Sunday, March 3, 2019

"Toward My Own Definition of Disability" published at Hazlitt

Last Thursday, February 28, 2019, Hazlitt published an essay of mine, “Toward My Own Definition of Disability.” Here’s how it happened.

I had the idea for this essay when I was putting together a proposal for an essay collection to send to the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize contest early in 2018. I realized that there was a good chance any collection of my personal essays would be classified as being about or at least relating to disability. Yet at that time, I wasn't sure if I considered myself to have a disability. I decided to address the question in an essay.

Meanwhile, I was also trying to publish a different essay, “Pollyanna Problems.” I submitted the piece to Hazlitt, and they didn’t take it, but they liked my writing and expressed interest in working with me on something new, should I ever wish to pitch them. Little did they know that I had a whole list of essay ideas from the book proposal, which I promptly sent along. The disability essay was the strongest idea. It was actually when I was in the hospital last April, 2018, and most definitely in a disabled state, that I found out I’d gotten the assignment.

So in May, 2018, after I'd gotten out of the hospital and was recuperating at my parents' house in the Kentucky countryside, I interviewed people, did research, and worked on my draft pretty much full-time. I felt justified in that, since the pay was decent. Could this be my new life as an essayist? I didn't have delusions that it would be, but it was still fun to think about. Toward the end of June, I submitted my first draft, and from then till last week, my editor and I were working to improve the piece. A fact-checker went over it and an artist, Chloe Cushman, gave it a fitting illustration. Approximately a year after that Crenshaw seed germinated in my head, the resulting essay was published. I guess it was a fruitful effort!

I’m grateful for everyone who has read, complimented, and shared the essay. Thank you!