Emma, Elsewhere

I’ve been doing lots of writing lately.  Lots of writing in places other than this.  So I thought I should probably come and share a few links here.  There are a couple more articles I’m waiting to be posted and at least one I’ve yet to write.  It’s all good writing wise so far this year but I really need to write some of my novel as I’ve not touched that since I think the day after New Year’s Day.  I don’t want to turn down blogging or writing opportunites but I may need to find some balance between those and novelling.

Before Christmas I spent some time writing for Disability Horizons which resulted in a Boxing Day – 10 Things To Do If You’re Bored.  I’m obviously very late posting that link here on my blog but some of them are probably still relevant on a bored day anytime of year.  The one about pimping a mobility aid with Christmas decorations probably isn’t though.  Unless you’re going to a fancy dress party dressed as a Christmas Tree.

I did that once during my a’levels. I forgot (or never got round to sorting out, I can’t remember which) that we were supposed to be having a fancy dress thing during our weekly general tutorial session. It was December and at the last minute – practically as my taxi to college arrived and I was going out the door –  mum sent me off with a bag of Christmas decorations. Once I got there I chucked a load over me and my chair, called it done and told everyone I was a Christmas Tree.  I won one of the prizes too.  If memory serves however the person who won over all had dressed up as one of the tutors.

Anyway, I should get back on topic.

I’ve started doing a memory jar this year.  It’s interesting but having decided that I’ll put something in there for everyday I did flounder a little bit for what to put yesterday. I suspect that might be the case on mundane average days fairly regularly but I want to do the jar and when I stop to think about it I can usually find something worth remembering fairly quickly.  I wrote about the idea for the jar and why I’m doing it over on the Greener Soha blog.

Finally (for now) a while ago a few people on twitter set up a blog for writing about the Social Model of Disability.  I agreed to contribute and then within a few days forgot about it (which, judging by the blog everyone else did too – or they’ve not had anything to say).  It’s called No, That’s Not What The Social Model of Disability Means.

Anyway recently I was reading a post on a disability group and getting a bit annoyed about what they claimed about the social model.  Which made me remember that blog.  I’ve not written about that incident yet – I keep changing my mind about whether I should.  But I have reposted something I wrote and posted here late in 2013 about the models of disability – Quick and Dirty Disability Theory


On Volunteering and Housing Day

Today is #HousingDay (hashtag housing day) a day designed to promote social housing and highlight all it does for people in the UK, how important it is and just what the need for social housing is.

I know from my own experiences just how much having access to a flat that is fully adapted to my needs, is safe and secure (in terms of both safety and tenancy) and affordable is.  It’s more than a roof over your head it’s the ability to make plans and do things and get on with your life that might otherwise be impossible.

And in both parts of my CAB  role (adviser/gateway assessor and social policy coordinator) over the last few years I’ve seen more and more people becoming homeless, struggling to find somewhere to live that meets their needs either due to availability, costs, access needs or landlords who won’t accept housing benefit.

I rent from a social landlord – Soha Housing – to be specific and a few weeks ago they made me aware of a call from TPAS for residents who were willing to share their own stories of being residents and volunteering to work with their housing provider. I’ve been involved since 2010 and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. So knowing I like to write they asked if I’d be interested in sharing my story.

I wrote my story and it was pretty tricky. There’s no doubt that the volunteering I do – both for Soha but also for CAB – plays a huge role in my life and in many ways has changed my life.  Even taking the CAB aspects of my volunteering out of the equation there was still loads I could say about the matter and it was difficult to know what to include and what to leave out to make the point about why resident involvement is so important to me in just a couple of hundred words.  But I did my best and sent it off and Soha submitted it to TPAS.  And we didn’t hear anything about it.

Fast forward to this lunchtime and I went on twitter to discover that TPAS had chosen ten of the resident stories they had received to highlight and help promote Housing Day. Mine was one of the ten.  I’m really proud to have the opportunity and a bit surprised!  Two of my fellow Soha residents and friend Carole and Richard also had their stories chosen.  All ten of the stories are well worth a read – find them here.

Looking back at what I wrote today I think it’s also fair to say a lot of what I wrote about how being involved with Soha helps me – especially my last paragraph – can also be applied to my CAB work.  People have in the past said to me they don’t understand why I volunteer and how I could just sit at home and no one would blame me.  But I’d be a lot worse off – and possibly in need of greater medical and other support – if I did that.  Because that’s the difference volunteering makes.


Emma Elsewhere

Soha, the housing association I rent from, have started a blog.  It’s called Get Greener With Soha and it’s written by staff and tenants as a place to share hints, tips, hobbies etc all around a theme of getting greener and being more sustainable.

I’m one of the residents who has posting access and I’ve been writing about ways to get cheaper (or otherwise more sustainable) books – I think I’m a bit more on the sustainable is thrifty and looking for cheaper side of things than the sustainable is green side of things that a lot of the other bloggers have been going down.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about libraries and why they are a great resource.

