Three New DisabilityAnthologies

The recent proliferation of books by writers with disabilities is indeed encouraging.  Last year, the Disability Literature Consortium launched a first of its kind booth at AWP in Los Angeles providing work by over fifty different writers.  In the face of so much choice, it might be difficult for those who are new to disability literature or who have only limited time to read to know where to begin.  One solution to this problem comes in the form of anthologies.

During the last few months, three new disability literary anthologies have been published that give prospective readers a chance for a substantial sampling of writers whose work the might want to seek out further. The first of these, and the one that casts the broadest net is Dozen:  The Best of Breath and Shadow.  As many reading this will know, Breath and Shadow is a quarterly journal of disability literature,  second only to Kaleidoscope in the length of time that it has been publishing. In this anthology,  B & S editor Chris Kuell has selected poetry, fiction and personal essays that have appeared in his journal.   Many in the disability writing community who open the cover will immediately recognize the work of their colleagues.

A collection that takes a somewhat narrower approach is The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability.  This anthology, edited by Sheila Black, Michael Northen and Annabelle Hayse is the first ever to be dedicated solely to short stories written by writers with disabilities.  The book includes work by Thom Jones, Anne Finger, Dagoberto Gilb, and Stephen Kuusisto as well as lesser known writers.  Each writer makes a brief comment on the significance of their story for disability.

The final collection Barriers and Belonging: Personal Narratives of Disability  is another  first of its kind.  Edited by Michelle Jarman, Leila Monaghan and Alison Quaggin  Harkin, it is created to introduce undergraduate students to the vast realm of disability experience through allowing those who live with disability to related their own stories.  The editors offer these narratives as a counterbalance to the more medicalized approaches to disability that many students encounter.

Together, these three anthologies do much to enrich the field of disability literature.  The first two will be available at the Disability Literature Consortium booth at this year’s AWP conference, which runs from Feb. 8-11 in Washington, DC.



Three New DisabilityAnthologies

Disability Events at AWP

As it did last year, the Disability Literature Consortium will be hosting a booth for the published work of writers with disabilities at Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference.  This year’s Conference runs from February 8-11 in Washington, DC at the Washington Convention Center. Our booth will be #597.  Books by over fifty writers will be on display for sale.

Although the Dis Lit Consortium will not be hosting a reading, we will have a book signing by five authors whose work is represented at the consortium table. These include Marie Kane, Cali Linfors, Anand Prahlad, Liz Whiteacre, and Michael Northen. The book signing will take place from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m,  Friday, February 10.  Attendees are invited to come by, talk with the authors, and look at the wide variety of books available.

Another event that should be on everyone’s list at this year’s conference is the Disability Caucus (see below). The caucus held its first meeting at the 2016 AWP Conference in Los Angeles.  The caucus was responsible for helping to bring about the change from no disability related panels or onsite readings last year to a wide selection of choices at the upcoming conference.  Listed below are those panels and readings that come under the events labeled by the conference as related to disabilities, as well as additional panels and readings participated in by members of the Disability Literature Consortium and Disability Caucus.  The list is open, so we are happy to add any events that we may have missed.



3:00 PM-4:15 PM

R265. Silent Hearing: Poetry That “Sounds” on the Page or Screen. (Ellen McGrath Smith, Jennifer Bartlett, Barbara Edelman, Jordan Scott) It is a commonplace that poetry has its roots in orality, but it is also true that some poems are written on the page and for the page—or, more recently, for the screen. This panel will explore the sorts of “soundings” enacted in these poems—from the modernist poems of William Carlos Williams to the mid-20th-century writing of Larry Eigner to the contemporary experimental poetry of Ed Roberson and Myung Mi-Kim—considering how they reach readers through the interaction of the visual world. Room 208AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

Agents of Change: Social Justice and Activism in the Literary Community. (Ashaki Jackson, Elmaz Abinader, Tony Valenzuela, Leigh Stein, Nicole Sealey) How do we, as writers and literary arts organizers, bring about change in the greater literary community? And how do we move from intention and discussion about race, gender, and inequality to action? This panel brings together literary organizations to discuss their roles as social justice activists in the writing community. These prominent members of national literary organizations examine the current issues and challenges facing the community and the steps necessary to move forward. Archives, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four


9:00 AM-10:15 AM

F112. Hop, Skype, and a Jump: Connecting Authors and Students with Skype. (Jeffrey Bean, Mika Yamamoto, Lisa Coutley, Liz Whiteacre, Traci Brimhall) Accessibility to the arts has always been a dual concern: both the public and the artists need it. Skype interviews can create these moments of access for very little investment of time or money. In fact, as a methodology that embraces technology and differentiated instructions, it can be used to obtain internal funding. This panel gives the perspectives of writers, teachers, and students on how Skype can help you achieve authentic learning, community outreach, and funding for the arts. Marquis Salon 9 & 10, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level

