Friday, October 23, 2020

The Life I Lead by Lisa Jones

Maybe if I pretend
I don’t see
The way you look at me
This cane will fade
And I’ll feel whole

Maybe if I pretend
I’m beautiful
You’ll love me again
Like a woman
Not a dependent cripple

Maybe if I pretend
I’m someone else
I can live a life
Without fear of being
Trapped in this body
Biography:  Lisa Jones writes poetry as a form of therapy. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Deaf Girl Reviews Music: Listening Exercise by Su Zi

Some of us are High Risk; no one is invulnerable, immortal. So, to what lengths will we go to feed our souls; to see Art Live, to be present for art, and at what risk? For some communities, risks have been thrust upon us—a lack of mask and distance mandates, open bars, tourists, defiance of simple hygiene, the refusal of the infected to quarantine. To wade into such danger calls forth good cause: to see, perhaps, to experience live music.

An opportunity presented itself through a local gathering of Cars N Coffee, a monthly event in many communities that invites lovers of the internal combustion engine to congregate and glory in the intrinsic folk art of special vehicles (horseless). My local Cars N Coffee has gone from a dead strip mall’s parking lot to that of the local Harley dealer, and there was an advertisement for Live Music. Car shows are outside, and it’s possible to step away from the other humans, and it had been a very long time since I had heard anyone play their instrument live—so hungry, I was so hungry.

Cars N Coffee is a Noise Fix. There is an erratic orchestration of loud exhaust displays as a show of engine power, with sometimes a side of sheer American Art in some of the cars. Folks come and go all morning. If you are lucky, there will be some Classics, some Street Rods—handmade, homemade Outsider Art cars. To stand next to such an engine is a whole body experience; the timing, the intensity of decibels. I have heard someone tuning exhaust baffles as if the resulting song were to play a solo at a plush music hall, someone tuning an engine by ear for the percussion. When a few cars start up, the air is thickened.

That Sunday, in a drizzle from yet another storm (a cup of coffee sounds lovely—except we are High Risk, and we were a Hot Spot, and not everyone is in a mask), the stage stands covered, but empty; a stroll of the grounds reveals a back pavilion where a single man gallants the microphone, and the band from up front is taking a break. It was not difficult to stand away from folks under the remaining tree. The guitarist, Chris Ryals, was deft enough to know what he was about via triplicate riffs with a nod to the LatinBeat. For some moments, there was only that guitar, singing against the corner of green. Across the way, the other remaining tree saw a resettlement of a flock of displaced birds: the guitar’s perfect audience. For some moments, there was only the damp, open air and the sound of the guitar, purely. The fresh and liquid air and the song the man was making with his guitar. 

Strolling past some vendors, painted poodles, other visitors—it’s that urban game of whose line of walking is this, plus who is in a mask (and better, who can rock their mask)—the stage up front is now live with a two-piece band called Peaches and Karim. The stage occupies a corner of the parking lot, where sits parked an old Ford Maverick with a modified breather, redone muscle fashion. I was once stranded by a red Maverick. Then comes a white GTO with a chrome stack of carburetion, but soft mufflers. During all this, the band plays—a man on guitar, a man on a cocktail kit. The band seems to match the various exhaust solos as instruments themselves.  In the spectrum of our listening is the crowd, random clogging tones. A car will bellow and roar out onto US Highway 441. Sometimes there’s a motorcycle—an engine of a different timber and percussion. The band plays on; the drummer in a dark hoodie and shadow, the guitarist and the microphone: he sings vocables (I hear Ahhhh, I hear Ohhhhh) to the drummer’s 2-4 emphasis. If there are words, they are lost to these ears. 

And so to take a moment and listen to live music is to glory in what’s left of my barely-legal hearing: to hear live music again, and to just listen. Perhaps there’s the professionalism of the band, for surely Peaches and Karim were cognizant of the easy-going racial mix of car lovers at this event; they are long-time local party favorites. Perhaps there’s only a guitar playing on a misty Sunday morning to the last local flock of birds.

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, October 9, 2020

The Blind and Art by Carol Farnsworth

I have enjoyed seeing art exhibits. As my sight has decreased, I have learned to rely on verbal and braille descriptions of the displays. I still long to touch the art with my fingertips.

I was able to do this in Death Valley at a place named ”Scottie’s Castle”. It was a large home built in the early 1900’s. It contains many decorative carvings in the woodwork and brass knobs. The carvings are in the shape of the animals and cacti found in the area.

