Meet the contributors of NEW MOONS, an anthology celebrating Muslim writers!

Join us for the next few weeks as we feature contributors to New Moons, an anthology edited by Kazim Ali celebrating Muslim authors, releasing on November 16!

Every Tuesday and Thursday we will introduce five new authors featured in the anthology to get to know before New Moons is released!

Scroll down to read more and pre-order your copy of New Moons here!


Deema Shehabi is the author of Thirteen Departures from the Moon and co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, for which she received the Northern California Book Award’s NCBR Recognition Award. She is also co-author of Diaspo/Renga with Marilyn Hacker and the winner of the Nazim Hikmet poetry competition in 2018. Deema’s work has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies, including Literary Imagination, The Kenyon Review, Literary Hub, Poetry London, and Crab Orchard, to name a few. Her work has been translated into French, Farsi, and Arabic, and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize several times.


Hina Ahmed is from Binghamton, New York. She has a BA in history and an MA in teaching from Binghamton University. Her published work has appeared in Archer Magazine, NYU’s Aftab Literary Magazine, Turkish Literature and Art, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Eastlit Journal, and FemAsia Magazine, among others. She was also a short story finalist in the Adelaide Literary Competition of 2018. In addition to writing short stories, poetry, and essays, her novel, The Dance of the Firefly is forthcoming.


Zara Chowdhary has an MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. She has served as Visual Arts Editor for the literary journal Flyway. She has also worked as a screenwriter in Mumbai and produced for films and advertising for ten years. She enjoys working at the intersection of environmental and political equity through her fiction, nonfiction, and occasional dabbling in poetry.


Faisal Mohyuddin is the author of The Displaced Children of Displaced Children (Eyewear Publishing, 2018) and the chapbook The Riddle of Longing (Backbone Press, 2017). He teaches English at Highland Park High School in suburban Chicago and creative writing at Northwestern University, and he serves as a master practitioner for the global not-for-profit Narrative 4. Also a visual artist, he lives in Oak Park, Illinois.


Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and author of Deluge (Copper Canyon Press) and the chapbooks Ebb and Tunsiya/Amrikiya. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and Cleveland State University, where she is the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Publishing and Writing. Her work appears in Ploughshares, Tin House, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.


Ruth Awad is a Lebanese American poet, a 2021 NEA Poetry Fellow, and the author of Set to Music a Wildfire (Southern Indiana Review Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize and the 2018 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. Alongside Rachel Mennies, she is the coeditor of The Familiar Wild: On Dogs and Poetry (Sundress Publications, 2020). She is the recipient of a 2020 and 2016 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and she won the 2013 and 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest. Her work appears in Poetry, Poem-a-Day, The Believer, The New Republic, and elsewhere.


Anisa Rahim is a writer and public interest lawyer. Her poetry has appeared in BlazeVOX, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Red Eft Review, OPEN: Journal of Arts and Letters (O:JA&L), The Newest Americans: Stories from the Global City, Common Ground Review, Kissing Dynamite’s anthology PUNK, and elsewhere. Her hybrid memoir, “American Meo: A History of Remembering and Forgetting” was longlisted for the 2019 PANK Book Contest. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers–Newark. See more of her work at anisarahim.com.


Mariam Bazeed is a nonbinary Egyptian immigrant, writer, and performance artist living in a rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn. An alliteration-leaning writer of prose, poetry, plays, and personal essays, they have an MFA from Hunter College and are—sometimes hard, sometimes hardly—at work on a novel. To procrastinate from facing the blank page, Mariam curates a monthly(ish) world-music salon and open mic in Brooklyn and is a slow student of Arabic music.


Seema Yasmin is an Emmy Award–winning journalist, medical doctor, poet, professor, and author of three books, including Muslim Women Are Everything (HarperCollins). Yasmin was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for breaking news reporting. Her poetry collection, For Filthy Women Who Worry About Disappointing God, was winner of the Diode Editions poetry chapbook contest. Yasmin is director of the Stanford Center for Health Communication and clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.


Tara Mesalik MacMahon is the author of Barefoot Up the Mountain, winner of the 2020 Open Country Press Chapbook Contest. Her poems appear in and/or have received honors from Nimrod International Journal, Rhino, Poet Lore, River Styx, Dogwood International Journal, Cold Mountain Review, and Duende, among other literary journals. Additionally, Tara and her brother Mark have coauthored a children’s chapter book, The Closet of Dreams, forthcoming in 2022 (Lanier Press). A graduate of Pomona College and Harvard Business School, Tara resides in the San Juan Islands with her husband, Paul, and their rescue dog Hector.


Barrak Alzaid (@barrakstar) is a writer, artist, and curator. His work in progress is Fabulous, a memoir relating his queer coming-of-age in Kuwait—a story of family fracture and reconciliation. He was a 2018 Lambda Literary Retreat fellow, and his work has been published in Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, NAILED, and the anthology The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human: Tales from Many Muslim Worlds (Penguin SEA). His poem “faaehggot” was awarded a first-place prize by Nasiona magazine in their inaugural micrononfiction and poetry competition. He is a founding member of the artist collective GCC.


Hazem Fahmy is a poet and critic from Cairo. His debut chapbook, Red//Jild//Prayer, won the 2017 Diode Editions Contest. A Kundiman Fellow, his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Apogee, AAWW, the Boston Review, and The Offing. He is an associate poetry editor for the Shade Journal.


Sarah Ghazal Ali is a Bay Area poet and Editor-in-Chief of Palette Poetry. She obtained her MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was a Juniper Fellow and MFA Fellow. Nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets, she has received scholarships from ISF, the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and the Seventh Wave. Her poems appear in or are forthcoming from Pleiades, Waxwing, Tinderbox, and others. Find her at www.sarahgali.com, and on Twitter @caesarah_.


