With just a under three weeks to go before we close submissions for the Special Editions book project on resistance, our team is doing a final round of reminders, letting you know there is still time to submit your work and be included in this exciting opportunity. But instead of me just posting a dry rendition of the required info and need to know lists, we thought we’d try something different this time.
But first, you can find out more about the project and submitting here. And for that detailed list I refer to on what exactly your submission should include, visit the official call for submissions. Now, as I said, something different.
An occasional C(G) writer and editor, miranda deely has also been a good friend of mine since the ninth grade, when she wrote in my yearbook that I had great hair and nice sweaters. Like that wasn’t a hint!
At any rate, today in 2017 Miranda is an actress, currently in London, UK working on a pilot for British TV. She took some time recently to chat, via Skype and email, with the Special Editions team. Hana Leshner, Gloria DiFulvio, Clay Rivers and I answered questions about the new Special Editions arm of daCunha, as well as our first book project. The following are some of those conversations.
MD: Let’s start with a question for those who have been hiding under a rock for the last year. daCunha. What is it? And, to put it bluntly, why should we care?
alto: daCunha, as we know it today, is the result of an ambitious idea that Todd Hannula 🤓 and Ned Hoste, our co-producers and founders, came up with a few years ago. Simply, we are a subscription based place for stories. Be they written, audio, books, or even experiential. The hub for all this is our website daCunha.global, where you’ll find a growing archive of excellent quality fiction and creative nonfiction. Though we’re not just a website, either. We produce books, podcasts, live experience events, and have much more to offer our members and our writers. Go to the website to find out more.
Why should you care? Our goal is to do something that is rarely, if ever done. That is pay our contributors in a way that respects their work as creators. I say “our goal”, as we are still in the building our subscription base mode, however, as soon as we reach the numbers which allow us to pay our storytellers, we will. What will that look like? 50% of all total revenue. In other words, whatever amount of money daCunha brings in through subscriptions, books, etc, 50% of it will go directly into the pockets of the people who created the stories. I can assure you, that has never been done.
MD: How did you get involved, and when and why did the Special Editions team come about?
alto: I initially came on board in January of 2016, as an editor for what quickly became a hugely popular Medium fiction publication, Made Up Words, now migrated to our website and simply known as daCunha fiction. After a few months and the launch of the daCunha.global website, I took the position of Managing Editor, creative non fiction. As my declared MFA focus happened to be creative non fiction and writing for social change, it seemed a natural fit. Non fiction, which by nature includes everything but fiction, is admittedly a broad tent. And while our submissions started slow at first, increasing over time, we became aware of a few growing pains. The most obvious being that subscription based sites and “issue” driven nonfiction tend to make poor bed fellows.
Consider that a subscription site, especially in infancy, will have a low, narrow niche of readers. For writers that are discussing social justice issues, a genre that depends on the re-tweeted, re-blogged, re-all-the-rest-of-it style of reach, that approach becomes problematic very quickly. Ultimately, as editors who are also writer advocates, we were doing neither the issues, nor the writers justice.
The solution we came up with is actually a great example of why I enjoy working for daCunha and why I would recommend it to social justice and “issue” focused writers. This organization has much more than a lip service commitment to human rights and social justice. As such, simply dropping issue driven nonfiction from our offerings was not an option. So we did what good writers do best and got creative. It wasn’t easy, but with some editorial shuffling that included fiction and nonfiction editorial efforts combining, with Lisa Renee taking the lead on nonfiction, Veronica Montes maintaining her role as lead in fiction, and Oliver “Shiny” Blakemore, managing editor for the blog, joining Tom Farr and Grey 🌀Drane as the fifth addition to the new and combined editorial team. All of which allowed the previous nonfiction team to became the new Special Editions team.
Specifically, we are a four person editorial team, led by myself, that takes on just one timely, social justice or community focused issue annually, allowing for a greater focus, depth, and engagement with the authors and creators we plan to feature. What and how we plan to showcase an issue has been left intentionally broad in its conception, allowing books, multi media approaches, photographic exhibits, and other styles to all have potential in how we explore a topic.
MD: Hana, maybe you could tell us a little about what your team decided to do for the first project?