The docent was delighted to have a visually-impaired person in his group. He put on a glove and guided my fingers to touch all the carvings and the brass bird heads that were the faucets. He told the rest of the group that they could not touch anything. He and I explored all the surfaces. I was embarrassed and delighted to get a tactile and audio tour.
My husband and I are members of a sculpture park, and I take delight in touching the art in a garden setting. The docents watch but don’t stop me from lightly touching the art. I have even sat on one art bench to get the dimensions of the piece. The docents are there to prevent small children from climbing. They understand this touching is how I experience the art.
My local city sponsors a large art show each fall. I was worried if I would have to be content with descriptions of the art pieces. When we got to the outside pieces, I was able to touch parts of the large ones. Some pieces had signs inviting the public to touch.

If the artist was near his or her piece of art and they listened to the art being described to me, they would ask if I would like to touch the piece. They would point out parts of the art they were most proud of.

One woman, after finding out that I was a knitter, placed my fingertips on a carving of a men’s sweater and asked if I could feel the dropped stitch in the pattern of the sweater. I told her I could.

If the art was not able to be touched, the artist put a display of the art pieces for people to feel. This was done in a piece that was 
covered with three-dimensional flowers. She had several flowers in front of the picture to touch.

Another artist allowed me to feel the muscles in a group of running horses.
I have not found a way to tactilely enjoy paintings. I know that the 
art may be hurt with touch. I did find a group of paintings that had sand and other mediums mixed in with the paint. The art was tactile and I could discern parts of the art by touch.

Including the blind when setting up an art exhibit takes some time, but it is well worth the effort.

I continue to support the arts and making them accessible to all.
Biography (in first person):  I was born with glaucoma but have become totally blind in the last four years. I have a teaching degree in regular and special education and a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology. I worked with mentally disabled adults (many were nonverbal). I learned to use many techniques to elicit communication.

Similarly, I will use many tools to deal with blindness. I will use braille, voice over, and Seri to assist me with writing.

Other interests include gardening, listening to audio books, and riding a tandem bike, which my husband John and I have been doing for 22 years.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Not for Me by Julie Stevens

When I want to disappear
I look down at my feet,
imagine my head nestling under my toes,
or I wear my smile
overflowing with happiness and hope they won’t notice.

But there’s butterflies in my tummy
flying so fast I might fall over.
If I bite my nails or twiddle my hair,
they might decide it’s time to rest
just for a minute.

Today’s the day I don’t want to be here,
today’s the day I didn’t want to get dressed,
so I’ll wear my mask
pretend to be happy,
walk with them
looking my best.

Julie Stevens lives in Cambridge, UK. She has had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for 30 years. Her poems tend to reflect the impact MS has on her life, as well as other topics close to her heart. Her poems have recently been published in various magazines, online and in print, most recently The Blue NibCrossways, The Honest Ulsterman and Dreich Magazine. She came second in the Dreich Chapbook Competition with her chapbook Quicksand. Her website is

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Musings From a Spazzy Crafter

Is a craft still my own when I feel like I am an assistant? I struggle with this question often.

I am working on a friendship bracelet and someone is working with me on it because I have trouble tying knots. The person makes the knot and I pull it tight. Is that my creation?

Does it matter how much help is needed? Does it matter the type of
help that is needed? If I string beads for bracelets but need help finishing the bracelets, can I still claim them as mine?

How do I show appreciation for people that help me create?

These are some of the questions that go through my head.

Do you struggle with these questions while you're crafting?

Musing and making,

Spazzy Crafter

P.S. The next post will be about card making.

Jennifer's Thoughts:  Personally, I think it depends on a few factors. If you need significant help on a type of project and are doing it as a business, giving your helper a share in the profits might be the way to go. If you're making something just for a gift, perhaps thanking them is all you need. Always work out what is expected beforehand. 

Little things like having someone tie a knot doesn't invalidate your ownership of the creation. You could consider the amount of time it takes for someone to help you, or how much of the project you need assistance with to determine if what you're working on is a collaboration. That's the thing: Even if you both put in equal amounts of effort, you are collaborating with someone to make something gorgeous and are not an assistant. It doesn't mean you're less of an artist (the design was still your idea, and you're providing labor and materials). It just means what you give to the person helping you depends on their amount of labor.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

gears by Su Zi (a Poem)


all night long I watch the traffic lights change,

and I listen for the coming of ice.

the police come and pet my hair.

day comes with watery shadows on the white walls

it comes with orange juice

rice taped into a diary

and the pale moments of tenderness with the cat.

but still every week I dream I lose my teeth

standing at a pay phone




and still there are those long dead weeds

at the freight yard

where I sit in my wheelchair

pulsing with the speech of steel.