Yesterday I wrote a post about ways to get second hand books.  And immediately after I posed the link on my personal facebook page someone posted another way of getting second hand books which I’d known about and meant to include but forgot. Yeah.  Good at the writing not at proofing or checking my writing, that’s me.

I have at least one more post in mind about cheap sustainable books.  And then I might have to find another topic to write about.  Or just witter on a bit more about reading.

Emma, Elsewhere

If you were looking for a blog post from me today you’ll have to wander over to Disability In Kidlit where a discussion post I contributed to has just been published.

Say What You Will is a YA book by Cammie McGovern where one of the main characters has CP and the other OCD.  If you’re like me and in the UK you’ll find it in book shops under the title Amy and Matthew.

***This link contains spoilers but this post on my blog hopefully doesn’t***

Emma Crees, Courtney Gilfillian, and s.e. smith review SAY WHAT YOU WILL

I really enjoyed the discussion and getting to chat with Courtney and s.e.  It’s a long time since I’ve got to chat disability with knowledge people with similar views to me.  And to get to do it in the context of a book was even better.

I liked the book more than I think comes across in the review until I started thinking in depth afterwards about how sucky the disability aspects were. I don’t think I’d recommend it though.

It was obvious from the word go that the disability stuff was a bit OTT and bad but then when I started chatting with my fellow contributors and thinking about the whats and whys.  I think it’s easy when you’re reading a book and caught up in the plot to overlook the sucky bits but not when reviewing and discussion.  And I wouldn’t want a teen I cared about with either CP or OCD (or actually any teen) to think the portrayal of the characters and the way they were treated was OK.

Writing Tips from Andrea Murray

As well as answering some questions for me Andrea Murray, author of Omni, also sent me some writing tips. I’ve been finding my writing hard lately so I was hoping some writing tips might help.  I think they did but I also think I’m getting a bit obsessed with getting writing tips and I probably need to just spend less time reading about how to write and more time actually doing some damn writing.

But before we get to Andrea’s tips here is a quote about writing I literally just found and really liked:

“The secret of being a writer: not to expect others to value what you’ve done as you value it. Not to expect anyone else to perceive in it the emotions you have invested in it. Once this is understood, all will be well.”

— Joyce Carol Oates

Anyway. Here’s what Andrea recommends:

1.        Make time.

It’s so hard to find the time to write sometimes.  You have to create a schedule of sorts, a set time every day or a certain number of days per week to sit down and devote yourself to your writing.  I have two young children and a full-time teaching job.  Finding time is often a struggle, but I really try to maintain my writing/reading time, and that is harder than it seems.  Sometimes, I look around and see toys that need to be picked up, clothes in the hamper awaiting the wash, or a coffee cup that needs to be put in the dishwasher, but I have to put on my blinders and focus on storytelling.  You also have to be willing to sacrifice for it at times.  What do I sacrifice? Sleep!  My writing time is between 4:30 AM and 6:00 AM.

2.        Know your characters.

You MUST know everything possible about your characters.  You should be able to drop your character into any situation and know exactly how your character will react.  Talk to them (just don’t let anyone hear you doing that or they will begin giving you strange looks).  Listen to their responses.  See them.  Know what they look like even if you never introduce that into your story.  If you know your characters well enough, you will be able to create the best conflict.  I try to put my character into the situation I know he/she doesn’t want to be in.  That’s when I get my story.

3.        READ!

Good writers are good readers.  If you aren’t reading, how can you expect to write? Yes, it’s time consuming to spend time reading and reviewing other works, but you can’t write if you don’t experience other writers’ styles.  Reading expands your own writing and helps you know what’s out there in the world of novels.  You don’t want to fill a notch that’s already filled, but you won’t know if it’s your notch without reading.

4.        Know your audience.

I know teenagers.  I may not be the best writer in the world, but I know, without a doubt, what kids like and don’t like.  I have long since lost count of the number of students I have had over my seventeen years in education, but one thing I’ve learned is that teens don’t really change.  Styles change, language changes, but kids are overall the same.  They might have trouble explaining what they loved about a book, but they most definitely know what they hated about it.  From that, I deduced things they like.  Reluctant readers won’t read a long novel.  It might be the best book EVER, but if it looks like you could smash a small rodent with it, they won’t touch it.  Kids like short chapters.  It gives them a sense of accomplishment and a clear goal.  Most kids like a little grit.  They want a character with at least a touch of bad. It isn’t realistic to think kids don’t hear cursing and talk about mature subjects.  If they go to public school**, trust me they hear it.  Does that mean the book should be overflowing with sex and profanity? No, that is likely to turn them away.  It’s a balance—one I’m constantly striving to achieve.

5.         Editing is hard.

I am still working on this one.  It is so difficult to edit your writing.  That page you just sweated over is your baby, your pride and joy! Cutting one word feels like a wound.  You NEED that word, that sentence, that paragraph.  If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have written it, right? Well, eliminating that one word might improve the entire piece, so it has to go.  Painful? Sure.  Necessary? Absolutely.

