Disabled Writers, Diverse Literature, and Intersectionalism

Yesterday was the third #CripLit chat, this time about being disabled, a writer, and intersectional identities. It was a bit slower than usual (because Wednesday?) but still busy, with good, thoughtful, and thought-provoking conversation about, for example, internalised ableisim and #OwnVoices. It certainly helped me to a couple of realisations.

Alice Wong (@SFDirewolf) has put together the Storify of the Disabled Writers, Diverse Literature & Intersectionality chat. If you’re not a fan of Storify, then just visit the hashtag on Twitter. And do read the first two chats, Disabled Writers and Disabled Characters, and Disabled Writers, Ableism, & the Publishing Industry.

We encourage people to keep the conversation going, to continue to use the #CripLit hashtag to talk about disabled writers and disability literature of all kinds.

Trump is a monster

Donald J Trump on Friday boasted of being a sexual predator. Many Republicans are abandoning ship.

We know that Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States of America, is a vile excrescence on the face of the earth. We have known for a very long time. This year alone we have watched as he:

So I roll my eyes at the most recent breast-beating anguish of Republicans. They knew what they were getting when they voted this monster in as their standard-bearer. Why these sudden professions of outrage? Perhaps the voters and political operatives who elected him as the Republican nominee were genuinely ignorant but I doubt it. If they are ignorant they are wilfully so. They have been telling themselves fairytales.

In my opinion, those who voted for Trump are motivated by cynicism, anger, and/or fear.

Let’s take cynicism first. Trump is losing. His debate performances have been awful. On Sunday evening according to FiveThirtyEight the odds of Hillary Clinton winning are now 81.9%. The RNC are worried they’re going to lose their congressional majority, that animus against Trump will seep down-ticket and put even supposedly safe Republican seats at risk. So they are using this latest revelation as an excuse to publicly ditch him and see what they can salvage. Disavowing Trump is a strategic move; it is not motivated by surprise.

The angry people are those who were top of the pile—lots of straight white men who used to earn good money doing the kind of job that has been going away for a while (overseas or to automation or simply disappearing from the world) plus some of their wives who rely on their pension income. They want their stuff back, especially their status. They want to climb back on top of the pile; they want to be part of the majority again. It’s their god-given right. These are the kind of people who voted for Brexit: they want to take their marbles home and not let anyone else play. They are the Greatest Generation, dammit; they’re used to being in charge.

The frightened—ah, now this is the constituency that interests me the most. Over the years a lot of evidence has accumulated about the supposed correlation between a voter’s response to fear and their political leanings. As the Atlantic point outs:

“The common basis for all the various components of the conservative attitude syndrome is a generalized susceptibility to experiencing threat or anxiety in the face of uncertainty,” the British psychologist G.D. Wilson wrote in his 1973 book, The Psychology of Conservatism. In other words, an innate fear of uncertainty tends to correlate to people’s level of conservatism.

The world is changing fast: for those who grew up in a whiter, slower, more homogeneous world uncertainty is accelerating. They want a strong man, someone who can allay their fears, reassure them that now he is charge everything will be all right. They want their Daddy.

This partisan divide goes deep. According to the Wall Street Journal

Republicans and Democrats divide on policy positions, and the ideological divisions can extend to taste in music, movies and books. An analysis of what people who “like” the presidential candidates on Facebook “like” elsewhere shows interesting ways the partisan divide can go beyond the issues.

They show nifty maps of people’s tastes in music matched to their voting preference: if you like Adele, you’re most likely going to vote Democratic; Ted Nugent, Republican all the way.

And the partisan divide is getting harder, the barriers higher. This is particularly noticeable at the sharp end, in Congress, where, according to PLOS One, “partisanship or non-cooperation in the U.S. Congress has been increasing exponentially for over 60 years with no sign of abating or reversing.” And it started happening long before the confirmation bias enabled by social media. Look at their spiffy visualisation:


But let’s set all that aside and look at what Trump, today’s face of the Republican party, said about his attitude to women.

I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and fuck her. She was married. […] I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. […] You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful— I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. […] Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything. (From full transcript at the Los Angeles Times.)

He “doesn’t wait.” He just starts kissing them. He believes that “when you’re a star, they let you.” He thinks of course that he is a star, and so can get away with anything. “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” He is boasting of sexual assault. This man wants to be leader of the free world, arguably the most powerful person on the planet. What do you think he would do with that power?

