Sundress Publications is glad to give space to the writing community at large to have broader discussions on important topics. Recently, we have hosted discussions on issues such as plagiarism and now we offer up space to a roundtable on accountability in publishing. E. Kristin Anderson leads the discussion among the writers Hannah Cohen, Kenning Jean-Paul Garcia, Kolleen Carney Hoepfner, Kanika Lawton, and Nathan Alan Schwartz. This is a 4-part series. While we may individually agree (or disagree) in whole or in part with any or all of the participants, the views expressed in these roundtables are not necessarily representative of Sundress Publications, Sundress Academy for the Arts, or any other part of the collective.
E. Kristin Anderson kicks off the series:
I’m writing to you on a Wednesday, and like any other Wednesday, I’ve got a Twitter tab open on my browser and I’m checking in with the writing community. Like so many Wednesdays before, there are public call-outs being tweeted and retweeted. And while today’s discussions are not the reason that we assembled this roundtable on accountability in small press publishing, call-outs like this and the discussions around them are what we hope to navigate here.
Recently a magazine—another magazine, really—received a tweet regarding a contributor in their most recent issue and this contributor’s history of bigotry and extremist writing. The editors’ response was both surprising and disappointing to those of us who had been following and supporting this magazine. It left us wondering, once again, how best to move forward as a community while holding editors and writers accountable.
Social media has delivered us into a culture of expediency. Careers can fall apart in an afternoon. Every single thing we say and do can be recorded and reported and spread faster than ever before. We all know that words have power, and that power has grown exponentially in the age of the “like.” With great power comes great responsibility—I know you know this, too.
Our community includes writers coming from so many different backgrounds and levels of experience. So how do we have discussions about ethics in the most ethical way possible? How do we know when to “cancel” someone and when to call them in and hope they can do better next time?
With all of this to consider, we hope that we can answer some of these questions. We hope that some of the ideas we have will be considered the next time you’re reading your submissions queue, the next time you’re writing an epic Twitter thread, the next time you wonder whether you should apologize or double down. Whether you should step back or speak up. And we hope that you keep asking questions and that you’ll keep having these discussions with each other because we all know that today isn’t the last Wednesday in which we’ll have to have tough conversations as a community. But we can hope that these talks can get better. That we can hold each other and ourselves accountable.
• E. Kristin Anderson (EKA): (moderator) (she/her)
• Hannah Cohen (HC): (she/her)
• Kenning Jean-Paul Garcia (KJPG): (xe/xyr)
• Kolleen Carney Hoepfner (KCH): (she/her)
• Kanika Lawton (KL): (she/her)
• Nathan Alan Schwartz (NAS): (he/him)
E. Kristin Anderson: For the purposes of this discussion, how would you define a call-out? Similarly, what is a call-in?
Kolleen Carney Hoepfner: To me, a call-in is akin to pulling someone aside and whispering in their ear that there’s a problem. A call-out is loudly announcing it to the entire room. So a call-in would be, say, a private message, and a call-out would be a public tweet.
Kanika Lawton: I agree with Kolleen’s definition, and I would extend it further to include what kind of—if any—relationship I have with the person that’s been called-in/called-out. If I see a close friend (or even an acquaintance) doing or saying something harmful, I would privately message them, explain why I (or others) find their behavior or action harmful, and allow them to tell me their side of the story so that, hopefully, this doesn’t happen again and they can learn from their mistakes. So I would call-in friends and acquaintances; but if it’s someone I don’t have a relationship with, or who has harassed my friends and others in the community, I would be more inclined to call-out. However, in my experience, calling-out can put you in a deeply uncomfortable, even unsafe environment—especially if the person being called-out has more power/clout than you, and has a lot of people who will bat for them no matter what.
Nathan Allen Schwartz: I agree with the statements by Kolleen and Kanika. Simply, a call-in is a quiet aside for a friend or acquaintance, and a call-out is a loud shout that more people can hear.
Hannah Cohen: Agree with all the above folks.
Kenning Jean-Paul Garcia: Yeah, I’m on-board with what everybody else has said.
