Licking the Salt from the Biscuit of Life - Help?

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March 15th, 2009


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02:22 pm - Help?
Does anyone know any disabled/ill authors?

I mean writers who are limited by their illness/disability and so can't do that whole round of publicity - the signings, book festivals, interviews that are grist to the mill to selling books.

I'm not interested in writers that make an issue of disability in their work, that's not what I'm about. Just common or garden writers who happen to be disabled.

It occured to me today that I don't know any writers who were physically disabled when they started writing. I have no role models. There's no one out there. So I just assume that disabled writers don't succeed.

Of course, there are plenty of writers who became infirm after they became famous, at the end of their careers. I could reel you off the names of half a dozen. That's not really the point.

Online, I can post my fanfic and get feedback, which is cool. The internet is disabled-friendly in a way that real life is not.

In the world of paid books, I just assume no one will ever want to publish me. After all, publishing is a tricky enough sector. Why would they choose to take on someone disabled, who would make their life even more difficult? I can't do that publicity thing. I couldn't even make it to their offices for regular meetings.

So although I have several 'books' half-written, I never get round to finishing them like I do my fanfic (well, most of my fanfic - admittedly there are a few of those in progress). Every time I think of finishing them, I never see the point. I try to imagine my story actually in print or sitting in a shop, and my heart goes dead and sad. Real world publishing? Not for the likes of me. Nowadays, I don't even print out my stories. It would be letting myself have false hope.

But fuck that. Fuck letting myself be a passive, helpless, second-class citizen just because I'm ill.

Does anyone know of any disabled writers? It would really cheer me up.

ETA: I got told one writer: Stephen Hawking. And I found one on Wikipedia: J D Beresford, an early writer of science fiction whose daughter invented the Wombles.

I also found this useful advice, on a guide for young writers.

"Make sure your work is as polished as can be. Get other people to critique it for you. Read it aloud (amazing how many errors become evident that way). Print it out, change the font, change the pages to have two columns -- any change makes errors pop out at you."

Good tip about changing fonts/formats when printing out.

(Indulge your wild theories here)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:[info]alchemia
Date:March 16th, 2009 11:13 am (UTC)
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You know, i've a lot of stuff that holds me back with writing too, but I've never felt seriously held back by this one, I'm not sure why. how much do publishers actually *require* that you travel to do signings, or go to meetings? I always thought that the legal stuff was handled by an agent and/or via mail (even when I freelanced illustrations for a couple local newspapers, they called with the info- i never went to the office except to drop off work (and today, I could have probably emailed it)).

And the signings etc I thought were up to the author? Amd I wrong? I also figured, with the way technology is going, if you can't go to a TV studio for an interview on a show, you could do it remotely (eg: We're talking live via satellite to author accio-arse who is in their home town...). Plus there is the internet- you have readers on your journal, and you could make a separate journal/blog for your author ID, and you could do online interviews (in blog format, in chat format, or video/you-tube...). And I can't remember names, but I know some authors do signings via postal mail (iow, send me your book with return postage and I'll sign it; or I've 50 books here that I signed you can buy through my website (or thru ebay whatever)).

I guess the thing is that its about marketing yourself, and there's more than one way to do that.
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:March 18th, 2009 09:13 am (UTC)
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Thanks for replying.

Yes, I know you can do a lot of stuff online. That's one thing I've been researching, and it cheers me up immensely. I've been entering short story competitions for instance (not the scam ones, the reputable literary ones) and 100% of that is now online. I submit electronically, pay via paypal - all so easy! I don't even have to print out and post (both things that are physically difficult for me, although not impossible).

Online chat, webcams, extensive use of your own website (for instance, having a shop/forum/regular events via it) - all this used not to be possible. I've even seen authors signing books remotely! There's a device called the 'Long Pen' which can do this.

The fact remains that there are overwhelmingly two types of authors that sell today
1) Celebrities
2) Established authors
If you're new and unknown, so don't fit into those two categories, and you won't do normal publicity for whatever reason, what chances are there that publishers will take you on? Rightly so, they will consider you a bad risk.

Publishers don't publish good books, they publish books that sell, just like supermarkets don't sell good food, they sell food that sells.

You're right, though. It's about self-marketing. If all else fails, I can self-publish and self-market quite easily from the internet. Actually, quite a few authors have done their first few books that way recently. It's a way of getting mainstream reviews and establishing yourself. You can send your professional-looking book to the newspapers and they stand with the rest.

Yes. I have a plan! I'm cheered up now! Thanks!

