Chicken Scratch

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!

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 womxn 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”
Support Red Hen