Chicken Scratch

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?

they/them

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?

she/her

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?

He/him/his

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.

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.


Red Hen Recommends: Authors Edition!

Support independent bookstores, and check out our Red Hen Recommends: Author Edition collection on Bookshop.org 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)!

Sincerely,

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

COVID-19 Operations Update

Dear Friends,

We hope this finds you and yours healthy and safe.

Red Hen Press remains, as ever, dedicated to helping our communities, local and global, through the power of literature. We have been monitoring the situation and made the decision last week to pause our internship program and have staff members work remotely as part of our response to the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, all workshops, readings, and events that were scheduled by Red Hen through the end of April are being shifted to virtual platforms or postponed. We will continue to follow any guidelines, recommendations, or mandates as set forth by the CDC and our local, state, and federal governments so we can do our part to help flatten the curve and lessen the spread of the virus.

Though we may be working from our own individual Hen Houses right now, the Red Hen Press team continues, tirelessly, to bring untold, moving, and necessary stories to you. We will weather this storm together and are coming up with new and innovative ways to bring our authors to you. We’re also keeping an eye on the amazing opportunities and supportive communities that have come together during our time of social distancing to ensure that though we are physically apart, we are never far from each others’ hearts.

As we hatch our plans, stay tuned for virtual reading announcements and book sales while we continue our work of providing literature and events to the community:

Check out our Red Hen Recommends blog for updates, virtual events, and recommendations on books and activities while you practice your social distancing. We’ll update this every other day with new recs, tips, and sales!

Continue reading “COVID-19 Operations Update”