Dear Yasmin Belkhyr,
We read your open letter to our journal and are writing to apologize for the inappropriate and inadequate response you received to a valid and all too pressing question. We are severely disappointed and ashamed by how our social media manager handled this, and she has been asked to leave her position effective immediately. Her views are not representative of our publication, which is currently staffed by 40 people, only 12 of whom are white men. Our print content editors who selected the judges are women, people of color, or both, committed to publishing diverse, strong work.
As fellow members of a literary industry stifled by a lack of diversity, we agree with your concerns and made an active effort to solicit work for the publication by writers existing outside the white cisgender literary frame. We hope the work we publish demonstrates this, even though our three judges this year may not reflect it. We also want to clarify that our publication predominantly publishes pieces submitted through the free submission process, where we welcome work from May to September, for the print journal (and the rest of the year for the online journal). Among the writers and editors we solicited to be judges—many of whom are included in your list—our three contest judges were the ones who responded that they were available. The judge positions for the contest, like our editorial positions, are unpaid, and availability varies greatly from year to year. We are grateful for their contributions and confident they will help make the contest selections as diverse and excellent as we’ve been working to do with all the journal content. Our contest submissions are first read by our diverse editorial board and editors, just as regular submissions are, before the finalists are sent to contest judges, to remain consistent with the publication’s selection mission to have work read by diverse readers.
In our forthcoming issue, we’re proud to see that our efforts to solicit beyond the white cismale tradition have brought us outstanding work by writers whose identities include people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, translations from around the world, and writers of undocumented status. We are now discussing ways to make clear to incoming editors/generations of the journal that we as an entity are committed to celebrating voices of marginalized writers and artists, and that any behavior that undermines this ethos, like the racist and dismissive comments addressed in your letter, will not be tolerated.
We will continue to advocate for lowering the contest fee and finding cheaper printing options to deflect costs. The money from the contest goes in large part to paying the winners and to paying for production of the magazine as we continue to seek alternative funding. We will strive to address these critiques until our journal represents the diversity of voices our staff is committed to. We are grateful for your open letter as we know it will help us continue to get there.
Nathan, Liza, Tyler, Emily, Raluca, María Jesús
The Editorial Team