Red Hen Press Celebrates Pride Month!

Happy Pride Month! We at Red Hen Press would like to celebrate the work done by our LGBTQ+ authors and honor what makes them so integral to the literary community during this month!

As with Black History Month, and Women’s History Month, we want to particularly highlight the work done by BIPOC queer and trans people.

We will also be promoting our imprints, Quill and Arktoi, and LGBTQ+ organizations and bookstores in the Los Angeles Area. Be sure to visit our Bookshop for a list of books by our LGBTQ+ authors and the books they recommend!

Scroll down to read more!

Judy Grahn, author of TOUCHING CREATURES, TOUCHING SPIRIT, 6/30/2021

Our final author feature for this year’s Pride Month Celebration is the incredible poet and activist Judy Grahn! First, watch this video for an excerpt from The Queen of Wands which was first published in 1982! Then be sure to check out Judy’s interview, where she talks about her experiences being Grand Marshall in Pride Month parades, using her work for social change, and her favorite LGBTQ+ organizations, many of which have awards named after her!

What are your pronouns?

Mostly she/her, also answer to “sir” and occasionally use: we/us.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

 I really enjoyed the first ten or so Pride parades. Since then every day is Pride day pretty much—even though my writing takes many different turns and pathways, I always end up queering it one way or another. And of course I appreciate that there is a Pride month, and all the work everyone puts into it. I used to enjoy the Pride parades before they became so commercialized. I’ve been Grand Marshall twice, once in Seattle where a group of Gay people used themes from my book Another Mother Tongue, and more recently in San Francisco.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

The old idea that the pen is mightier than the sword. I find that deliberately using my work for social change is exciting and challenging—for a lifetime. 

What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry?

Aim your work at a community that finds it “of use” and talks about it. Blogs and readings can help people know about what you are doing. Most valuable is persistence. And, I have found self-publishing to be invaluable for those moments when industry attention is elsewhere. I have two persistent mottos to see me through. They are completely contradictory. One is “the cheese stands alone” for those industry inattention moments I just mentioned. The other is “many irons in many fires” which helps prevent the disappointment that undermines self-confidence. Note: “many irons” does not work for all authors; you may want to aim for fame and get an agent. Personally, I have not found that to be effective; “many communities” works better for me. 

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you?

Beside Red Hen: Lambda, The Publishing Triangle—which established a “Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award” in 1997; Golden Crown. I also appreciate literary organizations that have supported LGBTQ work including mine, such as Poetry Flash, and the Before Columbus American Book Awards, and the Fred Cody awards; the Saints and Sinners arm of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans; the “My Good Judy” residency for artists, poets, performers and scholars who connect to my work is offered by artistic director Gregory Gajus at Commonality Institute. Sinister Wisdom, Nightboat Books. Aunt Lute Press in SF publishes women of color, including lesbians Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldua.

Any indie bookstores we should highlight?

Charis in Atlanta, Alley Cat Books in SF, East Bay Booksellers in Oakland.

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work?

I consistently turn to Gertrude Stein when I need to come unraveled. People should know about Bruce Baghemil’s Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity; and just-published Lee Wind’s anthology for middle-schoolers No Way, They were Gay?, a collection of biographies of well-known people. 

What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend? 

Paula Stone Williams, What I Learned about Power, Sex, and Patriarchy After I Transitioned. Also, I attend Red Hen events in part to keep up with what’s happening. 

How does your sexual orientation intersect with other parts of your identity?

I have no idea how, it just does.

Raymond Luczak, author of FLANNELWOOD, 6/28/2021

We’re excited to welcome Raymond Luczak as our next featured author for Pride Month! Keep scrolling to see Raymond perform an excerpt from his book, FLANNELWOOD! Check out his interview for the three “P” skills all aspiring writers could benefit from, queer book recommendations spanning from 1930 to today, and insights into his experience as a Deaf gay man!

Watch Raymond sign an excerpt from FLANNELWOOD in ASL!

What are your pronouns?

My pronouns are he/him/his.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

It’s always nice to see a renewed focus on the LGBTQ community in the month of June, but you know, as long as I’m out and about, every month is always Pride month!

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

Over the years, a number of queer writers have inspired me one way or another, and in no particular order: Marilyn Hacker, Walt Whitman, Djuna Barnes, Quentin Crisp, Oscar Wilde, and Jeanette Winterson

What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry?

For writers starting out, there are probably no more important than these three “p” words:

Patience. Most books you write won’t be published within a year. Accept this reality, and try not to rush your work. Use this downtime to rewrite and restrengthen your book, and submit. (And while you’re waiting for a response, you must keep reading as much as you can, *and* think about what you are reading. What is it that you liked about that piece of writing, and why? This constant questioning will enable you to write and rewrite better.)

Perspective. Before you submit anything, have someone who truly knows the business of publishing—usually another writer—read it first for feedback. That person needs to be given permission to be honest enough to provide constructive suggestions. And that person needs to read your work as if they don’t know you at all, because that’s how most editors and publishers won’t know you either when you first approach them. You need someone who’s more objective than you about your own work.

