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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I stumbled across a poem I wrote a full two decades before I was open about the queerness of my gender. I sometimes feel like I was leaving myself breadcrumbs so that when I finally realized how lost I was, I’d be able to find my way home. This is one of those breadcrumbs.
For folks using text readers:
The clothes, they feel wrong But the fault’s in the wearer In terror of being Exactly myself With the clothes That I chose From the piles on my shelf I’m pretending I’m someone I’m not Someone else Someone normal And happily lost in the crowd When I’m lost in this shroud In this lie Over-false Truer walls around feelings That don’t match my pulse
And I’ve twisted around From the me I should be That even my clothes Have rebelled against me
Saying, “There are some things That we have to discuss. For we’d rather you naked, Than fake it, With us.”
For the second time, the wonderful Kristin Garth has included one of my poems in her journal, Pink Plastic House. It was part of her 31-day collection of Halloween-hearted poems. You can read it by clicking here and scrolling down to October 17th, the day my poem was featured.
I was given the opportunity to voice Aunt Mae in the final episode of Mel Hartman’s brilliant exploration of haunted-house-horror as told through a young, neurodiverse, and queer lens. I encourage folks to listen to the whole series!
Starting today, whenever I post an update on this website, I’m going to boost another creator whose work deserves your eyes.
This week, it’s Vanessa Maki. She is a poet, writer, and visual artist whose work re-examines horror/popular culture — with a focus on film and television. To dive into her work, visit her LinkTree and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. You can also support her on Ko-Fi. At present, you can commission her to write a custom poem based on her curated list of horror/pop culture properties or purchase one of her existing chapbooks.
The Autumn issue of Thema Literary Journal features my poem, What Were You Wearing? I wrote this piece in response to the question inevitably asked by police, social workers, doctors, friends, and lovers when talking about sexual assault. You can purchase the issue here.