Friday, May 22, 2020

Frida Kahlo and Lying Down

When a friend told me Frida Kahlo attended her only solo gallery show in her bed, I had to research it.  I knew Frida created lying down because chronic pain is a blight, but never fancied the possibility of such a bold move.  Many disabled and neurodivergent artists must create lying down at some point in their lives.  But, most of us would never attend something in bed.

"At first it seemed that Kahlo would be too ill to attend, but she sent her richly decorated fourposter bed ahead of her, arrived by ambulance, and was carried into the gallery on a stretcher."

Frida completely embraced her most authentic self in that moment.  Who would go, not only to an event in bed, but elaborately deck out the damn bed?!  There was no passing up her once-in-a-lifetime chance to see something she worked her ass off for, and there was absolutely no timid apology.
~*~
I'm one of those chronic-pain crips who is also fat (I know Frida wasn't).  Most of my days are spent in bed.  My studio/writing space/crafting station is a mattress on the floor.

I don't talk about certain aspects of my life much because of judgement.  Most people who find out how I live just assume I'm a "lazy fatty" who ruined her body with "smothering lard".  They didn't see toddler me crying herself to sleep because of back and hip pain in the late 1980's.  They only know what they want to know.

Would I ever be brave enough to attend an award ceremony, reading, or other event lying down?  Doubtful.  Did it change something inside of me to know Frida did?  Definitely.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

2020 Mentee Applications are Open!

We are open to mentee applications until June 27th!  You can find our application when you click here.  Please check all eligibility requirements.  We have expanded the pool for who can apply to ensure more people benefit from the program.

The list of mentors can be found by clicking here.

There are a few differences in our program this year:  

1.  We have a mentor for teens (me), but I could possibly "roll in" if we get an absolute deluge from 18+ applicants.

2.  Having an advanced degree no longer disqualifies you from applying (there are a few slight restrictions, though).

3.  You may still submit to a mentor if you have one or two traditionally-published books if the genre you're applying to is newer for you.  If you're a journalist just dipping a toe into fiction, you're welcome to apply to a mentor for the genre.  If you wrote story collections but have little experience in poetry, you can pitch to a poetry mentor.  Please be honest about your past publication experience.

As always, please contact me with any questions:
handyuncappedpen[at]gmail[dot]com
@HandUnPen on Twitter
Or, you can comment on this post.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Meet the Mentors for 2020

Carey Link - Poetry (editing, submitting, offering feedback, query letters)

Carey Link is from Huntsville, Alabama.  In 2017, she retired from a 16 year civil service career. Carey is currently in graduate school pursuing a degree in counseling.  After she completes her studies, Carey wants to work with clients living with life-altering illnesses and conditions.

Carey has been writing poetry since she was a teenager.  She has published two poetry collections, Awakening to Holes in the Arc of Sun (Mule on a Ferris Wheel) and What it Means to Climb a Tree (Finishing Line Press).  Her poetic sequence, I Walk a Tightrope Without a Safety Net was a finalist in the 2019 Blue Light Press Chapbook Contest.  Carey's poems have appeared in Poem, The Birmingham Arts Journal, Birmingham Poetry Review, WLRH Sundial Writers Corner, Hospital Drive, and elsewhere.

Methods of correspondence:  Email
~*~

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 obtained her PhD in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. She has published fiction and poetry in Ellipsis, Untamed Ink, The Pinch, and Citron Review among others. Her short story collection titled How Rabbit Went Down and Other Mishaps is available from Hoot-n-Waddle Press. She now teaches English at Des Moines Area Community College, and lives outside Des Moines, Iowa. The limited use of her hands due to Rheumatoid Arthritis does not prevent her from writing in the same way that living in heavy air pollution does not prevent one from breathing.

Methods of correspondence:  Email
~*~

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 Salt, Gemini 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
~*~

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.  Her newest collection #100TPC (Alien Buddha Press) was published in March.

Methods of correspondence:  Twitter DM (another method may be agreed upon later)
~*~
Mentor for teenagers:

Jennifer Ruth Jackson - Literary and speculative flash fiction and poetry (editing, chapbook organization, market research/resource help)

Note:  Jennifer has more poetry published than fiction.

Jennifer Ruth Jackson is an award-winning poet and fiction writer whose work has appeared in Red Earth Review, Banshee, Strange Horizons, Star*Line, Apex Magazine, and more.  Her literary chapbook Body:  Blessed & Bitter is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.  Blighted Feast, her short horror collection, is to be released by The Poet's Haven.  She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and is a wheelchair-user.

Methods of correspondence:  Email, Twitter DM, Facebook Messenger

Friday, April 24, 2020

Neoteny: Poems by Emily K. Michael (Review)

Image:  A field of purple coneflowers shown close up.  Blurred, white flowers grow with the purple.  The title appears at the top in white letters, and the poet's name appears at the bottom in all caps. 

