Podcast / Spoonie Challenges

Exploring Grief Through Story: A Spoonie Authors Podcast

Sep 30, 2022, 18 mins 32 sec

Spotify Banner: purple background with triple spoon logo of the Spoonie Authors Podcast. Text: New Podcast Episode, Exploring Grief Through Story with Sarah Chorn.
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About the Author

Closeup of Sarah Chorn, a white woman with long blond hair and brown-rimmed glasses. She is wearing a white polkadot top with a black background. There’s a cream and beige toile design behind her.

Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is an award-nominated author, a two-time SPFBO semi-finalist, a full-time editor, book reviewer, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor with hEDS, and mom to two kids. 

She has been running the speculative fiction review blog Bookworm Blues since 2010, and is the author of numerous fantasy books. She has been editing full-time since 2016, and is now editor of Grimdark Magazine.


Transcript created by Otter with clarifying edits from Cait Gordon.

CN: Expressed grief about a new disability, internalized ableism

Dianna Gunn: Hello and welcome to the Spoonie Authors Podcast, the podcast where we explore the lives and stories of disabled authors. I’m your host, Dianna Gunn and joining us today is Sarah Chorn. Sarah is the editor of Grim Dark Magazine as well as a freelance fantasy editor. In her free time, she writes books and gardens. Her next book, The Necessity of Rain, will be coming out in early 2023. I do want to throw in a couple of quick notes before we start the interview. The first note is that due to technical difficulties, we were forced to record using a different program than normal. So, the sound quality isn’t quite as high on this episode, as it is on most Spoonie Authors Podcast interviews. This interview also discusses several heavy topics including grief around a new disability and internalized ableism. And it does get quite heavy. So, if you’re in the mood for something more cheerful, this might not be the podcast episode for you. Now, with that out of the way, let’s get into the interview. Hello, Sarah. 

Sarah Chorn: Hello! 

Dianna Gunn: I’m so glad to have you on the podcast. I’ve wanted to have you on for ages because I absolutely adore your work. And I’m excited to have you talk about The Necessity of Rain. So, do you want to start by just telling us a little bit about that book?

Sarah Chorn: Oh, yeah. This is always hard. I never know what to say [laughs]. It’s kind of weird. It’s Sarah-style weird. It’s set in a city state that’s kind of 1920s-ish. Like, there’s gramophone, and jazz music is cool, and [there are] trolleys going down the street and stuff. It’s kind of ruled by three different pantheons of gods. And so, it’s split between them. And there’s power dynamics are changing, and into the middle of this is dropped my protagonist named Rosemary, who is kind of not what anybody thinks she is. And she’s kind of set there to change the whole, the whole course. So, it’s kind of it’s both a-day-in-the-life story because it’s split between two timelines: there’s then and then there’s now and so you get her growing up and kind of figuring herself out as she grows. And then you get the now stuff, which is the immediate problem of like, parts of the world are dying, and why is that happening? And so, it’s… it’s kind of weird [laughs]. It’s kind of, it’s not one thing, it’s not another. It’s… the world is really weird, because it’s still being created. And the gods are, are real. And they live, you know, among them. And I tried to humanize them a lot. I really tried [laughs] to try to humble the divine. And so, I’m having a lot of fun with it. But yeah, I don’t really know what it’s about yet [laughs]. I don’t know how to define what it’s about. It’s a story about a person who does things. And there are lots of words.

Dianna Gunn: That’s fair. [Sarah laughs] I mean, what is it they may say about writers? You know, a writer can write a whole book, but you ask them to write a synopsis, and the brain just goes blank.

Sarah Chorn: Yeah. Possible. [Laughs]

Dianna Gunn: Is this a standalone project?

Sarah Chorn: Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely standalone. If people like it, I can easily add other standalone novels, like, set in the same world. So, it really depends if there’s enough reception, I might do that. But if not, it’s… it’s standalone. And any other books that happen in the world would also be standalone, it would just be connected by the world. So…

Dianna Gunn: Awesome. And what inspired you to start writing The Necessity of Rain?

Sarah Chorn: Well, I edit a lot of fantasy, and I see a lot of stories involving gods, and they’re always either really cold and remote and out of touch, or they’re the thing you pray to, but you never see, or there’s like prophecies or something. And I just, I find the really human elements of power fascinating, because that’s really where the story is for me. I’m a very emotional writer. And for me, the emotional story of, like, the story of how the dynamics of power emotionally impact someone is almost more interesting than the whole, you know, outer plot. And so, because I saw that, I thought, well, what would happen if I took these gods and made them almost more human than any of the humans that are in the book, and so I just decided to take a bunch of divine dudes and then break them and make a book out of it. So [laughs] that’s [laughs], that’s what I did. That’s how I roll [laughs].

