Rewriting the Old Story

Today I have an Op-Ed in the New York Times about the rewriting the familiar disability script and changing the world:

Think about all those stories that are missing. Stories that we need to overwrite the corrosive narrative of ableism. Without those stories, the implicit bias will continue and the cycle will renew itself endlessly. We changed queer literature, and the world, with story. We can do it again. We can write those stories in our own voices, our strong, beautiful, ordinary, disabled voices.

So Lucky news

Image description: Composite image of two book covers of So Lucky: A Novel, by Nicola Griffith. On the left, the UK edition. On a black background, a burning torch flames in orange and yellow up and across at least half the image. At the top, in between the flames are quotes from the Independent ‘a short, fast-paced whirlwind of a novel’ and BBC Culture‘a sophisticated thriller’. Below is the title, So Lucky in salmon-coloured type, and the author’s name, Nicola Griffith, in white. On the right, the US edition. The background is matte black with the title “So Lucky,” and the author’s name “Nicola Griffith,” in big uppercase type rendered as burning paper. In smaller, brighter letters between title and author is, “A novel,” and, below the writer’s name, “Author of Hild”

Image description: Composite image of two covers of So Lucky: A Novel, by Nicola Griffith. On the left, the UK edition. On a black background, a burning torch flames in orange and yellow up and across at least half the image. At the top, in between the flames are quotes from the Independent ‘a short, fast-paced whirlwind of a novel’ and BBC Culture‘a sophisticated thriller’. Below is the title, So Lucky in salmon-coloured type, and the author’s name, Nicola Griffith, in white. On the right, the US edition. The background is matte black with the title “So Lucky,” and the author’s name “Nicola Griffith,” in big uppercase type rendered as burning paper. In smaller, brighter letters between title and author is, “A novel,” and, below the writer’s name, “Author of Hild” 


I’ve been in Las Vegas—my very first trip, which deserves a whole post to itself at some point—and have come back to a few bits and bobs of So Lucky news. In no particular order:

Books, Etc | Blackwell’s | Amazon UK | list of 70 UK independent book shops

Also, don’t forget the audio version, which I narrated earlier this year—available as a digital download or CD from Amazon or from any of those lovely independents linked above.

 

#CripLit: Sunday, 18 November

Image description: Graphic with a white background and text in black that reads “#CripLit TwitterChat Mental Health & Writing, November 18, 2018, 4 pm Pacific/ 5 pm Mountain/ 6 pm Central/ 7 pm Eastern/ 4 pm Pacific, Guest hosts @veronikellymars and @sesmith. Details: DisabilityVisibilityProject.com.” On the left is an illustration of a pile of books and on the right a typewriter. Both illustrations in black.

Image description: Graphic with a white background and text in black that reads “#CripLit TwitterChat Mental Health & Writing, November 18, 2018, 4 pm Pacific/ 5 pm Mountain/ 6 pm Central/ 7 pm Eastern/ 4 pm Pacific, Guest hosts @veronikellymars and @sesmith. Details: DisabilityVisibilityProject.com.” On the left is an illustration of a pile of books and on the right a typewriter. Both illustrations in black.


#CripLit Twitter Chat
Writing and Mental Health
Sunday, November 18, 2018
4 pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eastern

You are invited to the fourteenth #CripLit chat co-hosted by novelist Nicola Griffith and Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project®. We are excited to have Kelly Jensen and s.e. smith join us in a conversation about writing, mental health, and the new anthology (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health. Kelly is the editor of this anthology and s.e. is a contributor–we look forward to learning more about this groundbreaking collection of essays from them.

Please note: This first question is for everyone, then we will ask several questions of Kelly and s.e., and then open the last 20 minutes for participants to ask their own questions to our guest hosts or Tweet their thoughts about writing and mental health.

