Season 1 ends with a bang editors Robert Kingett and Randy Lacey speak to me about their upcoming anthology, Artifical Divide. This collection of fiction stories is written by authors who are Blind, visually impaired, or who have low vision.
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Intro: Hi, and welcome to In the ’Cosm. I’m your host Canadian speculative fiction author Cait Gordon. I’ve started this podcast, so I can chat with authors and other creatives I simply fan girl over. I hope you enjoy diving into my microcosm and feel inspired to seek out the works of these amazing humans.
Cait Gordon: Hi, I’m Cait Gordon, and today’s a unique day because it’s my first episode with two guests, and not just any guests. But Robert Kingett and Randy Lacey, who are the editors in chief of the upcoming Artificial Divide anthology, where the authors and their protagonists are Blind, visually impaired, or who have low vision.
Robert Kingett is a totally blind author and accessibility advocate. He writes fiction and nonfiction, but is often involved in many consulting positions. He also contributes to many research papers in his spare time.
Since 2010, Randy Lacey has been adapting to his new life as a visually impaired individual. He’s been a writer of poetry since the late 70s, and since 2013, he has self-published books of poetry as well. Randy has now entered the world of short stories and hopes to release a collection in the near future. When he’s not busy with writing, Randy blends spices and creates hot sauces. Welcome Robert and Randy!
Randy Lacey: Hey!
Robert Kingett: Hey! Thank you for having us.
Cait Gordon: This is such a treat for me to have you both in my microcosm at the same time, because I’ve actually just finished reading Artificial Divide as one of your support editors [laughs].
Randy Lacey: There you go! I’m glad we can both fit.
Cait Gordon: [laughs] Yeah, exactly. What—I’m going to start with you, Robert. Because I remember we had a discussion over Twitter, where you wanted to do an anthology like this. Can you please share with our audience how you came up with this idea, and why?
Robert Kingett: Sure. So, I came up with the idea because I just saw a gap within publishing that really wasn’t being taken advantage of, and also a… at the time, I saw a lot of writers actually getting rejected. Not for the quality of their work, but because their character had a disability or disabilities, so I wanted to create opportunities for others. And so that’s— and so I got the idea to make an anthology that would showcase authors and showcase their work, to kind of give everybody a taste of “Well, hey, this is the kind of talent that you’re missing out on.”
Cait Gordon: Absolutely, for sure. Randy, what was your reaction at being asked to be a co-editor in chief for this collection of stories?
Randy Lacey: That opportunity came out, came about rather innocently. I was in one of my groups that I’m, I am on, on Facebook, and somebody private messaged me, saying—who knew that I was visually impaired—and suggested that I get in contact with Nathan and talk to them about a project that was being produced. And so I reached out to to Nathan and, who responded to me, and it just went from there and, you know, I tried to [laughs], I tried to—I’ve got no experience at this or, you know, I just write I don’t do anything else but write. And he convinced me that, you know, there was, it wasn’t that difficult—not to belittle the job or the task at hand—but in defining what he wanted me to do. I felt it was within my grasp to be able to do that. So I gladly jumped on board and I haven’t regretted it once, one bit.
Cait Gordon: That’s wonderful. You know, it’s, you know, each of your responses are so relatable to me because with Robert saying, you know, wanting to showcase these voices, that’s how I felt with the Nothing Without Us anthology. And Randy, I [laughs] had no experience at all as an editor in chief of an anthology. And I think that’s the thing I love—Randy mentioned, Nathan, that’s Nathan Frechette from Renaissance press—Nathan is wonderful at encouraging people to do things, even if we’re unsure of ourselves. So, I’m so glad the two of you worked together on this. Um, Robert, why is the anthology called Artificial Divide?
Robert Kingett: Because there is always this misconception that the Blind and the sighted are worlds apart, and that could not be farther from the truth. Even among those who may not be visually impaired, but who may have other disabilities, they sometimes see blindness as just a whole other world. So, I tried to be clever, and, and I thought, well, We’re not literally divided were artificially divided, so that’s basically where they came from and, I learned that I’m not as clever as everybody else thinks. [laughter]
Cait Gordon: I don’t know, you seem pretty clever to me. [laughter]
Robert Kingett: Thank you. Um… but, it’s to kind of show that we’re not as divided as everybody likes to think. Because even though these protagonists have low vision or are totally blind, they love and they hurt and they have pain, and they’re growing. Yeah, just like you.