Right now, the companies he leads—the people he has hired, who look to him for example—are facing more than 20 lawsuits over the harassment and mistreatment of women. Imagine what this country might look like after a year of his leadership. Intellectually, morally, and temperamentally Donald Trump is unfit to be President of the United States.

If you haven’t already registered to vote, please do so as soon as possible. Please do vote. And please vote for Hillary Clinton. I really don’t want to have to move…

Brexit-related death and decline: a rant

The day after the UK voted to leave the European Union I posted my opinion to the effect that many people would die as a direct result. I have not changed my mind. In fact, after the events of this week, I’m more certain than ever.

On Sunday, Theresa May declared a so-called ‘hard’ or ‘clean’ Brexit. In March 2017 she will trigger Article 50 setting the formal divorce in motion; she insists that the UK will take control of its own borders. That is, once the two-year divorce negotiations are concluded there will be no free movement of people. Many in the EU have already made it clear that free movement of people across borders is a condition of membership of the European Economic Area (EEA)—the single market.

EU Commissioner Juncker suggested that the EU should respond with intransigence. This sentiment was echoed by François Hollande and Angela Merkel. The Europeans will play hardball. Unless the UK allows free movement of people they will not be admitted to the EEA; they will not be part of the single market. Many tariffs and trade barriers will be reintroduced. This will have severe consequences.

Let’s begin with the cessation of passporting. Passporting, the ability to sell services across borders into markets where a company—a bank, say—has no branch, is a major factor in London’s status as a (perhaps the) centre of the global finance market. According to the Wall Street Journal, without passporting banks and other businesses face “extreme disruption.” Britain is the fifth largest national economy in the world as measured by GDP. It’s the fastest growing of the G7 countries and has been for 4 years in a row. Given that about 12% of that economy (not to mention 2.2 million jobs) is based on financial services, loss of passporting will have major consequences. It’s very likely that many global banks will decamp from London and set up shop in Amsterdam (where passporting will continue). A few might operate from Dublin (ditto) but Dublin, while a lovely city, does not have the energetic hum that attracts high-fliers.

Unemployment will rise. Tax receipts will fall. The government will have more people to help with less money.[1] Add the imposition of a whole slew of trade tariffs for goods as well as services, and you start to see the beginnings of a problem whose proportions might eventually reach crisis.

Markets last week began to notice. On Friday the British Pound fell off a cliff, plunging to 1.18 USD before recovering—a bit—to 1.24 USD. For a sense of what that means, since the paperback of Hild came out in the UK before Brexit my royalties have dropped 25%. I’m lucky, I get relatively little of my income from the UK. I am not going to suffer that much. The people who are going to suffer deeply are a) immigrants  b) UK residents and/or citizens, especially the poor.

Let’s look at residents and/or citizens of the UK first. Take food as one example. According to a report in the Guardian earlier this year, the UK sources more than 50% of  its food from abroad. Quartz suggests 27% of all food consumed in the UK comes from the EU. So the first piece of the picture is to immediately crank up the price of more than one quarter of the island’s food because of various tariffs. Then add in the fact that the pound is worth considerably less than it was and so will buy less for the same price. This means that now more than 50 percent of food will cost more, and probably a lot more. Don’t forget many people have also lost their jobs and that the government’s income from tax revenue is down as a result.

Now consider that the UK sends 70% of its food products to EU—or did. To some degree UK food will be more attractive to buyers in Europe because the exchange rate will reduce the price, but that price will be more than offset by the additional tariffs. No problem, right? “We just stop selling our stuff and go self-sufficient.” Well, no. The UK’s biggest foodstuffs export category? Beverages. Biggest imports? Fruit & veg, followed by meat. I love beer, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one who would choose dinner over a pint.

When food becomes scarce and expensive, who suffers most? The poor. Given that many in the UK are already using food banks (food bank use is at a record high) think how many will go without in the future. Let me spell it out for you: there will be fewer jobs paying less money; that money will buy less food; fewer people will be able to donate to food banks; so while demand on food banks will accelerate the resources available will plummet. Some schools are already reporting that 1 in 5 children are going hungry. At a guess (it’s just a guess) this will more than double. Imagine: 40% of all children in the UK hungry. Perhaps you should re-read Dickens to refresh your memory of what that looks like. While you’re at it, ponder the passages about stench and pollution because without the need to stick to the EU’s many environmental regulations companies will ignore inconvenient and costly measures to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil in which we grow what food we can.