Note:  I received a copy of this book in order to review it.

I hail the commonplace: dewy and sharp.
-from "Mint"

Every piece in Neoteny encapsulates (yet elevates) the small, common moments that make up a life.  The snapshots of lyrical, tiny memories and observations hold perfect place with the subtle indicators of time and timelessness.  Instead of dismissing the heft of fruit, the sound of birdsong, and splashes of color in favor of once-in-a-lifetime hullabaloo, Emily K. Michael pulls you into the spaces along with her and invites you to experience them in lush detail.

We drove two hours to walk the old quarter—
traded thirty dollars for three hundred years.
Hollow houses, tiny plaques, costumed guides interrupted,
joyful crunches on studded gravel.
-from "Anniversary in St. Augustine"

These poems are a collective of sensual proximity.  The narrator of the poems is almost always in contact with her partner, friends, guide dog, or nature in various ways.   Connections are keenly portrayed.

Step out onto the lawn at dusk, dog leash 
loose like reins in your fingers.
Over the quiet jingle of collar,
cardinal voices cross the yard.
-from "Trading Threes"

There are poems about blindness in this slim volume, but there are also poems that don't mention it at all.  The poems that do address blindness sometimes also address abled folly and misconception, but they never fall into tirade.

You don't think about what we look like?

Not really.

She smiles: That must be so nice.
You're not hung up on it.
-from "Small Hours"

There is a quiet music to these poems, and they are woven together well.  This collection is definitely worth your time.
~*~
Biography:  Emily K. Michael is a blind poet, musician, and writing instructor from Jacksonville, FL. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Wordgathering, The Hopper, Artemis Journal, The Deaf Poets Society, Nine Mile Magazine, Compose Journal, The Fem, and more. Her manuscript Natural Compliance won Honorable Mention in The Hopper’s 2016 Prize for Young Poets. Emily is the poetry editor for Wordgathering, an open-access journal under the auspices of Syracuse University. Emily’s work centers on the themes of ecology, disability, feminism, and music. She develops grammar workshops for multilingual learners and participates in local writing festivals. She also curates the Blind Academy blog. Her first book Neoteny: Poems is out from Finishing Line Press.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Deaf Girl Reviews Music: Hidden Flowers by Su Zi

Momma liked flowers, and I grow zinnias in her memory. I also follow garden-related accounts on social media, so a post about a flower and its name was a fairly prosaic event: however, that particular flower is a controversial one, which caused me to pause, to investigate. That particular flower was called Kush, and the post depicting the purple blooms was not, as some might giggle a guess, a moment of acquisitional glee, but an illustration for a song about the flower. Any familiarity with Shakespeare will recall flowers as a muse, as a trope. It is not irony that this Kush flower is purple, and that Shakespeare wrote aplenty about purple flowers, but rather a direct expression of a classical understanding of the lyrical arts.

I showed the picture to a few people as a post about a flower: there were those who recognized Purple Kush’s species and smiled, there were those who were interested in a song with the flower as a topic; however, when I mentioned the name of the artist who wrote the song, everyone became blanched of blood. How curious. A controversial flower can gather benign response, but not if the lyricist is controversial too. Featuring his typically collaborative and atavistic recording style of call and response, the song “Kush” is written by Dr. Dre and features Akon, and the ever-lovable Snoop Dogg. Released as a single in 2010, the culture around this flower has changed much; however, what has not changed are social attitudes towards the music which is in homage to this flower, and here we err.  Following a structure of a chorus framing alternating soliloquy is a device often employed in Dr. Dre recordings, and it is a familiar framework for theatrical musicals. What is striking about this song, and Dr. Dre’s work overall, is the precision of meter he employs, the split-second strike of his beats.

As a hearing-impaired person, music is a love and an agony. Momma loved music, met my father through music, and music played always, especially Vivaldi. The barely-one-ear nature of my hearing ability has evolved into an increased sensitivity: a keenness for birdsong, for environmental acoustics untainted, a physical reaction of nausea to sloppy human noise. That there’s music that is still listenable is a personal joy. Our flower song is among those happy experiences, yet a moment’s lingering reveals the intricacies of this bloom. “Kush” has alternating chorus, one heavily affected, and one sung in human choral voices. The first chorus reads as “Hold up, wait a minute/let me put some Kush up in it”. A recognizable couplet that could be ordinary, except for the meter of the lines: the spondee set forth by “HOLD UP” shifts to the troche of “WAIT a MINute” resulting is an ordinary tetrameter for that line, except that the following line shifts meter—five beats, pentameter—and ends also with the spondee of “IN IT”. Anyone familiar with Shakespeare even distantly, or with classic literary poetry, will recognize the pentameter as an oft used meter; what is unusual is to find this beat in modern music.

