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What do you do?

by Lauren Eggert-Crowe

I’m never quite sure how to answer the question, “What do you do?” There are a few answers, depending on who’s asking. I’m an executive assistant at a Jewish anti-hunger nonprofit. This is where I spend the majority of my time and what takes up most of my brainspace. I’m also a writer, but I don’t write as often as I’d like to. My work in the literary community is often heavy on the social aspect. I support my friends at literary events. I organize readings and Women Who Submit submission parties. I forge connections and put in the effort to build community.

I started this job at the very beginning of the second Obama administration. Over the years I’ve sometimes found it difficult to marry the two halves of my life. I spend my weeks assisting the operations of a non-profit, and spend my evenings and weekends trafficking in book talk, fielding 10-25 reading invites a week. I listen to author talks, I donate money to the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, I read my friends’ books and I promote their successes on social media.

Two things happened to me this year that re-aligned my perspective on both my paid career and my unpaid career. The first was personal. The second was global.

A long relationship ended in February, and propelled me into deeper work in the Los Angeles literary community. Part of the reason was because I had more free time. But I also realized that I had been sacrificing community engagement for the relationship, and I wanted to correct that. I began serving on the Women Who Submit leadership team, helping make decisions about fundraising, events, and the direction of the organization. I also started hosting my own literary events; including a Summer Solstice reading in my own backyard, featuring five women writers I admired; and a literary tribute to Prince, co-produced with WWS leader Ramona Gonzales, which raised money for #BlackLivesMatter and Kid City and featured amazing writers and musicians. Nine months later, I can say 2016 was the year that my connection the L.A. literary community really gelled.

Intellectually, I know that all issues are connected. But it can be hard to feel that connection on the ground level sometimes.

Then the 2016 Presidential Election happened. Swirling in with the feelings of anger, hopelessness, and fear, were the big, difficult questions: What do we do now? How do we keep organizing? How can we continue working for justice on the macro and micro scale? How can I effect community change when I am just one person?

It can be difficult to resist the feeling that the only way to accomplish anything is to run around like chickens with our heads cut off, flailing randomly at every problem, trying to do everything at once. But the history of social movements tells us that change is made when each individual person does what they can and taps into the large collective power of community organizing to work for justice and equality. That’s why during the week of November 8th I felt so proud and fortunate to be a part of Women Who Submit and to work for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

Giving my time and energy to these two organizations is one concrete action I can take to work for the changes I wish to see in the world. And I’m not working alone, but alongside people using their collective power to build community, change policy, sway public attitudes, and create a circle of empowerment.

At Women Who Submit, I support our efforts to empower women and gender-nonconforming writers to submit their writing, thereby beginning to tip the gender balance in publishing. I speak out about bias, privilege and oppression in the publishing world and try to amplify the voices who have been marginalized in mainstream literature and culture. I follow the strong leadership of women of color, I read our blog to educate myself on the struggles and joys of LGBTQ writers, working class writers, and writers with disabilities. And I believe that the kind of community WWS seeks to create is a light in the darkness.

I believe in the work we are doing. In September, I hosted the L.A. meetup for our Annual Submission Blitz. Over 20 women showed up at my neighborhood bar. We took over the place! There were so many of us the bartender gave us his personal hotspot password in addition to the bar’s wifi. Many of the women were new to WWS, but before long, everyone was socializing, sharing submission tips, and cheering each other on. It was heartening and inspiring to witness. And this was just one of the many moments I’ve shared with the great people in this organization. Now more than ever, it is crucial to center the art made by women, by people of color, by queer and trans writers, by writers with disabilities.

At MAZON, I support my organization’s advocacy efforts to end hunger. MAZON is doing such important work in educating the public about the reality of hunger and advocating for local, state, and federal policies that support the most vulnerable in the U.S. We work to protect and strengthen federal nutrition programs, including SNAP. We create strategic initiatives to advocate for some of the specific communities hardest hit by food-insecurity: veterans, seniors, rural, and Native American communities. We just launched an amazing traveling exhibit called This is Hunger, which will travel around the country for 10 months, to “illuminate the profound prevalence of hunger in America, encourage us to raise our voices on behalf of the 42.2 million Americans who struggle with hunger every day, and ignite our community’s commitment to end hunger once and for all.” Now more than ever, it is crucial to advocate for the people who will be affected the most if government policies around hunger and poverty change.

Art advocacy and hunger advocacy can seem so divergent. One can almost seem trivial compared to the other. But they are linked. Millions of creative voices are stifled by the constant struggle of food-insecurity. 13 million children who would otherwise be learning and creating every day, whose brains should be fired up with electric sparks of inspiration, spend their school days with growling stomachs and unfocused minds. 1 in 8 Americans struggles with hunger, and this can affect all aspects of their lives. At MAZON, we advocate for public policies that address hunger and its causes. I envision a world where no one goes hungry, and everyone has the potential to use their voices to contribute to the world. And at Women Who Submit, we work to make sure those voices are heard.

