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Crip the Lit: telling our stories our way

1. About us 

Crip the Lit was formed in 2016 by Trish Harris and Robyn Hunt as a way for Deaf and disabled writers to have our unique voices, perspectives and stories included and valued in mainstream writing in New Zealand. We want to tell our stories our way.

Crip the Lit is here to challenge stereotyped and inaccurate portrayals of disabled characters in books, movies and on television. It’s critical that disability is represented and celebrated as part of the richness and diversity of humanity in all genres of literature, and in film, television and video.

Disabled writers also need a platform and community, whatever genre they’re writing in.

2. What we’ve achieved

Our latest achievement is the publication of Here we are, read us: Women, disability and writing, a book that creatively explores the sometimes complicated and often neglected relationship between writing and disability. 

Cover of Here we are, read usThis little book with big ideas features eight diverse, well-known and emerging women writers. They are: Tusiata Avia, Steff Green, Helen Vivienne Fletcher, Charlotte Simmonds, Michele Leggott, Trish Harris, Te Awhina Arahanga and Robin Hyde (the only non-living writer). They are novelists, poets, essayists, playwrights, memoirists and bloggers. The important thing they have in common is that they all share the lived experience of disability.

In Here we are, read us, they talk frankly about the intersection of disability and writing, sharing the insights and experience that enrich their work. It will be launched in Wellington on Sunday 24 March and available at no cost in a variety of accessible formats: in hard copy including large print; and online as an audio book, an e-book with accessible downloadable files, and in braille from the Blind Foundation.  

We’ve participated in four Wellington LitCrawl events, 2016 to 2019.

2016: When disabled writers claim their voice and share their inner world, the parameters of what it means to be human broaden.  In that first session, four disabled writers read from their published work and discussed the power of claiming their own experience. They touched on misery memoirs and inspiration porn. Readers were Trish Harris, Mary O’Hagan, Sally Champion and Robyn Hunt.

LitCrawl Wellington brand2017: Truth Thrives in the Margins, Joachim Kalka. Three authors provided insight into their lives, introducing a new view of heritage, hospital beds and lunatics taking over the asylum. Writers were Trish Harris, Mary O’Hagan and Robyn Hunt.

We also participated in the Disability Pride Week celebrations in 2017 with a panel of writers. Trish Harris, Henrietta Bollinger, Alex Staines and Pippa Carvell reflected on disability pride.

2018: The Great Debate was our contribution to the LitCrawl event.  The moot was “There’s no such thing as a disabled writer –we are all just writers”. It was particularly well-received and attended by a large audience. Debaters were Steff Green, Alisha Tyson and Trish Harris for the affirmative. Paula Tesoriero, Mandy Hager and Henrietta Bollinger were the negative team and Matthew Jansen was the MC. A recording of The Great Debate was broadcast on Wellington Access Radio on the International Day of Disabled People on 3 December. 

Robyn Hunt also participated in the extended LitCrawl Armistice Day event panel of writers reading their work.

2019: This year's contribution to LitCrawl was Across Two Worlds, an interview with young adult author L.J. Ritchie (Like Nobody’s Watching, Monsters of Virtue) talking to Trish Harris about his current project, a novel featuring two autistic characters. Listen to the podcast on Wellington Access Radio

3. What we want to achieve

We’re building a community of writers around New Zealand who identify as disabled and/or Deaf. Our aim is to encourage, acknowledge, develop and celebrate disabled voices in literature. So far, all our activities have been in Wellington but our vision is national.

The Walking Stick Tree coverWe are also producing an accessible print and electronic resource profiling and celebrating the voices and perspectives of eight disabled New Zealand women writers and their words, following the Suffrage 125 celebrations. This resource explores the creative possibilities that come from identifying in a positive way.

Our eight authors are diverse across writing genres, across impairments/disabilities and culturally. We’ve also ensured a mixture of emerging and established writers. We hope it will be widely available in hard copy and online.

One long-term goal is to publish an anthology of writing by New Zealand Deaf and disabled writers.

4. Who we want to work with

We are working with Arts Access Aotearoa, which has given us great support, as has everyone at LitCrawl. We value that support.

We’re also developing links and community with other disabled writers and wider writing circles. This includes writers, publishers, writing organisations, the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) and anyone else who supports and can contribute to our kaupapa. For any writers, NZSA is well worth joining because of the opportunities, advice and writing programmes it offers.

Building relationships with funders for our projects has been rewarding and we are very grateful and hopeful for their continuing support. Thanks to Te Auaha, the Rehabilitation Welfare Trust and Wellington Paraplegic & Physically Disabled Trust.

5. Useful links

6. Contact

Trish Harris and Robyn Hunt

Story updated: December 2019 




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