BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Her Plumage is one of those books the world really needs. It’s an anthology that Quail Bell Press and Eudaimonia Press are putting out into the world to benefit survivors of gender violence. Her Plumage, an anthology of women's writers, will be released by Emma Eden Ramos' Eudaimonia this summer. As an anthology done for charity, all of the proceeds will go to She is Rising, an organization that supports survivors of human trafficking and other forms of human trafficking.
I interviewed Christine Stoddard, founder and editor of Quail Bell, about the project below.
How did the idea of the anthology start?
In 2015, Deniz Ataman, Quail Bell’s former managing editor, suggested curating an anthology to benefit an organization that worked with survivors of sex trafficking. Quail Bell had previously done two anthologies, The Nest and Airborne, through Belle Isle Books in Richmond, Virginia. They were officially released as sister anthologies in 2014. While Deniz had a great idea, the timing wasn’t right. I was about to get married; she was about to move from Virginia (where we lived at the time) to Brooklyn; various members of The Quail Bell Crew had their own lives going on. So we pressed pause.
When Gretchen Gales, our current executive editor, joined a couple of years later, she kept pushing the idea. She was eager and persistent, and I knew she’d be a great co-lead on the project. Finally, at the beginning of this year, we decided to just go for it. We approached the brand new Eudaimonia Press, led by Emma Eden Ramos, about the idea and she immediately accepted. She suggested that the anthology benefit the organization She Is Rising, founded by Brooke Axtell. She Is Rising runs a leadership center and retreats to give survivors of sex trafficking and gender violence guidance and mentorship. The organization specifically focuses on girls and women. We agreed with Emma’s recommendation. It seemed like a great organization for the Quail Bell anthology. The journey for Her Plumage was really beginning.
Right now we are finalizing the manuscript and fundraising for contributor and event copies. Because all sales from Her Plumage will benefit She Is Rising, we will not be making any money from the book. We need funds to provide all of the contributors with copies of the book and also have copies for future events. We also want to provide a modest honorarium those involved in post-production (copy editing, formatting, lay-out). I strongly believe in giving writers contributor copies, even though it requires doing a fundraiser because we’re working with a very new indie publisher and donating all proceeds to charity.
You can learn more about the Facebook fundraiser here. Thanks in advance for your donations, likes, and shares!
What are ways survivors of these abuses can be supported by others?
I know that many forms of medical, therapeutic, financial, and legislative support (or at least possibilities) exist, but I will leave it to the professionals to speak on specifics. That is one of the reasons why we are partnering with She Is Rising. I trust this organization as a global healing community. And I think there are many ways that friends, family, romantic partners, co-workers, and individuals of all kinds can be supportive of the survivors in their lives, too. Support starts with empathy. There are many ways to practice empathy. One way to cultivate more empathy is through experiencing the arts. Reading literature connects us to other people. I hope that Her Plumage helps readers connect to survivors and, more generally, the women in their lives.
When it comes to curating diverse voices, how did you go about soliciting, accepting, and rejecting work?
We curated women’s writings based on stories, essays, and poems we’d published on the Quail Bell Magazine website. Unlike our previous two anthologies, we limited this anthology to women’s writings because the benefit organization, She Is Rising, only serves women. We also solicited a few new pieces from women whose previously published work we were already intent on including.
All of Quail Bell’s editors are women, but we come from diverse backgrounds. Some identify as part of the LGBTQ community and the majority are women of color, including biracial and multiracial women. We represent New York City and the Richmond, Virginia metro area (where Quail Bell was founded), but also Long Island, New Hampshire, and India. Our editors live in big cities, medium-sized cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Our religious and cultural backgrounds are diverse, too.
With all that in mind, we felt confident we could curate diverse voices. After all, we’re part of the communities that are usually called “diverse,” “minority,” “marginalized,” and “multicultural.” But we also had a couple of regular contributors and supporters look at the first draft of the manuscript and give us their feedback. Just to be safe, fair, and kind. We wanted to carry out Quail Bell’s mission while also honoring the mission of She Is Rising.
The stories, poems, and essays in the manuscript speak to diverse aspects of women’s experiences. Not all of them are survivor stories, but they all speak to gender issues and power dynamics in some way.
What do you hope will happen with this project?
I want Her Plumage to fly off the shelves! I won’t be getting rich—or even making a dime—but I will be happy knowing that we’ve produced a meaningful print project that will benefit a worthy organization. Hopefully it will delight Quail Bell fans and bring a new audience to Quail Bell while raising necessary funds and awareness for She Is Rising. I want Her Plumage to be a book that makes Emma at Eudaimonia Press proud, too. And I want readers to feel changed in some way after reading the book.
Who and/or what inspires you?
The Quail Bell Crew! Always. So many people jumped to help when Gretchen and I announced we were doing this book. Alex Carrigan, Kaylin Kaupish, and Ghia Vitale have already given so much. And I’ve counted on Quail Bell editors, contributors, and interns for so many other projects, including my independent ones. Like when I needed an illustrator for a children’s book in 2014, Sami Cronk stepped up. That title, The Book of Quails (Clare Songbirds), is available for pre-order now. When I needed a proofreader for Belladonna Magic: Spells in the Form of Poetry & Photography (Shanti Arts), Nadia Gerassimenko stepped up. That collection is out now—and the launch is June 12th at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. I’m amazed by my talented friends and colleagues, and really anyone who dedicates themselves to creating, no matter the challenges. That includes my dear, humble husband, who’s asked that I don’t name him in interviews. To use his words, “You’re the star bunny. I want to be the bunny hiding in the brush. All you can see is my ears.” For the record, I think he’s a star bunny, too. His drawings, animations, humor, intelligence, and kindness always inspire me.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, Sexting Ghosts, Xenos, No(body) (forthcoming, Madhouse Press, 2019), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault. They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes Poetry and the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Them, Brooklyn Magazine, BUST, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente / FB: joannacvalente
Christine Sloan Stoddard is a Salvadoran-American writer and interdisciplinary artist. She is the founder of Quail Bell Magazine and the author of Belladonna Magic (Shanti Arts), Water for the Cactus Woman (Spuyten Duyvil), Hispanic and Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press), and other books. You can find her work in Ms. Magazine, Bustle, The Feminist Wire, Marie Claire, The Huffington Post, Yes! Magazine, Digital America, Native Peoples Magazine, and beyond. Her work has also appeared in the New York Transit Museum, the Queens Museum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Waveland Ground Zero Hurricane Museum, the Poe Museum, FiveMyles Gallery, The UnSpace Gallery, and elsewhere.