Bushra Rehman is author of the poetry collection Marianna’s Beauty Salon and Corona, a dark comedy about being Desi-American. She co-edited the anthology Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism, one of Ms. Magazine’s “100 Best Non-fiction Books of All Time.” Rehman’s next novel, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion, is forthcoming from Flatiron Books. She is creator of the community-based writing workshop Two Truths and a Lie: Writing Memoir and Autobiographical Fiction.


Hilal Isler’s writing has appeared in the Paris Review, Literary Hub, the Los Angeles Review of Books online, and elsewhere. She teaches college social justice.


Rabía van Hattum is grateful to be a Muslima living most of her life in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Her greatest education has been learning to read the Qur’an, mingling with the human family in many lands of the world, and raising five extraordinary children. She especially thanks Allah every day for her husband, her greatest treasure.


Adeeba Shahid Talukder is a Pakistani-American poet, singer, and translator of Urdu and Persian poetry. She is the author of What Is Not Beautiful (Glass Poetry Press 2018), and her book Shahr-e-jaanaan: The City of the Beloved (Tupelo Press 2020), is a winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize. Adeeba holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and is a Poets House 2017 Emerging Poets Fellow.


Hayan Charara is the author of four poetry books—The Alchemist’s Diary, The Sadness of Others, Something Sinister, and These Trees, Those Leaves, This Flower, That Fruit—and a children’s book, The Three Lucys. He also edited Inclined to Speak, an anthology of contemporary Arab American poetry, and with Fady Joudah edits the Etel Adnan Poetry Series. He teaches in the creative writing program and the Honors College at the University of Houston.


Seelai Karzai is a poet, community organizer, and chocolate enthusiast who hails from New York City. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon. Seelai received a master’s degree in women, gender and sexuality studies, and religion from Harvard University, and a BA in English Literature and Classics from Hunter College in New York City. Her writing has appeared in the Fragmented Futures exhibit zine, Newtown Literary Journal, and DASH Literary Journal.


Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is a political activist, storyteller, poet, and artist based in Los Angeles. She creates at the intersection of counternarratives and culture-shifting as a South Asian American Muslim second-gen woman. She’s turned out over 500,000 Asian American voters, recorded her #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast at the White House, and makes #MuslimVDay cards annually. Her essays are published in the anthologies Pretty Bitches, Shades of Prejudice, Good Girls Marry Doctors, Love Inshallah, and numerous online publications.


Mohja Kahf is a professor of comparative literature and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Arkansas since 1995, Mohja Kahf is the author of E-mails from Scheherazad, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, and Hagar Poems. She is the winner of the Press 53 Award for Poetry for her 2020 book My Lover Feeds Me Grapefruit.


Hala Alyan is the author of the novel Salt Houses, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award and a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize, as well as four award-winning collections of poetry, most recently The Twenty-Ninth Year. Her latest novel The Arsonists’ City was released by HMH earlier this year. Her work has been published by the New Yorker, the Academy of American Poets, LitHub, the New York Times Book Review, and Guernica. She lives in Brooklyn, where she works as a clinical psychologist and teaches creative writing and graduate psychology at New York University.


Mandy Fessenden Brauer, an American child psychologist, visited Northern Pakistan with her children, discovering Islam and learning about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict there. That trip changed her life. Later she went to Gaza and afterwards to Egypt, where she taught at A.U.C. and Cairo University Medical School. She’s published many bibliotherapy books for children in Arabic and English. Currently, she’s writing stories for teens about Egypt. She and her husband spend much of their time in Egypt and Indonesia.


Alicia Razvi is a farmer, a baker, and a writer. She gratefully owns a sustainable microfarm in Wisconsin with her husband and three kids. She is living a dream life of growing, raising, producing, and advocating for local food. Alicia became the first Muslim chapter president of Farmers Union in 2016 and is active in the role still today. She is very new in her writing journey with just one other publication to date.


Fatima van Hattum is from New Mexico, is Muslim, eats most things with chile, and has a large wonderful family and confusing background. She often writes because she is uncomfortable. She is a PhD student in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies and works at NewMexicoWomen.Org. Her work has been published in CALYX Journal, Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, Intersections, Chicana/Latina Studies, openDemocracy, and Poetry of the People, the zine of Alas de Agua art collective.


Omar Sarwar was born in New York City. He has trekked to Mt. Everest’s base, sung with the Singapore Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and spent his early childhood in the heart of Tokyo. Omar has written for publications like HuffPost and The Advocate on religion and sexuality. When not writing, he enjoys bhangra, metaphysics, and giving people dating advice he never follows. The enclosed story is derived from his experiences as a young boy living in Japan as a Pakistani expatriate.


Samina Najmi teaches multiethnic US literature at California State University, Fresno. A Hedgebrook alumna, her creative nonfiction has appeared in World Literature Today, The Massachusetts Review, The Rumpus, and other journals. Her essay “Abdul” won Map Literary’s 2012 nonfiction prize. Daughter of multigenerational migrations, Samina grew up in Pakistan and England. She believes in everyone’s three feet of influence and the power of literature to extend our reach beyond it.


