My desire to be a writer largely stems from a desire to create stories in which I see myself reflected. When I was a teenager going through middle school, I began to experience intense amounts of depression and anxiety, and my search for these same experiences in books was a way for me to try to understand what I was going through. Still, I never found exactly what I was looking for, and I knew that, eventually, I’d have to write that story myself. As time went on and I began to be exposed to more perspectives on disability, I learned to embrace my identity as a disabled woman. With this embracing came the awareness of how little representation disability has in media, art, and literature, and the desire to work to change this.
In the summer of 2015 I studied abroad in Ireland as a part of a creative writing program, which would impact my life in many ways. For instance: one of our instructors told us that writing should not be therapy—something I took immense issue with—as words have always been a way for me to make sense of and document various lived experiences. I believe strongly that writing, in fact, should be therapy, whether it is a salve for the writer or the reader, or, preferably, both. In my creative work since then, I am always striving to crack open understanding and create more space for people within the outlines of my words. I studied creative writing and journalism as an undergrad at the University of Iowa, where a journalism professor told us that journalism should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, an adaptation of the saying “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I do think that art can change the world, and in fact, that it must.
There was a time when I believed, briefly, that if someone had already done what I was doing before me, my contributions to the field were no longer relevant. I quickly learned that this is not true—that the more diverse voices a community is able to uplift and make space for, the better. I love being a part of the disability community and learning from other disabled artists.
My current work explores how we understand bodies, minds, and lives outside of what is traditionally considered “human,” and the wisdom we can learn from these ways of being. I want art and writing to be creative outlets that are accessible to all, and I’m excited to join Sundress Publications in their journey to do so.
Hannah Soyer is a queer disabled writer born and living in the Midwest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cosmopolitan, About Place Journal, Evocations Review, The Rumpus, Entropy, Mikrokosmos Journal, Brain Mill Press, Disability Visibility Project, Rooted in Rights, Sinister Wisdom, and Peach Mag. She is the founder of This Body is Worthy, a project aimed at celebrating bodies outside of mainstream societal ideals, and Words of Reclamation, a space for disabled writers.