From Category: Writing for Social Change
Editors say, "Our focus is on communities traditionally underserved by literary programming and underrepresented in contemporary literature. We recognize that the exclusion of so many voices from literary programming limits our understanding of the world in which we live and deprives us all." They are seeking workshop proposals to bring the project to more communities in the US, with a special interest in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley areas of California.
Kaitlin Curtice is a poet and spirituality writer, and an enrolled member of the Potawatomi Citizen Band Nation. Her book Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places was published in 2017 by Paraclete Press. In this article on her blog, she recommends contemporary books of poetry, fiction, spirituality, and children's literature by indigenous authors. "If you want to break cycles of colonization and assimilation, you must take the time to learn from Indigenous experiences, through our own words." Visit her website here.
Launched in June 2019, A Story Most Queer is a weekly podcast from Mischief Media featuring narratives by queer authors, in which the main characters are also queer-identified. "There is no limit on genre or style: fiction, nonfiction—hey, even fanfic, you know we'll read us some fanfic—are welcome. Send us your fluff, your coffee shop AUs, your high school angst, your interstellar explorations and existential quandaries—we want it all! If it's queer and well-written then it's absolutely a contender. There is no rating limit." Stories should be approximately 2,000-4,000 words, to fit into a podcast of 15-30 minutes. Previously published work is eligible, as long as the piece will not published be in audio format anywhere else for six months following the release.
Located at Auburn University, APAEP offers classes in the arts and humanities to inmates in Alabama state prisons. The Project has created a travelling exhibit of "Art on the Inside" and also publish an annual anthology of their students' work.
Founded by writer Doran Larson, the American Prison Writing Archive is a free online archive of personal essays submitted by currently and formerly incarcerated people, correctional officers, and prison staffers. The project grew out of an anthology of prison writing that Larson edited, Fourth City: Essays From the Prison in America (Michigan State University Press, 2014). In a 2018 interview in Poets & Writers Magazine, he called the APWA a "virtual meeting place" to "spread the voices of unheard populations."
Education scholar and anti-racist researcher Victoria Alexander compiled this extensive list of anti-racist resources in response to the wave of police brutality against African-Americans in spring 2020. It includes links to books, documentaries, articles, activist groups, and black-owned bookstores. Whether you're an ally looking to educate yourself, an activist wanting to support protesters and black creators, or just a fan of great literature, you will find something here to enlighten and empower you.
Founded in 2011 by writers of color and international students in Columbia University's graduate writing program, Apogee is an independently published online journal of literature and art that encourages the thoughtful exploration of identity and its intersections, including but not limited to: race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability. Editors say, "The word 'apogee' denotes the point in an object’s orbit that is farthest from the center. Our approach to both art and political activism operates with the same motivation to center underrepresented artistic voices from the political margins." Apogee features poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork. Their companion journal, Perigee, publishes book reviews and author interviews.
Disability in Kidlit is a multi-author blog that reviews portrayals of disability in books for children and young adults. In this 2015 essay, speculative fiction author Elizabeth Bartmess surveys common stereotypes and limiting depictions of autistic children in fiction, and how they contribute to mistreatment in the real world. This piece is a must-read for fiction writers in all genres who are developing a neurodiverse cast of characters.
A project of the survivor advocacy group Time to Tell, Beneath the Soil: Queer Survivors' e-Zine is an online anthology of writing and art by LGBTQ survivors of sexual abuse and assault. It was edited by Beth Siegling, Maggie Donovan, and Karo Ska.
Copper Canyon Press, one of the most prestigious American poetry publishers, has compiled this list of recommended Black poets from its catalog. Authors include Pulitzer Prize winners Gregory Pardlo and Jericho Brown and activist June Jordan.
Black Poets Speak Out is a video series launched in November 2014 to protest police violence against people of color. In these videos, contemporary black poets read their own writing or that of their predecessors who have written about blackness and police brutality. Featured work includes poetry by Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton, Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Langston Hughes, and Audre Lorde. Follow them on Twitter at #BlackPoetsSpeakOut or subscribe to this Tumblr blog to be notified of new videos.