What further challenges conventional listening is “Kush’s” second chorus, “inhale/exhale”, which is sung by male and female human voices. Sometime sung iambically – inHALE/exHALE – and sometimes with a shift to troche – IN/hale/EXhale—the accompaniment has a drum and piano tonality, creating a classically clean chord. Intricacies of meter are a marked aspect of Dr. Dre’s artistry, and this song is no exception. Also exceptional is the consistently collaborative nature of Dr. Dre’s work; this song lists a dozen writers. In an Instagram post from the first week of March for this year, Snoop Dogg described working with Dr. Dre as a form of martial arts, and the collaboration as “sorcery”. What is also consistent is Dr. Dre’s assiduous and elaborate tonal constructions—a weaving of blues-bending notes, multiple voices, slant rhyme in lyrical construction, and a sense that we are listening to a modern and pure opera.

There are those who might be petulant or divisive and insist that poetic meter has nothing to do with rap beats, who might not wear a t-shirt that proclaims "Rap, Poetry is thy Mother”, or who might venture that flowers are not an appropriate topic for either Shakespeare or Dr. Dre. Since hindsight attests to Shakespeare’s work as iconic of the English Renaissance, and since living artists are more iconoclastic than iconic while working, it is premature to put the hope of an artistic renaissance on Dr. Dre. What these damaged ears carry away is a joy, a pure pleasure at that exquisite precision, and a gratefulness to have heard it.
~*~
Jennifer's note:  Dr. Dre isn't disabled or neurodivergent.  This lyrical review (which may become a recurring column) is about mainstream culture from a crip POV.  
~*~
Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red FezAlien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Interview with Graphic Designer Ronald Kerns

Image:  A head shot of a white man wearing square glasses and a purple polo shirt. He has short, black hair.

1. How did you become interested in graphic design?

When I was in school, I had never taken an art class at all. But, I was interested in all things "visual". I initially went to University for business (Northwood University in Midland, Michigan)... advertising/marketing. While there, the chairman of the department sat me down one day and asked me if I had ever considered art school. The explanation was, he was quite impressed with the high level of creativity in some of the class projects I had done. So, from there, I looked into art school, and after business school, continued my education at art school in Cincinnati.

2. What design awards have you won?  Have they helped your business?

I have won a few awards in the American Graphic Design Awards competition, which are sponsored by Graphic Design USA Magazine. Then, through my active involvement in the Dallas-Fort Worth American Marketing Association, I was awarded "Volunteer of the Year" for 2015/2016, for my work as the chapter's designer... in developing and designing much of the promotional/marketing materials.

3. You mentioned in another interview that the memoir Pretending to be Normal and the show Parenthood helped you find your way to an autism diagnosis.  What other media has impacted your life in a profound way?

Other media? John Elder Robison's book Look me in the Eye, was very eyeopening, as much of what he experienced growing up undiagnosed, I did as well. One often overlooked movie that had an autistic character was Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The main character, played by Ewan McGregor, was autistic. I caught on to him being autistic... even before he mentioned it in the movie.

4. Have you ever encountered neurotypical bigotry/ableism in your profession?  If so, how did you handle it?

That's a tough one to answer. I was diagnosed at 46 in 2014. Later that year, I did land a part-time/temp role with a company, and that went quite well. But, my first full-time/regular job wasn't until 2018. And, that has been going incredibly well. That being said, from 2013-2018, I was without a full-time regular job, and yet I was applying and interviewing constantly. I am sure being autistic was a huge barrier. Looking back at previous jobs, however, I can recall having great difficulties with communication and interaction with co-workers and such. Those difficulties have diminished now... primarily because I now KNOW I am autistic, and thus much more self-aware... and able to make the needed adjustments.

5. When did you join Toastmasters?  How has it helped you?

I started visiting Toastmasters in 2015... but, when we made the move from Dallas to rural/remote northern Arkansas, I found a club here. So, in 2016 is when I joined. And, I was active with them for two years, until I got my job at a job at a university in a nearby town. Because of the job, I had to end Toastmasters... since the meetings were held during the day. Toastmasters helped tremendously with my communication and speaking skills. Gave me that much more "practice" to get up and speak... and develop confidence in doing so. I would highly recommend it for anyone.

6. What is the biggest challenge in running your own business?

For me, and what I do, the biggest challenge of running my business, which is a design firm, has been the task of going out and getting clients. That's such a "people" and "relationship building" kind of role... that I have great difficulty with. So, I built my clientele the hard and slow way... strictly through word of mouth and referrals. Now that I have a regular/day job, and I run my business "on the side", it's been easier... since my business isn't my main source of income.

