Disability as Nuance, Disability as Craft

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

In the introductory conversation around Brevity‘s special issue on the Experiences of Disability, Sonya Huber asks her fellow guest editors Keah Brown and Sarah Fawn Montgomery to discuss how disability shapes their writing process, including ways in which their disabilities can change and deepen what and how they write:

Sarah Fawn Montgomery: Of course disability impacts my writing by sometimes limiting when, if, or how much writing I can accomplish, but disability also deeply informs my craft. It is subject and structure, influencing everything from framing and pacing, to detail and syntax. Disability has also shifted my writing practice. I know that I might not always be well enough to write, so I take advantage of any opportunities and am grateful rather than critical of the work I produce during this time. I recognize that long stretches of writing time are not always possible and have learned to write…

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So Long January and I’m Gonna Get Me Some Answers #JusJoJan

I lagged behind at the end of it all this year.


I am feeling that word
in big and in small ways.

I’m looking ahead, into February and then into the following months. I know I just have to trust that what’s meant to happen will happen, that it will all work itself out.

January started with my hands on a brand new braille calendar and it’s ended with my anxiety high until I hear if my creatinine level has gone back down.

I think this final day of January was not a good day and won’t be remembered as one, for many, with the events in Washington DC and as Brexit finally takes effect.

What will we, the world, feel about these things, days and weeks and months and years from now? What will the history books say?

I feel I’m missing something, but I can’t quite name what it is I feel I’m missing.

It feels like a swirling inside my brain, as I return to less than daily postings or even less than weekly, as I’ve been going up until now.

I hope to get some answers this week and to move forward from there, but there are some instances where no answer will suffice.


Only In My Dreams #JusJoJan

Would I even be any good at it?


I am not one of those blind people who joke often about being able to
but I do dream that I am behind the wheel on occasion.

I am aware of my blindness in these dreams and still proud and feeling comfortable. I am not afraid I’ll crash, but I do recall a caution, which I am with a lot of things in my own life.

I do think some people are more natural at driving. My dreams would have me believe that I, if I could drive, would be one of those naturals.

During these occasional dreams, I seem sure of my destination, something I don’t usually feel so certain of in my waking hours.

I only had one dream where I was left alone in a car and then the car started to back out of the driveway and into the road as I panicked but couldn’t seem to be able to get out.

Self driving cars aren’t all that far off, are here already, but I don’t know if or when I will find myself behind that wheel, wide awake not dreaming.

for this prompt that has me dreaming of the possibilities of the future.


Heft #JusJoJan

I feel it during my Wednesday Pilates classes.

I am not so scientific as I wish I could be, but I like to imagine what it’s like, the great force that pulls us and all things down…down, down down.


Then I think of the
of some of the things we’re facing in today’s world – not so captivating.

I feel the hefty weight of the thing resting on my chest as I listen to the news, not listen to it. No matter what I do, I feel it.

And so, back to Pilates I go.

for the prompt word.


101 Barks and Flashbacks #JusJoJan

I seem to be one day off, at the least of things, in my 2020 plans and in these daily writing prompts.


Yesterday I wrote about my dog getting into some chocolates a friend had given me.

Today, I think about all the
on my street, one of the ones on the street behind my house having barked loudly as soon as I let Dobby out the back the other morning.

It’s a morning chorus of dogs on one street, wondering who all they might meet.

It reminds me of that scene from Disney’s 101 Dalmatians when a network of barking and howling dogs spread the message that a gang of poor little puppies had been stolen.

I miss those days of watching Disney movies at my cousins/ place: 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp.

for this prompt that read my blog correctly.

And since your blog happens to have 101 in the name: What of coincidences?

It’s Friday and I’m flashing back to another time. Now, should I sign up for Disney+?


I Wanted Those Dobby #JusJoJan

Just Jot It January #JusJoJan
prompt word was given by
and that was the day I received a treat from a friend.


My dog clearly noticed the lovely bag of chocolates a friend generously gave to me. I came home and found that he’d thought them super
because there were the empty wrappers on the floor and on the chair when I returned home from my meeting.

It’s my fault, of course, for leaving the bag out on the low table with full access.

I know it’s said how dogs shouldn’t have chocolate, can’t have chocolate, and could get sick or worse, but it’s been more than twenty-four hours and he seems like himself still.

I wanted all those chocolates, Dobby.

for the delicious prompt word.


