The people who count for VIDA count because they love literature. It would probably be an understatement to suggest they prefer reading over math. We wanted to learn more about what drives the individuals who make the annual VIDA Count possible. And because we are so grateful to these interns for so generously volunteering their time, we’ve launched a fundraising campaign to pay our Counters.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a poet currently working on a collection of short stories and a cross-genre manuscript based off of my graduate thesis from Sarah Lawrence College. I grew up in a small agricultural town nestled in the pinelands of New Jersey where I learned how to drive a manual and kept books hidden beneath my desk during class. For the past few months, I have been living in a Florida beach town just south of Cocoa working to save enough money to move to New York with my partner and two cats. I work for a family business as an assistant bookkeeper for a local cab company and as a staff writer for the online magazine, Luna Luna.
Why did you decide to become involved with the VIDA Count?
In 2012, I attended my first AWP conference where I encountered VIDA. At that time, I didn’t really have much interaction with feminism; I knew that men received higher wages, but, as one male professor insightfully pointed out, it was after all “just a quarter.” The general consensus in many of my classes seemed to be that feminism became obsolete after women won the right to vote. The VIDA count doesn’t allow for that type of creative interpretation—it provides us with real data. It’s the type of study that makes me uncomfortably aware about the gender disparity. There are still more obstacles for non-male identifying people in publishing, and, in a bigger picture kind of way, the male voice and narrative are still considered the standard. For example, any book that has a female protagonist will likely be marketed specifically to women, but a book with a male protagonist is seen as marketable to everyone. Part of my interest in VIDA comes from my own desire to be included in the literary community, and I think VIDA can be extremely helpful in making literature more inclusive for all genders.
Do you have a favorite book / poem / novel / short story?
I couldn’t choose just one book as my favorite, but I really admire Margaret Atwood for all of her contributions to literature. I love The Handmaid’s Tale, and I spent hours poring over the Oryx and Crake trilogy. I think I will always be attracted to dystopian stories for being raw and vulnerable. I like seeing characters who challenge the limits of day-to-day life, especially when that strength comes from an unexpected source. Atwood is talented in that way because she builds characters out of flaws who aren’t exactly heroic but relentlessly stubborn, which is far more engaging.
What literary journals would you suggest readers be on the lookout for?
There are a lot of beautiful literary journals these days. Right now some of my favorite journals that I follow are Lumina, Sundog Lit, and No Tokens. I have a poem forthcoming from the sixth issue of Spry, so keep an eye out for that one, too!
Rachel Lake is a poet from South Jersey who was raised in a small town just outside of the Pine Barrens. Of course, she has encountered the New Jersey Devil on many occasions, along with the occasional wandering bear. In addition to being a writer, Rachel is also a painter, photographer, and runner. She is currently working on a cross-genre monster of a manuscript that covers everything from sex to chronic illness to driving down back roads. You can keep an eye out for her writing at Luna Luna Magazine.