Cait Gordon: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I think that’s so important. A lot of times, people with various conditions, disabilities, states of being are just reduced to these tropes and cliches, which I feel are also propagated through fiction. So, the fact that—I was so happy to know that this collection was another collection of fiction stories, because I’m just, I’m sure I’ve said this every episode of the podcast, but I feel that fiction has such a power to influence, sometimes even more than nonfiction, even though nonfiction is extremely valuable as well. And and I was just thrilled. Did it matter to you, Randy, as well? Randy did it matter to you that these stories were fiction as opposed to essay-based?
Randy Lacey: Um, I like the idea of fiction because people can then try to put themselves into that picture, and imagine themselves. So, it draws a reader in rather than informs the reader through real stories. Fiction, at least people can… I just, like I said, picture themselves within, and it’s not too hard to imagine that way, as it is to in reality. I could give you countless numbers of stories where people tried to identify with me in real life but have no clue, but in through reading, it’s easier.
Cait Gordon: Right, yeah, storytelling, I guess it’s an age-old thing right I mean when you think about fairy tales and fables, right? They have influenced for millennia [laughs], really. So, we’re just kind of carrying on the torch by releasing anthologies like this.
Randy Lacey: Absolutely.
Cait Gordon: So, um, now I know how I felt when I was editing an anthology for the first time, being at the other side of the anthology table. Can you share with us, both of you, your delights and the challenges you faced during the selection process? Robert I’ll begin with you.
Robert Kingett: Okay, so this really opened my eyes, because I’ve been pitching to magazines and anthologies for years and years. So, I did not really appreciate the time it takes, and the effort it takes to really read and go through a submission, and, and make a decision. That just had never crossed my mind of how much, how much, how much importance one line or one paragraph is. So, what I really liked about the process, is it really got… it really opened my eyes to how to be a better writer myself.
Cait Gordon: Mmm, interesting!
Robert Kingett: Because you can, you can see where the rest of the story is really good except for this one tiny part that just—in a short story, things have to be much more concise. So if one tiny thing is a little askew, then your story… it doesn’t fall apart, but it feels, it feels.. Hm, how do I say this? It feels like there’s something missing, and it’s just out of reach, and you can’t quite grab it. One of the difficulties, I’ve, I’ve had is, is, quite honestly, choosing the final stories for the anthology because there were just so many good possibilities that just had one little thing that did not add up or more.
Cait Gordon: Right, yes. Oh, yes! Ah, it’s so…[laughs]
Robert Kingett: Yeah yeah yeah, so. [Cait laughs] You know exactly how it feels. So, like, and to be clear, it’s it’s not a reflection on the writer. Sometimes it just literally comes down to the personal taste of the editors. But one thing I try to do is try to give personal feedback on every single rejection because that makes a world of difference. When you have a person who can really sit you down and say, “Hey, your strength is, is your world-building [Cait makes sound of agreement], but there’s this part in the middle where I got kind of lost?” So that really helps a writer, much, much, much more than just say, “Your story is rejected.” But I want writers to know that even if your story is not chosen, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer. There’s so many kind of factors that you don’t have privy to, so don’t take it personally. [laughs]
Cait Gordon: Oh, there’s so much you said there that I’m like, “Oh gosh, yes, yes, yes!” [Robert and Cait laugh] I think this is a therapy episode for me! [Robert laughs and says, “Yeah!”] Randy, what were the delights and the challenges for you with story selection?
Randy Lacey: Um, the world of the short story is a fairly new one to me, especially writing. And it wasn’t until I took a poetry course through—anyway, it doesn’t matter who it’s from. But my instructor told me to start editing my poetry, and I was like, “Really? Edit? [Cait laughs] You edit poetry?” I just always thought you just write it, and that’s the way it was meant to be. So, when the stories started coming in, the submissions for this anthology, I really learned the need for editing. But that’s not to say that the stories weren’t good. Some stories missed the point of the whole anthology altogether, which was probably the hardest thing for me because some of the stories were good, but they had nothing to do with Blind or visually impaired [Cait says, “Right yes,”], it was that was an afterthought to the story. And I really hated tossing some of those aside. But, I mean, the main principle or the main theme of this anthology was Blind, visually impaired, and then everything. Not everything, and “oh by the way I’m blind or visually impaired.” That was the hard thing for me.
