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Chantelle Behrens

An Interview with Jen Campbell, Editors Canada Conference Keynote Speaker

Jen Campbell
Jen Campbell
Photo courtesy of Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell is a bestselling author, award-winning poet and disability advocate. She has written 10 books for children and adults, spanning nonfiction, poetry, short stories and picture books. She reviews books on BBC Radio, is the books editor for TOAST Magazine, has an iTunes top 100 podcast called BOOKS WITH JEN and runs a YouTube channel with over 60,000 subscribers, where she talks about books, the representation of disability and the history of fairy tales. 

Editors Canada is delighted that on Saturday, May 28, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. ET, Jen will give the first keynote address at our virtual conference, Editors 22: Editing for a Changing World.

(This interview has been lightly edited.)

Chantelle Behrens: You’re one of the most versatile authors on any bookshelf; you’ve written non-fiction, fiction, children’s literature and poetry. You’re also very consistent in creating videos for your YouTube channel. Do you find that different messages are better suited to different mediums?

Jen Campbell: I think it’s more about the way of delivering the messages, rather than the messages themselves. I like that poetry allows me to explore themes in more abstract ways. Sometimes, though not always, this is useful when I’m first experimenting with ideas.

On occasion poems have reappeared later as stories, and in turn fiction has given me the confidence to write about the same subjects but in nonfiction form. It’s not always as linked or as neat as that, but it can be, and that’s fun! I see videos as very separate to my writing; it’s very helpful to have a creative outlet that doesn’t involve words in the same way. It gives me energy to direct back into my other work.

CB: Which is your favourite medium?

JC: Whatever I happen to be writing at the time, probably! Although poetry is my first and forever love.

CB: You’re an editor as well as a writer, and you inhabit both queer and disabled spaces. How can editors best support the diversity of their audiences?

JC: By listening and learning, by uplifting #OwnVoices stories, and making sure that disabled people and queer people are involved in the creation process of books. It is a writer’s job to write the best story that they can, but it is a publisher’s job to make sure that they are promoting a variety of voices across the board. Publishers need to be conscious of what voices they are entrusting with certain stories, and why.

(Editor’s note: Check out Jen’s YouTube channel, where she has a playlist of nearly 30 videos about disability, disfigurement and representation. She also has a publishing, editing and writing playlist.)

CB: You’re delivering a keynote at the upcoming Editors Canada conference in May. Could you share a little bit about what you’ll be talking about?

JC: I’ll be speaking briefly about the representation of disability and disfigurement in books and the media we consume. I’ll also be talking about my own experience as a disabled writer, editor and bookseller, discussing how we can dismantle ableism and make spaces more accessible and inclusive, and how we can work towards empowering disabled authors more fully. I look forward to chatting with you all.

To hear Jen’s upcoming keynote speech, please register for the 2022 Editors Canada conference.


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