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authorsofcolor:

This is a summary of the situation with the Eggplant Literary Productions 2013 Kickstarter for two fairy-tales anthologies. This is going to be a long post.

In July, 2013, Eggplant Literary Production (ELP) promised a diverse anthology, including being multicultural, about fairytales on a Kickstarter. From the Kickstarter description:

We want to publish fairy tales retold to include minority, LGBT, and disabled characters. We want to create stories that include the whole spectrum of humanity and make them truly universal.

I and many other PoC helped it fund. 

After the Kickstarter ended, ELP’s submission guidelines dictated a particular set of fairytale formats, guided by the Aarne-Thompson Index (ATI)—a work which Thompson himself noted might as well be called ‘The Types of the Folk-Tales of Europe, West Asia, and the Lands Settled by these Peoples’, and did not cover the story-shapes of the rest of the world and parts of the world before they were colonized. 

A commenter named Gus brought this up in the comment section of the submission guidelines: 

Hi,

I’m seeing some issues with the idea of a “standard fairy tale” formatting, given that different cultures tell their fairy tales in different ways. How might that be handled?

To which ELP originally replied: 

Hi Gus:

This project isn’t meant to be a multi-cultural fairy tale anthology, but fairy tales that are retold. That’s the reason for sticking to the standard fairy tale format.

Thanks!

ELP has since struck out this text and put in:

ETA: Submissions should follow the structure of the fairy tales they are retelling. They should not be short stories just using fairy tales as a jumping off point or for source material.

The comment thread goes further. You can see more in the comment section. For instance, here’s a snippet I’m not sure what to conclude about: 

Last year, when I first made an explicit call for non-Western settings and characters for Spellbound, I received several submissions that took place in African countries and cultures. The only fantasy element of these stories were the appearance of ancestor spirits. Turning a culture’s belief system into a fantasy element bothered me.

I guess that means cultural stories centering around ancestral reverence aren’t valid jumping-off points for stories for this anthology because they aren’t really fairy-tales according to… somebody. 

How about this:

Instead, imagine a collection of Grimm’s tales if the Grimm brothers had collected them from a world where POC, LGBT, and disabled peoples had equal representation in media and culture as white cis heterosexual males. What would these fairy tales look like in that light?

That sounds rather Euro-centric. Hell, it is Euro-centric. 

There was another instance with ELP asking why a story with a WoC was in Europe rather than taking place "in her own country"

When the TOC came out, well. Scroll down on this post

(fandomshatewomen):

I wanted to match faces and ethnicities to the names. Some of your writers and contributors are easily guessed, but ultimately there’s only so much I could do. I was actually going to give numbers along with my speculation to try and explain how deceptive your statement is. Because to me? It seems that the majority of the names matched to those fairy tales set in non-white settings have no business being written by someone other than PoC. And if they’re going to be written by white people, they should be thoroughly researched and nitpicked by an editor who is themselves a PoC.  This isn’t an incredibly hard thing to do, nor is it an unreasonable request, especially when you asked for donations and especially when your whole pitch included “wanting to be inclusive to PoC” and PoC who donated are now feeling cheated and shut out.

And according to ELP, it’s far too late to hire a PoC editor to nitpick what stories there are to ensure there is less fail than there otherwise might be. A PoC editor was also brought up earlier on; this was their response.

Now, you might say. All that’s old correspondence. Well, the situation hasn’t changed much, because when I asked for my $500 back, here’s what happened. 

My initial message to them over Kickstarter:

ArachneJericho - Jul 2, 2014

I’ve recently become aware of the Euro-centric nature of this anthology. I was led to believe by the KS and the initial submission guidelines that this anthology would be more accepting of multicultural works. Being myself Vietnamese and tired of seeing my folklore rejected or suppressed repeatedly, this turn of events highly disappoints me.

Because of this, I would like to be refunded the $500 I pledged and step out of getting any rewards. Thank you.