Child hunger leads to malnutrition. Malnutrition has long-term consequences. The effects will be with us for many years. Probably longer than the Second World War—when the government could enforce food rationing and mandate the ploughing of private land into fields.

So Brexiteers, are you happy yet? Will you be happy when your pretty garden has been dug up, when you can’t get your nice wine or chocolate anymore, when while there’s lots of good old British beer (except, oops, not so many hops to go around because that land use has been turned over to vegetables, rubbish vegetables at that because, hey, this isn’t Greece or Italy or the south of France, the climate is much less friendly and imported fertiliser is very pricey) you can’t get an orange. Oh, and you’ll have to do the hoeing and harvesting and equipment maintenance yourself because all those handy low-paid immigrants will have vanished. (There again, you could rent a few starveling urchins to grub about on the cold stony soil. But replacing them all the time because of their annoying tendency to die off might get a little tedious.) Also, if you happen to get your foot crushed by the tractor (y’know, if you can afford the petrol to run a combustion engine) you won’t be able to get medical attention because a huge percentage of NHS doctors and nurses have gone back to where they came from. I certainly would, if I had to deal with MEPs who dressed like brownshirts, or Blood and Honour fascists stomping around in my town . But, hey, it’s probably okay. After all, you’ve got your sovereignty back. Famine and fascism are just details, right? Besides, given the crisis you’ll turn to law and order candidates, someone who will promise swift justice to miscreants, just as a temporary expedient of course, a strongman (because women can be strongmen too) who promised to close the borders and keep those nasty, resource-sucking immigrants out.

According to the latest figures (2015) from United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), last year 65.3 million people, the highest number on record, were forced from their homes. There are, for example, 2.5M refugees in Turkey, most of whom want to go to Europe and live a life free of terror, bombs, and the other horrors of war. Many of them want to go to Germany or the UK. Angela Merkel has consistently championed the acceptance of those in need but more and more countries (like Hungary) are turning their backs. Theresa May, promising a ‘clean Brexit’ has just joined their reactionary group. She is a stongman-in-training; she is going to pander to the fearful, xenophobic, and wrong-headed Brexiteers and essentially close Britain’s borders.

This is heart-breaking, inhumane, and fatal for tens of millions of people who desperately need help. Many of them now will die. Some are already being ‘repatriated’ to their country of origin where nothing good awaits them. There are times, frankly, when I hate the kind of world that will permit this. In my opinion human displacement will only grow. I believe it’s a direct result of the chaos provoked by climate change. I believe there’s no stopping it; to try is as futile as trying to hold back the tide. We should accept the change, accept the people, and help our fellow human beings.

But that’s not how others see it. What’s happening now is a general rise in anti-immigrant sentiment which is really a rise in Us v Them antagonism. For someone who has been Othered her whole life (a queer, crippled, immigrant woman) this is disturbing.

It’s disturbing not just for me—as I said earlier in this post, I’m luckier than most—but for those UK citizens who are second- or third-generation immigrants from, say, India or Pakistan who are being verbally abused and physically attacked by the bigots who have been unleashed by Brexit. It’s disturbing for universities whose multi-national and collaborative EU research grants are now at stake. It’s disturbing for companies and government agencies who can no longer hire experts who are not UK citizens. It’s disturbing and unsettling for everyone—even those who aren’t disturbed yet, because they will be.

Let’s look at the polities. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland share a border which, after the Good Friday Agreement (that finally ended 30 years of sectarian violence), is currently an informal affair. European citizens from the UK (Northern Ireland) and Ireland (Republic of Ireland) can move freely between the countries. As a result, the peace accords have become a living thing. But a hard border—the cessation of free movement of EU citizens between countries—will imperil the agreement. Once again, Ireland will probably be a place of strife and suspicion. (On the other hand, weapons will be scarcer: AK47s will cost more; Heckler & Koch will cost a lot more, as will Semtex.)

Scotland wants to remain in the EU; its citizens voted heavily in favour of Remaining. It will seriously consider leaving the union in order to do so; Wales may follow. So five years from now instead of a peaceful United Kingdom with a purring economic engine powering the fifth highest GDP in the world there will be a squabbling set of little countries separated by hard borders and seething with resentment, violence, and economic inequality.

