Tuesday, 23 July 2019

I'm A Published Author

Childhood dreams, sometimes they can feel impossible to achieve. We dream big as children and when you reach adulthood sometimes the reality of life makes it difficult to hold on to those dreams but for me 2019 was the year I made my childhood dream come true. The year I became a published author. If you follow me on social media then you're probably already aware of this because it's all I've talked about for the past few months, but I wanted to speak more about how it came to be that I found myself writing for a book.


January 2017. I received a message on Twitter from someone who worked for Unbound (a crowdfunding book publisher), they were looking for young people to contribute to a book and they wanted me to pitch for it. I was 19 years old at the time, mostly stuck at home (I didn't have my current powerchair back then) with blogging and volunteering filling my time. I was just beginning to find my feet after finally having more than a year's break from surgeries, so an offer to write something for a book was definitely not something I expected. I pitched to them and I was over the moon to be asked to come on board.

The book goes by the same name as Rife Magazine, a Bristol based magazine that was created to amplify the voices of young creatives. A lot of the other essayists were already writing for Rife at the time and we've all written about an issue that means something to us and affects young people. The book covers a wide range of issues including gender, mental health, university, politics and Islamophobia, just to name a few. It was obvious what I would write about, disability, but it was more difficult condensing that down since it's such a broad topic.

I'd talked about so much of my experience as a disabled person on my blog but I wanted to cover something I hadn't before and for me that was education. The first half of my essay covers my diagnosis, my surgeries and my experience in education. Before the book I'd never explicitly discussed what education looked like for me, as a teenager that went from high attendance and great grades to suddenly being unable to climb a flight of stairs and I hadn't realised until I started writing how much I needed to verbalise it.


The second half covers broader topics such as accessibility and the benefits system. To me it was really important to include the benefits system because even when we talk about benefits and those who 'deserve them' we say things like 'I've paid in my taxes' but as a young disabled person I haven't paid in my taxes. I haven't contributed in the traditional way that would make the support I'm receiving justified in the eyes of a lot of people. It's difficult to find conversations happening about young disabled people on benefits, so I wanted to start one. There is so much more I would have loved to have covered too but one chapter was simply not enough, I'll save the rest for my own book one day I hope.

Whilst I announced my involvement with the book at the time I joined several years have passed since then so it was lovely to be able to announce it all over again and I couldn't believe the reaction I received. The idea of people pre-ordering a book simply because I'm in it was so alien to me, but I'm slowly getting used to it. Everything has been so surreal, from signing over 150 copies of the book to go out to supporters to taking part in a panel event at RSA (Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). The launch itself was a few weeks ago now, I attended the London one and it was amazing to meet so many of the people that made the book possible, everyone from the other essayists to those who work at Unbound and Rife Magazine.

I keep pinching myself because it really doesn't feel real. Every time I see the book in a bookshop I get emotional and I'm not sure that will ever change. 7 years of writing my blog, years of writing for other publications and finally I made my dream a reality. Just a few years ago I was almost completely without hope, hope that I would achieve the things I wanted to, hope that life would get better. But it finally has. I thought 2018 was my year but we're only halfway through 2019 and I can safely say it's been the best year of my life so far.

You can buy Rife: Twenty-One Stories From Britain's Youth in all the usual places including Waterstones, Amazon and Foyles.
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