This message was followed by this reply: 

Eggplant Literary Productions - Jul 2, 2014

Hello:

I’m sorry if you have heard that about the Spellbound & Spindles anthologies. I’m not certain what has given you the idea that this project is Euro-centric. The stories and poetry is set in various areas including India, South and Central America, Japan, East Africa, Russian, Mongolia, New Zealand and Russia. Some of the stories are set in the US but concern Native American and African American characters and cultures.

I’m not certain how to go about a refund this long after the end of the Kickstarter. I can look into it. Refunding such a large amount could mean a delay in getting this project out the door, but if you feel that strongly I’ll find out what I can do.

I hope you will reconsider.

Sincerely,

Raechel

I don’t know if they are trying to hide the controversy from me or what, but they don’t bring up any of the previous correspondence with multiple people that they’d been having far before this, and simply ask me where oh where had I heard of this?

I gave them an initial link. 

ArachneJericho - Jul 2, 2014

This is where I heard about this:

http://fandomshatewomen.tumblr.com/post/74541762503/much-as-i-think-the-anthology-is-well-intentioned-ive

To which they responded: 

Eggplant Literary Productions - Jul 2, 2014

Okay, I see.

If I can point you to a response I posted to Tumblr

http://eggplantlit.tumblr.com/post/89615413926/hey-one-of-my-friends-has-also-had-problems-with

The original post is from January. As people brought up problems with the guidelines, I did my best to address those issues. I may have failed, and for that I am sorry. But I do believe that the table of contents for the anthologies clearly reflects the diverse and inclusive goals we set out with.

You can find the Table of Contents here:

http://eggplantproductions.com/spellbound-spindles/

If you still wish to have a refund, I will find out how to go about it. I do hope you’ll reconsider, not only because we need the money but because I’m very proud of what we’ve put together and I think both anthologies are amazing.

Sincerely,

Raechel

Apparently all the concerns with the ATI and such went over their heads. (To be fair, the ToC post from fandomshatewomen came a week ago, so after July 2nd.)

ArachneJericho - Jul 2, 2014

I think this recent tumblr post brings up the issues with the TOC more clearly than I could: http://isanah.tumblr.com/post/90563066345/hey-one-of-my-friends-has-also-had-problems-with

Do you want to address the issues?

I gave them a link to @isanah’s tumblr post also about the ToC, because I was too distressed to repeat it again and I thought she said things well. 

They then responded:

Eggplant Literary Productions - Jul 2, 2014

Hello:

I didn’t see any of those responses, but have read through them. “What perspectives are telling these stories? Are they white/Western, or are they from people who come from those backgrounds?” That’s a very fair question, and I can only say that the stories I picked do not read to me as being white/Western in PoC clothing. But my experience and my judgement are limited, which is why this project is not one that is meant to cater to PoC.

I never represented it as being such, there are two other components to Spellbound & Spindles: disabled and LGBT characters. These two anthologies were never meant to be solely about PoC or non-Western European settings. They were meant and are meant to include voices and views not often (if ever) seen in fairy tales.

I apologize because I truly am sorry to have hurt and angered you and others. Being accused of being sorry but unwilling to fix things is frustrating. I can’t scrap the project, or start over. I can’t hire a PoC editor, or any editor, at this time. I can make promises to do better in the future, but 1) I don’t know if that is sufficient and 2) It’s unlikely I’d attempt another project like this again.

I’ve looked into refunding you. I have to put in a request through Amazon Payments as it has been more than 60 days since the payment was made. So it is possible, it just might take some time.

Again, I hope you will reconsider, but I do understand if you don’t.

Sincerely,

Raechel

I am stunned because … well … just to begin there are two things that stick out to me, and that are interrelated, namely: 

  1. "this project is not one that is meant to cater to PoC” (their emphasis, not mine.) Apparently requesting to be represented in a diverse anthology is asking to be catered to. (Alexandra Erin summarizes this idea of catering nicely.)

