PDR Blog

Gender Representation in PDR

December 18, 2013

Inspired by VIDA Women in Literary Arts and Submission Bombers, we decided to look into the gender representation of artists in and writers in our pages. In our six issues since we began publishing the magazine in 2011, the overall gender breakdown of our contributors has been relatively even, with 47.5% of our contributors being women, 52.5% men. You can find a breakdown of the results by category and issue in the chart below. 

We want PDR to amplify not just those voices that circulate easily and unmarked through dominant channels of publicity, but also those that face difficutly (or even resistance) when trying to make their voices heard. Thus, we continue to welcome submissions from writers of any gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual identity as well as working class writers and writers with disabilities. Submissions for our Spring 2014 issue are open until December 31st.

Gender Representation in PDR

Submissions for Equality

December 17, 2013

Vida Logo (designed by Nancy Smith)The literary world has a long way to go in terms of gender representation. There is little balance in publications between men and women, let alone people who reside elsewhere on the gender spectrum. In August 2009, poets Cate Marvin and Erin Belieu founded VIDA: Women in Literary Arts; then, in 2010, they began “the Count.” The Count, published so far for 2010, 2011, and 2012, looks at several prominent publications and measures the proportion of men and women book reviewers and authors reviewed, or, in some cases, the overall representation of men and women in those publications.

The numbers are startling. Although the focus is, significantly, on book review, the inclusion of Granta, Poetry, Tin House, the Paris Review, and The Threepenny Review in the Count gives some picture of what’s going on in the world of literary magazines, at least at the top.

Laura E. DavisOne person who has been inspired to action by the VIDA count is poet, editor, and educator Laura E. Davis of Weave Magazine. As an editor herself, she knew that there was some truth to the idea that fewer women were being published because fewer women were submitting in the first place. What if, she thought, a group of female-identified people submitted work en masse? If there were more equal representation in submission, editors would have to take responsibility for the gender imbalance in publishing.

Laura began her non-profit Submission Bombers in May 2012. Rather than blasting indiscriminately into the void, Submission Bombers works with interested editors to promote parity in their publications. So far, several literary journals (including PDR ) have volunteered to be “bombed” by women contributors.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Laura about the project. Here’s what she had to say.

PDR: How did you decide to start Submission Bombers? (Was there an inciting incident, did you start off as an activist in other fields, did you work from statistics, anecdotally, from your gut, etc.)

Laura Davis: When the VIDA Count first came out, many editors responded by saying that they got fewer submissions from women, so that must be why there was such an imbalance. That response really frustrated me – they were shirking all responsibility. I did, however, understand that they were right to some degree. I’m the founding editor of Weave Magazine, and our first few reading periods were dominated by submissions from men. It wasn’t until we made it clear we wanted to hear from women, and eventually other marginalized voices, that we saw more diversity in our submissions pool. While I couldn’t force these editors to see how they were affecting their submissions, I could rally a lot of writers. I eventually shared the idea in a post on Facebook mid–2012, and there was enough initial interest and support that I decided to create a group.

PDR: When you approach editors about doing a submission bombing, how do they react? Have editors been more or less responsive than you expected?

LD: For the most part, editors have been very responsive and willing to get involved. Some editors simply respond with their submission guidelines and encourage the group to submit. Others want to be more involved, join the group, answer questions that arise during the submission bombing. When we first began, I was stunned by how many editors wanted to get involved. But many of them saw it as a way to get publicity, which is true. We’re also an audience. We have a public group in which we share our successes, so the journals gain a lot of readers by participating in a bombing. In the beginning we had a lot of new journals.

PDR: What have you accomplished so far? What are your future goals?

LD: Accomplishments include lots of publications for group members. Besides sharing successes in the public group, people message me with stories, [or] to say thank you, which is such a joy. One woman submitted an essay to a publication’s contest, won the contest, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She later told me that she never would have gotten the courage to submit without the group. That’s our biggest accomplishment, and it’s one I didn’t predict. We took a lonely, isolated process and made it communal. There’s so much support in the group, a lot of resources being shared, calls for submissions, questions about how to approach different situations with editors or publications. Our collective knowledge is really powerful, especially for new writers.

