Thanks to Alice Wong the Storify of the second #CripLit Twitter chat is up. It’s way too big to embed here (I haven’t counted but we trended on Twitter again).
#CripLit: Disabled Writers, Ableism & the Publishing Industry
On August 29, 2016, Nicola Griffith & Alice Wong co-hosted their second #CripLit chat this time with guest host Denarii Monroe on “Disabled Writers, Ableism & the Publishing Industry.” The response was immense–here is a sample of the conversation.
This time I was ready for the sucking-a-firehose pace of the chat, so I prepared answers to the questions we’d formulated ahead of time. I’ve re-posted those here as a personal archive I can point people to. In addition to these prepared answers I exchanged many tweets with other participants and a fair few private DMs. If you want to see the public tweets then go read the Storify.
The questions are in bold.
Q1 Please introduce yourself, describe your background in writing, and any links about you & your work #CripLit
A1 I’m Nicola Griffith, novelist w/MS, co-host of this chat. Most recent novel HILD. More info here: http://ht.ly/Xx2Y303CY2p 1/
A1 Some writing of #disability interest here http://ht.ly/vxNm303ETB8 and here http://ht.ly/2AA4303ETDZ
Q2 What made you want to become a writer? How did you start & what are some of the major issues you face now in your writing? #CripLit
A2 I started writing to answer some questions. Fiction gave me answers. I write to find out. 1/
A2 As my needs and abilities change so do the questions therefore so do the books.— 2/
A2 My issues now are about balancing the needs of a writing career w/ health needs. They don’t always coincide. 3
Q3 How is the publishing industry ableist/racist/sexist/cis-normative (among others)? Share your thoughts and experiences. #CripLit
A3 Books about women don’t win awards. See http://ht.ly/Ayuc303D0wv 1/
A3 Books about by and about women don’t get the same air space. See http://ht.ly/t3ja303ETMr and VIDA. 2/
A3 Books by/about writers of colour are WAY under-represented. See We Need Diverse Books http://ht.ly/6ZYm303D0re 3/
A3 The publishing industry is close to 100% cis-gendered. I don’t know trans or genderqueer editors, agents— 4/
A3 —PR people. I don’t know crips in those positions, either. Writers, yes. Those with the checkbooks? None. 5 *
Q4 What barriers (physical, cultural, emotional) do you face as a disabled writer? #CripLit
A4 Physical barriers: Temperature (heat makes me incapable). Steps (I can do 1 step w/ crutches, 0 with wheelchair.) 1/
A4 I need to sit. If I’m sitting I can’t use a podium; I can’t do cocktail meet and greets without getting a crick in my neck— 2/
A4 —looking up at people. I get tired easily. I can’t be on the go from 6 in the morning til midnight & I can’t do— 3/
A4 —early morning after a late night. Travel = wicked hard. If I fly across time zones I need time to recover. 4/
A4 Time for a publisher = money. So most (not all) are unhappy about my needs. Sigh. 5/
A4 Cultural barriers: People expect a certain level of productivity & responsiveness that’s not always possible. 6/
A4 Having MS means I can’t write a book a year. I can’t change plans suddenly. I can’t do a city-a-day book tour. 7/
A4 Emotional barriers: When I don’t produce in timely fashion I sometimes wonder if I’m being lazy… 8
Q5 Were you expecting the barriers you’ve encountered? What did you do? How did you feel? How did organisers respond? #CripLit
A5 Organisers are mostly well-meaning but clueless. Often problems not fixable. If there’s no bathroom on the ground floor— 1/
A5—of a bookstore; if there’s no ramp to the stage; if there’s no microphone, but my publicist was told “Oh, we’re—” 2/
A5″—totally accessible!” and if I show up & there’s an audience, what can I do? I end up struggling in public. 3/
A5 Organisers are embarrassed. No one wins. And it’s so easy to avoid! I’m learning to convey, and demand—4/
A5—clarity, specificity: no-step access, a microphone, a chair (specify what kind) and a ramp (specify) etc. 5/
A5 Communicating all that, being clear, checking: it’s a lot of extra work for me. A LOT. 6
Q6 If you are a freelancer or are published, what is your advice to disabled writers who want to get their work out? #CripLit
A6 Write what you want to read. Make it as good as you can. Join a writing group. 1/
A6 Make connections with like-minded writers and readers, in person or online. Find your people! 2/
Q7 In your interactions w/ the industry, how does ableism inform their ideas of what it takes to be a ‘professional’ writer? #CripLit
A7 I don’t know where to begin! Often being a novelist (esp. debut) is as much about how the writer looks as what we write. 1/
A7 The more a writers fits w/ a publicists’ notion of ‘attractive’ the more attention she’ll get. 2/
A7 Crips frighten non-crips; many just can’t deal. They’d rather believe we’re just like them. Difference is unsettling. 3/
A7 Professional to most = abled and (preferably) better than ‘normal’: fit, smart, witty, beautiful, young… 4
Q8 What’s your advice to other disabled writers on navigating and making connections w/ the publishing industry? #CripLit
A8 Play nicely with others: be generous to others & they’ll be generous to you. Assume good intent! Ask for help from everyone— 1/
A8—other writers, publishers, organisers, family, friends (I can’t wait til we don’t have to!) Self-advocate (ditto). 2/
A8 Offer help where and when you can. Always be clear—w/ yourself and others—about what you can and can’t do—3/
A8—what you do and don’t like, what you do and don’t want. If you don’t ask you don’t get. But play nicely. 4/
A8 Being a good writer is about writing well but being well published is about playing well with others. 5
Q9 In your opinion, how has ableism shaped the kinds of #CripLit published & authors that are promoted?
A9 The more good-looking (able, young, white etc) and ‘normal’ (but better) we are, the more they want to publish us. 1/
A9 If we look/act/sound attractive & easy to deal with we’re easy to promote. In publishing, promotion = money. 2/
A9 Writing might be about art but publishing is about money. Accessibility ≠ cheap. So most novels with crip—3
A9—characters are written by non-crips. And so most books about crips suck. 4
Q10 What messages do you want to send to those in the publishing industry (agents, book buyers, editors) about #CripLit & ableism?
A10 People are people. Crips write good books. Crips are hungry for good books: we want to see ourselves reflected. 1/
A10 There are many, many of us. Publish the books and articles we yearn for—written by us. 2/
A10 Crips are much more than our impairments. We have interesting things to say. Help us say them to the world. 3
* I’ve since learnt that one of the senior editors I know does, in fact, identify as genderqueer. Sorry.