  2. the implication that by requesting representation of PoC authors, we are edging out disabled and LGBT authors. Never mind that there are disabled PoC, queer PoC, and hell, even queer and disabled PoC! Like myself! Amazing, that.

Things were quiet for several days, and I waited patiently to hear about refunds. And then I received this:

Eggplant Literary Productions - Jul 8, 2014

Hello:

After talking to the other editors, and looking into our obligations via Kickstarter, I am declining the request for a refund. We will be accomplishing what we proposed to do: to put together two anthologies of fairy tales retold to include more diverse characters.

The sole goal of these anthologies, as described in the project is:

"We want to create a special edition of Spellbound, our children’s fantasy e-zine, and a companion adult anthology, titled Spindles, to take full advantage of fairy tales’ plasticity. We want to publish fairy tales retold to include minority, LGBT, and disabled characters. We want to create stories that include the whole spectrum of humanity and make them truly universal."

This project was never presented or intended to be limited to only PoC writers or voices. I would never edit such a project because I am not PoC and thus don’t have the requisite experience to head such a project.

I do apologize that my responses to questions about the guidelines were mishandled, hurtful and gave an impression about my openess to PoC writers that is opposite of what I truly feel. On the guidelines pages for all Eggplant’s projects is the following note that has been posted for a while: “Eggplant Literary Production absolutely encourages submissions from—and submissions about—persons, of any race, color, creed, religion, national citizenship/origin, gender or sexual orientation, disability, age, or physical appearance.”

Where I have failed or not truly lived up to the openess I want for Eggplant, I have tried to acknowledge my mistakes, and learned from them so that I can be better in the future. If my comments on the questions about the guidelines have led people to question my dedication to being as open and welcoming of writers of all backgrounds, I will try to listen, take advice to heart, and make the changes I can to not make the same mistakes again.

I do hope that when you receive the project you will enjoy it and see that it is what we said it would be when we started the Kickstarter campaign last year.

Sincerely,

Raechel Henderson

Again with the “this wasn’t really meant to be multi-cultural, just diverse” which I don’t even know how to parse. I think the final meaning, though, is that this is only diversity of theme, rather than diversity of voice. And the idea that theme can be divorced from voice seems… well… a white one. 

I would advise staying away from ELP—submissions and products—until they get their heads on straight. They seem well-intentioned but unable to look past their own privilege, and seems likely to leave PoC out in the cold.

Please signal boost this!

fandomshatepoc:

I think we all need some good news about anthologies just now, so I wanted to share that Rose Lemberg is running a kickstarter for “An anthology of unclassifiables – lyrical, surreal, magical, experimental pieces that straddle the border between poetry and prose”.

It’ll have an open call for submissions. Rose says about this project:

I am committed to diversity of voice and theme in all my editorial projects, and this one will be no exception. I will be looking for beauty and resonance from all quarters and in all forms. As always, I am invested in supporting creators that belong to marginalized groups.

Rose has a track record of of actively seeking out and publishing POC, and marginalized writers in general. (Here’s a post where they talk about what diversity means to them). When they they founded the poetry zine Stone Telling, which we both co-edit now, a lot of people were claiming that marginalized people just didn’t write speculative poetry. Well, Rose proved them wrong. Creating a friendly market has allowed us to publish stunning work by poets of colour, by poets with disabilities, by queer poets - and by poets whose first sale has been to us. These categories all have major overlaps, of course :)

Rose has also published two poetry anthologies so far (one of feminist poetry, and one of queer & genderqueer poetry); both feature multiple POC poets.

And I want to note that I’ve worked with Rose on Stone Telling for several years now, and they have always met my concerns with respect, openness, and warmth. I trust them, I know this anthology is going to be fabulous, and I’m really excited to be spreading the news!