Cait Gordon: Yeah, yeah, when I laugh, it’s like laughing because I completely understand. Can we just say here officially on the In the ’Cosm podcast? Study the guidelines. [laughter]
Robert Kingett: Yes, yes! Study them!
Cait Gordon: We craft the submission guidelines for a reason.
Randy Lacey: Absolutely [laughs].
Robert Kingett: Yes, absolutely. I—one thing that I did learn throughout this whole process—I’m not really sure if this is true for other people—but I’ve learned that I am really good at giving constructive criticism, and I had no idea [laughs].
Cait Gordon: I did, I did! [Robert and Randy laugh] Folks, I hired Robert to be a sensitivity editor for a Blind character I had in kind of mermaid fantasy story. I had a Blind character in it, and he offers very constructive, extremely useful criticism, so yes, you do. I knew that before you did! [laughter] What about, like, are there particular stories in Artificial Divide that really grasped you? I mean, I know every story is important or else you wouldn’t have put it in there. But were there some that you just said, “I have to have this in my anthology,” or in our anthology? Randy? What did you—do you feel any stories that really resonated with you?
Randy Lacey: There were a few. I basically—as I read them, or, I used a reader, as they were being read to me. I used the five star rating and rated them as such. And Robert and I agreed on, on quite a few of them. But Vision, the story of Abdil, really caught me. It was a heart-wrenching kind of story. You’ll have to buy the book to read it, so you know I encourage you to, but it was, it was a heart-wrenching little story. So much said in so few words. And that’s the kind of story I like, and it just it grabbed me and it held me. I felt, I almost cried. I don’t cry because I don’t [laughter], but anyway, it was just one of those stories, you know that grips you, and you know you want to feel for this person.
Cait Gordon: Mm.
Randy Lacey: So, that was the big one, and there was like a couple of other ones that the title escapes me right now, but there were a few that were really like that one. But Vision I think was the big one for me.
Cait Gordon: Okay. Okay, thank you. Robert, what about you?
Robert Kingett: Sure! So I liked three of them, I—just for future note, authors who are looking to possibly submit to me in the future, I like character-driven stories. So, the three that really grabbed me were Vision… That one at first, I, I, I thought I’d missed a point or something, but I realized that, “Oh, I just read it on a bad day.” And then when I read it again later, it just, it just hit me, like, “Oh my gosh, This is a really great story.” The two other ones that really grabbed me and held me were, were A Firefly of Hope—
Cait Gordon: Oh yeah! Sorry, I liked that one [laughs].
Robert Kingett: Yeah, yeah. Because I love… I, this is my warped taste coming into play. But I love, I love revenge stories where the protagonist is really smart. And they have to overcome so many things [Cait says, “Yeah.” using their brains. The third one that just, oh my gosh [Cait laughs], you guys have to read, is a story called Inspiration Pornstar.
Cait Gordon: Yeah.
Randy Lacey: I agree.
Robert Kingett: That one, it, it just, just, wow. [laughs]
Cait Gordon: Also the title , the title: Inspiration Pornstar.
Robert Kingett: [Robert laughs] Yeah.
Cait Gordon: Yeah. I even told Talia about that title and we just laughed because it’s just [Cait and Robert laugh].
Randy Lacey: When I read that title, I almost just bypassed the story, but I’m glad I didn’t [laughter].
Cait Gordon: Well, you know, I think for a lot of us, in, in the disability community, particularly like when it comes to like, storytelling, inspiration porn is tedious, it’s just so tedious [Robert says, “Yes!”] It takes away all of our humanity. You know, Robert was saying earlier about “Hey, there really isn’t a divide,” you know, “If there’s a divide it’s an artificial one.” You know it’s true. When you do inspiration porn, if you write characters whose only benefit is to help the abled neurotypical person, or ,they get to overcome their disability or whatnot. I mean, the rest of us are like, “Really though?” [laughs] Like, it’s just…yeah. So, I did laugh heartily with that title because I thought it was a little bit on the brilliant side [laughs].
Robert Kingett: And then I read it, and my whole entire world was just shattered, and you know that when you get through with a really good story, and you’re thinking about it hours later, you know that you’ve hit a home-run.
