 12, 2019

(Review) Selections from Across Two Novembers: A Bibliographic Year by David L. Faucheux

Across the top on a tan background, the title appears (some words in black, others in brown). The middle of the cover is taken up by a brown bookshelf holding various books. At the bottom, the same tan background displays the author's name in black.

Note:  There are very descriptive passages about food and alcohol references in this book.

Mr. Faucheux's book is a memoir-journal of a year in his life spanning from one November to another.  It is a year of books, good food, music, friends, quotes, trivia, and tales of navigation through life as a blind man with fibromyalgia.  This is a new, abridged version with updates from the author added.

The chapters are months broken into shorter, dated entries.  But, just because the entries are short, doesn't mean you don't get much out of them.  There is always some knowledge/insight to be gleaned.  Sometimes a lot of it.

Imagine sitting down with a brilliant friend for a leisurely dinner.  He switches topics from Henry VIII to types of vanilla to Louisiana history to his latest favorite read.  You aren't sure what he'll talk about next, but it's almost always something interesting.  That's what this book was like for me, though I understand if some people find it a bit chaotic.

There were times Mr. Faucheux would start to discuss a topic I really wanted him to explore deeper, only to have him leap the track to an unrelated musing (maybe due to it being the abridged version).  Quote example:  "It really does feel as though the country has different sections, each at a different phase in the utilization of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)."  

I feel the author is quite honest when talking about his struggles with society.  The casual ableism leveled at him throughout college because "blind people don't learn X thing or get employed in X field" was sprinkled in like it was commonplace (and it probably was).  When he lost a dream because he couldn't find a way around a technological hurdle, I related to him so much I ached.  Quote example:  "My biggest fear is that I'm simply not able to make a contribution, even a small one, anywhere, in anything."  {Me too, Mr. Faucheux.}  He also speaks on his limitations in an open way.

I enjoyed this read and would recommend it.

One last quote:  "My advice to young blind people is to be whatever you need to be, join whatever you need to join, and use whatever you need to use to get wherever you need to be in life."

Small reviewer nitpick (my personal taste):  On occasion, he uses the word "exotic" to describe foreign characters in books.  Also, the term "gypsy-like" to describe a person.
Author Biography:  David L. Faucheux was named Audiobook Reviewer of the Year for 2018 by Library Journal and has reviewed for them since 2006. He lives in Lafayette, Louisiana and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Louisiana State University where he also attended library school.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Chemotherapy: Work-Life Balance (Rambling)

The first seven-to-nine days after a chemo dose I'm exhausted.  Brain fog swirls around each thought, and I nap daily.  Side effects cram themselves between gaps of consciousness.  I get nothing done.

 I struggle with my lack of progress, especially when my brain starts to clear but I'm still not able to work.  Everything I want done bombards my thoughts.  I tell myself I should get busy. Naps, so necessary, are taken as a sign I'm lazy.  I begin to hate myself for my lack of ambition.
There is a two-week span between my chemotherapy treatments.  During a rough dose, I might only have four truly "good" days to get things done before I receive another.  I must choose carefully or I lose even more time to indecision.

Three blogs, two Twitter accounts, one mentor program, four email accounts, submission deadlines, editing, social obligations, doctor appointments...

My husband and I don't have children.  I don't work outside the home.  I can't imagine what chemotherapy is like for other people.
The American Cancer Society runs commercials with smiling chemotherapy patients who do yoga, manage a full-time job, and go dancing.  They are nothing like me.  These portrayals make me feel like I'm not trying hard enough.  Why is it easier for them?

Maybe, like most advertisements, it's all an act.
I'm a huge believer in lists and prioritization.  Foolishly, I thought all my tasks could be managed with an up-to-date list in color-coded glory.  The list is barely a guideline.  A blog post that should take an hour will now take three.  An afternoon of submitting to literary magazines bleeds into a muddled week.

Near the end of every recovery period, I quickly sketch what I need to do for the next set of "good" days.  Only the barest of plans are laid.  Any promises I made go to the top.  My career takes a hit because the only one I will disappoint is myself.

I struggle and flail.  I tell myself any progress is victory.  I nap.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Mentor Applications Close April 7th

Update:  Mentor applications will be accepted until April 7th.  Hopefully, this will help our potential mentors.

We have one returning mentor for poetry.  And... that's it.  Applications for mentors close in ten days!  (Click here for the application link.)  No one else has emailed us.  I'm hoping for a rush of excellent writers directly at the finish line.  But, I know I can't always turn dreams into reality.