**to save anyone else having the blank confused moment I did reading this (caused mostly by how stupidly tired I was I think because usually it wouldn’t have thrown me) I’ll note here that Andrea’s in the US and what they call public school isn’t anything like what we call public school. Usually I tend to think our names for things make much more sense but in this case I must admit I think the US have the sense thing down here.

One year later

In February 2013 a woman called Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead by Oscar Pistorius.  She was his girlfriend and he admits he shot her, claiming he mistook her for an intruder.  There were a lot of problems with the way it was covered in the press and the way twitter and facebook reacted to the murder of a beautiful woman by a famous disabled man.  Misogyny, ableism and the works.

At the time I wrote about it over on Bea Magazine in the post Disability and The Reeva Steenkamp murder.  I also wrote a little more about it on this blog in my post disability in the media.

I never expected to be writing about the same problems with coverage again a year later.   Oscar Pistorius will stand trial for her premeditated murder starting tomorrow.  And bookmaker Paddy Power are trying to make money from that by encouraging people to bet on the outcome of the trial. The idea of which makes me sick.  I’ve been back over on Bea this afternoon writing about it – One year later and still the same issues – disability and the Reeva Steenkamp murder, part two.

Or, if you don’t want to read my post, at least consider signing the petition calling for the Paddy Power ad to be banned.

I hope there won’t be a disability and the Reeva Steenkamp murder, part three post.  But given how much interest there is in the case and with the trial about to start I suspect at some point I will be returning to the topic for a third time at least.


File this under “you couldn’t make it up.”

Last Wednesday I got the news that I’ve been awarded ESA for two years. I’ve been put straight into the support group. It’s definitely the right decision and now I’ve had a chance to think about things and calm down I’m relieved its sorted and ok with it. But it’s not a comfortable place and if I’m completely honest I felt like I must be much more disabled than I realised.

I wrote more about that, the ESA process and how it relates to me over on Bea Magazine

And then yesterday I got a letter telling me about my DLA entitlement for this year. And all about how DLA is being replaced by PIP. I’ll be called for reassessment for that at some point.

So I just get to the point where I can stop worrying about ESA. And now they want me to worry about my DLA?! Fantastic*

I think you file that under “couldn’t make this shit up.”

*I’m not worrying about DLA because I have an indefinite award and the reassessment process for that category doesn’t even start until 2015 (meaning my ESA will come up for reassessment first most likely) but still….

Disability in the media

I’m paying a second visit over at Bea Magazine this month.  I wrote about the disability issues which were raised by the news that paralympian Oscar Pistorius has been arrested on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

You can read it here:

Disability and the Reeva Steenkamp Murder

The coverage of disability in the media has always been problematic but I’m really hoping this might be the beginning of it changing. I suspect that it’s more likely that it will change the way violence against women is covered by the media than disability.  Still I hope.

Last year I was asked to speak to the local paper about my sailing group having some new equipment after fundraising for over 6 years and raising half a million pounds for it.  It was on the phone and I did tell them I was a wheelchair user because it was relevant (the equipment will mostly help wheelchair users and means I can be more independent).  I didn’t tell them that I had CP.  But in the article it said “Ms Crees who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair said…”  Because that’s what defines me in their eyes.

That and another experience a few years ago where something I said was taken slightly out of context to make it appear like a terrible disability thing in a news clip mean I would be very wary talking to the press again. Basically they obviously really wanted to me to answer yes to a question and wouldn’t stop asking me varients of it.  In the end I said along the lines of  yes it seems like that to you but…”  The final news clip had me just saying “yes it seems like that.”

And I’m just me.  A regular crippled girl who writes and likes to sail.  I’m not high profile at all.  The fact that Oscar Pistorius is high profile is a big part of the reason why there are so many issues relating to disability in the coverage of Reeva Steenkamp’s death but it’s not the only reason. Crimes are committed by disabled people every day.  People are murdered everyday, sometimes by those disabled criminals or by others.  That doesn’t always hit the news. This did and brought with it issues about disability magnified to a whole new level.

I didn’t think of this until after I wrote the piece for Bea but I suspect disability is why it’s getting so much coverage.  If a regular Olympian, say, Greg Rutherford (being only he was the first to come to my mind) was accused of the same crime it would be a big deal.  But I’m not sure it would be quite as big a deal with so many people shocked and talking about it as when it’s the so called “Disabled hero”

I’m not the only blogger who has been tackling these issues.  William Peace has also written about the problem of disability role models (in which he also covers Helen Keller) over on his blog Bad Cripple.

Talking, Ten Years Later

It’s that time of the month again when I mosey on over to Bea Magazine and share what I’m thinking, feeling, doing, whatever with them.

I don’t like February. There have been a lot of tough times in previous ones and there are several anniversaries now in a short time. It’s been long enough now that most of their sting has gone but still it lurks. This year I remembered the dates but it wasn’t until several days into the month when I wondered why I felt down and put it together that its often a time I struggle.

Yesterday marked 10 years since I was first diagnosed with depression. It is what it is. I can’t change it and I’m not sure I would if I could.

I’ve written a bit about that over on Bea in Talking, Ten Years Later.