Haroon Moghul is a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. He’s been published widely, including by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and Foreign Policy, and contributed original content to NPR’s Fresh Air. In 2016, he was honored with the Religion News Writer’s Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence. Haroon is the author of three books, including How to be a Muslim: An American Story, which the Washington Post called “an extraordinary gift,” and “an authentic portrayal of a vastly misunderstood community.” Previously, he was a Fellow at Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security and with the National Security Studies Program at New America Foundation. Haroon is a member of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Engagement at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He played a critical role in the development of the Islamic Center at New York University and continues to advise Muslim community institutions and organizations. He graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. He once designed and led heritage tours of Spain, Turkey, and Bosnia, which was some of the coolest work he’s ever done. His next book brings together theology, autobiography, and a little bit of comedy to introduce Islam to a mainstream audience.


Noor Hindi (she/her) is a Palestinian-American poet and reporter. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Hobart, and Jubilat. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Literary Hub, and Adroit Journal. Her debut collection of poems, Dear God. Dear Bones. Dear Yellow. is forthcoming from Haymarket Books (2023). Visit her website at noorhindi.com.


Shamima Khan published her first poem at age seven. She is a recipient of the City of Ottawa Youth poetry award and a finalist for the CBC poetry contest. She has most recently been published in the anthology Muslim American Writers at Home (Freedom Voices Press, 2021). Shamima has been invited to perform her poetry at conferences, embassies, protests, arts events and peace marches across Canada. Shamima is currently at work on a chapbook of her creative nonfiction while leading an Inclusive Design team to create human-centered products and technology.


Tariq Luthun is a data consultant, community organizer, and Emmy Award–winning poet from Detroit, MI. The son of Palestinian Muslim immigrants from Gaza, he earned his MFA in Poetry from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and currently serves as Board Member and Development Coordinator of the Micro Department at The Offing Literary Magazine. Luthun’s work has earned him such honors as being named Best of the Net, in addition to fellowships with Kundiman, the Watering Hole, and Kresge Arts in Detroit. His work has appeared in Vinyl Poetry, Lit Hub, Mizna, Winter Tangerine Review, and Button Poetry, among others. His first collection of poetry, How the Water Holds Me, was awarded Editors’ Selection by Bull City Press in 2019, and is available now.


Zohra Saed is a Brooklyn-based Afghan American poet. She is the co-editor of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature (University of Arkansas Press), editor of Langston Hughes: Poems, Photos, and Notebooks from Turkestan (Lost & Found, The CUNY Poetics Documents Initiative); and Woman. Hand/Pen. (Belladonna Chaplet). Her essays on the Central Asian diaspora have appeared in Eating Asian America (NYU Press) and The Asian American Literary Review. She co-founded UpSet Press, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit indie press, with poet Robert Booras. “Aqua Net Days” was an Honorable Mention in the Glimmer Train Very Short Story Contest (Summer 2018).


Mahin Ibrahim is a writer. Her writing has appeared in the anthology Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era, Muslim Writers at Home, and Halal If You Hear Me, as well as in Narratively and Amaliah. She started her career in tech. She has a fondness for hiking trails and seahorses. Connect with her @mahinsays on Twitter or at mahinibrahim.com.


Yahya Frederickson’s poetry collections include In a Homeland Not Far: New & Selected Poems (Press 53 2017), The Gold Shop of Ba-‘Ali (Lost Horse Press 2014), and four chapbooks, most recently The Birds of al-Merjeh Square: Poems from Syria (Finishing Line Press 2014). A former Peace Corps Volunteer in Yemen and Fulbright Scholar in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Kyrgyzstan, he is a professor of English at Minnesota State University Moorhead.


Umar Hanif is an undergraduate student in St. Louis pursuing a major in creative writing. Umar’s parents immigrated from Java, Indonesia, and raised their family Sunni Muslim. Umar’s recent fiction work can be found in Spires Arts & Literary Journal and Colour Mag. Find Umar on Twitter at @umarrhanis.


Noor Ibn Najam is a poet who teases, challenges, breaks, and creates language. She’s a Fellow of Callaloo, The Watering Hole, and The Vermont Studio Center with poems published by the Academy of American Poets, The Rumpus, and others. Her chapbook, Praise to Lesser Gods of Love, was published by Glass poetry press in 2019 and contemplates the ever-shifting role of love in the human experience and how best to worship such a multitudinous deity.


Samina Hadi-Tabassum is an associate professor at Erikson Institute in Chicago. Her first book of poems, Muslim Melancholia (2017), was published by Red Mountain Press. She has published poems in Eastlit Journal, Soul-Lit, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Papercuts, Indian Review, Classical Poets, Mosaic,
Main Street Rag, Tin House, and riksha. This is her first published short story.


Hana Qwfan is a Muslim Yemeni American writer. She has her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and English Literature from CSUB. Hana formerly worked as a nonfiction editor for Synaesthesia Magazine, as well as a writer for UC Berkeley’s threads, a magazine run by and for Muslim college students. You can find her previous work at threadsatcal.org, or see her Twitter @itsaplatesworld. Her writing is usually inspired by her religion and by her father, Ali.


Nashwa Lina Khan is an interdisciplinary community-based facilitator, instructor, and researcher. She holds a Masters of Environmental Studies from York University. Her graduate work uses decolonial methodologies to make sense of the impacts of family law on sex workers, HIV-positive women, Refugee women, and unwed mothers in Morocco accessing healthcare services. She is currently working on a small chapbook of poems she never thought she would share. You can find her tweeting @nashwakay.


Sham-e-Ali Nayeem is the author of City of Pearls (UpSet Press, 2019). Raised in both the UK and the US, she is a Hyderabadi poet, interdisciplinary artist and recovering social justice lawyer. A graduate of Oberlin College, her poetry has appeared in anthologies, including Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out (Olive Branch Press, 2005), Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (Beacon Press, 2005) and Shout Out: Women of Color Respond to Violence (Seal Press, 2008). Sham-e-Ali is the recipient of the 2016 Loft Literary Center Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship.


