I’m a writer. Writing is not what I do, it’s not a career path or choice, it’s not a hobby. It’s a calling; it’s an integral part of who I am. It is a crazy desperate need and the moment I stop meeting that need… well I won’t be here anymore. But I’m also a writer that despite being enthusiastically encouraged, so much so it felt like being pushy and demanding (but really I needed the push) I only started submitting my writing to places a few months ago. So I haven’t been published – yet.
This year I’ve committed to keep submitting things and I am determined to get published before the year is out. When going over my portfolio (essays and short stories that have been deemed ready to submit) I came across a story I really want to find a home for. And that is the beginning of my problem. I think I know a magazine where this story would fit. I don’t just mean it’s a good story and it’s a magazine that publishes good stories – I mean it would fit into this magazine’s aesthetic. Even more it even fits into similar themes/region but stands apart and from what I’ve read in this publication, so this story would offer something new. I really want to submit this story to this press. But something is holding me back.
Six months ago there was a firestorm surrounding a national writer’s conference known as AWP. Most of it swirled around transparency, discrimination and refusing to acknowledge/accommodate people with disabilities, which is kind of the law. When they announced their panels for the 2016 conference they did not select even a single disability panel. Not one. There was all kinds of back and forth, and I also participated. My own experience at AWP was pretty terrible, even if I tried to focus on the positive, which was about seeing people I cared about (and nothing to do with the conference). As things continued to escalate I wrote an open letter to AWP about my own experience, including violations to a federal protection act. I wasn’t trying to cash in on a trending controversy, it was something I was already working on. I didn’t want to shame them (mostly); I wanted them to change things. To do what they should have done from the beginning. I wanted them to hear me – really hear me – and to act accordingly. I was one voice in a chorus all singing the same song. Things needed to change and the status quo was not okay.
Right before this controversy piqued but when it was certainly getting fired up, Kate Gale, an editor and literary figurehead of the West Coast wrote a terrible piece in response to people’s reactions about there not being a single disability panel. (She was on the panel selection committee.) She wrote a horrible post laden with offensive stereotypes, terms and statements. She ridiculed anyone who asked that AWP be more transparent and the outcry over disability panels. But because she could not come right out and say, “Damn all you in wheelchairs,” she tried to be witty. And oh how she failed. She talked about shooting Indians and being 30% gay and half-Jewish and is AWP gay enough or Jewish enough. She kept using things like “the gays” and “the Jews” before discussing being an Indian hater. Sounds awesome, right? (After Gale’s piece there was a crazy backlash and she scrubbed the internet of her post, but because people like me think ahead, feel free to read it here. The age of technology, once it’s out in the world… :P) She tried to save face and say it was all a big joke (um, but the writing wasn’t funny, and that’s aside from being offensive) and so I decided to write my own response to her ludicrous post. I thought it was pretty funny, and my point was “That’s how you do satire.”
Anyway, Kate Gale is the editor-in-chief of the publication I want to submit my story to. I’m not worried about it being accepted or rejected (she is the overall editor so it’s unlikely she would even read my piece, plus blind submissions and all) – but as much as I want to (and I really, really want to) I can’t help but feel a little icky about the whole thing. I mean I know the magazine has a full staff and Gale is only one person… but she is the person in charge. This is a great publication with a wide audience. Before this whole thing went down I would have been so proud to submit something to them, let alone get accepted. But my principles are not for sale.
So, I’m trying to look at my principles and figure out what’s up. She is in charge of the magazine, but the magazine itself has done nothing even remotely yuck, let alone despicable. And the magazine has a large staff of people that are not her. But she’s in charge of it. And it is a part of the press that she founded herself back in the nineties. I mean I know people who have walked away from book deals (as in an entire book, and as in it had already been accepted which is every writer’s dream) because of the Kate Gale fallout. And I’m whining over a single story?
I feel so lame, and so torn. Is this magazine/press off limits forever? (Because even if she steps down as editor, which I high doubt will happen in the next few decades, it is still a part of the press she founded.) Or am I making a thing out of something that doesn’t need to be a thing anymore? Am I selling out? Or am I being stupid for even thinking I might be selling out? If I knew for certain that the magazine was off limits due to my principles I would let it go. I’ve given up a lot of things/companies after they made a hateful stance of some sort. But the thing is – with this – I just don’t know.
The magazine itself is all about diversity, it’s one of the reasons I love it. So how can someone with anti-disability, anti-gay, white supremacist undertones be in charge of such a thing? My mind remains blown.