On Being Ill: Conversations on Creativity, Disability, and Identity

On Being Ill

On Being Ill is a podcast that aims to platform innovative thinkers working at the intersections of creativity and disability. Hosted by poet, academic, and author, Dr. Emilia Nielsen, you’ll hear conversations about illness, chronic pain, crip joy, and how we’re harnessing the capacity of our creative praxes to build worlds for disability.

Podcast featured image, displays the podcast name in text: On Being Ill

Our Seasons

Season 1:
Conversations with Writers on Creativity, Disability,
and Identity

In season one of On Being Ill, we ask ourselves how creative writing can help us to envision radically different futures for disabled and temporarily abled communities alike, why we can’t do it alone, and what happens when we fully embrace the generative capacity of disability and chronic illness.

Season 2:
Conversations with Interdisciplinary Visual Artists on Creativity, Disability, and Identity

In season two of On Being Ill, we talk to visual artists working towards disability justice. We ask how creative practice can turn towards radical justice, what art looks like when we center care and community, and the importance of following our interests, pleasure and the things we love.

Season 2: Conversations with Interdisciplinary Visual Artists on Creativity, Disability, and Identity

Episode 1:
Telling Stories to Change Systems

Episode featured image featuring Syrus Marcus Ware. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Syrus Marcus Ware..

Producer Emily Blyth takes the hosting chair for a conversation with Dr. Syrus Marcus Ware, a scholar, playwright, author, and artist who is helping to build a better future that centers and celebrates trans and disabled experiences.

Episode 2:
Creating at the Threshold

Episode featured image featuring Kim Edgar. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Kim Edgar.

Producer Coco Nielsen joins multidisciplinary artist Kim Edgar to talk cultivating artistic community in the North, moving towards disability justice through secure food and housing, and the role of interest and pleasure in artistic practice.

Episode 3:
Quilting a More Just Future

Episode featured image featuring Jenna Reid. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Jenna Reid.

Executive producer Emilia Nielsen returns to the hosting chair for a conversation with Dr. Jenna Reid, a textile artist who works to uplift and celebrate disabled artists both through her activism and her work as artistic director of Kickstart Disability.


Season 2: Full Episode Details

Episode 1: Telling Stories to Change Systems

Episode featured image featuring Syrus Marcus Ware. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Syrus Marcus Ware..

With Syrus Marcus Ware

See season 2, episode 1 transcript and show references (PDF).

Executive Producer: Emilia Nielsen
Producer(s): Emily Blyth and Coco Nielsen
Sound Design: @princeshima

What does storytelling have to do with systems change? How do we build care into our practice and embrace interdependence as mad, deaf, and disabled communities? And what does it look like to turn towards the things that we love? In this episode, producer Emily Blyth sits down with Dr. Syrus Marcus Ware, a scholar, playwright, author, and artist who is helping to build a better future – a future where trans and disabled people live long enough to become elders and where artists have plenty of room to play.

You can find more of Syrus’s work on Syrus’s website.

Be sure to follow Syrus on Instagram @SyrusMarcus


Episode 2: Creating at the Threshold

Episode featured image featuring Kim Edgar. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Kim Edgar.

With Kim Edgar

See season 2, episode 2 transcript and show references (PDF).

Executive Producer: Emilia Nielsen
Producer(s): Emily Blyth and Coco Nielsen
Sound Design: @princeshima

What happens when you create a micropress dedicated solely to publishing the work of Northern comic artists? What does art look like at the threshold between genders; between life and death; between material and spiritual worlds? And why is it important to watch ladybugs lay eggs? In this episode, producer Coco Nielsen sits down with Daswson-based multidisciplinary artist Kim Edgar to talk about the importance of cultivating artistic community in the North, why healthy food and secure housing is the first step towards disability justice, and how following interest and pleasure leads to an ever-evolving artistic practice.

You can find more of Kim’s work on Kim’s website.

Be sure to follow them on Instagram @DeadBirdParty


Episode 3: Quilting a More Just Future

Episode featured image featuring Jenna Reid. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Jenna Reid.

With Jenna Reid

See season 2, episode 3 transcript and show references (PDF).

Executive Producer: Emilia Nielsen
Producer(s): Emily Blyth and Coco Nielsen
Sound Design: @princeshima

What happens when you join the art of quilting with a rallying call for radical justice? How can we make artist residencies more accessible? And why does it take so long for many of us to claim the title of “artist”? In this episode, Emilia chats with Dr. Jenna Reid, a textile artist who works to uplift and celebrate disabled artists both through her activism and her work as artistic director of Kickstart Disability.

You can follow Jenna on Instagram @Fieldnotes_By_JennaReid.

And be sure to check out Kickstart Disability on Instagram @KickStartDisability


Season 1: Conversations with Writers on Creativity, Disability, and Identity

Episode 1: 
Chronic Pain as a Relational Experience

Episode featured image featuring Travis Chi Wing Lau. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Travis Chi Wing Lau.

Emilia sits down with Dr. Travis Chi Wing Lau, a scholar and poet who embraces uncertainty and doubt through his creative praxis, builds queer kinship by thinking through pain relationally, and whose work on recovering historical articulations of pain helps shed light on how we think about pain today.

Episode 2: 
“The Field Empties Out and That’s Where Things Can Grow”

Episode featured image featuring Julie Devaney. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Julie Devaney.

Emilia is joined by Julie Devaney, a chronically-ill practitioner of psychotherapy, and patient advocate who believes in the power of cultivating presence in order to make space for healing, and who turns to fiction writing, in part, to imagine what living with robust health might feel like.

Episode 3: 
 Refusing to be Disciplined by Our Discipline

Episode featured image Ela Przybylo. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Ela Przybylo.