Duaa Randhawa was born and raised in Queens, New York. Her writing is a combination of creative nonfiction and prose-poetry, which meets at the juncture of experience, identity, and community. This poem is part of a larger collection titled Bouts. Bouts is an exploration of self, identity, and history and all the nuances and confusions that come along with such an exploration.


Farah Ghafoor’s poems are forthcoming or published in Room, Ninth Letter, Big Lucks, Halal if You Hear Me (Haymarket Books 2019), and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for Best New Poets and Best of the Net. She is the editor-in-chief of Sugar Rascals magazine and attends the University of Toronto.


Lamya H is a queer Muslim writer living in New York City. Her work has appeared in the LA Review of Books, VICE, Salon, Vox, and others. She was a Lambda Literary Fellow in 2015 and a Queer Arts Mentorship Fellow in 2017. Find her on Twitter: @lamyaisangry.


Aatif Rashid is the author of the novel Portrait of Sebastian Khan. He’s published stories in The Massachusetts Review, Arcturus, Barrelhouse, and Triangle House, and nonfiction in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Lit Hub, and other places. He currently writes regularly for The Kenyon Review blog.


Threa Almontaser is the author of the poetry collection, The Wild Fox of Yemen (Graywolf Press), selected by Harryette Mullen for the 2020 Walt Whitman Award from The Academy of American Poets. She is the recipient of awards from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright program, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA and TESOL certification from North Carolina State University.


Celebrating Women’s History Month with Red Hen Press!

It’s March! Happy Women’s History Month! We at Red Hen want to use this month as an opportunity to share interviews with our award-winning authors who identify with womanhood.

As with Black History Month, we want to particularly highlight our women authors and also acknowledge the work done by BIPOC women, specifically trans women of color, in shaping women’s history. Along these lines, we will be sharing women-run bookstore/other literary recommendations!

Scroll down to read more!

Lara Ehrlich, author of ANIMAL WIFE, 3/31/2021

What advice would you give to aspiring women writers and publishing industry professionals who hope to “break into” and succeed in an industry historically dominated by men?

Although publishing a book has always been my ultimate goal, completing and selling a manuscript seemed utterly mysterious and out of reach until I attended my first writing conference. I arrived with 20 pages of a novel and zero knowledge of the publishing industry, open to learning everything I could.

I was nowhere near ready to query agents yet, but I took advantage of a pitch session with a powerful woman agent who encouraged me to stick with my novel, gave me some pointers on the query letter I’d drafted, and invited me to send her the book when I was ready. That one actionable goal—send this woman my book—helped me begin to demystify the publishing process and break it down into other actionable steps that seemed attainable when tackled one at a time.

During that same conference, I clicked with two other women writers who were working on their first novels, and we formed a critique group. We continued to meet for years, supporting one another through drafting and revising our work, querying agents, and eventual publication. That is what I needed to be able to take my writing seriously not just as a craft, but as a career.

So, my advice boils down to three things: learn the business, form supportive literary friendships with like-minded women, and network with women writers, agents, editors, and publishers you genuinely admire. 

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

Animal Wife originated with the titular story in the collection, about a girl who undertakes a quest for the mother who abandoned her. I started this story as a novel and after writing hundreds of pages, realized it was actually meant to be a short story! This is where I rediscovered my love of writing short stories, how time and emotion can be compressed into a tight space that exerts pressure on every sentence. I love the intensity of short stories, and how they can sustain an off-kilter voice or a wild conceit that might sag in a longer piece.

The next few stories are also about girls and young women, tapping into the urgency and uneasiness of puberty. As I began writing toward a collection, the stories began to change, to move away from girls and toward mothers. During this time, I was questioning whether I wanted to have a family. I was terrified of the self-abdication that I believed motherhood necessitated. I was going to create Important Work, and I couldn’t afford the distraction. I believed that the right way to be a mother was to devote all of myself to my child, while the right way to be a writer was to toil in isolation, unfettered by the needs of others.

I wrote the majority of the stories in Animal Wife while agonizing over this decision, then while pregnant, so those stories are often worst-case scenarios, nightmares, terrors about motherhood. I wrote the last few stories during those first few months of motherhood that I can barely remember because they were so intensely exhausting. Writing has become not only a calling and a career, but my way of keeping hold of myself and avoiding the self-abdication I’d so feared.

Throughout Animal Wife, readers will be able to see my preoccupations and priorities shifting—and with them, my voice. Now, I could no longer write the stories that open this collection.

My novel-in-progress is a more in-depth exploration of these themes, framed by a loose retelling of “The Little Mermaid.” At its heart, the book is about the dark underbelly of fantasy, the need for escape and transformation, which in the end is disappointing—and often destructive. A fun note: As part of my research, I attended the Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee State Park in Weeki Wachee, Florida, where women have performed as mermaids since 1947. During the two-day camp, my fellow campers and I were trained by mermaids—called Legendary Sirens—who had performed at Weeki Wachee in its golden age. My essay about Siren Camp was published in Lit Hub.

Is there an underrated book written by a woman that you think deserves more praise?

The book that immediately came to mind is Nothing by Janne Teller. It’s garnered tons of praise in Teller’s home country, Denmark, and throughout Europe, but I’ve never met another person in the US who has read this book. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers published a translation by Martin Aitken in 2010.) This book is startling in its sparsity, its fable-like narrative, and its matter-of-fact violence that challenges readers to question the value of the tangible and intangible things we hold most dear.

