Friday, August 15, 2014

Characters with Disabilities

A guest post by my friend Trish Wooldridge on how she came to write her new book, Silent Starsong.


I didn't write Silent Starsong for the purpose of being one of the few children's books that feature characters with disabilities. In fact, during my drafting and research, I was actually pretty scared and unsure...looking for an excuse not to write the story. I even tried to put the characters up for adoption to my writers group. “This is not my story to tell!”

But, of course, it was. My writers group told me to writer-up and glue my butt to the chair in Kyra’s and Marne’s names. That’s why the characters popped into my head. That’s why they wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote and wrote and wrote.

You see, I’ve never been deaf. And Kyra is. She and Marne explained this to me within seconds of appearing in my head and demanding my attention. I have family members who have gone deaf. And blind. Some have many other disabilities, most invisible, actually. But what if I got something wrong? What if I offended people? What right did I, someone who can hear rather well, have to pen this story?

So, I did what (I’d hope) any socially conscious writer would do. I researched. I spoke with people who were deaf. I went to a friend who was teaching music for the deaf for several interviews.

Did I screw up? Not that any of my readers have told me, but not everyone’s journey is the same. And there are still reviews coming in. One hearing impaired person’s experience is not the same as any other; not every individual person’s life, hardship, and triumph is the same. None of us can assume one story is representative of any category, no matter how we slice it.

But Kyra was sure of her story. And so was Marne. I’m not a little pink alien with telepathy or telekinesis either... but those of us who write science fiction and fantasy tend to feel fairly comfortable with representing aliens or faerie or more fantastic creatures; we haven’t yet met ones who we could actually offend yet.

So I wrote. And researched. And wrote. Kyra and Marne lived and breathed on the page. I had to think about writing with only four senses for Kyra’s point of view, a hard-to-break habit after years of being told, “show all five senses.” I had to consider the difficulties in lip-reading, how she’d feel about telepathy, how other languages, how she would interpret the feel of sounds. How people would treat her.

I didn’t intend to write about a character with a disability, and really, that’s still not what I think the story is about. The story is about two outcasts, two young persons that “don’t fit in” and have to overcome difficulties and grow and be heroes and friends for each other. It’s a story I hope any child can relate to. I hope Kyra and Marne can be the friends and heroes for the many children who get picked on, who are left out, who want to change the world and make it more accepting. I want them to be “people” readers can relate to.

Maybe, though, for the children who don’t fit in or get picked on because they have a disability, Kyra can be a special hero and friend for them.

About the book:

Order Silent Starsong on Amazon
Order Silent Starsong on Barnes & Noble
ISBN: 978-1-939392-93-0
ISBN ebook: 978-1-939392-94-7
Price: $7.95
Appropriate for ages 10 & up

About the Author:

T.J. Wooldridge is the child-friendly persona of Trisha J. Wooldridge, who reviews dining establishments in Faerie for her local Worcester-area paper (much to all the natives' confusion) and writes grown-up horror short stories that occasionally win awards (EPIC 2008, 2009 for anthologies Bad-A$$ Faeries 2 and Bad-A$$ Faeries 3). The Spencer Hill Press anthologies UnCONventional (January 2012) and Doorways to Extra Time (August 2013) are both her "babies." Her novels include The Kelpie (December 2013) and The Earl's Childe (2015) in the MacArthur Family Chronicles series, and Silent Starsong (July 2014) in the Adventures of Kyra Starbard series. Find out more at


  1. It sounds like a wonderful story that young readers and adults too should read. Congratulations, T. J. Best of luck to you. Thanks for letting us know about Silent Starsong, Kathy. I need to take a look. There's a man in our church that's deaf, and a woman signs the sermon for him. I catch myself watching them. Fascinating. And how thankful I am to hear, even though now I'm wearing hearing aids. :)

  2. Kathy, please tell your friend Trisha that she has a lot of courage. I graduated from a sign language interpreting program and spent several years as a sign language interpreter, mostly in an educational setting. I admire the research and the care that Trisha put into her work and I am sure it will be appreciated. Helen Keller is credited with saying "Blindness isolates you from things, but deafness isolates you from people." So great that an author wrote a story to include characters who are so frequently excluded.