Women Who Submit seeks to empower women writers by creating physical and virtual spaces for sharing information, supporting and encouraging submissions to literary journals, and clarifying the submission and publication process.
Ashaki M. Jackson is a social psychologist and poet living in Los Angeles. She is a Cave Canem and VONA alumna whose work appears in CURA, Pluck! and Prairie Schooner among others. She serves on the VIDA: Women in Literary Arts board and authored two chapter-length collections – Surveillance (Writ Large Press) and Language Lesson (MIEL).
ROAR: Can you tell me a little bit about who the Women Who Submit are and what you want people to know who are not familiar with the group?
ASHAKI: Women Who Submit is a community of women and nonbinary writers who meet regularly to submit edited, polished literary work to top tier publications. Women Who Submit is also a practice in courage. We provide information, resources and skills to help writers confidently place their writing into strangers’ hands.
We began as a thought as all great inventions do. Co-founder Alyss Dixson, a former member of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, shared with me the pitifully low rates of women published in Tier 1 journals across genres. Single-digit percentages. She bounced a few ideas off me on how to gather and center women for the sole purpose of submitting. Writing groups were plenteous. And, for better or for worse, workshop groups are ubiquitous. But, where were the spaces dedicated to submitting work? She proposed a submission party and asked me to recruit a local writer with strong networks across the Los Angeles literary landscape who could help grow the membership. Enter: Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo who has been integral to increasing the chapter, building the organization’s social media presence, coordinating public events and directing our blog features.
Our founding community, located in Los Angeles, is in its sixth year of submission parties. These are our regular meetings during which we bring all necessary supplies to meet our submission goals, including printing and mailing supplies, journals, various submission opportunities, chicken and cheesecake—the essentials. We’ve spent years studying top publications in our genres, finding practical information on the submission process and building a community of writers. We announce our submission goals at the beginning of each party then commit to reaching those goals during the subsequent party hours. We celebrate each announcement of a completed submission with rawkus applause then get back to the grind. Guest speakers punctuate alternating parties to share their expertise on literary life, as in what it means to be a literary citizen or how to budget for those wallet-eating book contests.
Women Who Submit has grown to 18 total chapters of women and nonbinary writers nationwide. They each operate a little differently, but we share similar trajectories toward publication.
Come visit us!
ROAR: Who is a feminist you wish the world knew more about?
ASHAKI: I have a renewed fascination with Harriet Tubman who was a beacon of and transporter to freedom. In my mind, she had to be a master communicator to coordinate allies and safe houses. She could not read words and lived with a brain injury from childhood. But, she read stars and the land. With lives in the balance, I doubt that any man was concerned about Harriet being a woman. I want to know more about that — perceptions of Harriet from those she helped escape.
Living: I’d be honored to sit and chat with the women pushing for changes in U.S. policing, education access, reproductive health rights and environmental justice. More women are on the front lines, and it should be noted. Yes, women and nonbinary persons are great supporters. We are also great strategists.
ROAR: What does feminism mean to you?
ASHAKI: Feminism is the act of distributing the same inalienable rights that are inherited by men in patriarchal societies to women. It is impressing upon others the wild notion that women are autonomous beings. It is acknowledging that women’s voices carry the same weight and conviction as those of as men. These are my basic definitions of feminism, albeit I am a womanist, which incorporates the enmity faced by women who are also Black or of color and/or frolicking all over the gender spectrum.
ROAR: What is the most rewarding thing you have ever done artistically?
ASHAKI: Thus far, the most rewarding art I have produced is a pocket-sized chapbook on public videos capturing police brutality. My publishing group (Writ Large Press) and I donate 100% of proceeds to organizations working to eliminate police brutality. The press will make books as long as readers submit orders. In 2016, we sold 300 books and funded six organizations. Instructors have incorporated the book into their high school and undergraduate syllabi. Also, my parents are proud, which is immensely fulfilling. We continue to receive book orders.
ROAR: What does activism look like to you?
ASHAKI: While I’ve donated, marched and written letters, the most beautiful act of solidarity I’ve witnessed has been parents, especially fathers, teaching their daughters how to navigate the world as individuals — resourceful, learned, curious and brave. I received that training. My nieces and goddaughters are receiving the same. These girls will understand that they don’t need to wait for men to clear a path to work toward justice. You have a mouth, and you have hands. State your presence, begin your work and pat the seat beside you to let others know that you’ve made space for them too.
ROAR: How has the work you’ve done with WWS and your activism work changed you?
ASHAKI: I’m unsure if the work has changed me. I know that the submission process requires a good deal of focused language, and I’m a fan of anything concise. My submission cover letters are concise. My books are concise. I am a strong believer that we can convey a sentiment with practical brevity and still maintain emotion in the language. I find myself deleting hubris in my paragraphs and getting to the point with slicing precision. Perhaps I’m picking up on the sense of urgency with which we need to reach equality(ies). Or, I’m becoming less about the backstory and more about the action plan. I wonder how much storytelling Harriet Tubman offered when she was explaining escape routes. My assumption: she got to the point.
ROAR: What next?
ASHAKI: Women Who Submit will conduct their first count of submissions and acceptances across all chapters. We want to be in conversation with VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, the organization from which Women Who Submit sprouted. I’m looking forward to seeing evidence of the hard work being completed among the membership. We’ve done something good here.
Ashley Perez lives, writes, and causes trouble in Los Angeles. She has a strong affinity for tattoos, otters, cat mystery books, and actual cats, but has mixed feelings about pants. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She runs the literary site Arts Collide and does work of all varieties for Women Who Submit, Jaded Ibis Press, Midnight Breakfast, ROAR, and Why There Are Words. Her work can be found at The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, The Weeklings, Red Light Lit, and others. You can find her on Twitter at @ArtsCollide.