Welcome to installment number 6 of Editor’s Corner. This week Kate Partridge talks to us about running a multi-genre, feminist literary journal. Partridge is Editor-in-Chief of So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art, and she is also a published poet, finishing her MFA at George Mason. You can read Partridge’s work in Issue 8 of Weave Magazine and in Issue 20 of damselfly press: a Gathering of Women’s Voices as well as in several other journals.
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On her review, role and publishing philosophies:
So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art has been a space for feminist writing for more than twenty years. We publish fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art in two print issues and one online issue per year, plus reviews and commentary on our blog.
First and foremost, we want to dedicate a space for feminist writing, and to find writing that complicates and expands our conceptions of feminism. So to Speak was founded by a group of women MFA candidates at George Mason in the early 90’s, who describe the first meetings of the journal as sitting around on someone’s living room floor with a glass of wine in one hand, talking about what it would mean to put together a journal by women. I think that creating a space for writing by and about women is a type of activism, and the way the journal operates today is in many ways a product of its initial editorial collective: we don’t adhere to a particular definition of feminism as a staff, but view our work as an opportunity to bring all of our diverse experiences and definitions to the table. More than anything, I value being a part of this tradition of women writers who are committed to sharing feminist writing and supporting each other as feminist writers and teachers.
On the current publishing climate:
In one of our issues from the early 90’s, there’s a little list of feminist publishing resources on the web that includes five or six sites; it’s one of my favorite pieces of So to Speak memorabilia because it comes from a time when the journal’s editors were still experimenting a great deal with what types of content to publish, and because the list itself is very adorable (it refers to the World Wide Web). Now, not only are there more journals publishing feminist and socially conscious writing, but we have easier access to each other and the capability to post content online. StS, for example, has started publishing an online issue during the summer for the past two years, and I think this has been an amazing opportunity for us to reach people who might not normally think of themselves as interested in feminist writing. It’s consistently a hurdle for us that people don’t want to define themselves in that way, but now we have this avenue for making some of the writing available to them for free; I think that there’s no better way to make the case that feminism is still relevant and exciting than to share the incredible writing and art we receive. We’ve had an incredible response to those online issues, as well as the interviews and posts on our blog, because some of the conversations about feminism that we used to have in our office or over our bookfair table at AWP are now happening on the blog, where people can respond to them directly. For instance, we recently had an interview with the poet and translator Moira Egan about her writing and ideas about feminism.
I’m also very conscious of the fact that StS often publishes work that would be harder to place elsewhere because of its themes or content. We’re very lucky to also have the opportunity to read lots of submissions from emerging and established writers with a common interest, but interpreted in many different ways. I think that sometimes people assume that we only publish work that is angry, confessional, or erotic because those are things they associate with feminist writing; to be fair, we do publish work with those qualities because, well, women do have things to be angry about, and they should be able to write about sexuality and their own experiences. But our contributors help define what we mean by “issues of importance to women’s lives,” and sometimes the issues of importance to their lives become evident in stories about mountain-climbing or revised folk tales. One of my favorite recent essays was about beards! But the essay was really about how we express gender through hair, and it was a hilarious way to rethink my ideas about the subject. I really enjoy finding a piece of writing that expresses feminist ideas in a way that had never occurred to me.
Of course, issues of gender, class, sexuality and race play a role in our publication. Our mission statement actually reads, “We look for work that addresses issues of significance to women’s lives and movements for women’s equality and are especially interested in pieces that explore issues of race, class, and sexuality in relation to gender.”
We want good writing that has relevance to women’s lives, written by anyone—women, men, people who identify themselves in myriad other ways. We try to represent a range of those ideas and experiences in each issue. So, absolutely, it is important to us that So to Speak is a place for anyone who wants to talk about feminism, and we want to draw in as many different voices as possible, especially those that are underrepresented elsewhere (including within feminism).
At StS, the majority of our contributors are women, and I have great admiration for their writing and their efforts to engage with feminism. On the one hand, I think how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to share their work; on the other, I think how much could be gained if voices like theirs did, in fact, make up a more significant proportion of the writers in publications with a broader focus. Ideally, I’d like to have it both ways: spaces for women’s writing would exist, but because that is inherently valuable, not because their work is less valued in other arenas. For now, though, we’re hoping to do our small part to swing the scales back toward our favor.
On VIDA’s Count:
I’m so glad that VIDA has organized this effort to monitor the industry. It’s incredibly important work, and when I first saw The Count, I realized that I was both shocked and not shocked at all—VIDA really quantified what was easy to dismiss before as a kind of subjective problem, but is so obviously a pattern when you see the numbers and charts. As a publisher, it reminds me that So to Speak is doing important work by making sure that a space is available that prioritizes women’s voices, but don’t we all wish that space was bigger?
On A+ Lit People:
I admire the work of other great feminist publications like Calyx and ROAR (and many others), as well as journals like Witness that promote a broad social awareness. At George Mason, where StS is housed, we have not only a sister journal, Phoebe, but an inclusive feminist chapbook press, Gazing Grain, founded by alums of the MFA program, and I think they are discovering some really interesting emerging poets.
Kate Partridge lives in Annandale, VA, where she is a student in the MFA program in poetry at George Mason University and teaches composition. She is the editor-in-chief of So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art. Her poems have appeared in BLOOM, Barely South Review, MAYDAY, Weave Magazine, and OVS Magazine, among others.