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.
In our first session of Accountability Roundtable, E. Kristin Anderson introduced readers to the current cultural need for more discussions on public call-outs in our media-driven society. Here are some of her words . . .
“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. . .”
• 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)
EKA: Have you ever been harassed (or threatened or stalked or otherwise harmed) as an editor or writer, and how did you deal with it, either publicly or privately? How has it affected how you write, edit, use social media, or attend literary events?
HC: To make an extremely long story short, yes. I had to close my DMs and the “contact me” section on my website for months at a time due to the barrage of trolling and threatening messages. I’m still recovering from the mental and emotional toll it took on me. Being harassed makes you second-guess your personal and creative worth, and it made me not want to engage with the online literary community. I’ve been known to completely avoid people at large literary events and not attend readings in order to avoid running into someone.
KL: I have, and I also had to close my DMs and lock my accounts on a few occasions. I haven’t attended many literary events or readings (I’m sure there are a lot in Toronto, but I’ve been busy with thesis-writing and general grad school things), but online it has affected how I use social media; outside of Facebook and publications I don’t use my full name anywhere (I usually go by only Kanika or Nika) and after my last bout of harassment with a fascist journal I don’t put “tweets by [me]” on L’ÉR’s Twitter bio anymore. When I’m being harassed I always block and report (though Twitter is useless when it comes to actually removing abusers) and I do the same when I see others being harassed, but it does take an emotional toll on you. It’s difficult to remember that you’re doing the right thing by calling-out and reporting abusers, but no good deed goes unpunished.
KCH: Every day! Not really, but it seems like it. I’ve had violent poems written about me, and I very rarely post photos of myself on Twitter because of trolls, I’ve had accounts just incessantly harass me. I refuse to post photos or talk about my baby in more than general terms on Twitter because that’s where the bulk of my harassment comes from. I had a very bad eating disorder for a long time, which I am open about, and these trolls know it and call me fat at every chance they get. I try not to let it bother me so much, and I know it comes with the territory. The violent poems bothered me a lot, though. It took me a long time to get over those.
KJPG: I definitely had some folks who seemed to only comment negatively on my posts. It got so that when I saw a notification from certain names I knew I was about to be irritated. It takes a lot for me to block folks, but I have. I will also admit that I look more closely at friend requests now and I react/respond differently. If a post is aimed at Black folks, I respond to Black folks. There are too many shallow engagements with Black art/culture for me to sit around educating folks so I rarely even start discussions for Black folks. I almost never speak about Black books or music online anymore. It’s horrible but I just can’t put myself out there in that way knowing what the backlash will be. As for literary events, I’m often upset and disappointed. Folks use AAVE around me and Black writing/music is referenced while I’m the only Black person reading or even in the building most of the times. This even occurred at AWP. And, honestly, sometimes I even don’t look forward to doing readings.
NAS: I haven’t been stalked myself but agree with everything said here.
EKA: The concept of a “blacklist” is often passed around in small press publishing, often by people who imagine that they are on this blacklist and that blacklists are a form of censorship. Do you have a “list” as an editor? How do you use it? Are these lists inherently good or bad?
HC: At CX, we have a list of writers that we will not publish either due to having received disturbing submissions from them or because they have a documented history of being a creep towards other editors and writers. We’ve communicated with other editors if we feel that a certain writer will send them the same submission because we wished we could have gotten a head’s up.
On the other hand, I totally understand where people are coming from when they say that lists and whisper-networks shut people out or keep people out of the loop. I get that. I sure as hell didn’t know about certain problematic journals or writers when I first started submitting work six years ago. But we all know what happened when the “Shitty Media Men” list went public. I’m selective about trusting people with certain names because I don’t want to be harassed again.
KL: I have a personal list of writers who have sent L’ÉR disturbing submissions or have harassed me and others in the community. I tell my editors this so they can block them too, but I don’t circulate this list outside of my own team. I don’t believe any of us need a “Shitty Lit Men” list to go public.
KCH: DO I EVER HAVE A BLACKLIST. It needs some updating but, yes, I have one. Imagine thinking a blacklist is “censorship.” Go publish at Rattle or some nonsense and leave me alone. I have a list and often I will share why I won’t publish someone to whoever asks (though I can be selective) because, ultimately, I do not care if it gets back to them. Contrary to how it may seem, I don’t like not liking people. It’s very exhausting to keep up with it all. But I don’t mind sharing the info if I have to because I’ve come to terms with knowing it’ll sometimes bite me in the butt.
KJPG: I have a list. I’ll leave it at that.
NAS: I keep a mental list of those harmful and hateful folks in our community. I also follow the list of Kolleen!
EKA: And before anyone comes asking anyone for their list, remember that it’s valuable to do your own homework. These lists come from a lot of emotional labor both of the individual and the community. And when we share this information we are often harassed and threatened. These lists aren’t public for a lot of good reasons.
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.