WWS member, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo was recently interviewed for La Bloga by Olga García Echeverría. She speaks about honoring her parents, hosting a reading series, finding time to write, and Women Who Submit. Here is an excerpt where she shares submission advice for writers of color and all writers looking to stay true to their work.
Finding a “home” for a literary piece can be challenging, especially when we are bilingual and write in mixed languages. There is always so much negotiation (between the self and the page) that happens prior to sending something out. Should I even send this there? If I do send it out and it’s not a Latino journal, how much of the Spanish do I have to take out? etc. What advice can you give women writers out there who are grappling with some of these issues and questions?
I think my advice would be to make the best piece you possibly can, and try not to worry about who will take it. I know this is hard. I’m trying to do it right now with a YA novel I’m working on. My heroine is the daughter of migrant farm workers, and I’m always thinking, Is that too much Spanish? But I think we have to fight to stay true to who we are, and fight to stay true to the piece. Each piece is different and there is never one answer.
What I hope other poets do is write their hearts out, and make something that makes them proud, something they are proud to have their names on (like my father says), and then send it out. If you do that, I think you will find the right home for your work. I have an essay up at The James Franco Review right now where large chunks of dialogue are in Spanish. I definitely worried no one would take it, but then I found out about The James Franco Review. Based off of their mission and the work they had previously published I thought, if anyone is going to take a chance on this piece it’s this place. And then they did, which was amazing! So I think being true to yourself, and looking for those places who are open to what you are doing is key.
I think that even when we do make efforts to submit, though, it can be pretty discouraging, and it can also be expensive. Although it’s exciting to see more people of color presses and journals, it’s still a very White and very male-dominated literary world. We’ve made many gains, but the racism is institutionalized.
This is true, but we have to keep pushing ourselves into these spaces. I spent a month this summer at a residency that was very white, and it wasn’t always comfortable, but as one mujer told me recently, “So what’s our option? To not go? No!” Being there made it possible to finally write a first draft of a book I’ve had in my mind for years, so no, we can’t stop doing it. But this is something I’ve been thinking about with Women Who Submit. We want to support women trying to move up into these prestigious spaces, which tend to be white and male. I’m curious about what we can do to help arm them before they go. I’m curious to figure out how we can support them from afar.
Money is also a big issue. To apply for prestigious awards and accolades is not cheap. Reading fees and application fees are no joke, and it only helps keep the writing world classist. One dream I have is to start some kind of scholarship fund just for application fees. If we could help women submit their work to places they normally wouldn’t because of fees and financial concerns, that would be huge.
Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo’s debut poetry collection, Built with Safe Spaces, will be published by Sundress Publication in Winter 2016.