August 28, 2015
Dear Intrepid Readers,
Hell of a week, huh? I’m dropping the editorial “we” for this letter from the editor, in the interest of coming at you, person-to-person. While it may be a little less professional than I generally write for our Friday letters.
I don’t even have it in me to try and be funny. This picture’s about right.
When I was finishing my MFA at Antioch University of Los Angeles, I gave my graduate lecture on (surprise, surprise) literary citizenship. As you know, fully half to three-quarters of my Letters from the Editor address literary citizenship in some form. My grad lecture, however, wasn’t based strictly on the literary or even the citizenship part of literary citizenship—it was on how all our actions as writers, students, submitters, mentors, educators, publishers, editors, readers, and people in the audience come together to become what Malcolm Gladwell calls “the tipping point.” He defines it as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”
I’d say that the worlds of independent publication and AWP hit a tipping point this week. I’m not linking to the specific incidents—there were many, and they all disappoint me. The official Zoetic Press stance is that we will not assist persons who seek to marginalize, humiliate or do damage to the literary community and its members. To link to the incidents and boost web traffic to these places and people goes against those principles.
Back to that tipping point idea. One of the main principles Gladwell discusses with regard to any social movement is the power of context—human behavior is highly sensitive and subject to bending to meet the needs of its environment. Which means that if we, as a community, are approaching or at a “tipping point” in our behavior and attitudes towards the diversity of our members and how we engage with them, our community is at a point where it must decide on which side of history it wants to come down. Do we want to uphold the heterosexual, white, cis-gendered, WASP, able-bodied, academic norm that accords power, privilege and positionality to a few while shutting out the rest of us? Or do we want to create something better?
Which brings me to the broken windows theory. The idea of the broken windows theory is pretty simple and straightforward: the prevention of small crimes or transgressions (vandalism, public drinking, toll-jumping, etc.) assists in the creation of an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening. The idea was first articulated by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an article in The Atlantic Monthly.
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.
Our literary magazines and organizations like AWP are buildings with lots and lots of broken windows. We have, as a community, failed to repair the windows as they’ve broken, and as a result, “vandals” are breaking more and more windows, littering our social media feeds, magazines, and conferences with broken glass. We’ve passed the point of the buildings being broken into. If this week has been any sort of bellwether, we’re well on the road towards recreational arson.
And this is our own beloved building, remember?
This building is named Art, it is Poetry, it is Fiction, it is all the beautiful things we create simply because they’re beautiful and that make us feel happy to be engaged with the world. It’s our safe space to speak our truths, to critique the outside world, it’s the place we all come home to after we wander.
We don’t have to gentrify the neighborhood to take pride in our community. We just have to stop smashing bottles against the neighbor’s doorsteps and start cleaning up after ourselves. I’m not going to sugarcoat things: we’ve made an awfully big mess and there’s no way we’re even going to put a dent in it if we don’t start working together instead of banding into camps that go out at night smashing windows for the sheer joy of the sound of breaking glass.
Let’s break out the brooms and hammers instead of collecting rocks. Let’s repair the windows and re-paint the exterior and make this building something to be proud of again, instead of the eyesore it’s become.
In the coming week, we’ll be updating you on the projected publication of the next issue of NBR and the full-length offerings Zoetic Press is bringing you this fall, as well as new blog posts and fresh book reviews. We also launched the newest installment of Unbound Octavo this week. But before the new issue of NonBinary Review launches, make sure you’re all caught up on the five issues that we’ve brought you over the past year and a half. Download our app for iPhone or iPad and enjoy each issue of NonBinary Review, completely free. Want to keep up with what’s happening on the blog? Follow us on Facebook (Zoetic Press,Lithomobilus), and use our daily links to read new blogs, book reviews and Alphanumeric features! We’re also on Twitter (@ZoeticPress and Litho) and Pinterest, and you can even see some of our authors reading their work on ourYouTube channel. If you’re interested in hearing more from us, sign up for our monthly newsletter. We’re serious about your privacy, and promise not to flood your inbox. Want to be a guest writer for Rhizomatic Ideas, or to profile one of our contributors? Send us a pitch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a book you’d like to tell the world about, or know a writer that everyone should know? Send us your reviews and author interviews!
Until next week,