It’s not only the UK that will break; I believe it’s entirely possible that the EU will gradually fray and dissolve. The GDP of the European Union is the second largest in the world; if that machine falters the impact will be widespread. Given that trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership are also looking very dicey[2] I think we’re in for hard times.

Some of these hard times will be a direct consequence of all the dog-whistling that right-wing politicians have indulged in over the years that, with the campaign to leave the EU, have now flared into open hostility. Some of them stem from the global changes that provoked the sentiments behind the vote. Chicken or the egg; it doesn’t matter what’s cause and what’s effect. The end result for me is that I am no longer thinking of moving back to the UK. I am no longer considering Europe. I’ll stay in North America. If Trump is elected (still unlikely, but still possible) then I’ll start thinking about Canada. If they’ll have me…

[1] Admittedly inflation at this point could (maybe) rise, which would go a long way to wiping out the national debt. But inflation is just one among a host of factors. And inflation has not followed expected paths in the last few years, so really no one knows.

[2] I will vote for Clinton but her decision to condemn the TPP was not smart. Politically I understand why she thought she had to, but it was a foolish move. And, oh yes, I have things to say about Trump but that’s for another post.

#CripLit Twitter chat: Intersectionality, 12 October 4pm Pacific/7 pm Eastern

The third #CripLit Twitter chat, on disabled writers, diverse literature, and intersectionality, is scheduled for Wednesday, 12 October, 4 pm Pacific/7 pm Eastern. The first one was so fast and furious that for the second I prepared answer tweets ahead of time to give me more time during the actual chat for conversation and hosting. I was damn glad I did: it was even busier than the first time. (If you’re curious you can see a Storify of the first #CripLit chat: Disabled Writers and Disabled Characterst, and a Storify of the second #CripLit chat: Ableism in the Publishing Industry, courtesy of the fabulous Alice Wong.) So if I have time I’ll probably do that again in order to focus on interacting with others. If you’re a planner, or get overwhelmed by furiosity, you might want to consider doing the same.


#CripLit Twitter Chat
Disabled Writers, Diverse Literature, and Intersectionality
Guest host: Alaina Leary @alainaskeys
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
4 pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eastern

The Disability Visibility Project is proud to partner with novelist Nicola Griffith in our third #CripLit Twitter chat for disabled writers. Nicola Griffith is the creator of the #CripLit series and the DVP is the co-host/supporting partner. For our third chat, we are both excited to have guest host Alaina Leary, a queer disabled activist and social media team member of We Need Diverse Books™.

All disabled writers are welcome to participate in the chat including reporters, essayists, poets, cartoonists, bloggers, freelancers, unpublished or published. We want to hear from all of you! Check the #CripLit hashtag on Twitter for announcements of future chats that will focus on different genres or topics.

How to Participate
Follow @nicolaz @DisVisibility @alainaskeys on Twitter
Use the hashtag #CripLit when you tweet. If you only want to respond to the questions, check @DisVisibility’s timeline during the chat. The questions will be timed several minutes apart.
Check out this explanation of how to participate in a chat by Ruti Regan: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat
If you don’t use Twitter and want to follow along in real-time, check out the live-stream: http://twubs.com/CripLit

#CripLit Tweets for 10/12 chat
Welcome to our 3rd #CripLit chat! Created by @nicolaz, this chat will discuss diverse literature, intersectionality & disabled writers.
We’re thrilled to have guest host @alainaskeys of @diversebooks join us in this conversation #CripLit

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

Q1 Please introduce yourself, describe your background in writing plus any links about you & your work #CripLit

Q2 As a disabled writer, what does intersectionality mean to you? How does it impact your writing? #CripLit

Q3 Are there times when your identities are erased or devalued by publishers/editors? Why does it happen? How do you respond? #CripLit

Q4 Why is it essential to discuss intersectionality in relation to power & privilege in the publishing industry? #CripLit

Q5 How do your intersectional lived experiences contribute to the creation of diverse stories and characters? #CripLit

Q6  When did you first read a book w/ a character similar to you? How did you feel before and after? #CripLit

Q7 Do you write about all your intersectional identities? Why/why not? #CripLit

Q8 How can we improve disability representation in lit & all forms of diversity as part of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks mvmt? #CripLit

Q9 What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation & creative freedom of writers? #CripLit

Q10 Are disabled writers the ‘best’ ones to tell disabled stories? Do these stories belong primarily to us? #CripLit

This concludes our 3rd #CripLit chat! Please keep the convo going. Thank you very much to our guest host @alainaskeys!