Additional Links

Kirkus Review of (Don’t) Call Me Crazy (May 28, 2018)
Kelly Jensen, Writer & Editor
s.e. smith
Stacked Books

How to Participate

Follow @DisVisibility @nicolaz @sesmith and @veronikellymars on Twitter for updates.

When it’s time, search #CripLit on Twitter for the series of live tweets under the ‘Latest’ tab for the full conversation.

If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions so you can respond to them, check @DisVisibility’s account. Each question will tweeted 6-8 minutes apart.

Another way to participate in the chat is to use this app that allows you to pause the chat if the Tweets are coming at you too fast: http://www.tchat.io/

Check out this explanation of how to participate in a twitter chat by Ruti Regan: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat

Check out this captioned #ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc: https://www.facebook.com/HEARDDC/videos/1181213075257528/

Introductory Tweets and Questions for 11/18 Chat

Welcome to the #CripLit chat on writing & mental health with guest hosts @sesmith and @veronikellymars! We’ll be talking about the new anthology edited by Kelly Jensen featuring an essay by s.e. smith: (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health

If you respond to a question such as Q1 or want to Tweet a comment, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripLit”

Please note: The first question is for everyone, then we will address several questions about the anthology directly to @veronikellymars and @sesmith, and then open it up to you all for the last 20 minutes of the #CripLit chat

Q1 Welcome everyone! Please introduce yourself and share a little bit about your writing and your interest in #MentalHealth in literature #CripLit

Q2 @veronikellymars: As the Editor of Don’t Call Me Crazy, tell us about how this project started and why you wanted to create this collection at this time on this topic #CripLit

Q3 @veronikellymars: What was the editing process like and what led you to select these 33 particular essays? What were your intentions with the choice of these contributors?

Q4 @sesmith: Could you tell us about your essay in Don’t Call Me Crazy and what it means for you to be part of this collection centered on the lived experience mental health/illness? #CripLit

Q5 @veronikellymars and @sesmith: The word ‘crazy’ is considered sanist and ableist but it’s also reclaimed by people w/ mental health disabilities and Mad or neurodivergent people. What does ‘crazy’ mean to you and how does language & identity matter in writing about disability? #CripLit

Q6 @veronikellymars and @sesmith: What kinds of conversations do you hope the essays in Don’t Call Me Crazy will start about #MentalHealth and accurate representation of it in literature? #CripLit

For the rest of the hour we welcome all of you to share your thoughts about #MentalHealth and writing. You are also welcome to ask @veronikellymars and @sesmith questions about the Don’t Call Me Crazy anthology #CripLit

Reminder: if you ask Kelly or s.e. a question, don’t forget to Tweet at them @veronikellymars and @sesmith and use use the #CripLit tag!

Thank you for joining our #CripLit chat. Many thanks to our guest hosts @veronikellymars and @sesmith
Please continue the conversation!

A recap of this chat will be up tomorrow. Check the #CripLit hashtag. Feel free to contact @DisVisibility and @nicolaz with any ideas/feedback 😀

Monday 5 November, 7 pm: Elliott Bay Book Company, in conversation with Katrina Carrasco

Carrasco

Image description: Two photos side by side. Left: the author, Katrina Carrasco, with a short asymmetrical haircut, wearing glasses, jeans, boots, and collared jacket standing on snowy ground before mountains and bare trees. Right: book cover of The Best Bad Things, with the title and author rendered in what looks like smeared blood. The central illustration, of the back of a gender-indeterminate figure holding a just-fired gun, is in the same colour and style.


In the US we don’t have Bonfire Night, but if you’re in or near Seattle on Monday night, and want fireworks, come to Elliott Bay Book Company. At 7 pm I’ll be talking with Katrina Carrasco about her debut novel, The Best Bad Things.

The Best Bad Things is a fabulous book. I talked about it earlier this year:

Gritty street fiction set in the lawless 19th century when Port Townsend was the Deadwood of the Pacific Northwest, The Best Bad Things is a bloody brawl of a book… Alma, dressed as Jack, sheds her impulse control along with her corsets, and the plot accelerates into a visceral, unexpected underworld of bare-knuckle fighting, opium smuggling, and genderqueer lust.

