Friday, October 29, 2021

Using the Addi Express (Two Sizes) by Spazzy Crafter

Image: A round, black, plastic machine with red pegs (except for two white near the shuttle). There are a few rows of blue yarn on the pegs, and the yarn ball sits a few inches away. The background is a tile floor.
If you like to loom knit and are looking for a way to do it more independently, then the Addi Express (with 22 needles) and the Addi Express King Size (with 46 needles) are for you. They are a series of hand-crank knitting machines from Germany.
We should now talk about the price. The Addi Express and the Addi Express King Size price varies depending on where you get them and if you want them as a bundle. They can run anywhere between $170 to $430 USD.

Yarns that work:

It takes a lot of trial and error, but medium weight yarns are generally recommended. Since the machine is made in Germany, DK (double-knit yarn) might be the best; the US equivalents are gauges seven, eight, and nine. If you use thicker/thinner yarn, the machines will drop stitches. Performance can also vary between yarn brands and amount of tension.

What comes with:

Extra needles in case they break, one tapestry needle (per machine), stoppers (these are included with some machines), instructions, and the machines themselves. There is a row counter on the machine.

Using the Addi:

Cast on the yarn by starting at the first black peg on the right. All the pegs have a hooked top. Put the yarn in the hooked part, then put the yarn behind the next peg, and continue alternating going in front and behind the pegs until you make it all the way around the loom. Place the yarn strand in the shuttle and close the little door. Rotate the handle to cast on all the pegs and keep rotating until you get the desired number of rows. The tapestry needle is used to collect the stitches from the pegs when you’re ready to finish the project.

Pros and cons of the Addi Express:

The major pro for me to the Addi Express is that I only need help with the casting on and the binding off. It takes about a half hour to make a hat. It can also make panels for things like baby blankets; there is a switch for round or panel knitting.

The major con is the price. It can drop stitches because it doesn't come with a tensioner.

Extras for separate purchase:

A tensioner makes one-handed use easier
Suction cups for the legs (I haven’t tried them yet)
Clip weights might also help with dropping stitches
Image: The left side has a smaller machine with white yarn cast on and a ball of yarn nearby. The background is a quilt of varied colors with rounded shapes separated by small, checked squares. The right side of the image is the finished product... a white hat.
There are cheaper knitting machines out there (like the Sentro), but I haven’t tried them. Some come with a tensioner built in. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Interview with Author Ciaran J. McLarnon

Image: A headshot of a caucasian man in a printed, button-down shirt. He has thick, black glasses and receding dark hair. He is outdoors (grass, trees, and sky visible).

When did you figure out you wanted to be a writer?

When I was studying for my MSc I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and was blown away by what she had achieved. Until that point I had been making a choice between being a scientist and being a writer, but that book made me think I might be able to do both. A few years later I accepted that being an ecologist was no longer on option for me, and I decided to focus on writing. Now I can't imagine ever being anything else. That feels strange because (if I wasn't disabled) I'm not sure how I would have ended up being a writer, but I really think I was never going to be anything else.

Who are your influences?

Rachel Carson has been a major influence, as have many other nature writers; I really enjoyed reading Henry David Thoreau and like to keep him in mind when I write. I spent my childhood in the area where the poet Seamus Heaney had grown up 50 years before and aspire to write stories with the panache of his poetry. There are many Irish writers who inspire me to try and be better every day. Of more recent writers Kazuo Ishiguro is a favourite, an excellent storyteller with unrivalled technique. Like many writers, I’m also a keen reader and hope that every book I read influences me in some small way.

Where did you get the inspiration for your debut novel New Shores? How long did it take you to write?

New Shores first started its life as a short story about six years ago. At that time I had no desire to write a novel, but I knew that if I ever did, that story would be the place from which I would start. About 18 months later that opinion had changed and I began to write the first draft of the novel. I chose New Shores because it was an area where no amount of research would be too much, and because I thought I could add something to the work available that tackled the same subjects.

The original short story was inspired by a lecture series I attended at university on the native tribes of Papua New Guinea, and by a TV report which detailed how tribes in Papua New Guinea moved away from the coast after a tidal wave because they were scared of the sea. Hunter/gatherer tribes in places such as Papua New Guinea are often used to examine how prehistoric people might have acted in certain situations.

How did you become interested in environmentalism and history?