I haven't promoted the program as hard this year... maybe.  Chemo is demanding and difficult.  Perhaps everyone thought it was more exciting last year because it was our inaugural year.

We want to make this an annual event!  To our knowledge, we're the only mentor program for disabled/neurodivergent writers.  We're the only program that keeps it directly in our community.  Always.

If we don't receive more applications, the program will go into hiatus this year.  We don't want that to happen.

Please, if you're an established disabled/neurodivergent writer who thinks they'd make a great mentor, consider applying.  It's a volunteer position but an important one.  You will help foster another writer's career or project for two months.  For a community that's often isolated from mainstream opportunity, this could make a huge difference to someone.  You could make the difference.

(For all the links about our program, click here.)

If you have questions or need the application in another format:  Comment on this post.  Or email us at:
We are also on Twitter:  @HandUnPen

Friday, March 1, 2019

Suffering Artists (Two Branches)

You do not have to suffer for your art.  You shouldn't be expected to bleed trauma onto the page or stage for the masses.  You have a right to find joy, peace, connection, or any number of facets in creation.

The mythology of the "suffering artist" is often used to make downtrodden, creative folks stay on a path of isolation and pain.  It's supposed to hurt, society tells us.  We're supposed to endure.  But, agony shouldn't be a constant state of being.

Following any passion requires sacrifice... true.  There will be arduous parts of your career.  Ultimately, art should nourish you more than wound.
Notions of suffering propelling art are so romanticized in certain circles that some artists bemoan not being targets of bigotry or oppression.  They crave the flavor it would add to their work.  A truly privileged position, to think of trauma as an accessory!

Instead of counting themselves lucky, they practically demand front-row access to torment they have no right to.  They soak it up vicariously and try to regurgitate it for their own audiences—losing nuance and depth for faux-gravitas.

An important fact the rhetoric ignores:  Art can heal.  It defines the knots of past wounds.  It can show others the shape of someone else's pain and help them understand.  Pain is not a currency.

Friday, February 15, 2019

When is Our "Moment"?

If able-bodied agents and editors are waiting in their inaccessible towers for disabled and neurodivergent writers to have our "mainstream moment" in the industry, it will never come.  Because they don't care about our accomplishments or see our triumphs now.  Because our talent means nothing to them without an arbitrary form of relevance they help foster.  It's like someone who is self-employed waiting with growing irritation for their workday to begin.

If our "moment" rolls in with the help of able-bodied publishers, what will it look like?  Inspiration porn derived from our successes?  Scraps of pity from their feast?  Our stories are already (often) twisted for mainstream consumption.  Will those involved center us, or just use us?

Anticipating an inciting incident for a rise in criplit smacks of a fad.  Our stories are merely a trend to chase—vampire erotica will wax and wane alongside heroines on crutches.  And, when the "moment" arrives, it will be full of able-bodied/neurotypical writers flooding the market with crippled characters in two-dimensional glory.  Our lives reduced to cardboard and forever "othered".

No group of people is ever a fad.  We are not frivolous plot points.  We are not the latest fashion you can discard in a dresser next season!

Just because "the mainstream" thinks we haven't had our moment, doesn't mean we aren't relevant.  We are the world's largest minority.  We have famous writers and artists permeating our history.  We have writers crushing the hell out of things right now!  Our successes are not anomalies and not confined to a tiny capsule of days.

Mainstream media will tell you we haven't had our moment yet and they're correct—we will never settle for such a short period of time.  We own the future.

Friday, February 8, 2019

8 MFA Alternatives

January brought social media announcements of disabled writers going back to college.  Between those posts, I saw others lament their lack of degrees.  A lot of us, it seems, desire(d) a college education without the ability to obtain one.  If what you want is knowledge (and not necessarily the paper), there are alternatives out there.

The eight options below take a variety of approaches.  For the best results, mix and match.  There are probably more positives or negatives for each option than listed.

If you're continuing your creative writing education without a traditional college path, how are you accomplishing it?

Alternatives to an MFA:

1.  The library.

Pros:  Free, numerous resources, librarians to assist you with research, Internet access, most libraries are at least somewhat accessible, go at your own pace.  Some even have Gale Courses.

Cons:  No consistent guidance, finding what you need might prove tricky, no critique or mentorship.

2.  Auditing college classes.

Pros:  Real college experience, guided learning, no pressure to turn in assignments.  Reduced cost (but not free).

Cons:  Accommodations might not be made for your needs, no participating in discussions, limited (or no) access to professors if you're struggling, timed commitment.

