Friday, September 10, 2021

Things Changing on HUP

 1. Submissions for the blog will be open from February 1st through April 30th and August 1st through October 31st. We will be closed to submissions all other times. 

2. The mentor program will follow the submission schedule. This will give us more time to find and confirm with our mentors. Not sure if other changes need to be made.

3. The Peer-to-Peer initiative was never utilized, so we shut it down. We are also considering closing the Disabled/Neurodivergent Creatives List as there aren't many entries for it.

4. Only nonfiction (including reviews and interviews) submissions will have the requirement of being connected to disability/neurodivergence and art at the same time. Poetry, fiction, visual, and performance art will not. Of course, submissions are still only considered from our community.

* We'd like to keep The Cripendy Contest, but we have to see how much interest there is in it going forward. 

Questions? Contact us!


Friday, September 3, 2021

Video Games: Overcooked 2 & Wheelchair-User Rep

The Overcooked franchise (debuting in 2016) is a game series where little chefs work together in obstacle-laden kitchens to deliver food to customers within a time limit. Each level amps the difficulty into a chaotic frenzy of tossed food (no health inspectors involved), fires, and lost orders. Players must get high enough scores to unlock new areas and characters.

The first Overcooked had a raccoon in a wheelchair (he's also unlockable in the sequel). Some people, like me, adored the furry little guy and how he could keep up with the rest of the chefs. Others weren't as thrilled, "why isn't it human?" I still don't have an answer, but it never bothered me much. 

Image: A brown raccoon with no legs sits in a gray wheelchair with a yellow seat. He is smiling and giving a "thumbs up" with his right hand (but has no arm). His chef hat is a soft blue and his uniform is white and red with six black buttons down the front. He wears a red cravat. The chair has no armrests or foot pedals (none do).

Overcooked! 2 (debuting a bit over three years ago) added another wheelchair-user to their roster with a DLC pack. She is a stunt woman... an Evel Knievel on double the wheels! I was immediately drawn to her boldness. A badass woman zipping around and killing it? Yes, more of this!

Image: A caucasian, puppet-like character faces the screen. Her wheelchair is red, white, and blue with stars on the back tires. Her hands have white gloves with a red star in the middle and her outfit is similar to the raccoon's except for the pilot's hat and goggles under her chef's hat with a star on her cravat. A cape is hinted at behind her. She has a smear of batter near the left side of her mouth. A rocket is seen by the right side of her head (attached to the chair).

Skins (changes to an existing character) brought us a Black grandmother who has a dynamite pair of glasses. She looks like she's in on the world's biggest secret which is quite a feat... considering the somewhat simplistic artstyle of the series.

Image: On a two-tone gray background sits a Black woman with full cheeks in a gray and steel blue wheelchair with grip-rims on the back tires. She's holding one hand to her mouth and holding up the other in either a "hello" or "wait" gesture. Black, curly hair sneaks out around the bottom of her light blue chef's hat. Her uniform is a medium blue and looks like the raccoon's. She wears gold hoop earrings and neon pink cat's eye sunglasses.

Every being in a wheelchair goes the same speed as everyone else. People in manual wheelchairs still have both hands ready for serving up requests... without someone pushing them. The lack of realism isn't a deal breaker when your fellow chefs are a unicorn and a walrus, though. 

I haven't seen other types of disability representation in the franchise, but that doesn't mean it won't exist down the road. It might even exist now, since there are characters I came across in my research that I never saw while playing either Overcooked game. It's nice to see a crip is allowed to burn down a kitchen just like everyone else.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Review: Morgan Silver's All the Beautiful Horses by Su Zi

The self-published memoir is rarely expected to be a literary reading experience; however, valuable reading experiences can occur from unexpected books. The memoir, by its nature, seeks to add to our collective wisdom, and that impulse is no more altruistic than in small press and self-published work. Indeed, due to technological mechanization, uniform trade volumes are within the realm of consideration for writers, are easy to shelve in bookstores, and can be interesting curiosities to educated readers. Readers comfortable with online book buying will see a publisher’s imprint as a single detail, and many shopping options will post the most humble publication and the most marketed titles on the same view.

Perhaps in niche topic perusal do curious volumes occur. Morgan Silver’s All the Beautiful Horses (2017) is, at first glance, a memoir about a woman who spent her life with horses, and might be too easily dismissed as a summer read for horse-crazy children only; however, Silver’s memoir goes a bit past stories about horses she has known to stories about who she, herself found herself to be:

      "By age 13, I was at my heaviest, almost 200 pounds, and it was not easy to find clothes in my size. The only used hunt boots I could find that were anywhere close to fitting my calves were men’s size ten with my feet size 8. Even then, I had to have the calves cut open and sew a piece of material into the boots”(28)

Stigma is a familiar topic in memoirs—often overlooked in third person biographies, but often also a distinctive event in an individual’s life. Silver additionally experienced academic problems:

      "School was always hell. I was always the fat kid in my grade […]I remember fearing the walk home from elementary school […] the cruelty of the other kids continued […] Back in those days, learning disabilities were not recognized in an otherwise functional child”(28-29).

Silver makes occasional mention of her weight and her unhappiness at school as a motivation for her life with horses, where she found herself beginning to “win every pony pleasure class we entered”(29). As the memoir continues, we discover a learning disabled woman making a successful career for herself as a professional equestrian.

The Art of Equestrianism is a topic that Silver discusses in each chapter, which is also about a specific equine character. From how to correctly drive a horse trailer, to how to report starvation and abuse, Silver’s memoir covers a lifetime of learning. While horse people are notorious for having their own way of doing things, Silver’s memoir discusses topics uncommon to general horsekeeping and horseshowing; of note is the discussion of side-saddle riding, which was the only way women were allowed to ride a horse in western culture until recent times, but which is now a speciality endeavor. “[…] I slid all over the saddle. I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t sit this horse”(49). Silver goes on to take lessons and attend a summer camp run by Helen Crabtree, who Silver calls “the grand dame of Saddle Seat Equitation”(50). The memoir details study with a number of professional horse people, as well as employment at notable facilities. In traditional equestrian education, this apprenticeship system was the only route to knowledge, and Silver traveled the country to do so.

The reader ought not to be lulled into thinking that this memoir filters out the realities of the horse world. Silver begins with the harsh realities that every horse must collectively fear, and details incompetence at every turn. Yet, if ever a reader seeks to go beyond romanticized notions of the horsey life, or seeks further evidence about the positive effect horses have on stigmatized children, Silver’s memoir is worthy evidence indeed.

~*~
Biography:  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, August 20, 2021

Diversity Lip Service by F.I. Goldhaber

The literary community has always catered to white, abled, neurotypical, cis, straight, (mostly) male voices. The entire establishment is structured to privilege those who have money, which usually doesn't include Black, Indigenous, Latino/a, neurodivergent, trans, disabled, and/or Queer writers.

Achieving success in the literary world requires access to funds for submission and contest entry fees; money to pay for rent, food, and transportation while serving unpaid internships; resources to cover large tuition payments plus travel, living expenses, and forfeiture of any day job paycheck to attend weeks-long workshops or Master's of Fine Arts programs; etc.

Of late, there has been much discussion in literary circles about the need for diversity in what voices are published. But the entire conversation around submissions from disabled, neurodivergent, LGBTQI+, Black, Indigenous, etc. writers is meaningless when publications continue charging fees, or giving weight to expensive pedigrees, that make it cost-prohibitive for all of those marginalized writers to actually submit.