Be sure to tweet co-hosts @nicolaz @DisVisibility questions, comments, and ideas for the next #CripLit chat

Additional Links

Disability Art, Scholarship and Activism
Nicola Griffith (5/18/16)

4 Important Reasons Why Disability Visibility Matters
Alaina Leary, Everyday Feminism (9/27/16)

Why Intersectionality Can’t Wait
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Washington Post (9/24/15)

Perspectives of Authors with Disabilities, Part 1
Lyn Miller-Lachmann, We Need Diverse Books

Perspectives of Authors with Disabilities, Part 2
Lyn Miller-Lachmann, We Need Diverse Books

Looking Back: From Deaf Can’t to Deaf Can
Angela Dahle, We Need Diverse Books (8/31/16)

Disability in Kidlit


Alaina Leary is a Boston-based editor, social media manager, writer, and intersectional feminist activist. Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Everyday Feminism, BUST, and The Establishment, among others. She is pursuing an MA in publishing at Emerson College. When she’s not reading, she spends her time at the beach and covering everything in glitter.
Website: http://www.alainaleary.com
Twitter: @alainaskeys
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alainaskeys/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alainaskeys/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alainaskeys/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alainaleary/

Nicola Griffith is a British novelist, now dual US/UK citizen. In Yorkshire, England, she earned her beer money teaching women’s self-defence, fronting a band, and arm-wrestling in bars, before discovering writing and moving to the US. She was diagnosed with MS the same month her first novel Ammonite was pubished. Her other novels are Slow River, The Blue Place, Stay, Always and Hild. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in an assortment of academic texts and a variety of journals, including Nature, New Scientist, Los Angeles Review of Books and Out. Among other honours she’s won the Washington State Book Award, the Tiptree, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, the Premio Italia, and six Lambda Literary Awards. She is married to writer Kelley Eskridge and lives in Seattle where she emerges occasionally from work on her seventh novel to drink just the right amount of beer and take enormous delight in everything.
Twitter: @nicolaz
Blog: https://nicolagriffith.com/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicolagriffith
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/amm0nit3/playlists

Alice Wong is a San Francisco-based disability advocate, freelance journalist, television watcher, cat lover, and coffee drinker. Alice is the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. Currently she is a co-partner with Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan for #CripTheVote, a non-partisan online campaign encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities.
Twitter: @SFdirewolf
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/356870067786565/
Website: http://DisabilityVisibilityProject.com


Writing space, September 2016

On Monday, Vulpes Libris republished a slightly edited piece about my writing space that I first published here five years ago. (One of their contributors Kate Macdonald wrote a splendid review of Hild. Kate also runs her own site, on writing, reading and publishing, and wrote a great academic paper arguing that “writing the past as an estranged history gives authority to the female experience in the historical novel,” referencing my work and that of Naomi Mitchison’s.) Anyway, the VL piece has prodded me to post this update. (ETA: But do go read that first post: there’s lots of info in it about the Armagnac box I’ve repurposed as a giant pencil box; why I have the OED on paper; where that shell comes from, etc.)

In the last five years my office has changed only slightly. It’s still painted butter yellow, still occupies the dark NW corner of our house, and still has two desks. Probably the biggest difference is that the larger of those desks has moved 90 degrees. It’s now under the window. This way I have a big space in the centre of my office for exercise  and to zip from one desk to the other in my not-quite-ergonomic-enough chair. (Any suggestions for a good chair?)


You can see that in this photo, taken last week, the tree is not in bloom. Soon, in fact, the leaves will be changing colour. They turn a beautiful sherbet pink and apricot which every year I try to capture on camera and every year fail. One day technology will improve enough to get it.

The hanging shell is still there, still set in stained blue glass to catch the light. By the desk you’ll see the same microphone stand but the microphone is modern; it does many nifty things. The phone, too, is new, as is the pencil sharpener. I got tired of the old one breaking so I splurged on one of those electrically-powered heavy-duty sharpeners that schools use. Last year we had a major clear-out of books, fiction and not. So you’ll see my office now only carries research non-fiction (lots of history, and nature, and a bunch of texts for the big project I’m not talking about yet). Add to that my favourite dictionary in 20 volumes (love that book!) and a few copies of my novels for giveaway purposes. Oh, there’s also a new desk lamp.