I promise you, this book is not like anything you’ve read before. I can also promise you a fantastic evening of conversation about gender, writing queer people and people of colour back into history, writing the body, and the opium-smuggling underworld of the nineteenth-century Pacific Northwest.

Join us—and bring friends, relatives, enemies you wish to make peace with, people you bump into on the street, bring everyone!—and help me help Catrina celebrate the publication of this lusty, exciting, thrillingly-written and ground breaking fiction.

Resistance & Hope: an interview with Alice Wong

When I came out as a cripple, two people in particular were my guides. One is artist Riva Lehrer, the other is Alice Wong. I’ve talked about Riva before, and will again. Today I want to talk with and about Alice.

Alice Wong is a disability activist, media maker, and consultant. She founded and directs the Disability Visibility Project® (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. Alice is also a co-partner in DisabledWriters.com, a resource to help editors connect with disabled writers and journalists, and #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan online movement encouraging the political participation of disabled people.

Alice’s areas of interest are popular culture, media, politics, disability issues, Medicaid policies and programs, storytelling, social media, and activism. She has been published in Bitch MediaTeen VogueNew York Times, Rooted in Rights and others.

From 2013 to 2015 Alice served as a member of the National Council on Disability, an appointment by President Barack Obama. She has a master’s in medical sociology and worked at the University of California, San Francisco as a Staff Research Associate for 15 years. Alice launched the Disability Visibility podcast in September 2017 and currently works as an independent research consultant as part of her side hustle. Because, yes, so many of us have side hustles.

AWong_2018b

Image description: Photo of Alice Wong, Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project, an Asian American woman wearing a multicolored scarf and bright red lipstick. She has a Bi-Pap mask over her nose attached with a gray tube. She is wearing a black jacket and standing in front of colorful street art.


I became aware of Alice on Twitter as I became aware of how the tentacles of ableism don’t affect just my immediate day-to-day life but wrap around and strangle almost every aspect of disabled peoples’ lives, including—especially—our interactions with the world. This of course includes our cultural lives. We talked about writing: disabled writers, disabled characters in fiction. ‘We need a hashtag,’ I said. As a result, Alice and I now run #CripLit, an occasional Twitter chat for disabled writers. She interviewed me for the publication of So Lucky and today I’m asking her questions about her just-published anthology of essays of crip wisdom, Resistance & Hope. Because now, more than ever, we need to hear where and from whom others find and draw hope—what sustains  us in hard times. It’s as important to talk about joy as about difficulty because it helps to be reminded of the positive things we’re fighting towards, not just what we’re fighting against.

DVP-cover-1600x2560

Image description: Illustration by artist Micah Bazant featuring a midnight blue sky with little white stars. Below is a log with mushrooms growing out of it in multiple shapes and colors. ‘Text reads: Resistance & Hope, Essays by Disabled People, Crip Wisdom for the People, Edited by Alice Wong, Disability Visibility Project.’ The ‘o’ in ‘Hope’ looks like a full moon.


An interview with Alice Wong

Tell me about yourself and your path to this book, as an activist and as a media maker.

It’s amazing how everything leads to something else. I don’t feel like I’m a ‘real’ writer and yet these last three years I’ve been writing more than ever. My background is in qualitative research and sociology. The curiosity and interest I have learning from other disabled people in research led me to writing in non-academic journals and on social media. I fell into activism and writing because the social conditions that we live in compel me. The predominant narratives about us suck and I know there are so many amazing stories and untold histories about disabled people that need to be documented and shared. The reason why I started the Disability Visibility Project in 2014 was to collect oral histories from the disability community and to record our history in the 21st century in our own words, on our own terms. As the DVP expanded into an online community, I’m having a lot of fun telling stories through podcast interviews, blog posts, and Twitter chats. Resistance and Hope is one example of stories about what’s happening now in this particular political climate through a disabled lens.