Here’s the jacket copy:

When Pierre-Anthon realizes there is no meaning to life, the seventh-grader leaves his classroom, climbs a tree, and stays there. His classmates cannot make him come down, not even by pelting him with rocks. So to prove to Pierre-Anthon that life has meaning, the children decide to give up things of importance. The pile starts with the superficial—a fishing rod, a new pair of shoes. But as the sacrifices become more extreme, the students grow increasingly desperate to get Pierre-Anthon down, to justify their belief in meaning.

Plus, Janne Teller is exceptionally cool: She was educated as a macroeconomist and worked for the United Nations and the European Union in resolving conflicts and humanitarian issues around the world, especially in Africa. 

Martha K. Davis, author of SCISSORS, PAPER, STONE, 3/29/2021

What advice would you give to aspiring women writers and publishing industry professionals who hope to “break into” and succeed in an industry historically dominated by men?

When I first began publishing stories in literary magazines, I noticed that the journals based at universities, where groups of students vote on the content, never chose my work. I became much more discriminating about the places where I submitted, researching the type of work they published as well as the ratio of men to women working there. Although as many men have published my work as women have, the masthead of the journals have been at least equally weighted between the sexes. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be published by a lit mag that didn’t have parity.   

I can’t speak to breaking into the publishing industry, as my experience was more than thirty years ago at a small women’s press that is still going strong today–Aunt Lute Books in San Francisco. I began as an intern. I believe starting at entry level as an editorial assistant is still standard in the industry.

In the end, “breaking into” a writing career depends on what your definition of success is. For me, perseverance has been the key to opening up publication. A thick skin for rejection, dedication to sending the work out again, and often simple luck.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

What most inspires my writing is the incredible quality and broad range of other writers’ work available to me as a reader. Having a high bar to reach for is the most motivating factor. Whenever I read a book and wonder, “How did she do that?” I feel challenged to accomplish something of my own that’s equally complex, ambitious, and generous. Authors who do this for me include Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Virginia Woolf, Octavia Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Gaitskill, and Joan Silber. 

Is there an underrated book written by a woman that deserves more praise?

Overall, literature by women outside the U.S. tends to be under-appreciated, particularly literature in translation. I recommend Grieving by Cristina Rivera Garza, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, and The Door by Magda Szabo. 

Felicia Zamora, author of BODY OF RENDER, 3/25/2021

What advice would you give to aspiring women writers and publishing industry professionals who hope to “break into” and succeed in an industry historically dominated by men?

Lean into yourself. Don’t compromise your identity as a woman/woman of color and all your intersectional identities in your imagination, wonders and your art. Being women is what makes our experiences what they are, and this, this is tremendously valuable in the publishing world and in creating real change in society. Bring the grotesque, the Kitsch, the raunchy, the absurd, the emotional, the raucous, the unspeakable, the full gamut of human complexity—trust the world you build on the page—it is necessary. Believe in your art first. From here, our voices become a collective to tear the patriarch down, to build an industry where we don’t just thrive, but lead.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

Claudia Rankine’s work does some serious heavy lifting in both expression and form. Her art is a game changer when it comes to working toward social change through art. The genre bending in her writing, combined with an accessibility of language necessary for such complex topics of racism and whiteness in this country, core me. Recently, I’ve also had my socks knocked off by Zadie Smith’s Intimations and Heid Erdrich’s Little Big Bully. Joy Harjo is why I became a poet, after reading She Had Some Horses, decades ago. Her book was the first time I saw a woman of color be a powerhouse in poetry, the first time I saw myself in poetry. 

Is there an underrated book written by a woman that deserves more praise?

Diana Marie Delgado’s book Tracing the Horse is alive with world after intricate world in these pages full of imagination, grief, pop iconography, familial ache, transformation, and the devil—my god, who could forget the devil in this book. In Delgado’s poem “Twelve Trees,” she writes “In Mexico, the Devil is handsome…He rakes leaves and fixes umbrellas, / occasionally throws back his head and sings.” To me, this book deserves pure celebration.

Brittany Ackerman, author of THE PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE, 3/22/2021

Are there any new/upcoming women authors whose work you are following?

Maria Adelmann, Kathryn Scanlan, Melissa Broder (she’s not up and coming, she’s already HERE, but her latest book Milkfed is a treasure!)

Is there a certain area or genre in the literary community that you think needs more women representation, or would like to see more women thrive in?

I’d love to see more work by female Jewish writers that follows the exploration of faith and culture. 

How does women’s history figure into your own work, if at all?

As a Jewish woman, I’m interested in creating work that has Judaism and jewish identity as its backbone and writing stories that aim to represent the modern day reform traditions of my people.

Landon Houle, author of LIVING THINGS, 3/15/2021

What advice would you give to aspiring women writers and publishing industry professionals who hope to “break into” and succeed in an industry historically dominated by men?

Advocate for your own work, and protect the time you put into your writing, reading, and editing. Know your voice is important and worthwhile, and your contribution matters. Champion other women writers the way you want to be championed.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

I’m always inspired by the way that people tell stories, how they talk about their every days and what takes them out of the ordinary. I’ll never get tired of listening and trying to capture something of what I hear on the page.

Is there an underrated book written by a woman that deserves more praise?

There are so many! I think more people should read More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson. That book will break your heart and make you laugh at the same time, and I think that’s what we’re all after as readers and writers.

Sisters Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center, 3/11/2021

Photo Credit to pw.org

Sisters Uptwon Bookstore and Cultural Center is owned by Janifer P. Wilson and Kori N. Wilson in Washington Heights, NY. They’ve been established for 21 years, where they bring “an educational, emotional, spiritual and loving environment for our diverse community where all are welcomed.”

