Let’s make some room for Sarah, a woman who writes about disability, not because she is disabled but because she is a writer.
— Adriana Páramo

Sarah MIchael Hollenbeck, photo by Jill Howe


Due to partial paralysis of certain cranial nerves, I was born with a peculiar face. While I've lived with this face my whole life, I've only recently acknowledged it, and only very recently begun to write about it. My personal essays and collaborative profiles explore the way I look, and how it has shaped my life and self. 

In the past year, I've met with various individuals within Chicago's disability community. I have also, for the first time in my life, pulled the label 'disability' onto my own body.  My writing combs my discomfort while wearing this label, which often spiked highest during the moments when it threatened to be a perfect fit.


Currently, I am writing and co-editing a collection of essays that explores the experiences of women with invisible and visible disabilities. If you are interested in submitting a piece for consideration, please keep in mind that accepted pieces are not focused on “overcoming” the body, but rather exposing the visceral true story of how the subject has lived or currently lives inside her body and/or mind.   We are seeking personal essays, memoir excerpts, and life writings that confront such questions as:

  • To what extent is your disability seen or unseen? How does this affect the way that you are seen by others, and specifically seen as a woman?
  • What parts of the self and body are made visible/invisible by your disability?
  • How do you see yourself? Do you see your disability as separate from yourself? Do others? How does this change based upon how intimately the person seeing you knows you?
  • Do you see your disability as affecting the outside world’s opinion of your womanhood? Your sexuality? Your fertility?  
  • How do you shape your virtual life or online presence to expose or hide your disability?  What goes into the decision to keep it visible/invisible?

Submitted work should be 5,000 words or fewer and unpublished. Neither academic writing nor poetry will be considered. If you would like to submit a prose piece to this project or just want to hear more about it, please contact me by using the form below or emailing sarahmichaelhollenbeck [at] gmail [dot] com. PLEASE NOTE: Due to the obligations of running a bookstore, this project is currently on hiatus. I hope to return to writing in Spring of 2018. Please feel free to email with questions and thoughts and connections.

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