I’ve said, often, that I write to change the world—but also because I love writing. How about you? Why do you write?

I write in order to contribute to a broader conversation, to engage in ideas, and to offer my unique point-of-view. I don’t write frequently; I usually write when motivated by ongoing thoughts that have been bubbling in the back of my brain in relation to current events. When I write, I don’t want to echo other perspectives that are already out there. For example, I wrote an essay this past Mother’s Day about the visibility of Senator Tammy Duckworth as a disabled parent of color. The images of her with her infant daughter in Congress moved me deeply and I wanted to bring in voices of other disabled Asian Americans/Canadian women who rarely, if ever, see themselves in the media. To me, this was an exciting opportunity to share my feelings and include others. In short, I write to carve out larger spaces for all of us.

Why this book in particular? What was the impetus?

Creating something is the best antidote to feeling powerless in the face of oppression. I felt scared and troubled the evening of Election Day 2016 and wanted to do something in response for us, as disabled people, but for all people who don’t know how we’ve been resisting way before Pussy Hats. I never self-published or published a book in my entire life so I thought it would be an exciting creative challenge.

What was the process like? Did you put out a general call for submissions or was it invitation-only? If so, how did you choose the contributors?

Since I am a complete newbie at self-publishing, I decided that this was going to be a small collection of powerful essays. I wanted to make the process as efficient as possible so I did not publish a call for submissions since there’s a lot involved in responding to queries and notifying people. I had a list of people that I admired from diverse backgrounds that all have something powerful to say. It was important that the majority of the writers are multiply marginalized disabled people of color because I wanted their stories front and center. Originally I had a goal for 25 essays and I ended up having 16 essays by 17 contributors and couldn’t be more delighted each one of them.

Editing and publishing always turns out to be much more work than we initially expect. What surprised you, or challenged you, or delighted you?

I learned a lot! I didn’t go the traditional route and try to get a book deal because I thought it would take too long and that I might lose creative control. I started work on the anthology January 2017 so this entire process has taken almost 2 years. It took me much longer than I thought even though it’s just 16 essays! First, it took a while to receive all the essays from the contributors. I also needed to hire a copy editor, the fantastic Robin M. Eames, to propose edits and work with the contributors for their approval. I had to learn all about self-publishing using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords (e.g., ISBN numbers, formatting, pricing, etc). I collaborated with a fantastic Bay Area artist, Micah Bazant, who created the book cover. I had to get a lawyer to create the writer’s agreements and have all the writers to sign them after they approved their final drafts. I learned about marketing, writing a good book description, and press release thanks to Corbett OToole of Reclamation Press and Rosalie Morales Kearns of Shade Mountain Press. And to be honest, it took me time to accumulate enough money to cover fees for the writers, book cover, copy editing (thank you to my Patreon supporters). Good shit doesn’t happen out of thin air!

I learned that it’s ok to take your time, especially if you want to do something right. It’s ok to delay things and disappoint people if it’ll create a better end result. While all of the things I mentioned were challenges, I am humbled and grateful for the labor, talents, support, and time people shared with me.

What did you hope this book would achieve? Do you think it’s working?

It might be too early to guess, but I want people to read this anthology and use it as fuel for whatever they are passionate about. I want people engaged, energized, and open to the crip wisdom from our elders, ancestors, and communities. It’s all around us if you just take the time to look.

I hope that this anthology will be used by activists from various movements as an introductory primer on resistance by disabled people. I’d like people to read and share it in classrooms and among friends, families, and community organizers. I want people to value and appreciate the talents and expertise of the 17 contributors and learn more about them.

