AccessAbility Arts interview (Charlotte Robyn Faulconbridge)
Welcome to another AccessAbility Arts interview! I'm delighted to be able to shine a light on the fantastic work being done by inspiring women, multicultural groups, LGBTQIA+ community members and disabilities in the sphere of art and accessibility. This time, I spoke to my wonderful friend, and the awe inspiring Charlotte Robyn Faulconbridge is a prize-winning poet, published author, and musician who lives with her 2 dogs, 4 cats, and 3 owls. After being diagnosed as autistic, alongside a debilitating chronic illness in her early teens, Charlotte found peace within writing; processing her trauma and discovering her strength and power in her pain has become the lifeblood for her work. She advocates for inclusion within the poetry community often performing her poems in BSL and SSE.
Her website, Inclusive Creatives, was founded to give neurodivergent and disabled creators a safe space where they can express their talents. Her debut book, Too High to Function, captures what life can be like living on the autistic spectrum. Taking the reader on a journey of self-acceptance, Charlotte opens up about the good, the bad, and the socially ugly parts of living with autism.
Her book is now available here: https://www.inclusivecreatives.co.uk/
If you're on social media, give them a follow. Instagram: @charlotterobynf
Here is the interview
DK: What made you decide to write your book?
Charlotte: I just wanted answers! Answers that no medical professionals had been able to give me. I’m not just content with knowing - I have to know why. There were so many things about my autism that I didn’t understand so I wanted to explore the neuroscience behind it, and my research gave me answers in abundance. I even discovered answers to questions that I hadn’t even thought of to ask. There are plenty of books out there that are either written by medical professionals that give you purely scientific descriptions of the condition, or that are written purely from a first-hand experience perspective. I wanted to combine the two views, to give the scientific reasoning behind my experiences to aid people’s understanding of autism.
DK: What was your favourite part about writing your book?
Charlotte: This is such a tricky question as I have enjoyed so many parts of the process! I loved coming up with the chapter titles as I have always loved a good pun - but my favourite part was probably knowing that I was doing my best to make my book as accessible as I could in order for it to be inclusive for a wide range of readers. Due to my cognitive processing, I struggle reading a lot of text in one go, so I thought about what I would want/need in a book to make it more manageable. As well as including pauses within each chapter, I also wanted to create a mixed-media chapter break between them. Music is a continuous theme in my life and in the book, therefore it only felt right to include this somehow. I have curated a playlist for each chapter that relates to the content, giving people a break from reading (or to listen along with as they read) whilst still enjoying the themes of my book. I have also included some of my favourite quotes, epigraphs, and a few of my poems in these chapter breaks too. I like to think of these sections as palette cleansers for your brain.
DK: I love the sound of that! You mentioned that you are a musician in your bio, so what music do you like playing and listening too?
Charlotte: All sorts! I am a jazz drummer, jazz and classical pianist, and a percussive guitarist. I don’t like to define myself too much by genres as I like to play just about anything. Those are just the areas I specialise in, but I could happily play you anything from Beethoven to Billy Joel! As far as listening goes, I prefer the old classics, so anything from Baroque to 70’s Glam Rock will make my ears happy.
DK: As well as music, you said that you include poetry in the book too. How did you get into poetry?
Charlotte: I write a lot of music, so poetry just seemed to be an extension of this artform. It has rhythm, expression, and a solo instrument (your voice). These similarities are what attracted me to poetry in the first place, and when I am unable to play my instruments due to my chronic illness, writing poetry is always there for me to indulge in as it is a lot less physical.
DK: Talking of your chronic illness, would you like to share a bit more about that?
Charlotte: Of course! I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis nearly a decade ago. At the age of 14, I went from being a competitive ice-skater and dancer to being wheelchair bound overnight. It was terrifying, as no one knew what was happening to my body, and when my doctors told me I had a chronic illness with no proven cause or cure, I had to completely redefine my life. It’s been an incredibly challenging journey for me to navigate, especially through my teens, but I always strive to stay positive.
DK: What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?
Charlotte: Writing my book and getting it published, 100%. I used to be so ashamed of my differences, as around my peers and at school they were never embraced, but now my autism has completely embellished my identity. I’m so proud of my transformation – I have gone from never wanting to discuss my autism with anyone, to writing an entire book about my experiences living on the spectrum: which is the literary equivalent of shouting it loudly from the rooftops!
DK: And lastly. We all need to relax, chill, and switch off sometimes. So how do you relax?
Charlotte: My favourite way to relax is to watch the snooker. I know, random, but I just find it so satisfying! I also enjoy playing it, even though I’m terrible, so shhh - don’t tell anyone! When it’s not snooker season, I adore spending time with my fur babies. Animals have always soothed me, and they do an impeccable job of maintaining my inner peace.
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