7. Has claiming your autism as part of your brand changed anything for you in your career?

I almost always identify myself as an #ActuallyAutistic award-winning graphic designer. "Branding" myself that way... has been helpful. First, clients know up front what to expect. Plus, much of my business lately has been working with non-profit organizations... who serve the autistic and disability community. They love it when they find me, and can employ the skills of an autistic designer for their communication needs. So, it has been a plus. Just recently, even though I live in Arkansas, I designed a logo for a newly formed non-profit in Honolulu. And, I have multiple projects scheduled to do for them well into 2020.

8. What (do you feel) is the best project you've ever completed and why do you think it's the best?

Best project? Wow... that's almost like asking me who my favorite child is! Perhaps my favorite is the 2015 Annual Report for Abilities Network, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization. It was 32 pages, and I worked with them for several months. The marketing director at the time was fabulous to work with, too. Which, of course, helped. Projects like that are rarely designed/produced by ONE person. Annual reports are typically created by a team of designers at the very best design firms. So, pulling off the highly-acclaimed project... was certainly a huge accomplishment.

9. What is the best advice someone ever gave you?

Best advice? All during art school... the one thing I heard the most was "Keep it simple". Don't overdesign. Don't overthink. And, that's how I design... even today. Very clean and simple, unless, of course, the client/project calls for a different approach.

10. Where do you see your business and/or yourself ten years from now?

Ten years from now? Hard to say. Ten years ago I would have never guessed I'd be living in rural/remote north Arkansas... and working for a major university system. As for my business... I am just now starting to branch out into public speaking/presenting at conferences and events about diversity & inclusion, being autistic (especially as someone who was diagnosed "later in life"), workplace issues, and what "best practices" have worked best for me. And, other related topics. Over the past two years... I have stepped back from my business a bit... due to the demands of my full-time role... but, will definitely continue it. So, I am not sure what that will look like that far into the future.

~*~
Biography:  Ron Kerns is an autistic, award-winning graphic designer, and is currently the graphic designer for Missouri State University-West Plains, and is owner of StudioKerns, a graphic design consultancy.

Note:  An expanded biography is available on Ron's website (linked above).

Friday, April 3, 2020

Crisis by Louise Runyon

I have been thinking of it as a situation, because it’s come about so slowly.  But in reality, it’s a crisis.  A crisis of the body/mind, a movement crisis.  A crisis of movement, ironically developing as I prepared to move from one state to another.  And continuing after the move, as I find my way here.

This crisis, or situation, has to do with walking, with standing, with standing up.  It has to do with manipulating fabric, making the bed, shaking out a plastic bag.  With dancing, with swimming, with biking.  With cooking, handwriting, typing.  With rolling over in bed, getting dressed.

It is more than just aging.  It’s neurological, but it’s not neurological.  It’s mysterious, vague, hard to talk about, has no name.  I haven’t liked to talk about it; have feared gossip; have tried to hide; have had embarrassment, shame.

Embarrassment and shame because I am a dancer and a practitioner of a stellar method of movement education.  This method, like my malady, is profound but obscure, hard to describe.  Given my background, I am not supposed to be this way.  No one has expected it, least of all me.  I am supposed to live to be 103, just like my mother.  I am supposed to live better than she did, because I take so much better care of myself.

I have moved elegantly, eloquently, for decadesbut not now.  It’s been surprising, sudden, slow.  I should be full of vim and vigor, but I’m not.  I’ve done everything I could, everything I know, and I know a lot.  I’m disciplined.  I make certain breakthroughsstill, it persists.  It is even more persistent than I am.

A few things I’ve maintained.  BalanceI know how to fall, but I do not.  I’ve maintained walking, even some hiking.  My calves grow solid from climbing the hills.  I have no comfort, but I have no pain.  Sometimes I pass for normal, but less often.

Some things helpplaying catch, kicking a soccer ball.  Talking to people.  Music, finding a way to dance.  The solid, assertive contact of boxing.  The unglamorous activity of resting.  Friends, old and new; family.

~*~
Louise Runyon has recently been diagnosed with environmental toxicity, which affects involuntary movement and requires conscious motor planning for most things she does. Louise has published four books of poetry; her last book, released in 2018, is The Passion of Older Women – a manifesto on the wisdom, strength, needs and desires of older women as well as a testament to those who have gone before. A dancer/choreographer as well as poet, Louise is Artistic Director of Louise Runyon Performance Company. She is currently based in the mountains of North Carolina.  www.LouiseRunyonPerformance.com

Friday, March 27, 2020

Push by Kale Sastre

I try not to step on anyone’s toes
But it’s hard with feet doused in concrete
Other women have dainty ballet slippers
And I have shoes made by a mafia hitman

“If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all”
and
“Always tell the truth; be impeccable with your word”
and
“A lie of omission is still a lie”
Cannot all live in harmony
Not harmoniously, anyway

Sometimes I don’t speak up when I should
Too often I speak up when I shouldn’t
I never know what to say
And I’ll agonize over it whether I’ve said it out loud or not