Another purpose of the Resistance and Hope is to raise money for HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities). HEARD is the only organization in the nation that works to correct and prevent wrongful convictions of D/deaf and hard of hearing individuals. I wanted to make the anthology free on Amazon but found out I couldn’t set it from the beginning. Having Resistance and Hope affordable and accessible is important to me and rather than profiting from it (never my intention), this was a great way to support an organization steeped in disability justice. BTW: the anthology will be free via Smashwords.com in multiple formats.

As a disabled activist and media maker, who or what are you most determined to resist? And where do you find hope?

I resist policies and programs that keep disabled people from living the lives they want. I resist low expectations and tokenistic attempts at disability diversity by organizations and institutions. I resist the feelings of shame and isolation that still plague many of us, including me. I resist the idea that nothing can change and that every system is broken. I resist the idea that representation is enough when what we really want is power.

I find hope in my friends and family. I find hope in the amazing ways disabled people create and get things done interdependently. I find hope and joy in the simple things—excellent conversations and meals. And cat videos.

So what’s next for you?

I’ll be continuing my #CripLit chats with you, and #CripTheVote chats with my co-partners Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan in 2019. I have some great podcast episodes slated for this winter and next spring. And who knows what else…the sky’s the limit!

For more about Resistance & Hope: Essays by Disabled People

#CripLit chat Sunday 10/28: Resistance and Hope

#CripLit 1028 Image description: Graphic with a yellow background and text in black that reads “#CripLit TwitterChat New Resistance and Hope, October 28, 2018, 4 pm Pacific/ 5 pm Mountain/ 6 pm Central/ 7 pm Eastern/ 4 pm Pacific, Co-hosts @Nicolaz & @DisVisibility. Details: DisabilityVisibilityProject.com.” On the left is an illustration of a clenched fist and on the right is an illustration of an ink pen. Both illustrations in black.

Resistance and Hope #CripLit Twitter Chat Sunday, October 28, 2018 4 pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eastern

You are invited to the thirteenth #CripLit chat co-hosted by novelist Nicola Griffith and Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project®. This chat is timed to celebrate the publication of Resistance and Hope, an anthology of essays by disabled people, edited by Alice Wong. But the questions are for all of us—all disabled writers are welcome. We want a good conversation about our community’s values, joys, and struggles around resistance and hope! Alice Wong Alice Wong is a disability activist, media maker, and consultant. She is the Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project® (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture created in 2014. Alice is also a co-partner in DisabledWriters.com, a resource to help editors connect with disabled writers and journalists, and #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan online movement encouraging the political participation of disabled people. Alice’s areas of interest are popular culture, media, politics, disability issues, Medicaid policies and programs, storytelling, social media, and activism. She has been published in Eater, Bitch Media, Teen Vogue, New York Times, Transom and Rooted in Rights. From 2013 to 2015 Alice served as a member of the National Council on Disability, an appointment by President Barack Obama. She has a master’s in medical sociology and worked at the University of California, San Francisco as a Staff Research Associate for 15 years. Alice launched the Disability Visibility podcast in September 2017 and currently works as an independent research consultant as part of her side hustle. (Bio adapted from Disability Visibility Project.) Nicola Griffith Nicola Griffith is the founder and, with Alice Wong, the co-partner of #CripLit. She was born and brought up in Yorkshire, England, where she earned her beer money teaching women’s self-defense, fronting a band, and arm-wrestling in bars, before discovering writing and moving to the US. After her 1993 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis she focused on writing. Her novels are Ammonite, Slow River, The Blue Place, Stay, Always, Hild, and So Lucky. She is the co-editor of the BENDING THE LANDSCAPE series of original queer fiction. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in a variety of journals, including Nature, New Scientist, Los Angeles Review of Books, LitHub, and Out. Her work has won, among others, the Washington State Book Award, the Tiptree, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, the Premio Italia, and Lambda Literary Award (six times), and is translated into 13 languages. She has served as a Trustee of the Multiple Sclerosis Association and the Lambda Literary Foundation. She is now a dual US/UK citizen, holds a PhD from Anglia Ruskin University, and lives in Seattle with her wife, the writer Kelley Eskridge. (Bio adapted from Nicola Griffith’s website.) Additional Links How to Participate Follow @DisVisibility and @nicolaz on Twitter for updates. When it’s time, search #CripLit on Twitter for the series of live tweets under the ‘Latest’ tab for the full conversation. If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions so you can respond to them, check @DisVisibility’s account. Each question will tweeted 6-8 minutes apart. Check out this explanation of how to participate in a twitter chat by Ruti Regan: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat Check out this captioned #ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc
Introductory Tweets and Questions for 5/19 Chat Welcome to the #CripLit chat to celebrate Resistance and Hope. This chat is co-hosted by @nicolaz & @disvisibility. Please remember to use the #CripLit hashtag when you tweet. If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripLit” Q1 Please introduce yourself and share your journey to writing, and writing about resistance in particular. #CripLit Q2 Tell us about some of your resistance writing. What or who are you resisting? #CripLit Q3 As a disabled/sick/chronically ill writer, who or what sustains you and gives you hope? #CripLit Q4 If your resistance writing is published and out in the world, how do you feel? Would you do it again? Why? #CripLit Q5 What impact has this work had on your writing and/or activism? What are you working on now? #CripLit Q6 What advice do you have for other disabled writers about editing or writing about resistance? #CripLit Q7 What new anthologies by/about disabled writers would you like to see? Who and what is missing when it comes to diversity and different perspectives? #CripLit Q8 Where should we look to discover the new voices of #CripLit, and how can we help each other? Q9 What would you like to see next for disability literature? How can we increase its reach and visibility—how can we spread our crip wisdom to the people? #CripLit Thank you for joining our #CripLit chat. Please continue the conversation! A  recap of this chat will be up tomorrow. Check the #CripLit hashtag. Feel free to contact @DisVisibility and @nicolaz with any ideas/feedback 😀