Persistence. You will get rejected, and often. Do not take it personally. Just move on to the next editor. Pay close attention if an editor says something helpful about your work even if it’s rejected.

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you? Any indie bookstores we should highlight?

I’m very fond of Quatrefoil Library, my local LGBTQ library here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Even though it seems that the queer community has gone mainstream, Quatrefoil Library is the closest thing we have to a LGBTQ community center in the Twin Cities. And guess what? Membership just became free for us locals! (Of course they’ll accept donations.) As for a favorite indie bookstore, I like Boneshaker Books, which is also in Minneapolis. They are often more alternative with their titles, which I like, because it’s a constant reminder that the LGBTQ community shouldn’t always be mainstream all the time! Our strength as a community comes from our own diversity and wealth of perspectives!

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work?

Obviously, as the author of Flannelwood, I must mention Djuna Barnes’s novel Nightwood, a rather “sordid” lesbian novel first published in 1936. When I first read the book, I confess to not liking it much even though I found its language a tad trippy at times. But now? It’s a book for those who’ve lived with addicts because the whole book is about the nature of addiction itself. And the language is incredibly rich! It may seem purple at times, but Barnes is in absolute command of her pen. At times she manages to out-prose-poetry prose poetry itself! Her work still haunts me from time to time.

What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend?

As for contemporary authors, I’m eager to read Jonathan Ned Katz’s latest title The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams, a biography about a radical lesbian and her long-lost book Lesbian Love, which was published in 1925 (!!!). (Katz’s earlier book Gay American History, which was first published in 1978 and last updated in 1992, had a profound impact on me when I was coming out in 1984. Suddenly there was this history long hidden from our eyes? It was as if I’d discovered a family history filled with hushed-up secrets. Talk about juicy (and heartbreaking)! Yes, there have been many other fine LGBTQ+ history books since then, but Katz’s book did help lead the way for other queer historians to document their findings. Oh, yes, if you’d like to learn more about our first Republican president’s closeted life, look no further than C.A. Tripp’s The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. The stuff about his relationships with Joshua Speed and other men is most—ahem—illuminating, shall we say? Gary Schmidgall’s Walt Whitman: A Gay Life is even more jaw-dropping.) Even though things are much better for the LGBTQ+ community these days, it’s very important that we don’t forget our own histories. They have truly informed how society sees us, and if we don’t understand how these attitudes were shaped in the first place, we will have a much harder road in front of us in terms of our rights.

How does your sexual orientation intersect with other parts of your identity?

The fact that being LGBTQ+ isn’t such a big deal is wonderful for me as a writer (and reader) because it means that publishers can open the net wider to include not just the sexual orientation but also many other identities that overlap and influence how we see ourselves in the mirror and in the eyes of others. As a Deaf gay man, I honestly don’t see that much difference between being Deaf and being gay. Growing up deaf, I learned that Deaf people weren’t wanted and if they were there, they could count on being treated as a second- (or third-) class citizen among hearing people. Growing up gay, I learned that gay folks weren’t wanted, and if they were obvious, well, they could count on being taunted and bullied and what-have-you. You have to want—and love—yourself as you are with all your failings and strengths. It’s the only way you can be more powerful than anyone in the room.

Ching-In Chen, author of THE HEART’S TRAFFIC, 6/24/2021

We’re so excited to keep the Pride Campaign going! Next up, we’re welcoming the talented Ching-in Chen, author of THE HEART’S TRAFFIC! Watch this video to learn more about their debut novel and Red Hen’s queer imprint, Arktoi! And please read on to learn more about why they love Pride Month, their writing practices, and who inspires their work!

What are your pronouns?


What does Pride Month mean to you?

I go back to the origin of Pride — a riot and rebellion started by Black and brown trans women against police harassment. It’s also been an intentional time of gathering in community celebration and care, often in times of great constraint or trouble. It’s finding a way to connect and support.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer? What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry? 

I started writing out of a desire — to see myself and those around me reflected in the books which kept me company as a lonely and ostracized kid. Now I see my writing as part of an ongoing practice of listening to myself and those around me, of having a conversation with the world.

I want to tell aspiring queer writers that it’s okay to slow down, to take the time they need to make sure that they want to put whatever in the public eye or in the world that they want to. I’ve often been surprised by the readers who have found me and how they’ve found me.

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you? Any indie bookstores we should highlight?

As a young writer, I took a Tongues Afire writing workshop for QTBIPOC writers with R. Erica Doyle at the Audre Lorde Project and I went to the Lambda Literary Foundation’s retreat and worked with Rigoberto González on creative nonfiction. These spaces centering QTBIPOC writers were really important restorative spaces I hadn’t had before.

This is not an official organization, but I’ve been connecting with a small group of queer poets who I knew and built relationships with in Houston during the pandemic virtually with my partner Cassie Mira. It’s been an important space for organic relationship-building and conversation which I have really missed the most from my face-to-face/in-person life before. 