(via isanah)

shwetanarayan:

lifeislikeabadrpg:

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For those following along, this is the link: 

http://fandomshatewomen.tumblr.com/post/74541762503/much-as-i-think-the-anthology-is-well-intentioned-ive

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Links here: 

http://eggplantlit.tumblr.com/post/89615413926/hey-one-of-my-friends-has-also-had-problems-with

http://eggplantproductions.com/spellbound-spindles/

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Link here: 

http://isanah.tumblr.com/post/90563066345/hey-one-of-my-friends-has-also-had-problems-with

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(sorry for the repeated lines in the screenshot images, this and the following message are rather long and required multiple screenshots.)

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So, yeah, apparently Eggplant’s antho wasn’t meant to “cater to POC”.

I’m just going to leave this there.

Asker audrey1nd Asks:
Hey, one of my friends has also had problems with Eggplant and we're trying to encourage people to write to Writer Beware about the problem. You can only write to them about your own experiences (which exempts me), but we're hoping that since it was a Kickstarter, if enough people write in, they'll look into it and maybe help Eggplant to change for the better and/or put out a warning.
pocwritinggroup pocwritinggroup Said:

fandomshatewomen:

eggplantlit:

I am sorry that my responses on the Spellbound & Spindles guidelines and on Tumblr have been unhelpful and hurtful, and I am trying to do better.

I want to make a clarification: Eggplant is in many respects a one person operation. Samantha Press is in charge of the artwork, and Marcie Lynn Tentchoff takes care of poetry acquisitions.  I (Raechel Henderson) run everything else: reading all the other submissions (for Spellbound, for the e-book line, for Miscellanea), I take care of the contracts, the payments, layout and design of all the publications, I write the jacket copy, send out calls for submissions, run the booths and conventions and everything else.  I get some help from my sister who sends out review requests.  But Eggplant is my company.  I point this out to make it clear that any failures fall on my shoulders.

Hiring a PoC editor is nothing I can do yet.  At this point Eggplant doesn’t make enough to pay another staff member.  I don’t get paid, but everyone else does.  My philosophy has always been that everyone gets paid.  I make sure pay rates are clear up front so authors and artists can decide before submitting if it is worth it.  I don’t ask people to do work without compensation, and so I haven’t opened up to bringing on other staff.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have plans to do so when I can in the future, just that I can’t at this moment.

I don’t want people to feel misled by the Kickstarter.  I don’t think that it has been misleading.  But it is clear that I mishandled several aspects of the guidelines.  I apologize for that.  If I could do things differently, I would have posted the guidelines during the Kickstarter campaign, which I think would have allowed me to improve them based on feedback and not have depended on the Aarne-Thompson classification list.  I could have added in other, more diverse resources.

For backers who feel that I have misrepresented this project, I ask that you look at the table of contents for each anthology.  I do believe they reflect what we set out to do: there are stories with PoC, disabled and queer characters, there are stories and poems based on fairy tales from Peru, Japan and other countries, the settings range from Mongolia to Brazil to New Zealand and more.  If backers still have reservations, I hope they’ll contact me to discuss it.

Moving from the practical to the personal now, I’ve been suffering from depression, anxiety and panic attacks for the last twelve months.  I didn’t get help until last month, and just this week went on medication.  The worst of it was in January and February it colored my reading of the comments on the guidelines, so that I read them as attacks and I responded defensively.  I am not writing this to excuse my responses (and in fact I’ve not mentioned this until a post on Eggplant’s website a couple of weeks ago) because I didn’t want people to think I was trying to engender sympathy).  I’m just offering it up now as some added context that people can take or leave.

It doesn’t change the fact that my responses were wrong.  I am sorry for them, and the hurt I caused.  I am trying to do better.  

Here’s a great example of how to encourage diversity including how to hire a PoC to be an editor. They prove without a doubt that adding “a co-editor from the demographic you seek to encourage” works (quoted is directly from the link).  Here’s my thoughts on your personal problems.

fandomshatewomen:

Good plan thanks :)

Here are some links to some background of the whole situation 1, 2 and 3.  For those of you unfamiliar with the company I’ve included an explanation of what’s going on under the cut.

