Skip to content

Telling the stories of people with disabilities

    How We Did It: Q & A with the editors of Breaking Barriers

    This is part of a series of interviews with award recipients in the 2015 Best of the Christian Press contest sponsored by the Associated Church Press. The “How We Did It” series offers an inside look at what goes into the creation of award-winning publications.

    Here Terry DeYoung and Mark Stephenson, co-editors of Breaking Barriers, winner of an Award of Excellence in the Best in Class/Print: Newsletter division, talk about what goes into producing their publication. Breaking Barriers tells the stories of people in the church who live with disabilities and their families. Its goal is to inspire the church to include all members in its life and ministry. The quarterly newsletter is published by the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America.

    The judge in the Associated Church Press Best of the Christian Press Awards contest said of Breaking Barriers: “This newsletter does a wonderful job of sharing meaningful and touching stories . . . .” How do you find the stories that you publish in your newsletter?

    Almost all of what appears in Breaking Barriers is indirectly solicited. We alert readers about the theme of an upcoming issue (never more than two issues in advance). If the theme isn’t one that has generated many submissions as the deadline approaches (or if it’s one we assume will not generate many), we will send requests for stories through our network of volunteers and encourage them to talk with people they know in their church or region.

    What makes a story meaningful? What do you look for in selecting a story for publication?

    Our format requires that stories be brief (400 words). The best stories give readers insight into an experience of the person with a disability and do not try to summarize their whole life. The experience angle could be about the individual with the disability, or the response of the church to the individual or their disability, or how people or structures have adapted to accommodate one’s disability.

    How do you come up with themes for the newsletter? What themes seem to have resonated most with your readers recently?

    There are a few themes that periodically we return to or offer a twist on (mental illness, for example), but mostly we try not to repeat themes. Sometimes that means choosing a theme that’s hard to describe or not appealing to write about (chronic pain, for example, or disability and abuse), but usually there’s appreciation from readers for tackling it. Some recent themes that particularly resonated: parents of children with disabilities, acquired disabilities, and seizures.

    How do you do the layout/design for the newsletter? Any advice about producing professional-looking newsletters on a limited budget?

    Our current template doesn’t allow for much variation or creativity, and because our newsletter is all about disability and helping churches learn to accommodate people with disabilities, we try to model an accessible format, especially for people with visual impairments. We don’t pay for articles, and after printing and postage our biggest expense is ACP membership!