So what do I do? I work at MAZON, and I’m a writer.


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Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of four poetry chapbooks. She is the Reviews Editor of Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments and serves on the leadership team for Women Who Submit.

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A WWS PUBLICATION ROUND UP FOR NOVEMBER

2016 has been a great year to find Women Who Submit members in publications all over the world and November was no different. Congratulations to all who were published this month!

From “As a Teen, I Saw Myself in Rory. Now I Strive to Be Like Lorelai,” by Alana Saltz at the Washington Post:

Like Rory, I was an introverted teenager who aspired to share my experiences through writing. Now I strive to be like Lorelai and like my own mother — self-sufficient, independent and resilient.

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Behind The Editor’s Desk: Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is the Editor-in-Chief of The Offing, an online literary magazine that began as a channel of Los Angeles Review of Books. As described on the site, “The Offing is an online literary magazine publishing creative writing in all genres and art in all media. The Offing publishes work that challenges, experiments, provokes — work that pushes literary and artistic forms and conventions. The Offing is a place for new and emerging writers to test their voices, and for established writers to test their limits.”

I spoke with Dr. Prescod-Weinstein about being an editor, and the future of The Offing.

As an editor, what do you look for in submitted work? What separates good submissions from really stand-out ones?

I am always looking for works that give me the feeling that I will be thinking about them for a long time to come. I should caveat this by saying that the department editors make almost all of the publication decisions, although occasionally I will be asked what I think about a potential piece. I want us to publish work that is unfamiliar but captivating. I want it to keep crossing my mind hours, weeks and months later. For example, Scarlett Ji Yeon Kim’s from the Koreana Cycle is a bilingual series that experiments with form in both English and Korean.  Months after we published it, I’m still returning to it because it speaks to me as a third culture kid. I’ve also been drawn repeatedly to Khadijah Queen’s I HAVE QUESTIONS, which is a deeply personal and provocative think piece in verse about constructing a world without anti-Black police violence. Continue reading

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Highlight on WWS-San Francisco: An Interview with Chapter Co-Lead, Dominica Phetteplace

Women Who Submit: Where does the San Francisco chapter meet?

Dominica Phetteplace: Our chapter meets every other month at Borderlands Café in the Mission District of San Francisco, which is adjacent to Borderlands Bookstore, one of my favorite independent bookstores in the world. Borderlands Bookstore specializes in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery fiction. They also have a great magazine section with lots of cool literary journals for sale. I draw a lot of inspiration from this place. The café has been very supportive of our mission. They set aside tables just for us! Look for us in the back, we’re the group of hardworking women with laptops. Continue reading

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A WWS PUBLICATION ROUND UP FOR OCTOBER

The slight autumnal chill in the air hasn’t stopped Women Who Submit from sending their work into the world. Congratulations to all who were published in October.

From “Grabbing Pussy, Flipping the Script” by Tammy Delatorre at The Manifest-Station:

You said you grabbed women by their pussies. At first, I wanted to understand the mechanics of it. It implies a woman has a handle down there, something around which you can get your fingers; as if the pussy were the first body part to reach for, rather than a woman’s hand to shake out of respect, or her arms to embrace in friendship.

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Promotion and Creativity

A few months ago I gave a TED talk. Although I am used to public speaking and performance, speaking from a memorized script that was supposed to sound extemporized in a packed ballroom under hot lights brought performance to a new level of intensity. This experience was exhilarating, and adrenaline-twitchy nerve-wracking in a way that an independent studio dance concert or an academic keynote is not. Despite the surge of nerves that made my knees shake and my mouth feel taut, despite the fast-slow pace that accompanies production of any kind and makes it feel like the performance will never happen and then like it passed too quickly, I felt satisfied and in control up on that small stage. I was prepared, ready to be up in front of this audience, even if it had taken a ridiculous number of redrafts to whittle the content of a book down to eight minutes of talking.

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Claps and Cheers: When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears

by Jesse Bliss

Mentorship is an integral part of developing as an artist. We can be mentored officially, through mentorship programs or by merely engaging and asking a respected professional for guidance. And there are unofficial mentors who come into our lives when we most need the encouragement of someone who’s embarked on a journey we’ve just begun. They are powerful presences who impact the course of our lives and we cherish them for as long as we can.

Writer, educator, and mentor Jesse Bliss recently lost her mentor Linda Lowry. This Claps and Cheers is Bliss’s homage to her late mentor. – Ramona Pilar, Ed.

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Actor and Mentor Linda Lowry

It was a typically windy, cold to-the-bone yet electric San Francisco night. I was a 20 year-old walking up Market Street around the corner from the Tenderloin District where I lived next door to a Thai restaurant. Next to that was a known location for sex solicitation. I often cruised toward the train gripping the handle of a knife. The danger in that hood was not gangs, but unpredictable drug-induced violence. I had just left Sacramento and all that was trying to keep me from my dreams, and had shown up in the Golden Gate city with nothing more than a bag and a friend, ready to discover my soul as a professional artist.

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