I love bookstores focused on poetry such as Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee or Open Books: A Poetry Emporium in Seattle. 

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work? What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend? 

I raised myself as a writer through the work of queer women of color, like Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga’s This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color and the work of Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Octavia Butler and Larissa Lai. As I became more comfortable with my gender identity, it was an important touchstone for me to become part of the trans writing community that Trace Peterson and T.C. Tolbert gathered together in Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Also, Kazim Ali’s Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities; Deborah Miranda’s Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir; Cam Awkward-Rich’s Sympathetic Little Monster and Trish Salah’s Wanting in Arabic are books I’ve returned to again and again.

How does your sexual orientation intersect with other parts of your identity?

It’s an important part of who I am because I’ve had to fight hard to accept myself in a world which seeks to discount who I am. I see my queer and genderqueer self as part of my cultural lineage – I come from a resilient people and that makes me proud!

Joe Jiménez, Author of RATTLESNAKE ALLEGORY, 6/23/2021

Next up for our Pride Month campaign, we’re featuring Joe Jiménez, the talented poet behind RATTLESNAKE ALLEGORY! Read more to learn about his thoughts on Pride, his favorite bookstore in Texas, and how he met Mary Oliver!

What are your pronouns?

he, him

What does Pride Month mean to you? 

Omg. I so love Pride. I definitely understand the need to honor those who paved the way for us. There’s so much I need to be thankful for. In addition, I also love going to the festivals and the parades and seeing the many different types of people who make up our communities. I love the extra-ness of Pride, too. The big drag queens wearing six wigs, the leather folk, the Dykes on Bikes, the circuit queens with their clak fans and water bottles. I also love the everyday ordinariness of Pride, too. I love seeing families and elders standing with young people and Pride dogs, yes, definitely, dogs in rainbow gear!! (My dogs serve Pride bandana realness often.) For me, it’s the freedom to be as extra as you want or to just be your everyday self—that’s what I love most about Pride. So I am grateful for those who sacrificed and fought and put their bodies on the lines so that we can have these freedoms now. 

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

I’m inspired by telling stories and exploring ideas for people like me. Not just like me. But like me in some way. Like maybe we are from similar places or we went through similar experiences or perhaps we have desires that speak to one another. I’m hungry for making that connection with other people, whether it comes in the form of reading a poem like Eduardo Corral’s “Want,” which totally let me have it and will remember forever, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, which I absolutely live for, or having a stirring conversation with someone in line for an overcrowded restroom while at a late-night/early morning party, I’m inspired by seeing and feeling ways that I belong, ways that we belong.

What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry?

My advice for aspiring queer writers? Do it. Tell the story. Write the poem, and write it how you need to say it. Stop worrying about being wrong. Stop worrying about not getting published. Stop worrying about not being good enough. The magic happens when we just let our bodies be our bodies, when we let ourselves be the selves we need to be. Writing that comes from these places is authentic. Call it serving realness. Call it truth. Call it magic. Whatever you call it, know that it deserves to be spoken, know that it belongs, know that there are people out there who are hungry af to hear or read what you have to say. So give yourself permission and then listen. 

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you? Any indie bookstores we should highlight? 

Bookwoman in Austin, Texas. Such a powerful space. Bookwoman has nurtured so many voices I know and love.

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work? What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend? 

Mary Oliver. Omg. Yes, totally Mary Oliver. The writer Jenny Factor introduced me to Mary Oliver when I was an MFA student at Antioch University-Los Angeles. Reading “Wild Geese” for the first time made me want to use my voice, to add my part to the great conversation, to be in the room with the ideas and tell mine. For me, it’s Oliver’s ability to make the small and the ordinary teem with possibility, with truths about the ways we live and don’t live—that’s what captivates me. I feel both at peace and stirred to write whenever I read Oliver. 

Also, Rigoberto Gonzalez, whose work absolutely blows me away. I mean, he’s so prolific and the ideas he presents about desire and memory and body and queerness and brownness fuel me to ask my own questions, which makes good literature, in my opinion. Writing that offers questions and invites us to ask our own questions: uff!! What else could I ask for in a book? He’s also great at conversation and so funny and stylish. Rigoberto also shares what he knows to invest in people, to continue growing voices. When I met him, it was like meeting Madonna. Only better. Way better.

Elizabeth Bradfield, author of INTERPRETIVE WORK, 6/22/2021

Meet Elizabeth Bradfield, one of the lesbian writers published under the imprint Arktoi! Watch this video to learn more about the founding of Arktoi, and what makes Elizabeth’s poetry unique from other poetry collections!

We had the pleasure of asking Elizabeth a few questions about her experiences as a writer, favorite LGBTQ+ organizations, and the LGBTQ+ books and authors that inspire her!

What are your pronouns?

 She/her. Sometimes captain (I’m being cheeky here, but in some ways, at some moments my gender identity is less important to me than my vocation/work identity).

What does Pride Month mean to you?  