Declaring a desire for diversity, while charging reading and entry fees, is oxymoronic and hypocritical.

I write poetry and essays from the perspective of a queer, xgender, disabled former newspaper reporter published on three continents. For more than four decades publishers of every ilk have paid me to write articles, editorials, reviews, advertising copy, marketing materials, signs, poetry, fiction, personal essays, etc. I often submit my work on spec. I sometimes submit (especially poetry) to non-paying markets. But, I never pay for the privilege of having my work considered for publication.

Recently I learned of a non-fiction contest and, after reading over the guidelines, I realized that a piece I had just completed was a perfect essay for this particular contest. I didn't enter it, however, because this contest required a submission fee.

As is often stated on guidelines pages, the entity claimed to want submissions from writers of color, writers with disabilities, writers who are LGBTQIA, and writers who belong to other marginalized groups.

But, it still charges fees which make the cost of submitting prohibitive, especially for those specific writers.

This particular entity offered a work around. Black and Indigenous writers could enter for free if they chose to self-identify. And a limited number of free entries were offered to low-income writers (which would include many disabled, neurodivergent, Queer, trans, etc. writers) if they were willing to beg for the favor of participating and identify themselves as "low-income".

Rather demeaning.

The publication obviously was aware that its fees present a barrier to many. But it apparently still didn't recognize that the options offered to avoid fees were also problematic.

Normally I just ignore calls for submission of this nature. This publication is hardly alone in charging entry fees while claiming to encourage submissions from marginalized writers, a point you will often find discussed in writers' groups, on Twitter, in forums for people with disabilities, etc. This has become more common since publications started using paid services to manage their submissions. But, this trend ensures the continued centering and advancement of cis, straight, abled, white voices, no matter how much lip service is paid to promoting diversity.

But by providing work arounds, the publication acknowledged that their fees were problematic. That moved me to reach out and send an email to the editors. I wrote on behalf of all writers who, as a result of our society's marginalization, can't afford reading fees and do not choose to beg for the favor of an exception. I also voiced my protest about literary publications monetizing the writers who offer the content that makes their publications possible. And I wrote that email with full expectation of burning this particular bridge.

You cannot imagine my stunned surprise when four days later I received a response from one of the editors that included a list of action points on how they intend to address my concerns.

It's taken me two weeks to recover from the shock enough to write about it.

Granted, this is a publication edited by queer, neurodivergent, activist multi-ethnic creatives. But, they listened. And they are discussing ways to make changes.

I have long advocated against writers submitting to publications that charge reading/entry fees. In 2020, I prepared 150 poetry, 21 non-fiction, and 34 fiction submissions. Each required a fair bit of time and effort: reading the guidelines, making sure each submission adhered to those requirements, formatting to the publisher's/editor's preferences, creating an entry that included whatever information the editor/publisher required. And this was always after reading samples of the publication and to determine whether any and which of my pieces might be appropriate to submit.

This is all a normal part of working as a professional writer. But, if I also had to pay fees for those 150 submissions, even if they only averaged $5 each, I would be out more than $1,000. In one year. And, there is very little correlation between the fees charged, rate of acceptance, and payments made (if any) for work published. For writers, unless they just want to pay to see their work in print, it's a lose/lose game.

So, I have two requests of my fellow writers. First, do not pay reading fees, particularly if you are among those privileged enough for it not to be a problem. Second, write and tell the publications why, especially if it's one that's featured your work in the past. If it's a publication that claims a desire to boost marginalized voices, point out the hypocrisy. If the editors make claims about the diversity of writing they offer or the voices that they uplift, call them out. Let them know that such assertions are specious because they don't know how many writers have never submitted work for consideration to avoid paying their fees.

~*~

Biography:  F.I. Goldhaber's words capture people, places, and politics with a photographer's eye and a poet's soul. As a reporter, editor, business writer, and marketing communications consultant, they produced news stories, feature articles, editorial columns, and reviews for newspapers, corporations, governments, and non-profits in five states. Now paper, electronic, and audio magazines, books, newspapers, calendars, and street signs display their poetry, fiction, and essays. http://www.goldhaber.net/

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

EmpowerHer*Voice Creative Writing Competition

Notes/Caveats:
1. I'm not affiliated with this contest or organization in any way.
2. This competition is for anyone who isn't a cis man. 
3. Looking through their website, they seem to publish mostly people who use she/her pronouns, but the organizer swears they are inclusive and wants to diversify. She says they have changes coming.
4. The organization will be starting a literary magazine soon that doesn't seem to have the gender connotations that the site and writing contest do.
5. They ask for your date of birth... it's for demographic purposes. The organizer said you don't have to include this if uncomfortable.


There is no fee to submit.
Open worldwide.
The deadline is August 30th.
People of marginalized genders only. 
A beige, black, white, and yellow poster announcing the contest. The top has a black rectangle announcing the prize with a white rectangle announcing the theme, the length of work, the prizes, and how long the contest is going on for inside small squares. Underneath all of that, are bullet points and additional information.

The EmpowerHer*Voice Creative Writing Competition wants poetry, fiction, and nonfiction on the theme "Stereotypes and Perceptions". Top prizes will be given out in the categories of poetry and prose. Winners will receive a donation of £250 to an organization of their choice, a Creative Writing Masterclass from a member of Princeton University, a gift package containing books and themed gifts from independent (marginalized gender) creatives, and publication to their new literary magazine. Runners up will receive the gift package/merchandise and up to 20 "laureates" will also be selected to have their submissions published in the literary magazine in October. All participants will receive a certificate (probably electronic).

 Submit up to three pieces via a Google form. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Diamond Painting Overview by Spazzy Crafter

The best way for me to explain diamond painting is it reminds me a lot of paint by numbers. The differences are that the project is sticky, and (instead of using paint) you use drills also known as dotz. The drills come in either square or round. 

Image: A portrait of a Yorkie comprised of little colored squares. You can see a reference key along the bottom.

Below is a list of what comes in a diamond painting kit:

Canvas (or other material) that has a pre-printed picture on it with adhesive. On the canvas kits, there is a number and letter key. Card kits come with separate instructions.

Diamond painting pen

Small tray

Small bags with corresponding numbers to the key or instructions

Wax square

Tweezers (in most larger kits)

Image: A red square of wax sits on paper that reads "Sunnor Group". On the right side, a pink pen is pressed into the wax.  A person's finger is also visible.  
How-to:

The adhesive canvas has either paper or clear plastic on it. So, to start, peel the little piece of plastic off the wax. Take the diamond painting pen and dip the tip of it into the wax until the tip is full. Peel the corner of the canvas back until you see a number or a letter, then use the key on the side of the canvas to match the number on the bags. Open the bag with the corresponding number you want to start with, and put the drills in the tray. Use the diamond pen to pick up the drills by the shiny side; the flat side goes on the adhesive canvas. You do that until the project is complete. 

For me, the round drills are easier to use because you don't have to be as exact when sticking them on the canvas. The square drills, in my opinion, make a nicer-looking project.

Here are some accessories that might help:

Portable headlamp with magnification glasses for if you have trouble seeing the little diamond drills. 

I have never used it, but there is something called a diamond painting ruler. It is supposed to help you keep your diamond drills lined up. 

Does anyone else know of anything that will help make diamond painting easier? 

