There aren’t enough books and media by disabled people much less publishers run by disabled people. With Co-Founder Elizabeth (“Ibby”) Grace, Corbett Joan OToole founded Reclamation Press with a specific interest in publishing disabled writers at multiple intersections such as race, class, queer, and disability. According to their tagline, their mission is to publish “Wisdom from Disability Communities.”
Some of the responses have been edited and condensed.
Before we talk about Reclamation Press, congratulations with your book Fading Scars: My Queer Disabled History. It was so exciting to see it nominated for a 2016 Lambda Literary award for LGBT nonfiction. What has it been like for you once your book came out and the feedback you’ve received from readers all over?
Corbett: While I’d contributed to books in the past, I’ve never actually written one alone. I didn’t know if what I was writing would be interesting to anyone else.
So I was surprised when the book became a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary award. I was even more surprised when the Women’s March selected it as one of the 5 Must Read books on American Women in 2017.
Lots of people told me they enjoyed reading the book and that’s encouraging me to write more. A large part on the success of the book was weekly feedback from my writing buddy Naomi Ortiz (disabled), who has her own book Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice coming out very soon from Reclamation Press.
As a community activist, researcher, and storyteller, what do you think is missing in terms of the stories you want to see in the disability community? Do you have plans to write another book?
Corbett: I talk to many fabulous disabled people who have incredible stories to tell but when I go looking for books I almost never see stories written from disability community perspectives.
In my research for creating Reclamation Press, I discovered that are the 23 million books sold on Amazon but only one-third of 1% of them are connected in any way with the topic of disability. Given that at least 19% of Americans have a disability that’s a pretty shocking gap.
When I have time to get back to writing, I am going to split my focus between writing blogs about contemporary disability issues and writing fiction with disabled characters.
Tell me about the origins of Reclamation Press, why you co-founded it, a little about your co-founder Ibby Grace, and its mission.
Corbett: Reclamation Press started when my book went out of print. So I either had to let it stay out of print or figure out how to print it myself. I turned to Elizabeth (“Ibby”) Grace (disabled), who’s both a good friend and knowledgeable about book publishing, and she suggested that we collaborate.
The few books by disabled people that do get published tend to be inspirational narratives – almost always by white people, usually with high status disabilities such as physical or blind.
At Reclamation Press we’re more interested in publishing books from disabled people living at intersections such as race, queer, and disability. We believe that disabled people have interesting stories to tell in many different genres. So our first four books will be two books of fiction and two books of nonfiction.
It seems very daunting to start up a press. What were some of the major barriers (if any) you and Ibby faced when launching Reclamation Press? Do you have any advice for disabled people interested in publishing?
Corbett: I did a lot of research into small presses, commonly called “indie” presses and found there’s no money in them. Nearly all of them are funded by people working regular jobs and doing the press as an act of love.
With a 76% permanent unemployment rate funding the new press based on disabled people’s incomes is not realistic. We decided that being a fiscally sponsored project of an existing nonprofit gives us the option of applying for grants and also protects our authors.
To publish our first round of four books we need to raise $25,000. We decided to do the fundraising through social media campaigns that send folks to our website. Ibby and I are working as volunteers so all the money will go to pay for producing the books.
Are there any new works Reclamation Press will be publishing soon that you’re excited about?
Corbett: Ibby finds all the books for the Press. She has a great talent for finding strong writers with great books. We currently have contracts with four authors.
For fiction we have a dystopian science fiction novel in the new Neuropunk/cyberpunk genre called Troubleshooting: Book One, Glitch in the System series by Selene dePackh (disabled).
Naomi Ortiz (disabled) new book, Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice, is the perfect book for these times. She reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves if we are going to take care of our social justice movements.
I decided to do some rewriting of my Fading Scars: My Queer Disability History. The second edition contains a new first chapter, new forward, new introduction, and some minor reorganizing.
What’s your vision for the future of Reclamation Press?
Corbett: While there’re many fabulous opportunities for disabled people to put their writing out, there are extraordinarily few opportunities to publish books or get paid for the writing. I would like to see Reclamation Press publishing 5 to 10 books every year. Hopefully our success will encourage other disabled people to look at writing and publishing books from their own perspectives.
Reclamation Press is an opportunity to bring the knowledge of disability communities, particularly marginalized communities, into the publishing world. There are many opportunities and we welcome people who want to learn the book publishing business to contact us.
At age 66 learning to become an independent book publisher was not on my bucket list. But through Reclamation Press I’ve met some amazing people, and I’m extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to publish these wonderful books and share the wisdom of our disability communities.
More about Corbett and Reclamation Press
Reclamation Press: https://www.reclapress.com/