From Category: Writing for Social Change
This 2020 article by Brent Moeshlin on the website of Quality Comics, a comic-book store and collectors' resource site in Alabama, gives a useful overview of "firsts" in superhero representation beyond white straight men. (Did you know Batwoman was a Jewish lesbian?) The storylines mentioned in this piece are a good place to start expanding your imagination as a comics creator.
Survivor Stories is a project of It's On Us, a national movement to end sexual assault, and the group End Rape on Campus. This free online forum offers a supportive space to post personal stories of sexual abuse and trauma recovery. Stories are searchable by theme, gender, and orientation. The site includes grounding activities to help with the emotional impact of reading the stories.
In 1619, the first ship of African slaves arrived at a port in the British colony of Virginia. This series of feature articles from the New York Times Magazine surveys the far-reaching legacy of black people's enslavement. These pieces aim to show how America's unique economic and political dominance was built on the wealth extracted from slaves and the racism that underpins our social structures. The full text has been made available for free on the website of the Pulitzer Center.
Founded in 2017, The Bare Life Review is a literary biannual devoted entirely to work by immigrant and refugee authors. Though the impulse behind its creation was political—to support a population currently under attack—the journal's focus remains wholly artistic, publishing work on a wide variety of themes. Submissions are accepted August 15-November 30. Contributors must be foreign-born writers living in the US, or writers living abroad who hold refugee or asylum-seeker status. Translations are accepted. This is a paying market.
Award-winning writers and filmmakers Ricky and Lia Friesem are compiling authentic dramatic anecdotes (1,500-3,000 words) from immigrants who chose to live in America. They hope to turn some of these stories into short films that will be shown in the movies and broadcast on TV. "We are looking for those special moments, encounters, surprises, experiences, disappointments, which vividly convey what it's like to be an immigrant in America. The good, the bad, the sad, the miraculous, the joyful—every anecdote is welcome as long as it's authentic and well told." See submission guidelines on website.
The Fear of Monkeys is a literary e-zine for political and socially conscious writing. Editors say, "Its purpose is to provide an empty vessel into which we might pour the otherwise marginalized voices of those concerned with political and social responsibility." Previously published work accepted.
Kenny Fries is a poet, memoir writer, and editor of the anthology Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. In this essay on Medium, he proposes guidelines for adequate and respectful disability representation in literature, similar to the well-known Bechdel Test for women characters. "Does a work have more than one disabled character? Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character? Is the character's disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?" Novelist Nicola Griffiths is compiling a list on her website based on readers' suggestions. As she notes in a 2018 New York Times editorial, since a quarter of the US population has some sort of disability, we should be able to name over a million non-ableist narratives—but instead, there are fewer than a hundred qualifying books on her list.
Founded by Jennifer Ruth Jackson, The Handy, Uncapped Pen is a blog and online community for neurodivergent and disabled writers. The site includes interviews, resources, mentorship opportunities, and articles on current issues in the literary community. They pay $3 for guest posts.
A project of the University of Massachusetts-Boston, the Joiner Center promotes research, curriculum development, public events, and educational, cultural, and humanitarian exchanges which foster greater understanding and innovative means of addressing the consequences of war. Their annual writers' workshop is taught by Iraq and Vietnam veterans and others whose works address issues of social justice, cultural, political, and community concern.
Founded by Corina Chaudhry, The Latino Author is a networking site that brings Hispanic/Latino authors and readers together. They welcome indie and self-published authors. The site includes annual best books lists, author profiles and interviews, and craft essays.
Founded in 2016 by Brian Alessandro and Lupe Rodarte, The New Engagement is a print and online monthly literary journal with a mission to promote diversity and risk-taking. They have a special interest in work by LGBTQI, people of color, and indigenous writers. They publish poetry, prose, and artwork, and offer a flash fiction award and the James Baldwin Literature Prize. Read an interview with the editors in Lambda Literary.
In this 2015 essay from Solstice Lit Mag, poet Jennifer Jean shares the ethical principles that guided her when writing persona poems in the voices of sex-trafficking survivors. What is the boundary between empathy and appropriation? Consent from subjects, an intent to heal and inspire, and feedback from the community are key considerations.
Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, & Max King Cap, eds. An essential anthology of poetics and politics in the 21st century, this essay collection from Fence Books grew out of Rankine's "Open Letter" blog that solicited personal meditations on race and the creative imagination. Contributors include poets Francisco Aragón, Dan Beachy-Quick, Jericho Brown, Dawn Lundy Martin, Danielle Pafunda, Evie Shockley, Ronaldo V. Wilson, and many more, plus contemporary artwork selected by Max King Cap. The writers span a variety of ethnic backgrounds, points of view, and aesthetics, united by honest self-examination and political insightfulness.
The Rainbow Letters was started by adult children of gay and lesbian parents as an online forum to share their stories and make connections to others with similar backgrounds. Their mission has now expanded to publish letters written by anyone from the LGBTQ community around the topic of family. This project is intended to help as many people as possible express themselves and feel seen, heard and valued by their peers and society at large.
This chart from education blog Janine's Music Room will be useful for writers who want to create accurate, well-rounded characters from a culture other than their own, as well as teachers with a diverse classroom population. Beyond surface differences like folklore, clothing, and holidays, consider cultural distinctives such as body language, manners, concepts of justice, family roles, notions of modesty, and sense of humor.
In this article on the feminist sexuality website Jezebel, six successful romance writers discuss the importance of building consent into your scenes of seduction and intimacy, and how to write it in a way that feels natural and appealing. This piece is a must-read for fiction authors in all genres.
In July 2016, queer black poet Luther X. Hughes transformed his blog into an online literary journal, with this mission statement: "the Shade Journal is an online poetry journal focused on the empowerment of queer people of color (QPOC); publishing poems that inspires, devastates, and howls–work that challenges form and upsets the canon, but understands its rigorous and traditional roots. the Shade Journal believes there is something divine about being a queer person of color in a world designed to destroy these bodies." Follow on Twitter @ShadePoetry.
By Tiffany Jewell. This social justice handbook for middle-grade and young adult readers offers tools for understanding your identity and social position, unlearning myths of American history, affirming yourself in a prejudiced world, and using your privileges to disrupt racism. Upbeat, energetic illustrations by Aurelia Durand create a mood of hope and momentum for dealing with tough truths. Jewell's background in Montessori education is reflected in her trusting and empowering young people to make mature moral choices.
Lethe Press is a well-regarded small press with an interest in queer literature. Their imprint Tincture is dedicated to publishing LGBT authors of color. Books in their catalog include the anthologies From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction and Walking the Tightrope: Poetry and Prose by LGBTQ Writers from Africa, as well as individual titles by Nathan Goh, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Timothy Wang, and others.
Based in Utah, Torrey House Press is a nonprofit publisher of literary fiction and nonfiction, with a mission to encourage conservation by telling compelling stories about wilderness and nature. Titles include Scott Graham's mystery series set in America's National Parks and an anthology fundraiser to protect Native American sacred lands.
In this 2018 essay for The Paris Review, literary scholar RL Goldberg recommends contemporary books by transgender and gender-nonconforming writers. Highlighted authors include Eli Clare, Leslie Feinberg, Andrea Lawlor, and Vivek Shraya.
Queer fantasy writer Ana Mardoll, author of the Earthside series, discusses how to acknowledge the existence and needs of transgender people when creating a fictional world that includes widespread access to body-modification techniques. This piece was published on xer Patreon page (a platform to support content creators with recurring donations); a complete book of essays on the topic is also available for download on a pay-as-you-wish basis..
Launched in 2015 on the New York Times website, this evolving collection of personal essays by a diverse group of transgender youth and adults is inspiring and informative.
Travesties is an online literary journal for LGBTQ authors, publishing poetry and art that is "queer in all senses of the word". Texts are paired with spooky pink illustrations for a magical and macabre vibe. Editors say, "We want pieces that are bizarre and bountiful, that have striking imagery and delicious sound." Unpublished work preferred but not required. Send 1-5 poems or up to 10 pieces of artwork.
Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low, publishes diverse middle-grade and young adult novels. Their motto is "Where fantasy and real life collide". Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and genre-bending works are welcomed. Editors say, "Tu Books was created for a specific reason. The present and the future belong to everyone and to limit this reality is a fantasy. Adventure, excitement, and who gets the girl (or boy) are not limited to one race or species. The role of hero is up for grabs, and we mean to take our shot."
