Writers Tricks of the Trade VOLUME 8, ISSUE 4 - Page 34

M Y L IFE A S A D ISABLED W RITER E RIKA A BBOT E DITORS N OTE : I first met Erika Abbot when she attended a workshop I presented in Los Angeles. When I offered her my hand for a handshake, she extended her left hand and said, “I’m disabled.” I was very im- pressed with this young lady and wanted to interview her for Writers Tricks of the Trade. When I received her information, I decided to publish it just as it was written. Erika takes you inside the life of a writer with Cerebral Palsy—a writer who does not let CP define her or stop her from reaching her goals. I don’t remember how old I was when first started writing. Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. I have always called myself a strategic writer. Part of that, I’m sure has to do with the fact that I’m learning disabled, could never speak as quickly as the other children in the class. The other reason I’m sure had some- thing to do with my Epilepsy. The very hours I was supposed to be awake, I felt like a zombie. One of the aspects that I always loved about writing was that I could be whoever I wanted. I wasn’t the “girl who had no country.” As a girl growing up in a small town of less than 40,000, I ended up founding and being the princess of the disabled posse. The reason I was qualified was that I was minimally disabled. I was born with cere- bral palsy—ok, everyone, close your eyes. Imagine that you can only use your left hand when typing. You have no aid from your right hand, because it’s in a fist. That’s exactly the way I’ve typed for my entire life. Being a Generation X-er, W RITERS ’ T RICKS OF THE T RADE that need wouldn’t even come until col- lege. I was always on the search for words. That’s one of the many reasons I remem- ber feeling safest when my teachers forced us to write in a journal for ten minutes a day in class. No grades, just us writing about whatever we wanted. One day I was Dear Abby, the next I was a screenwriter. As a girl, I was ex- tremely lucky. I had many people in my life who helped me realize what “story- telling” was. My mother, the actress, my aunt, the film editor, my father the story- teller in our family, all showed me differ- ent ways of “writing”. I’m not sure that it ever entered my consciousness, since this was the family I grew up in. I simply thought “Oh, this is how everyone learns about writing.” Obviously, I didn’t know how wrong I was until I entered college. It was clear that my thinking, at least to me, was always “just a little bit outside the box.” That probably has something to do with the fact that I’m learning disa- bled; so could never organize my P AGE 29 W INTER 2019