~*~

Additional Notes: 
If you have spasms, it helps to only put a few drills into the tray at one time in case you spill.
There are little storage containers for the drills that are similar to those for beads.
Gently shake the ridged tray to turn the drills face up, so you don't have to do it with your fingers.
Most drill colors have universal numbers so you can order more if you need.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Possible Changes (Please Read and Give Feedback)

This blog officially launched on May 25th, 2016. Since that time, I've seen amazing art, essays, poetry, and more from some of the most talented people in our community. It's been an absolute pleasure to work with a lot of you. But, I'm stretched thin... a feat for someone as fat as me.

So, why talk about this now?

The creation of The Handy, Uncapped Pen and all the work that goes into it was my choice, and I don't regret it. The launch of the mentor program was one of the most amazing moments I had doing this. But, I noticed my own creative output has suffered in favor of making this space better or more useful for our community. I was in the hospital last month due to infection (something that tends to happen more easily when I overstress/overwork). Something needs to change.

Possible changes:

1.  Requesting volunteers. It means asking someone to take responsibility for at least one aspect of H.U.P. like:  Soliciting interview subjects, curating the Twitter account, assistance with the promotion/running of the mentor program, updating market lists, and more.

2.  Soliciting guest editors. I'm not sure it would go very well after the first few months, but it's an option.

3.  The mentor program, blog, and everything else (sans Twitter) could shut down in two/three-month increments. People would still be able to submit during the months things are closed, it would just take longer for a response/publication. The three-month schedule would have us open: February, March, April, August, September, and October.

4.  Open everything to allies. It would give us more content for the blog and keep other programs running easier. I resist this idea, not because I dislike our allies (I value them so much!) but because I wanted this organization to stay as something specifically for us.

5.  The blog could become a place for more general writing and art from disabled and neurodivergent creatives, no longer restricting most creative writing categories to having a disability/neurodivergent component. It may solve the problem of submissions... but not everything else.

Feedback time: 

Please comment below or contact me and tell me which options you think are best. If you think of something else, feel free to let me know.

Email:  handyuncappedpen@gmail.com

Twitter:  @HandUnPen

Monday, July 5, 2021

Mentors Starting July Fifth

F.I. Goldhaber - Poetry (can help in a variety of ways, but would love to assist a starting poet in getting published)

Restrictions:  "No misogynists, racists, white supremacists, homomisiats, transmisiats, Islammisiats, xenomisiats (I refuse to use 'phobic'; they're not afraid, they're just hateful), anti-Semites, or Zionists (and no, those last two do not, as some believe, contradict each other)." 

Note:  "I expect to be hands on. I'm not interested in mentoring someone who isn't going (or doesn't have time) to put in the (considerable amount of required) work." They are extremely liberal politically, so keep that in mind.

F.I. Goldhaber's words capture people, places, and politics with a photographer's eye and a poet's soul. As a reporter, editor, business writer, and marketing communications consultant, they produced news stories, feature articles, editorial columns, and reviews for newspapers, corporations, governments, and non-profits in five states. Now paper, electronic, plastic, and audio magazines, books, newspapers, calendars, broadsides, and street signs display their poetry, fiction, and essays. More than 170 of their poems appear in almost 75 publications, including VoiceCatcher, Outcast, Black Lives Have Always Mattered, Cirque Journal, Raven Chronicles' Take a Stand: Art Against Hate, 11/9: The Fall of American Democracy, Portland Metrozine, Windfall: A Journal of Poetry of Place, Room's Turtle Island Responds, Kosmos Journal's We the World Days of Unity campaign, Connoisseurs of Suffering: Poetry for the Journey to Meaning, New Verse News, Every Day Poets, Soul-Lit, protestpoems.org, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and four volumes of poetry. In addition, F.I. shares their words throughout the Pacific Northwest and on the radio. They appeared at venues such as Wordstock, Oregon Literary Review, galleries, coffee houses, bars, bookstores, record shops, art events, libraries, and community colleges. They give presentations on subjects as diverse as marketing and building volunteer organizations, and taught Introduction to Indie Publishing at Portland Community College and as a weekend intensive. http://www.goldhaber.net/

Methods of Correspondence:  Email (with 24- to 48-hour turnaround time)

~*~

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

Note:  Jennifer has more experience with speculative flash. 

Jennifer Ruth Jackson is an award-winning poet and fiction writer whose flash fiction has appeared in Lonesome October Lit, Dream of Shadows, The Binnacle, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, and more. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and is a wheelchair-user.

Methods of correspondence: Email, Twitter DM, Facebook Messenger

Friday, July 2, 2021

Oil and Clay Art by Su Zi

Artist's statement: 

The first is a pottery piece—a gift for a friend, a mask of The Green Man.

The other two are oil portraits—I have neither painting anymore.

The man standing is 22x48, if I remember; the seated person is 24x36.
I once had a one person gallery exhibit of oil portraits in New Orleans.
While those pieces are gone, I do have two oil portraits available on my Etsy site.

I prefer to draw from life—to have the subject in front of me while I sketch directly onto the canvas, or whatever. Both oil portraits were done this way: the ghost of the subject while they are in front of me, then the painting process, which is layers and layers.
The pottery piece is the opposite—completely invented from thought into the clay, fired, glazed, fired.

Image: A green, clay mask on a stained workspace. The face is a lighter green with the edges being darker and textured. The face comes down to a soft point. The eyes are a touch feline. The lips are full and slightly parted with the bottom being a darker green, which rest below a small nose. 

Image: A shirtless man in green pants and black shoes has his arms at his sides. His right hand is resting on an axe handle, and the axe head is pointed towards the left of the image. He has short, clipped hair and facial hair. He wears a serious expression.

Image: A woman with short, brown hair sits with her legs stretched out sideways on a green couch. Her upper body is tilted to the right, and she has her legs crossed at the ankles. She is wearing a t-shirt with shorts and ankle socks.
Update on the art:

The Green Man mask lives in the classroom of a high school history teacher in Florida.

The portrait of the man standing is in possession of a filmmaker and writer who recently relocated to Toronto.

The portrait of the seated woman is whereabouts unknown, potentially destroyed.
~*~
Biography:  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, June 25, 2021

Cripendy Contest Third Place: Dinosaur by F.I. Goldhaber

With ponderous undulating of
gargantuan wings the heron
glides the stream's span, reminding
all who witness it still
carries DNA
of ancestors
who're long since
lost to
earth.

~*~
Biography: F.I. Goldhaber's words capture people, places, and politics with a photographer's eye and a poet's soul. As a reporter, editor, business writer, and marketing communications consultant, they produced news stories, feature articles, editorial columns, and reviews for newspapers, corporations, governments, and non-profits in five states. Now paper, electronic, plastic, and audio magazines, books, newspapers, calendars, broadsides, and street signs display their poetry, fiction, and essays. More than 170 of their poems appear in almost 75 publications, including four collections. http://www.goldhaber.net/

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Cripendy Contest Second Place: Tide by Ann Chiappetta

Hard packed sand softens
With each step, like thoughts
Yielding cool and unbidden underfoot

Sun descending, I walk from east to west
Sea water surges
Scours away thought-footprints

Hope and resolve walk beside me
I persevere, unable to alter the course

Though the dunes rise to the left and waves
Grab and pull my limbs on the right

I stay the course
Tears taste like the tide
And like the wet ambition of the fisherman’s net
Ego escapes, pours back into the sea

~*~

Biography: Ann’s poems, creative nonfiction, essays and fiction regularly appear in journals, online magazines, blogs and small press reviews. Ann’s poetry has found a place in the pages of Breath and Shadow’s 2016 debut anthology, Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow. Four books fill Ann’s authorly shelves and a fifth book is on its way in 2021. One overarching goal for Ann is to offer her books in all eBook, print and audio and file formats. Besides reading and writing, Ann spends time with her two- and four-footed family in New York’s historic and beautiful lower Hudson valley and continues to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with her assistive technology.

