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.

Second #CripLit chat August 29: Ableism & Publishing

CripLit Aug 29
#CripLit Twitter Chat
Disabled Writers, Ableism & the Publishing Industry
Co-hosts: Nicola Griffith @nicolaz
& Alice Wong @DisVisibility
Guest host: Denarii Monroe @writersdelite

Monday, August 29, 2016
4 pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eableismastern

For our second chat, Alice Wong and I will be joined by guest host Denarii Monroefreelance writer, aspiring screenwriter, and activist.

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are welcome to participate in the chat including reporters, essayists, poets, cartoonists, bloggers, freelancers, unpublished or published.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 @writersdelite 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:

If you don’t use Twitter and want to follow along in real-time, check out the live-stream:

#CripLit Tweets for 8/29 chat

Welcome to our second #CripLit chat! Created by @nicolaz, this chat will discuss ableism & the publishing industry

When we mention the publishing industry we include agents, editors, booksellers, publishers, etc.

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, and any links about you & your work #CripLit

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

Q3 How is the publishing industry ableist/racist/sexist/cis-normative (among others)? Share your thoughts and experiences. #CripLit

Q4 What barriers (physical, cultural, emotional) do you face as a disabled writer? #CripLit

Q5 Were you expecting the barriers you’ve encountered? What did you do? How did you feel? How did organisers respond? #CripLit

Q6 If you are a freelancer or are published, what is your advice to disabled writers who want to get their work out? #CripLit

Q7 In your interactions w/ the industry, how does ableism inform their ideas of what it takes to be a ‘professional’ writer? #CripLit

Q8 What’s your advice to other disabled writers on navigating and making connections w/ the publishing industry? #CripLit

Q9 In your opinion, how has ableism shaped the kinds of #CripLit published & authors that are promoted?

Q10 What messages do you want to send to those in the publishing industry (agents, book buyers, editors) about #CripLit & ableism?

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)

Writing Culture Has An Ableism Problem
Denarii Monroe (6/14/16)

Dear Able Friends: I Am Not Your Inspiration Porn
Karrie Higgins (10/5/15)

4 Ways the Publishing Industry Promotes Ableism
Katherine Lampe (10/9/15)

Fat Writers: On Privilege, Ableism, and Humanity
Kristian Wilson (5/19/16)

Writing program association continues to debate access for members with disabilities
Josh Logue (3/28/16)


Denarii (rhymes with “canary”) is an aspiring screenwriter, freelance writer, and a weirdo born, raised, and based in New York. She’s a Rutgers University alum and a two-year Pace University dropout; she studied English and Adolescent Education, respectively. She’s written for BlogHer, Black Girl Dangerous, Everyday Feminism, Wear Your Voice Mag, Extra Crispy (a subsidiary of Time, Inc.), and is a regular contributor at Ravishly. You can follow her on Facebook and find her on Twitter and Instagram (@writersdelite). Selfies, pictures of her dog named Dog, the new addition to her family – a kitten named Cat, raving about Matthew Gray Gubler, and ranting (or retweeting) about the writing process and racist, ableist, classist, fat-antagonistic heteropatriachary. She loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as soul food, red wine, cooking and baking, and the blues. Hanson is her favorite band ever (yes, that Hanson).

Nicola Griffith is a native of Yorkshire, England, where 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. Her immigration case was a fight and ended up making new law: the State Department declared it to be “in the National Interest” for her to live and work in this country. This didn’t thrill the more conservative power-brokers, and she ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, where her case was used as an example of the country’s declining moral standards. In 1993 a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis slowed her down a bit, and she concentrated on writing. Her novels are Ammonite (1993), Slow River (1995), The Blue Place (1998), Stay (2002), Always (2007) and Hild (2013). She is the co-editor of the BENDING THE LANDSCAPE series of original short fiction. Her multi-media memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer’s Early Life, is a limited collector’s edition. 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 the awards she’s won are 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.

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. She is also a Staff Research Associate at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF.

Disabled Writers & Characters Storify

The inaugural #CripLit Twitter chat was a huge success. Much bigger and faster than I’d expected, actually—like sucking on a firehose. Many, many people with many thoughtful comments. We trended on Twitter (24, I think; I was too busy to look).

My co-host, Alice Wong (@SFDirewolf), has archived the “Disabled Writers & Characters” #CripLit Twitter chat on Storify . If you’re a writer who is contemplating including a character with any kind of disability, I recommend that you read it through a chunk at a time and learn. There are many pointers regarding the disability clichés and hurtful stereotypes to avoid.

The next #CripLit chat is scheduled for August 29 at 7 pm Eastern. The topic will be “Disabled Writers, Ableism, & the Publishing Industry.” Stay tuned for more on that.

#CripLit Twitter Chat: Sat 7/23 4 pm Pacific

CripLit Jul23

The first-ever #CripLit Twitter Chat, for and about writers with disabilities, is happening this Saturday: July 23, 4 pm Pacific/7 pm Eastern (midnight in the UK, 7 am Sunday in Perth and 9 am in Sydney—if you’re a night owl or early bird, do join us!).