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, September 11, 2020

New Workshop in Ableism

One of the tiny positives of our current world is the switch from in-person events to virtual ones.  No wondering if the conference is accessible for wheelchair-users!  No more fatigue from long flights!  Everything is just a bit more open to disabled and neurodivergent folks than it was before (barring website accessibility barriers and cost).

In July on Twitter, I saw someone advertising a two-week poetry workshop for fifty dollars. When a two-hour workshop can cost seventy-five dollars, fifty seems like a steal.  

I emailed the coordinator with a list of questions. Yes, the virus is what caused her to start workshops online. She has had multiple years of in-person workshops with all different kinds of people in attendance (specifically brought up LGBT+ folks and PoC). She mentioned that she's a graduate of Prestigious Writing Program. It was a nice response. I wrote her again and asked if there were any visibly disabled people who ever taught her workshops.

She responded:  "There are no divisive topics in the workshop."

Okay... what topics? She practically gushed about inclusiveness and how important it was in her first email. Surely, she couldn't mean disabled people were divisive!

I asked for clarification.  I thought she wrote an email meant for someone else.

Her tone was totally reversed from our first email.  She started using smaller words and became condescending. The workshop wasn't for teaching disabled people how to write "cute, little stories for their own good" but was for "serious, professional writers".  Instructors wouldn't have time to "babysit" people through trauma or "forming thoughts".

I replied one last time and assured her I wasn't asking for art therapy.  I told her many disabled people are professional, published writers.  Some of them might even pay to take her damn workshop!

Her last reply was simply,  "I don't think this is the place for someone like you".
As of writing this, I haven't seen anything else on social media about the workshop.  The post that talked about it on Twitter is gone.  There is no website with the name (though she said it wouldn't be up officially until autumn).  Did she change her mind?  Was it a scam (though, I don't know why she wouldn't scam crips)?  If I drop the name here, will she just change it?

I promise to keep you updated if anything happens.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Two Poems by Kathryn O'Driscoll


Bones dislocate from rawened sockets
as the perception of self is wrenched and wrecked aside.
Rib-bones snap and contract sharply concave:
they form a brackenel nest of the interlocking twig fingers
of mothers, of sisters, of brothers and starlight 
the defences set in sticks, in stones, in love, bend
and readjust to allow the shards of cartilage to slip inside
and pierce through a tough exterior, to the heart of the matter.
Dislocate everything and reassemble it differently
because we, ( I ), we, see what you might not;
you’re fucking beautiful.
An Elegy, A Eulogy

My body is a slow motion funeral. 
It is the shrieks of loss, echoing in a church's vaulted ceilings.
It is the reverberation in the votives flickering. 
It is stained glass liquifying in the sun
and dripping out of its frames,
tearfuls down the ledges. 
My body is an elegy, a eulogy, 
a goodbye long overdue. 
My body is a roof beam coming down on the whole damn place,
hymns and all. 
Biography:  Kathryn O'Driscoll is a spoken word poet, writer and activist from Bath who talks openly about her disability and mental health in her wide range of poems. Aside from performing poetry across the South West; she’s also a Bristol slam champion who has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, at multiple UK National competitions and on BBC Radio Bristol. She has a first class degree in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Deaf Girl Reviews Music: Yote Magus by Su Zi

Image:  A carved, block print of a standing person with wings. They are blue with raised arms. To the left of the print are the artist's tools.

We were told to stay home.

As we turned even more to our communication devices, our cloudy realities, the concerts and festivals came within reach—we saw performances by artists who were, like us, too at home—there was art and music and models catwalking their kitchens. Somehow the algorithms shifted, and it was easier to find the outsiders, those few in followers who also showed their art, had been showing their art. From a graphic perspective, Instagram presents art in a way that is artist-viewing friendly, and there’s always the hope to see a dress or some pottery that lifts us for a moment. It was in searching for interesting printmaking, that so there appeared a printmaker whose work was consistently stunning: vibrant and sensual, technically perfect—Yote Magus.