Find her on the web: www.annchiappetta.com read her blog: www.thought-wheel.com

Friday, June 11, 2021

Cripendy Contest First Place: Blind Date by Carol Farnsworth


I am a blind artist. I rely on my memory and sense of touch to knit, shrink and produce felted art pieces. I have made felted animals for many years, but recently I have used animal figures to display challenged individuals. My art is to start a conversation with a humorous tableau. The second goal is to have an art piece that is touchable by blind and sighted persons.

The photo is "Blind Date". The figures are two pink pigs on a date. There is a leader dog in harness at the feet of the girl. While a white cane is located at the feet of the boy. Both pigs are talking and seated at a table with drinks and a lit candle. This shows that blind people can participate in normal activities. This art won first place in the craft division of the In Sight Art Contest in 2019.

Other art pieces I have exhibited, pictured age-related dementia and deaf/hard of hearing animals. Both have been in the In Sight Art Contest.

My work of felted wool makes the art easily explored by touch. This allows the blind and visual to experience the art with a different sense.

~*~
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.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Where Shadows Lie by Allegra Pescatore (Review)

A blond woman sits in a wooden wheelchair at the front of the image. Her hands are in her lap and she's wearing a yellow silk gown with embroidery. Behind her on a raised platform are four standing people. Two men are on the right side of the picture one in a long button coat, and another in green (both have dark hair). On the other side, a red-headed woman is beside a black man... both have long hair. The woman is wearing white and the man is in brown tones. Dragons are behind each duo.
Note: I received a copy in order to review the book.

Elenor (disabled since childhood) is next in line for the throne after her brother's failed assassination attempt on their father, but more than just the kingdom hangs in the balance. Dragon gods move their followers like pawns, war is coming, and the end of the world is just a few bad decisions away.

This book is a sweeping fantasy novel. There are gods, mock dragons, politics, and magic. The world is described beautifully and fleshed out with varied locations and diverse citizens. The magic system is complex and used to great effect.

I didn't like Elenor at first. Yes, she is brave from the beginning, but she is also shockingly sheltered and ignorant. Throughout the first half of the book, I kept wanting to shake her. Even when she sees injustice, she shuts her eyes and keeps on going. She grows emotionally as time goes on, and I grew to love her by the end of the book.

Chapters follow different people and their impact on the story, more like an ensemble cast (including a couple of rebels and a former captain of the guard) than mere supporting players. I could really see the connection between different characters shift as events occurred. The villain of the story wasn't quite as fleshed out as others, but there was still enough information to give him a clear motive. 

The plot is cohesive and spellbinding with plenty of action. Anytime I wondered why a certain character acted the way they did, something in the story made it make sense. A few twists I didn't see coming.

There is a fair amount of violence and descriptions of wounds. Slavery exists in part of the world, but it's more like indentured servatude with rules to keep people from abusing others. Sexual situations (with some description) and swearing occur. Rape is mentioned but none of the characters encounter it.

I felt the disability representation was handled well. Elenor can walk, but not far without pain and limping. She has mobility aids if she needs them but doesn't get to use them often because it shows weakness in the nobility. Her girlfriend is protective because they are lovers and not because she sees Elenor as incapable.

This is the best book I've read this year! I definitely recommend it. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Using the Cricut Joy for Card Making (a Review) by Spazzy Crafter

On a wood table, a teal and white Cricut Joy sits. The front piece is laid flat so the machine is open. Metal bars are showing in the middle of it.
A Cricut Joy is a machine that cuts and draws on a variety of materials.

Accessories:

• Cricut Joy cardstock and inserts (you can use regular cardstock and
inserts, they just have to fit the size of your project)
• Cricut Joy pens
• Cricut Joy markers
• Cricut Joy card mat
• Exacto knife
• Cricut Joy weeding tool

Pros:

Cricut Design Space lets you either make your own design or use designs that are already included in the app. Professional card designers like Anna Griffin have elements on there. As a side note, you can pay for a monthly subscription through Design Space, but it is not necessary to use the Cricut Joy.

It has access from tablets or other mobile devices via Bluetooth.

It's faster to make cards (for me) with the Cricut Joy than assembling ones solely by hand.

The application tells you when the blade or an accessory (like a marker or pen) needs changing and how to do it step-by-step.

Cons:

The Cricut Joy mat is sticky, and it is sometimes hard to line up the cardstock on it.

The machine doesn't always cut though the cardstock (that's what the Exacto knife is for).

Even though the card mat is sticky, the cardstock may not stick completely so it can move while cutting (which can ruin the card). One way to fix this issue is to tape all four corners.

The Cricut Joy pens and markers can only be used with that particular machine.
~*~
Overall, the Cricut Joy works good for card making.
Matte white card with black, metallic elements. The word "congratulations" is in the middle in all caps. There is black-squiggle confetti and poppers around the word. The cards corners have black details.
P.S. The reason I didn't include the prices is because the prices differ depending on where you purchase the Cricut Joy.

Jennifer's note:  The lowest I've seen it go for is $130 USD without accessories. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Man Made of Pills by Robert Allen

Once I was made of
blood and thought.
Now I am a man
made of pills.
8 soldiers
protect me;
tablets that make
the world simple.

Simple as a
maze or math.

Simple as pain
or a bruise.

Where do I stop and
pills start, what
is my true sensibility?
Only blood can tell.
I will wait for blood.
~*~
Biography:  Robert Allen lives and loves with his family in northern California, where he writes poetry, takes long walks, and looks at birds. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Flower Paintings by Su Zi

Artist's note They are all painted plain aire, which means outside, and from live plants. The elephant flower was painted when I lived in New Orleans. Some of the others here in Florida—all from my garden. At one point of another, they have been exhibited.
Occasionally, one will sell. There are a few left for sale still.
A reddish yellow gladiola bloom stem is in the forefront of the image. The bottom flower is darker and wilted, but the flower above is vibrant and open. Two smaller flowers are above. The stem is two-tone green with grass-like leaves. The background is sepia. Composition is oil paint on board.
An elephant ear. Broad, textured leaves take up most of the left side of the picture. Below the leaves brown background. The flower is white and yellow, dipping and shaped a bit like a pea pod.
Brown and white background. A sunflower stands tall and open with dark yellow petals. The center has an orange outer circle, yellow inner, and green dots. There is one leaf on each side of the stem. The bottom of the sunflower looks like it has green roots in the shape of another leaf. The picture itself is framed. (Oil paint.)
Three purple flowers with brownish orange centers hang down. Angled, dark leaves hang down from the stems. The background is light with purple, yellow, and white streaked through. They are labeled as "echinacea".

Jennifer's note:  Su Zi is a visually-impaired artist.
~*~
Biography:  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.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Cripendy Contest Winners for 2021

We had some stellar entries in our contest this year... and it's only the inaugural competition! Thank you all so much for making this a success.

