As with many university-affiliated journals, So to Speak sees a turnover in editors each school year as MFA students join the program or graduate. Part of the So to Speak mission is to recognize that no work is produced in a void apart from experience. That what we produce is inextricably connected to who we are and the lives we live. And, just as we want to recognize this in the work we publish, we want to recognize that the editorial process of selecting and presenting work is connected to the individuals that compose the So to Speak’s staff. We don’t want the name of our journal to obscure the fact that individual bodies and minds work behind the print. With this in mind, I set off to ask our outgoing editors a few things about their time at So to Speak and the incoming editors about their goals for strengthening the journal’s ability to serve in the coming year.
Editor-in-Chief, Kristen Brida: “I think it is important to develop as much of a rapport with our readers and the intersectional feminist community, so I hope that over the next year, we can find ways to strengthen bonds with our readers online and with our local community. I want to continue collaborating with local organizations, like the Trans Women of Color Collective and Casa Ruby. I think that, if we’re going to uphold intersectional feminist tenets for our journal, we also need to enact our mission not just on the page, but within our communities as well. ”
Incoming Assistant Editor, Alexandria Petrassi: “This year, I’d love to help provide more digital options to make So to Speak even more accessible for our writers and readers.”
Incoming Assistant Fiction Editor, Anney Bolgiano: “I am so excited to learn; I am looking forward to lively discussions and learning from other’s perspectives. I hope our fiction showcases diverse voices and asks tough questions.”
Incoming Blog Editor, Sarah Batcheller: “My primary goal is to enact intersectionality without tokenization. I want contributors to continue to use artful language and narrative structure to capture the essence of the stories that marginalized voices have to tell, as well as the imperfect process of allyship. Alongside this mission, I want blog contributors to have fun; I want them to continue to freely express their minds and engage in a larger conversation that moves, mystifies, and captivates.”
On What Catches Our Eyes In Submissions
Incoming Fiction Editor, Amanda Bender: “Stories that have quirky characters and/or that have elements of absurdity tend to catch my eye the most. But what really sucks me into a story is when an author takes a particular issue, topic, etc., that has been written about dozens of times, and really makes it fresh – an author that pushes the envelope and takes risks in their form or voice or narrative style. On the flip side I get turned off as a reader when a narrative is trying too hard to hit a certain topic, theme, or point home. Let the story and its characters speak for themselves.”
Incoming Assistant Fiction Editor, Anney Bolgiano: “A piece stands out to me if it names something that is yet unnamed, or if I’m still thinking of a particular image a few days later. I am usually less drawn to a piece if it has an overbearing or heavy handed ‘moral to the story.’”
Incoming Poetry Editor, Ela Thompson: “I look for a couple things in poems when I read for So to Speak. One thing I absolutely look for is intersectional feminism in theme or theory. For me, a successful poem balances many elements, narratives, and/or thematic elements. Aesthetically, I love mixed forms and potent images. A piece that marries all these ideas has an instant place in heart.”
Outgoing Blog Editor, Holly Mason: “The blog provides a great space for non-tradition, genre-bending, hybrid work, so I really like when we get submissions that are in that realm or lend themselves to adding in other content to support the post. For example, Sandra Marchetti’s poem “Imagination” invited a conversation about influence, so we did a double feature post with poem and interview. If someone is deciding between the blog or journal, they might consider the realms of possibility the blog invites.”
Incoming Blog Editor, Sarah Batcheller: “I think in the literary community we tend to get caught up in what qualities of writing and thinking constitute as “literary,” when in fact (as many of us who teach at Mason try to communicate to our students) modes of literary thinking are evident in all fields, and in all genres of rhetoric. For this reason, I’m interested in pieces that use humor and wit, paint vivid scenes, and don’t necessarily offer neat and tidy narratives, but rather portray visceral experiences that speak to something true about modern feminism.”
Graduating Editors Look Backward and Forward, Try Not to Panic, And Offer The Wisdom of Experience
Outgoing Poetry Editor, Danielle Badra: “Ela, young padawan, go forth and prosper. Set a plan to accomplish all the required tasks of the poetry editor position, but, also, go beyond these tasks and take on issues that you find important. Are there areas of political, social, cultural importance that we are completely failing to address but needs addressing, then take that on either through writing a literary review or interview for the blog, or organizing the next fundraiser reading— find a way to bring your passions into this position of authority— use your powers for good.
I hope to work at a Fortune 100 company, make millions of dollars, travel the world on my private jet, etc. In other words, I’ll try to find employment with health care benefits, start paying back my student loans, and hopefully alongside all these necessary life tasks, I’ll be able to carry on So To Speak’s mission by working for a non-profit organization or literary magazine that is feminist leaning. Or, at the very least, I’ll continue to live my life by feminist principles and perhaps continue writing literary reviews on poetry authored by people of color.”
Outgoing Fiction Editor, Bianca Spinosa: “My favorite So to Speak memory was being a part of the May 2016 reading to benefit Casa Ruby, an organization that provides support and resources to the young LGBT community in D.C. We had a huge turnout and so many folks gave donations. It was moving to know we were making a difference and to see the results of our efforts that night. “
Outgoing Assistant Blog Editor, Madeleine Wattenberg: “Working on the blog necessitates reaching across the gap between genre, between difference, between the individual and community. I’m excited for the new blog editors to work on creating a more accessible—and perhaps less text based—blog space. My advice would be to consider not only how we benefit from the inclusion of our artists’ voices, but how we benefit them. I’ve been so grateful to the writers willing to answer my questions or let me spend time learning from their work and words, but as allies we have to recognize that gratitude isn’t enough. I am excited to continue intersectional feminist work as a reviewer for The Bind, a site dedicated to promoting the work of women and non-binary authors. Personally, I’ll be starting my PhD at University of Cincinnati in the fall. So that’s terrifying!”
Outgoing Blog Editor, Holly Mason: Dead Feminists: Heroic Heroines in Living Color by Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring is a beautiful book of inspirational feminists including gorgeous broadsides. You can view some of the broadsides here.
Incoming Assistant Editor, Alexandria Petrassi: Warsaw Shire’s Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth
Editor-In-Chief, Kristen Brida: The Self Unstable by Elisa Gabbert. It’s a very honest, philosophical and at times mundanely terrifying examination of the self as both an object, and as a nexus for reflection. I’m also in the middle of Muriel Leung’s Bone Confetti, which is great so far!
Incoming Fiction Editor, Amanda Bender: The latest So to Speak contest issue! And The Saga Series by Brian K. Vaughan
Incoming Poetry Editor, Ela Thompson: I can’t not recommend Aracelis Girmay’s latest book, The Black Maria. If you read one thing this summer, it should be this collection! I would also recommend getting your hands on Emily Corwin’s first chapbook, My Tall Handsome, published by Brain Mill Press.
Incoming Assistant Fiction Editor, Anney Bolgiano: If you, like me, are interested in what lesbians were arguing about in the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s, then Allison Bechdel’s Essential Dykes To Watch Out For is a must read. Currently re-reading.
Featured image: Succulents from Pexels