This is another lucky year for me and literary festivals/conferences! First, my panel for AWP 2018 was accepted, now my panel for Split This Rock’s 2018 poetry festival was accepted as well!
I’m thrilled to continue to be a part of the local and national literary community through these events. I truly enjoy sharing thoughts on how to improve accessibility and representation of marginalized writers in literary magazines. And I learn so much by listening to other important discussions. I’m so honored to be chosen to speak on them, and don’t take it lightly.
These events are jam-packed, and it’s impossible to attend all of their panels, readings, caucuses, and more. But I always come away feeling energized to write more, submit more, assess my role as a gatekeeper as an editor of a literary magazine, to keep in touch with new friends, and to continue to push for increased representation in literature. There’s always more to do, and it’s never so clear as at these festivals and conferences.
My panel at Split This Rock’s 2018 poetry festival — it’s 10th anniversary celebration — is titled “Fantasy As Reality: Activism and Catharsis Through Speculative Writing.” Speculative literature, at its core, is about giving voice to “the other.” It can focus on not only imagined realities of the future, past, and present, but also give voice to bodies and individuals who are disabled, alien, marginalized, menial workers, and more. Terms like solarpunk and eco-speculation are becoming more used and explored.
Often times, speculative and science fiction is stereotyped as futuristic, extraterrestrial, and fantastical romps through universes using space travel, time travel, and super-advanced technology involving mostly cis white males. However, women, non-binary, and activist writers of speculative fiction are purposefully subverting this stereotype, diversifying and owning the fantastical worlds that they imagine. Sci-fi and fantasy characters and voices can and should represent the underrepresented to create a sense of community as well as rail against injustices in this world.
Our panel will demonstrate how non-realist poems and prose can offer a space for political critique and empowerment. Speculative literature celebrates humanity, highlights and empowers those whose voices are ostracized and oppressed in the real-world, and gives us the tools to think critically and improve upon how we live as a community together in the world.
The panel date is TBA (April 19-21, 2018) in a location TBA in Washington, D.C. Christina M. Rau will serve as the moderator, and the panelists include: Rita Banerjee, yours truly, and Alex DiFrancesco.
Registration for the festival will open later this winter.
Christina M. Rau is the author of the sci-fi fem poetry collection Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press, 2017), and the poetry chapbooks WakeBreatheMove (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and For The Girls, I (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared on gallery walls in The Ekphrastic Poster Show, on car magnets for The Living Poetry Project, and in various online and print journals. She is also a contributing writer for the sci-fi website Tea & Fiction and the SFPA blog Specpo. In her non-writing life, she practices yoga occasionally and line dances on other occasions.
Rita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing on feminism, ethnicity, speculative fiction, and poetics appears in Poets & Writers, Painted Bride Quarterly, Hyphen Magazine, Electric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems is Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press) and her novella is A Night with Kali (Spider Road Press). Follow her at ww.ritabanerjee.com or @Rita_Banerjee.
Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-Sized and On That One-Way Trip to Mars. She lives in Washington, DC and serves as the poetry editor of District Lit. Marlena uses her skeletal dysplasia and chronic pain as a bridge to scientific poetry. Find her at marlenachertock.com or @mchertock.
Alex DiFrancesco is a writer, activist, and baker. Their first novel, The Devils That Have Come to Stay, is an acid western that deals with social justice histories of the California Gold Rush. Their work has appeared in The Washington Post, Tin House, Brevity, Longreads, The Heart Podcast, and more. They are currently an MFA candidate at a consortium program in Northeast Ohio.