First place:  "Blind Date" by Carol Farnsworth (felt/plush art)

Second place:  "Tide" by Ann Chiappetta (poem)

Third place:  "Dinosaur" by F.I. Goldhaber (poem)

Next month, each winner will have a post on the blog in order to highlight their work (with artist's note unless otherwise specified). Prizes will be sent to the winners by the end of May.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Carrying my Father's Silence by Nnadi Samuel

how warm you chew your tongue
into disremembering the taste of a dialect.
grief, the calm to soften your teeth,
& sponge a weak phrase to its neat wall of pink.

this is how you kill a mother's worth:
sludged wrists crushed to calories,
lost from ceaseless count of meals by how much 
her darkness shortchanges you.
your lips ramming into each other.

you braid your head into a migraine,
& let the style eat you.

silence, like a mohawk,
stands at ease.
getting my attention is one tough chore,
you could break your lips,
& still not get the dry sound to pulse me.

all my fun sides staked to claims:
that I feigned my father's accent,
& sighs are how he made words look like sin.

I am sifting into this new world,
skipping my meals,
becoming what I eat when I starve things of my lips.

I now lust for days when noise grooms my stature,
tongue amplified with the thirst for a crazy accent— 
this dialect that should know me.
~*~
Biography:  Nnadi Samuel holds a B.A in English & Literature from the University of Benin. He is a phonics tutor suffering from long depression & speech disorder. Winner of the Canadian Open Drawer Contest 2020 & Pushcart nominee. He is the author of Dumb Mandate (forthcoming). He reads for U-Right Magazine. He tweets @Samuelsamba10. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Best "Performance" of Inclusion Goes to The Oscars

Crip Camp was nominated for an Oscar and, though it didn't win, it feels like things might change for the better... to some people. There were photos of the stars on the red carpet (with service dog)! It was a marvelous occurrence.

While it is amazing to witness (and there are subtle signs of our community breaking down barriers), Hollywood is still woefully ableist. Oscar bait with able-bodied and neurotypical folks "cripping up" is still prevalent. Our civil rights movement in the film industry is still being fought

A ramp was built to the stage for the first time. The academy never saw need of it before. No one using a wheeled mobility aid got close enough to the stage to even consider the possibility. Why the benefits of ramps aren't apparent to able-bodied folks is always a mystery to me, but ramps also serve as an unwritten "welcome sign" to our community, so...

Anthony Hopkins won an award (and is now the oldest man to do so) but wasn't allowed to use Zoom to attend the ceremony. A neurodivergent man in his 80s during the height of a pandemic isn't allowed to teleconference because... rules. Ableds seem to want "a return to normal" post-pandemic to include our continued exclusion.

Each bit of progress we make upwards is undone by another set of stairs. Will we be welcome at the top again next year, or will the ramp be as gone as our invitations?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Scrapheap Challenge by Kate Meyer-Currey

I wanted to be
A refuse refugee;
To throw my
Dismembered
Body parts
Of a life
Misconducted
In shame’s
Black bag
On a social scrapheap
That would prove
I was a castoff:
Too lazy and indifferent
To recycle my packaging
Into tidy categories
Rinsed out for the bin men;
But I missed collection day
Accidentally on repurpose:
It was upcycle or rot.
No bones about it
I’m no oil painting
Trash into treasure
Or priceless antique
In lockup storage
Brought to light
For millions on daytime TV
I won’t write myself off
As damaged goods
On life’s pavement.
I was built to last:
Time has worn me
Down and a little out
It’s softened those harsh edges
Through constant use,
Given a warmer patina
To my inlaid surface
My gold leaf still gleams true
I retain ornamental value:
I was once-loved:
It shows to discerning eyes
With a taste for niche
Or vintage artefacts;
Now I know my own worth
I’m content to take
My rough with my smooth:
I still have hidden compartments
No-one has discovered.

~*~
Biography:  Kate Meyer-Currey was born in 1969 and moved to Devon in 1973. A varied career in frontline settings has fuelled her interest in gritty urbanism, contrasted with a rural upbringing. Her ADHD also instils a sense of ‘other’ in her life and writing, whether folklore feminism or urban myth.

Publications: 

Chapbook County Lines (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming 2021) 

Other poems include "Family Landscape: Colchester 1957" (Not Very Quiet, September 2020), "Invocation" (Whimsical Poet, February 2021), "Dulle Griet", "Scold’s Bridle", "Recconnaissance", (RavenCageZine, February 2021), "Stream: Timberscombe" (A River of Poems, March 2021) and "Not so starry night" (SheSpeaks, March 2021).

"Cailleach" (SageWoman, forthcoming) "Dregs" (Seinundwerden,forthcoming), "Gloves" (MacroMicroCosm, forthcoming), "Phases of the Moon" (Hags on Fire, forthcoming), "Anthem for the Contaminated" (TrainRiver, forthcoming), "Hilly Fields" (Pure Slush, forthcoming), "Scorpio rising" (Noctivagant Press, forthcoming), "Maman Brigitte" (Albany Poets, forthcoming). 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Witcher (Netflix) and Ableism

Disclaimers:

1. I've never read any of The Witcher books, and the only video game I played of the series was the third one.
2.  Spoilers and ableism abound.
~*~
I liked The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, even with what I thought were a couple of hints of ableism. The world is massive, magic flows, and there still might exist a happily ever after for old, jaded heroes. I put many hours into the video game, so I thought the show would be enjoyable. I wasn't prepared for Yennefer.

Yennefer is the disfigured and disabled daughter of a poor farmer. People around her are cruel to her, and her own stepfather sells her to a witch for a song, not caring what the witch plans to do with her. But then, Yen is taken to a school for possible magic users. 

Yennefer exists in the video games as an able-bodied, non-disfigured sorceress who is quite bitchy. I wasn't even sure the character from the game and the character in the show were the same at first. But, they are. In a world of magic, I suppose no one believes there is a reason to stay in an imperfect body.

I watched on, hoping with a sinking feeling that it would be at least handled well. Yennefer gets a semi-boyfriend and gains a friend among the mages. She learns, even though she seems to possess only slight ability in the realm of magic, she is quite talented. She begins to flourish.

As she steps into her power, she becomes unbearable. She finds herself believing she is too good for the man who likes her (maybe). She sacrifices her friend when she figures out she has true power but her friend does not. Yennefer goes to a mage and gives up her fertility so he can make her appear "normal" and uses her new appearance to help her weasel her way into a better job.

I'm not a fan of "cure" narratives. There are plenty of other backstories to give a character to explain their motivations. But, no matter how much I dislike the idea of a cure being shoved into stories, what I really couldn't stand was how they made Yen insufferable and implied it was her disability/disfigurement causing her personality "issues". I understand past treatment and trauma can inform choices, but I felt it was sloppy writing. She's basically a crip with a chip on her shoulder while no longer being disabled/disfigured.

Ableist tropes all in one magical package of bullsh*t.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Insomnia; a Night of Reckoning by Robert Allen

Sleepless and hollow
I greet the dawn,
the sun burns hot in the hollow.
The day aches on until
sleepless I meet the night,
sleepless I meet the night,
head hollowed like open empty
palms,
a begging bowl, a dead balloon, a
broken heart.
~*~
Biography:  Robert Allen lives and loves with his family in northern California, where he writes poetry, takes long walks, and looks at birds.