As far as future goals, I’m just happy to continue the group. I’d like to see similar groups popping up here and there. I think that a group can only get so big before people feel lost, and we miss that community-driven experience. There’s no reason why we can’t have lots groups that do this kind of work. Writers have to do their part in the process so that editors can do theirs.


November 25, 2013

This Thanksgiving, we at PDR are particularly grateful for our wonderful Fall 2013 contributors. Have you been reading our current issue? We’re also grateful for all of the submissions we’ve been receiving. Won’t you submit, too? We publish fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and visual art; our reading period for the Spring 2014 issue runs until January 1. 

Stay tuned in December for an interview with Laura Davis, creator and head of the Submission Bombers, a group that seeks to increase diversity in literary publishing by organizing group submissions to literary journals by writers of genders, races, ethnicities, sexual identities, and class positions that aren’t always well represented.

The Fall 2013 Issue Is Here!

November 14, 2013

It's the moment we've all been waiting for! The Fall 2013 issue of PDR is here, with photography by Amber Tourlentes, paintings and sculpture by Keith Francis, an excerpt of Jade Sylvan's memoir, Kissing Oscar Wilde, fiction by Gemma Cooper-Novack, Marc Watkins, and David Vardeman (with illustrations by Harriet Burbeck), and poetry by Nate Pritts, Kathleen Hellen, Maggie Golston, David McAleavey, and Gillian Devereux, with a stunning cover by Dorielle Caimi.

We are also pleased to announce our nominations for the 2013 Pushcart Prize, three of which appear in this issue: 

Sam Cha, "'Projective Verse'" and the 'Open Text' Considered as Practices of the Body"
Adam Clay, “To Dwell”
Olga M. Feliciano, "Morning Sickness"
Maggie Golston, “Set Yourself on Fire
Kathleen Hellen, “Orphan
David Vardeman, “First Meeting”

Forces of Nature

November 1, 2013

#53, cold rolled Steel, Keith FrancisIn the Fall 2013 issue, we will be featuring work by Keith Francis. Although Francis’s work reaches across media, from gauge cold-rolled steel sculpture to oil and mixed-media paintings, it is unified by its focus on the power of nature—specifically, the transformative forces at work when the ocean meets the land.

The paintings in The Pacific Series, made with a variety of tools in oil paint on canvas, plaster of paris, gesso, and glue binders, capture, in Francis’s words,

the greatest meeting of land and water in the world, powerful forces of nature, raging seas, distorted rock formations, land slide deposits, quartz dikes, kelp and vein filled converge at the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel, California.

Francis’s wall-mounted, cold-rolled steel plate sculptures are based on his photographs and observations of Venice, Italy. These hand-formed, extremely labor-intensive pieces show “the beauty of Venice against a backdrop of decay and rebuilding, in a never-ending struggle to survive against Mother Nature, time and the ocean forces.”

Keith Francis is a 1989 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth based in New Bedford, MA. His current recent solo exhibitions have been at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), University Museum, Oxford, MS (2013–2014), and at the Colo Colo Gallery, New Bedford, MA, Congruence(2013). Current and recent group exhibitions include Giornata del Contemporaneo, The Present Art Space – Milan Art& Events, November 16 – December 2, 2013, Milan, Italy (2013), New Bedford Art Museum, New Bedford, MA, New Bedford Harbor in a New Light (2013), and University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth, New Bedford, MA, New Bedford Harbor in a New Light (2013).


October 28, 2013

One of our Fall 2013 contributors, poet Nate Pritts, is also the founder and editor of H_NGM_N, a literary journal featuring poetry, prose, criticism, and comics – they even publish entire chapbooks, and, from November to March, read entire manuscripts! After you submit to PDR, why not give them a try?

Happenings at the Boston Book Festival

October 18, 2013

Salman Rushdie at Boston Book FestivalHundreds of bookish Bostonians lined Boylston and Dartmouth Streets Friday night, waiting to open the fifth annual Boston Book Festival with a keynote presentation from Sir Salman Rushdie, in conversation with Harvard’s Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities, Homi Bhabha.