It means a time to reach out toward younger people in less inclusive/supportive communities and try to be visible to them as someone who, as a lesbian, has found one of the infinite paths available to us. It means a time to reflect back on the elders who helped me see the way — Pat Parker, Peggy Shaw, Audre Lorde, Linda Bierds, Robin Becker, Marilyn Hacker, Adrienne Rich, Annie Sprinkle, Jeanette Winterson — both those whose work directly and daily engages queer visibility and those who move through the world in quieter channels.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer? What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry? 

Oh, all of those above inspire my work! Plus, it must be said, Eloise Klein Healy, who started Arktoi Books, who writes fierce and seeking poems, who embraces and builds community in so many ways. My writing is very much inspired by the need to show how a queer lens is beautiful, important, and interesting when looking at the non-human world as well as the human. I’d tell queer writers this: welcome! Write! Read! You have so many ancestors of so many differing voices. There are people in publishing and in the reading world who are eager for your voices — and remember to honor all of you. The ways you’re divergent from even the queer community itself as well as the ways you feel connection and communion with others.

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you? Any indie bookstores we should highlight? 

Of course Lambda Literary. I’ve never been to the festival, but I follow their publications and love learning of new books coming into the world through their reviews and interviews. Women’s Review of Books, Sinister Wisdom, Calyx — as literary journals and publications, they were beacons to me and I love their work. My local indie bookstores are in Provincetown, both queer run: East End Books and Provincetown Bookshop. They are both so WONDERFUL. So supportive of and excited by the local writers that move through our community and eager to find and feature new work.

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work? What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend? 

It’s hard to even begin listing the many, many LGBTQ+ books that have formed me and pushed my own writing thinking. To choose (to choose!) a handful, let me list these: Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson, Bestiary by Donika Kelly, everything by Carl Phillips, On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year by Lee Ann Roripaugh, Rocket Fantastic by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, everything by Brian Teare, Nightwood by Djuna Barnes. And for their subtle, sly, whisperings, Mary Oliver’s poems. I am stopping myself arbitrarily, because there are so many. I’m very excited by Anne Haven McDonnell’s new chapbook Living With Wolves and can’t wait for her first full collection. Kali Lightfoot’s debut collection, Pelted by Flowers, is one I want to really celebrate as it’s come into the world after decades of her own wild living.

How does your sexual orientation intersect with other parts of your identity?

Complicatedly. In the writing world, it’s kind of a… non-deal. But in the boat-world I also live in as a naturalist, which is still largely conservative, it’s absolutely something I’m aware and wary of. Something I observe coming into and out of focus with fellow crew-members and with the folks I’m there to teach about whales/birds/ecology. There have been moments that have felt, in that world, dangerous. And there have been surprising allies I’ve discovered through a shared love of the work we do. One aspect of my identity is as a sister and aunt — and in those ways, particularly as an auntie, I’m very glad to be a real, tangible “other” that is both normalized and notable for my nieblings.

Amber Flame, author of APOCRIFA, 6/17/2021

We’re excited to welcome Amber Flame as our next featured author for Pride Month. Amber Flame has a forthcoming poetry collection with us titled aprocrifa (to be released in 2023) and has served as our 2020 Quill Prose Judge! Check out her video for a sneak peek of apocrifa and read on to learn more about her inspirations and advice about the Quill Prose Award!

Listen to a sneak peek of apocrifa, 2023!

What are your preferred pronouns?

She/her/hers usually work, but I prefer my whole name.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

The first Pride was a riot and I keep hoping the next Pride will be too. Pride month is a reminder of what work it takes to get free and stay free. I am glad to be surrounded by elders who help me hold in memory all that has gone into my relative safety in being free to be my full self and love who I love.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer? What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry?

Afro-futuristic fiction and the exploration of liberation as theme really inspire me, as do revolutionary rest as touted by the Nap Bishop, Tricia Hersey. The inquiry into what feeds joy is also a big source of inspiration. I would tell aspiring queer writers to keep writing and keep submitting their work – it’s more about discipline and perseverance than it’s ever sexy to talk about. I would also say we need your stories, your words. Read A LOT – especially the work of your elders, find places where there has been silence and shout loudly. There used to be so few queer stories available – now there are more, and with you there can be many!

Which LGBTQ+ organizations are important to you? Any indie bookstores we should highlight?

LAMBDA is doing great work, and while not specifically LGBTQ+, my work at Hedgebrook is vastly important to me. I love that more organizations are being lead by and are serving the community without being explicitly “designated”. We’re everywhere! Always wanting to shout our Elliott Bay Book Company, Third Place Books, and Open Books, A Poem Emporium in the Seattle area.

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work? What contemporary LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend?

I would say the four books by LGBTQ+ authors that were foundational to my education as a storyteller were The Temple of My Familiar (Alice Walker), The Well of Loneliness (Radclyffe Hall), Stone Butch Blues (Leslie Feinberg), and Bastard Out Of Carolina (Dorothy Allison).

Now I am loving Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, Danez Smith, Jacqueline Woodson (huge favorite), Dr. Seema Yasmin… I could go on, I am a reader before I am anything!

