IPEd Conference 2021: Editing on the Edges

Publishability

My name is Jax Jacki Brown and I’m the Publishability Project Officer at Writers Victoria. 

Publishability is a ground-breaking, two-year initiative funded by the Victorian Government’s Talent Matters Program through Creative Victoria. There are three key elements to the Publishability program: 1) we work with four writers with disability (two each year) to help them get their manuscripts ready for submission to publishers; 2) we deliver training to the publishing industry on how to work inclusively with writers with disability; and 3) we’re developing a toolkit for the publishing industry on disability. So there are a lot of different moving and exciting parts to my role!

I’m also a writer with disability myself, so it’s lovely to be employed on a program that allows me to work with some great writers with disabilities, and also to be part of creating change in the publishing industry through this program.

We are currently in our second year and supporting two emerging writers with disability, Jessica Walton and Heidi Everett, to develop their manuscripts and bring their work to the attention of publishers. 

Jessica is an amazing writer who already has a children’s book published called Introducing Teddy. She is using her Publishability fellowship to work on a manuscript called Crip the Light Fantastic, an honest, challenging and visceral collection of poems on disability and dance. Heidi is a singer-songwriter, film-maker and outstanding writer. She is working on a manuscript called My Friend Fox, a moving and thought-provoking memoir that brings the experience of schizoaffective disorder to life through lyrical prose and pen-and-ink illustrations. The writing is deeply personal, while also tackling the broader systemic issues of the health system, to trace a journey of survival. You can read extracts of both Jess and Heidi’s work in the online journal Westerly.

Our 2018 fellows were creative non-fiction writer Fiona Murphy, who has written a stunning collection of essays on Deafness called The Shape of Sound; and Mary Borsellino, who has written an engaging YA speculative fiction novel called Spare about a young witch with disabilities.

As well as supporting writers, we are running disability awareness and equality training for publishing industry representatives. We have run two training workshops so far in Melbourne, with our last iteration of the training coming up in Sydney in May 2020 (date to be confirmed). The training is delivered in collaboration with Arts Access Victoria and is tailored to publishers to equip them to work with writers with disability. The training explores best practice language when it comes to disability, how to address and respond to disability stereotypes, how to make access and inclusion a priority, thinking through a budget for access, and how to find and approach writers with disability (and manage expectations). We are able to offer the training at an 85% discounted rate of only $25. Previous participants have had this to say about the training: 

‘The training was well organised, with engaging discussions and a good number of interactive exercises. The training really opened my eyes to the stereotypes imposed on disabled persons and I was inspired to share what I learned with my colleagues in the hopes of raising awareness. This training is so important and I encourage anyone working in the publishing or marketing/communication fields to attend.’

—Kristy Burt, Publishing Manager, AusIMM

‘This training has increased my awareness of the way societal structures privilege some people and blatantly exclude others. The Social Model for Disability is a total game-changer in the way I perceive disability. I'm profoundly grateful for this training.’

Tess Cullity- Editor at Hardie Grant Egmont.

Importantly, Publishability is the sister program to Writers Victoria’s flagship program Write-ability, which has been running for over seven years. Write-ability supports five emerging writers with disability per year and it is from these alumni that we select our Publishability fellows. 

We had a number of mainstream publishing houses sign up to be our partners in the program and we are garnering more interest along the way. By undertaking our training, publishers indicate they are interested in reading the manuscripts of our Publishability fellows, and it’s great to see such an appetite for reading #OwnVoices work from Deaf writers and writers with disabilities.

If you are a publisher and would like to sign up to express your interest in attending the training or reading the work of our fellows, please get in touch via email.

You can find out more about the program and our fellows at the links below: 

From the conference convenor

To learn more about the Publishability program and similar initiatives, join us at Editing on the Edges in June 2021.

Elizabeth Spiegel
Conference convenor

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28 to 30 June 2021, Hobart Grand Chancellor
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