Details at www.robertallenpoet.com



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Man Disabled by Deformity and Loneliness is Transformed into Monster: The Story of Frankenstein’s Creation by Kelley A Pasmanick

 A Literary Analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

[H]ow was I terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity (emphasis mine). (94)

The above quotation from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is spoken by Victor Frankenstein’s creation and is of paramount importance in understanding how he perceives himself and provides insight into how others will perceive him. The creation characterizes his physical appearance as a deformity because by the time this particular story is told in the larger scheme of the novel, he already has a firm grasp of language and comprehends conceptually aesthetic standards of corporeal beauty. As such, when the creation sees his reflection in the pool of water, he has an epiphany; he realizes he does not look even remotely similar to anyone else around him. Thus, such an observation on the part of the creation foreshadows the manner in which he is and will be received by others, as something instead of someone, thereby bestowing on him a nonhuman presence. A distinction like this further implies that he is more of a creation than a male human being, and as a result, he is considered inferior and misshapen. Due to his aesthetically displeasing exterior, the creation is impaired because he understands the idea of difference and that he is not desired. He repulses himself because he, in a sense, is his body. He also drives away the various people with whom he interacts because he cultivates a fear of the unfamiliar in them, as well as in Frankenstein because he views the creation as a failed endeavor. Since the creation seems to be an object of disgust and horror to all of those with whom he comes into contact, he develops a consciousness that he is ugly and it is this low esteem in regard to his appearance that becomes a disability. The creation’s identity becomes more and more distorted, thereby stunting his personal growth insofar as he is unable to achieve a satisfying quality of life. The creation is forever devalued, unable to recover from the perpetually malevolent treatment to which he is exposed, and is ultimately doomed to lead a life of loneliness, where the loneliness acts as a secondary disability, ending only in death.

When first presented with a description of the creation, there is a stark contrast between Frankenstein’s characterization of the creation and what the creation is actually like when he meets his maker: “[A] grin wrinkled his cheeks…one hand was stretched out” (43). The creation’s first expression upon being brought into existence is a positive one; one could even deduce that it is a joyous one because a grin indicates a greater degree of happiness than a smile. Simply, he is pleased to just be and appears elated to see Frankenstein. In addition, when he stretches out his hand, he extends it in the direction of Frankenstein. Although seemingly by previous knowledge, since he has not yet had time to acquire it experientially, he appears to be introducing himself. He wants to make a good impression on the person in front of him, who, unbeknownst to him, is his creator. Both of the creation’s actions demonstrate goodness; he immediately attempts to forge an emotional and a physical connection, denoted by the grin and the outstretched hand, with the first person he meets. Furthermore, his actions convey proper decorum in a civilized society. Most importantly, they portray his humanity, discrediting Frankenstein’s view that he is the antithesis of a human being. Finally, from what one initially sees of the creation, one discovers that he is well-meaning, decent, and kind, traits that all connote that he is of a morally upright nature. It is evident that the creation is inherently good.

Comparatively, upon the awakening of the creation, Frankenstein’s first impressions of him suggest that the creation does not meet his expectations and is not what he had intended to originally create: “[N]ow that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart…I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it (emphasis mine) became a thing even Dante could not have conceived” (42-43). When Frankenstein views his conscious creation for the first time, he does not stop to think about the long and arduous process of creating the being, nor does he recognize that his endeavor is a success. He constructs a living being from dead tissues. He infers though, upon first glance, that the creation is a threat to him and is evil. He does not wait to see what else the creation is able to do after he “introduces” himself; he flees and in effect, abandons the creation. Frankenstein does not in any way validate the creation’s existence because he does not name him. He calls him it, a pronoun that is meant to signify an object or nothing in particular. In this way, the creation begins his life unacknowledged by his creator. The definition of it in no way refers to a living being, and such a designation on the part of Frankenstein confirms the creation’s later thoughts that he is to be detested. Moreover, by calling him it, he does not call him his; Frankenstein, upon its “birth” refuses to take ownership of his creation. He shirks his responsibility as creator, and consequently, as provider and teacher. Finally, by never referring to the creation as his creation, he does not have to admit to the gravity of his mistake, and his subsequent and frequent failures.

Upon meeting the creation for the first time since he abandoned him, Frankenstein is anything but kind, addressing him as “vile insect” (81). Such debasement from his creator relates to the creation’s first interaction with humans. He enters the hut of a shepherd and is quickly espied: “He perceiving me, shrieked loudly, and quitting the hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which his debilitated form hardly appeared capable” (87). Neither Frankenstein nor the shepherd bother to acquaint themselves with the creation; they let his appearance speak for him. Sadly, they assume that he is to be feared because he does not externally fit into the identical ideas or criteria of what a beautiful being is; his bodily appearance must match his personality and temperament. In effect, because he looks intimidating and dangerous, he must be. Furthermore, the shepherd and Frankenstein display identical behavior upon beholding the countenance of the creation. They run in fear and abandon him. The shepherd hurriedly exits his hut and never returns; he leaves the creation alone to wander just like Frankenstein does. In this way, a pattern begins to develop. For every action on the part of the creation, there is a reaction that is equal in the degree of intensity, yet opposite in intent. The pattern indicates that the creation runs to them, them signifying people, in general, and they do the contrary of his initial action by running from him. 

This theory is verified even when another variable is added to the equation: selflessness. The first instance of the creation putting others before himself is when he takes it upon himself to provide succor for the cottagers who reside by his hovel by collecting a more ample supply of firewood for them (92). The creation reasons that he is squatting on the cottagers’ land and wishes to contribute something in return. They are a great source of contentment for him, and he desires to augment their happiness. As a result of him collecting more firewood, they reap twice the benefits; they are warmer and will worry less, if not at all, about succumbing to an illness from extreme cold. Secondly, when the creation gathers kindling, the cottagers do not have to acquire it themselves and are able to devote more time to leisure, which in turn, improves their spirits. By aiding them, the creation demonstrates that he values their presence in his otherwise solitary and self-reliant life. He builds a connection with them, although from a distance that he has not previously had with anyone. The creation feels such a positive impact of the cottagers’ presence on his life and overall disposition that he dubs the cottagers his “protectors” (102). It can be argued though that he is protecting them just as much, if not more, than they are protecting him. A symbiotic relationship forms because the cottagers influence the creation and he affects them.

The human connection the creation builds with the cottagers one learns is, in fact, an illusion, since it is eventually shattered despite the creation’s efforts to live peacefully side by side both literally and figuratively next to his cottager safeguards. He does not successfully appeal to the emotions of Agatha and Felix, the young cottagers, and Safie, Felix’s beloved, in the same way as he does with De Lacey, Agatha and Felix’s father. The creation attempts to create something of his own by constructing family ties; he attaches himself to a family that is not his and fails miserably to reach his goal to have a family: “Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung; in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick” (115). The creation immediately leaves the scene and runs back to his hovel; he allows himself to be attacked and defeated by someone who is obviously smaller and weaker than he. In other words, the creation is beaten by someone who is much more human than him, although he could have and should have, in all probability, trounced Felix. Such an easy win for Felix and a humiliating loss for the creation illustrate the effects of the dejection he now feels. The fight is not his only loss; he loses everything that is dear to him in an instant. He loses the possibility of acceptance and instead suffers the sting of utter rejection. After he flees, the creation comes to realize from his other wanderings that his family of cottagers is not his family at all, but are models for the rest of humankind. Individuals such as the cottagers are caring, gentle, and sensitive, of a more refined quality than most, and they are terrified of him, so it is highly likely that others of a rougher nature will react the same way toward him, if not worse: “There was none among the myriads of men that existed who would pity or assist me…[F]rom that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and more than all, against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery” (116). No one is willing to look beyond his exterior and it is this unwillingness for others to positively acknowledge him that is the impetus for the creation’s hatred toward all. 

