April 8, 2016
Dear Intrepid Readers,
Well, here we are, recuperating from #AWP16. Yes, even you, who didn’t make it out to this year’s conference in Los Angeles. Whether it was funds, or family, time or conscientious objections (disability politics, Vanessa Place, “We Are AWP”, etc.) to the conference itself that kept you away—I feel it’s safe to say that the week after AWP, everyone is feeling the “brain smoosh,” whether or not they physically attended.
Perfect time to start a #NaPoWriMo 30/30 project, right? Totally. We’ve been considering the idea of starting a 30/30 poetry project for the Zoetic community to collaboratively create work towards (which might culminate in an anthology.) Since “Right After AWP” is probably not a great time to launch these projects (we’re seriously feeling the crunch!), we’d love for you to weigh in in our Facebook group to let us know if a Zoetic 30/30 project is something you’d participate in, and if so, what month you’d like to see a 30/30 project.
Last week, we were in the thick of #AWP16 shenanigans, so this week’s editor’s letter is really going to be more to an unpacking for us: not just of the books we brought home with us, but about the ideas that came along with them.
This year, AWP felt quieter. I bought less, and if my Facebook feed is an accurate indicator, a lot of other people bought less, too—maybe it’s because the location this year was more expensive and less hospitable to the “buy tons of books then drop them in my accessible hotel room nearby” contingent, or maybe this year there were just a lot of folks missing from AWP—hard to say. Our booth was pretty centrally located and we got a lot of traffic and our chapbooks and books sold well, but I have to say that compared to last year, it just felt more subdued. Yes, part of that was me—fighting off a lingering sinus infection, reconciling myself to getting older and less inclined to party all night, even with writers—but it truly felt like that was also the feeling floating around the whole convention.
I want to cap this letter off with Claudia Rankine’s keynote speech, which demonstrated this rule of physics:
The stated topic of the speech was, “what keeps us uncomfortable in each other’s presence”—and the speech began with Rankine addressing the issue of disability access and visibility (or lack thereof) at AWP, stating unconditionally that erasure—no matter to which marginalized group it is happening—is still erasure, and in erasure, everyone with privilege is complicit. It’s not the first time Claudia Rankine has put AWP on blast—and yet, five years later…not much has changed appreciably. Just this week, gatekeepers The Kenyon Review and The New Yorker published work that was presented as “satire” or which appropriated a cultural experience—almost as though the response to the keynote speech was “Cool story, bro.” (The KR pieces were pulled—not because they were problematic, but because they were reported as having been previously published. The fact that KR considers “previous publication” as the bigger problem is itself telling.) At AWP, many panels gave lip service to diversity and inclusion—but still, here we are, getting into Facebook comments wars endless looping discussions without seeing much real progress. Why are we finding it so difficult to be accountable, and yet we all want to jump up with our hands up when someone asks if we’re allies? Because being accountable sucks, for one. It’s really difficult—as a writer, as a human who loves other humans, but ESPECIALLY as an editor—to realize you messed up. And that your carelessness hurt someone, or made their path harder. Being an ally sounds much more glamorous than being accountable. Being accountable means you have to take stock and say, “Okay, I did X and Y well, but Z…. wow, I messed up on Z.” Here’s the thing about accountability, though—getting better is a work-in-progress. It’s not instant. As editors, it’s our jobs to not give white patriarchy a pass when we publish. To take responsibility when we make mistakes—because we will make mistakes. Remember, it took a lot of time and effort to teach us this power structure, and un-learning internalized oppression takes time. Consistent effort at un-learning and re-learning. And lots and lots and lots of mistakes.
We’re still re-vamping our Pinterest page and adding new boards to reflect some of the changes in the press. It’s still a fun, relaxing, low-pressure way for you to engage with Zoetic Press, so pop over and enjoy some of the writing prompts, writer memes, and dream libraries that we’ve pinned for you. On Facebook, we’d love for you to connect with us at our Zoetic Press page. For a more personal connection, engage with your favorite NonBinary Review authors (and editors) in the Zoetic Press Facebook group. If connecting in 140 characters is your scene, Tweet us @ZoeticPress . Every Tuesday, we’ll continue bringing you a new Alphanumeric which will remain always remain free for everyone to enjoy. We’ve also started cross posting to Tumblr, so if that’s how you prefer to read, you’ll definitely be excited to subscribe and see what’s new every week. As ever, we encourage you to connect with our editors and staff to give us feedback about the transition, suggestions for Patreon perks you’d like to see, or just to let us know how we’re doing, because editors need love and reassurance sometimes, too. Our YouTube channel will be getting a face-lift and will be updated to include book trailers, Patreon exclusives, as well as our storytellers entertaining you by reading their work to you in their own voice. Our blog Rhizomatic Ideas will also be changing to adapt to the new Zoetic Press model, so we’re always open for book reviews, blog pitches, and guest voices—we would love to hear your ideas, so send us a pitch! And remember, even though we’re transitioning, we’re still committed to bringing you NonBinary Review and more Zoetic Press releases, and our submissions remain open, even as we switch gears.
Until next week,