I grew up in a very rural area, so I've always had an affinity for nature because of that. My studies in Marine Biology and Ecology focused heavily on the environment. To me environmentalism just makes sense; it's a little like recognising that a house is going to need maintenance occasionally, and that you should avoid doing things that might damage it.

I also like to know the source of ideas, and that's where my interest in history comes from. Plus, history is full of great stories and interesting characters that I think people will enjoy learning more about, and the ideas from history can teach us a lot about human nature.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to research or write about people and things outside of their culture?

It's tricky since most writers don't want to be accused of cultural appropriation. I try to be respectful and understanding, and if you can do that, then people are usually more forgiving if you are inaccurate. You will make mistakes and people will see things in a different way, so try not to be too controversial. I'm from Northern Ireland so I have heard people try to advise on the situation here, so any researcher might want to avoid a very complicated situation. But subjects outside a person's cultural experience shouldn't be too daunting - everyone has their opinion and an objective opinion could be useful. Any comments should be necessary, as simple as they can be, and show people you have tried and want to understand.

What was the aspect that surprised you most about the publishing process? Is there anything you wish you would've done differently?

I thought being in control of the final book that emerged from the publishing process didn't really matter that much to me, so I was surprised to find out how wrong I was about that. Through Atmosphere Press I felt like I had the final say in the design and editorial process, which I found empowering. I suppose, after spending so long thinking about my words, I didn't want anyone else to have that much control over them!

Do you have a writing routine?

I do have routine, but it's become more flexible recently. I do like to try and follow the advice of Stephen King to try and write every day. Three days a week I go to the gym after breakfast, and physical exercise is an important part of my process. I often take breaks during writing to exercise. After I get back from the gym, or straight after breakfast on the mornings that I don't go, I like to read for about 90 minutes. I then write for about two or three hours or until I get stuck. Then read again for about 90 minutes, something different from what I was reading that morning. If I have something I really need to do, I will read/write in the evening. Having a strict routine helps me to avoid procrastination and write when I’m not motivated.

Are you more of a "plotter" or a "pantser"?

For New Shores I was definitely a pantser; I just had a vague idea of how things were going to go before I started writing. The world and the story got more solid with each draft that I wrote, but because I was researching and reading as I went, I'd written three or four drafts before all the major plot points appeared. Plotting probably would have made editing faster. For the next book, I'm writing a three-sentence summary before I begin each chapter, but I don't want to plot too much because making up the story as you write it is part of the fun!

A lot of writers seem to recommend plotting and I do like to have a vague idea of the beginning, middle, and end before I start. But, I change my mind so often that I don’t think I should plan too much. I think a writer should have a plan but needs space to be creative.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a disabled writer?

Because of my medical condition, I have difficulties holding small objects and can’t use a pen and paper. It has never been a problem that has made me reconsider writing, but I do get the feeling that my process is a little different from the process of authors who can use pen and paper. For example, I have never written in the margins of a book or used a highlighter pen. I'm a slow typist too and I have used several methods to get over these problems.

The first method I used and by far the best was a note taker, a person whose job it is to take notes for you and to write down what you say as appropriate. I used this method in a creative writing class I attended a few years ago, but it was in a large university that could afford to hire a note taker and had empty classrooms I could use when dictating.

The computer programme that I use for dictation now works out pretty well. I'm using it to complete this interview. The programme does pick the wrong words sometimes, but I think that problem is mainly due to my thick accent! When using any kind of dictation is inappropriate, I often use a tablet. This is the solution I normally opt for when I'm attending a writing class or workshop. I produce shorter pieces than most people in that situation, but I still enjoy learning about writing and listening to other people’s work.

What project are you working on next?

I usually split my time between writing novels and writing short stories. I write short stories until I need to stop and start working on my novel again, which usually takes four months. Then I'll write that novel until I feel like writing short stories again. Right now I'm on the short story part of the cycle, but I’ll turn to the 3rd draft of my next novel by January 2022.

The novel writing is going pretty well and I think it’s starting to take shape. With a little planning, I think I can reduce the number of drafts and maybe complete the book in 2022. Some interesting things are happening to the main character so I'm quite looking forward to seeing how it all works out. I'm trying my hand at dark fantasy in the short story I'm currently working on and the short stories I've been working on most recently are historical fiction and for a nature writing competition. I just heard that my historical fiction piece will be published so I'm pleased by that.