Debates are like verbal sparring and
Conversations are practice matches
I have to be on guard for my opponent and
I need to know who my teammates are

I get so tired from the endless acrobatics
Especially when I never wanted to hurt anyone
But exhaustion makes me push harder
Knowing I’m wearing down gives me that extra boost

That pushes everyone
Away
From
Me
~*~
Biography: Kale Sastre is many things including: a writer, an anthropologist, an activist, a volunteer, a Christian, a translator, a cat owner, and a friend. She is also: disabled, neurodivergent, chronically ill, and gender nonconforming. This makes an interesting mix sometimes, and when it does, she usually writes about it. You can find her writings for The Mighty at themighty.com/u/kale-sastre or follow her on Twitter @kalesastre. She also has a list of publications available at aksartor.wordpress.com.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Inheritance by Su Zi

Gramma carried mint candy in her handbag, along with a linen handkerchief with a hand needled lace edge that she carried without using ever. Other talismans were a tube of deep red lipstick and a crumpled paper tissue. The handbag was a top strap, traditional shape with a snap close of brass, and was completely different than the soft, shoulder slung bags my mother favored. My mother did not carry mint candy, she carried mint gum. When I became old enough to need a handbag of my own, I had neither; however, by then I understood that the contents of a handbag were distinctive, individual. It was a long time before I understood why these significant women in my ancestry were always accompanied by mints.

After I had access to a car, I would visit Gramma on my own. We would sit in her kitchen and she would tell me of her life: of our shared ancestors, of how she came to this country, of her marriage to my beloved grandfather. One time, she asked me a series of questions about my eating habits—did I like to eat breakfast, what meal was my largest, why was I so skinny “you are a little bird” she told me forever. As a preteen girl, she had lived alone with her father (she wanted me to know his name was Shopkin), and Gramma felt that my eating habits were just like his: she told me I had “A sensitive stomach”.

My propensity for intestinal malaise was well documented among those who orbited my childhood consciousness. I was told I had been a colicky baby who wept for months; when my mother decided to experiment by feeding us McDonald’s, I had painful hours hanging my hind end over the commode; then, at 18, I had a bout of not being able to tolerate food…at all. I was sent to a doctor, who handed me a script for Lomotil—I was not to eat for a month, except a poached egg, or overboiled noodles. I had further bouts of food intolerance, but I did not go to a doctor again. A sleepless night, a significant exam, meant an hour in a pain filled Thinker position, and a queasy public bus ride to class. I began to photograph the private corners that housed my agonies—gas stations, restaurants, home: I had gotten used to chronic diarrhea without thinking about it, it just was part of who I was, just as not being tall was part of who I was.

My mother laughed about it. As a child, there was always a big bottle of Pepto Bismol that never saw lack of use. When I bought my mother concert tickets for her birthday, we went to dinner afterwards, and the very posh Ladies’ room immediately after dinner. I sat in one stall, my mother next to me, and while we both let the burning mud escape us, my mother laughed and laughed.

Over a few decades, such episodes of sudden incapacitation grew ordinary; my economics always made the acquisition of food, any food, more of a concern than whether or not it would tear me up. My constant emaciation was met socially with offers of drugs or dick; I was unaware I was starving.

One Thanksgiving, I had been invited to dinner and arrived to find the kitchen full of young women I did not know. I ate their offerings, they liked my homemade cranberry sauce. They were concerned when I retired to the bathroom for the better part of an hour: I remember repeated attempts to force the door, and also the fever sweat dripping to the tile and bleaching away circles of ground-in sand; the paroxysms had my elbows around my knees, and pain was an incoming tide of electric shocks and burning. Eventually, I made the drive home; yet every time I ate was another episode of agony. Weeks went by. I was in a new town, knew no one, went to job interviews as I lost weight, lost weight until I could barely make it ten feet from my couch to my kitchen without a head rush that had me swooning in front of the concerned cats. That one took two months from me.

Life unfolded as it does when you don’t die young. Eventually, two women stood in my yard and welcomed me to the woman change, bestowed upon me the title of Crone, though it was still decades away from the number the government gave. I was still thin, but the changes to my body included more episodes of lost time with increasing severity.

A few summers ago, I once again lost the ability to tolerate any food. I struggled for a month to find something that wouldn’t bring forth the fits of endless shitting, until I was keeping myself alive with only miso soup. One Sunday, I had been invited to go for a pleasure cruise in a classic car and we stopped at the farm-to-table pizza-salad place. I nursed a cigarette and a fancy root beer. Everything began to echo, and my vision became a vignette of darkness and shooting stars. My forehead was on my knees, my dress was damp, an elbow helped me rise, there was a man on either side of me, and then…. I felt myself lying down, I felt a hand on my ass—perhaps my dress had flown up—I felt how the ambulance needed new shocks and how the tech kept my palm on her knee, how the driver called in my vitals with a sugar level of 30.