Some of their bestsellers include The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. Staff picks include Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison with mentionable titles such as Dominica by Angie Cruz.

Follow them on Facebook and show them your support!

Reema Rajbanshi, author of SUGAR, SMOKE, SONG, 3/8/2021

Are there any new/upcoming women authors whose work you are following?

I read across genres all the time, so at the moment, I’m moving through The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, just finished The Body Papers by Grace Talusan, and am re-teaching Tentacle by Rita Indiana. I appreciate the quality of courage and bold imagination (for alternative worlds) in each of these works.

Is there a certain area or genre in the literary community that you think needs more women representation, or would like to see more women thrive in?

Narrative theory. I’m thinking of Toni Morrison and Hélène Cixous and Gloria Anzaldúa, who knew that the creative and critical shaped each other. Anti-intellectualism is especially harsh for women, yet women of color have often been doing theory through their aesthetics and community-making around questions of what might be beautiful, might bring solace, might ring truer. Generally, representations of women will never be central or more complex until theory shifts, because story also depicts and reproduces ideas. 

How does women’s history figure into your own work, if at all?

My creative work returns a lot to how girls and women experience desire, violence, and labor. I won’t make a universal statement but in many societies, all three arenas have exerted great pressure over girls learning to be im/proper and de/valued women. (You only have to look at events tied to wage inequality or #MeToo.) But the linked stories in my book are also curious about how girls and women respond—through emotions like rage, humor, and sympathy—the ways in which they survive and/or transform (which are not always the same thing) that may be censored. And because I’m focusing on girls and women of color, I’m also thinking about multiple obligations that are juggled, personal and intergenerational histories that get hidden. That’s the draw of experimental aesthetics: I’m trying to find language for characters and shapes for stories for which the tried-and-true techniques may not be enough or right.   

Chelsea Catherine, author of SUMMER OF THE CICADAS, 3/1/2021

Chelsea is nonbinary but identifies with womanhood in some ways.

Are there any new/upcoming women authors whose work you are following?

What constitutes a new/upcoming writer? T Kira Madden is a writer who I like to watch. I think her amazing memoir is being turned into a movie, which I will be first in line to see. I also generally keep an eye out for new work by Carmen Maria Machado and Jaquira Diaz. All of these women are established, in my opinion, but I am eager to read more from them.

Is there a certain area or genre in the literary community that you think needs more women representation, or would like to see more women thrive in?

The literary community needs more lesbian writers. I read somewhere that lesbian writers make up only 2% of those published in the literary community. Gay men are at 4% and bisexual/pansexual writers are at 10%. Lesbian writers have a lot of great things to say – think about Audre Lorde. I would love to see more lesbian writers highlighted and more lesbian-centric books published.

 How does women’s history figure into your own work, if at all?

If not for the black and brown women who fought for LGBTQ rights during the Stonewall Riots, I would not be able to live openly as a lesbian. I benefit every day from the sacrifices they made, and it is always in the back of my head when I am writing. 

Commemorating Black History Month at Red Hen Press!

Happy Black History Month from Red Hen Press! We want to celebrate and amplify the work of Black authors. We commit ourselves to uplifting Black voices, an ongoing process that is not limited to a singular month.

Our plan is to feature our Black authors’ responses to questions about the role of literature in the context of Black history, as well as share their many literary achievements through book excerpts and other author features. We will also highlight Black-owned, indie bookstores and businesses throughout this month!

Scroll down to learn more!

The History and Future of Black Literature: A Black History Month Event, 2/24/21

It’s been a pleasure highlighting these Black voices and businesses this month, and we look forward to continuing to do so every month moving forward! Don’t forget to join us for this incredible event!

Tune in for a Black History Month event featuring Red Hen authors with forthcoming books, Khalisa Rae and Dexter L. Booth, at 3:00 pm PT, February 25th! You can access the event here!

This reading and conversation focuses on the history and future of Black literature, especially in the context of the effect Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman is having on poetry and visibility in this country. This event will highlight our partnership with the Peauxdunque Writer’s Alliance and our new Ann Petry Award, which awards book publication, a $3000 award, and a four-week residency at The Community Library’s Ernest and Mary Hemingway House in Ketchum, Idaho for a Black prose writer.

You can also watch the reading and conversation below!

Excerpt- Camille Dungy, author of WHAT TO EAT, WHAT TO DRINK, AND WHAT TO LEAVE FOR POISON, 2/22/2021

What to Eat, and What to Drink, and What to Leave for Poison

I.
Only now, in spring, can the place be named:
tulip poplar, daffodil, crab apple,
dogwood, budding pink-green, white-green, yellow
on my knowing. All winter I was lost.
Fall, I found myself here, with no texture
my fingers know. Then, worse, the white longing
that downed us deep three months. No flower heat.
That was winter. But now, in spring, the buds
flock our trees. Ten million exquisite buds,
tiny and loud, flaring their petalled wings,
bellowing from ashen branches vibrant
keys, the chords of spring’s triumph: fisted heart,
dogwood; grail, poplar; wine spray, crab apple.
The song is drink, is color. Come. Now. Taste.

Douglas Manuel, author of TESTIFY, 2/17/2021

How has BLM affected the literary / publishing communities this past year? Have you seen significant changes, and if not, what is there still left to be done?

I think BLM has affected literary/publishing communities a great deal. Because of the attention the movement has garnered, more and more people are learning the nomenclature of the movement, publishing voices from more diverse communities, and attempting to be more equitably minded when it comes to editors, publishers, readers, marketing, and almost all factors in publishing. Of course, we still have so very much work to do, but I can feel the thawing of some of the problematic workings and machinations that were plaguing the literary and publishing world when it comes to the color line.  