How does your sexual orientation intersect with other parts of your identity?

Can I say what a relief it is to just be queer? It has the fluidity and individual interpretation I crave when I think of my identity. More and more I think of it as not my sexual orientation so much as my cultural orientation. I am a part of queer culture, the child I raise is a part of that culture, as are my close loved ones, whether or not their sexual orientation is queer. It’s more a lens I am consistently using to look at and interact with the world.

You were a Quill Award Judge in 2020. What do you look for when evaluating writing?

I read a LOT of fiction, and I enjoy wildly diverse voices, so I want to sink into the story and enjoy the reading. If I can’t lose myself a bit in the action, my analytic brain is going to switch on and I’m going to go hunting for why- is it sentence structure, an issue with dialogue? What do I keep getting caught on as a reader that’s pulling me out of the action? Tell me a good story.

*Quill Prose Award is currently accepting submissions with this year’s judge, Kazim Ali! Deadline to submit is October 30, 2021. Click the link above to learn more!

tammy lynne stoner, author of SUGAR LAND, 6/16/2021

The delightful tammy lynne stoner celebrates Pride Month with us! Scroll below to read why tammy advises against following trends. She also has great recommendations for indie bookstores in Portland!

What are your pronouns?


What does Pride Month mean to you?

As I get older it no longer means fabulous parties. Now it is a reassurance.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer? What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry?

My work is often inspired, perhaps oddly, by trivia.
For all you aspiring queer writers, do not listen to trends. Write what feels best to you and don’t be afraid to go against the current politically correct fads. They will pass like so many black patent shoes marching into the darkness.

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you? Any indie bookstores we should highlight? 

Well, of course, Gertrude literary journal! We are truly a labor of love that loves you back. Indie bookstores? Yes! Annie Bloom’s. Broadway Books. Greenbean books (kids). And, of course, Powells.

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work? What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend? 

OK, here goes… recommendations:

Chloe Schwenke, author of SELF-ISH: A TRANSGENDER AWAKENING, 6/14/2021

Chloe Schwenke is the next featured author in our Pride Month campaign! On June 18, she will be giving a Pride month speech to Chinese activists at an event organized by the US Consulate in Guangzhou. Watch the video and read the interview below to learn more about Chloe’s journey as a transgender quaker, her favorite LGBTQ+ Books, and her international activism!

What are your pronouns?

she. her

What does Pride Month mean to you?

An opportunity to celebrate our community and our many allies, demonstrate our resilience, renew our commitment for equality, and remember the many sacrifices that have gotten us this far already.

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work? What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend? 

Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl, Vivek Sherya’s I’m Afraid of Men.

How does your sexual orientation and/or gender intersect with other parts of your identity?

Much of my current work has to do with research and international development work on inclusion of marginalized, vulnerable communities in developing countries, with the LGBTQI+ community being a major focus. My identity as an out transwoman, and a former political appointee (Obama administration) at USAID (still the only transgender political appointee ever to serve in the federal foreign affairs agencies) help me in my advocacy and in building and staying connected with my networks. Most recently, I led a 9 month study of inclusive development in India, virtually in charge of a 5 person team of senior Indian researchers. LGBTQI+ people were a very important constituency of that project.

Francisco Aragón, author of AFTER RUBÉN, 6/10/2021

Next up for our Pride Month campaign, we’re featuring the wonderful Francisco Aragón! Scroll below to read about why California inspires Francisco’s love for Pride, and which queer writers inspired him to keep writing!

What are your pronouns?


What does Pride Month mean to you?

When I hear the expression Pride, I’m reminded how thankful I am to be able to say that my hometown, the city that raised me, is San Francisco, CA.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

The latest books I happen to be reading: Lies With Man by Michael Nava. On Elizabeth Bishop by Colm Tóibin. The Letters of Thom Gunn edited by Michael Nott, August Kleinzahler and Clive Wilmer.

What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry?

Become well acquainted with our specific tradition(s), the writers that got us here. Take your time when it comes to getting published. Be the best writer you can be by working on your craft, first; the rest will follow.

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you?

Lambda Literary of course. And the work done by RASPA literary journal, which serves LGBTQ+ Latinx writers.

Any indie bookstores we should highlight? 

I have a soft spot for OPEN Books: A Poem Emporium in Seattle, WA.

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work?

From the Other Side of Night by Francisco X. Alarcón

Poet in New York by Federico García Lorca

After Lorca by Jack Spicer

The Man with Night Sweats by Thom Gunn

What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend? 

Christopher Soto, Daisy Hernández, Grisel Y. Acosta, & Emanuel Xavier

How does your sexual orientation intersect with other parts of your identity?

I’m inspired by Rigoberto González, who embraces his intersectionality, and for whom his chicano and queer identities are both fully present and neither is diluted by the presence of the other. And so I try to keep this in mind in my projects, the most recent, for example, being my queer transcreations of Rubén Darío.

