Today, I am pleased to bring you an interview with Kay T. Holt and Bart R. Leib, co-publishers and founders of Crossed Genres Publications. Kay and Bart are also founders and contributing writers to the excellent and informative Science in My Fiction blog.
After they accepted my story “The Tradeoff” for the Fat Girl in a Strange Land anthology, I thought this interview would be a good opportunity to learn how the anthology came about, what the editorial life entails, and what’s next for Crossed Genres Publications.
So let’s get started.
What was the inspiration behind the Fat Girl in a Strange Land anthology?
Crossed Genres has always been a publisher that supports underrepresented groups. Fat women have always been hidden in literature and film, or represented as examples of what not to be. We wanted to show some of the ways in which fat women are ostracized, and shoehorned into stereotypes, and display some of the mental and emotional consequences of those stereotypes. We also wanted to prove that fat women can be proud of who they are, and are deserving of their own stories.
“Fat”, “girl”, “strange”, and “land”… Why this combination of words? Why now?
The title as a whole is a play on Heinlein’s famous novel Stranger in a Strange Land. A few years ago Kay started a series of short stories which were collectively titled Fat Girl in a Strange Land. When the time came to title the anthology we appropriated the title. “Fat” is a term almost always used as an insult, so we’re using it to shift the power it has into the hands of those it would insult; similarly, “girl” is a condescending term for a woman. And the “strange land” in this context is more literal, since all the stories involve the main characters traveling to places they’ve never been (sometimes metaphorically).
I know when I first came across the call for this anthology and then tried to come up with overweight female protagonists in the speculative realm, I drew a blank. And I wanted to change that. Fellow antho author Sabrina Vourvoulias has an excellent post on this invisibility in Unabashed Fat on her blog. What do you hope this anthology achieves for the genre? For readers?
When was the last time you saw a woman on the cover of a spec fic book who wasn’t either 1) skinny, or 2) cartoonishly fat to the point of absurdity? Women main characters are rare enough, let alone overweight ones. If a young girl who is overweight can’t find a single story of futuristic fiction with an overweight woman, is she to assume that people like her don’t exist in the future? How would that girl react? We want fat girls – and women – to read Fat Girl in a Strange Land and see themselves reflected in the struggles of the characters.
Now, in addition to working together on Crossed Genres Publications, you are married in real life. How does your real life partnership inform your literary one? Are there editorial duties that one of you is naturally more comfortable handling than the other? How do you decide who does what?
We don’t always co-edit every book we publish; for example, Kay edited our two novel publications, RJ Astruc’s A Festival of Skeletons and Kelly Jennings’ Broken Slate, while Bart edited our new anthology Subversion: Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm. When we co-edit we split the actual editing evenly.
The rest of the publishing responsibilities – art editing, book production, publicity, etc. – gets split up, often according to our strengths. Kay is a talented artist with art history experience, so she does most of the art editing work; Bart handles most of the distribution and publicity. It can vary somewhat by project, or depending on who has more time available. 😉
What is your best advice for writers out there given your editorial experience?
1. Follow the guidelines. You would not believe how many people get rejections because they didn’t. Read them, put your submission together, then before you hit Send, read them again. Don’t give the editors reasons to reject you before they’ve even looked at your story.
2. Put together a good query letter. Study the subject, look at examples, even take a class just for querying. Yes, your writing should speak for itself, but if an editor sees a sloppy email, why should they assume your writing is handled with any greater care? A query is the first thing an editor sees – make sure it isn’t the last.
3. Accept your rejections. Everyone gets rejected – everyone. Heinlein was rejected for 2 solid years before he got his first acceptance. Dr. Seuss was on the verge of burning his only copy of his first book, And To Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street, after getting rejected 27 times. A rejection does not mean your writing is bad. There are lots of reasons to be rejected, and the only thing you can do is revisit the story, make some changes, and send it right back out again.
4. Don’t be afraid to be different! During those 27 rejections Dr. Seuss received (mentioned above), one letter claimed “This is too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” Seuss has gone on to sell millions of books in dozens of countries, winning Academy Awards, Emmys, the Pulitzer Prize and a Peabody award along the way. Regardless of what some people think, readers really do want to read new and unique stories.
You recently discontinued Crossed Genres Magazine to focus your efforts on speculative fiction anthologies like Fat Girl in a Strange Land and novels, including INK by Sabrina Vourvoulias out later this year. How is this change helping Crossed Genres Publications move forward?
The primary change is really financial. We’re taking the funds we were putting into the magazine and redirecting it to novels and anthologies, allowing us to pay a little better, and focus our resources on fewer annual projects.
The other real benefit is escaping the grind of publishing something new every month. We’re very proud that we’ve never missed a publication date in 3 years of the zine, but it’s definitely worn on us. The last CG Magazine publication (Quarterly 4) was released on January 1, and we’re really looking forward to narrowing our focus to 4-5 publications per year. By comparison, Fat Girl in a Strange Land will be our 9th publication in the past 14 months.
What’s on the horizon for Crossed Genres Publications? Any plans for additional anthologies right now?
At the moment our publication schedule is set through the end of 2012. In February there’s Fat Girl in a Strange Land. In July we’ll be releasing a collection of short stories by author Daniel José Older, who we’ve published a couple short stories from already. And in September we’ll be publishing INK, a novel by PA author Sabrina Vourvoulias. It’s possible we may add another title we have in mind for the end of 2012 (November or December), but at the moment it’s more likely that that project will be published in early 2013.
We’re still accepting novel submissions! And don’t be surprised to see another submission call for a new anthology in the near future!
EDIT: That new anthology submission call is for Menial: Skilled Labor in SF due by May 31st, so put your thinking caps on!
Thanks again to Kay and Bart for participating in this interview!
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“For every supermodel, there are thousands of women who have heard “Why don’t you just eat less?” far too often. Except as comic relief or the unattractive single BFF, those women’s stories are never told. Crossed Genres Publications presents Fat Girl in a Strange Land, an anthology of fourteen stories of fat women protagonists traveling distant and undiscovered realms.
From Guatemala, where a woman dreams of becoming La Gorda, the first female luchador, before discovering a greater calling in “La Gorda and the City of Silver”; to the big city in the US, where superhero Flux refuses to don spandex in order to join her new team in “Nemesis”; to the remote planet Sidquiel in “Survivor”, where student Wen survives a crash landing, only to face death from the rising sun. Fat Girl in a Strange Land takes its characters – and its readers – places they’ve never been.”