My first book is still resolutely non-commercial though. Oops. The old problem, too much sex!
[User Picture]
From:[info]alchemia
Date:March 18th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
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At Terminus, I went to a workshop about getting published for the first time. One of the things that was clear to me was that there is no "Normal", at least, not in the sense that a lot aspiring writers think of. For example, a lot of us (fanficcers/slashers) have long thought that we should hide our fan work, even from the agents and publishers. that's not true. While you may want to password lock some of the adult stuff (just to avoid controversy), letting them know that you write HP fanfic, and you post fic to such-and-such popular archive or LJ Comm etc, says to them that you have an audience of X-number people who might buy your book b/c they know you/your work already, or if its not their thing they may suggest your work to their friends or kids etc, or that the HP Newsletters will announce a congrats (or online interview etc) to fanfic writer so-and-so who was recently published.

And forgive me, I don't know your specific disability, but depending on your comfortableness with discussing it (not necessarily in detail though), that too could be part of your promotion. Not that that has to be the focus of it, but if you send off a press release to people, that "overcoming the odds" spin is something that American media likes. Who is going to be more interesting for someone to interview for their newspaper article on new books, or tv show book spotlight?

1. Middle-class John Smith who wrote another formulaic book, or...

2. Jane Smith, who struggled against the world's messages that she wasn't 'good enough' because shes got a disability, and breaks through to accomplish her dream of sharing a story about...?

Sure, #1 might be published because formula sells, but #2 can also get published and widely reviewed because Westerners like personal success stories. (and one of my many dislikes about JKR, playing up her "oh I was poor and on welfare but now I'm living a fairy tale!" because she CHOSE to go on welfare for a short time to have time to write, knowing she'd have no trouble finding employment afterwards- as opposed to someone who didn't choose to be in that situation and had to actually struggle! Grrr)

You're right, though. It's about self-marketing. If all else fails, I can self-publish and self-market quite easily from the internet. Actually, quite a few authors have done their first few books that way recently.

I'm going to try the traditional routes first, but if not, well, I just want to tell a story. And if I can make a little money at it too, that's great. Even just having it up on a website and sticking a couple adds on the side, if you get enough hits, can make a sizeable amount of profit (especially considering the only expense is a website which is pretty cheap these days; no other publishing costs)
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:March 18th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I'm definitely going to go for the traditional route before I try self-publishing. I'd be mad to do otherwise. But knowing that self-publishing is an ultimate option makes it a lot easier in my head to push on. Unfortunately, I just assume I'm going to meet prejudice, based on experience from the rest of my life. I'm also lucky enough to have savings from working before I got ill.

I agree with what you say about fanfic, it's increasingly seen as a valid CV/resume item. But, you know, I BLUSH. I value my pseudonymn for my fanfic - hardly any of it isn't NC-17. All the long stories are, the ones I get most hits for.

I would bloody hate being marketed for my disability, unless the book happened to be about that subject. I think what JKR has revealed about her life is valid. Harry is a poor kid who's treated badly because of it by his relatives. That touches on her own time without money. Her depression is covered in the books too, courtesy of the Dementors. Personally, I found it interesting to see the parallels.

I get that Westerners like success stories. But hah, only sometimes. Here in Britain they like kicking anyone who looks like they're having too good a time. I never want to be famous. This is why I'm going to publish under a pseudonymn (and already have).
[User Picture]
From:[info]alchemia
Date:March 18th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think honesty in background is ok- iow, yes, she went on welfare to write a book, yes she was depressed. Yes, maybe she learned something from those experiences and it can be seen in the books.

What I don't like is the spinning it for the media- making it look like she fought her way out of poverty... she didn't. She was born to a well to do middle class and didn't have to go on welfare if she didn't want to- she had opportunity and privilege. When the first book was printed, she was already gainfully employed again.

It's sort of like how when i was in high school (in an affluent neighbourhood) it was trendy to "urban plunge" (live like you were homeless for a weekend). Those kids knew the whole time that anytime they wanted to, they could go home, shower and eat. At least none of them claimed to write a book to get them out of the situation!

JKR knew she could go get a well paying middle-class job if welfare life got too tough for her. It's akin to if she had tied her hands behind her back, typed the book out with her toes, and claimed to have overcome the obstacles of her "physical disability", which, oh by the way, she is now "cured" of.

If I could write something as popular as HP, I could get off disability. And If I made just enough with a book to meet my basic needs and thus be self sufficient, it'd be an actual accomplishment. I didn't choose to get on it so that I could write, I don't have a job (well paying or otherwise) waiting for me when I'm done writing. Sorry for the rant. It hits close to home y'know.
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:March 18th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
(Link)
"If I could write something as popular as HP, I could get off disability. And If I made just enough with a book to meet my basic needs and thus be self sufficient, it'd be an actual accomplishment."

