Loyal as a Book #6

David Beckham, Paul Gascoigne, and the fates of the famous

One Month in a Nepalese Monastery

A Letter From Gandhi to Hitler

Quiz: Which famous author said this about writing?

Sunday Bloody Sunday

The 228 ways to call someone drunk in 1736

“Totally unoriginal, feebly plotted, instantly forgettable.”

Why do we need art?

Christmas in a Siberian labour camp, with Dostoevsky

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About Us

(The story of Misfit Press is inextricably linked to the story of Misfit Incorporated, which is inextricably linked to the story of AJ and Melissa Leon. These fascinating stories have been told at length on many other occasions – in newspapers, on TEDx stages, during numerous interviews and chance meetings in wine bars. If you want to explore the weird and wonderful company that is Misfit Incorporated, peruse our site. For the full backstory, check out this video interview.)

Misfit Press itself was established in 2014, with the publication of AJ Leon’s The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit. The little-known backstory to The Life & Times is that it was originally slated to be published by a major American publisher, who headhunted AJ after noticing the popularity of his blog, The Pursuit of Everything. About a third of the way through the writing of the book, AJ began to get twitchy about the compromises involved in traditional publishing: uncompromising editorial pressure, a lack of say on issues such as design and artwork. Not long later, AJ bailed on the contract, and decided to publish the book himself. The Misfit team created and ran a Kickstarter, aimed at raising $15,000 to cover publishing costs. By the time the fundraising had run its course, pledges totalled more than treble that amount. With the excess funds, AJ and Misfit decided to go one better than just publishing a book, and also founded a publishing house.

Since its founding, Misfit Press has steadily flourished. In 2015, we took under our wing Wolftree, the finest arts journal in the American Midwest; we released our 2015 Anthology, featuring the finest creative work we encountered over the preceding year; and The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit continued to find readers across the globe. In 2016 we published Destination Shakespeare, the debut poetry collection from esteemed Shakespeare academic Paul Edmondson; and we have more Shakespeare-related publications in the works for 2017, including Shakespeare On The Road, a tale of a Shakespearian adventure across the US.

Last  year was a big growth period for the Press, and there is lots more on the way for 2017. As you’ll see from our Forthcoming Publications section, over the next twelve months we will be publishing Saya Sayama: Three Years in Myanmar by incredible photojournalist Spike Johnson, a photonarrative account documenting a unique moment in Myanmar’s history: the violent shift from General Ne Win’s fifty-year dictatorship to the country’s first steps towards democracy. Also imminent is Tangentially Reading, featuring some of the most insightful, shocking, touching, and hilarious moments from the first 200 episodes of Christopher Ryan’s much-loved podcast, Tangentially Speaking.

These are exciting times at Misfit Press. To keep up to date with everything that’s going on, follow us at our blogFacebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Into the future, we will always continue to work in the fashion we do right now: with authors we like, on projects that matter, in a way that leaves writer, reader and everyone in-between satisfied. We will also never renege on our One-for-One pledge; for every publication we ever sell, a child in India will receive money towards prescription eyeglasses, via the Misfit Foundation.

The Key to Societal Change?Martyn Sibley on Sapiens and the power of storytelling

Martyn Sibley is a regular guy who happens to have a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This means he cannot walk, lift anything heavier than a book, or shower himself. Nonetheless, Martyn runs Disability Horizons, is the author of the book Everything is Possible, has a Degree in Economics & a Masters in Marketing, loves travel, and lives independently. Martyn has made a host of media appearances, including on the BBC and with the Guardian. He is a close friend of Misfit and it’s a pleasure to feature him on our blog. See Martyn’s website for more.

Upon one of those lazy and slightly procrastinating weekend days, I stumbled across a social media post from Misfit Press. It mentioned a very interesting book about the history of humankind called Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari.

I’d been looking for something new and slightly different to read. I’ve kind of maxed out the ‘tech startup’ and ‘self improvement’ reads that have pushed my career forwards in recent months. Time to change the melody I thought.