Jason Schneiderman, Author of HOLD ME TIGHT, 6/9/2021

We were fortunate to interview poet Jason Schneiderman and get his thoughts on Pride Month, writing and the intersections between sexuality and ethnicity.

What are your pronouns?

He/Him or Ze/Per

What does Pride Month mean to you?

I actually feel very tenderly toward Pride Month. It sounds silly, but I want to take care of Pride Month. I want to rub Pride Month’s belly. 

Who or what inspires your work as a writer? What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry?

I write to be understood. Poetry was the only place where I could truly calibrate my language to feel completely present and completely honest. Writing is a thinking process, which I often forget, but always come back to. I think that the challenge of being a queer writer is finding authentic language for your experience of sex, gender, and sexuality. The language and expectations around what it means to be queer have changed significantly in the last thirty years. Queer people kept saying “Hey, this language doesn’t fit me, I need better language for what I’m going through.” I would ask young queer writers to be grateful for the elders who made a space for queer writing, while knowing that the exact queer space you need won’t exist until you write into it. 

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you? Any indie bookstores we should highlight?

THE BGSQD!!! The Bureau of General Services Queer Division (or just “The Bureau”) is New York City’s only bookstore dedicated solely to Queer Art and Literature, and it is a dream come true. Greg and Donnie have created a welcoming and inclusive space in the heart of New York City, and when the world has truly reopened, the BGSQD will be the first stop on my let’s-touch-each-other-if-we-like-to-be-touched tour. I love the BGSQD so much that I “reverse shoplift”—if one of my books isn’t on the shelf, I’ll just slide it into the poetry section when no one is looking. 

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work? What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend? 

Derek Jarman’s At Your Own Risk is a touchstone for me. Jarman is best known as a filmmaker (I especially love his Edward II), but it’s his writing that I go back to over and over again. His writing is composed in assemblages and fragments. He keeps finding new structures for prose and it’s amazing to see what has changed and what hasn’t since his lifetime. I cannot stop thinking about Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters and Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor. I want everyone to read these two novels and then call me so we can talk about those books! Also: I’m obsessed with Jake Skeets’s Eyes Bottle Dark with Mouthful of Flowers—it’s so good.  

How does your sexual orientation intersect with other parts of your identity?

I’m a gay Jew, so I grew up with the losses of AIDS and the holocaust structuring my identity. There are so many mirrors between gay identity and Jewish identity in a US context: the way these communities bridge insider and outsider status; questions of visibility and disclosure; the way that people outside the community underestimate how deep hostilities toward us run. One of the nice things about living in New York is that I’m rarely the only gay person or the only Jewish person in the room. I’m also really interested in the way that same-sex desire and Jewish identity have meant such different things depending on the time and place.

Carlos Allende, author of COFFEE, SHOPPING, MURDER, LOVE, 6/7/2021

Meet Carlos Allende, winner of the 2019 Quill Prose Award from Red Hen Press with his novel Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love. His fantastically queer dark-comedy is scheduled for publication in Spring 2022.

We had the pleasure of asking Carlos a few questions about his experiences as a writer and his favorite LGBTQ+ organizations. His answers reflect the darkly comedic tone of his writing.

What are your pronouns?

Most people refer to me as a “he.” Occasionally friends refer to me as a “she.” One tends to use the royal we. Whatever you like is fine.

What does Pride Month mean to you? 

Well, when I think about it, I don’t have the greatest memories of Pride. I took a beard to my first Pride. And that was in Amsterdam. Who does that? Once, I attended the WeHo Pride festival wearing only an orange speedo. In all the pictures, I look grotesquely fat, and it was as if the ghost of Harvey Weinstein had whispered in the ears of every woman: spank that man! Now I’m old and happily married, and I have the fortune to live in a time and place where being gay is all right, one doesn’t need to keep bricks handy or the free condoms, so June is nice, thank you, but it’s mostly for the kids. We’ll stay home, maybe have some friends for brunch. Enjoy Pride while you’re young and single.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

Revenge and jealousy. I say to my students: when you write a story, you need to have something to say, something that you want to leave your readers with, and you need to wrap your story around that message. Look inside you: has anyone ever been mean to you, and you’ve held that grudge for years? Do those who care for you keep saying, just drop it, it isn’t helpful, just let it go, the resentment will kill you? Well, don’t drop it. Transform your bitterness and resentment into a beautiful, sad story. Give your enemies a slow and gruesome death. Make yourself look like a María Magdalena. You’ll have a lot of fun. Now, having been miserable once is incredibly inspiring, but being miserable while you type is not going to help you. Motivation relies on mood and mood on wellbeing. Make sure you’re well-fed and well-rested before you start typing.

What would you tell aspiring queer writers hoping to break into the industry?