Cait Gordon: Yes, I love when stories have that effect, you know? For sure! And and if and if they are whirling through your mind, yeah, that’s something that belongs in your anthology. So we’re kind of—
Robert Kingett: Can I be be greedy and add one more story to the list of favourites?
Cait Gordon: Absolutely. Go ahead.
Robert Kingett: [Laughs] Woohoo! So, one more of my favourite stories was, was called Noah and the Dragon, for the simple reason that the protagonist takes challenges that she has been given, and she, she overcomes the challenges, not her disabilities.
Cait Gordon: Yes, exactly. I love that story as well. I love it. That was the one it was like it was a fantastical story, right?
Robert Kingett: Yes!
Cait Gordon: And she has to deal with, you know, just learning how to, you know, navigate her world while Blind in sort of a almost a medieval-like fantastical setting.
Robert Kingett: Yeah, exactly.
Cait Gordon: Yeah, I love that one too. [Cait and Robert laugh] So good! Yeah, I’m glad I let you say that [Cait and Robert laugh]. So, I’m going to switch gears, as we’re rounding up this session already. Let’s talk about your works. So, I want to I want to know what are some works and recently published titles, each of you have had. I’ll start with you, Randy? Or something that’s coming up?
Randy Lacey: Basically what I tend to do is I will go a year… everything that I write within that year, I publish the next year, self-publish. So at the end of 2020, it was really hard to get anything in print at all because of, you know, current world conditions.
Cait Gordon: Yeah.
Randy Lacey: So, though the book was released early or later in 2020, I was only able to get printed copies in January of this year of my latest collection of poetry, which is entitled From Somewhere Deep Within.
Cait Gordon: Nice.
Randy Lacey: Yes, and the picture on the cover, I took when I was down in the Dominican Republic, and and I designed the cover myself. and it’s just poetry from from the year 2020. Or sorry, yeah 2019. Sorry. And so right now I’m working on two other books from the accumulated poems of 2020, and I have no title for that—well, I’ve got a couple of working titles but nothing definitive yet—but that’s what I’ve got. I’ve got two more. I’ve also working on, as you mentioned, short stories. So I’ve been entering contests and with the rejections, I’ve been putting them towards a short story compilation. And basically the title is going to be called… it’s going to be called… I’ve totally forgotten now. Anyway, so it’s it’s for short stories under 2000 words.
Cait Gordon: Nice!
Randy Lacey: Yeah! Yeah, basically—In Not So Many Words; that’s what it’s called.
Cait Gordon: In Not So Many Words. That’s a brilliant title for—
Robert Kingett: I love it!
Cait Gordon: Short short stories. Right? Hello! [laughter] Let’s just give an award for that book, based on the title!
Robert Kingett: Right, Yeah!
Randy Lacey: [laughs] Thank you, thank you. So that’s what I’ve got going on right now.
Cait Gordon: That’s great, that’s really good. And you know, I just want to say, I always feel writing is never a waste of time, and I love when, I love when authors who have received rejections decide, “You know what? I’m going to put this in my own compilation.” Right? Because it is true, like, sometimes you get rejected, just because the editor has a certain feel [Robert says, “Right!”] for the magazine or the anthology they’re putting out, and even though your story’s good, it might not even match with that feel. So, it has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or anything like that. So, I love that you’re kind of saying, “Okay that’s fine. It wasn’t a good fit for them, but here’s my compilation.” Then you gave it a brilliant title, so everybody wins. [laughter]
Randy Lacey: Well we hope. [laughter]
Cait Gordon: So, so Robert, do you have anything other than the amazing Artificial Divide coming out?
Robert Kingett: [laughs] Um, I, well, no, not this year, but I hope that next year, I will have a children’s book coming out. I do have some really great news in the sense that I that I am actually looking over literary agents’ [Cait says, “Oooo!”] contracts. So, I have actually gotten a few offers in there, so we, we shall see. 2020 was a really, really hard year for my writing. Nothing, just really nothing really clicked.
Cait Gordon: Yeah.
Robert Kingett: So, so 2021, I… something happened where I finished a children’s book. And I went hunting for literary agents, and I got multiple offers—
Cait Gordon: Oh my gosh!