3.  Online courses.

Pros:  Stay home, certain classes have group discussions, more flexible schedule, guided learning, instructors may be available to help you.

Cons:  Time commitment required, some classes cost money, technology used might not be right for every disability.  Some places allow anyone to post a "course", so you have to be cautious.

4.  A critique/writing group.

Pros:  Free, feedback/advice, possible support outside the group.

Cons:  Time commitment required, local groups might meet in inaccessible places, you might end up using your energy on other people's work more than your own.

5.  Conferences.

Pros:  Connect with industry professionals/other writers, interesting panels, possible pitch sessions, readings.

Cons:  Most conferences cost serious money and aren't accessible.  Online offerings are meager.  Not great for long-term education.

6.  Subscriptions/services.

Pros:  Literary magazines can expose you to new work and styles; reading them also gives you insight into what they publish.  Writing magazines can keep you updated on publishing news and give you editing tips.  Some services submit for you and/or keep track of where you've submitted.  Delivered to your door.

Cons:  Costs money (and, with submission services, a lot), limited information, no interaction, you'd need quite a few different resources to cobble together a well-rounded experience.

7.  Workshops.

Pros:  Feedback/advice, instructor-lead sessions, some instructors might be writers you admire.

Cons:  Same as conferences, except there seem to be more workshop opportunities available online.

8.  Mentors.

Pros:  One-on-one advice/feedback, more relaxed interactions, can help open doors or shape a career.  Free (hopefully).

Cons:  A bad mentor can mess you up worse than a bad conference because of the trust and proximity of the relationship.  Finding the right one is difficult.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Applications for Mentors Open Today!

Disabled and neurodivergent writers, today we open for applications from volunteer mentors for our 2019 term! Established writers will agree to work with emerging ones in our community during the months of August and September.

Things you need to know:

1.  This program can't pay anyone involved.
2.  We'd like at least one mentor for teens this year.
3.  We try to check out everyone before accepting them. (No bigots, liars, etc.)
4.  Everyone participating should write in English. No geographic restriction.
5.  This program is for disabled and/or neurodivergent people only!
6.  Applications are due March 31st.

An overview of the program is here.
For application questions, please click this.
We have a FAQ page here.

Thank you for considering our program!  Without our hardworking mentors, this wouldn't exist.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. We can be reached via email (, on Twitter (@HandUnPen), or in the comments below.

Friday, January 25, 2019

A Gift of Ableism for the Holidays

"Editors are always interested in heart-warming, holiday-themed content.  Write stories of stray dogs finding homes and disabled people finding help."

"The disabled receiving Christmas miracles make great stories!  How about a young girl learning to walk on Christmas morning?!"

At least four different, able-bodied writers gave a variation of the above advice in newsletters or via social media last month.  Cripples are to be pitied, according to these writers.  We are as pathetic and helpless as stray dogs!  We are a gimmick (tug those heartstrings).  One writer went as far as to say able-bodied people should be the ones to fix or assist us in the stories.

We are seen as nothing but an abstract concept or glaring stereotype of sucking, horrid need.  I'd like to blame the existence of Tiny Tim—a sweet, sickly child with the temperament a Catholic martyr would envy—for this, but I just can't.  People should know better in our current age.  Research, if nothing else, would improve their impressions of us.

This is yet another consequence of our exclusion from society (as writers and as part of the general population).  I'd bet most of these writers only have whispers of interaction with a disabled person, if that.  They get their ignorance from misguided popular media and, in turn, guide other writers in creating more of the same.  Disabled people writing new narratives are often dismissed because they refuse to reinforce ludicrous notions or regurgitate stories of our oppression.

Next holiday season, don't regift your ableism... throw it the hell out!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Book Cover: The background is teal with faint, white equations.  In the top right third, a cartoon couple is engaged in a kiss (she is wearing a pink shirt and a black skirt, and he is wearing a white shirt and blue pants). They are standing on a blue division symbol. The title is in yellow cursive with the division symbol side running between the words "The" and "Kiss". The author's name is under the title in white capital letters.

Notes about reviewer limitations:  

1.  I'm not autistic.
2.  I'm picky with romantic reads.

Stella Lane is autistic, brilliant at econometrics, and lousy at love.  Due to pressure from her overbearing mother (and "relationship advice" from a sleazy co-worker), Stella decides to hire an escort to teach her proper sexual techniques.  Enter Michael, the sweet escort who desperately needs money.
First, if you're looking for a chaste romance, this isn't it.  There is sex.  Descriptive sex.  Naughty words in the descriptive sex.  There is more than one scene of naughty, descriptive sex.  It's vanilla sex, but there is still a fair amount.