Read More

For backers who feel that I have misrepresented this project, I ask that you look at the table of contents for each anthology.  I do believe they reflect what we set out to do: there are stories with PoC, disabled and queer characters, there are stories and poems based on fairy tales from Peru, Japan and other countries, the settings range from Mongolia to Brazil to New Zealand and more.  If backers still have reservations, I hope they’ll contact me to discuss it.

I wanted to match faces and ethnicities to the names. Some of your writers and contributors are easily guessed, but ultimately there’s only so much I could do. I was actually going to give numbers along with my speculation to try and explain how deceptive your statement is. Because to me? It seems that the majority of the names matched to those fairy tales set in non-white settings have no business being written by someone other than PoC. And if they’re going to be written by white people, they should be thoroughly researched and nitpicked by an editor who is themselves a PoC.  This isn’t an incredibly hard thing to do, nor is it an unreasonable request, especially when you asked for donations and especially when your whole pitch included “wanting to be inclusive to PoC” and PoC who donated are now feeling cheated and shut out.

As a writer, I know what it takes to write a story. Maybe I never submitted, but that’s because I didn’t trust your guidelines to accept something I wanted to write about; the likelihood of stories that are popular in non-Western cultures falling into the narrow definition of “fairy tale” is slim. It isn’t fair that now PoC backers are complaining and have very little recourse. They can’t very well go to Writer Beware (which is discussed in this thread) because they were rejected. This blog that you’re responding to? You’re only doing it here because you want to tell your side of the story and stop this and maybe you feel bad. But your apology accomplishes little in the face of the many people you’ve discouraged and who, in some cases, are feeling cheated.  So when I give a voice to those who have had a hard time coming forward, I do so with the self awareness that this might be the biggest platform these backers might have to air their grievances. I do so with the knowledge that the majority of rebloggers only care because they are themselves PoC. I do so with the knowledge that white people will look away and that they can do so with a clear conscience because this is a “PoC issue” and how convenient is that? That you can mess up and hurt PoC, and no one will care but PoC who don’t want to be hurt. You will still make money off all of this, and our complaints and concerns will do nothing to your bottom line. You’ve already got one anthology in the bag, and you’ve already got orders.

But for those of us who have been urged “Don’t dream it, be it,” and find out that no, you are just like any other white publisher who wants to give the bare minimum of exposure to PoC authors and inclusivity that fits your white worldview, well I’m here for them. I’m here to warn marginalized people away from your publication because I do not trust you to have my back or my best interests at heart as a WoC.  I hope you can change, but above all I hope people of color realize that when white allies want to be inclusive that it’s almost always on their terms.  It might seem like you are doing the best you can, and I honestly wish you no ill-will but you didn’t just make a few mistakes and even though you say you’re doing the best you can I believe you can do better. I know that allies exist. I’ve seen them challenge themselves to do better constantly and I want you to live up to your promise. Do better, stop giving us excuses, and actually change. We’ve pointed out many ways for you to improve time and time again, but actually taking those suggestions to heart and learning from them is up to you. And until you have done better, I have this post to serve as a warning for people of color not to trust you and not to feel horrible when you have rejected them and their stories. Internalizing rejection is a big problem when you’re marginalized, and it doesn’t factor into any of your responses. But my biggest worry is that people will give you the benefit of the doubt and then internalize your rejection, when really, your worldview is just too white to include people of color represented in the way we see ourselves.

Hello everyone. I apologize for the short notice, but the blog and writing exchanges are going to be on hiatus for a few weeks. 

I’d like to take time to restructure and get this blog going again when I come back in July. 

Thanks for your support and patience. 

- KC 

P. S. 

If there is anything urgent or important, please email me at pocwritinggroup[at]gmail. I will be checking that regularly. 

