Welcome to Spotlight On!, VIDA’s new feature celebrating literary publications that publish exemplary work and include a diverse representation of writers. As part of the larger conversation committed to diversity in literature, we are excited to bring you journals and magazines with a lively mix of perspectives so you can celebrate them too.
Spotlight Ninth Letter!
Included in VIDA’s first Larger Literary Landscape (L3) count, Ninth Letter published an exciting number of female-identified writers in 2013. While many pies in the L3 count revealed a trend toward gender parity, or what Amy King in Lie by Omission: The Rallying Few, The Rallying Masses called “a healthier, more robust abundance of voices,” Ninth Letter actually published more women than men. Through email correspondence with editor, Jodee Stanley, she said she wasn’t quite sure how their numbers would turn out as their staff keeps a rather informal tally of gender diversity throughout their acceptance process. With a poignant “It’s getting pretty male up in here, people,” Stanley will announce if she begins to notice a dominance of male writers filling the next issues Table of Contents. She said this calling out, “often just means we’ve gotten into a kind of rut in the way we are reading and thinking about submissions.”
On the practice of selecting work for publication, Stanley mused on the constant conscious effort editors must give to ensure they are actively engaging the texts and pushing the limits of their own understanding. She said, “If you find a submission that’s good and you accept it, it’s easy to start comparing everything else you read to that piece, and I think subconsciously you try to recreate the experience of reading it. This can cause an editor to overlook writing that’s working in a different framework or coming from a different experience, so it’s not just women writers who might be overlooked in that scenario, but also writers of diverse races and cultures. I feel like every so often we just need a reminder to wake up, to open our eyes to the variety of great things that are coming across our threshold.”
Case in point, “The River” by Hannah Brooks-Motl, “Momma Grows a Diamond” by Kirsty Logan and “A Field Guide to Female Anatomy” by Anne Valente were published in issue 10.1 as narratives exploring the female experience through distinct perspectives in what Stanley described as a “brilliant coincidence in that we didn’t orchestrate it but they played off each other beautifully.”
Edited and designed through collaborative effort from the Graduate Creative Writing Program and School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Ninth Letter is a semi-annual publication accepting fiction, poetry, and essay submissions from September 1 to February 28. Ninth Letter’s website is also a hotbed resource for artists, featuring digital issues of students’ creative work from all over the country, podcasts, featured writer highlights, and blog posts on craft. For more information on – and to support a publication with an eye toward inclusivity – visit Ninth Letter at www.ninthletter.com.
Sheila McMullin runs the feminist and artist resource website, Moon Spit Poetry, where her publications can also be found. She is Contributing Editor of poetry and the blog for ROAR Magazine. Her chapbook, Like Water, was a finalist for the Ahsahta Press and New Delta Review chapbook competitions, as well as a semifinalist in the Black Lawrence Press chapbook competition. She works as an after-school creative writing and college prep instructor, as well as volunteers at her local animal rescue. She holds her M.F.A. from George Mason University.