Disability publisher Oleb Books has launched the Oleb Books Personal Essay Award (OBPEA) for writers with disabilities. The literary prize will be administered by Pen 2 Paper (P2P), an international creative writing competition of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, which is the first in Texas to focus solely on stories about disabilities.
The idea for the award came about after Oleb Books founder Belo Cipriani, a blind author and journalist, was with a group of friends and was asked to name 100 writers with disabilities. To his dismay, he was unable to fulfil the challenge.
“I was only able to rattle off the names of 58 authors with disabilities,” said Cipriani, “and I knew then and there that something had to be done.”
After some reflection, Cipriani noted that one of the many reasons why the number of authors with disabilities is not as large as other minority groups is because there are limited opportunities for writers with disabilities to get published by a press.
“There are very few disability publishers,” said Cipriani. “And large presses seldom publish authors with disabilities. Our goal is to create an opportunity for disabled writers to be recognized and have their work available in a book.”
The OBPEA will be an addition to P2P’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic narrative divisions, and several winners will be selected for the prize. OBPEA recipients will receive $50, have their essay included in an anthology published by Oleb Books, and receive a national marketing campaign.
For the inaugural OBPEA, Oleb Books and P2P have chosen the theme of parenting with a disability, since it is a topic rarely covered in literature.
“We want to read stories about characters with disabilities who are just living life and having good and bad experiences,” said Susie Angel, P2P co-coordinator.
Oleb Books and P2P believe that the theme of parenting shines a light on the fact that people with disabilities can nurture, teach, and discipline, as well as have sex and have children. This partnership has both parties excited about helping create more visibility for writers with disabilities.
“The prestige and reach to a wider audience that comes with inclusion in a collection like this is something P2P just doesn’t have the capacity to offer alone,” said Laura Perna, P2P co-coordinator and founder. “So we couldn’t be more excited to team up with Oleb Books to make it happen in 2019.”