HL: When we conceived of this project, it was early in 2017 and we just felt we couldn’t think about anything else besides what had just happened with the election. We were reeling from it, and every assault on democracy the new administration was launching. The reality of the creeping tide of fascism across the globe came into sharp focus and other work seemed unimportant. Now, having been given some time to reflect on the bigger picture, we really want to honor the work people are doing and have been doing (long before Trump and Brexit) to try to bring greater equality, justice, and peace to our communities.
The resistance to hate and fear might take many forms; it might be community organizing, it might be marching in the streets, it might be having those hard conversations with friends and family about racism and what it looks like, and it might be the sometimes incredibly difficult act of survival with dignity. Our main goal with this project is to shine a light on these actions, big and small, and help other show other people doing this work that they aren’t alone.
MD: It sounds like this book is one that will have some heavy political themes?
HL: Is this political? Yes, unequivocally this is a political work, and a statement that democracy is valuable and fragile. It’s a living, breathing social contract that we all have to work to support every day.
MD: Gloria, I’m reminded of the 70’s second wave feminist slogan “the personal is the political.” How is this personal for you specifically?
GD: Sure. On Nov. 9th, the morning after the election, I woke up in despair; a stranger in my own land. It was a very dark day in the United States. For many people who stand on the side of justice, the outcome of the election was devastating. I was profoundly shaken and deeply concerned over the state of our democracy. Over the next few weeks, I read everything I could get my hands on — stories trying to make sense of the election outcome, stories outlining the risks of this presidency, and stories calling out for “resistance.” I had no doubt that to avoid sinking deeper in despair, I must transform my feelings into action.
Word of the Women’s March in DC, was heartening. I’ve marched in DC and other cities before — for LGBT rights, against war, against racism, and for many different issues of justice. I know the pros and cons of marching — a march alone without a concerted effort to follow is a hollow response to injustice. I equivocated for some time about whether I should attend. But I decide with a group of friends that I must go. I need to be surrounded by like-minded people. After driving all night, we arrived at the metro station in DC at 5:20am. When we boarded the train, we were surrounded by others who made the early morning journey. There was cheering, singing, laughter. We all knew there was a long road ahead, but in that moment, we stood in solidarity letting the power of unity carry us.
When I returned from DC, I had the privilege of seeing Rachel Maddow speak in my small town. I looked forward to her words of encouragement. Instead, she was clear. While we might seek inspiration, she doesn’t have any to give. This is real. Our democracy is at risk. “Whatever your plans were for the year,” Maddow says, “change them. Figure out what your role is going to be, know what you are good at, and do that thing…When things fall apart — when the center does not hold — your country needs you in that time.” She reaffirmed my call to action.
MD: Gloria, it strikes me that besides the obvious role of editing the book, by nature of the issues you’re dealing with, in many ways you are not dissimilar to an ally, are you?
GD: Oh, most definitely. In my lifetime, I never considered that I would be a member of “the resistance.” This is not something I practiced for and quite frankly, is not something I want. Yet I have no choice. I have changed the way I spend my free time. My passion for justice has always been present and has taken many forms of action. The current climate in the US has strengthened my conviction. My experience comes from living in the US during a challenging time yet people here and around the globe have been resisting oppression throughout history. Sharing in the work of this project is both exciting and necessary. I need hope. We all need hope. Quoting Barack Obama, “When so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology, and migration, the role of stories to unify — as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize — is more important than ever….Storytelling brings people together to have the courage to take action on behalf of their lives.” This project has the potential to provide that unifying voice.
So yes, I stand in proud solidarity. With women and men. With black, brown, and white people. I stand with Catholics, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists agnostics, atheists. Together we represent all faiths and no particular faith. We are driven by different interests, we have different goals, we come from all walks of life. Even with these differences, we share common purpose. We love our country. We demand democracy. We believe in justice.
MD: Clay, one of the things I enjoy most about your writing, no matter if it is about race, LGBTQ issues, Medium dynamics, or simply a response to another work, without being smarmy or deferring, there is a real emphasis on the common humanity of the other person. How does that theme show up in the work that you do here, and by extension the project?
CR: Thanks, Miranda. The thing that I like most about Stories of Resistance is that it connects people. When dealing with any sort of extraordinary situations, and we’ve seen a lot of those all around the world, the tendency is for individuals to feel isolated — like they’re the only ones the situation is impacting. And that’s perfectly understandable as one can only live through their own experience. But when people open up and share their stories, their experiences, how they’re being impacted and respond, other people reading those experience find a common thread … call it a shared human experience that connects one person with another, be it 500, 1,000, or 5,000 miles away. All stories won’t connect with all people, but if one story connects, buoys, and inspires another person, then our mission will be achieved.