When art is encountered online, the experience is compressed by the presentation features of the device; we lose scale, and our experience is with the kernel of the idea and the physical perception of it. The printmaking presented by Yote Magus was so visually forceful that the experience of it as a handheld image did not diminish a perceptible power. In following this account, viewers were treated to not only printmaking process videos, but also animation shorts, and finally, a dancing skeleton video that was a short for a full musical composition, “Really, Bitch”.

Beginning with a tom-tom beat and a whisper, the single vocalist relates a narrative of betrayal; however, rhyme is not rigid in the lyrical construct, it is used as a highlight to the narrative, as in “rain/gold chain”. The song itself is an interplay of layered rhythms, much in the way that the artist layers colors in his prints. In the song’s circumstance, the percussion beat emphasizes both the tom-tom downstroke, and a top hat emphasis on all but the second beat, in the standard tetrameter (4/4)—which is then layered with the whispered narrative. The music progresses alongside the narrative, until the two become entwined on the chorus phrase “really, bitch”. From a metrical perspective, this phrase is a construct of three syllables in a Stressed-Unstressed-Stressed pattern that might be notated as either half-notes or as an amphimacer, an atypical construction. Towards the song’s last minute, the chorus shifts and becomes “something”, a more common trochaic construction of two beats, with the first as foremost. And while the lyrical construct of the song provides a storyline where the emotion is refreshingly perceived (as opposed to the too common fatigue brought by fashionable, emotional yammering), it’s the insistence on the entwined meter that makes this song so replayable: it’s a danceable beat.  The metrics of the song encourage a salsa step that is both subtle and potent, the listener becomes participatory, the whispered voice becomes an incantation.

When we find something striking, resonant, there is the sigh of pleasure, and then we look to see “Who Made This?”. More academic minds are easily satisfied by a research of authorship that may strike others as a snobby form of “Who’s Your Daddy?”. Nonetheless, although “Really, Bitch” appears to be the solo offering of Yote Magus on Apple iTunes, the Instagram account yields a searchable name and the appearance of the artist on other platforms. We discover that the artist is Peruvian, has followers, follows hashtags of hawk tattoos, but consistently posts work that is visually and acoustically captivating.

For those of us who are Staying Home, for whom certain of our limited joys Outside no longer exist, finding the unusual online is a focused aspect of our lives. It is now dangerous for us to fling ourselves into the contaminated throng, and so the online art we can find becomes crucial. And despite the iconic horror symbols and mythological imagery Yote Magus employs in his prints, the lyrics of “Really, Bitch” are as current as the 2020 copyright, as current of that of a thieving drug addict and of a life that is far too street for staying at home, if there is a home. And in our homes thousands of miles away, we find a music that is almost cheerful in rhythm, decidedly danceable, despite a gritty reality portrayed in the lyrics. And in this we find a gift—the luxury of finding an artist , and doing so from a point of relative safety.

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, August 21, 2020

Fog by Joshua P. Sorensen

Phantom pain! or is it real?
I should know... I do know this.
So simple, like swimming.
Swimming through mud.
Hands quiver.
Medicine helps that.
No drug clears the fog.
The easy, the difficult, the now unreachable.
I slap my head.
Fails to clear the mind.
Makes me feel better.
Expectation management
The key to my survival.
I am not what I was,
But I am still great.

Maybe, I’ll just stay in today
Biography:  Joshua P. Sorensen is from Orem, Utah (United States).  He graduated with a Masters of Military History from Norwich University. His extensive travels inspire him to write poetry and short fiction. Drawn to horror writing, he particularly enjoys writing monster fiction. His other loves include history, nature, and all things geek. Joshua’s current life goal is to bring delightful chills to all ages, particularly the young. His children’s picture books are available online or at your favorite bookseller. He is a member of the HWA and LUW. He can be found on Facebook: #SorensenVagabondWriter and Amazon:

Friday, August 14, 2020

Me at My Most Vulnerable by Lisa Jones

I want to hide within myself
Away from everyone and everything
Voices natter inside my head
Feelings swell
Insecurities rise
I don’t know how to control them
A blinding fear overtakes
Flutters in my chest
Brings tears to eyes
A croak in my voice
I’m afraid to make too much noise
Others will hear
See the real me
The one with a degenerative illness
The one who is weak
Has been abandoned
Despite all she gave
The one who feels unloved
Even though all she wants is to be loved
This is me
Me at my most vulnerable
Biography:  Lisa Jones writes poetry as a form of therapy. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Spazzy Crafter Introduces Herself

I have spastic cerebral palsy which affects the left side of my body. I love to craft, so finding ways to adapt or adjust how I make crafts has been an interesting experience.