Quit. Too many books, too few readers, and I was here first. Scram or I’ll cut ya! Now, if they insist—and I’m looking here at them lesbians, they’re always the most persistent—I’ll say the same thing I say to non-queer writers: educate yourself. Read beyond your genre. Read non-fiction. If you speak another language, read in that language. Live and explore. Some of us, like yours truly, have an innate facility with language, but writing is a learned skill. Storytellers are the result of experience. No little goddess will come and dictate words to your ears. You have to stick those words in first, and you don’t really store knowledge as words in your brain but as mental images. Thus, become an image collector. Visit new places and invite people to over speak. “So your mother never loved you? You got arrested for what? How sad! Could you elaborate a little?” Steal other people’s essence. That’s what a writer does, we craft something fun and beautiful from human misery.

Which LGBTQ+ literary organizations are important to you? Any indie bookstores we should highlight?

Lambda Literary, of course. When my book comes out, I want to win every last Lammy. Indie Bookstores? The Last Bookstore in downtown LA will always have a special place in my heart because that’s where I had my launch party for Love or the Witches of Windward Circle. I sold like nine books that night and spent almost $500 on the catering. I also like Skylight Books and Book Soup. They’re like an art museum: super cruisy.

What LGBTQ+ books have been a staple in your work? What contemporary/upcoming LGBTQ+ authors do you recommend?

A true staple? Cousin Pons, by Honoré de Balzac. Anything by Balzac has always been a staple. When I read Cousin Pons, I wasn’t sure if the couple at the center of the novel was gay. Now I know they were. Why else would they live in poverty but have a fortune in art pieces? I liked Less by Andrew Sean Greer, and I’m totally planning to read Speak no Evil by Uzondima
Iweala and Charles Jensen’s Nanopedia.

How does your sexual orientation intersect with other parts of your identity?

In an ideal world, my sexual orientation wouldn’t matter. Liking guys when you’re a guy would be like not liking chocolate, a little weird but, whatever, we’ll make you a vanilla cake instead, and in the shape of a penis. However, I was born in a world and time in which homosexuality was wrong. Growing up, I couldn’t flirt with a guy I found attractive, I couldn’t comment on how handsome an actor was, and I couldn’t date boys in my teens like my sisters did. It wasn’t safe. Feeling unsafe affects how you relate to others. Because you want to protect yourself, you learn to hide your emotions and to expect the worst from others. You become a little cynical, and you get a little bitter too. You feel angry, ashamed, and guilty, and all that messes you up. How couldn’t it? To belong is an essential human need, and I learned from a very young age that I didn’t belong, that my extraordinarily good taste and artsy tendencies counted for nothing. I became a nihilist. Others become suicidal or self-destructive. I just came to believe that life is meaningless and that we should reject all moral principles. It’s not like being gay made a horrible person; society did. I’m quite shallow, I have little professional ambition, and I never cultivated close friendships because I just assumed that people wouldn’t like me anyway. Eventually, I stopped liking people altogether. Now things have changed. It is okay to be gay, and it is not okay to exclude others for being gay. It isn’t perfect yet, but newer generations have it a lot easier. I had it easier than many did before. I am happily married, and people do not bat an eye when they learn I am gay anymore, but what do you do with all that undeserved guilt and all that shame you felt for years? What do you do with all that anger? It was like: sweetie, it’s not okay to be gay, please man up, so you think, alright, I’ll be a repressed bitch instead, but then, Yay! Glitter! Happiness! It’s okay to be gay, but by then, you’re a professional bitch, and despite your best efforts, you’ve turned forty. You still hate people, and sarcasm is your superpower. So, being gay made me a fantastic writer and kept me relatively fit, that’s what it did for me.

Red Hen Recommends: Authors Edition!

Support independent bookstores, and check out our Red Hen Recommends: Author Edition collection on by clicking the image above!

Red Hen Recommends, Author Edition: Mask. Social distance. No party.

Yu-Han Chao, author of Sex & Taipei City

Dear Readers,

I’m a Red Hen author and a hospital nurse who also does some contact tracing for public health. I won’t pretend to be an expert or try to tell you what to do with your life, but if you care about the future of the human race, please help us.

Yes, you–Dear Reader–can personally save the world.

All you have to do is stay at home as much as possible, wear a mask when you leave your home, maintain a 6 feet distance from other people if you can, and not host or attend that upcoming 4th of July block party in your neighborhood.

I would rather not see you and your loved ones in a rubber-banded stack of “4th of July party outbreak” positive case files and have to call all of you about isolation or quarantine, and worry when someone cannot answer the phone because they are already in a hospital. I would love to support you in the hospital if you need medical attention for any number of health matters (please do come in if you need help), but would rather not see you or any of your loved ones come in with difficulty breathing and end up having to be transferred to the ICU and placed on a breathing machine, especially if it is preventable. And it is preventable. Not 100% preventable, but preventable in the way that if you skip that party or wear a mask consistently, you might save someone’s grandma or baby or mother, father, sister, or cousin, through the butterfly effect. We could discuss the R number or exponential algorithms on a graph, but I think most of us understand the subtlety of the butterfly effect better. One small action by you can change the fate of the universe.

You can do this. You can change the world. Mask. Social distance. No party.