Booksellers, this one weird trick could increase your bottom line by 25%!

On Friday I was at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show in Tacoma where, with Annie Carl (owner of The Neverending Bookshop in Edmonds) and Kate Ristau (author, most recently, of Clockbreakers), I talked about how booksellers could potentially increase their revenues by 25%.

The answer is simple: make your bookstore—and website, and social media—accessible. According to a CDC press release in August, “One in 4 U.S. adults – 61 million Americans – have a disability that impacts major life activities.” If those 61 million cannot access your store—or website, or social media—they can’t become your customers.

Simple, though, isn’t easy, which is why we put together this panel to offer tips, suggestions, and resources. What follows is a summary of what I said on Friday, plus what I remember of Annie and Kate’s suggestions and the input from booksellers in the audience. If you have other suggestions, please add a comment below.

I’ve also turned this into a PDF that you can download for future reference.

STATISTICS
  • August CDC press release:
    • 1 in 4 adults in US have a disability
    • For all ages and sexes, the 3 most common disabilities are:
      • mobility (14)
      • cognition (11)
      • hearing (6)
    • I’m not bookseller, so I can’t speak to your customer demographics, but as an author I can tell you that a huge proportion of my readers are women ages 45-64
    • According to CDC, fully 30% of women 45-64 have a disability that makes major impacts on their life
    • If those women can’t get into your store—or use your website, or read your social media posts—they won’t be buying my books from you; you’ve lost their business
ACCESSIBILITY

It can be difficult, and expensive, to turn an inaccessible building into a universally accessible one. But it’s pretty easy, and inexpensive, to make a few simple, helpful changes.

Here’s a list of what, in an ideal world, what every bookstore should offer its customers. In parentheses next to some items are suggestions for ways to begin if your store is small and your budget tight.