The sex scenes were done fairly well.  Stella locks up and starts to cry (in the beginning) during intimacy, and Michael is patient with her.  He slowly works through her barriers, and is always considerate/gauging her responses.  It felt like fully-informed consent.

Rape trigger warning for this paragraph:  Unfortunately, Stella's response to sex leads to a scene I'd consider date rape early in the book.  Anyone who goes through with intercourse when someone is lying rigid with tears rolling down their face is scum.  (I'm not talking about BDSM, where intention and emotion can differ from non-kink.)  It isn't that Stella is bad at sex, but that the men she's with don't care enough about her to give her what she needs.
The main protagonists were solid solo characters.  I loved the way Stella's mind works—it felt like an authentic portrayal of an autistic woman to me (the author is autistic), and it was nice seeing her universe and confidence expand.  Michael (who is half-Vietnamese) has depth to him:  He loves his family, has geeky tastes and interesting hobbies, harbors a secret dream, and possesses a storied past.  I found our male protagonist had a bit too much angst for my liking (maybe I just don't like daddy issues).

The secondary characters ranged in quality.  Some characters were only there as plot devices or emotional vehicles.  One of the side characters the book spends the most time on (the sleazy co-worker) felt like a legitimate sexual predator.  I had a pretty unfavorable view of Stella's family, but I liked Michael's well enough (outside of the father we never see).
The romance portion of the book didn't feel quite as developed as the sexual one.  They still have cute moments together (there was a sweet scene at an ice cream parlor), but most of them didn't seem to last long.  It was enough for me to see the connection and want them to succeed.

They are interested in each other's lives and goals, though I thought Stella tried harder for Michael than he did for her, especially in regards to their families.  Stella, though, doesn't respect Michael's boundaries as well as he does hers.  No relationship is perfect.

When the couple hit their rough patch in the book, it's because they both think the other can't possibly love them for who they are.  This, of course, is a type of misunderstanding trope... something I despise.  For two people who are supposedly in love, a five-minute conversation shouldn't be impossible.  But, plot, I guess.
If you are looking for spice with a touch of sweetness and a good portrayal of an autistic woman, I recommend this book.

If you are looking for something with more romantic depth, this probably isn't the read for you.

I found it a worthwhile read.
Author biography:  Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since. In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired The Kiss Quotient. She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Market Updates

Inclusive Mainstream Publications Page


Vinyl (Poetry & Prose)
Tiny Flames Press
Brine Literary
Dancing Girl Press


The Journal (Click here for the reason we removed it.)
Tin House (Defunct) *Just the literary magazine is gone.*
Black Napkin Press (Defunct)
Devilfish Review (Defunct)
VOICES (Defunct)

Other Changes:  

Beecher's Magazine is now called Landlocked.
Paper Nautilus is on indefinite hiatus.
District Lit has a new link to their guidelines.
Magazines, Websites, Etc. (for Us) Page

Added hashtags:  

We're starting to add entries for other arts.


Writing in the Margins Mentor Program (defunct)
Alt-Minds (charges reading fees)

Other Changes:

Exceptions has an updated link and is on hiatus.
Hospital Drive has a new website.
Tiny Tim Literary Review has an updated link and is on hiatus.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Resolutions? No.

If the one thing you can work towards for 2019 is staying alive, it's enough.  I know you want to accomplish great things.  It can feel like everyone is getting their wishes granted while you wait—like the entire world is moving while you remain frozen. 

But, you accomplish things every year.  You just might not consider what you do as memorable or worthwhile because it isn't what you hope for. It could be a smaller act you dismiss on the basis of size.  It could mean something more for someone else than it does for you.  Good things still happen because of you—because you exist and try.
As writers and artists, not being able to steer our careers with any consistency can rankle.  We feel like our art is doomed and anything we attempt is futile.  Taking a break to focus on our health is often seen as failure or an inability to be "true artists".  

We forget:  Everyone's path is different.  

Nondisabled/neurotypical painters can have a decade-long gap between gallery shows.  Some "healthy" writers never publish the novel they want.  Singers can be one-hit wonders.

There are so many factors in success and failure that no one can entirely predict.  Those three short stories a writer can manage to write a year could land them a book deal.  A YouTube channel can catch the eye of a talent scout.  No one knows when luck will strike.  
Do what you can as you can manage it.  You can't plan out your year, but that doesn't mean the pace you're working at won't eventually lead you to where you were meant to be.  And that's all you need, lovelies.  Happy 2019.