Feel free to check out my story collection, too, which has nothing to do with health topics or the rona. Your act of purchasing any Red Hen book will have the butterfly effect of supporting Red Hen’s amazing staff and diverse authors, and hopefully help us all stay in print for another year (and what a year it has been)!


Yu-Han Chao

Author of Sex & Taipei City

June 26

Matty Layne Glasgow, author of deciduous qween

I spent the first weekend of February driving through the Midwest for a couple of readings with one of my mentors, Deb Marquart, and her two floppy-eared pups. At our last stop in Madison, Deb bestowed upon me Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Donna Haraway’s most recent book on reconfiguring our relationship with the Earth and all its inhabitants. In short, Haraway abandons the hip, human-centric term of our era—the Anthropocene—for a vision grounded in multiplicity known as the Chthulucene. A process integral to the Chthulucene is sym-poiesis, or making-with, because, as Haraway explains, “Nothing makes itself.”

Perhaps nothing renders the interconnectivity of our world and our time, of the Chthulucene itself, in starker relief than a pandemic—both in how a virus spreads and what we lose when we isolate ourselves physically from one another and the outside world. The current pandemic is certainly among the many crises we face in our epoch, in addition to multispecies extinctions, genocides, and exterminations, which Haraway describes as urgencies. She prefers the term urgency to emergency because it avoids the implication of apocalypse and all its mythologies. Still, we live in an epoch of urgency, and these crises alter the way we experience time itself.

Since reading Miller Oberman’s The Unstill Ones last fall—an exquisite poetry collection that explores queer temporality and translation—I’ve grown increasingly interested in and fascinated by the queering of time and space. Perhaps this interest in alternative understandings and experiences of time and space is what makes Haraway’s work so fascinating for me these days. Haraway writes “Urgencies have other temporalities, and these times are ours. These are the times we must think; these are the times of urgencies that need stories.” For Haraway, these are stories of trees and symbioses, of diners and restaurateurs alike. For today, I’ll add poems and poets to the list, too.

I feel the urgency of our epoch in so much fine queer poetry today. In recent months I’ve turned to poets who inspire me through their rendering of queer temporalities, environments, and histories. Their respective collections embrace racial justice, queer ecology, multiplicity, desire, and an interconnectivity inherent to making-with:

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

Red Channel in the Rupture by Amber Flora Thomas

Next up on my reading list are Roy Guzmán’s debut Catrachos and Eduardo Corral’s forthcoming Guillotine.

Wishing y’all a queerly joyous Pride. Stay with the trouble. Make kin. And remember, the first Pride was a protest. If we can imagine a system that is not grounded in white supremacy and toxic masculinity, we can make it—together.

June 19 – Juneteenth

Douglas Manuel, author of Testify

As we wait for justice for Rayshard Brooks, as we wait for justice for Tony McDade, as we wait for justice for George Floyd, as we wait for justice for Breonna Taylor, as we wait for justice for Ahmaud Arbery, as we wait for justice for all those slain since 1619, (The list is a long scroll that I’d like to unfurl across the country from sea to shining sea.) as we wait for more funding for BIPOC communities instead of more funding for the police departments, as we wait for white folks to recognize our humanity or at least not kill us so casually with hands in their pockets or by shooting us in the back, I am thinking about all those slaves in Texas working the land, longing for freedom, and only thinking it would come in an afterlife. So much of our history here in this country is about waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. But that’s not the whole story. We’ve been resisting. We’ve been revolting. We’ve been raging. We’ve been yelling. We’ve been demanding. We’ve been punching power with the truth. We’ve been marching. We’ve been in these streets since Crispus Attucks. We have survived.

So this Juneteenth, as I wear red, eat barbecue, watermelon, and red velvet cake, and sip my red pop, I will revisit Ralph Ellison’s novel and know that we will never have to wait for some white man to tell us that we’re free again. This Juneteenth, I will remember those slaves who were working, not waiting, and do some work myself to ensure that we not only survive but also thrive. And I kindly demand that you do the same.

Continue reading “Red Hen Recommends: Authors Edition!”

Black Lives Matter

Dear Friends,

We at Red Hen are outraged at the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many Black Americans before them senselessly killed at the hands of law enforcement officers paid to protect and serve.

The untreated symptoms of systemic racism are an embarrassment to a country that prides itself on principles of freedom and equality. To ensure lasting change, we must examine our own biases, face the ugly truths of racial injustice, and actively change the world in which we live in, be it through donations to anti-racist organizations, calling your local politicians, or voting with your ballots and wallets.

We have thought carefully about how to occupy space on social media to support the cause during this time. With the exception of two publication announcements, this week we will exclusively celebrate and amplify the incredible work of Black authors and poets.

As James Baldwin said in No Name in the Street, “Well, if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected—those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most!—and listens to their testimony.”

In solidarity, the staff of Red Hen Press wish all our friends love, peace, justice, and a country in which racial injustice is no longer tolerated.

We see you. We hear you. We are with you.

Kate Gale and Mark E. Cull
Co-founders of Red Hen Press