This is an edited and slightly expanded version of the essay I wrote in 2014 in response to some discussions in the field regarding editing for diversity. I was gearing up to edit An Alphabet of Embers, an anthology of very short, unclassifiable lyrical pieces. In my editorial work on the anthology, I adhered to the principles outlined below (here is the ToC announcement). An Alphabet of Embers is forthcoming this summer.
When I founded Stone Telling, I knew I wanted the market to be diverse. I talked to both poets and editors before founding the magazine and heard from quite a few that there just weren’t that many PoC poets in the field, and that very few poets write queer content. I was planning to solicit, but heard back from a few folks that I should expect to quickly run out of PoC poets from whom I could solicit.
That did not happen. What happened was that the field grew in response to a welcoming market. New poets, including queer and PoC poets, sent work to us, and had their first poems published at Stone Telling. Starting with Issue 4, Shweta Narayan joined the team—first as a guest co-editor (with J.C. Runolfson), then as a co-editor. We consistently encouraged and are continuing to encourage marginalized and diverse voices, and the community responded by sending us amazing, fresh, and thought-provoking poetry. The slush pile changed from 2010 to 2014 to better reflect our editorial direction and choices.
There is a lot more work to be done, and we are limited by our health issues, as well as limited opportunities to attend cons. We also made our share of mistakes. I am sure we could have done even better. However, I also feel that we learned a lot about how to diversify a submission pool. Here are some tips:
1. Solicit. Ask for recommendations from other editors (especially those who are different from you), and read stories by authors who don’t usually submit to your venue. See if you like something, and if you do, reach out to that author and ask them to send you work.
2. Actually buy work by authors whose demographic you’re looking to encourage. Writers make decisions about your market being welcoming to them based on whether you publish writers like them.
3. Solicit from established AND up-and-coming authors. If, for example, you buy stories from white cisgender men at all stages in their careers, but you only buy from women, trans and non-binary people, and/or PoC creators if they are famous, that is not going to appear especially welcoming, and will not necessarily balance your slush.
4. Invite a co-editor of the demographic you seek to encourage. For example, if you are an all-white, all-cisgender, all-straight male team, think of inviting someone different to collaborate with you. Then actually give that person power to make some choices.
5. One of the easiest ways to test the waters with potential co-editors is to invite them to guest edit.
6. Special or themed issues are a great way to encourage new authors to discover your market. For example, we are very proud of our Queer issue; our latest issue, Reverberations, featured all new-to-us poets.
7. Talk to people. Participate in important conversations. Actively challenge yourself to seek out new perspectives and voices. Weigh criticism carefully. Grow.
8. Also, if you could please encourage people of all underrepresented genders, not just cisgender women, to submit to your venue, that would be great. Gender diversity is more complicated than men vs. women.
Expanding on 8, I have now seen firsthand how complicated encouraging all genders can be. Some trans and/or non-binary writers feel that "women-only" calls exclude them. In response, quite a few markets expanded their calls to "women and non-binary people," which to me feels like a step in the right direction, but unfortunately, some trans and/or non-binary writers feel that the "women and non-binary" rubric still excludes them, especially so if they are male-assigned. While I have no handy solution to offer, I am eager to see further discussions and hope that the field will become even more welcoming to writers of all genders.
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to Nalo Hopkinson's essay "To Anthology Editors," which was posted in response to some of the discussions we had on Twitter.