I am so with you on that dream. That's all I want too - to get off stupid, dehumanising disability/illness benefits, where they prod and poke and insult you and tell you you're a liar and you have to take it, and actually do something! I don't really care how I do it, either. Writing is just a good option because it's non-physical and I don't want to make myself too sick in the process. Then I'd have to stop doing whatever it is, and that would be defeating the purpose.

Unfortunately it doesn't look like my book's happening any time soon, especially since I'm ill and have to write slowly. I can still keep persevering, though. It's better than twiddling my fingers. Although I do that too.
From:[info]dark_safari
Date:March 18th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes. I have a plan! I'm cheered up now! Thanks!

Good! :)
From:[info]dark_safari
Date:March 18th, 2009 04:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
I would think that a good agent would take you on primarily on the basis of your written work. They'd also handle anything you'd be required to do in terms of publicity and so on.

But I do sympathise with how you must feel. Getting your writing 'out there' is about acceptance, for all writers. As long as you strongly believe in your work being good enough to get published, that will carry you through.

I'm sure I know of some writers who happen to have a physical disability. I'll have more of a think and get back to you by email.

Incidentally, have you checked out http://www.disabilitywrites.org.uk/ ?? I'm not sure if the website is currently active (you have to register to read some of it) but it might be useful...??
You could also try contacting http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/ as I'm sure they have given advice to other writers who have a disability, and they may be able to point you towards some useful contacts.

Also, Stephen King writes about disability quite a bit (Misery, Duma Key) and has something to say about it in 'On Writing' - there's a section where he writes about the time he was hit by a car and hospitalised, but he still wrote even though he was in enormous pain. I know it's not quite what you're looking for but I found it inspiring.
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:March 18th, 2009 09:37 am (UTC)
(Link)
"I'm sure I know of some writers who happen to have a physical disability. I'll have more of a think and get back to you by email."

You see, that's what I mean! They don't exactly trip off the tongue, do they? If I'd have asked you for the name of a writer, you could have come up with dozens. And I'm disabled, and I couldn't have told you any either!

They just aren't out there in a great number.

"I would think that a good agent would take you on primarily on the basis of your written work."

Yesh, in fairy land perhaps. But in real life, they tend to take the clients they can make money out of.

Sorry, I'm not attacking you, I'm just saying how it works.

"As long as you strongly believe in your work being good enough to get published, that will carry you through."

Um... no! Have you looked at the best sellers list recently? Jordan and Jeremy Clarkson and Radio 1 DJs! When has 'work being good enough' ever been a criterium for it being published, less still it selling? This is not the real world you're describing!

I'm really not attacking you. You saw Stewart Lee's Toilet Books, right? He sums up how I feel.

The funny thing is that when I did a google recently on 'disabled writers' I came up with loads about disabled people, but only as characters in stories by famous writers. There were very few links to actual famous disabled writers themselves. That made me angry. So we're good enough for able-bodied people to use for our interesting and quirky disabilities, are we? But not to be writers ourselves?

According to BBC statistics, 1 in 5 people in the UK is disabled. Most people are surprised by that. It's because we're hidden - kept in our homes, in hospitals, in care homes. Away from the 'normals'. It happens in a number of soul-destroying, insiduous ways.

I remember years ago when there was that whole furore over Daniel Day Lewis in 'My Left Foot'. An able-bodied, good-looking actor using a disabled man's story to win an Oscar when there were loads of unemployed disabled actors who could have done it. I remember thinking at the time that the disabled community had a slight point, but I truly didn't get the whole picture like I do now. It's not just about that one job, it's the endemic viewpoint.

Thanks for the links. Urrgh, I really don't know if I want to identify myself as a 'disabled writer.' That might be stupid of me. There might be grants and opportunities available out of it. For instance, there was a BBC free workshop for script writing, available to disabled people only... not that I want to write scripts. Actually, I do want to write a radio comedy one day. But the workshop was residential and in England, so I couldn't have gone. Making contacts, however, is always good.
From:[info]dark_safari
Date:March 18th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, in fairy land perhaps. But in real life, they tend to take the clients they can make money out of. Sorry, I'm not attacking you, I'm just saying how it works.

Have you looked at the best sellers list recently? Jordan and Jeremy Clarkson and Radio 1 DJs!
Clearly those are authors who are cashing in on their "celebrity status". There are hundreds of people we have never seen or heard of in the media who are writing successful books.

