Resilience

Hello all. I have two more days until my Covid quarantine is over and I can walk in the sun again. This bug is no joke! I can’t remember the last time I was this tired.

Still, it’s also National Poetry Month and I was fortunate enough to be invited to share some words with the League of Canadian Poets. The first piece is an essay, 18 Interpretations of Resilience. It’s an odd year to spend time thinking about resilience. I tried to be honest about the ways the concept has helped and hindered me. The second piece is a poem, Avocado. This is both one of my favourite poems and one of my most rejected. In retrospect, that feels right for the theme.

I’m off for a nap (lots of those right now). But be well, drink lots of water, and hug your humans.

H. E.

I Like Short Shorts

My drabble (100 word story) was published last month in a mag appropriately dubbed The Drabble!

Called The Origin of Strong-Doggy, it packs a good deal of character into a tiny packet. You can read it here. And if you enjoy it, give it a like under the story and help bump it up The Drabble’s most liked list!

Usually this is where I would boost another creator, but I’m taking care of someone I love who is not feeling well, and that’s consuming my time and brain-space. I’ll be sure to pick it back up once things settle out.

PS: Hug your humans (if you safely can, and hugs are your jam).

♥ H. E.

Poetry, Homed

I’ve recently had three poems published. The first, A Line From This Poem to Me, was published by Tealight Press. It’s about discovering my gender in a space that couldn’t even say its name. Two other poems, She Asked Me Why I Write Poetry and It Made Me Want to Sing, were published in issue 2 of Ghost Heart Literary Journal. This issue, called Transcend, is dedicated to the voices of creators who exist in the trans experience. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can find it on my Poetry page.

Centring our creative community

I usually feature writers, but we have the ability to work remotely during lockdown. Tattoo artists aren’t so fortunate. One of my favourite artists, the one responsible for the poppy tattoo on my arm, has started selling prints on Etsy. E.K. is more than an artist—they are also part of a community of tattoo artists that work to make their field more safe, equitable, anti-racist, and sustainable. Their work is bold, clean, and usually nature inspired. You can view their work and make purchases here.

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A Group of Stories Is Called a Shout

With the Valentine’s rush at work over, I have a minute to share the stories I had published during the great pause of 2020.

My very short story, Waking From the Longest Sleep, was published in the December issue of Dwelling Literary. In it, a depressed Auggie gets a mysterious missive that might save her from a holiday alone on the couch.

Perhaps my most experimental story, Weeding The Experiential Archives lets you take a peek inside the weeding process at an unusual future library. It was shared by Quilliad, a smaller magazine full of big ideas.

I’ve had a few more stories accepted recently, so if you dig my prose garden, there’s more sprouts coming soon! I’ll keep you posted. And you can always read find my short stories gathered here.

CENTRING OUR CREATIVE COMMUNITY

It can be hard to describe a writer’s vibe, especially one as inventive as Jennifer Hudak. The closest I can get is that her work is the spec. fic. equivalent of elevated comfort food. You feel at home as soon as you enter the worlds she builds, but there’s alway an unexpected flavour to surprise the palate. Even her unsettling stories leave you craving another serving. You can find most of her work here, on her website.

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A Group of Poems Is Called a Whisper

Today I’m going to share the poems I had published while I was on pause.

The first, Salt, was published in poetically magazine‘s premiere issue, wonders of winter. It’s perhaps my most intimate poem.

My minison series, The Seven Stages Via Kübler-Ross, appeared in the third issue of The Minison Zine. A minison is a 14 letter sonnet, and is the shortest form I’ve experimented with.

Three of my poems were published in print journal The Avenue‘s sexuality and gender themed issue. They aren’t available online, but the issue can be purchased here.

If you enjoy my poetry, you can always find more of it here.

CENTRING OUR CREATIVE COMMUNITY

Author Dianna Gunn wears so many hats, I’m starting to think she’s a hydra. When she’s not prolifically penning stories, recording podcasts, or helping authors learn how to market their work, she’s busy creating virtual conferences. There’s one coming up on February 20th called Worldbuilding Deep Dive. I’m particularly jazzed for the Accessibility in Worldbuilding: Understanding How Disabled People Move Through Your World panel. All of the panels are free, though spaces are limited. Writers can sign up here.

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Slowing Down, Catching Up

Welp, it’s been a few months since I’ve updated my website. Working retail—while disabled, middle aged, and mentally ill—means that November and December are the pit into which all my energy falls. During those months, I pause my writing by necessity. While this is tough (and sometimes makes me blue) it also gives me a chance to refill my creative coffers, rethink my output, and allow my fields of inspiration to lie fallow for a season.

In the meantime, I’ve had a few publications come out. I will be posting them for you as I catch up.

To start with, I’m really pleased to be contributing to the Spoonie Authors Network, sharing some of my thoughts about writing while managing spoons. My first piece, Writing Through the Depressive Lens, talks about the gradual process of embracing rather than fighting the way my neurodiversity informs my writing. The second, How to Zoom While Neurodivergent: So Not a Guide, examines how expected behaviours in virtual spaces can read like a list of neurotypical behaviors, making Zoom meetings inaccessible for neurodiverse creatives.

If you’re a disabled creator of any ilk, you’ll probably find something useful in the articles and podcasts up at Spoonie Authors Network. There’s also a weekly Twitter meet-up! It’s a fantastic resource and I’m chuffed to be a part of it.

CENTRING OUR CREATIVE COMMUNITY

While hanging out on Spoonie Twitter™, I heard about an anthology called Nothing Without Us that features short stories by disabled writers, including pieces by other Spoonie Author Network contributors. This collection is especially good for those days when your brain just can’t handle the commitment of a novel. From helper golems to talking canes to the trials of performing disability for cash in a near-future dystopia, the stories run the gamut of genres, styles and perspectives. Truly, one of my favourite books.