KCH: Kanika brings up a good point about opening yourself up for harassment when calling out. I have to weigh my options every time. Do I want the bulk of Quillette’s readership in my mentions? No. But lately, I just haven’t really cared much about backlash. Maybe I’m becoming numb to it? Who knows.
EKA: When you see abusive behavior in your community, do you call it out? What makes you likely to call something out? What makes you likely to call someone in?
HC: It depends on the relationship you have with the source. Is it an established press, or a fledgling online journal? Is it a writer sharing or supporting an abuser’s works? Speaking from personal experience, alerting a larger, more established institution about an abuser or toxic person will more than likely backfire. I don’t do direct call-outs anymore due to being harassed, but I will support individuals and platforms that do the calling-out.
If someone I personally know is supporting or sharing the works of an abusive/toxic writer, I will message them or talk to them privately to ask them about it. This usually goes over well, but unfortunately, some people just double down or dismiss you outright.
KL: I agree with Hannah and follow the same framework for calling-in vs. calling-out. I will admit, however, that when I do call others out (usually other journals or editors) I do so on L’Éphémère Review’s account, mainly because I have more followers (and, therefore, more reach) on that account than on my personal. I do this to “hide” behind my journal (as problematic as that may initially sound) because I’ve been harassed on my personal account more times than I can count, and I hope that L’ÉR’s reputation will lend more “credibility” to my words.
KCH: I probably call people out in the most unprofessional way possible: I just knee-jerk tweet it. But you know what? I am exhausted by the lack of accountability, the lack of morality, and the lack of responsibility I see from other publications or institutions. I tweet something snarky and angry and what they do with that is their own business. I am not here to tell anyone who to publish or who to take off their pages, but I will sure as shit tell you when you fucked up, and I am not ever nice about it.
Recently I got into it with Rust + Moth. I liked them. I was on their mailing list! But Rust + Moth decided to go ahead and publish someone with ties to Quillette. And you know what? That is an alt-right, fascist platform disguised as a free-thinking anti-censorship smarty pants zone. It takes four seconds to look up this writer, this website, and see how bad it is. So what did I do? Well, I will admit I was a little buzzed, and I emailed them to tell them they had some bad people in their pages. Then I tweeted that they published a Nazi.
What happened next? They told me they (a group of four volunteer editors) can’t Google “the entire internet,” never once considering that they should only be Googling the people they’re publishing. I am one volunteer editor and I Google every single person Drunk Monkeys publishes. Maybe I have missed people. Maybe I will miss someone in the future. But for them to suggest to me that they can’t do their research … Jeez. They then blocked me, asked for the labor of direct links from other commenters, and published a 20+ tweet screed about how terrible I was of a person for not doing their labor of researching who they publish for them. I am the mother of a baby. I was literally breastfeeding while chatting with them. They made it seem like I just called them all Hitler and called it a night, but there was communication there. I am still livid about it—they gave a platform to a man who espouses dangerous rhetoric and aligns himself with serious community abusers, and I ended up the bad guy.
Whatever. Would I do it again? Of course.
HC: I 300% agree with Kolleen and Kanika. It’s so goddamn frustrating sometimes when we’re the only ones doing/saying something. It’s like, if I pointed out a house that’s on fire only for people to go “well that’s just how house fires are.”
KL: Exactly, and I do think a lot of the time the backlash we get (especially as queer and/or female editors) has to do with our identities; white straight men get away with so much. If I did a fraction of the things I see on my Twitter feed each day, I would have been harassed out of the community years ago.
NAS: If I’m going to be honest here I don’t always feel comfortable calling people out because it’s just not the type of personality I have, but, if I ever feel like somebody needs to be called out publicly I reach out to a friend who might do it—which is something I think people who are uncomfy calling people out should do.
Calling in is a little easier for me because a discussion can be had. I do this with guys on a regular basis because I think it’s important for men to let men know what’s up (and what’s wrong). For instance, if I see a dude being casually sexist/racist/xenophobic etc. I’ll PM him and let him know it’s not cool. Like Kolleen, Hannah and Kanika I 1000 % support those who call people out! Also, pretty much agree with everything said before me, especially about accountability.
