One of my favorite parts of being an editor is thinking about the readers. I was a reader long before I was an editor, and I loved curling up with a good story. I devoured stories on the beach, in bed before falling asleep, during a nice bath, and everywhere in between, but most stories had a key element missing: I was never in them.
There’s something to be said for creating work by and for d/Deaf and disabled writers and artists. We’re not represented in the mainstream, and when we are, we’re often reduced to stories where our disabilities are front-and-center. My disability isn’t always the central point of my life, though; sometimes, I’m talking to a stranger in an elevator, or helping a family member shovel snow. Some days my disability is a minor plot point in my story. Other days my disability is my entire story—mornings when I wake up in so much pain that I know I can do nothing but call it a day and try to get some rest, nights where I cancel anticipated plans with friends after overdoing it all week long, and afternoons where my walk along the Charles River is interrupted by a stranger pointing at my lavender cane and saying, “What’s wrong with you?”
Other days, my disability isn’t even in my story. My story that day is about meeting my best friend for Hawaiian poke and getting caught up in a flash flood, dashing through puddles up to our ankles while we run for the train station. My story is about the dead air on the other line when my dad hangs up the phone after an argument, even though I’ve told him never to do that.
As artists, we are our stories. And as readers, we are the stories we read. When we see ourselves in these stories—stories that feature disability prominently, stories about disabled characters that have nothing to do with disability—it lets us exist. It tells us that this story we’re living is a reality outside of just us, which can be enough sometimes when I’m thinking about whether anyone else has ever second-guessed a date they were really looking forward to because they weren’t sure if they looked sexy with their cane.
As an editor, I’m always thinking about the reader, and who might feel like they exist because of these stories. I’m excited to help bring readers work that will help them tell essential truths about their lives, especially if this is their first time reading a piece of work and thinking, “I guess I do exist.”