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Claps and Cheers: The Power of No

by Ramona Pilar, Editor Claps & Cheers

This past January, writer and cultural critic Roxane Gay made the decision to pull her upcoming book How to be Heard from publishing with TED Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

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Noted author and “bad feminist,” Roxane Gay

The reason: not wanting to be published by the same publisher that would give Milo Yiannopolous, noted far-right writer and cultural instigator, a platform.

From a statement she gave to BuzzFeed News:

“I was supposed to turn the book in this month and I kept thinking about how egregious it is to give someone like Milo a platform for his blunt, inelegant hate and provocation. I just couldn’t bring myself to turn the book in. My editor emailed me last week and I kept staring at that email in my inbox and finally over the weekend I asked my agent to pull the book… I can’t in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo.”

The Washington Post, Slate, LA Times, and CNN among many others, covered this story when it happened at the end of January. The reportage was focused on stating the basic facts about what happened gleaned from the statement she gave to BuzzFeed News, a statement Simon & Schuster gave to its concerned authors, and a statement sent to booksellers and the public.

Gay acknowledged that she was in a particular point of her career where she can elect to decline an opportunity for publishing.

I appreciate this in a way that I might not were I not also working to develop a writing career. Getting to own being a writer takes dedication and fiercely combating doubt and what’s considered to be “practical.” Convincing yourself, convincing the people in your immediate circle, then convincing the rest of the world that you’re “at that level” is the work in addition to the creation and processing of the writing itself. To say “no” to an opportunity to get that work out into the world seems counterproductive to all the student debt (if you have it), revenue lost by not being fully committed to a “regular” job, or any of the other challenges involved in claiming a career in writing.

It reminded me of a similar incident, on a somewhat smaller stage, during the summer of 2015 in Los Angeles. Writer and Women Who Submit Co-founder Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo opted out of publishing her first book with Red Hen Press after Managing Editor of Red Hen Press Kate Gale, wrote a blog for the Huffington Post making light of calls for diversity at AWP Conferences.

“Associated Writing Programs is a membership organization which connects writers, MFA programs and publishers, but many of those members treat it like it’s the government out to oppress us, the man, the ogre in the closet. When we get upset, we hurl insults or questions via the web. Social media and emails allow us to behave like we’re driving on a freeway. From our cars, we remain invisible. We can drive like crazy people, and we have the option of yelling threats from the safety of our offices at the organization that includes us. I have news for you people, there is no us and them. AWP is us.”

(More links about the Gale post and the responses here)

I didn’t have a lot to say about Kate Gale’s piece at the time, and I don’t have much more to say about it now, as I’m in the “safe space” of a non-professional writer, able to observe without consequences. It’s rhetoric I’ve been hearing since adolescent Woman-of-Color-hood, essentially, “sit down, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re crazy.”

However, what I see in these two instances is something that’s particularly intriguing to me as a newly-middle-aged-woman of color. There is simplicity in saying “no.” Just “no. I don’t want to work with you.” Not, “You’re wrong,” or “You’re going down,” or “I WILL END YOU.” Just “no. I don’t want to.”

When it comes to work and career, so many times people are put in a situation to choose between career and principal. It’s almost as though principal has no place in a professional setting. When starting out in a career, there can be a tone, as Bermejo mentions in her response to Gale’s post, and pulling her book from Red Hen Press, of just taking what’s offered and be happy with it.

Bermejo has since found a home for her manuscript with Sundress Publications, which published Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge late last year.

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Gay, as of this posting, has not found another publisher for her manuscript.

It’s been about three weeks since this all went down and it’s still on my mind. It was covered by major news outlets, but I’ve not seen any recent follow-up coverage. I spent some time looking for coverage from writers, other publishers, editors and agents points of view to see what they think of this whole incident. Are writers inspired by this act of saying yes to the self over industry and career? Are agents re-thinking how they approach taking books to market? Are publishers re-thinking what “marketable” means these days? What of the “of color” publishing industry?

The claps and cheers go to all of those moving beyond passionate impulses and considering and weighing objectives, and finding principal based in pragmatism.

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How to Do AWP

Please excuse this repost from March 23, 2016 as we are traveling to DC at this moment, but we felt this article can still be helpful to those nervous about how to do AWP “right.” Be sure to visit WWS at booth 975 for “I submitted!” buttons and a chance to win a free WWS tote filled with goodies. And you can find all three WWS cofounders–Ashaki M. Jackson, Alyss Dixson and Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo–at the Submission as Action panel 9am Thursday, along with Kundiman’s Cathy Linh Che and moderator, Desiree Zamorano. 

For more panels and events with WWS members check out our WWS at AWP17 guide.