Blanket Sea is an online arts and literary journal that showcases creators with mental illness, chronic illness, and disability. The journal is free to read and submit. The editors accept prose submissions up to 2,000 words, but prefer pieces between 500-1,000 words. Creative nonfiction writers may send essays, memoirs, and book reviews in keeping with the themes of chronic physical and mental illness and disability. For fiction submissions, editors gravitate toward contemporary realistic stories about living with illness or disability. The poetry editors look for short, non-rhyming poems with either a narrative angle or a strong message. All submissions must include positive, respectful syntax (see their guide to avoiding ableism and other prejudices). Blanket Sea was the subject of an August 2018 Literary Spotlight feature in The Writer magazine.
Published by Partisan Press, Blue Collar Review is a quarterly journal of poetry and prose whose mission is "to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture that inspires us and that moves us forward as a class." Read sample poems on their website. There is an annual poetry contest with a $100 prize.
Here Wee Read is a book blog for parents and educators. This A-Z list profiles small presses and specialty imprints that promote multicultural literature for children and adults.
PEN America is an organization that defends freedom of speech for writers worldwide. This thorough report from 2023 studies the negative impact of social media outrage on writers' freedom to address controversial topics. Although the critics in question are often motivated by progressive ideals such as anti-racism, the report argues, our political discourse suffers when publishers over-react by canceling book contracts or revising books without the author's permission. In many of the examples cited, the book's problems were capable of other interpretations, or the author's public behavior was too quickly conflated with the value of the book itself.
Parents, educators, and teenagers will benefit from the New York Public Library's list of recommended YA books about gender identity, last updated in 2015. These fiction and nonfiction books can help schools create a more welcoming and diverse environment.
Launched in 2022, this limited series in the online journal Electric Literature features essays by transgender and gender-nonconforming writers of color. Readers are encouraged to donate to help pay marginalized authors. Electric Lit's Editor-in-Chief Denne Michele Norris, the first Black trans woman to helm a major magazine, says: "In a decade when the transgender community has gained unprecedented visibility in both pop culture and socio-political contexts, the publishing industry lags behind... Both/And will elevate the stories of those at the forefront of the fight for racial and transgender equality, while employing EL’s significant literary platform to uplift transgressive writing."
A project of the University of California-Davis, the Butterfly Story Collective is a podcast where immigrants share their stories about their experiences living in the United States. Featured speakers include civil rights attorney Hassan Shibly and actor Bambadjan Bamba from the film "Black Panther".
Rooted in values of equity and compassion and hosted by the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Children's Diversity and Justice Library empowers young people to celebrate diversity and seek justice in their lives and communities. Browse their online catalog for book recommendations in 12 categories: African American, Bodies & Abilities, Cultures & Traditions, Diversity, Gender, Families, Hispanic/Latino/Spanish, Justice, LGBTQ+, Refugees & Immigrants, Religion, and Women & Girls.
Climbing PoeTree is a spoken-word performance duo that uses art as a force for popular education, community organizing, and personal transformation. Poets, performance artists, print makers, video and graphic designers, muralists, and new media architects, Alixa and Naima create compelling works at the service of their vision for a more just and livable world. Climbing PoeTree's award-winning performance is composed of dual-voice spoken word poetry, hip hop, and multi-media theatre that challenges its audiences to remember their humanity, dissolves apathy with hope, exposes injustice, and helps heal our inner trauma so that we may begin to cope with the issues facing our communities. Innovative educators, Alixa and Naima have lead hundreds of workshops in institutions from Columbia University to Rikers Island Prison. They are currently developing a multimedia curriculum based of their latest production, Hurricane Season, that employs art and culture to help learners analyze systems of oppression and resistance, and build new leadership essential for fundamental social change.
Based in New Jersey, coLAB Arts facilitates collaborations between artists and local communities to address issues of justice and representation. Some of their projects include #150YearsIsEnough, an exhibit of art and writing by youth in the criminal justice system; Banished, an oral history project documenting the harms of the sex offender registry; and Trueselves, a documentary theater series that shares the stories of NJ's transgender community.
