Author celebrates first novel and urges disabled writers to share stories
- Credit: Kerry Curl
For years, she found comfort in books and reading.
But being diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) from the age of ten meant Claire Wade has faced many challenges in her path to publication.
Now, the award-winning Norwich author is helping to spread awareness about the challenges of being a writer with a disability, and promoting those who are working in the industry.
Speaking about her love of literature, Miss Wade explained how being disabled for most of her life meant she had to miss out on a lot.
At 16, she became bed bound and could no longer read, watch television, or do any of the things she loved.
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She said: “Initially, books and reading meant I could experience the world despite being too ill to go out into it.
“But to cope with being in a darkened room 24 hours a day, I started imagining my own stories. The escapism was a lifeline and without realising it I took the first steps towards becoming an author.
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“My imagination is still my escape.”
Miss Wade had always liked the thought of writing a book, but had concerns about the massive undertaking it might mean. She also did not know where to begin.
But in 2011, she came across National Novel Writing Month - a month-long challenge with the aim of writing 50,000 words in 30 days.
“It sounded ambitious but it’s the kind of challenge I enjoy and a month was a short amount of time to commit to it.
"Little did I realise that writing a book is much more than the first fifty thousand words, but by the end I was hooked, I knew this was what I wanted to do.
“Shortly after that I began the story which would become my debut novel The Choice, about a world where sugar is illegal and baking is a crime.
Miss Wade’s book went on to win the Good Housekeeping First Novel competition and the East Anglian Book Award 2020 for fiction.
Following this successful platform, she has been able to embrace being an advocate for people living with disabilities.
She reached out to the Society of Authors and asked if it would be willing to set up a group for disabled and chronically ill authors.
“Disability is often tacked onto the end of diversity policies but according to the World Health Organisation about 15pc of the world’s population lives with some form of disability.
“Disabled voices are still overlooked and underrepresented in the publishing industry, despite recent schemes to encourage other areas of diversity.
"That’s why it’s so important for disabled and chronically ill authors to come together and seek change.
"The Society of Authors loved the idea and so I co-founded the Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses group. It’s a fantastic network that connects authors and allows them to share their experiences and ask for help, advice and support."
Miss Wade has now created a resource for readers to discover books written by disabled and chronically ill authors they might not have heard of before.
She added: “I love the fact that writing gives me a voice and the freedom to explore a world my body physically can’t. I can write anytime, anywhere and it fits in around my health needs.
“It’s important to read books by authors who are disabled and chronically ill because we have unique experiences, points of view and stories to tell. It’s important that these are shared with the world.
“Tell your friends, share your current read on social media and encourage your bookshop, library, school, or book club to choose books by disabled and chronically ill authors. We write great books and you’re missing out if you haven’t discovered them yet.”
The list can be found through the UK Bookshop.org (https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/authors-with-disabilities-and-chronic-illnesses or bit.ly/2Plhivg) which allows people to go online and buy the books.
To find out more about Miss Wade visit her website www.clairewade.com or follow her @clairerwade on social media.