It has been a learning, albeit late, of language, although I am still infuriated: I rage against the lost time, the social media posts of foods that I know will kill me have become a kind of pornography. I had one friend who endured what I did, he would lift his shirt to show the scars of multiple surgeries and the cane he needed for resultant tremors; just this past holiday, he died—the last photos of him show a ginger skeleton. It was he who used the word the doctor had: Crohn’s. We had Crohn’s. It had gotten worse as we had gotten older, and so my Crone status was also my Crohn’s status.

In social situations, I make people nervous—there are shunnings. I have been known to steadily eat two dozen sugar cubes while performing other tasks; I have been known to blithely eat as many mint candies. A free lunch is a cocola and a plain chocolate bar. I weigh myself daily, trying to stay more than the 88 pounds that resulted in a public view of my panties.

I do not carry mint candy or gum in my handbag, but I know now why the women who came before me always did.
~*~
Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red Fez, Alien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Q&A: Taruni Tangirala, EIC of Rèapparition Journal

1.  Why did you start Réapparition Journal?

There is a specific subset of people in our world that has a particular disadvantage in expressing themselves, their difficulties, and their aspirations—namely, those who endure chronic diseases/disabilities. First of all, having a disability/medical disorder in itself is sometimes difficult to discuss without a large amount of shame and embarrassment to lug around. Second, these disorders/disabilities many times inhibit people from pursuing their interests, passions, and hobbies—and creative expression is an incredible way to help heal from that helplessness. Third, many of such disorders deal with sensitive topics that some may find uncomfortable—and writing about them for the world to see is quite unnerving for some. I realized that a creative platform of some sort is necessary to encourage the discussion of topics such as these. Fundamentally, I started Rèapparition Journal to create a safe space for writing that addresses these topics.

2.  How did you come up with the name?

I hope that this journal will help heal—heal the rift in people's minds through writing, and heal the stigmatization that occurs with some of these disorders. Rèapparition is french for reappearance—and I hope this journal will help spark the reappearance of passion and vitality in people.

3.  Tell me a bit about yourself.

I am a student currently residing in Texas who is passionate about using computation to back advocacy in health. Through my advocacy exploits at various non-profits, I have seen how so many uncomfortable topics that are important to our lives are dismissed in conversation purely because they are too sensitive to discuss. Yet, I've also seen how all it takes is one powerful force to tell the world that yes, these issues need to be discussed, and yes, they are important, to bring about a paradigm shift in old-fashioned thinking. In the case of chronic diseases and their effects on people's everyday lives, I hope to contribute to the movement through this journal. My hobbies include writing, playing my ukelele, and photography.

4.  What is your ideal submission?

All I can say at this point (because we are so new) is to be authentic—an ideal submission shines a light on disorders and other relevant topics in a novel manner.

5.  Do you have any pet peeves submitters should know about?

Sometimes the term "sensitive issues" throws people off—we mean sensitive issues as in the prospect of not being able to discuss that you have a certain disorder to people because it is embarrassing and makes people uncomfortable. However, we definitely don't want any gory/beyond PG-13 material—we want this journal to be accessible to youth as well as adults.

Additionally, the goal of the journal is to be positive and spread positivity. We encourage the discussion of difficult situations, yes, but at the end of the piece (whatever it may be), we want our readers to be left on a positive note.

6.  Your guidelines state:  "Anyone who is empathetic to the causes of the journal may submit pieces."  How did you make the decision to include the voices of those who don't have chronic conditions?

Sometimes, the prospect of having a chronic condition hurts just as much for loved ones and other witnesses—therefore, those who are undergoing a condition may not be the only people to have something to say about it. Furthermore, the goal of the journal is to de-stigmatize chronic disease through discussion, and a discussion always has two sides; we want to hear the thoughts of anyone who can help us advance the cause, even if they don't necessarily have a chronic medical condition.

7.  When are the deadlines for your issues (if any)?

For our first issue, April 1st is the current deadline, but it may be extended.

8.  What is your ultimate hope/goal for the magazine?

Ultimately, I hope that this journal becomes a safe place for discussing chronic medical conditions—not despite the fact that they are sometimes sensitive topics, but because of the fact. Eventually, we hope to become more than a journal—we hope to become a movement.

9.  Is there anything else you want submitters or readers to know about you or Réapparition Journal?

We would really appreciate your involvement in advancing our cause—we can only advance our goals with your support!
~*~
Website:  https://www.reapparitionjournal.org
Instagram:  @reapparitionjournal
Facebook:  Rèapparition Journal
Twitter:  @ReapparitionJ

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Ward of Nightingale Hall by Ennis Rook Bashe (Review)

Image:  A couple stands in a shallow pool of water made by a cascade in the background.  Surrounding them is lush, green vegetation. The woman has long, red hair and is wearing a white dress.  The man has on black pants with no shirt.  They are embracing each other.  The title of the book and author are written in white at the top of the cover.

