Welcome to the fortieth in this series of interviews. It’s just before dawn and I’m waiting to meet blogger Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues in perhaps the only brief window of availability in her incredibly busy life. Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor, and mom to one rambunctious toddler. Apart from Bookworm Blues, she presents a weekly column on SF Signal entitled Special Needs in Strange Worlds about the importance of disabilities in speculative fiction.
SCy-Fy: Here she comes. Sarah – is this a good time? Is there a good time?
SC: My life is pretty much organized chaos. I work from 5am to 2pm Monday through Friday. I pick up my kid from daycare right after that, and watch her until my husband gets home around 7pm. From 7-8pm I write a review – if I’m not too tired – and then at 8pm I go to sleep so I can wake up at 4am. Not much time for blogging, but I make it work. I take the weekends off so I can spend time with my family.
SCy-Fy: Let’s talk along the way. That’s a tiring schedule, but you have discussed many other personal difficulties on social media.
SC: I’ve had a lot of health problems in the past few years. I’ve been through numerous rounds of cancer, been basically paralyzed, had a ton of surgeries, had to fight for my daughter’s life while fighting cancer, and a lot more. My health drama hasn’t really ended, it just changes form.
SCy-Fy: Where do you find the strength?
SC: A lot of things have kept me going, from my family who has supported me when I haven’t felt like I was strong enough to keep going, to my friends who listen to my worries without judging me.
However, the genre community has really helped me a lot. Supportive and kind, this community has kept me remembering what it’s like to feel passion and enthusiasm for something when the world feels so damn dark. This genre has kept me focused on something outside of myself, and kept me dreaming when I thought dreaming was impossible. Those are priceless gifts.
SCy-Fy: Which posts of yours have had the most impact?
SC: The most popular thing I have ever written, which is also a post I am very, very proud of, is called, “I Am Not Broken: The Language of Disability.” This post is basically about how we need to change the dialogue regarding the differently abled, starting with the fact that we need to start having a conversation.
A few weeks ago I was part of a panel at a local convention called “Disabilities in Genre Fiction” which was one of the most moving, profound, and amazing things I’ve ever been part of. The room was packed (which I didn’t expect) and everyone there was so full of passion and interest in the topic. It really gave me hope for the representation of disabilities in the genre, and I was honoured to be part of it.
SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?
SC: I am kind of weird, I guess, because I don’t really have many grandiose ideas or plans. I want to keep doing what I’m doing, because I love what I’m doing. When I stop loving it, I’ll stop doing it. I’m pretty satisfied where I’m at. My main goal and objective is to keep Special Needs in Strange Worlds expanding, and getting more traffic and get a bigger conversation going.
SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging?
SC: Publishing is constantly changing, and I think bloggers will need to reflect those changes, and be willing to bend with them, and adapt to them.
SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers? For reviewers? Writers?
SC: Don’t ever lose your enthusiasm and passion for what you’re doing. And please, please remember diversity is more than just gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. There are a lot of people who deserve representation that rarely get it, or rarely get a seat at the table during these diversity conversations.
SCy-Fy: Do you make use of many outside resources?
SC: I make it a goal not to read or talk to people about books I’m about to review. I don’t want their opinions to influence my own. In terms of resources, I’m pretty boring. Once I type up my review, and post it, I check out what people think of said book on Goodreads, but that’s about it. Color me boring.
SCy-Fy: Traps in SFF blogging?
SC: Things can turn into “contests” pretty quickly. People get their fan clubs, and clicks, and reviewing stops being about books, and starts turning into catching attention or gathering praise from peers. That’s unfortunate. Books are what we’re all about, right? I think it’s sad when we get so sidetracked.
SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?
SC: I hate to admit this, but between being (surprise!) pregnant again, and learning more about my diagnoses with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (I’m full of health drama), I haven’t had a ton of time to look at what is going to drop. I have been just taking books as they’ve come. Today Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson arrived. It’s set to publish in July, and I cannot wait! Ian McDonald has a book coming out this fall that looks really interesting called Luna: New Moon. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin.
SCy-Fy: Anything else to add?
SC: I’m really glad that I’m part of this genre community, and I truly appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.
SCy-Fy: I really appreciate the chance to speak to you, Sarah; best wishes for everything!