10:30 AM-11:45 AM

F125. Hands, a Flurry of Words: A Reading by Deaf Writers. (Raymond Luczak, Tonya Stremlau, Christopher Jon Heuer, Pamela Wright Moers, Kristen Ringman) How many Deaf writers do you know? One, two? No? How about five? These five Deaf published writers will welcome you with their poems and stories on communicating and treated differently. Having this many Deaf writers together for a single reading and perform their work in American Sign Language (ASL) is an extraordinarily rare event anywhere. Come treat your eyes and ears for a bit of literary history! Salon F, Washington Convention Center, Level One

F144. The Manifesto Project: A Reading and Conversation. (Tyler Mills, Jillian Weise, Vandana Khanna , David Groff, Rebecca Hazelton) What does a poetic manifesto look like in a time of increased pluralism and relativism? How can a manifesto open a space for new and diverse voices? Forty-five contributors wrote manifestos and chose their own poems for The Manifesto Project, a new book from the University of Akron Press. Here, four contributors read their poems and discuss the act—their declarations of aesthetic and literary and political principles. Room 202A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

F147. Second Blooming: Women Authors Debuting After Fifty. (Ellen Meeropol, Paulette Boudreaux, Jeanne Gassman, Cynthia Bond) The publishing playing field for women is not level, especially when compounded by age, disability, sexual orientation, race, or thorny material. On this 50th AWP anniversary, five second-career authors, who published first novels after age fifty, share their circuitous paths to publication and discuss how to navigate, survive, and flourish as literary late bloomers. Liberty Salon L, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

F161. Body of Work: Exploring Disability, Creativity, and Inclusivity. (Sheila Black, Eileen Cronin, TK (Tim) Dalton, Anne Finger, Laurie Lindeen) What is the physical body’s relationship to the creative mind? Four writers with disabilities will discuss their writing lives, and how social progress and technology are transforming representations of the human body. What effect has this had on literature? Where do we read ourselves in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry? Our panelists will discuss whether or not literature is representing the current climate and how they have represented their own bodies in writing over time. Room 203AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

3:00 PM-4:15 PM

F265. Not Invisible: Editors of Literary Journals Speak Out on Disability and Building Inclusive Writing Communities. (Sheila McMullin, Marlena Chertock, Jill Khoury, Mike Northen, Sheryl Rivett) Disability voices are underrepresented in literature; the VIDA Count further points to this. Examining social ramifications of exclusion, this panel explores ableism in the literary world, barriers to accessibility and publishing, and promotion of disability literature. Editors of online magazines actively seeking work from writers routinely excluded from the literary field discuss disability, impairment, and embodiment with the intention of building inclusive and dynamic writing communities. Room 204C, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

6:00 PM-7:15 PM

F301. Disabled and D/deaf Writers Caucus. (Jim Ferris, Sheila Black, Ellen Smith, Kelly Davio, Jennifer Bartlett) The Disability Caucus allows for those who are disabled or living with chronic illness and their allies, to network and discuss common challenges related to identity, writing, and teaching while professionally leading a literary life. Building on our first meeting at the 2016 convention, we aim to archive our interests, challenges, and concerns in order to increase our visibility and emphasize our importance both to this organization and to the communities where we live, teach, and work. Room 101, Washington Convention Center, Level One


9 AM-10:15 AM

S129. Invisible Illness, Tangible Language: How Disability Influences Craft. (Emily Corwin, D Allen, CL Black, Nicole Oquendo, Aubrie Cox) If writing is a physical act, how does craft adapt when the body fails you? And what of the stigma attached to the label “disabled writer”? Five writers and editors will discuss how living with conditions such as fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease, and PTSD influence writing practices and routines, form and content, and working with a publisher. Room 203AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

S131. (Social Media: Breaking Barriers for the Marginalized, the Remote, and the Academic Outsider. Kelly Thompson, Sandra Gail Lambert, Vanessa Martir, Michele Filgate, Alice Anderson) Five authors who write from the edges present ways, both practical and emotional, that social media has advanced their careers and craft. Class, disability, gender, education, location, and race are among the barriers to accessing a writing community. But social media can connect those of us who exist at the margins or outside of the academic literary world to editors, publishers, journals, conference leaders, and other writers. It can even serve as an education in itself. Room 204C, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

10:30 AM-11:45 AM

S166. Outside the Umbrella: Poetry and the Vantage Point of the Atypical. (Jim Ferris, Leilani hall, Stephen Kuusisto , Sheila Black) What does it mean to write poems from what disability studies scholar Simi Linton called “the vantage point of the atypical?” How do body/mind differences that fall outside the umbrella of normality serve as fonts for work by non-normative poets? These are some of the questions that four noted crip poets brought into a year-long correspondence in prose and poems. The poets share some of that work and discuss ways the differences called “disability” complicate and enrich their lives and work. Room 207B, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

