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As a writer diagnosed with mental and chronic illnesses, Alana Saltz has spent a great deal of time in online communities for people living with disabilities. There, she’s met artists and writers hungry for venues in which to showcase their creative work.
“I noticed a great deal of them were facing barriers in terms of rejections due to their work being considered too ‘niche’ or because of prohibitive submissions fees,” she notes.
In response to this need, she launched Blanket Sea – a monthly digital publication that showcases writing and art from those living with chronic illness, mental illness, and/or disability.
The magazine is free to access and charges no submission fees so that writers and artists can approach editors without financial constraints.
The magazine’s name, for Saltz, conjures up feelings of comfort and coziness, as well as a sense of possibility. “We want the space to feel safe and welcoming,” she explains.
Tone, editorial content
Saltz and her other editors look for honest and expressive writing that reflects the interests and experiences of readers.
“If the work doesn’t resonate on some level, it won’t be a good fit for us,” she says. “Subject matter is completely open and does not have to be about living with disability, though much of the work we receive is about those experiences, and we welcome that. Clear, coherent, and cohesive writing is also important when it comes to conveying ideas, stories, and experiences.”
Blanket Sea published poet and writer Nicole Rollender’s witty essay “The Unexpected Way I Killed My Panic Attacks” on March 12, 2018. The piece takes readers on a journey from the writer’s experience of panic attacks that felt like a harbinger of death to the unexpected power of meditation suggested to her by a therapist. Rollender writes:
I grabbed my phone and selected a three-minute “peace” meditation. The soft voice laser focused me on my breaths and heartbeat. Amazingly, the meditation kicked the panic attack’s butt. What worked best for me were meditations where I scanned my body, not the ones asking me to float among stars.
Both emerging and established writers have written for Blanket Sea. Andrea Lambert published her essay “Don’t Cry for Me, Nevada” (4/9/18) and received powerful responses from readers on Twitter and Facebook who posted quotes from her piece, including this one: “Hidden away in my House of the Rising Sun I am real. My heart beats. Blood flows. I sleep. Breathe. Wake. Eat. Shit. I am still alive. My problems are all in my head. But they are painfully, hair-raisingly real.”
“Andrea wrote so honestly and compellingly about her experiences with mental illness and how society treats those of us who live with disability,” Saltz explains. “Her exploration of ableism and how those of us living with disability are treated by society is so relatable, and the harm that this does to us cannot be understated.”
Saltz also admires Jack Croxall’s short story “Storytelling” (3/5/18) as a piece that offers both surprise and a compelling story.
Croxall, an author and blogger who lives with chronic fatigue syndrome, explains what it’s like to live with chronic illness. “He doesn’t hold back about the confusion, fear, pain, and uncertainty of that journey,” Saltz says.
She was particularly taken by the first paragraphs of the story. He writes: “I’m going back in time, you’re coming with me. But we won’t be observing dinosaurs, watching the Spanish Armada burn, or meeting Cleopatra. We’re going back in time to look at a ceiling.”
“It’s a work of fiction that feels very real and has such a fascinating voice and narrative style,” Saltz explains. “The experience of chronic illness can be difficult to capture in writing, but Jack’s story is full of moments that do just that. He also plays with time, imagination, and breaking the fourth wall.”
Advice for potential contributors
Though Blanket Sea editors accept prose submissions up to 2,000 words, they prefer pieces between 500 and 1000 words. Creative nonfiction writers may send essays, memoirs, and book reviews in keeping with the themes of chronic physical and mental illness and disability.
For fiction submissions, editors gravitate toward contemporary realistic stories about living with illness or disability. The poetry editors look for short, non-rhyming poems with either a narrative angle or a strong message. All submissions must include positive, respectful syntax.
“We have unfortunately gotten submissions that included expressions of sexism, ableism, and misogyny,” Saltz says. To help writers, Blanket Sea’s website includes a link to ableist language (language that devalues people with disabilities) and alternatives to problematic words and phrases so that the magazine continues to feel safe and welcoming to all readers.
Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of the award-winning middle-grade novel Avenging the Owl (Sky Pony, 2016) and Better with Books: Diverse Fiction to Open Minds and Ignite Empathy in Children (Sasquatch, 2019). melissahart.com