Disability in Kidlit

Tell me the books that YOU have read (not just the ones that you’ve heard of) that feature a character with a disability or chronic illness. What did you think of the character? The way the disability or illness was represented? Do you think there was a lot of research done?

Books I’m Reading

I have a disease where I walk into a bookstore and buy things despite the fact that I’d just said I was going to look.

I’m currently in the middle of Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard. This is the sequel to Red Queen and I’m enjoying it. There’s a ton of action and the romantic in me JUST WANTS THEM TO GET TOGETHER ALREADY.

I’m really excited to dive into The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. The title alone got me, but the idea behind it, the feuding families and forbidden love pulls me completely in. But seriously, that title is just perfect. The Siren by Keira Cass is on my bookshelf too. I was slow to warm up to her books, not sure why, probably just not in the right frame of mind, so I’m holding this one for a rainy day.

I’ve got a few memoirs that I’m ready for. Debbie Reynolds has one called Make ‘Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of Longtime Friends. The gossip in me loves the whole love-triangle between her, Eddie Fisher, and Elizabeth Taylor. I have always loved her, and I can’t wait to read all of these stories. I’ve got Mindy Kaling’s new book on hold at the library and I think that one is going to be fantastic (as was her first one).

What’s everyone else reading?

Listen To Your Mother

I’m really excited to say that I am a part of the 2016 cast of Listen To Your Mother: RDU. I went last year to watch my very great and amazing friend perform her piece and I laughed and sobbed. All in one evening. I’m excited because it’s a chance to combine my two very favorite things.

  1. Performing
  2. Writing

I’m not posting my piece here because I want everyone to come see it, but when it’s over I’ll post the written version as well as the YouTube link. I really love the piece I’m working on for this.

I’m also excited to get to know a bunch of other writers/performers who are in the show with me. I was STUPIDLY excited to see my friend Liz, who I first met when our kids were on the same YMCA soccer team, and then we reconnected at the SCBWI- Carolinas conference. I don’t know any of the other performers, but I’m excited to hear their stories.

It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve performed (outside of the occasional church or just speaking. It was great to audition again, to sort of stretch myself that way and to feel the way the you push yourself just a bit. I don’t see myself auditioning for anything else anytime in the near future, but maybe I’ll find a class or two.

In the meantime I’m writing. And I’ve got a post (or four) about that coming up.

The Thing About Writing

The thing about writing is that you can’t compare your journey to publication with anyones. And it sucks because you see people who are successful and doing what they love, and you seem stalled somewhere around second base. Maybe still on first.

I have talented friends who have good books but for whatever reason, they aren’t getting anywhere with it. I have friends that have written 15 manuscripts before ever getting an agent. It doesn’t mean that those other MS’s weren’t good or weren’t valuable, they just weren’t right for the time. Timing has a lot to do with everything in life, I’m learning.

I was not ready to be a writer at 23. It didn’t matter that I wrote stories anytime I had a free second. It didn’t matter that I would spend what little extra money I had on books, pens, and notebooks. I wanted to be an actor and that’s what I was going to do. I’m not sure I was ready to be a writer at 33 either. You have to be in the right place and time.

Because my former life was that of an actor I feel like I was a little more prepared for going through the querying process. I’d been pounding the literal pavement trying to get roles on stage for years. I’d been rejected, to my face, more times than I could count. I’d watched as directors stared at where my leg used to be for the entire time I was auditioning, completely forgetting that I was actually performing something. At least when I was querying I could read the pass Email and then move it into a folder so I never had to see it again. I also knew that I wasn’t being rejected simply because I had one leg.

And like every audition that didn’t get me cast in a role, it gave me time to work on my audition piece. To refine it, make the moments better, make the piece more enjoyable. And with each rejection I received I was able to refine my query and my MS. I was able to think about what was important and what did I need to let go of. And even after I did sign with my agent I had a ton MORE work to do. And when it gets published someday (I’m putting it out there, it will happen), I will have even MORE work. I think all of us that are neophytes to writing would agree that the publishing industry is a lot harder than we thought it would be. But, we’re not giving up. When you’re a writer, it’s in your blood. It’s in your bones and you just don’t feel complete until you get those stories out.

Writing is hard. Every time I try to tell myself that I’ve gotten it figured out or that I know what I’m doing, I’ll open my WIP and just stare at it and wonder who in the hell wrote that. It’s a journey, a long meandering one that you might find yourself needing to rest a while, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Try to enjoy the journey, the hard days included.

Discuss

Let’s discuss this.

Let’s talk about the way that disabilities are represented in our media. Let’s talk about the ableist attitudes of our nation and what we can do about it.

I never saw people with disabilities on TV/Movies/Plays. Never. There were the occasional special guests. Or sometimes an able-bodied actor will play a disabled role (I’m looking at you Superstore on NBC). But, people who live normal lives with disabilities are rarely shown in our media.

Let’s change that.

I encourage all of you to buy Becoming Bulletproof. I encourage you to NOT watch shows that have abled-bodied actors playing disabled roles. I encourage you to seek out books about characters with disabilities of all ranges (visible or not).

And if you’re not sure what to do in real life when you encounter someone with a disability. Here’s a handy video to help you out.

Tell me your thoughts. Tell me what you currently see. Maybe I’m just old and jaded and not seeing the representation out there.