Twisted Road Publications is an independent literary press founded in 2013 by Joan Leggitt. They publish up to four books a year, with a special interest in work by or about marginalized groups (e.g. people of color, LGBTQ people). The press accepts un-agented manuscripts. Authors in their catalog include Pat Spears, Nance Van Winkel, and Glenda Bailey-Mershon. "We seek to publish gifted writers whose works are under-represented by corporate marketing. We are partial to the writer who possesses a gift for compassionate, sharp-eyed truth-telling, rendering fully formed characters and stories that get under our skin. Ones that push hard to discover the kind of truth that exposes the reality of our deepest humanity."
Best-selling essayist and novelist Roxane Gay, author of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, curated this pop-up online journal in April 2018, featuring 24 contemporary writers' reflections on embodiment and how it is policed by society. Contributors include Kaveh Akbar, S. Bear Bergman, Kiese Laymon, and Carmen Maria Machado.
Founded in 2005 by partners James Jenkins and Ryan Cagle, Valancourt Books is an independent small press dedicated to the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction. They specialize in gay titles, Gothic and horror novels, and literary fiction.
Launched in 2015, Vetch is an online literary journal of poetry by transgender authors. Essays and book reviews should take the poetry of trans authors as their subject. It was founded by the poet Liam O'Brien and is edited by writers from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Editors say: "Vetch seeks work by trans poets in trans language. This is not to say that trans people have a single way of speaking to one another, nor that trans language is by necessity revolutionary, but that we seek work that does not bother to translate itself for a cis reader. Vetch seeks work attentive to the ways in which power shapes language, poetry, and relations among trans people. Vetch seeks work excited by imagining a trans poetics, rather than dogmatic about establishing one." See website for email submission guidelines.
Award-winning poets Cate Marvin and Erin Belieu founded this online community in August 2009 to address the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding women's work as well as the critical reception of women's creative writing in our current culture. Formerly known as WILLA: Women in Letters and Literary Arts.
Vitality is an online literary journal for poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork with LGBTQ protagonists. Submissions accepted year-round. This is a paying market. They are especially interested in genre fiction with an adventure storyline (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, mystery, thriller, steampunk, comedy, travel, historical fiction) and characters who are nonbinary in their gender identity and sexual attraction. No homophobic slurs or bullying, even by villains; explicit sex; or "tragic queers" (LGBTQ characters dying). Read the full list of the editors' likes and dislikes here.
The We Are You Project is the first comprehensive 21st Century coast-to-coast exhibition depicting current Latino socio-cultural, political, and economic conditions, reflecting triumphs, achievements, risks and vulnerabilities, affecting all Latinos "within," as well as "outside" the USA. It is also the first 21st Century art movement that cohesively combines Visual Art, Poetry, Music, Performance Art, and Film making, amalgamating these diverse art-forms into one ("united") socio-cultural artistic Latino voice, which utilizes ART to confront current challenges and opportunities that are faced by contemporary Latinos and Latinas throughout the USA and Latin America. Featured poets include Raphael Montañez Ortíz, Colette Inez, George Nelson Preston, and Gloria Mindock.
Launched in 2016, Wilgefortis Press publishes the Good News Children's Book Series, a line of religious picture books that feature and affirm children and families who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and genderqueer. The press is sponsored by Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco. Debut titles by Megan Rohrer, pastor at Grace Lutheran and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church, include Faithful Families (co-authored with Pamela Ryan and Ihnatovich Maryia), which teaches that God loves all types of families, and What to Wear to Church, celebrating diverse gender expressions. Read a profile of the press at Jesus in Love Blog.
Worker Writers, an institute founded and directed by poet Mark Nowak, organizes and facilitates poetry workshops with global trade unions, workers' centers, and other progressive labor organizations. These workshops create a space for participants to re-imagine their working lives, nurture new literary voices directly from the global working class, and produce new tactics and imagine new futures for working class social change. Worker Writers has partnered with the PEN World Voices Festival, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City, the Chicago Center for Working Class Studies, and the Workers Justice Center of New York, among others.
The Iowa Review, a prestigious literary journal, has compiled a list of writing resources for military veterans. These include articles on how to run a veterans' writing workshop; journals and contests specializing in military-affiliated writers and themes; and links to workshops around the US.
Founded in 2007, Yellow Medicine Review is a twice-yearly print journal devoted to Indigenous literature, art, and thought. It is named for a river in Minnesota where people of the Dakota tribe would gather healing plants. See website for special themes for each submission period.