Notes from the Editors
Kia Groom – Founding Editor
When Soleil and I started Quaint back in the Fall of 2013, I never imagined we’d be sitting here, in the Spring of 2015, about to launch our first print issue. Quaint was a sudden, indignant response to the suggestion that women and other minorities were under-represented in literature because we just didn’t try. Bullshit, I thought. Bullshit we don’t try, and in the space of a couple of days, with the help, support, and technical prowess of Alicia Thompson, my long-time friend and an exceptionally talented designer, we launched the magazine.
I don’t know what I expected, truthfully. I think I believed the project would burn out quickly, or else never take off at all. I didn’t believe we’d get many submissions—who were we, after all? A couple of grad students earning their MFAs in the Deep South, a couple of angry feminists with an axe to grind and a vision of a publishing industry that didn’t willfully exclude women, queer folk, and people of color. Quaint was born out of anger and idealism, and truly, I never expected there would be so many other people who felt that same anger, that same searing desire for something to change.
And yet, the submissions came. They came, and they came, and they were good. I’ve been on the staff of several magazines, and never have I been so consistently impressed by the quality of work received. The people submitting to Quaint were so passionate, so talented, and they were producing work that was weird and uncomfortable and transgressive and boundary-pushing. I was impressed, and I was also humbled. That so many people have, and continue to, share their work with us has been such an immense privilege.
There were, of course, people of all genders who raised eyebrows at our exclusionary publication policies. Is creating a space that is off-limits to the majority of published writers discriminatory? Absolutely—but in a literary climate where women and non-binary writers are, and have always been, incredibly marginalized, it feels necessary. The VIDA stats bear this out: overwhelmingly, the major players in today’s publishing industry devote well under 50% of their pages to women. What happens when the experiences and voices of a select few are privileged over the rest? We – as readers, as editors, as writers, as people – become primed to see life only through those lenses, even at the expense of our own sanity and self-esteem. We learn to pathologize ideas and styles that go beyond what white capitalist heteropatriarchy can tolerate, seeing them as “unrefined” or “uneducated.” As a magazine, and as editors, our mission has always been to challenge dominant notions of what constitutes respectable, “literary” writing so that critically important perspectives can finally have their own space to thrive.
Quaint is by no means the only journal forging the way for under-represented writers. Journals like Canada’s Room Magazine, the 40-year-old Calyx, and Bone Bouquet, to name just a few, have been working hard to balance the scales within the literary community. There are a wide variety of presses and publications that cater to writers of color, as well as the queer community, including Topside Press whom we were fortunate enough to partner with in 2014 to host trans authors Sibyl Lamb and Casey Plett. From the very beginning, these other presses and publications have made Quaint feel so welcome and supported within the community. There is no sense of competition: we are united. We are working towards a common goal.
The support of the lit community at large has, perhaps, been the most rewarding part of working on Quaint. We’ve made so many friends and become part of a network of brilliant, driven writers and artists of all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds. We’ve had the immense good fortune of being supported both financially (via our Kickstarter), psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually by some of the most generous, empathic people we’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. There’s simply not room to thank everyone, but we’d be remiss not to personally thank Sarah Xerta, Kat Dixon, Die Dragonetti, Dena Rash Guzman, and Sarah B. Boyle, whose friendship and solidarity meant absolutely the world to us. And of course, our wonderful staff (past, present, and future) who have worked so tirelessly, for absolutely no financial reward, to make our little anger-fuelled start-up the quality literary magazine that it is today.
Personal thanks are also due to my friend and mentor, Carolyn Hembree, who taught me so much about poetry, criticism, editing, and the publication process. Thanks are also due to my mom, Helen Power, who supports me in so many innumerable ways, and without whom Quaint most certainly would not exist. Thanks for teaching me to be fearless and independent, mom. You are incredible.
So, here’s to many more editions of Quaint! I am completely overwhelmed by the quality of work in this issue: the poems, essays, short stories, and artwork within these pages are strange and powerful, disturbing and lyrical, fueled by the kind of raw artistry that is at once profoundly beautiful and deeply disquieting. This is not easy work. Quaint Issue 4 is a challenge, but I promise you, it’s a rewarding one.
Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.
Eunsong Kim – Guest Poetry Co-Editor
“When I was writing To Write as a Woman, I wanted to say that the ignition point of a genre called poetry is a feminine position. I wanted to say, regardless of a poet’s gender, poetry is where night is, where absence is, poetry begins where mother is (who has lost herself to me), it’s where I ‘do poetry.’”
Poetry or Letter To the Other of My Inside-Outside: Poet Kim Hyesoon
Quaint’s mission and the poems in issue four make the claim and the stakes of the feminine position explicit. Poetry is a feminine position—to ‘do’ and to ‘make’ poetry is a feminine position. Not feminine as in what is visible and lavishly marked by femininity: but one position from which recognized power is challenged, contested, stolen. This is the quest and the horizon.
There is no home I trust more with my own work, or with the work of my comrades. It has been such pleasure and so many glories to partake in editing this issue with the wonders that run Quaint.