This first chat will be about fiction: writing characters with disabilities. Future chats will focus on different genres.

Here are the ten questions that we (your co-hosts, me and Alice Wong) will be setting this time out:

Q1 Please introduce yourself, your areas of interest as a writer, and any links to your work #CripLit

Q2 Do you identify as a disabled writer (or writer w/ a disability)? If so, why? Or do you prefer to be thought of as a writer, period? #CripLit

Q3 Among writers, what groups/communities do you have an affinity towards? Who supports you & your work? #CripLit

Q4 Do you connect with other disabled writers? If yes, why is that important? #CripLit

Q5 Are there disabled writers you love & want to highlight? Please describe and share your faves #CripLit

Q6 Who are some of your favourite disabled characters? Why? #CripLit

Q7 What is your process in developing a character, a disabled one in particular? Describe some disabled characters you created #CripLit

Q8 What tropes and stereotypes are you careful to avoid when constructing disabled stories & characters? #CripLit

Q9 What’s your advice to disabled & non-disabled writers who want to write believable & compelling stories about disabled ppl? #CripLit

Q10 What do you want most in terms of support? Better representation at conferences? (If so, which ones?) Something else? #CripLit

Hopefully this will give you lots of time to think about your responses. If you’d rather just chat off the cuff (probably what I’ll end up doing because, well, life) just show up and let rip. There will no doubt be other questions and other avenues to explore in the moment.

Anyway, when you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripLit”. Check out this explanation of how to participate in a chat by Ruti Regan. You might want to use a Twitter chat app like TweetChat but it’s not necessary. If you don’t use Twitter and want to follow along in real-time, check out the #CripLit live-stream.

For a fuller explanation of who, what, why, when, and how, read my previous post, #CripLit Twitter Chat.

See you there!

Speak out: you might make a difference

I’m guessing you all know the story of the starfish:

A man walked along a beach where a storm had washed starfish up above the tideline. They were dying.

Up the beach, the man saw a little girl picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the sea. She was slow, and she didn’t throw well, and there were thousands of starfish.

As she picked up another, the man said, You’re wasting your time. There are too many. Don’t try so hard. You’re not making any difference.

She threw the starfish and watched it sink into the water. Then she turned to him and said, I made a difference to that one.

[lifted whole from Kelley’s excellent blogETA The story is possibly adapted from Loren Eiseley]

It’s a story I’ve know for a long time, and, on good days, believed. But its truth was really brought home to me yesterday when I read the press release from the Half the World Global Literati Prize website, announcing the winner of their inaugural $50,000 prize. This part struck me particularly:

The Half the World Global Literati Award was set up in response to 2015 research from author Nicola Griffith, which identified that the majority of the significant literary prizes are awarded to works written from a male perspective. The award is set to return in spring 2017.

Statistics about the Half the World Global Literati Award 2016.
59 countries including Eritrea, Iran, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago
• 45.5 percent submissions are novels, 36.5 percent short stories, 18 percent screenplays
• Drama the most popular genre, topping novels & screenplays and a close second for short stories. Literary Fiction was the second most popular with Romance in third. Erotica comprised of less than 5 percent of all entrants.
• Majority of the short list are female (82.5 percent) vs male (17.5 percent)

[Emphasis mine]

I did that. Me. A global $50,000 prize to support stories about women—by writers from nearly 60 countries—was created and funded because I wrote one blog post about something that’s bugged me for years: books about women don’t win awards. (Films about women don’t win awards either.) Yes, I’d done the work. Yes, I had data to back up my assertion. But the needle could not begin to move until I pointed out the injustice, until I spoke out.

So if you spot injustice, open your mouth (flex your fingers, whatever—the mode of communication doesn’t matter) and speak. What we do really does make a difference. So say something. Someone might be listening. You might change the world.

Hild cat pix and fan art now a page

I’ve just added a new picture to the Hild fan art page—a sun-dappled Hild sitting by her pool wearing many of her personal totems, by artist Alexandra Filipek. Go take a look (and check out the link to Alexandra’s page).

ETA: Just added another pet pic, this one of Jean Paul, our neighbour’s poodle, exhausted after an all-nighter…

Herbs and Flowers

back deck flowers

A few years ago I used to grow herbs in pots (pot herbs: perbs) and witter on about them at great length. Recently I decided to start growing things again, this time brightly-coloured and sweet-smelling to attract wildlife (and hide the air conditioning unit).

So far—and it’s only been a couple of weeks—I’ve seen dozens of hummingbirds (or maybe the same bird dozens of times), two kinds of bee, three kinds of butterfly, and countless other winged things (beetles and flies of every variety). Mostly I get so lost in looking at the colours I forget to take photos but I’ll to remember to take pics every now and again as things grow. And I’ll do a better job of the photos.

Here for starters are (left to right) jasmine, ornamental oregano and carnation, nasturtium and Salvia (the Flaming Lips variety, which hummingbirds love). There’s some other stuff but I we’ll get to that later.

Anyway, enjoy. I certainly do!


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