Biography:  Ciaran J. McLarnon is a Northern Irish writer who lives in the town of Ballymena, north of Belfast and close to dramatic scenery that has inspired many filmmakers and other artists. Renowned poet Seamus Heaney, winner of a Nobel Prize for literature, was born in the area and is one of many writers who inspire Ciaran.

Ciaran has a BSc in Marine Biology and an MSc in Ecology, both of which strongly influence his writing. Medical problems encouraged him to develop a life-long passion for fiction since that time. His continuing quest to hone his craft has explored many different subjects including history, the natural environment, horror and crime. Although this is his first novel, his words have featured in many publications, and he was long-listed for the Adelaide Literary award. More information on Ciaran J. McLarnon and his works is available at

Friday, October 8, 2021

Giveaway: Leaf Memories by Carol Farnsworth (Autographed)

Image: In the center is a photograph of a girl semi-covered in a pile of brown leaves. The girl is wearing a red sweater, white sneakers, and light colored pants. Her eyes are closed. She has straight, dark hair. The top of the image is a sand color with the title of the book in khaki. The bottom of the image is the same with the author's name.
We are giving away an autographed copy of the poetry chapbook Leaf Memories by Carol Farnsworth! The giveaway starts October 8th and ends November 30th. The winner will be notified on December 1st via the method they used to enter the contest. 


1. Open worldwide.

2. People may enter by leaving a comment on this post, via email (, or on Twitter @HandUnPen. Please mention the contest when contacting us.

3. Only one entry per person.

4. If you win, please be sure to contact us with your mailing address in a timely manner. We will do our best to get the book to you.

5. Void where prohibited.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Disability Theory by Su Zi

Image: A thin, bare torso in sepia tones. Across the belly are the words "This is a disabled body".
I am turning invisible.
When is when
Where's the line
Why are there lines?
Birds don't recognize any logic
to fences. Everyone should
feed the birds
It says so in Mary Poppins.
But that was a bird herself
They can talk, you know.
Discuss in your best bird, your
best Charlie Parker, your best
dangle from a career criminal
already dead in Louisiana.
I dare you
Discuss disability
Okay dare
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, September 24, 2021

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (Review/Rant)

Image: Two drawn figures lean in for a kiss. The man is blond, tall, and lean wearing a black and gold coat with black pants and gloves. The woman is shorter and fat with red hair in a white dress. They both have closed eyes. His one arm is around her waist and her one arm is around his neck with a hand on his chest. The background is teal with white line drawings of trees, buildings, and what looks to be the Golden Gate Bridge.
Marcus is an actor who secretly writes fanfiction about his own show. April is a fat geologist who writes fanfiction (unknowingly) with Marcus and does cosplay. When April's plus-size interpretation of a character goes viral in a mixed way on Twitter, Marcus asks her out to stick it to the trolls... realizing only during the date that she's the beta reader and friend he's had online for two years. But, if anyone finds out he writes fanfiction, he will never work in Hollywood again. 

I really wanted to like this book. It seemed a little like a fat girl fairytale with a bunch of geeky stuff thrown in. Meeting up with your server pals at a convention? Yes, please! Size acceptance in a romance? Always welcome. However...

April's body is basically described as a bunch of circles and softness. On repeat, really. We never know her dress size, just how spherical she is with red-blond hair and brown eyes. Oh, and freckles!

She has body image issues, which I understand, but she has them to such a degree she should not be dating. Marcus invites April to the gym with him because he has to maintain his figure, and she sees it as him trying to change her; she does not ask him if this is what he is trying to do... she just ends their outing coldly. Afterward, he proposes a date she does agree to:  Taste-testing donuts! Nope, not kidding. April sabotages things due to her size more than once, and Marcus is always floundering to please her.

Marcus pretends to be vapid and shallow as a shield because his parents made him feel unintelligent due to his undiagnosed dyslexia. They were teachers at a prep school, but never figured out their kid had dyslexia and how best to help him... they just made him feel lesser. I don't buy that they never considered it or tested him. 