I have become a serious crafter in the last decade.

Crafts I am able to do with adaptation or assistance:
  • Card making
  • Diamond Dotz (Diamond Paintings)
  • Plastic canvas
  • Friendship bracelets
  • Ceramic painting
  • Loom knitting
  • Stamped cross stitch
  • Needlepoint
  • Beadwork (earrings/necklaces/bracelets)
In upcoming posts, I will be discussing each of these crafts, how I adapt them, and other adjacent topics. I will also be discussing crafts that I am not able do along with those I would like to try.

Does anyone have any crafting recommendations?

Yours truly,

Spazzy crafter

Friday, July 24, 2020

Market Updates for July 2020

Magazines, Websites, Etc. (for Us)

Blanket Sea is on hiatus.
Barking Sycamores has a new home.
The Pen 2 Paper Contest now has an entry fee of $5.00 USD.
Fixed Monstering's submission link.


Quiet Storm
These Pills Don't Come in My Skin Tone


The Barbellion Prize
Disabled and Inter-Abled Relationships
Red Rover Magazine
It's Real
Réapparition Journal
First-Person Presence 

Inclusive Mainstream Publications

Lockjaw is on hiatus.
Updated the submission link for Dancing Girl Press.


The Establishment 
The Mondegreen 
Crab Fat Magazine 
Polychrome Ink 
Brine Literary  


Sparks of Calliope
Night Music Journal
Suddenly, and Without Warning

Friday, July 10, 2020

Dyslexia Runs in Families by Karen Downs-Barton

Light slants into the scullery kitchen
where I am looking at pictures in comics.

Tripe is bubbling in a battered saucepan
while in a Pyrex jar an onion cools in white liquor.

Bapo has rocked back on his one good chair,
balanced between floating and falling.

His newspaper is a curtain concealing his face;
he might be sleeping or pretending, like I am.

I look at the smudged lines of old print,
his earthy fingers supporting the pages.

I scan the images of upside-down people,
whose lives his hold has made a turmoil.
Note - Bapo:  Grandfather, colloquial Romani
Biography:  Karen Downs-Barton is a neurodiverse poet from the Roma community. She is a Creative Writing Masters candidate at Bath Spa University, UK where her manuscript explores experiences of a Roma child growing up in the state childcare system. Her work is forthcoming or published in Tears in the Fence, Night Picnic Journal, The High Window, Alyss, The Otolith, The Fem Review, The Goose, The Curly Mind, Persian Sugar in English Tea, amongst others. Find her at:

Friday, July 3, 2020

Q&A: Jake Goldsmith Founder of The Barbellion Prize

The Barbellion Prize is a new book prize for people with chronic, lifelong conditions whose work speaks on the experience of disability or chronic illness. All books submitted must be published in the current year or published later in the year. From the website: "The awarded work can be of any genre in fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction from around the world - whether it is in English, in translation, traditionally published, or self-published." The deadline is October 31st. There is no submission fee. You can find more at the website (click here).

I thought I'd ask Jake Goldsmith, the founder, a few questions about the award.
How long did it take you (from concept to execution) to create the prize?

I had always wanted to see a greater representation of illness and of disability in literature, given how weighty and important these subjects are. And history has some great examples of brilliant work from ill writers. Kafka. Nietzsche. Virginia Woolf. But often when we discuss being inclusive and intersectional, we leave disability and the chronically ill off the list. That’s upsetting, we need to be heard a lot more. Representation is still pretty low. That was the concept, then, that I’d been thinking more about since last year.

I wanted better representation and to reward it. It took maybe a couple months before I met one of our trustees, Elizabeth Ferretti, who lives locally to me, and discussed the idea of such a prize for ill and disabled writers, like me, and started to talk about what we’d need to do. It was easy to create a website and Twitter was invaluable for finding people and contacts. It’s surely been much easier to do this in the Internet Age too.

The National Centre for Writing are also playing a part. Elizabeth had contacts there, such as Chris Gribble, and they should be helping us in the future with publicity and possibly hosting events. They also help other book prizes such as the Republic Of Consciousness Prize, for independent publishers. This has all happened in under half a year or so, slowly persevering.

