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!