As for believing in your work, I wasn't suggesting that self-belief alone was going to get you published. I only suggested that as a way of keeping you going, fighting against the wave of prejudice and rejections!! You must think you're good enough for publication, otherwise why do you do carry on!?

Oh, and I remembered a writer who became physically disabled but went on to write a best-selling book! SO NER-NER-NER!! ;P

Laura Hillenbrand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Hillenbrand. She struggles with M.E. (chronic fatigue syndrome). She describes it here: http://www.cfids-cab.org/MESA/Hillenbrand.html

According to BBC statistics, 1 in 5 people in the UK is disabled. Then - ipso facto - there must be a proportion of those people who are writers, and successful ones at that.

It's OK, I won't take it personally. You sound pretty rattled. *hugs*
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:March 18th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
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I've felt like this for years, actually. I wish I'd got it out sooner. I might have done more writing and less moaning.

"According to BBC statistics, 1 in 5 people in the UK is disabled. Then - ipso facto - there must be a proportion of those people who are writers, and successful ones at that."

Sorry, that doesn't follow at all. That's like saying "1 in 10 people in the UK is Asian. But some people have three ears. Therefore - ipso facto - a proportion of Asians must have three ears."

It's an inductive generalization rather than necessarily being true. For instance, the three-eared gene may be limited to the Thai part of the population, or the Swedish. Or all three-eared Asian babies may traditionally be electrocuted at birth. See what I mean?

"You must think you're good enough for publication, otherwise why do you do carry on!?"

Oh, I have a whole pile of reasons for writing. Only one of them is my overweening self-belief. There's also escapism, self-fulfilment, the need to find something useful to do with my hands when not fiddling with myself...

Thanks for the link to Hillenbrand. Ah, she writes non-fiction? That's interesting. I never actually read Seabiscuit.

That link to the story of her illness was brilliant. Especially for me, since we have so much in common.

For instance, the way the slightest thing can set me back for weeks - going out, eating, taking a shower. The way my lymph glands swell, just like hers. Getting infections, sores, being helpless. The incompetency of the doctors, the bitchiness of nurses and the casual, nasty insults from people around us. Also, a lot of people have assumed that I have ME (I don't), and then go on to inform me that it's psychosomatic like they did with her. I don't care, to be honest. If they're the sort of people who like to jump to conclusions and then sit in judgement, I'm clearly not going to change them.

Other things that were incredibly familiar to me in her story:

"Because looking at the page made the room shimmy crazily around me, I could write only a paragraph or two a day... It took me six weeks to write 1,500 words."
Hooray for perseverance!

"After years of seeing people almost exclusively on television, I found their three-dimensionality startling: the light playing off their faces, the complexity of their hands, the strange electric feel of their nearness."
Every time I go out, I gawk at people like an idiot. Most people take it for granted, but it's my amazing special treat.

"When I was too dizzy to read, I lay down and wrote with my eyes closed. Living in my subjects' bodies, I forgot about my own."
This is exactly how I write as well. On my bed, with my eyes closed and in my head, sending my being into other bodies in other worlds. The typing is almost an afterthought, saved for when I feel better and can sit up.

This is the bit that scares me. It's when her book became a success:
"That spring, as I tried to cope with the dreamy unreality of success and the continuing failure of my health..."

And that's the rub. If you're ill, success will inevitably mean that your health declines, because success is exciting and therefore stressful.

So what's the point in aiming for it at all? I'm not stupid, so why do something I know will make me extremely ill?

It's that or vegetate, I suppose. But it's very counter-intuitive, like putting my hand into a flame.

Oh, and thanks for looking this all up, sweetie!
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:March 18th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Arrgh! It took me ten goes to reply there! My firewall is suddenly blocking IJ.
From:[info]dark_safari
Date:March 18th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)

MOAR STUFF

(Link)
Tips on how disabled writers can have a successful freelance writing career:
http://dancingwithpain.com/chronicbabes-jenni-prokopy-offers-tips-on-how-disabled-writers-can-work-at-home/

Andy Hamilton:
http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/latest-news2/media-watch-section-test/andys-personal-hell

I used the search "writers who happen to be disabled" on Google. x
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:March 18th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)

Re: MOAR STUFF

(Link)
Andy Hamilton? He's only one of my favourite radio comedy writers, ever! Old Harry's Game! Revolting People! I knew he was short (they're always teasing him about it), but I didn't know he had other health problems too (luckily mostly in the past, from what I can gather). His family seem to have been very nice about it, lucky him.

On the other link: "Q: What are your tips for dealing with the uncertainty and fear around being a disabled freelance writer? A: Marry someone so you have health insurance."

LOL. Actually, good advice. Also make sure to get dental too.

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