In a few months we had judges and advisors on board and we made accounts for donations. Some of that process was stressful in finding out exactly what to do, whether we are a small charity, etc, but it worked out pretty quickly. We are still having to work things out as we go, and in the future will likely need a lot more help if we become anywhere near vaguely successful. We have support in principle from the MS Trust, and would hope to have further support from others too in the future.

What factors lead you to include books by caretakers as well as chronically ill/disabled writers for the prize? Where do you see caregiving by able-bodied, non-ill folks in the spectrum of disability/sick literature?

Again, disability literature and writing on illness is still thin on the ground, really. Certainly it is not often a mainstream consideration making bestseller lists or being readily discussed as much as it should be. There is a strong sub genre of works written by doctors about working with patients, and cancer memoirs, but it’s still divided in part from other disability lit.

Carers play such an integral part in the lives of many people who are ill. My mother is my primary carer – I’d very literally be dead without her. They play an important part in the life of many disabled and long-term ill people, and often also go unheard. Literature from the perspective of carers - memoirs, poetry, novels, etc - is just as underrepresented. It deserves to be heard and rewarded too, so it felt inconsiderate to exclude it.

How is the judging process going to work?  Will there be volunteer readers before the judges see the finalists, or will the judges read every submission?

We have a main panel of 3 judges, including myself, and a panel of advisors that are also helping to read some of the submissions and help the judges better form their thoughts and opinions. The judges will be the ones with the final say on any longlist, shortlist, and the winner. The advisory panel does not have a direct vote but are there to help diversify opinion and ideas and help with the workload. As well as help with the running of the prize, publicity, and, well, advice. With 3 judges we should not be stuck in any deadlock situations, such as with an even number of judges, but if for some reason the judges cannot decide on one particular winner, I, in an executive role, will be able to make an executive decision.

We are publicly announcing our judges and advisory panel in July, delayed due to Covid-19 swallowing up the news so much.

The submissions are also being lent out to various trusted friends of the judges and advisors to read at their leisure - to help us form our opinions. These people won’t have any voting power on who wins, but are of course helpful for us in finalising a longlist, and then the rest.

Why did you decide to open the prize to self-published books (alongside traditionally published)?

Few prizes do this, notably the Jhalak Prize does. As disabled literature and illness literature is not often attractive to publishers (unless, cynically, it’s the ‘inspiration porn’ kind), many writers often have to resort to self-publishing. Independent publishers are much more likely to accept disability literature than large publishers, it also seems.

Theoretically, a poor housewife from Peru unheard of by anyone could self-publish a work of poetry about their life with MS, and we could discover it and it could win – if it’s good enough of course.

We would also hope than any self-published works that reach a shortlist could be accepted by a publisher if the author so wanted. How much talent and good literature has been slighted due to the lack of money or recognition? This is an even more acute problem for disabled people, so it’s good to help rectify that.

What are your three favourite books on illness/disability?

Barbellion’s ‘The Journal of a Disappointed Man’, obviously. That work is beautiful. The prize is named in homage to Barbellion for a reason.
I love Oliver Sacks, and many of his works. You could take anything from him. ‘On The Move’, his biography, being a good summation. ‘Awakenings’, too.

My favourite authors are people who suffered with illness (TB) but didn’t write explicitly about it. Albert Camus; and Manès Sperber, who also had respiratory problems. What they wrote best about was political and moral injustice. Camus is at his best in his ‘Combat’ articles and essays, a reluctant moral voice, and Sperber wrote wonderfully about historicist dogma overshadowing human needs, in his biographical trilogy ‘All Our Yesterdays’ being especially good. It has always resonated with me considering the injustice I felt and saw against the disabled, and oppressed, and the more general political evils they were describing certainly affected and did not care much for those with illness or disability. Their own health too gave them a perspective on these things that would be harder to access if they were conventionally abled and healthy.

I feel close to them, politically and in spirit. All of us struggling to breathe, as it were.

How important is it (in your opinion) for awards, presses, and other ventures for the disabled/ill community to be run by members of that community?

All our judges have some sort of long term illness or disability. I have Cystic Fibrosis, diabetes, autism, scoliosis, depression, and a host of other conditions.

Our advisors also have disabilities, but some of them are also abled people with knowledge of the publishing and book industry, as well as academic knowledge on disability.