Robert Kingett: I just had to choose, so [laughs].
Cait Gordon: Okay, so, that’s awesome. [laughter]
Robert Kingett: Yeah, yeah [laughs].
Cait Gordon: I hope you’ll still speak to us when you’re like uber-famous. [laughter]
Robert Kingett: Of course I will? [laughs]
Cait Gordon: What was her name? Kat-something? Morgan? Kat Morgan? Was that her name? [laughter]
Robert Kingett: Which I kind of have to say is, so ironic, because 2020 was just the year of rejections.
Cait Gordon: Yeah, it happens, doesn’t it, right?
Robert Kingett: Yeah, so, each and every each and everything I did, so. So I, so it’s kind of ironic that I go, “Okay, I’ll just try this,” and not even actually think about it, and see what happens. And I thought I was actually going to get a ton of rejections, and the opposite happened. Yeah. [laughs]
Cait Gordon: You know, you just gotta keeping trying, right? Like, that’s the way the game is played. Congratulations. That’s amazing. So now I’m down to my final question, which is my favourite. What is a fun fact about yourself? Robert, tell us a fun fact about yourself that we wouldn’t know.
Robert Kingett: A fun fact about myself was, I, I had a rooster, for almost five years.
Cait Gordon: Oh my gosh [laughter]. That’s awesome. I did not expect you to say that, so… [laughter] May I just ask how you come across getting a pet rooster? Like, I guess I was born on concrete; I’m a real city girl so… [laughter]
Robert Kingett: I, you know, this is the fun fact that I don’t even know about myself. It just kind of materialized out of thin air. Literally. So I, like, ’cause I was walking home from the, [Randy trying not to laugh] from the store, and I just I just happen to notice that a little baby rooster [Cait laughs]—I don’t actually know what they’re called— was actually following me home. So, so I said, “Okay. Come on in!” [laughs]
Cait Gordon: [laughing] That’s amazing!
Randy Lacey: So, Robert was that a general store? [laughter]
Cait Gordon: Wow, I think you’re literally the only person I’ve ever met who had a little rooster chick or whatnot, follow him home. That’s, that’s astounding, I guarantee, nobody else’s fun fact will be that. So it’s very, very unique.
Robert Kingett: You have no idea. [laughter]
Cait Gordon: So, so Randy, what is a fun fact about yourself?
Randy Lacey: I have got nothing that can compare to that. [laughter] I’ve got a lot of fun fact. And for some of them I would have to… I can’t tell you or I’d have to bury the bodies [Cait laughs]. But, um, I was an extra in Rocky IV.
Cait Gordon: OH, go away with yourself!
Randy Lacey: No, seriously, it was filmed in Vancouver, and I was a street person in Vancouver at the time [Cait says, “Wow!”], I lived on the streets for a few years. [Cait says, “Okay!”] But that’s, that was fun. It was a lot of fun getting to meet the stars and seeing how Hollywood works.
Cait Gordon: Gee! I love these questions [laughter]. I have learned so—I’ve learned—you know, I don’t think I’m actually going to erase either of those fun facts from my mind about you guys [laughter]. Look, thank you so much for coming aboard. This is actually going to be the last episode of the first season of my, my podcast so I’m ending it off with a bang with you two. Thank you so much for being here today.
Randy Lacey: Thanks for having me.
Robert Kingett: Thank you for having us. And one final quick note from me. Writers are not your competition. They’re just friends that you have bet yet, so don’t ever think a writer is your competition.
Cait Gordon: I absolutely agree. It’s so great when we all collaborate and support and celebrate each other’s wins, you know, and support each other through the not-so-wins-just-yet moments. Folks, you will learn more about Robert by visiting his website, email@example.com. And you can learn more about Randy at his website, therandylacey.ca.
Transcripts for In the ’Cosm are available at caitgordon.com. That’s c-a-i-t gordon dot com. Thanks for joining us. Take care and stay safe.
(Transcribed by https://otter.ai. Edited for clarity by Cait Gordon.)
Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to be wise and think of others as we battle COVID-19!
Cait is also the author of humorous space opera novels Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers, and she is the co-editor of the Prix Aurora Award nominated anthology Nothing Without Us. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. Her latest new adventure is hosting the In the ’Cosm podcast, which is really an excuse to gush over authors she admires.