It’s a pleasure to welcome author Sandi Parsons to tell us about her contribution to the new anthology Growing Up Disabled in Australia, edited by Carly Findlay.
Sandi is hard to categorise as a writer having written both fiction and non- fiction. The titles are ;
The Last Walk and Other Stories
Pepsi the Problem Puppy
The Mystery of the Sixty-Five Roses
Along with pieces in the following anthologies:
Growing Up Disabled in Australia
Writing the Dream
Apart from her writing Sandi describes herself as , ‘a book nerd, librarian, cystic fibrosis survivor, and lung transplant recipient.’ She also a mum and a devoted dog owner.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about the new book which was released recently. The book features contributions from forty people and I have since learned that one in five Australians have some from of disability.
Growing Up Disabled in Australia was released on February 2nd.
My story Don’t Have a Bird, is a love letter to my best friend Julie — with the first half detailing our physical growing up. After Julie died, the second half shows my emotional growth as I followed her footsteps in the transplant journey.
Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings – although I’m trying to write more later in the day.
When is walkies? First thing or Rotto cries. He’s a bit of sook.
What’s for breakfast? That is a very complicated question! I’m one of those people who can eat anything at any time of day. So, breakfast ranges from Saladas with Vegemite, re-heated leftovers, bread roll or muffin to traditional things like bacon and eggs or tomato sauce on toast … and occasionally salted peanuts and can of coke.
Night out or Netflix? I’m a girl who likes to rock n’ roll all night and party every day so long as I’m home, on my couch, and in my pj’s by 9 pm.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A librarian who also writes books 😊 Ambition realized then!
Your hero? The hero of my story is a woman I will never meet – but her donated lungs have allowed me to have another chance at life.
As you don’t show signs of disability, are people surprised when you identify as disabled?
In my case, media and medical professionals will refer to me as a ‘Cystic Fibrosis sufferer.’ An implication that my life is not worth living, full of suffering, and I am an object of pity. It’s a term that falls smack in the middle of the social model of disability — which means that society disables more than the body does. I prefer the term ‘Cystic Fibrosis warrior’ — I’m at war, not only with my own body but also with a society where I am continually forced to break low expectations of my abilities. Others prefer the term ‘living with Cystic Fibrosis’.
It’s essential to check with someone to see which terms they prefer.
How did you get started as an author?
My start was unique — in that, I had my first publishing contract before I’d written a word. I pitched an idea to Cystic Fibrosis Western Australia that there was a market gap, and we were the ones to fix it. The Mystery of the Sixty-Five Roses evolved from that meeting as a teaching tool to spark a discussion about Cystic Fibrosis.
Many would say you are extremely versatile; do you find it easy to switch from fiction to nonfiction?
Although I like to identify as a children’s writer, my nonfiction and memoir writing has had more published outings. Switching between the two was never my original intent — I received advice that sharing part of my story and journey with CF would help raise my profile and make my own voices middle-grade novel more attractive to a publisher.
Although my middle-grade novel is still looking for a publisher, that advice saw my writing diversify to become a hybrid of memoir, children’s fiction, nonfiction, and short stories. I think navigating between them has helped me become a better writer, but it’s also hard to classify what I do or identify a marketing niche.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
I’ve always found first drafts to be especially tricky. Lately, I’ve been working on a dot point dirty draft process, which is essentially a list of all things I want to happen and which order, and it seems to help make that process a little easier for me.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?
My Year 11 English teacher went on a rant about how I had spelled the same word wrong eight different times. She thought if I was going to get it wrong, I should be consistent about it.
I thought I had perseverance — I knew it wasn’t right and kept having a go. She marked me down to a D because of the spelling errors.
But spelling and grammar can be edited and fixed. However, there is very little you can do with a story that lacks imagination or emotion. To me, the heart of a story will always be more important.
Best money you have spent as a writer?
Scrivener along with my yearly subscription to Grammarly.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
My favourite authors can change depending on what I’ve read lately. Right now, Jay Kristoff is topping my list — if for nothing else than the brilliant footnotes in the Nevernight series.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing?
I think everything you read influences you to a certain degree — but one book had more of an impact than others — Robyn’s Book by Robyn Miller was the first book I read written by another person with Cystic Fibrosis. Until then, writing had been something I wanted to do — but the narrative society was telling me I didn’t have a future, so why bother trying? But if Robyn could write a book, then so could I.
Favourite quote (does not matter the source)
I’ve got two — one describes my writing style while the other describes precisely what happens when I have word salad.
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
― Shannon Hale
“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
― Alan Greenspan
Find out more about Sandi at www.sandiwrites.com.au