Sensitivity Readers

 

To contact me regarding my rates for sensitivity reads please email me at KatiGardner@gmail.com.

I was a voracious reader as a teenager. I read a lot of different books and different genres but my heart (all puns intended) wanted romances. I remember reading books about teens with cancer and I couldn’t get through them fast enough. They were also mostly romances. So for me it was a win-win.

Except sometimes it wasn’t.

The author got a lot of things wrong. Things that someone who had lived it would know. Things like how chemo happened or what the beginning of treatment was actually like. I’d remind myself it was just a book and go on. But, it would always drive me a little nuts. And it gave my friends who read those books bad information. I never really felt like I saw myself in those books. And the bad rep was one of the reasons.

Over the last six months I’ve been doing Sensitivity Reads.

This is the best description I’ve found of what exactly a Sensitivity Reader does. I took it off of the Writing In The Margins website.

A sensitivity reader reads through a manuscript for issues of representation and for instances of bias on the page.  The goal of a sensitivity reader isn’t to edit a manuscript clarity and logic, although that may be an additional service offered. A sensitivity reader reviews a manuscript for internalized bias and negatively charged language.  A sensitivity reader is there to help make sure you do not make a mistake, but they are also NOT a guarantee against making a mistake.

This means I read a finished draft, usually already contracted by a publisher, and make sure the representation of a person with an amputation is done realistically. So, what does this look like?

An author sends me their book. I read it. I send them notes on where they have gotten something wrong about their character who is an amputee (or cancer survivor). I give suggested changes on how to make things work.

Why is this important?

I know I’ve talked before about the lack of representation of people, especially teenagers, with disability and chronic illness in books. It’s one of the reasons that I have chosen to write about those things. But sometimes you read a book and you’re really excited because maybe a character has one leg. Or has cancer. Or something that you can relate to. And then you read it and realize that it is NOTHING like your experience. That the author didn’t do any homework and that they got it all wrong.

It happens.

And it hurts.

There are a lot of people living daily with a disability or a chronic illness and we deserve to see ourselves represented correctly in fiction. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was looking for any book I could see myself in. Any book with a girl on crutches who got to fall in love and star in the high school play. And I never found it. I never found a single book (while I was growing up) where the protagonist lost her leg. Forget the falling in love or staring the high school show.

I write about teens with disability and chronic illness. Two of my main characters have been leg amputees. I still had OTHER amputees read them. We don’t all have the same experiences and feelings. And I don’t want a teenager to read my book and have to say, “She didn’t get any of this right.”

Because we all want to protect our readers.

We want to offer them mirrors and windows.

To find out more about Sensitivity Readers go to http://writeinthemargins.org/

 

BACK UP YOUR WORK

Yeah, that sometimes needs to be yelled.

And I need to tattoo it to my hand so I can see it every time I go to close down my projects.

Last week I was moving blissfully through my manuscript, my word count high, things were going great. I knew that I was in for a truck load of revisions, but I was getting SO close to being done with this MS.

And then on Monday I opened my document.

All was lost.

Or at least a good portion of the new words I’d written lately were.

I did all my searches. I bought software to do more searches and look through the recesses of my hard drive. It was like I just dreamed those words. Almost 7000 words were just gone. Poof.

So, even though you are SURE that your Microsoft One app is syncing and that it’s also syncing to your dropbox and maybe you even have it set to save to your HD. Make sure. Save it. Email it to yourself. Don’t spend your Monday’s trying desperately to find the stupid 7000 words.

But on Tuesday I sat down and I worked. I knew that this MS needed a lot of fine tuning at the front end. My stakes weren’t high enough. I needed to flesh out my other MC more. I needed to fix a relationship problem between my other MC and her family. Losing those words made me sit down and do some of the hard work that it takes to fix it.

So, I guess not all was lost.

 

But seriously, back up your work. Everywhere. 

I Need Your Help

My sweet nephew, seriously, he’s a great kid, has been in the hospital with complications from Mono. And he’s going to be fine. But, we were all a little scared. Or I was. My own medical history makes me nervous anytime words like “Hematologist” and “tests” makes me a little nauseous. But, seriously, he’s going to be fine.

While I was visiting I struck up a conversation with his nurse. Partly because I was going to check out the teen room and I needed to know where it was at. There’s a very weird part of me that likes to scope out these things and see how it compares to my old hospital. Now, nothing is like the dungeon of a children’s hospital I was treated at, but I’ve watched at the hospital has evolved and become child and family friendly. This one was no exception.

But, while I was talking to his nurse, my own health history came out. My being a childhood cancer survivor and now an adult. And we talked about what I do now. How I write books about teens living (never dying) with chronic illness and disabilities. She asked what my books were about and I gave her the elevator pitch.

She asked where she could get a few copies because she had some teens that needed them.

This was the second time in 24 hours someone has asked for my books because they knew of teens that needed them.

I gave his nurse my info and she wants to talk to the Child Life Specialist there to find out how to go about building an #OwnVoices library for the hospital. There had already been movement to build a better library for the patients in the hospital. And I sort of feel like I was there today just to help with this.

Let’s build a better library.

This is where I need you. Do you know of a great book that deals honestly with either a disability or chronic illness? Do you have a copy? Would you be willing to donate or buy a copy for the hospital? I know that there are only a handful of books right now that are #OwnVoices, but I would especially love those. And not just YA. Picture books all the way through.

They would especially love some books that feature :

  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Kidney disease/transplants
  • Chrons/ Colitis
  • Epilepsy
  • Cystic Fibrosis

Do you have anything that fits here? Contact me here or any of my social media places. Also, feel free to spread this far and wide.