12:00 PM-1:15 PM

S199. Writing With and About Dis/Ability, Dis/Order, and Dis/Ease. (Sarah Einstein, Sandra Lambert, Sonya Huber, Elizabeth Glass, Gina Frangello ) This panel, comprised of disabled, disordered, and diseased writers, examines the ways our lived experiences impact both what and how we write. Panelists discuss the problematic imperative to write overcoming narratives, the contradictions of writing beyond and into the stereotypes of disability, and the lack of access to writing programs, conferences, and literary community. They look at the ways radical “crip” writers are challenging these barriers, both in their work and as activists. Room 208AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

1:30 PM-2:45 PM

S220. Celebrating 35 Years of Kaleidoscope. (Michael Northen, Elizabeth Tova Bailey, Ana Garza G’z, Barbara Crooker, Jenny Patton) First published in 1982, Kaleidoscope is the country’s oldest literary journal dedicated to the work of writers with disabilities and disability-related writing and art. After a brief introduction about Kaleidoscope’s background, four readers who have been published in the journal will read from their work as well as selections from Larry Eigner, Vassar Miller, John Hockenberry, and other pioneering writers whose work appeared in Kaleidoscope. Room 102B, Washington Convention Center, Level One

S230. I Sing the Body Queer and Crip. (Kathi Wolfe, Meg Day, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Raymond Luczak, Donna Minkowitz) Due to ableism, homophobia, and transphobia, the voices of LGBTQIA and disabled poets have rarely been heard. The panel I Sing the Body Queer and Crip will focus on the intersectionality of disability and queer poetics. Each panelist will read their poetry for five to seven minutes; then talk from five to seven minutes about their work. The remainder of the panel will be Q&A with the audience. Room 207A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

3 PM-4:15 PM

S243. Socially Conscious Fiction: Writing That Can Change the World. (Allison Wright, Anna March, Jabari Asim, Garth Greenwell, Naomi Jackson) This inclusive panel explores socially conscious fiction and its ability to lift us in today’s sociopolitical climate. Panelists are at the forefront of such writing and will discuss their own fiction and a larger literary landscape. We will consider race, gender/sexuality, religion, class, ethnicity, and disability. Examples from relevant work will be offered, and we will examine writing stories that are both beautiful and concerned with elevating social ideals. Handouts: craft and bibliography. Liberty Salon L, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

Agents of Change: Social Justice and Activism in the Literary Community. (Ashaki Jackson, Elmaz Abinader, Tony Valenzuela, Leigh Stein, Nicole Sealey) How do we, as writers and literary arts organizers, bring about change in the greater literary community? And how do we move from intention and discussion about race, gender, and inequality to action? This panel brings together literary organizations to discuss their roles as social justice activists in the writing community. These prominent members of national literary organizations examine the current issues and challenges facing the community and the steps necessary to move forward. Archives, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

4:30 PM-5:45 PM

S284. All I Have Is a Voice: Strategies for Inclusion in the Workshop . (Laura Minor, Adrian Matejka, Jillian Weise, Erin Belieu, Robert Lopez) Workshops still remain a problematic landscape for the marginalized. This panel seeks to discuss how the workshop has changed in the last twenty-five years, and consequently, how it remained the same. The following year has been a hotbed of online take-downs and intersectionality controversies. What this panel seeks to uncover is how “the other” is still treated within the confines of the contemporary collegiate workshop. This panel discusses strategies towards pedagogical inclusion. Room 202A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

S286. Poets Mothering Otherwise: Race, Disability, Queerness. (Joelle Biele, Amanda Johnston, Hoa Nguyen, Deborah Paredez, Lisa L Moore) What are the ethics and politics of writing about our children when our families are politically vulnerable? Questions of censorship, privacy, and children’s rights resonate differently in poetry of witness or advocacy than in memoir or confessional work. As queer mothers, mothers of color, and mothers of children with disabilities, what do we refuse to write about our families? What may we, must we, share as poets of witness? And how do we tell the difference? Room 203AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

Disability Events at AWP

#CripLit Twitter Chat, Jan. 15

The Disability Literature Consortium is dedicated to the dissemination of literary work by writers with disabilities. Consequently, when an event comes along that makes it possible for disabled writers to learn more how their work can be published, it is a cause for excitement. On January 15, at & PM, a #CripLit Twitter Chat hosted by Alice Wong and Nicola Griffith in the form of an editors round table that will give participants a chance to hear from disability literary journals looking for their work. The journals include Barking Sycamore, Breath & Shadow, Deaf Poets Society, Intima, Monstering Magazine and Wordgathering.