KJPG: I have been known to do some calling in and maybe low-key call-outs via DM but it takes a lot for me to go to social media and broadcast a call out. Yet, I have been known to jump into somebody’s comments or Twitter thread and voice my thoughts. Mostly, if something’s up I start to send private messages. I guess I just want to know that I’m not alone before I go into battle. I want to know that I’m not just being “sensitive.” I will also say that I have done call-outs via Instagram stories and curated Facebook posts to almost no effect and I believe that has a lot to do with how I view things as opposed to how some non-black folks view things. I am so often the only Black or even POC person in a room/discussion that others don’t really think about how/what they’re saying. I’ll admit I often wonder why I’m even in most situations. I assume it’s cuz folks think I’m some sort of okey-doke negro.
Stay tuned for parts 2, 3, and 4 in the coming days.
THANK YOU TO THESE ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS:
E. Kristin Anderson is a poet and glitter enthusiast living mostly at a Starbucks somewhere in Austin, Texas. A Connecticut College alumna with a B.A. in classical studies, Kristin’s work has appeared in many magazines including The Texas Review, The Pinch, Barrelhouse Online, TriQuarterly, and FreezeRay Poetry. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press) and is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including Pray Pray Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night(Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky(Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII(Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is a poetry reader at Cotton Xenomorphand an editorial assistant at Sugared Water. Once upon a time, she worked the night shift at The New Yorker. Find her online at EKristinAnderson.com and on twitter at @ek_anderson.
Hannah Cohen lives in Virginia and received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She is the author of the poetry chapbook Bad Anatomy (Glass Poetry Press, 2018). She’s the co-editor of the online literary journal Cotton Xenomorph. Recent publications include Berfrois, The Rumpus, Entropy, Cosmonauts Avenue, SWWIM, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for Best of the Net 2018 and has received Pushcart Prize nominations. Her website is hannahlewiscohen.com. You can follow her on Twitter for Twin Peaks humor, adorable cat pictures, and endlessly screaming into the void at @hcohenpoet.
Kanika Lawton is a Toronto-based writer and editor. She holds a BA in Psychology with a Minor in Film Studies from the University of British Columbia and is completing her MA at the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute. She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of L’Éphémère Review, a Pink Door 2018 Fellow, and a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in Ricepaper Magazine, Vagabond City Literary Journal, Hypertrophic Literary, Longleaf Review, and Glass Poetry. She is the author of the micro-chapbooks Wildfire Heart (The Poetry Annals, 2018), Loneliness, and Other Ways to Split a Body (Ghost City Press, 2018), and Monster (Girl) Theory(post ghost press, 2019).
Kolleen Carney Hoepfner‘s poetry and other writings can be found in Rabid Oak, Memoirs Mixtape, Glass, Occulum, and elsewhere. Kolleen serves as Editor in Chief of Drunk Monkeys, and is the Managing Editor and Social Media Coordinator for Zoetic Press. She is the author of Your Hand Has Fixed the Firmament (Grey Book Press) and A Live Thing, Clinging with Many Teeth (Spooky Girlfriend Press). Her main goal in life is to have Alec Baldwin smile at her. She lives in Burbank, California, with her husband and children.
Kenning Jean-Paul García is a diarist, humorist, performer, and antipoet. Xe was raised in Brooklyn, NY but currently resides in Albany, NY where xe studied linguistics. As it would turn out, xe never really got to use xyr understanding of Sumerian and Akkadian as a cook nor while working the graveyard shift in one of the nation’s biggest box stores. #sigh Anyway, xe is the author of the no(t)vel – OF (What Place Meant) and Slow Living (West Vine Press) as well as the speculative epic ebooks – Past and Again and Playing Dead. Xe is also an editor at Rigorous.
Nathan Alan Schwartz likes to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. He is also the EIC of FIVE:2:ONE.
A 501(c)3 non-profit literary press collective founded in 2000, Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run press that publishes chapbooks and full-length collections in both print and digital formats, and hosts numerous literary journals, an online reading series, and the Best of the Net Anthology.