He does not seek revenge against humanity, however, as quickly as he says he will. He is delayed by doing another good deed. He saves a girl from drowning in a river (120). The creation performs the worthiest act of selflessness by saving a life. Contrary to expectation, he saves a human life, reneging on his vow to war against and harm all of humanity. Inherently, the creation displays behavior that is socially acceptable to the humans who shun him. He does not project his pain onto her by making her suffer also; he forgets it temporarily so he can help her. Unfortunately, his concern for her safety is not appreciated by the man who witnesses the accident: 

On seeing me, he darted towards me, and tearing the girl from my arms, hastened towards the deeper parts of the wood. I followed speedily…[H]e aimed a gun, which he carried, at my body and fired…This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction…Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind. (121)

The man is ungrateful for the creation’s rescue of the girl; this ingratitude seems contrary to human nature, but is grounded in the fact that the people, with whom the creation interacts, assign more value to his bodily features than to his undertakings. Sadly, his good deeds go unnoticed. It is this complete disregard on the part of the man concerning the creation’s role in saving the girl, even though the man is benefiting from his exertions, that causes the creation to again reconsider and finally, to give into his desire of wreaking havoc on humankind.

One observes that time after time the creation does what is civil and proper in society, but it is he who is disappointed by societal expectations because the people do not treat him as he would like to be treated or, simply, as they would treat others. He is an other unlike themselves, so they treat him differently; society is prejudiced toward him. Such bias is reinforced when the creation says to Frankenstein, “Believe me, Frankenstein, I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity, but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow creatures, who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate me” (82). Frankenstein’s behavior is far from exemplary toward the creation and he is his creator, who is presumably also representative of humanity, like the cottagers, and he treats him with such scorn and antipathy, like everyone else the creation meets. Frankenstein is the initial source of the creation’s maltreatment. Thus, due to Frankenstein’s behavior toward him, the creation is conditioned to not expect decency and gentility. The statement, then, by the creation is based in experiential knowledge, which will eventually become his fate. 

While Frankenstein’s treatment of the creation is horrendous, it could be contended that the behavior of his younger brother, William, is worse. William is the second child the creation encounters, other than the girl whom he saves from drowning. William, however, differs from the girl because he and the creation have an exchange, whereas the girl is unconscious when the creation meets her. The creation makes his intentions clear that he will not hurt him, and yet William is incredibly cruel and offensive in his conversation with the creation: “[M]onster! Ugly wretch!” (122). When William tells the creation that his father is M. Frankenstein, the creation assumes him to be Victor Frankenstein, and so by murdering William, he is punishing Victor. The creation initially engages with the child based on the premise that he is just that, a child, who is pure of heart and has not yet learned of hate or fear and as such, will be a friend and ally to him. The barrage of insults that William flings at him, causes the creation to realize that he is unfamiliar with the nature of children and that they are capable of cruelty. During the tirade, William reveals that he is related to Victor from his surname of Frankenstein. Subsequently, the creation murders William as a result of this relationship, knowing he will harm Victor. The murder also ceases William’s tirade. The greatest motivation, though, for the murder is that the creation is once again disappointed by humanity. In this instance, however, he is disappointed by a sect of humanity that he thought was unable to disappoint: the youth of humanity. 

Consequently, the creation learns from William  that he cannot forge a bond with the most innocent of society, which would make living among the rest of the human race, who are harsher in nature, impossible; hence, disappointment by William, who embodies the traits of the collective youth of humankind cripples the creation, pushing him to the brink of isolation, leading him to his last resort of requesting Frankenstein create a mate for him: “If any being felt emotions of benevolence toward me, I should return them a hundred and a hundredfold, for that one creature’s sake I would make peace with the whole kind!” (125). The creation will forgive humankind if he has a mate because she will fulfill the role that no one else has been able to as his companion. Simply, he will gain the ultimate connection of a permanent presence that will be made even stronger because she will be unlike anyone else, but like her counterpart. Together, they will be better able to cope with the fact that they are considered grotesque by those around them, since between each other, their appearance will be normalized: “[M]an will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects” (123). In order for equality to be present in a circumstance, there must be a standard of comparison. The mate will provide this for the creation; they will be equal. 

Furthermore, the mate will be an evolved representation of the creation. She will be like him enough that they will consider each other the same. Her mere existence will illustrate evolution at work because she will be a separate being from the original creation. Following biological practices, it is she, as the creation’s mate, who will carry and bear children; the creation’s mate will have the greater responsibility of propagating their species. With a mate, the creation will have a significant niche and role in the hierarchical structure to which all organisms belong and, by extension, in the human race. His human essence will be authenticated, although his humanness arises differently from the rest because he is created from dead humans. One would suspect then that eventually the creation and his kind would be visible to the rest of humankind, because there will be more of the creation’s progeny present. A greater visibility due to strength in numbers will eventually lead to their acceptance by the rest of humanity. The mate allows the possibility for him to escape his marginalized position. He and his mate will now be normalized, not only between themselves, but among humanity. Neither he nor his kind will be a source of alarm to those around them. Finally, having a mate allows the creation the likelihood of literally and figuratively casting aside his deformity; a mate will provide him with ability.  

The refusal by Frankenstein to create a mate for him is the last straw for the creation. After this, he is no longer able to cope with the maltreatment he receives by others in a nonviolent or at least passive manner and this causes his mental stability to unravel so that he becomes a vengeful and painfully lonely being. Simply, Frankenstein’s rejection of the creation’s request decides the fate of the creation because by this time, he has exhausted all of his other options in regard to finding a companion: “Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion…[but] (insertion mine) I am alone” (196). Inevitably, the creation’s outward appearance completely debilitates him; it is the medium by which others control him and worse, he allows himself to be controlled by his form, which entirely consumes his thoughts, and therefore, his being. By the conclusion of the novel, he becomes the monster that humankind initially thought him to be. In essence, he is caught in a web composed of the predetermined notions of beauty that he is unable to attain, thereby making an escape from the web impossible. In conclusion, the creation is wholly incapacitated and handicapped by the unrelenting and persistent loneliness which has and will continue to plague his existence.                          

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1st ed. New York: Signet Classics, 2000. 

~*~

Biography: Kelley A Pasmanick is a thirty-five-year-old woman from Atlanta, Georgia. Pasmanick’s work has appeared in Wordgathering, Squawk Back, Praxis Magazine, The Mighty, Loud Zoo, The Jewish Literary Journal, Umbrella Factory Magazine, Breath & Shadow, KaleidoscopeTiny Tim Literary Review, and The Handy, Uncapped Pen. Her work has also been reprinted in Queen Mob’s Teahouse.

If you would like to contact Kelley about this essay or other works, please email me at handyuncappedpen[at]gmail.com and I will pass the message to her.

Read Kelley A Pasmanick's other literary analysis on the blog by clicking here.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Of The Disabled Equestrian: The Carriage Driver by Su Zi

Image: Bob Giles in his riding gear sitting on a black carriage. A white and brown horse is pulling him. The grass beneath is lush and the sky is a pure blue with trees lining the background. In front, on the bottom of the picture is a white fence with the letter "C" on it.

Horses are beautiful beings who have had their existence cast with us humans, and our civilization has been built because of their kindness in lending us their bodies, and their lives. For those of us whose bodies are atypical, it might seem to be an impossibility to meld our lives with that of a horse, but the growing programs for therapeutic equestrianism tell us, yes, it’s possible: there’s even a World Championship for Para Equestrians, with teams from many countries. Equestrianism in itself is a faceted art form, with practitioners in disciplines as varied as leaping fences and dancing in an arena, cross-country eventing to dressage to reining to carriage driving. The partnership with horses is as varied as the cultures of our Earth, because horses have been involved in human lives globally for long in our history.