Wong is a free lance journalist and founder of the Disability Visibility Project. Griffith is a British novelist recently diagnosed with MS. The June 15 twitter chat will be the fifth in a series that they have hosted. The chat will be designed to get basic information from each of the editors that may be useful to writers. The hosts say, “All disabled writers are welcome to participate in the chat including (but not limited to) reporters, storytellers, essayists, poets, cartoonists, bloggers, freelancers, unpublished or published. We want to hear from all of you! Check #CripLit hashtag on Twitter…”

Wong and Griffith can be followed @DisVisibility and @nicolaz on Twitter.

#CripLit Twitter Chat, Jan. 15

Two Important New Anthologies

Recently two new literature anthologies have appeared that should command the attention of writers with disabilities and anyone else interested in the field of disability literature.  The first is Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow, edited by Chris Kuell.   As is well known, Breath and Shadow, which officially appeared first in 2004, is one of the oldest literary journals in the United States to be created specifically to promote disability literature and the oldest to be edited by and exclusively dedicated to the work of writers with disabilities.  Kuell, Breath and Shadow’s editor for the past nine years, has culled together into one volume what he considers to be the best writing to come out of the journal since its inception.

Unlike some anthologies that are top-heavy with poetry, Dozen includes an admirable mixture of  fiction, life-writing, personal essay and poetry.  Readers familiar with other literary magazine of disability  writing will recognize many familiar names and Dozen keeps the promise of eschewing academically oriented writing to offer up writing that is accessible to a wide range of readers.  Indispensible to the anthology, is Sharon Wachler’s essay “Beginning Breath and Shadow:  Creating a Literary Community.” Wachsler was the original editor of B & S, preceding Kuell.  Her essay the journal’s  original mission and runs through a range of considerations that all writers or editors should reflect  upon and take seriously.

The second anthology is The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked:  The Fiction of Disability edited by Sheila Black, Michael Northen and Annabelle Hayse, published by Cinco Puntos Press.   The editors have collected some of the top short fiction written by authors with disabilities.  Many of the writers like Anne Finger, Stephen Kuusisto and Thom Jones are well known, but some impressive work by new comers is also included. Each piece of short fiction is complimented by the author’s statement about the story included.   Like Beauty is a Verb, which Black and Northen previously edited, The Right Way is the first of its kind in terms of being a genre-specific anthology composed solely of high-quality literary work by writers with disabilities.  Like it’s predecessor, it will also be a very valuable tool in literature classrooms.

Both books are among the many that will be available at the Disability Literature Consortium booth at this year’s AWP conference in Washington, DC.

Two Important New Anthologies

Book Festival Tomorrow

Tomorrow at the annual Collingswood Book Festival in New Jersey, the Disability Literature Consortium will be setting up its booth with books representing the work of over 50 writers with disabilities or who write about disability.   The range of books that will be appearing there is impressive:  poetry, fiction, memoir, disability studies, Deaf culture, and LGBT focused work.

The Dis Lit Constortium represents the work of small literary journals who focus on disability-related writing: Kaleidoscope, Breath & Shadow, Wordgathering, Pentimento, Intima, and Deaf Poets’ Society.  It is also heavily indebted to the work of writer Sean Mahoney and of the many writers who donated their work  to help get the consortium of the ground for its inaugural appearance at AWP in Los Angeles this year.

While the AWP experience was a success, offering many writers and educators the chance to see the wealth of material available to them from disability literature, the Collingswood Book Festival offers the opportunity for a different audience.  Those attending the festival are primarily readers, not necessarily writers or educators themselves.  This brings all who are involved in disability literature one step closer to our ultimate goal – to get the work of the outstanding writers that we represent into the general public.

The Collingswood festival will be running rain (likely!) or shine. Those who live in the Philadelphia or Delaware Valley area should drop in to see what we are up to.

Book Festival Tomorrow

Dis Lit Books – New Venue

While the Disability Literature Consortium is preparing for its next major event – participation in the Collingswood Book Festival on October 1 – it has also acquired a much more modest but longer term venue for some of its work. This is the Station café in Merchantville, New Jersey run by Eiland Arts.


The Station, as its name implies, is a small converted train depot next to the old train tracks that run through the center of Merchantville, where trains once ran from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. It is now a coffee shop, art studio and gift store that highlights the work of regional artists and authors.

As a first step, Eiland Arts will take on three copies each of the books of ten writers from the consortium.  Sale money from the work of books donated by the authors will be returned to the Dis Lit Consortium and that from regular sales will go to the author. Full disclosure: we’ve front loaded the first placement of books with a heavy emphasis on the donated work.  We’ve done this both to keep costs lower and as a thanks in book exposure to those who donated.   If books move along,  as we hope they will, we will begin to replace more of these with books whose money goes directly to the author.

It’s a small start in the relatively quite village of Merchantville, but it is a great feeling to know that someone can  go into a shop and see so much disability-related literary work in one place.

Dis Lit Books – New Venue