A fair while ago now, Robin and I talked about the VIDA Count. I guess pretty much everyone did. We wanted to ask a bunch of great writers who also happen to be ladies about their publishing experience and basically just open up a space to talk about gender and publishing, or call bullshit on it, or spout conspiracy theories.
This will be ongoing. This has to be ongoing.
Our first lady on the spot is the might Roxane Gay: to list all the ways in which this woman does awesome things for and about and with words is impossible. C0-editor at PANK, Essays Editor at The Rumpus and a fictioneer of sparkling lucidity.
I don’t consider my writing and publications in terms of gender but I have certainly always been mindful of who magazines are publishing in terms of gender and race because that gives me some sense of what a publication prioritizes, the culture they foster, and whether or not my work might be a good fit there.
My process is very relaxed. I write a story. I think about the fanciest place I actually read and respect where the story could possibly be accepted. I submit and I wait to be rejected. I consult Duotrope. Mostly I submit to the magazines on my bookshelves and/or online magazines with pretty websites or to editors who solicit me.
The solution to gender bias begins and ends with editors putting in the work to either solicit women writers or foster an aesthetic/culture that is more inclusive. I am tired of hearing about submission rates and every other excuse people want to make for the glaring discrepancies in some magazines’ Table of Contents. Either you give a damn about fostering an inclusive atmosphere or you don’t. Either stance is fine so long as you own it. Stop with the excuses. I am comfortable saying this because I co-edit a magazine where parity is not nor ever has been a problem including the first two issues, where my co-editor, a man, helmed the ship alone.
I don’t think it’s dangerous to attribute the disparity in submission queue rations, in part, to motherhood and domestic responsibilities. That seems more grounded in reality than anything else. I don’t have children yet but I often say I’m working hard now because I know I won’t always have the free time I do now. Someday, I will probably have a child and these will be the halcyon days when I could write and submit at will. I’m glad I had this time.
I went through about a seven year period of not submitting to literary magazines because I had met with such staggering failure (and deservedly), when I was a very young writer. During that time, I wrote for myself and read and got better as a writer and also published in a different genre and then came back to literary magazines when I was ready and hopefully a better writer and better prepared to deal with rejection and learn from it.
, we haven’t had a problem with women submitting. There was a time when the gender imbalance in the queue was significant but that never affected parity in what we publish. Women, for whatever reason, seem to read the magazine closely and have a strong sense of what we like at PANK.
This is not to say men don’t.
Roxane Gay lives and writes in the Midwest.