Art is more than a painting in a museum. The Arts have a history and it involves real world craftsmanship, it involves all the methods of perception we have counted. The Arts also involve collaboration—Alexander Calder did not personally weld his monumental sculptures—and that craftsmanship too has a history. So it is with the horse: centuries of communication between them and us, and some of it about them to ourselves. As our culture may know ballet as art, or music as art, so too is our dance with horses an art. It’s also a physical art, because equestrianism is dancing and doing so with a partner who does not speak as we speak to each other. For those of us who speak differently, or move differently, whose strength is less than other humans, the interaction with horses opens a new view— their language, their physical beingness in our shared world.

Among equestrianism’s more exotic pursuits is the elevation of carriage driving—upon which our civilization was built—to a collaborative ballet between horse and human via the vehicle; a sight which is occasional in our culture, still with us thanks to Her and His Highnesses of England, and to the Hollywood western or occasional gladiator morality play. And thanks due to the interest of a then-young His Royal Highness, carriage driving has become an evolving sport. As para equestrianism in the saddle has evolved to include both world competitors and aide for veterans and autistic children, it behooves consideration of the art of carriage driving as well: there are those who have carriages that accept wheelchairs and who climb the logistical mountain of traveling with personal mobility aids and prosthetics, the horse and their food, equipment and special vehicles to a gathering of equestrians —the horse show.

Image: A red golf cart with a disability placard sits on the grass at sunset. 

Carriage Driving Horse Shows are specialized events, because some of the competitional elements require land— and land is ever the subject of contention among humans. It’s not as often that one sees a horse-drawn vehicle, and it’s to our loss and sometimes shame as a species. As humans consider their varying forms of existence, and as certain cultures of the globe consider social issues, and as we encounter these social issues under the mortal threat of Covid, our conversation must include disability. Carriage Driving does include disability, and even the Facebook group has over a thousand followers. There are Driving for the Disabled facilities established and more needed. “Horses are healing on so many different levels” says Boots Wright, a carriage driver of 35 years, who was “flung out of a carriage in 2008” and has had “several head injuries”. It is her red golf cart with the disability tag, and it is her international standing as an esteemed carriage driving equestrian that earned Wright the Chef D’Equip position at the 2012 World Equestrian event in Brade, Holland—and where USA ParaDriver Diane Kastema took home the gold for us.

There are associations for world equestrianism, the Federale Equestrian International, which is the governing body for that level of equestrian sport. In the United States, the American Driving Association both governs competition and seeks to include all carriage drivers of every level. To this end, Wright was involved when the ADS “events community was tasked with the creation of a program in 2017” that included Disability Dispensations, so that disabled equestrians could participate in their beloved pursuit.  

Wright fully acknowledges the art in carriage driving, and said in an in-person interview, that carriage driving is art, “because you’re not sitting on the horse, you are sitting behind it. You have two hands and only have hands, eyes, and voice [with which] to see and appreciate the horse’s body language. It can’t be taught by rote; the techniques can be taught, but the way you perceive things is in your own head.” As the artist brings the dream to the physical world, this is a physical display, a ballet, a performance of, as Wright says, “heightened senses”. Anyone who has experienced art can testify to the exhilaration of being engaged in the shared vision between artist and recipient. So too it is to see a horse swirling their beautiful bodies in concert with the hands that wisely guide. An interesting aspect to equestrianism is that the human in partnership with the horse, melds to the watching eye, becomes a centaur, a mythic being. Disabled drivers on the box can become elegance incarnate.

While indubitably every disabled person ought to have the choice of equine assisted therapy, not everyone wants to be an athlete; and while there is a para-equestrian riding team of serious athletes which has serious support, this is not as true among Disabled Competitive Carriage Drivers. Competitive Carriage Driving is itself a sport of mere thousands, with severe curtaining of travel and gathering, that events are happening at all with safety protocols is a testament of love.  The competitors are an open mix of professional equestrians and devoted amateurs, of backyard horse owners and of ones of deeper resources, and there is no distinction once the horse enters the arena at A. Although there are a few, specialized patterns for Disabled Drivers, Wright—who is a long-certified judge—says “I judge the horse not the driver [and that she doesn’t] classify or qualify a person’s disabilities”. It is the horse dancing with the human, abled or disabled, it is their performance together which is on stage.

Because of Covid’s many delays, the World Para Driving event has been rescheduled to this summer of 2021 in Shildau, Germany. Wright will be among the judges there. In the USA, there are fully capable disabled carriage drivers who are skilled enough, talented enough, dedicated enough to go as the team for America.  In the past, disabled veteran Bob Giles brought us home the silver medal, and the American team of disabled drivers have brought home bronze and gold too. Yet, this team is ever struggling for support that matches their own serious endeavor. Whilst the dark view of disability might view this as a social status quo, Covid is changing our culture and new conversations surround diversity. There are strenuous efforts to include disability in all diversity discussions, and this ought to be true for disabled athletes. As the horse equalizes us all as human, so too the horse does in carriage driving to those on the box. It’s just past time to give our support to the disabled, to disabled athletes, to disabled equestrian athletes and to both carriage driving, disabled carriage drivers and the extraordinary endeavor these athletes have made to perform as our team on the world stage.

Notes: 

Photographs taken at Grand Oaks CDE in January 2021. They are taken from a judge's viewpoint. 

The 2021 FEI World Championships for Singles Para Driving will take place Thursday, the 5th of August through Sunday, the 8th in Germany.
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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.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Mentors from April 1st to June 21st

Ann McBee - Writing query letters, novel & story development, submitting to literary magazines, putting a poetry or fiction chapbook together

Note:  Her primary genres are flash fiction and hybrid works.


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, Parhelion Literary Review, The Pinch, Citron Review, and Cherry Tree 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.

Jennifer adds: Ann has edited for literary journals and presses in the past.

Method of correspondence:  Email

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



Poet, Carey Link is from Huntsville, Alabama. She retired after sixteen years as a civil servant at Redstone Arsenal. She is currently working toward a graduate degree in counseling. Carey's poetry has been included in Hospital Drive, the WLRH Sundial Writers Corner, Birmingham Poetry Review, Months to Years Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. Carey has had four chapbooks selected for publication: Through the Kaleidoscope (Blue Light Press, 2020), Awakening to Holes in the Arc of Sun (Mule on a Ferris Wheel, 2016), What it Means to Climb a Tree (Finishing Line Press, 2011), and I Walk a Frayed Tightrope Without a Safety Net (Forthcoming from Finishing Line Press). Carey is honored that her original quote, "I am not defined by an inanimate object. Look at me, not my wheelchair" will be displayed at the 2021 Embracing Our Differences Exhibit in Sarasota, Florida.    

Method of correspondence: Email

Thursday, March 18, 2021

We Begin Again (Announcements)

 Starting today, this blog is back in action! In the coming months, we have an essay by Su Zi, poetry by Robert Allen, a literary analysis of "Frankenstein" by Kelley Pasmanick, the return of Spazzy Crafter's column, and more goodies lined up.

Just a few things:

1. The Cripendy Contest has a new deadline of April 30th. Please send us your entries! Before we went on hiatus, we had zero submissions for it. Read the guidelines here.

2. Our mentor program will officially open on April 1st. Before that time, the information for the mentors on deck will be posted. If you're interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, click here to learn more. We hope the year-round program benefits more of our community.

3. As always, we are open to submissions for the blog! Any written work considered must relate to creativity and disability/neurodivergence in some way... however tenuous the connection. Visual and performance art submissions don't have to be about disability or neurodivergence.