On Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking a Master Class from Writing the Other called Writing Deaf and Blind Characters. Taught by the extremely knowledgeable Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, the class was two hours long and the teacher spent an hour talking about blind characters and an hour talking about deaf characters.
I signed up for the class because I have two blind characters and a partially deaf character and, as a sighted and hearing person, I know there is always something to learn.
A few days after I signed up, I heard back from a sensitivity reader I had hired to read my MS specifically for blindness. Aside from a few things I hadn’t explained in enough detail, I apparently represented blindness well! What a relief! I was petrified I had done something so wrong that I would somehow be barred from writing about blind characters ever again.
I don’t know how I would be barred. I just knew I would be.
So, wait. I write blind characters well. I had a stamp of approval. Did I still need to take this class? I had almost put off registering until I got that feedback (it was on a specific deadline so I knew I would have it soon) but the fact that only two spots were left by the time I signed up persuaded me to take the leap.
Still, I represented blindness well, according to one person who reads for harmful tropes and narratives as part of her job. Did I really need a class?
The answer may be no. Maybe my extensive research really was enough for this book and I could have continued on with a little more to fill in the gaps identified by the sensitivity reader. Considering the Master Class was $100, the fear that I wouldn’t learn anything new was a very nerve-wracking one.
I think you can all see where this is going. Time to subvert the argument!
In short. Yes. Yes yes yes yes YES. I needed to take this class. Although much of what was discussed for blind and deaf characters, I already knew from my research or the time I spent in college learning ASL (and about Deaf Culture), so much new information was presented. It was invaluable.
Most of what I learned was more about the experience of being disabled and how society treats its disabled members, rather than specifics about being deaf and/or blind. But my lack of knowledge about the white cane was one of the issues the sensitivity reader pointed out and in this class, I learned that you can’t really read about it in a manual; you have to talk to someone who uses it to know how to write that perspective.
Also, the class was a blast! Elsa is fun and knowledgeable, my classmates were funny and the ongoing chat could be hilarious at times. The Writing the Other staff on hand for technical support were awesome and the online meeting was one of the smoothest I’ve ever attended.
So I’m very glad I took this class and I would encourage others to look into the Writing the Other Master Classes (as well as their many other resources) for some friendly assistance in writing outside your lane. They have lots of free information and low-cost books, but if you can invest the price of a Master Class for your writing, I’d say it’s well worth the expense. I know I will continue to utilize these resources in the future.
Thank you to the amazing people at Writing the Other and to Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, I will put what I’ve learned to good use!
Check out Writing the Other and their story here: http://writingtheother.com/
Check out Elsa’s site here: http://feministsonar.com/
And here is a short reminder that you can still enter the giveaway from two books if you read and review one of the titles on my August and September reading list! See this post for details: https://thecourseofevents.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/september-book-reading-and-giveaway/