For Customers:

  • Level entry. No stairs, of course, but also no lip: even 1″ can be insurmountable. (In ascending order of expense and difficulty: if you do have a threshold lip, you can buy heavy duty rubber threshold raps/mats online for just lips 1″- 2.5″ for around $100, depending on brand and size. If you have outside steps, you can buy and install a Garaventa wheelchair lift like the one at Elliott By Book Company–this is what I have at my house; I found it secondhand for less than $7,000.)
  • Accessible counter height at point-of-purchase. (If if would cost too much to replace your splendid, chest-high edifice, just add a low table to one end that someone in a wheelchair can see over. And clear space at one end for someone to approach from the side.)
  • Reading nook w/space for a wheelchair (because people in wheelchairs, too, like to settle in and take a deeper look at a potential purchase without being banged into or bothered)
  • Accessible bathroom on ground floor or accessible via elevator (one small thing you could do immediately: install grab bars in a stall).
  • Wider aisles (begin by moving things apart a little, and clearing the floor space; parents with strollers will also thank you)
  • Clear signage (buff-coloured card, black ink, large, well-spaced lettering)
  • Temperature control. (Depending on your location this could be as simple as fans and opening windows. When your budget is healthier, consider split-duct air conditioning.)
  • More accessible websites (e.g. good contrast, mindful of visual difference/colour palette, include image descriptions; plus a link to your disability policies and access info, including contact info)
  • More accessible social media (image descriptions; clear spacing; hashtags like #CripLit and #OwnVoices)

For Authors and events:

All of the above, plus:

  • In event space, no steps to the dais
  • No podium but a sturdy table a wheelchair user can get her knees under
  • Good lighting
  • Sound amplification
    • small store: small Bluetooth speaker is fine, but put speaker halfway up event space—front two or three rows will be able to hear the author just fine. (You can buy 60w Bluetooth speaker with both lavalier and handheld mic for $85 online)
    • Big store, you probably already have professional system, but make sure you buy lavalier mics, too, anywhere from $15-$180 (It’s very difficult to hold a microphone, turn or swipe a page, hold a hardcover book/iPad at the same time and talk at the same time…)
  • Hands-free microphone:
  • Lavalier/lapel is best, not just for disabled authors but for all of us. (Any idea how hard it is to hold mic, hold book, read aloud, and turn pages at same time?)
  • But good adjustable mic stand okay—and cost less than $20
  • ASL and/or CART (real-time captioning). (Individual interpreters are usually certified and listed by local government: the state, the county, the city. There are also various agencies. Interpretation costs can be shared between local bookstores and by the publisher—this is what I did recently for the So Lucky launch. Phinney Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, and the publisher (FSG x MCD), shared the cost.

Both:

  • Decent books to read:
    • Disabled people read all kinds of books, not just fiction and nonfiction about disability
    • But what many of us are really hungry for is books that reflect us; books with disabled characters whether or not the book’s about disability
WHAT IS GOOD #CRIPLIT?

Note: not all disabled people use the same language. I like identify-first language: disabled person. Others prefer person-first language: person with a disability. I tend to refer to literature by and about disabled characters as CripLit; others prefer Disability in Literature.