At the blog of the literary journal Ploughshares, Dean Rader offers a syllabus for becoming educated about the heritage and future of Native American poetry. The essay includes links to significant poets, presses, and anthologies. Rader writes, "Reading work by Native writers and poets is important for a number of reasons, but at the very least we should be reading Native writing because it helps tell the stories of America’s original selves."
Creature Conserve is a nonprofit founded in 2015 by zoologist Dr. Lucy Spelman to bring together scientists, artists, and creative writers to create compelling stories about protecting endangered animals and habitats. Read an article about them in the July/August 2021 issue of Poets & Writers. They offer writing scholarships, workshops, and other programs dedicated to collaboration between science and storytelling.
Jeannette Ng is a medieval studies scholar and author of the British Fantasy Award winning novel Under the Pendulum Sun. In this article for Medium, she discusses how to write responsibly outside your demographic. Some tips: stop looking for fail-safe rules, think critically about your motives and sources, and compensate the people who are teaching you about other cultures.
Launched in 2021, this daily podcast from the Deerfield Public Library in Illinois features a recording of a poem written and read by a contemporary LGBTQIA+ poet for each day of June. Authors include Donika Kelly, Spencer Reece, Cameron Awkward-Rich, and Jenny George.
Based in Toronto, Demeter Press is an independent feminist press specializing in books about mothering and motherhood. They publish peer-reviewed scholarly work, fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction by and about mothers, mothering and family issues. Demeter Press is the publishing arm of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement.
The Digital Transgender Archive is an online compendium of source materials and original documents of transgender history, including oral histories, periodicals, correspondence, and activist pamphlets and posters. Invaluable for researching your historical novel or writing characters outside your personal experience of gender and sexuality.
Disability in Kidlit is a multi-author website dedicated to discussing and improving the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature. They publish critical essays, reviews, and interviews. Their goals are to help readers, editors, and libraries find books with accurate and respectful treatment of disability, and to educate writers and editors about problematic portrayals. All contributors and editors identify as disabled.
Diverse BookFinder is a searchable collection of children's picture books with characters who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Books can be requested from DBF by inter-library loan. DBF strives to collect all books in this category that have been released by trade publishers since 2002, in order to track publishing trends and encourage conversations about improving representation. This is not a "recommended books" archive. They accept donations of eligible self-published books, as they do not have the resources to find all qualifying books on their own. Other website features include an archive of author interviews, topical groupings (e.g. books on intercultural friendships), and articles on curating and teaching from a diverse book collection.
The Diversity Style Guide is a resource to help journalists and other media professionals cover a complex, multicultural world with accuracy, authority, and sensitivity. This guide, a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University, brings together definitions and information from more than two dozen style guides, journalism organizations, and other resources.
Poet, spoken-word artist, and activist Dora McQuaid raises awareness about domestic violence, child abuse, prisoners' rights, and other social justice issues.
Founded by Karen Yin, creator of the Conscious Style Guide, the Editors of Color database is a networking tool for publishers and authors to hire language and content editors, sensitivity readers, proofreaders, and other editorial professionals from underrepresented communities and cultures. The site includes a Database of Diverse Databases that links to directories of LGBTQ, disabled, and POC journalists, cartoonists, editors, and experts in various fields.
Eggplant Tears is a webzine for creative writing and artwork by the transmasculine community, broadly understood to include trans men, butches, and other gender-variant masculine folks. See guidelines page for issue themes and deadlines. They are especially open to thoughtful and nonjudgmental explorations of how queerness intersects with sexuality, sex work, and trauma.
Embracing Our Differences is a nonprofit in Sarasota, FL that hosts an annual arts festival and offers lesson plans and educational resources "to expand consciousness and open the heart to celebrate the diversity of the human family."
Feminist Book Club is an online book club and resource site that builds community around reading new literature by women and nonbinary authors. There is a choice of membership tiers: buy the book of the month on your own and join the discussion; receive the book in the mail; or receive a monthly curated box with the book plus fun items from women-owned small businesses. The site also features book reviews and author interviews.
In this essay from the blog of the literary journal Ploughshares, poet Lizz Schumer surveys foundational works of the disability poetics movement, and what they meant to her self-concept and aesthetic development. Authors cited include Vassar Miller, Kenny Fries, Jim Ferris, Karrie Higgins, and Sheila Black.