Dianna Gunn: Take a bunch of divine dudes, break them, and make a book out of it? I like that formula. [Sarah laughs and says, “Yup.”]. I appreciate it. And if… I believe that I’ve seen on Twitter that your protagonist in the story is also disabled. So, can you talk a little bit about that and what writing this character has been like for you? But both like craft-wise and like emotionally? 

Sarah Chorn: Whew. Yeah. Um…

Dianna Gunn: I know I’m on the real easy questions now.

Sarah Chorn: Well, this year, sorry, I’m gonna cry. [Sarah gets choked up.] Um… this year, I learned that I’m irreversibly losing my mobility. And it just hurts [sniffles]. So [pauses] sorry, Rosemary is a lot of how I’m exploring that. She’s, um, she’s got my issues. And she’s kind of like my therapist, I guess, in a way, because through her, I can explore a lot of these emotions that I can’t put into words [sniffles]. So, I wrote a scene today about… it just came out. And man, that’s probably why I’m so emotional right now, because I just wrote it. And it just freakin’ floored me [sniffles]. But I wrote a scene today about basically the stories where people turn the disabled person into some moral of a story. “Look at how wonderful it is,” you know how it’s like inspiration porn? And I wrote the scene, and I didn’t even expect it, but it came out. And I it just floored me about inspiration porn and the emotions behind that— how much it freaking hurts to be—have your experience of disability turn into the moral of a stranger story. Nobody ever stops and says, “How does that feel?” That’s not something I realized [sniffles], was part of my experience, especially this year. Until I wrote that. And that’s why [sniffles] that’s why writing her is both hard and extremely cathartic [sniffles]. I’ll have moments, as you witness, where I’ll just write something, and it just levels me [sniffles]. And I won’t—I don’t realize some of this stuff till it comes out [sniffles]. It’s hard. It’s hard to lose your mobility [sniffles]. And there’s stuff that I can’t say, any other way. So that’s how Rosemary happened. I learned I was losing my legs [sniffles], basically, my ability to use them. I sat down and wrote. And now she has mobility implements. And whenever she touches them, they bloom this riot of flowers, because I want the most beautiful part of her to be that. And it’s just man, it just hurts. Sorry, this is, this is hard. But yeah, that’s [sniffles], that’s how she came to be. And it’s just, there’s a whole storm happening inside. And it’s hard because there’s no cure, and nobody knows what to do with me. And I’m just kind of going each day wondering [sniffles] if this is going to be the last day I can walk [sniffles]. Because nobody knows and putting that experience into an experience of chronic pain and this body that breaks and that I can’t predict and learning how to use a wheelchair and making her pain still resonate. But her disability [being] also the most beautiful, strong part of her is extremely cathartic. But it’s also just man, it’s hard to face parts of yourself. Whoo! That’s raw [laughs].

Dianna Gunn: Yeah. Wow. Thank you for being so open. You’re making me cry a little bit, actually. That is incredibly hard, but incredibly beautiful. And I’m sorry, you’re going through that, but I really appreciate that you’re managing to turn it into art. I think that’s… that’s incredibly powerful. And that’s really like… and a lot of cases that’s the most we can deal with our pain.

Sarah Chorn: Yeah, that’s I can’t put it into words people can understand. But I can put it into an experience. And I can explore my experience through someone else. And a lot of times, that helps me a lot to sort out what’s going on inside: to put all those things that I can’t… I can’t say, out there in the world. And if it helps me, that’s great. But if someone else can read that, and say, you know, I see myself in Rosemary, then that’s what matters. Because this is lonely stuff. This is lonely. Disability can be the most isolating thing. And nobody talks about it. You have to really scream to be heard when you’re disabled. And I just really wanted to put part of me out there, maybe it can be part of someone else too. 

Dianna Gunn: Yeah. 

Sarah Chorn: So anyway, yes, there we go [laughs and sniffles].

Dianna Gunn: Yeah. Wow. So, when you work on these… these incredibly heavy scenes, do you have any, like self-care practices, anything you do afterwards to wind down and maybe lighten the emotional load a little bit?