Are there any new / upcoming authors whose work you are following?

Like some many others, I’ve found myself really enraptured with Tommye Blount’s Fantasia for the Man in Blue.  “Arcane Torso on Grindr” blows my mind every time I revisit it, and I have been teaching it often. I love teaching that poem alongside Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” and Justin Phillip Reed’s “I Have Wasted My Life.” Intertextuality say what! So dope!

Who is one role model that you admire?

My older cousin, Derek, has always been a real inspiration to me. He’s part best homie, part big brother, and part father figure. He’s always been someone who has shown me how to be a strong and responsible Black man.

Excerpt – ABRACADABRA, SUNSHINE, Dexter L. Booth, 2/11/2021

Catch a sneak peek of ABRACADABRA, SUNSHINE, out June, 1st, 2021:

How We Make Art

I spent the morning painting
cardboard trees. Jagged spears
that did not lay well
under the mouth of scissors.

I mangled the beer box

until there was only a forest of rockets
and bombs displaying alcohol
labels under thin films of acrylic.

The horizon is sharp and angled
now. I’ve planted corrugated pine in the living room.

At sunset they look like searchlight cones,
mini drag beams from an army of UFO abductions,
tepees made of flayed alien skin, anything

but your eyes

                returning to point and say what you see is
growing dull now that you’ve been
probed and abandoned
            in the dark woodlands of memory.

Abracadabra, Sunshine

Imagine
the children who are little and far enough away
they measure their lives by the gallons
of dirty water they bring home,
checking their height yearly
against the hulls of abandoned tanks
to understand that

even the native body is foreign,
even the peaceful mind at war.

I am attempting
to form an argument—

Cafe con Libros – Brooklyn, NY 2/10/2021

Photo source: https://www.pw.org/reading_venues/cafe_con_libros

This week we are featuring Cafe con Libros, the ideal place to grab a book AND a cup of coffee! In addition to offering a wide selection of books, Cafe con Libros provides an uplifting, intersectional feminist space for the community.

You can order a book from them today and support a bookstore run by women of color!

Donna Hemans, author of TEA BY THE SEA, 2/8/2021

Is there anything specific you do to celebrate this month?

Black history and culture are so ingrained in who I am that I don’t relegate my celebration to a single month. I live Black History Month every day, and so I don’t do anything special or significant—I carry on as I do every other day of the year. 

What is one book about Black history or that incorporates Black history that you think everyone should read?

There are so many, and on any given day my answer will be different. But I’m reading Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King now, and I highly recommend it for the beauty of the language, the way it incorporates the 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, portrays an Ethiopian girl in the midst of a war and the role women played in the war. And it reminds us of the lingering effect of imperialism and colonialism on black history and culture. 

To what extent do you consider writing as a social practice that can enact tangible change?

Following the racial justice protests last summer, sales of books that probed related issues skyrocketed, and in many pockets across America people began looking more closely at steps they can take to make meaningful change. We’re still a long way away from seeing all of those tangible, meaningful changes—especially in the corporate world—but writing and stories are an important part of that process. 

Excerpt – GHOST IN A BLACK GIRL’S THROAT, Khalisa Rae 2/4/2021

Catch a sneak-peak of GHOST IN A BLACKGIRL’S THROAT, out April 13th, 2021:

Mahalia Sings to Freedom

“still a reason to shoot

then investigate, still
a reason to attach false
crimes to my name. Always
a barely human body. 

How I arrived here
will be a mystery”

Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat

“You will be
the bended knee in their American
Dream, and they will stitch your mouth

the color of patriarchy, call it black girl magic when you rip
the seams. Southern Belle is just another way to say:
stayed in her place on the right side of the pedestal.” 

Old Capitol Books – Monterey, CA 2/3/2021

Photo source: https://www.oldmonterey.org/news/2020/04/save-old-capitol-books

Happy Black History Month! Red Hen is featuring Black-owned indie bookstores throughout this month to celebrate! First up, Old Capitol Books in Monterey, California!

Want to learn more about Black history? We bet you can find plenty of resources at Old Capitol Books. They have the largest selection of books in these areas: feminism, LGBTQ+ topics, ethnic studies, and Black history! The shop also serves as a community space, hosting art and literature related events.

Order a book care package from them today, and support a Black-owned business while learning about important topics! it’s a win-win!

Allison Joseph, author of CONFESSIONS OF A BAREFACED WOMAN and LEXICON, 2/1/2021

How has BLM affected the literary / publishing communities this past year? Have you seen significant changes, and if not, what is there still left to be done?

How has BLM affected the literary community? I’m not really sure, because I think the question has it backward. There’s always been black and brown people writing poetry, telling stories, making songs. Black Lives Matter existed as a philosophy long before the “BLM movement” as we know it today. One only need look to writers such as Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Etheridge Knight, and so many others to know that writers have always felt that Black Lives Matter.  As for significant changes, I’m not sure what you mean. Institutional change takes decades and BLM has only been in force a few short years. 

Are there any new / upcoming authors whose work you are following?

As for emerging black writers, I love the work of Tiana Clark. There’s just so much beauty and honesty in her poetry. As for established poets, the success of Honoree Fanonne Jeffers thrills me. Natasha Trethewey continues to be great. 

Who is one role model that you admire?

I have long admired Gwendolyn Brooks, Nina Simone, Anna Deveare Smith, and a slew of music figures from the blues and folk traditions: Bessie Smith, Odetta, Joan Armatrading, etc. A lot of black women artists persist in making beauty in a world that scarcely values them. I draw courage and inspiration from such figures.