Yes, I hope we get big stories, but I hope everyday people are inspired to share their individual stories of resistance and change. Resistance isn’t only about marches and demonstrations. I’ve found the most foundational acts of resistance happen everyday in one-on-one interactions where people stem the tide of social injustice by not allowing the little acts of denigration that erode humanity to take place. Those acts can be as small as merely being a physical presence to inhibit belittling acts or a voice for those who have no voice, or even taking action to help someone in a moment of need. Those acts inspire others to step up as well. Plus it sends a message to the oppressor that certain behaviors are not acceptable. After all, no act of resistance that hinders or stops social injustice is too small.
MD: Allan, you have quite the enthusiastic and prolific team. Talk to me about how you decided to go with these people?
alto: That’s a great question, because it’s something I spent a lot of time considering. First and foremost, I wanted excellent writers who have experience editing, and are both comfortable and skilled at mentoring other writers. Having gotten to know Hana, Gloria, and Clay through their work, and through taking them on as writers in my role as Editorial Director of C(G), I was confident that they were the best people for the job. But there was another reason too. Besides the traits mentioned, and because a large part of our mandate is to showcase and amplify the work of individuals and communities not traditionally heard via mainstream publishing, I wanted a team that knew what it was like to be treated differently. To be the other.
Now, I realize many will say that I was choosing on the basis of some laundry list of isms that make up the core of some nefarious far left identity politics agenda, blah, blah, to infinity. Well, I’m sure it’s not a surprise when I say sorry, but I vehemently disagree with that critique, and here’s why. While things like race, gender, sexuality, or the religion of team members were things I looked at in so far as having a team that represented a wide variety of writers, they were not nearly as important to me as was the common experience of having been set apart for something at some point in their lives, and treated differently because of it. I needed my team to have a stake in this beyond it being a successful publication venture. I needed it to matter, both deeply and personally.
In the end, the four of us who make up the Special Editions team all have rich and varied experiences with difference, and not just in the four areas I mentioned. A strong and documented commitment to social justice, both in our writing and our personal lives, is therefore something we bring to the table and can offer our writers.
So yes, I do think I have a pretty excellent team and I am truly honored to work with them.
MD: I know that reflection and critique are big deals in social justice and human rights work. Are there things that your team has learned thus far working on a book like this?
alto: Oh, definitely. Evaluation is a large part of our team process. Obviously, producing a book on a global scale is a massive undertaking, so while we have done a lot of things right, there are certainly some things that we’d do differently. I know it’s a cliche, but something we all have a better appreciation for is the phrase “assume nothing.” Quick example for you, I had posted our call for submissions with many local Toronto writers groups, and was approached by the leader of a group for children who are recent refugees in Canada, many from Syria. There had been significant interest in submitting to the project, but not one of the writers had personal access to a computer. Something that obviously makes complete sense once you think about it, but something we missed on first pass. So yeah, access is a big thing, and something we need to be aware of at every stage of engaging and attracting writers.
MD: Let’s clarify the publishing thing, as I realize that is a big consideration for a lot of authors on whether or not they submit. Does Special Editions have a publisher for the book, or will this project be self published?
alto: Yes, people will be happy to know that we have in fact secured a publisher. So no, this will not in any way be a self published book. It will be published in partnership with The Big Ideas Library; a traditional publisher with significant experience in creating books of this kind and a track record of mainstream publishing, both as Big Ideas Library and for major publishers in the UK and across the world. Here is their website http://www.thebigideascollective.com
UPDATE from alto: I apologize for neglecting to mention that, yes, if your work is chosen to be included in the final book, you will be asked to sign a paid creator agreement and the 50% payment model I describe above will apply.
MD: To close, three questions in one. What are you looking for, what would a perfect submission entail, and who is your perfect candidate?
alto: I’ll answer in that much loved listicle form, just because all Medium writers can’t ever get enough of it.
In closing, anyone considering submitting needs to remember that they have until September 30, 2017 at midnight to send us their work. The how and where of submitting is outlined at the top of this piece. If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to miranda deely for her time and effort on this interview.