After an introduction by Boston Book Festival founder Deborah Porter, Bhabha began by speaking of two kinds of authors - those who bring the past to life, and those who dwell in the afterlife of the past. The first writers have the ability to ground us firmly in the world of the past; the second, to show us the echoes of the past in the present. Two writers who exemplify the latter category, said Bhabha, are Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov, from whom we get Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie’s assumed name in the years when he lived under threat of execution, and the name of his memoir, around which the conversation was centered. 

Taking the memoir as their starting point, the two old friends discussed topics ranging from the craft of the book itself, which is written in the third person, as a non-fiction novel, to religion, writing in the afterlife of the past, and living in an age of surveillance. Among Rushdie’s bons mots was the statement, in response to his critics, that the nice thing about books is that, “if you don’t like them, you can shut them.”

The Boston Book Festival takes place in and around Copley Square in Boston and lasts through the evening of Saturday, October 19th. It features a wide range of writers and thinkers on a great variety of topics. In addition to the presentations, there will be tents run by bookstores, universities, publishers, small presses, and other stakeholders in the concern of the written word. For more information, visit http://www.bostonbookfest.org/.

A Memorial in Flux

October 17, 2013

Orbitz by Amber TourlentesAppearing in our next issue, Amber Tourlentes’s pieces of black-and-white photo-art, “scanner-grams,” are made by scanning the objects of corporate swag given out at the Boston Pride parade. Her scanner-grams turn three-dimensional objects into two-dimensional images, and recall the avant-garde photograms, collage, and agitation posters of Man Ray, Hannah Hoch, Max Ernst, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

Tourlentes visually references these earlier critiques of consumer culture in her own attempt to process the assimilation and commercialization of LGBT culture. When Amber first attended Pride parades as the child of a gay father in the 1970s, the event was a protest – in her words, a “symbolic act of finding a community” staged by members of a subculture. Through the years, as the LGBT community has become visible, normalized, and marketed to, the parade has, for Amber, grown into “an example of how capitalism works—how a public space is used to sponsor, sell, market.”

The process of scanning the swag, visually-flattening out these plastic objects, taking them through Photoshop to look like black and white negatives, taking an almost clinical approach, was a chance for me to give homage to the men who I knew in the South End who worked with my father, babysat and played with me and those still living with AIDS. They and my father’s community… were under a microscope in those years. By placing the logos of banks, technology companies, schools, hospitals, non-profits, and politicians under examination it is a memorial in flux … 

Amber Tourlentes received her BFA in Photography & Art History, MFA in Photography and New Media, University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1998. She has taught photography at Princeton University, Massachusetts College of Art, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard University. Amber currently teaches photography at Emerson College. Amber’s solo and invited group exhibitions include; Lesley University, Smith College, Harvard University, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston Public Library, The Danforth Museum, ArtStrand, Provincetown and Axiom Gallery, Boston, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mass College of Art, APE Gallery Northampton, WORKS, San Jose, Harvey Milk Institute SF, Photographic Resource Center at BU, Circa Gallery, Montreal.

Manure Fires and Possum Magic

October 10, 2013

Marc WatkinsMarc Watkins’s stories are exciting, offbeat, colloquial, and lyrical. We’re thrilled to be featuring his story “Shivaree,” about a backwoods marriage and the compromises of queer life in rural American, in our upcoming issue. 

In his own words, Marc writes about:

High school dropouts, botched burials, cat ladies, a manure fire that won’t quit, church lady gossip, hustling stolen corn, women taking Cialis, a crucified dog, Wal-Mart greeters, a gelding, catfish noodling, passing your nephew off as white, a handsome pair of church shoes, an empty Minuteman III silo that might be a tunnel to China, three-legged dog breeding, setting fire to the land to save the soil, and hope is held in the magic offered in a possum’s penis bone.

Marc lives and writes fiction in Oxford, Mississippi. This year, you can read his stories in BoulevardSlice, and Foxing Quarterly. His stories have appeared all over creation, including in Pushcart Prize XXXV: Best of the Small Presses. In 2012, he served as guest editor for Pushcart Prize XXXVI.