Sunday, December 18, 2011

Being a Deaf Writer

I'm a writer. I have freckles and brown eyes. I'm queer (or lesbian, or gay, if you prefer these synonyms). I'm deaf, too. I am the sum of a lot of parts, but there is no denying my deafness has shaped me a lot.

The obvious ways my deafness has shaped me as a writer
- Okay, so this first one is debatable and therefore not obvious, but oh well :P I acquired language early. I'm lucky in this respect, because many deaf/hard of hearing kids miss out on communication early in their lives. When my parents found out I was deaf, they enrolled in a sign language class at the community college. My first sign was "ball" when I was eight months old. So, it's possible that my being able to communicate earlier than average put my brainpower on the fast track.

- I got positive reinforcement early on for my writing ability. First from my teacher in elementary school, who had me stop reading a book halfway and write my own second half. She loved my crazy, kooky endings and took me a step further by having me write entirely new stories. From there was the Creative Arts Festival in Chicago for deaf and hard of hearing kids. I entered when I was seven and won. I got to go to Chicago every year for free because I won the contests. Winning contests gave me the motivation to keep writing. If I had been hearing, I don't know if anyone would have been thinking about entering little wee me in contests.

- I can write about deaf characters in my work easily. Oddly, though (or maybe not so odd) only one of my books has a deaf character. The book is "All in the Family," coming out the first week of January. I may write more about deaf people in the future, and I'm considering an "AITF" sequel.

The not-so-obvious ways
- This is a section from my writer bio: My favorite color is purple, but my writing is gray. Life is not black and white. I often write about issues and characters where there is no "right" answer. Being deaf has allowed me a perspective on life that I love. When I was a kid, my family would talk over me, through me, around me. I hated extended family gatherings and would retreat into books. Sometimes I would observe people, their body language, that kind of stuff. Being an outsider is practically a requirement for being a writer, isn't it? ;-)  Okay, quit yellin'. I know many writers were/are popular kids.

- I have always been driven to write about issues a bit different from the norm, and I think that is because of my outsider status. I firmly believe good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. For example, is a husband scum if he cheats? No. The issue is more complex than that. Usually. (I hate absolutes.) "Strange Bedfellows" and the Frances character embody this concept perfectly, I think. Frances leads an ex-gays group, but she knows inside she is gay. She does bad things. She thinks she's a bad person. She finally decides to come out, and she knows she will never be able to repent for the bad things she did. Many people won't forgive her. She knows all that. But she is ready to live, to be true to herself.

Hmmm. I thought there would be more. Guess not ;-) I'll add later if anything comes to mind.


Leigh Ann Britt said...

Good article ~ I kinda figured you were the observant type and that's good.

HDum said...

I think that having a unique perspective on things often makes what comes out all that more intriguing.

Q. Kelly said...

Yeah, no same old, same old ;-)

Stacey Morgan said...

Disability should never hinder anybody to do what they love doing. I'm glad you pursued this career in spite your hearing problem. Have you tried consulting hearing aids expert?

Q. Kelly said...

I have had hearing aids since I was a child. I don't think I've worn them since 2000 maybe. I'm more in my skin without them. Some deaf people like them, some don't. They're certainly not a cure-all (nor are cochlear implants, although for the severe/profoundly deaf such as me, they usually help more than hearing aids).