In this blog, writer Inigo Purcell shares thoughts and experiences of CRIPtic x Spread the Word Writers’ Salons for d/Deaf and disabled writers.
It’s no secret that writing, especially when you are getting started, can feel alienating. A lot of advice comes down to ‘why not take this course?’ or ‘find feedback, of any kind’. It can also, fundamentally, be somewhat ableist: instructions to write every day, regardless of circumstances, which can feel entirely alien if some days you are barely out of bed. There’s a lot of one size fits all advice, which ignores that it tends to be just whatever has worked out best for the person giving it.
That the CRIPtic x Spread the Word Salon is the opposite of this is so refreshing: it takes place in three parts, a workshop pitched for all levels of experience and all abilities, a reading by a D/deaf, disabled or neurodiverse author, and an open mic. It makes every effort to be fully accessible, providing interpreters, breaks and, most importantly, an environment where it is entirely okay to flag up your access needs. I think this last bit is one of the most important things: it’s not that the the Salon treats itself as already perfect, it’s that Jamie Hale of CRIPtic Arts and Spread the Word are actively working to try and make it a dynamically accessible space, and to explicitly acknowledge that what is accessible to one person isn’t to everyone. The difference it makes to be in an environment where it is accepted that you might be struggling with one aspect and to ask people to correct that is absolutely huge.
I received some feedback recently which was not bad feedback, but was frustrating. It was on a project I had been developing for a while, which very much centres a disabled perspective: a novel about, among other things, a monk in the thirteenth century living with chronic pain and becoming more disabled over time. The feedback was that the reader could grasp the protagonist’s frustration with his medical condition quickly, and thus could I move more quickly to the inciting incident.
What really helped was that this wasn’t the first time I’d shared material from that project. I’d read extracts from the work in progress in environments for disabled creatives: I’d read an extract at the end of 2020’s “Experimental!” retreat for d/Deaf and disabled writers, and another nearly a year later at the first CRIPtic x Spread the Word salon. Having an environment to read something to disabled creatives was amazing- far from thinking they were a distraction from the main plot, people relished that I allowed my protagonist to be disabled, to exist in his own time and with his own attitudes to his body.
Accessible workshops are another huge advantage: the knowledge that in the workshop if, for instance, you have a pain flare, or bout of nausea, or something else you can turn your camera off at any time without being judged, the knowledge that you can dip in and out of things. The freedom to play with ideas is, for me, often something I lose when working on sustained projects, so that is also an aspect I have found deeply rewarding. (In one workshop I enjoyed writing a scene where someone attempted to explain hypermobility to an alien).
Most of all, what I’ve found most at the Salons is that everyone is taken seriously as a writer: no matter your publications, level of experience, or level of confidence. For disabled people in particular, this is such a game changer. Why not drop in some time?
Book your slot at the 2022 Salon season here: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/criptic-x-spread-the-word-salons-for-d-deaf-and-disabled-writers-new-season/
Inigo Purcell is a graduate student and writer from London. He is currently studying a PhD about Arthurian legend at the University of Bristol and Macquarie University, Sydney. He previously studied at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge and Oxford Brookes University. In 2017 he was selected for the Moth magazine’s residency for writers under 30. His novel about the long term fallout of a political sex scandal, An Entirely Different Person, was selected in 2020 for the Hachette Future Bookshelf scheme and his short story ‘The Tower in the Sky’ was published as part of the Spread the Word ‘Writing Happiness’ anthology. He enjoys knitting, jigsaws, and is currently working on a novel about a disabled 13th century monk.