You’ve heard of Elf on a Shelf, now get ready for… Hen with a Pen: an author series!

We at Red Hen know that times are times are tough this holiday season. We realize that independent booksellers have been hit especially hard, which is why we want to spread some holiday cheer!

Every week leading up to the end of December, we’ll be posting independent bookstore recommendations, holiday traditions, and notes about why it’s important to shop indie from our lovely participating Red Hen authors!

So grab some hot cocoa, a fuzzy blanket, and cozy up by the fire, as you take a scroll below:

Lara Ehrlich author of ANIMAL WIFE, 12/21/2020

Lara Ehrlich. Photo copyright Janice Checchio. 2019. www.janicechecchio.com

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season?

Introducing my family’s holiday traditions to my daughter, now 4, and starting new traditions together that will be woven into the fabric of her childhood, and that she’ll pass along to her own family someday.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence. The titular book in the series takes place during Christmas, with a heavy snowfall and a haunting holiday party. The whole series is magical in a nostalgic way that’s difficult to define. I’ve read the whole series more times than I can count.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

My hometown bookstore, Bank Square Books, is among the most beautiful bookstores I’ve visited, with exceptional events, a broad collection of books, and a hot staff (my husband works there now). Indie bookstores are a crucial part of the literary ecosystem and partner with publishers and authors in a way that mega stores don’t. Shop indie to keep this ecosystem alive!

Chelsea Catherine author of SUMMER OF THE CICADAS, 12/17/2020

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season?

I love having time off. I also love how quiet the holiday season feels. Up north, there’s usually snow, which mutes everything, so it really is quieter. Here, it’s nice to have downtime and relax.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

The Hunger Games. I reread it almost every year around this time. It’s a great reminder to be wary of greed, gluttony, and capitalism and to focus on what really matters (standing up for what you believe in, love, and family).

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

My favorite indie bookstore is Tombolo Books here in St. Petersburg, FL. A close runner-up is Bear Pond Books, which was my childhood bookstore in Vermont. I think it’s so important to shop locally because indie bookstores are really the heart and soul of the literary community. They will do just about anything to support literature and authors.

Melanie Conroy-Goldman author of THE LIKELY WORLD, 12/14/2020

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season?

I tell people I’m 90% Jewish and 10% Christmas. I’m a nut for winter holidays, especially the singing. I prefer the songs you can belt, from “Oh Hanukkah” to “Jingle Bell Rock”. I love latkes and stockings, and I like it best when Hannukah comes early in the calendar, so I can party all month long.


What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

I have memorized, and made my children memorize “A Visit From St. Nick” “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and my literary fave winter poem is Tracy K. Smith’s “A Hunger So Honed” (it has deer, and heartbreak. Very Christmasy.) Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is great for a winter re-read.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

I shop and love Buffalo Street Books, which is community-owned and in my hometown of Ithaca. Indie book selections are coated by humans, not algorithms and marketing. If you want to read something that startles you, takes your breath away, you’ll find it in an Indie store.

Jennifer Risher author of WE NEED TO TALK, 12/10/2020

Kelly Vorves Photography

What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?

My holiday season favorites are the smell of the Christmas tree, the taste of chocolate and peppermint, the sound of Christmas carols and the warm feeling of having family around me.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

When our daughters were little, we read a lot of Christmas books. One of
our favorites was The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

I’ve been happy to support our local bookstores, especially during COVID. Bookstores are such a wonderful 3rd place for browsing, exploring, and
discovering new books. I’d like to give a shout out to the three wonderful indie bookstores that hosted me in discussing my book, “We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth” —

1) Sausalito Books by the Bay in Sausalito, CA,
2) Island Books in Mercer Island, WA, and
3) Napa Bookmine in Napa, CA.

Amy Shearn author of UNSEEN CITY, 12/7/2020

What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?

I’m into the ambient sensory details of the holiday season — Christmas music and holiday-spice flavor profiles and twinkly lights everywhere. I’m Jewish and don’t really celebrate Christmas, so I get to sort of siphon the fun parts of the holiday season out of the air, without having any of the holiday-related stress people seem to have. And my kids love both Hanukkah and Christmas, so it’s always a fun time of year because of their excitement and just pure kid-joy.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

I love Jeanette Winterson’s “Christmas Days.” It’s a great throwback to when Christmas was a little spooky and Christmas stories were about ghosts and things. This time of year always feels a little otherworldly to me — maybe because it’s so dark, and because we’re thinking so much about one year ending and the next beginning.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

We’re lucky to have tons of great indie bookstores here in Brooklyn! The ones I shop at the most often are Terrace Books and Powerhouse on 8th, since they are closest to where I live, but I also love Books Are Magic, Greenlight, Community… we’re so spoiled here, it’s wonderful. I hope everyone can keep their doors open throughout the pandemic, because indie bookstores are my favorite places, and truly give the literary community a home. I love being able to talk to a bookstore employee who knows what they’re talking about and get great recommendations for what to read — there’s nothing like the well-curated shelves of a lovingly run indie bookshop!

Sebastian Matthews author of BEYOND REPAIR, 12/3/2020:

What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?

I love all the good food, getting to hang with friends and family (even over Zoom!). Feeling free to hang out all day cooking and listening to music (not holiday music!). The walks in the end of fall weather.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

That’s a good question. I am not sure that I have one. I probably should. I’ll work on it! Ask me next year.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

Malaprops Bookstore & Café. It’s here in Asheville, NC. Quint-essential indie bookstore. Now more than ever it’s important to shop with/through indie bookstores—local or otherwise. The pandemic is making an already challenging situation worse. We need to combine our love for books with a desire to help our small, literary-minded businesses thrive.