  • If I rolled into your shop and asked for a good book, what would you point me to?
  • Disabled people want good books, just like everyone else (graphic novels, romance, military history, memoir, science fiction, historical fiction, crime fiction, etc)
  • But we also want to see ourselves; we need a mirror; we need to know we’re not alone: we want fiction with disabled characters and nonfiction with or about disabled people.
  • There are plenty of okay #CripLit memoirs—though many are either what I think of as misery memoirs or triumph-over-the-odds memoirs (sigh)—but very little decent #CripLit fiction, especially for adult readers.
  • Much disability fiction is not #OwnVoices—not written by disabled authors but by nondisabled authors—which unless properly researched and beta-read by disabled people can be not only full of misinformation but actively harmful
  • I’m guessing many of you have sold a lot of those books—you may even have thought something like ME BEFORE YOU, by JoJo Moyes, or STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY, by Katharine Weber, heartwarming or inspirational or poignant—but they send an extremely dangerous message that, in my opinion, should not be propagated, should not be read by disabled readers or nondisabled readers. These two books, in my opinion, should never have been published:
    • Both present a nondisabled woman in love with a disabled man
    • In both the man is rich, good looking, and talented; has the love of a good woman—he has everything, really, except use of his legs.
    • But because he can’t walk, his life is deemed not worth living; he kills himself so his wife can be happy and rich, unburdened by a cripple hanging about, and free to live a ‘normal’ life
  • Most people will be familiar with the Bechdel Test for women in film/tv.
  • Late last year disability activist Kenny Fries (pronounced Freese) proposed the Fries Test for disability in fiction
    • Fries Test = “Does a work have more than one disabled character? Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character? Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?”
    • Fries Test is a low bar:
      • disabled characters don’t have to have names
      • they don’t have to talk to each other
      • and they certainly don’t have to talk about something other than disability
  • Fries Test is very low bar. Nonetheless late last year I put out a call on social media for suggestions for book-length fiction for adults that would pass the test.
  • I had hundreds of responses.
  • But so far only 55 books pass the Fries Test.
  • Think about that
    • Stanford lit lab estimates there are about 5m novels extant in English
    • given that 1 in 4 people now have some kind of disability, there should be 1.25m books for, by, and about us that, at minimum, should pass the Fries Test
    • But there are 55
    • Think of all those voices that are missing
    • think of how much your customers yearn, need to see themselves reflected in stories: you can help
    • 25% of your customers have a disability; how many books do you have for them?
      • Take a look at the list of books that pass the Fries Test for disability in fiction.
      • Read through the archived #CripLit Twitter chats for book suggestions
      • Read Annie and Kate’s suggestions
      • Go to the Disability in Kidlit website for recommended disability literature for children and young adults.
SUGGESTIONS

My biggest, boldest suggestion?

  • Have an association-wide independent accessible shopping day (like the UK’s Purple Tuesday scheduled for 13 November this year—they’re doing general retail rather than just books)
  • Perhaps link this to Independent Bookstore Day in April, or maybe LitCrawl, or just have a special day in November in time for holiday shopping
  • Every store should make a commitment to do 3 small things, e.g.:
    • put access info on website so customers know what to expect
    • improve entry accessibility (e.g. buy a threshold mat)
    • add grab bars to bathroom stall
  • If you’ve already sorted that, then pick three other things
  • Next year, add something else, etc
  • Eventual goal: association-wide accessibility standard minimums

Radical hospitality

Imagine you are recovering from flu and feel really tired and fragile. You walk into your bookstore. What would you need?

  • A chair near the door to rest?
  • A friendly smile from a staff member, and “What can I do to help you?”
  • Perhaps escort customer to high shelves in case they need help reaching down the book you’ve recommended?
  • Make information available so that everyone knows you can, for example, buy and download audio books right there from the store. Walk them through the process on the store’s iPad
  • Anything else you think might help: but always ask first, don’t assume they need help (and never, ever touch a customer’s mobility device without permission!)

Disability in Literature Shelf

  • Special Disability in Literature section (start with a shelf)
    • fiction and nonfiction
    • poetry and plays
    • memoir and graphic novels
    • adult and kidlit
  • But eventually you should be able to recommend at least one book from every single one of your sections, and recommend them to all customers, disabled and nondisabled

Build and share Resources list

  • On PNBA website, list
    • ideal accessibility standards
    • minimum accessibility standards (and aim to improve this year over year)
  • Suggestions for how to reach those standards—what’s worked for people, what a good price is—or maybe even share equipment (use unofficial Twitter hashtag, or build  unofficial Facebook group to avoid legal implications)
  • Maintain and increase list of good #CripLit

Outside Resources

And remember, this is just a beginning! You don’t have to do everything at once. Pick one thing and improve that. Readers are waiting!