In Conversation: Starting Chronically Lit

Every month or so, Editors Jay and Annalise are going to have a Chronically Lit “In Conversation” about something related to chronic illness or the site. In this first “In Conversation,” we discuss the origin of Chronically Lit, and what we’re looking for in submissions as we prepare to launch in August 2018. Submit here

Jay: I’m excited to introduce our first “In Conversation.” Basically, we’re editors of Chronically Lit, and we’re going to periodically publish short conversations we have with each other. Right?

Annalise: Right. So, where do we start? Origin story?

Jay: Sure. I’ve been working on another project for a while called Writing Through Chronic Illness (WTCI), and I realized I have more ideas than could fit under that label. WTCI will consist of expressive writing and communication courses for people with illness, but I also wanted to do something more literary and community-focused.

Annalise: Yep, and last year I had a major surgery related to Crohn’s disease and have been personally writing more about my experience with it when you asked me to be a part of this.

Jay: I’ve really admired how open you’ve been about your struggles with Crohn’s and your treatments. I’ve had chronic illness for many years, and have been in chronic pain since I was 25 (I’m 37 now). I’ve gone back and forth with being open and closed about my experiences, both in my writing and in my relationships.

Annalise: Yeah, it’s been super hard adapting recently. It’s coming up on a year since all of this happened, i.e. three hospital trips, a surgery to remove 12 inches of my small intestine, and infusions now every 8 weeks for the rest of my life. I honestly didn’t know who I could talk to. You’ve been super supportive and always there to lend an ear (or an eye, really, since we text sometimes) and that’s really helped me through everything.

Jay: That’s great to hear (see) because sometimes I feel like I’m dumping too much on you, or other friends I’ve made who have chronic illness. I sometimes try to assess and make sure I’m listening as much as I talk/text.

Annalise: That’s exactly how I’ve felt. I feel like I’m always checking in being like, “Sorry, I just texted you like 5 paragraphs.” I’m stoked about Chronically Lit and creating this space for these conversations, stories, and art. I think it’s really needed and has been for a long time.

Jay: I agree. Although I want this to be a professional space, with polished writing, I want the tone and feel to be that of a conversation with a close friend. I want people with chronic illness to be able to visit the site and feel like they belong and are understood, not isolated or a burden.

Annalise: Absolutely. I don’t know why that’s the default either. Why is it that we’re automatically more inclined to feel like a burden? Of course illnesses aren’t things we generally celebrate, but why does this culture think/act/feel in such contrasted binaries like illness is something we should be quiet about because it’s “bad,” or “sad?” It doesn’t have to be.

Jay: Whew, I have a lot of thoughts, but don’t know if I should scare our readers away this early. Just kidding, sort of. But I’ve thought about the stigmas surrounding illness a lot–I blame capitalism and religion. Capitalism implies your value lies in the money you can earn or the work you can do, and religion implies illness is a deserved punishment. So I think those are old cultural stigmas still lingering, even if people don’t consciously believe them. Can I say that? I guess we can say anything.

Annalise: Can definitely say anything. Well, I take that back. Please don’t send us offensive stuff or like, graphic pictures.

Jay: Good call. Let’s talk a little about what we’re looking for as editors. I’m pumped about fiction featuring protagonists who have chronic illness, but where the focus of the story is not chronic illness. Because that’s how life is–chronic illness isn’t our life’s focus or primary identity, but it’s always there, something we must take into consideration as we navigate life.

Annalise: Yeah! And I’m really excited to see first person essays (either mainstream in style or literary) that tell a story (but not a whole life story). I want to see imagery and killer lines and chronic illness broken out in front of me. Also art, poetry, and comics.

Jay: Yes to comics! I’ve seen really cool comics on The Rumpus, Vice, The Nib, and more. If we could be known as the go-to place to submit comics related to illness, I’d be proud.

Annalise: For sure. I want to be the go-to place for any good piece related to chronic illness. Any advice for readers? Submitters? People in general?

Jay: We’ve received over 75 submissions in the first 72 hours of our submittable being up, which is pretty remarkable. Keep the submissions coming! & please don’t be discouraged by rejection. Revise, rewrite, keep going. I think a lot of our writers will be early in their careers, or might not think of writing as their career, so I want them to understand most writers have writing rejected many times before it’s accepted. It’s not personal, it’s just part of the game. We still like you & want you to submit more!