Sapiens captivated me from the very first page. Despite getting good grades at school in science, I’d never consciously pieced together how the 3 main disciplines of physics, chemistry and biology linked together in a linear way. The simplicity of how the big bang (theory) gave us energy and matter (physics), which lead to atoms and molecules (chemistry), and finally organisms (biology) was a cool realisation. I guess we lose some perspectives when we focus our learning and career in only one direction.

Swiftly I was swept along to the insight that ‘humans’ (homo) is a broad term for a whole type of species, and how we are the ‘sapiens’ subset. Tens of thousands of years ago there were other subsets like ‘homo neanderthals’ and ‘homo erectus’. So the book starts by looking at our similarities, differences, and why we are the only surviving subset of humans still alive today.

Without explaining everything in the book (I urge you to read it too), I had somewhat of a creative breakthrough from this read. In exploring what makes ‘us’ us, and how many groups of species communicate together, I felt enlightened us to why we became the more advanced of all species.

The key. Storytelling.

Back in 2009 I was lucky enough to meet AJ and Melissa Leon (founders of Misfit Inc). I was a fundraiser for a national disability charity. However I had this dream to share my personal experiences of being a disabled guy, living the high life in London. The ups. The downs. The reality.

I wanted to encourage other disabled people to live their dreams. I wanted to educate others about life for disabled people. I wanted to make the world a more inclusive place.

The Misfits kindly helped me to create my blog, set me up on social media and gave a crash course on blogging. They explained that if I told my story, built a community of likeminded people, and rallied a cause with tangible actions; it’d achieve great things.

Recently I’ve been looking back at how my blog took my message on disability issues to the mainstream media, national government, and multinational companies. All while I travelled the world with my fiance. Furthermore other projects were launched such as the lifestyle magazine Disability Horizons, campaigning website Disability United, and the accessible travel/tech start-up company Accomable.

Unfortunately while society told stories of God’s, myths, nations and laws; they didn’t include the parts where disabled people (and indeed other minority groups) were equal and totally included.

Disability rights had its political and legal causes won in the mid 1990’s. Unfortunately today many disabled people are still struggling to access basic healthcare, vital social care, necessary equipment and are advocating for their jobs/leisure/travel pursuits.

Don’t get me wrong. Things have improved. As a wheelchair user I do have care support, better assistive technology, more accessible places to visit, and far more friendly societal attitudes. It’s just constantly a battle for funding and to educate the world.

Having grown my enterprise via hard work, partnerships, volunteers and pure passion; I’ve gradually lost time and ideas for my blogs. I’m constantly managing projects, people and processes. Mostly I’d forgotten the power of creativity and storytelling.

So I’m now on a mission after reading Sapiens to write everyday. Like I did back in 2009 when I launched my blog. I’m going to use my public Facebook page, for ease. However I’ll upload a couple of the good ones each week to my blog. If things flow nicely I’ll create a book from these posts too. It’ll be a less neat, but more raw book compared to my more polished travel biography Everything is Possible.

My hope is by painting a picture of a more accessible and inclusive world (whether you’re disabled like me or not), that I can alter the glue that binds us Homo Sapiens together. Rather than resent or vilify the glue, I want to take the beautiful parts, add my ideas, and encourage others to help me perfect it.

Storytelling is both our strength and our weakness. Reading Sapiens has both explained and enthused me to the importance of positive stories. I hope as you read this, we can both tell the stories that are best for future generations.

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Martyn SibleyMartyn Sibley is a regular guy who happens to have a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This means he cannot walk, lift anything heavier than a book, or shower himself. Nonetheless, he run Disability Horizons, is the author of the book ‘Everything is Possible‘, has a Degree in Economics & a Masters in Marketing, loves travel, and lives independently. Martyn has made a host of media appearances, including on the BBC and with the Guardian. See martynsibley.com for more!

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