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Awards Eligibility Time!

Welp, for the first time ever I’m creating an awards eligibility post. Small but mighty, I’m proud of this list of what I’ve accomplished in my first year actively and consistently submitting. Thank you for giving my work a look!
—H. E. Casson

Title: Wings Pulled To Body
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Scifaikuest, August 2020
This is a short poem about reverse metamorphosis.

Title: 12 Tanzen Lane
Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale
Publisher: Cast of Wonders, September 2020
Published as an audio play, 12 Tanzen Lane is a queer retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale, set in a group home. It explores gender, trauma, mental illness, and love. It’s informed by my own time spent in the group home system growing up.

Title: Weeding the Experiential Archives
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Publisher: The Quilliad, November 2020
In this experimental short story, you are cast as the archivist, deciding which experiences will remain in your collection and which will be discarded and sold. The experiences are gleaned from the near past, present, and near future.

Weeding the Experiential Archives

It’s been a busy week for releases! My short spec-fic piece, Weeding the Experiential Archives, is in the latest issue of Quilliad. It is available to read or download to your device here. This story is inspired by my childhood spent building my own collection of books bought for a quarter from the library discard bin. I wondered what the future version of this would look like. This was a fun one to write as—something most folks don’t know—I’m a library and information technician. Writing this story helped justify 2 years of cataloguing class. Library people know what I mean.

Centring our Creative Community

If you haven’t checked out Spoonie Authors Network, what are you waiting for? Oh. More spoons? Fair. When you have the spoons, visit them and enjoy interviews, tips, and a kickin’ podcast. And if you don’t know what a Spoonie is, they have you covered there too! The network has a focus on disabled and chronically ill creators, but the tips are broadly applicable and can help any author improve their work.

The Labels on Shampoo

My first published shape poem, The Labels on Shampoo, is in Ang(st)’s 4th issue, which can be read here. Ang(st) is a feminist zine with a focus on the body. The other works in this issue cover so many moods and styles. There’s likely something in there for every experience of hair. I’ve found some brilliant new writers to follow in this issue.

Funny side story: when I wrote this poem, I went to my local drugstore to take pictures of all the words used to sell shampoo (which, lets be honest, is just wet soap). I took so many photos, a guy at the store thought I was casing the joint. I had to explain that it was all for poetry. I’m not sure he bought it.

CENTRING OUR CREATIVE COMMUNITY

BTW, if you’re into zine culture, there’s some impressive work being done at the Wiggle Bird Mailing Club. There are a few different levels of support you can offer on their Patreon, but every level includes at least some of their bright, gloriously designed zines from trans and queer authors. If an ongoing monthly commitment isn’t feasible, you can also support them with one-off purchases at their Etsy shop.

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Regarding the Shelter at Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre

A screen shot of a tweet by @cityoftoronto. It reads, "The City of Toronto is opening 560 new spaces between November and April to help those experiencing homelessness through out winter services plan. More space at warming centres and enhanced street outreach will also be activated during extreme cold weather alerts." There is also an imge which shows a large, warehouse like room in which glass barriers separate cots. The rooms are about twice the size of the cots. The glass walls provide no privacy. The cots resemble lawn chairs and feature a thin mattress.

This letter was written in response to a City of Toronto press release. In it, we see a photo of the proposed emergency shelter at at Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre. This is being offered as a no-choice alternative to Toronto’s tent communities. I will be sending this letter to the Mayor and my council representative.

Dear Mayor John Tory,

I’m writing today to ask you to reconsider your current plan to house people experiencing homelessness in the Better Living Centre as it currently exists.

There is a word we come back to when discussing people who are currently without a home: vulnerable. And it’s a fair descriptor. Our homeless community includes a disproportionate amount of refugee and asylum claimants, physical and sexual abuse survivors, group home and foster care survivors, formerly institutionalized or incarcerated people, folks who were homeless as children, disabled and chronically ill people, Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour, veterans, and members of the 2SLGBTQQIPA+ or Queer community.

When I say vulnerable, what I mean is that homeless people have inevitably experienced trauma—and they continue to experience the ongoing trauma of being discarded and neglected in a nation of plenty.

When Toronto proudly shared their vision for emergency overnight accommodations for the winter, it was clear that it wasn’t designed with the survival of vulnerable persons in mind. To suppose that all that matters is a roof and a cot is to ignore the crossroads of vulnerability that people exist at if they are homeless in Toronto. How is a rape survivor supposed to sleep in a glass box? How is a group home survivor supposed to find rest in a space where they have no privacy or autonomy? How is a residential school survivor supposed to accept this as a place to warm on a cold night when cameras, and cells, and security guards make it more like a prison?

People are not dry goods. A warehouse is not an answer. To re-traumatize already traumatized people is to lengthen the time it will take them to rebuild if and when they find housing. I know I’m still recovering, some 25 years later, from my experiences with homelessness in Toronto. I’m sure it costs more to address the after-effects of that trauma now than it would have to just make sure my rent was covered all those years ago.

You say you consulted experts to design this space, but perhaps you need to spend time—actual ongoing time—with the community members who will use it. They are the real experts in their own needs. I know if you sat down with me I would tell you that homelessness has its own gravity. Once you are close to it, an inordinate amount of strength is needed to pull away. Because of this, an inordinate amount, and quality, of resources must be provided. The bare bones approach changes nothing, save re-traumatizing vulnerable community members by relocating them to what looks more like a debtor’s prison than a community care centre. I implore you to consider this when you create spaces for your fellow human beings.

Thank you,
H. E. Casson