Emilia sits down with Dr. Ela Przybylo, a polydisciplinary scholar who is exploring and expanding the ideas of eros and pain through her pursuit of feminist, queer, and sexuality studies alongside her work in asexuality studies and feminist open-access publication.


Season 1: Full Episode Details

Episode 1: Chronic Pain as a Relational Experience

Episode featured image featuring Travis Chi Wing Lau. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Travis Chi Wing Lau.

With Travis Chi Wing Lau

See season 1, episode 1 transcript and show references (PDF).

Executive Producer: Emilia Nielsen
 Producer(s): Emily Blyth and Coco Nielsen 
Sound Design:
@princeshima

Is vaccine hesitancy unique to our contemporary era? What happens when the way we talk about pain changes from the spiritual and soulful to a purely corporeal experience that can and must be medicated away? And whose pain continues to be taken seriously while the pain of others is purposefully ignored? In this episode, Emilia sits down with Dr. Travis Chi Wing Lau, a scholar and poet who embraces uncertainty and doubt through his creative praxis, builds queer kinship by thinking through pain relationally, and whose work on recovering historical articulations of pain helps shed light on how we think about pain today.

You can find more of Travis’s work on Travis’s website.

Be sure to follow Travis on twitter @Travisclau


Episode 2: “The Field Empties Out and That’s Where Things Can Grow”

Episode featured image featuring Julie Devaney. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Julie Devaney.

With Julie Devaney

See season 1, episode 2 transcript and show references (PDF).

Executive Producer: Emilia Nielsen
 Producer(s): Emily Blyth and Coco Nielsen 
Sound Design:
@princeshima

How can anyone even begin to address one of the most broken systems of our time, one that seems to be further splintering into irretrievable pieces everyday–that is, the health care system.

In this episode, Emilia sits down with Dr. Julie Devaney, a chronically-ill practitioner and patient advocate who believes in the power of cultivating presence in order to make space for healing, and who turns to fiction writing, in part, to imagine what living with robust health might feel like.

You can find more of Julie’s work on Julie’s website.


Episode 3: Refusing to be Disciplined by our Discipline

Episode featured image Ela Przybylo. Displays text: On Being Ill In Conversation with Ela Przybylo.

With Ela Przybylo

See season 1, episode 3 transcript and show references (PDF).

Executive Producer: Emilia Nielsen
 Producer(s): Emily Blyth and Coco Nielsen 
Sound Design:
@princeshima

Have you ever wondered about the connections between chronic pain and menstrual pain? Or how we might be able maintain not only a commitment to, but an erotic sense of interest in our research, writing, and other creative acts? In this episode, Emilia sits down with Dr. Ela Przybylo, a “polydisciplinamorous” scholar who is exploring and expanding ideas of eros through her pursuit of feminist, queer, and sexuality studies alongside her work in asexuality studies and feminist open-access publication.

You can find more of Ela’s work on Ela’s website.

Be sure to follow Feral Feminisms–of which Ela is a founding and managing editor–on Twitter @FeralFeminisms


Meet the On Being Ill Podcast Team

Portrait of Coco Nielsen

“On Being Ill is an earnest offering to anyone who might resonate with conversations around illness, pain, disability–and why we turn to creativity.”

Coco Nielsen, Producer

Coco Nielsen (they/them) is a queer non-binary white settler who recently moved to the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. They are a visual artist and co-producer of the podcast On Being Ill. Coco’s introduction to the world of audio production was through campus and community radio–which still holds a meaningful place in their heart. Coco finds hope in DIY or DIT (do-it-together) culture and is passionate about cultivating containers where low-barrier skillbuilding and education can flourish. Coco is grateful to anyone who makes them laugh, places that help bring them into mindful presence, and experiences that crack open the purposeful isolation of our urban environments in order to let our humanity show through.

Portrait of Dr. Emilia Nielsen with her wonderful dog Pippa.

“What a distinct joy to be in conversation with such evocative writers and creative people because of this podcast!”

Emilia Nielsen, Executive Producer

Emilia Nielsen (she/her) is the author of the award-winning book, Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives: Stories of Rage and Repair (University of Toronto Press, 2019) recipient of The American Folklore Society’s Elli Köngäs-Maranda Prize as well as two collections of poetry. Body Work (Signature Editions, 2018) was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, the League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Memorial Award and took third place in the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Her first book of poetry, Surge Narrows (Leaf Press, 2013), was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She is a professor in the Department of Social Science at York University and teaches in the Health & Society Program. Currently, she divides her time between Tkaronto and Amiskwacîwâskahikan the current and ancestral home of many Indigenous peoples and brought into treaty relationship by Treaties 13 and 6.

Portrait of Emily Blyth

“As someone living with chronic illness, working with On Being Ill brought me a sense of community that I hope will extend to our listeners.”

Emily Blyth, Producer

Emily Blyth (she/her) researches structural barriers to health and well-being at Simon Fraser University. Her SSHRC-CGS funded doctoral research examines media and state accountability in response to inequitable and lethal policing. She works with research teams across Canada, where she is grateful to live as a white settler. Growing up as a settler on the traditional lands of the Wendake-Nionwentsïo, Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga, Anishinabewaki and the Missisaguas of the Credit First Nation, territory under the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, Emily is inspired by the values of community support and safety inherent in this agreement. Living now in unceded traditional xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories, she is working to grow connections with community and current and future Elders as she works to address police violence.


Get In Touch

You can also email us directly at onbeingillpodcast@gmail.com, we’d love to hear from you.


Official banner for the Social Sciences and Research Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Project funded by a 2020-2022 SSHRC Insight Development Grant