Authors share stories, speak about disabilities

The Aquinas Photo / Joe Evans THE UNIVERSITY hosted authors Judy McFarlane and Grace Chen to speak Wednesday during the 13th Annual Northeastern U.S. Conference on disABILITY. Above are the authors with their books and one of the illustrations from Chen’s story.

The Aquinas Photo / Joe Evans
THE UNIVERSITY hosted authors Judy McFarlane and Grace Chen to speak Wednesday during the 13th Annual Northeastern U.S. Conference on disABILITY. Above are the authors with their books and one of the illustrations from Chen’s story.

JOE EVANS
Staff Writer

The 13th Annual Northeastern U.S. Conference on disABILITY at The University finished on a heartfelt note as Judy McFarlane
and Grace Chen spoke Wednesday.

The final speakers of the day at the disABILITY Conference were two authors, each with her own individual tale to tell.

Judy McFarlane, author of “Writing With Grace: A Journey Beyond Down Syndrome,” spoke about her aspirations as a child.
When she was young, McFarlane said she remembers her mother being an avid reader and aspiring writer.

“I remember being afraid to fail, because I not only had my own expectations, but I felt I carried my mother’s hopes and dreams as well,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane said she was contacted in 2005 by a friend who asked if she would help a young woman with Down Syndrome who had aspirations of writing.

McFarlane said that at first, she had her doubts. McFarlane considered writing complex and hard. She said she wondered how someone with Down Syndrome could ever write effectively.

“Now that I think about it, it was appallingly ignorant of me,” McFarlane said.

Despite McFarlane’s hesitation, she agreed to meet with Chen.

Chen, author of Cinderella Grace, told McFarlane that she wanted to write her own version of Cinderella, with herself as the main character.

Chen had her own story imagined, with events like a honeymoon with her Prince husband aboard the Titanic in mind. McFarlane helped Chen with grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Chen had her book published when she finished it, and she even had it shown at the World Down Syndrome Congress in 2006. Chen is currently working on her second book and has written poetry as well.

Chen said she writes because she wants people to understand how she feels. She wants to write so she can change people’s attitude about people with Down Syndrome.

Joe Brennan, a senior at The University who attended the conference, said he felt the presentation was very thought-provoking.

“Grace wrote as her way of reaching out. It was a way of helping people understand her,” Brennan said.
The whole tone of the conference was summed up well by the Dean of Panuska College of Professional Studies at The University, Debra Pelligrino.

“When the world can see ability instead of disability, the world with be a better place,” Pelligrino said.

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