By The Fireside #Podcast #JusJoJan

It’s taken me a few days, but this is the start of a new week. I am getting it together here.


My 2019 is behind me and can’t be changed now. Time to look ahead.


Starting with our first
Ketchup On Pancakes (podcast)
of the year, though we do look back on the last as we look into the next twelve months.

Along with my brother, I am going to record our podcast and every
we have for the coming year.

for the prompt.


“Experiences of Disability” – A Brevity Special Issue

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Brevity is excited to announce an upcoming special issue, “Experiences of Disability,” to be published in September 2020 and featuring anchor author Esmé Weijun Wang. The submission period will begin on October 1, 2019.

We invite brief nonfiction submissions that consider all aspects of illness and disability: what it is, what it means, how our understanding of disability is changing. We want essays that explore how disability is learned during childhood, lived over the entire course of a life, and how our changing understanding of disability shapes the way we experience ourselves and others. We are looking for flash essays (750 words or fewer) that explore the lived experience of illness and disability, as well as encounters with ableism, and that show readers a new way to understand the familiar or give voice to underrepresented experiences.

The “Experiences of Disability” issue will be guest edited by Keah Brown, Sonya Huber…

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Midnight Thoughts

Your voice, it’s stuck and being replayed in my head on an endless loop.

There once was a young girl (born with low vision) who would watch certain movies, over and over again until the tape wore out. People in her life grew weary, thinking her silly for such repetitions, when new movies with more excitement were constantly being released. She did this because, gradually over time, she could notice detail after detail in a scene, on the screen, with a growing sense of familiarity: 3 Men and a Baby/Little Lady or Son In Law for example.

That girl, wandering through the shelves of movies, with family or friends, in Blockbuster Video (now all but extinct along with that low vision, what vision she once had).

With the invention of iTunes, she now has a video store at her fingertips. She watches those movies again.

The late 80’s/early 90’s music, the sweet cooing of that baby, or scenes from an England so dreary. Or, down on the farm, not unlike the rural places she spent much of her youth.

Where did she get to, that young girl?

I’m her, still her, yet not nearly as young now. I watch again (for the two-hundredth time), searching for a little extra familiarity, this summer in particular. I no longer bother with the screen, but still my mind recalls scenes from movies from childhood anyway.

Buried, deep in my head somewhere, I still see. Why can’t I give you up, you images, what’s been familiar?

I recollect. a couple with their arms around each other and dancing close. The way a character wears their hair up/is dark brown or blonde. Even the hurt look in a face of a man who has just been slapped across it by a female love interest.

Did I ever see enough detail for that, to detect a look in a character’s face?

Today, in watching something that wasn’t a thing when I was young, I picture what the characters of Downton Abbey are doing in every scene, though I’ve never had the kind of vision, even low vision, to have seen them. So, then, where does it come from? It feels so real, as real as what I really could once see and of which now my brain recreates and can’t manage to let go of.

Now I watch, (3 Men and a Baby having come out when I was hardly more than a baby myself) and I hear voices and see scenes that are forever imprinted on my brain.

Tonight, the sound of your voice. I wonder if my memory of what you sound like will fade in thirty years time, if I never do hear it again.

Or if it will be forever imprinted on my eardrums, like those movie images from my low vision years that are replayed inside my head, even though sometimes I wish they weren’t.

Sometimes, I don’t know what’s real and true and what’s simply not either one of those. Like yourself or images seen with low vision, what was once here is now gone and I’m left with an endless echo chamber, or the visuals stuck on the repeat of it all.


A Review of Impossible Owls, Through the Lens of an Impossible Paradigm

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz owls_By Amy Wright

Know what I think is refreshing? Clean lakes, blue glass, mint mouthwash, and rain. Also, people who express profound emotion or offer insights earned from hard experiences. What I do not find refreshing as a matter of course are essay collections that avoid memoir. So, when the first three reviews I read of Brian Phillips’ debut essay collection, Impossible Owls, described its “refreshing lack of memoir,” I had to wonder why critics were praising what it wasn’t, rather than what it was.

Apparently, memoirs are so in need of humbling, or memoirists in such need of a comedown, reviewers have to work across genre to accomplish it. I get it; I’ve read bad memoirs too. But I’ve also read paltry sonnets and shoddy detective novels without reviewers lauding those working in other modes for avoiding them altogether.

I suspect there’s more at play than genre bias…

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