I do not believe it is imperative that all those advocating for disabled and ill representation be disabled themselves. We can have good allies and friends working for us too, obviously. We need their help. Of course, publishing particularly needs to work in better representing, in who it employs or publishes, disabled people as well as underrepresented black, Asian, and other minority ethnic groups. We seem to be living in an acute moment right now where racial injustice and brutality is receiving more reflection. Those issues often also intersect with disability. Many people killed by police in the US are also disabled. Brutality towards disabled people is even worse in countries like Brazil and India. There’s some shocking statistics. In short, better treatment and representation of these groups is truly important.

Friday, June 26, 2020

An Untitled Poem by Pamela Hope

Pamela's note:  This is a piece of a collection in progress, on themes of trauma and deformity.
TW:  Blood and violence


Get out your knife
                Snatch my blade

Press it into this rotting flesh

Check for marbling, watch for green
The content maggots eating me
Your five sharpened edges

Fingers pinching me
Squeezing this raw meat
Ground up and slab
                I mold around your touch
I squeeze through your fingers

Those blades drawing blood

The vulture sniffs me out
                And caws from afar

Look up
                We see
                                Him circle
Biography:  Pamela Hope is a disabled and disfigured creative and thinker.  She has a background in education, organizations, and free-lance writing; and currently works in banking, of all things.  Follow her @PamelaHope3.

Friday, June 19, 2020

(Review) Keep Clear: My Adventures with Asperger’s by Tom Cutler

Image:  The background is white. At the top in big, black letters "Keep Clear" appears.  Below is a road sign of a red triangle with a picture in black and white of a car falling into water from a cliff.  Below the triangle, in smaller black text, the subtitle of the book and the author's name appears.
Note:  I received a copy of this book in order to review it.  The American release is early next month.

Book content warnings:

Alcohol use
Abuse (mentions/brief descriptions)
Dead animals
Suicide (discussion/description)
Racism in others (brief)
Part manual on autism/Asperger's and part memoir, Tom Cutler takes us through his Asperger's diagnosis at age fifty-five and his life events with a newly-acquired lens.  This book has British humor, heartache, and a whole lot of knowledge.  There are few chapters to guide us through, but there are numerous section breaks to make things more manageable.

The descriptions and details are vivid and plentiful.  The author tells you what it feels like to have a panic attack, be near meltdown, have an aversion to touch, and other things some people may never feel.  He goes through the history of autism/Asperger's being recognized as a neurodiversity, some of the famous people throughout history who've had (or were suspected to have) Asperger's Syndrome, and what a diagnosis can mean for people... what it meant for him.

There is discussion on the possible evolutionary advantages of people with Asperger's in the general population, and the author makes the distinction between autistic people (low functioning) and those with Asperger's (high functioning).  I believe people can take whatever label applies to them that feels right, but I have complicated feelings on differentiating any disability or neurodivergence in what seems like an "us versus them" view.

The book discusses the suicide rate for people with Asperger's (nine times higher than neurotypical people).  At one point, while struggling through his early college days and a breakup, Tom (who has type one diabetes) stopped taking his insulin.  His depression was so immense that it cost him two touch-and-go weeks in the hospital.  No one knew how lonely he was.

There are spots of sunshine.  Tom Cutler is a successful humorist with a family.  His depression, a constant visitor throughout his life, loosened its grip once Tom could view his actions (and those of others towards him) through the lens of his diagnosis.  His interest in spinning things, sound effects, and British road signs had an extra dimension once he found out he had Asperger's.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to understand autism/Asperger's better, and my lovelies on the spectrum looking for an excellent account of a fellow traveler.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Giveaway: Only Air by Stephen Lightbown

Image:  On a white background, a drawn tree with white bark stands, taking most of the image. On the left side, the limbs are bare. On the right side of the tree, green leaves are being blown by wind. At the top of the cover, the title is in all caps in the same shade of green as the leaves. The poet's name is below in all caps in black.

We are giving away a copy of the poetry collection Only Air by Stephen Lightbown. The entry window starts today (June 5th) and ends on July 30th. Learn more about the book by clicking here (the link goes to Amazon).


1.  This giveaway is only open to people in the 48 contiguous United States because the book is available in physical format only.  (I apologize to readers living outside the eligible area.)

2.  People may enter by leaving a comment on this post, emailing us at 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 July 31st (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.

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:
@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.

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”
“Always tell the truth; be impeccable with your word”
“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
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 or follow her on Twitter @kalesastre. She also has a list of publications available at

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!
Instagram:  @reapparitionjournal
Facebook:  Rèapparition Journal
Twitter:  @ReapparitionJ