Jeanne Thornton – Guest Fiction Co-Editor
When Kia asked me to guest edit fiction for this issue of Quaint, I had two editorial goals, in this order:
(1) Publish fiction by trans women specifically. It is very, very easy, in this our modern world, for trans women’s voices to become lost in the shuffle of identities and experiences that seek representation. There are a lot of mantras we can say to ourselves or to others about the Freedom of Art or the Primacy of Individuals to help us avoid feeling complicit in that state of affairs. But this is 2015, a year that’s brought us some eight murders of trans women–primarily trans women of color–between January 17 and February 22, one of them having taken place less than a mile from where I live and one of them having taken away a close friend of a friend. Topside Press publisher Tom Leger has calculated that one trans woman of color, that we know of, is murdered every five days— and those primarily by their family and partners.
Thus centering the voices of trans women, particularly trans women of color, in queer spaces is at this point not just a nice idea that We Will Get Around To once everyone has a voice. If institutions like the police, the media, government officials by and large (who often can’t bring themselves to say the word transgender and who’ve systematically stripped trans clauses from “LGBT rights” bills to make things easier for themselves politically, when they’re not trying to make us not use public bathrooms or w/e), our families, and our own intimate partners are not willing to see trans women as humans, are not willing to protect us, then clearly we have a great deal of remedial work to do. And reading the kinds of dreams and fantasies we construct for ourselves, the kinds of lies we tell ourselves to make our world something we can get through, is maybe an easy and entertaining way to perform that work in a way that we can control.
That said: I did not do a great job of repping the voices of trans women here. One of the trans women authors whose work I was excited to feature withdrew from this issue at the zero hour for reasons of conscience, taking with her a piece that I was excited about and a voice that’s honestly vital to listen to.
Why am I mentioning this at all? Two reasons.
One: I’m not going to name like who is trans and who is not among the contributors, in part because I feel weird about that for many reasons and in part because I don’t necessarily know. But the proportion of trans women to other authors is not great, given that this is the editorial place I started from, and while I think the work of individual trans women featured here is spectacular, I don’t want anyone to think of what I’ve done here in terms of gathering and curating as in any way sufficient.
And two: I think it’s important, if there’s a wound in a community–whether you believe that there’s a choice about participating in a community or not–for there to be a visible scar. To be a trans woman in this culture is to shoulder a sustained level of background terror and often explicit trauma that stacks onto every other trauma we may have to deal with. To expect trans women operating within that Hell Gravity to form ideal communities whose members all get along and work together politically for good ends without incident is at best fantasy, at worst a toxic expectation. And I may change my mind on this tomorrow, but I would feel terrible not acknowledging that, and that in trying to navigate the complex questions of whose voices to support, what friends to remain personally tied to, etc. etc., I have maybe brought nontrivial pain. And if the result of that is that a trans woman feels unsafe using this as a space from which to speak, everything gets darker.
It is total fantasy to think that community comes out of trauma without hideous seismic birth pangs that will, more regularly than we want to admit, shake everything apart. But the role of communities, particularly online communities, in my life as a trans woman is really distinctly not trivial; it’s often just life, full stop. I think the same is true for other trans women, particularly young ones, particularly the vulnerable ones whom the world is currently seeking to murder. So we, I, all of us have to try to do better, which starts with acknowledging where we haven’t done that great.
(2) Publish fiction concerned with class. Publish fiction concerned with intersubjective ethics, how people care about, support, hurt, seek power over one another. Publish fiction whose role is to Inform and to Delight. Publish fiction that I would like personally to read; publish fiction that I have some private maybe toxic notion of as “advancing” fiction. Publish fiction that avoids easy cleverness or complacency in favor of personal transformation, hallucinatory vision, empathy, despair.
Thus, in this issue: A suburb can not decide where the boundary between itself, its property holdings, and its neighborhood animals begins or ends. A woman becomes ourobourous, autophage, sated. A sideshow shark in a tank of water binds two lives seeking violent escape. Dreams, the military, and Hollywood fantasy form a cycle in a small town whose citizens’ fates have been linked to decades of American foreign policy.
I am really really really excited by the work in this issue, by these voices, by these visions. I’m proud to have had the chance to contribute to Quaint and to be able to give these voices space in which to speak. Keep listening to all of them. Maybe keep listening to everyone.
Alicia Thompson – Art Director
We would like to extend a gigantic and heartfelt thank you to all of the donors who made Issue 4 possible. There were 102 of you amazing creatures, and without you, a printed issue of this magazine would not be possible. You rallied behind us and showed that you value the work of female-identified and non-binary writers, and we could not be more grateful for your support.
We would also like to thank all of you who reblogged, retweeted, shared, and promoted our Kickstarter. Standing with us with your support, your posts, and your voices meant that we were able to reach our goal.
Thank you so much to all of the amazing humans who have allowed us to publish your work. Every new issue blows us away with your strength, your skill, and your guts, and the work that we are blessed enough to publish makes editing, posting, promoting, and now printing this magazine a huge pleasure.
Finally, to our readers, who love us, cheer for us, challenge us, and continually support us in our effort to see female-identified and non-binary writers represented, showcased, and widely-read: thank you! Your decision to support us is
a decision to support under-represented writers in the literary sphere, and sends a loud and clear message to traditional publishers: the same old stories are not enough. Homogeneity is not enough. The perspectives and experiences of women (especially women of colour and trans women) and genderqueer people matter, and we are cheered to see a growing hunger for their voices among readers of all stripes. These voices are both Quaint and more than quaint.