Sarah Chorn: Yeah, um, today, I wrote that scene about inspiration porn, and I took a shower, and that helps a lot. That’s my thing. And then I go in a garden. And that helps a lot, too. And I’m also a photographer; I have stuff and like galleries and stuff. I do a lot of photography in my garden. And that, really, that’s something I picked up when I had cancer. It really helps me to focus on the small things that I don’t usually notice. And it helps me realize that this feels huge to me right now. But there’s still an entire world out there. And I’m just part of it. And just because I feel something doesn’t mean it’s not still beautiful. So, for me, the photography has become a huge part of me, kind of centering myself and realizing that this is just part of it. This is just part of this whole thing. And outside, there are still honeybees. And there are still flowers, and there are still dreams and people doing good things. And there’s a whole life out there outside of this cage of my body.

Dianna Gunn: Yeah. All right. Well, there is one question that I ask every writer who comes on here, which is: Can you share your advice or your thoughts, any words of wisdom for other disabled authors who want to share their stories?

Sarah Chorn: Yeah, so I have a few things. One is to be gentle with yourself. You can’t put other people’s restrictions and goals on yourself, you can only do what you are capable of doing in any given moment. And that’s more than anybody else can do because you’re the only person doing what you can do. So, you’re doing fine. You don’t have to write every day, you don’t have to write 10,000 words, you don’t have to have a whole book done in a year, you don’t have to do anything. But what you can do, period, end of story, that is enough. And I think part of the problem is that we gatekeep ourselves as disabled people. And we say…not everybody… I know I do this… I like to look at everybody who’s able-bodied and say, you know, I should be like them. And then I put all of their goals on my own shoulders and feel like crap when I can’t reach them. And this year, especially I’ve been really focusing on internalizing, “I can only do what I can do and nobody else can do what I can do as good as I can do it.” So [laughs] that’s good enough, and that’s going to have to be good enough, because that’s it. That’s all anyone’s getting. And it’s helped me a lot. It gives you a lot of freedom. And the other thing I would say is to be extremely honest, and don’t be afraid to open yourself up and bawl on a podcast [laughs]. Because those are going to be the moments that resonate with people, and that’s the internal—that’s the feels of being disabled that a lot of people don’t see or ever understand. But it’s something that other disabled people really need to connect with, I think. We need to open up with each other and say, “You know, sometimes I need to cry on a podcast too.” And you know [laughs], that’s fine. It’s okay to be raw and open and honest. And sometimes man, life is messy, and so is being disabled. And you go ahead, and you let your book be messy too [laughs].

Dianna Gunn: Yeah, that is—that is great advice. And I especially like the thing about gatekeeping, you know. We really absolutely do always compare ourselves to able-bodied people. And, you know, for someone like me, who hasn’t always been disabled, I also compare like, my goals to… like myself to like, the goals I had when I was, you know, 14 [laughs]. And I am not living up to my 14-year-old self’s expectation, I gotta say.

Sarah Chorn: It’s hard. I used to be an athlete, and now I can hardly walk, and going to those extremes, man, that’s, that’s a journey. And it’s something that we all… and we gatekeep ourselves as much as the world gatekeeps us.

Dianna Gunn: Yeah. And I think actually, I, in another interview, we said something along the lines of there’s enough gatekeeping and publishing already. Don’t gatekeep yourself. Yeah, I think that is great advice. Don’t gatekeep yourself. Don’t ever believe that you’re not enough just because you can’t meet some standard of some other writer. Especially, you know, some full-time writer with a whole, like, staff.

Sarah Chorn: Yeah, exactly. And you never know how many people are out there who needs to hear exactly what you’re saying. So just say it.

Dianna Gunn: Exactly. That is wonderful advice. Thank you so much for coming on here and for being so raw and honest with your story. And can you tell people where to find you and where to expect The Necessity of Rain?

Sarah Chorn: Yes. So, you can find me on Twitter, well, basically anywhere as bookwormblues. My website is bookwormblues.net. Or I think it’s sarahcornedits.com. You can find me though, I’m everywhere. And The Necessity of Rain, I think we’ll be out on Amazon. I’m not sure, I might go wide. I don’t know. But I know I’ll be on Amazon probably in January is what I’m hoping, and I’m also going to have an audiobook made so, very shortly after that will be an audiobook for it.

Dianna Gunn: Awesome. That is super exciting. 

Sarah Chorn: Yeah. 

Dianna Gunn: Thanks again and have a great day.

Sarah Chorn: [Laughs] Thank you.

Dianna Gunn: Thank you for listening to this episode of the Spoonie Authors Podcast. This podcast is hosted by the Spoonie Authors Network. To learn more about the Spoonie Authors Network, go to spoonieauthorsnetwork.com Or check out @SpoonieAuthNet on Twitter. You can also join our Twitter chat on Sundays at 1pm EST at the hashtag #SpoonieAuthChat. We hope to see you there.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai (Edited for clarity by Cait Gordon)

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