Asker audrey1nd Asks:
Hey, one of my friends has also had problems with Eggplant and we're trying to encourage people to write to Writer Beware about the problem. You can only write to them about your own experiences (which exempts me), but we're hoping that since it was a Kickstarter, if enough people write in, they'll look into it and maybe help Eggplant to change for the better and/or put out a warning.
pocwritinggroup pocwritinggroup Said:

fandomshatewomen:

Good plan thanks :)

Here are some links to some background of the whole situation 1, 2 and 3.  For those of you unfamiliar with the company I’ve included an explanation of what’s going on under the cut.

Read More

Hi! We've started a blog about media representation, intersectionality, and the discrepancy between diversity in real life and diversity portrayed in fiction. We're a submissions blog looking for everyday examples where the world in real life is more diverse than the world in our television screens to counter the idea that having diversity in media is "trying too hard" or "unrealistic". Our blog is "butdiversityisunrealistic". Please share if you think your followers would be interested! Thanks!
pocwritinggroup pocwritinggroup Said:

kceyagi:

In the free time I do not have, I’m going to just create a master post (if there isn’t one already) that I’m going to point people to. So I don’t have to keep writing shit over and over again. 

Here are the common things I see white people complaining about diversity: 

  1. I can’t relate to people of color as a white author.

  2. Why don’t people of color just write their own stories instead of complaining?

  3. Cultural appropriation isn’t bad. I’m appreciating your culture.

  4. It’s art. I don’t have to be accurate.

  5. I support diversity, just when it’s not forced.

  6. Historical accuracy!

Did I miss any? 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Part 1: Why is there a war against writers to include POC in their stories and not the publishers to publish those stories? I bet that the stories you want - with POC as heroes, or with LGBT characters as heroes - already exit and simply are not being published. I understand that POC and the LGBT community around the world want to read those books and they should have access to those books, obviously, and it's terrible that they - for the most part - don't. But why should I write them?
pocwritinggroup pocwritinggroup Said:

thewritingcafe:

Part 2: But when I write my MC is always a white male, because I am one. And when I read I see myself in the character, so I can’t relate with a POC or someone from the LGBT community - or even a girl/ woman - because that’s not me. Specially the type of books I read - fantasy, dystopian YA - I see them as adventures, a power fantasy for me, where I am the MC. So I write what I like to read. Books with POC should exist and be published, but written by POC, not by me & I shouldn’t be pressure to.

The relationship between writers and those in the publishing industry is a complicated one. People are definitely attacking the publishing industry (and the media). They have power over writers and do stuff like whitewashing book covers, which writers have little to no power over, and a lot of people are sick of it:

Writers are encouraged to write a variety of characters. We are encouraged to write people who are unlike ourselves, “the other”, if you will, because writing is about learning, empathy, and exploration. Challenging yourself and exploring something different will make you a better writer and empathy is essential for creating good characters.

If you only want to write straight white male protagonists, then the least you can do is support authors of color, lgbt+ authors, and female authors and to recognize that people like you and me (white males) have certain advantages in publishing that other people do not.

kceyagi:

Hey followers! Just found out about this writing opportunity. See below for more details. :) 

From Belladonna Publishing: 

The strange little girl is not like the other little girls. She might look like the other girls and act like the other girls, but be very strange at heart – or she might be just plain weird altogether. Sometimes she is a scary little girl, other times a dreamer, always treading the fine line between reality and imagination – or even madness… We want to meet new strange little girls, and read strong and original stories about them. Why is she strange? How is she strange? Who is she when she grows up? Does she end up like the madwoman in the attic, hidden away from the world – or is she an office clerk? A lawyer? A baker of poisoned goods?

Length: 2 000 – 8 000 words

What we want: Originality is treasured, so is strong storytelling, clever plot and a polished and proof read manuscript.
Don’t be afraid to experiment – we do like the strange.

What we do not want: Pointless gore or splatter horror, plotless porn (sex is ok – but all in good taste) or poetry.

Submissions: We will accept submissions between May 15th and July 15th, e-mail submissions only.

Click this link for more information.