Note:  I received a copy of this book from the author.

Genre:  Alternative-History/Fantasy/Romance
TW:  Psychological (somewhat physical) abuse

Henry, after suffering psychological and magical scars from his ex-betrothed, is assisted in healing by a ward of his family (Ivy). When Henry is kidnapped by his evil ex years later, Ivy must rescue him. Can she also free his heart?

At first, I wasn't sure if I would like this book.  The descriptions of Henry's ex were cliché (creamy skin and all).  When Raella (the ex-betrothed) turned cold towards Henry, I felt like it was an abrupt, cardboard villain scene with little to make her behavior seem even slightly plausible.  The book is short (around twenty-eight pages), so that might be why certain elements aren't fleshed-out.  There are a few typos.

Fortunately, I kept reading past my initial impression.

The magic system in this book was interesting.  Henry is a transman and a Catalyst, a mage who produces magic to be siphoned.  Raella and Ivy are Channelers, people who can pull magic from Catalysts and manipulate it in various ways.  There is a mention of wizards (who seem different than mages).  It made me want more stories set in this world.

The year was never stated (to my recollection), but there are appropriate markers (fashion, automobiles) to give readers an educated guess.

Henry needs a mobility aid and can tire easily at times.  His levels of magic have a real impact on his body to the point where he also needs medication.  Basically, he's a spoonie and doesn't always know what each day will bring.  The book deals with this aspect well.

Henry and Ivy complement each other nicely.  Their history is given enough time on the page for the reader to understand their connection.  There is a sex scene at the end, but it isn't explicit.

Overall, it's a book worth your time.

~*~
Biography:  Ennis Rook Bashe is a nonbinary graduate student from New York who loves their rescue cat, making cosplay TikToks, and watching horror game streamers. Find them on Twitter at @ennisrookbashe. Follow their newsletter at https://tinyletter.com/EnnisRookBashe :D

Friday, February 7, 2020

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc (Review)

Image:  Illustrated, green leaves with black lines cover the picture.  In the leaves, there are other images, the largest is a black and green house with white windows.  There is also a foot, a hand, an eye, an ear, and a crutch, which are all white with black outlines.  On the bottom left corner, there are three small purple squares. A big purple square on the bottom right says the title and author of the book in white letters.

Note:  I received an ARC in order to write a review.  The launch date was the fourth, but some places are having delays.

Content Warnings for the book:  Rape (in Sleeping Beauty), murder, ableism, and suicidal ideation.
~*~
Once upon a time, a disabled woman wrote a book about disability representation in western fairy-tales...

Part author origin story, part fairy-tale history, and part disability activism—this book does a lot in 235 pages.

Quote:  "Fairy tales and fables are never only stories: they are the scaffolding by which we understand crucial things."

Each chapter weaves tropes found in fairy-tales around something in real life, whether it's stereotypes enforced in modern media, filicide, an event in the author's life, or the history surrounding certain countries as fairy-tales came to be. The chapters are broken into chunks to make then easily digestible.  The pace of the book is sprightly, though the author's research seems extensive.  It's balanced well.

Quote:  "Why, in all of these stories about someone who wants to be something or someone else, was it always the individual who needed to change, and never the world?"

The fairy-tales discussed in this book aren't just the cheerful, Disney versions but the dark originals as well (with some being summarized in-depth).  There were tales I never heard of before like The Maiden Without Hands, Hans My Hedgehog, and Riquet With the Tuft mixed in with stories including Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty.  And, it isn't just historical fairy-tales looked at—the author looks at modern tales like Shrek and adjacent stories like Marvel's superheroes.

Quote:  "It isn’t a stretch to draw a line from the Grimms’ treatment of stories and storytelling as a nationalistic device through to Nazi Germany and the depiction of the disabled, othered body as something that needs to be extinguished."

This book taught me many things.  One of the most interesting/shocking to me was how Nazis glommed on to Grimm fairy-tales as an ultimate ideal because they erase so much diversity. Another fascinating tidbit was that ancient Greeks thought things (or humans) could only have true beauty if they were "useful"—excluding most disabled folks in (I'm sure) many abled people's minds.

The only issue I have with the book is that the writing can be a bit repetitive in spots.  Something I read once in chapter two will appear twice more by the time I finish the book.  Thankfully, it doesn't happen very often.

Quote:  "How much time does the disabled person spend trying to conform to society’s expectation of what it means to be a body in the world, when it would be so much easier to move through life without conforming?"