By Lauren Eggert-Crowe

I had no idea how to explain where I was going. “It’s this conference in Baltimore,” I told my professors when I explained why I’d be missing class. “It’s for writers, or something.” All I knew was that it was called AWP and that my creative writing professor would be presenting a panel on imaginative teaching methods. She suggested I check it out, and that’s how I ended up driving six hours from Western Pennsylvania to Baltimore one grey Wednesday evening in February, 2003. Continue reading

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WWS at AWP17

Are you feeling anxious just yet about this year’s AWP conference? Not to worry because we have a guide to all events where you can find the happy, shining faces of Women Who Submit and friends. And while you are combing the bookfair, be sure to find us at booth 975 with Roar Feminist Magazine and Dandelion Review to pick up an “I submitted!” button and to add your name to the WWS daily giveaway. It will include one WWS tote with books, chapbooks, and zines from our members including copies of Posada: Offerings of Wintess and Refuge (Sundress Publications 2016) by Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Gent/Re Place Ing (Write Large Press 2016) by Jessica Ceballos Campbell, Surveillance (Write Large Press 2016) by Ashaki M. Jackson, Cake Time (Red Hen Press 2017) by Siel Ju, Excavation (Future Tense Books 2014) by Wendy C. Ortiz, Wrestling Alligators (Martin Brown Publishers 2016) by Diane Sherlock, Traci Traci Love Fest, a collection of poems from L.A. poets writing in support of poet, performer and community activist Traci Kato Kiriyama as she battles breast cancer and more!

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Plus, don’t forget to reread this piece by Lauren Eggert-Crowe for reminders on how to stay happy and healthy over the next week, and we recommend checking out Entropy’s guide if you are looking for avenues of resistance and action. Continue reading

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A WWS PUBLICATION ROUND UP FOR JANUARY

Happy 2017! The new year is off to an amazing start as we celebrate the following WWS members who had work published in January.

From Pamela K. Johnson‘s “We’re Out: Black Americans Leaving the Country Before Trump Takes Office” at NBC News:

As this administration draws to a close, Audrey Edwards is packing as fast as the Obamas.

By January 20, Inauguration Day, she’ll be nearly 6,000 miles away from Brooklyn not watching the festivities in Paris.

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Behind the Editor’s Desk: Tisha Reichle

by Lauren Eggert-Crowe

On my first visit to a Women Who Submit submission party in 2015, I ended up sitting across from Tisha Reichle, who was deliberating on a hiring announcement from BorderSenses. They were looking for a Fiction Editor. Even with her busy schedule, she decided to take a shot. It was a perfect example of the WWS spirit. She has now been Fiction Editor for a year.

From their website: “BorderSenses is a non-profit organization located in El Paso, dedicated to promoting the literary arts through various community projects and an annual print journal publication. Our mission is to provide a voice to visual artists and writers of this region and beyond and to promote cross-border exchange in the arts. We provide a venue of artistic growth that helps improve the quality of life for our communities.” Continue reading

Photo by Caden Crawford

Claps and Cheers: The Power of Niche-tivism

by Ramona Pilar
Header Photo by Caden Crawford

Too often the reader repeats the question to the writer in the form of a command: You have shown me the problem, now show me the solution. But the writer can not save us — only show us we need saving. The writer is not a savior, but a blessing. The solution must come from community rising, writing is communion —shared sustenance. – Dominique Matti on Medium

There are people who find the power and energy to found and organize marches, coalitions, and movements. There are those who, on the daily-weekly-monthly-yearly, take up the mantle to carry those actions forward. Actions with specific intent, fueled by a passion to effect change, to correct imbalances, to adjust societal subluxations in order address the pains that have affected how we, as a symbiotic organism, function.

These folks are the shining beacons of a seemingly disconnected group of people with similar values who have been feeling the need to be “a part of something,” who want to “make change” but don’t know how to start. Who don’t know how to rally. Who don’t know how to find faith in themselves to harness that league of extraordinary doers to heed the call to action and revolt. Who don’t know how to conjure up the elements that lead to a moment – or series of moments – that would definitely make the biopic or before-battle speech.

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A Tax Primer for Writers

by Michelle Joy Lander

“Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today.” -Herman Wouk

Writers and artists are notoriously right brained. While this allows for creativity, flights of imagination and pure magic, it can be a hindrance when it comes to more practical matters. Such as income taxes.

It wasn’t until I attended a workshop on finances and taxes offered by the Writers Guild of America, West that I learned the scope of deductions available to writers. The average tax preparer is not well versed in these and there are misconceptions as to what constitutes a “business” versus a “hobby.” If your objective is to make your living as a writer, you are a professional writer. Even if you also work slinging hash, teaching or performing brain surgery.

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