The AWP Conference is going on now. I used to want to go... badly. I'd dream of who I'd meet, glimpse, and become friends with. There are panels on every type of writing. And the swag-- totes full of books, bookmarks, bookish totes! It sounded like paradise.
I'm too poor (and too disabled) to go, which seems to be a good thing with all the reports I hear every year about some major SNAFU involving the conference's commitment to disability inclusion. One year, every single panel proposal on disability and literature was turned down, though there were many. Now, they have a fair amount of panels (and praise themselves for how inclusive they are), but their accommodations lack because they're worried about "affecting the other conference-goers". One year, they even had stairs to the stage where disabled presenters were supposed to give their talk! Sometimes, I can't tell if they're literally that clueless or if we're just unwelcome and they'd get sued for saying so.
When people ask me why I don't feel like I belong in the "Literary Community", I point to AWP or, as I like to call them, "Exhibit A". There are a myriad of things keeping disabled writers from the spaces of our peers.
Sometimes, I wish...
I'm starting a mentor program for disabled and/or neurodivergent writers through my other blog The Handy, Uncapped Pen. The window for mentor applications is March 15th. Everyone in the program will be disabled or neurodivergent. Everyone in the program will be professional writers (or working towards it).
First, I've never done anything like this. I know that's probably not a good thing to admit, but no one would do anything new if the prerequisite is to have already done it. What if (like someone suggested rudely) I have no business being the one running it?
What if there aren't enough mentors or any mentors for the program? What if it collapses? I worked for months on this, even planning during my radiation treatments. I work on it still. I don't want to let anyone down.
I try not to let myself get tangled in negative possibilities. What if it's a success, however modest? What if I can expand it to include teenage writers next year? What if the next project takes off even more? I tell myself: Keep positive and plugging away, and worry about the worst only if it happens.