One big thing missing from last time: no humongous pile of typescript printed out for edits. I’m still writing Menewood. When it’s done it will be even bigger than the Hild print-out.

The small desk with screen and keyboard is still tucked in the corner to avoid distractions.

Nicola Griffith's writing keyboard and Mac.

The maps on the wall are still, on the left, the south sheet of the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of Britain in the Dark Ages, and on the right, the north sheet of the OS Ancient Britain. (I’m not sure what edition it is, but the visual style is pretty different). I refer to them fairly often, but what I use most these days is a map that’s too big to hang in my current space: the Second Edition Ordnance Survey map of Britain in Dark Ages. It’s pretty good but far from perfect. See those hand-made single-sheet maps on the file folders on the bar-trolley I use as mobile cabinet? Those are my own researched maps—different to OS stuff because they these take into account all the drainage changes from 11th century onwards, particularly Vermuyden’s massive scheme in the 17th. Also, there’s new information regarding Roman roads in the area. The map I’ve linked to above has names I don’t actually use in the book, because it was an early attempt to figure out what things might have been called in Old English. Further thought shows I got some of it pretty wrong—Æxigland, for example, might be better rendered as Haksigland. But I’ll probably use a mix of Brythonic and OE names anyway, as I’ve already done for some of the rivers and places, so many of the names will be quite different.

I have a new screensaver, Lu Jian Jun’s The Lady in the Forbidden City—a wonderful painting by the same artist who painted our Antique Dressing Table, that is, the painting we call Flossie. Here’s a blurred low-light version of Flossie courtesty of crapcam, or a slightly better version here, still taken with crapcam but with explanation.

The computer itself is a new Mac Mini, so small it’s hidden behind that pile of paper, but the screen is long past due for replacement. I want something with better resolution and a built-in webcam. (That’s an ancient Logitech that keeps failing.) Eh, I’d rather have a new desk, a nifty sit-stand thing. Meanwhile, as you can see, I’m still using the Klipsch speakers; I loathe and detest having things on or in my ears, so I use headphones as little as possible.

Also on the desk, silicon hand-squeezy things—vital for someone who spends so much time at the keyboard. On the trolley are three ancient Klutz juggling sacks. I learnt to juggle years ago, got pretty good at it, then because of progressive MS I could no longer catch and throw properly. However, in the three months, due to the wonders of a new drug (a potassium channel blocker), I have now recovered some function, so I’ve been slowly relearning. I’m not very good—the drug is good but it’s not a miracle—but at least I can now approximate juggling again. Soon I might venture back to the ukulele—which will thrill me but might lead to neighbourhood suffering (I have an amplifier…).

Not visible, but something that’s made a huge difference this year, the solar tube that renders the previously dark NW corner office brilliantly bright—so bright I keep trying to turn off light that’s not on when I leave the room…

Which I’m about to do, to eat breakfast. Enjoy poking around a big while I’m gone.

Some thoughts on Ableism & the Publishing Industry

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.

Guidelines for non-disabled writers

Up at Literary Hub my guidelines for non-disabled writers.

Recently I have read several articles about disabled people by non-disabled writers. The authors have clearly projected their own fears and prejudices onto the subject of their piece, and spoken for them from that place. If I could say one thing to those authors it would be this: Do not assume that empathy equals experience. You might think you know what it’s like, but you don’t.

For example, if you think that using a wheelchair would make you feel trapped, isolated, broken, and shunned, you might assume a wheelchair user regards themselves as trapped, isolated, broken, and shunned. But they might not. For some of us, a wheelchair represents freedom, the ability to get out and about autonomously; it is a device that makes more possible a life full of friends and work and opportunity—on our own terms.

In other words, one’s empathy can be unreliable. I offer these guidelines to help you find your way beyond it. They are general guidelines for non-disabled writers who may have occasion to write about a disabled person or people. They are (mostly) formulated to apply to all genres and categories of writer, for example, journalists, novelists, bloggers, critics, poets, essayists, academics, and dramatists.

I had input from several people but all the mistakes are mine (sigh). Please make suggestions for improvement below. And consider dropping by for the second #CripLit Twitter chat on Monday, 29 August 7 pm Eastern.