A lot of Marcus' and April's issues stem from their parents. April's father was all about appearances to the point where the mom had to maintain a specific weight and therefore put her anxiety on her daughter. Marcus feels like he has nothing to offer but a pretty face because his parents made him feel like he had nothing else. There are difficult and angsty conversations with both of their families. I know families can be a difficult thing to navigate, but the way everything goes down makes it seem like April and Marcus are in their early 20s trying to figure out their identities (she is 36 and he's 40).  

Secondary characters are mostly bland with only a couple being fleshed out at all. Marcus' best friend is another actor who has ADHD, also looks like a god, is very rich, and loves extraordinarily fat ladies... what are the odds? But, at least Alex has more to him than most of the other side characters. I keep thinking most of these people are teenagers and not professionals who are adults.

The incident/secret that temporarily splits up the couple is ridiculous.

Sex scenes are graphic but also boring. There are only so many different ways a vanilla couple can get it on. There is plenty of swearing and dirty words for genitalia, though!

I did read it all the way, so the story must have been proficient in some form. But, ultimately, I do not recommend this book. What could have been fun and interesting became bland histrionics.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Crip Lyrics: The Unapologetic Poetry of Disability by Val Vera (Review)

Image: A man in a black T-shirt and gray pants faces an orange sunset across the water. He is in a power wheelchair and has his hand on the joystick. He has black hair and facial hair. The title of the book is above the sun in the sky and the poet's name is on the bottom left of the image.

Please note:  I was given a copy of this book in order to review it.

So, this chair thing
This, you’re kind of scared thing
This eye-catching, make you stare thing
The thought-prompting, curiosity-leading,
Cause you to wonder thing
Let me answer your everything
-from "Chair Thing"

Lyricists and slam artists are a subset of poet praised on the stage but often neglected on the page. It might be "proper poetry" having an aversion to modern rhyme. Possibly, it's due to the energy and sparks spit by performers that can't easily be replicated on paper or a screen. But, Val Vera's words don't lack fire... even in the quieter arena.

My Cripple is more than rubber tires, this chariot bathed in black.
Rolling on the spineless skin of ableism’s back.
-From "My Cripple"

Through twenty-two different poems, we're taken through an unflinching look at ableism, cripdom, gawkers, Karens, love, power, pain, and more. Each poem earns its place in the collection and says everything clearly. There is anger, incredulity, and softness in the narrator's voice. He weaves back and forth between the political and pedestrian, the lover and the display. So often, I found myself nodding as I read.

It’s time to collect.

From institutions that segregate.
Media that manipulate.
Police who violate
With force and guns.
Creating programs so we don’t run.
-From "Not Your Granddaddy’s Crip"

One of the pitfalls of collections of tight rhyme is that the pattern gets samey or sing-songy in some spots, which is something I occasionally found here. Luckily, it didn't happen often in Vera's deft hands.

I really hope there are performances for some of these lyrics out in the world. The way some lines sizzle on the page would be electric to hear/see live. It might be good advertising for the book, too.

Look what you’ve done,
what you’ve created
Quiet poster child turned Crip
Unapologetic and jaded
Shunned by abled news
Shaped by privileged views
-From "Creation"

Each poem in the collection is accompanied by a visual art piece by 
Melissa Marie Eckardt. I don't know how the collaboration started, but the end results are glorious. The beats in the lyrics and smoothness in the art make for a soulful duet.

There are slight sexual references and swearing but nothing excessive. One of the accompanying paintings in the collections is sexual in nature and depicts oral sex (though all the viewer sees is part of a butt and cupped genitalia).

I absolutely loved this short collection. I recommend it.
Will you add:

Crip Lyrics: The Unapologetic Poetry of Disability can be pre-ordered at this link.
Biography:  Val Vera is a Disability Justice activist, speaker, and writer. Originally from Chicago, Val began his Disability Justice career in San Diego and has served on several boards focused on disability culture and equity. His intersectional experience as a Disabled Latinx, coupled with his Disability Justice work, is revealed by the imagery and passion in his writing. 

Val currently lives in Denton, TX where he organizes, educates and serves with the local Disability Community. He is an avid moviegoer, music lover and sports aficionado. Above all, Val enjoys laughing and spending unscripted time with his favorite person Michelle. 

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.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

EmpowerHer*Voice Creative Writing Competition

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.  

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.


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,, 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.

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

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.

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: read her blog:

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.


• 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


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.


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
Body parts
Of a life
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.


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


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
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