Flamingo Rampant is an independent publisher of feminist, racially diverse, LGBTQ-positive picture books for children. They publish six titles a year, which must be ordered as a box set. Other forthcoming projects include resource sheets for parents and educators.
By the Stanford Graphic Novel Project. This fictionalized account of a real-life hunger strike to protest prison conditions exposes the horrors of solitary confinement and the inspiring struggles of families to stay connected to their incarcerated loved ones. The e-book is free to download for your computer or tablet.
Pushcart-nominated poet Saeed Jones, author of the chapbook 'When the Only Light is Fire' (Sibling Rivalry Press), blogs about writing, contemporary culture, and the potentialities and limits of the "black gay poet" identity.
By Leah Horlick. This breathtaking lesbian-feminist poetry collection breaks the silence around intimate partner violence in same-sex relationships. Jewish tradition, nature spirituality, and archetypes from Tarot cards build a framework for healing. This book is valuable for its specificity about the dynamics of abusive lesbian partnerships, which may not fit our popular culture's image of domestic violence. Horlick shows how the closet and the invisibility of non-physical abuse make it difficult for these victims to name what is happening to them. The book's narrative arc is hopeful and empowering.
The nation's first academic center for Black poetry, Furious Flower was established on the James Madison University campus to serve creative writers, literary and cultural scholars, and poetry lovers everywhere. They are committed to ensuring the visibility, inclusion and critical consideration of Black poets in American letters, as well as in the whole range of educational curricula. Named after an image in a Gwendolyn Brooks poem, the academic center originated in the acclaimed 1994 Furious Flower Poetry Conference, the first major conference on African American poetry since the 1970s. See their website for educational materials, conferences, classes, and poetry prizes.
Hedgebrook's motto is "Women Authoring Change". This retreat for women writers is located on Whidbey Island near Puget Sound, 35 miles from Seattle, WA. Each year, the retreat hosts about 40 women writers from all over the world for residencies of 2-6 weeks, at no cost to the writer.
Homology Lit is a Pacific Northwest-based online literary magazine for people of color, queer folks, and people with disabilities, founded by Savannah Slone in July 2018. Contributors have included Dagmawe Berhanu, Donte Collins, Kailah Figueroa, and Danielle Rose.
Brooklyn-based Honeysuckle Press is a small literary press affiliated with Winter Tangerine Review. Their mission statement says they are "committed to expanding and redefining human truths by prioritizing the narratives of unsung communities." The press accepts queries year-round for full-length poetry collections and short story collections, and also offers a free contest for prose and poetry chapbook manuscripts.
In this article at Electric Lit, NYC Books Through Bars explains how to support prison books projects or start your own. Book donations help prisoners with rehabilitation and maintaining community ties, but mailing rules vary widely from one facility to the next, so it's always a good idea to check with established prisoner-support organizations to see what materials are needed and allowed.
This 2018 post at LitHub offers a sampling of protest literature by Palestinian writers on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the destruction of hundreds of villages and displacement of 750,000 Palestinians when the state of Israel was founded in 1948.
Ink From the Pen is a nonprofit website that accepts submissions of inmates' artwork and sells prints and T-shirts to benefit the prisoners and their families. Writers who work with prisoners may find this a useful resource to encourage their creativity.
ICORN is an association of cities and regions around the world dedicated to protecting freedom of expression by offering refuge to writers fleeing political persecution.
Iron City Magazine is a print and online journal specializing in creative writing and art by currently or formerly incarcerated people. They publish short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, one-act plays, cartoons, comics, graphic stories, and art. Prison volunteers, staff, or family members may submit work on topics related to mass incarceration. Prisoners and former prisoners can submit work on any topic. Unpublished work only. No explicit violence, nudity, or detailed discussion of drug use. Read detailed guidelines and then enter by mail or email.
From writers, to artists, to industry pros, the goal is to shine a light on the width and breadth of Black American literature, to strengthen the connection to the communities we write for, and to honor the legacy of Black American storytelling. The inaugural 2020 festival took place online because of the COVID-19 epidemic, but the organizers hope to plan in-person events in future years.