In this blog, writer and artist Shannon Yee shares her thoughts and experiences of CRIPtic x Spread the Word Writers’ Salons for d/Deaf and disabled writers.
Back in 2020, when the world was in lockdown and creative practice for many artists, (including myself) was the least of our worries, disabled artist Jamie Hale partnered with Ruth Harrison at Spread the Word to run a virtual writing retreat for d/Deaf and disabled writers. This inaugural week-long retreat, entitled Experimental! An Online Writers’ Retreat for D/deaf and Disabled Writers, was exactly the sustenance for the creative soul and supportive community we all were in desperate need of, and it identified both the need for and interest in more opportunities like it in the future. Throughout my professional career, I’ve attended and organised a multitude of these kinds of gatherings, and there was nothing that even came close to the gold standard of artistic inspiration, inclusivity, generosity of spirit and accessibility that was at this retreat.
In 2021, the CRIPtic x Spread the Word Salons began to continue that unique and creative space, to ‘support, develop and empower d/Deaf and disabled writers’. Having been at both the online retreat and a 2021 salon, when Jamie asked me to step in for them to guest host the April ’22 session with fellow Experimental! alumnae Inigo Purcell, my response was as immediate and natural as my next breath, ‘Oh, yes please! I’d love to!’
Inigo focused the session on character development in fiction with clear instruction and prompt questions to support attendees to consider new viewpoints when shaping their characters in their writing. During the workshop, the chat was alight with positive feedback and a generosity of connection I’ve not experienced anywhere else in my 20+ years of being a professional artist.
Inigo’s workshop was followed by a break, then a reading by poet Betty Doyle from her new collection (as well as a chance to get an exclusive signed copy!), a Q&A with Betty, and an Open Mic where participant Babs read one of her short fiction pieces, which was celebrated by generous feedback from Inigo, Betty and the other attendees.
I love the tone of the creative spaces that CRIPTic x Spread the Word create together – you never feel you have to apologise or ask for your access needs to be met. There’s such an unspoken respect for people’s autonomy and independence in managing their individual needs. Salons are BSL-interpreted, captioned, and with multiple rest breaks and text-based supports for the spoken instruction. Prep materials and information ahead of the workshop are available to help anyone manage their anxiety or overwhelm. It’s so refreshing and assuring to be in a space where access needs aren’t presented as problematic, compared to what we are presented by mainstream society, particularly in these pseudo-‘post-Covid’ times where venues and festivals have stopped offering online options to their audiences.
Some feedback from the April ‘22 Salon participants included:
“This has been so useful, thank you!”
“I liked the pace.”
“I’ve got the beginning of a story written. I abandoned it during lockdown, but your prompts have made me go back to the main character and think again…”
Like an appointment at a good hair salon, a CRIPtic x Spread the Word Salon is tailored to your needs and you leave feeling just amazing, a more fully realised version of yourself. But unlike an appointment at a hair salon, these writing salons are free and come to you in the comfort of your own home.
Attending these salons truly helps you show up for you and your work, so don’t miss your chance to join this unique and long-lasting support network of d/Deaf and disabled writers, in a truly inclusive and artistically inspirational space. Being connected to this community of d/Deaf or disabled artists has been life-changing for me, personally and professionally, and this support is available to you (for free!)
Book your slot in the new 2022 Salon season here: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/criptic-x-spread-the-word-salons-for-d-deaf-and-disabled-writers-new-season/
Shannon Yee (Sickels) is an award-winning writer and producer. Her perspectives as an immigrant, ethnic minority, queer artist-parent with a disability living in NI are deeply embedded in her work. Shannon has received a number of awards and grants, including the ACNI Major Individual Artist Award (2017). Her Reassembled, Slightly Askew sonically immerses audiences in her autobiographical experience of nearly dying and subsequent acquired brain injury (www.reassembled.co.uk) , touring locally, nationally and internationally in arts festivals and medical training settings since 2015. Shannon’s published short stories are ‘The Brightening Up Side’( Belfast Stories; Doire Press, 2019), and ‘Thumbnails’ (Queer Love: An Irish Anthology; Southward, 2020). www.s-yee.co.uk
Published 21 June 2022