Disability activists are quoted throughout the text and/or thanked at the end.  The names belong to some of the most influential members of our community:  Inani Barbarin, Andrew Gurza, Grace Lapointe, Alice Wong, and more.  It made the book feel quite inclusive to me.

Current-day narratives are also talked about in the form of our hashtags/movements, projects, and articles.  We are shaping the world, and our stories, from the cold clay of the past.  Amanda Leduc honors both our past and future in this engrossing read.
~*~
Author biography:  Amanda Leduc’s essays and stories have appeared in publications across Canada, the US, and the UK. She is the author of the novels The Miracles of Ordinary Men and the forthcoming The Centaur’s Wife. She has cerebral palsy and lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where she works as the Communications Coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), Canada’s first festival for diverse authors and stories.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Personal Responsibility and Mindset

Able-bodied person:  Just change your mindset.  Everything else will come.
Me:  It's not that easy for disabled artists.  There are real barriers.
Able-bodied person:  Let's talk about them!  I welcome discussion.

I begin to list the myriad of ways disabled artists are locked out of participating in their industries and how it's all ableism to varying degrees.  I follow it up by saying inspirational slogans and "mindset changes" only go so far when a lot of the resistance in an artist's career is external.  I attempt balance and clarity.  She (the able-bodied person) was already dismissive of a disabled artist speaking their truth before I became involved.

Able-bodied person:  Where is the personal responsibility?  Yes, "ableism" this and that.  It's a word I won't soon forget.  Where's the call to action?

Other people comment taking her side when no sides existed. Her friends and colleagues imply I was calling her an ableist (because she's pro-slogan, I guess).  I assuage everyone's feelings as much as possible before bowing out.  I didn't answer her questions, but I wanted to.
~*~
Where is my personal responsibility in what?  My career? Responsibility in changing things for disabled creatives?

Just because I talk about the bullshit disabled artists face, doesn't mean I try nothing with my career or for my community. I still write, edit, submit, run a mentor program, and promote my work on social media.  A person can hustle and still rage against injustice.  There are very few artists who do absolutely nothing but bitch about ableism.  Why do I feel like she was subtly asking me about being complicit in my own oppression?

I'm not sure I could help her with a "call to action".  People either decide exclusion and bigotry are wrong and people should be allowed equal chance and participation... or they don't.  After learning something, people either expand their knowledge and find a way to help... or they don't.  I didn't realize I needed a podium-ready speech to make someone care about injustice. Maybe I could've given her answers if she asked what allies can do, but the onus was pushed back onto me.  Perhaps she just wanted a happier conversation than ableism often requires.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Upcoming Changes

I often ponder this space.  What needs improving?  Is the blog even necessary?  What can I do to better serve our community?  No matter how much I kick it around, I have zero conclusions.

But, I believe indecision freezes a person.  If I thought about everything indefinitely, no progress would be made.  It's better to pick a direction than stagnate.  So, let's roll.

Changes:

1.  I updated the "About/FAQ" and "Submissions" pages this week for clarity.  They reflect the choice to include disabled/neurodivergent creatives of all spots and stripes.  I also expanded the types of things I'll consider for the blog!  If you have questions, feel free to contact me.

2.  I will be altering the criteria for applicants in our mentor program in the coming weeks.  Mentees with advanced degrees will no longer be completely excluded.

3.  I, Jennifer Ruth Jackson, will only write two blog posts a month at most.  I'm hoping work and posts from contributors will fill the weeks I don't, but if it doesn't happen... it just doesn't.

4.  I'm going to be approaching certain artists this year.  There are so many creative people in our community doing incredible work, and I want to highlight it all.  Of course, I'm a chicken, so this makes me exceedingly nervous.  They can't all refuse, right?

Friday, January 3, 2020

Giveaway: Falling for Myself by Dorothy Ellen Palmer

Image description:  On a blue background (with all the text in white), it says "Falling for Myself" in big letters across the top half.  The "o" in "for" is a racing wheelchair symbol.  Under the title, it says "a memoir" in small, lowercase letters.  The author's name is written across the bottom.

We are giving away a copy of the memoir Falling for Myself by Dorothy Ellen Palmer. The entry window starts today (January 3rd) and ends on February 27th. Learn more about the book by clicking here (the link goes to Amazon).     

Rules: 

1.  Open to anyone in the world. If the winner is outside of the 48 contiguous United States, they will receive the Kindle edition. If the winner resides in one of the 48 states, they will have the option of  the Kindle edition or a physical copy.

2.  People may enter by leaving a comment on this post, emailing us at handyuncappedpen@gmail.com or getting in touch with us on Twitter @HandUnPen. Please make it clear what you are contacting us for.

3.  Only one entry per person.

4.  Drawing will be random, and the winner will be notified on February 28th (by 11:59 PM CST) via the method they entered with. So, if the person who won entered via email, they will receive an email... and so on.

5.  No substitutions. Void where prohibited.