This is a post I’ve been contemplating writing for a while. It never seemed like the right time–or, it always seemed as though things might change, as thought I might change. As though if I just tried harder, things would work themselves out.
After we release Issue Six, Quaint will be going on indefinite hiatus.
There are a number of reasons for this, many of which you can probably guess. Like many small, un-funded literary magazines, Quaint’s ‘staff’ isn’t really a staff. It’s me, our graphic designer and web-whiz Alicia (who also typesets the PDF for our print issues), our intern/social media manager Nicole, and an ever-revolving cast of volunteers (genre editors, copy-editors, graphic design interns) who help out as and when they can. We do not pay these people. We do not pay ourselves. As you can imagine, this means that Quaint regularly takes a backseat for people who are often struggling to make ends meet, or to balance school and life with an unpaid, volunteer position.
We haven’t published an issue in over a year. This is absolutely not a coincidence; we ground to a halt when our CNF editor – my co-founder (and really, more accurately, our managing editor) – Soleil Ho left. Soleil is a consummate professional. She is one of the most organized, focused people I know. And she was the person who made things happen when I flailed my arms about and said “WHAT IF WE TRIED TO DO THIS THING!?!?”
It’s telling, isn’t it, that when one of the only women of color on our team moved on, things fell apart?
This brings me to the second reason that I feel Quaint cannot, and probably should not, continue – at least in its current form. For a long time I have been getting steadily more uncomfortable with Quaint’s mission statement – or perhaps more accurately with how we enact that mission statement. Do I still believe in publishing work from “traditionally marginalized writers”? Yes. In work that “explores identity performance”? Absolutely. In “subverting the cultural cliche of femininity”? Yeah, that too.
But though I wrote, three years ago, that Quaint began as an exercise in rebellion, I wonder now whether that’s still a valid statement. Are we rebelling, with a skeleton staff that includes, essentially, two white women? (And regardless of the complexities of my identity, I pass as and am, for all theoretical purposes, a white woman)? Is it fair that our former intern, now social media manager, Nicole, is not compensated for her work? Is it fair to ask a Black woman to work on a white woman’s project for free?
We put forth out best efforts to publish diverse work. But intentions are not good enough, and despite knowing my intentions are good, I no longer feel conviction in my authority to select work for a publication that claims to be intersectional, political, and transgressive. The work that comes to us is good. Incredible, actually. I have been consistently surprised and overwhelmed by its quality, its sharp edges, its thorns. But can I say in all honesty that I am the best person to be a gatekeeper for this work?
No. I am not. I cannot.
What right do I have to pass judgment over these voices?
These thoughts had been circulating in my head for a while, manifesting as stress and tension and sickness every time I could snatch a moment to myself to read submissions, or edit existing work, or work on the next digital issue. And the haunting realization kept returning to me; this entire project would be better–was better–when I was less involved.
Especially in the wake of the US Presidential Election, there has been a lot of talk of the rise of white feminism and the damage it does. There had been a lot of talk about it for a while, but perhaps without that shock to the system I was less willing to seriously listen. My knee-jerk was always that that label did not apply to me. Because I strove so hard to be intersectional, didn’t I? Didn’t I publish a magazine with that intersectionality as a key point in its mission statement?
And then it became clearer to me. That now is not the time to assume a position of authority – even in something so small as a tiny, small-circulation literary magazine. Because the last thing I want is for Quaint to become ‘the white woman magazine.’ The publication that serves the interests of only the most privileged group of marginalized people.
Quaint will publish Issue Six. We’ve been working on it forever, and I still believe strongly in the work that will appear in it. Likely, it will be digital first, print later (in an on-demand basis). We simply don’t have the financial resources to print off a 100 (or even 50) book run out of pocket. But I want people to read the words we’ve selected – pieces that Soleil selected, before she left, particularly – that are searing and vital and beautiful. And we’ll keep the website up, of course – as an archive of the work we’ve already published. After that? Who knows. We will certainly been taking a hiatus. Maybe we’ll come back – different, better, more focused. At this point, it’s hard to say. If we do, it’s my greatest hope that it will be with someone else at the helm; someone whose vision is bolder, braver, and less near-sighted.
I am proud of a lot of the things we’ve accomplished. I am proud of how much hard work people have poured into this project. I have no regrets that this became, for a while, a haven for the voices of abused women, for survivors, for people who needed a place to tell their story. I am so thankful to those people for sharing their words with us. To everyone, really. I am thankful, and I am humbled.
If, as publishers and writers, we truly believe in promoting diverse literature, we need to understand that this sometimes involves putting ego aside. Stepping out of the picture, and making room for someone else. I am so excited to step back out into the world and commit myself to reading work that truly pushes boundaries. If you’ve got recommendations, come at me: I’m all ears.
All my love, and thank you thank you thank you.
Founding Editor, Quaint Magazine