VIU student launches Disabled Voices Anthology in Nanaimo

The launch poster, featuring artwork by artist Shelby Brown
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The Vancouver Island University Creative Writing Department presents the launch of the upcoming Disabled Voices Anthology at the Nanaimo campus.

The launch will take place on Wednesday, March 11 from 7–9 pm in the lobby of the Malaspina Theatre (Bldg. 310).

The Disabled Voices Anthology will be released on March 10 by Rebel Mountain Press, and is edited by Vancouver Island University (VIU) student sb. smith. The book features writing and artwork from Disabled writers and artists across Canada, the US, and the UK, and includes several contributions from VIU students and alumni, including as Lys Morton, Nicola Kapron, Eryn Goodman, Cheryl Folland, Kimberley Hunter, Shelby Brown, and Ciro Di Ruocco. There is also a foreword by award-winning writer and editor Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

The anthology was started by editor sb. smith, who pitched the idea to Rebel Mountain Press after the publishing house presented their catalogue of books in one of her publishing classes. She began working on the book a few years ago in the summer of 2018, when she put out the call for submissions.

“The idea was really sparked by my realization that there is a definite need for more criplit, especially in Canada and the CanLit scene,” said smith.

As a creative writing student and former staff member at The Nav, smith has had plenty of experience with workshopping and editing submissions from her peers, but editing an anthology was a whole different ball-game.

“It was a lot more work, of course! I think the thing I found most challenging was managing so many different writers’ expectations and making sure I understood their aims or intentions with each work so that I didn’t offer any edits that weren’t helpful or maybe crossed lines.”

But she looks back on it as an enriching experience. “The biggest thing I learned was how truly difficult it is to be a disabled writer and/or editor in a very abled literary industry. I don’t intend to gripe, but it is our reality. From the simple marginalization of crappy book categorization to the disparate treatment among abled collaborators to the near-complete lack of formal recognition me and my contributors have received, it’s been difficult! At the same time, it’s been incredibly rewarding to come together with other crip, ill, Disabled kin over this text and to work together to see it through. So, in that way, another big lesson for me was the importance of community and collective efforts with the people who ‘get’ it,” said smith.

The event will feature a Q&A and readings from contributors Lys Morton (he/him), Kimberley Hunter (she/her), Nicola Kapron (she/her), Cheryl Folland (they/them), Eryn Goodman (they/them), and sb. smith herself (she/her or they/them). All are encouraged to attend.

“All are welcome, and abled people especially may learn new things during the Q&A portion! It will be a good opportunity for people to learn and perhaps to see disability as an identity and a culture, or in another new way they hadn’t considered before,” smith said.

As per the Facebook event page, here are some important notes to be aware of:

  • This is a scent-reduced event. Please do not wear colognes, perfumes, body spray, aftershave, laundry scent-boosters, etc. to this event to increase safety of guests.
  • Any refreshments will include a list of ingredients and no nut products will be served. Please refrain from bringing nuts to the event to increase the safety of guests.
  • Seating includes a mix of padded armchairs, plastic chairs (no arm rests), bar stools (no arm rests, with and without back or foot rests), etc. Padded armchairs are limited and will be priority seating for those who require them. Floor space will be designated for mobility aid users and d/Deaf audience members.
  • The closest parking is located in Lot G and H (off of Fifth Street) and features a wheelchair accessible route to the Theatre. Please remember to purchase a parking ticket! For more accessible route information, please see the VIU Barrier-Free Map.
  • Speakers will be amplified by PA system. For ASL interpretation, please email DisabledVoicesRMP@gmail.com to request (subject to availability).
  • Content/trigger warnings will be provided for sensitive content.
  • The event will be live-streamed, but filming will not include the audience as much as possible.
  • There are two non-gendered washrooms in the vicinity. Washrooms on the floor of the main event have somewhat light doors but no auto-opener and two accessible stalls but a tight entry hall to reach them. Washrooms on the bottom floor near the front/main door do not have auto-door openers (both have lever handles). One has urinals and a single accessible stall, the other is single-occupancy with a locking door, and grab bars. Scent-free soaps will be provided.
  • Step-free access: Enter through the side door (to right of front/main door). This door is wide and step-free but does not have auto-opener mechanism. The front/main door has an auto-opener and is wide, but there are six steps from the door to the main event area.
  • Lighting and airflow: Small, bright, yellow-white incandescent spotlights in the reception area, and fluorescent lights in bathrooms. Warm air, decent airflow, windows do not open but doors will be opened if scents present an issue. No discernible scents in reception space, but cleaners may be used prior.
  • Water fountain located in the reception space.

Copies of the anthology will be for sale at the launch for $20. Cash, e-transfer, or credit are accepted. For further information or accessibility inquiries, feel free to contact sb. smith at  sarahbreannep@gmail.com or disabledvoicesrmp@gmail.com.