Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Alyea Pierce

Arkana Editors visited with Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow & Explorer, Alyea Pierce. Her poems “28 Days” and “Return” are featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.


Arkana: What are some of the earliest poems or poets you read? What artists inspire you today?

Alyea Pierce: I have a hunger for engaging with 20th and 21st-Century Afro-Caribbean, Latinx, and African-American Literature with focus areas in poetry, female mobility, migration, performance, critical ethnography research, and racial, cultural, and sexual empowerment.  This passion was ignited via fiction authors like Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angie Thomas, Sandra Cisneros, Earl Lovelace, and Derek Walcott, as well as poets like Jamaica Kincaid, Audre Lord, Edwidge Danticat, Olive Senior, Maya Angelou, Vanessa Angelica Villareal, Patricia Smith, and SO MANY MORE!  Their pieces created and continue to create this space for Black folx across the diaspora to reimagine ourselves and history. 

Ark: The layout of “28 Days” is visually stunning. What reader effect were you hoping for through the combination of language and layout?

AP: The combination of language and layout of “28 Days” is built from the main theme of this poem.  This piece is about Black History Month and the limited time allotted to celebrating Black life, so already there is a contrast.  The reader experiences distance, moments of silence, waiting/wading, breath, and pausing and is forced to engage with blackness and history.  I want the reader to take their time through this.  I love that the lines are separated and come together at the line, “I want Black women in white” because even that line is a contrast. 

Ark: In your poem, “Return,” the line, “I am stretching / and I can no longer fit within this poem” is fascinating and evocative. Can you speak to a time when you were drafting a piece and found that your ideas, themes, or voices in a piece were larger or more complex than initially envisioned?

AP: Writing is an interesting process.  As we are thinking about the words we intend to write, we are simultaneously editing them and editing them and editing them again.  I remember writing a piece on womanhood and how guilt roots in women, sits in us, and then one day we are apologizing for entering a room.  My poems often play with time and space, so I definitely struggle with what is my entry point into the scene, what voices need to be in this poem or where am I right now.  And that is when I must take a step back and ask myself, why am I writing this?  What started in me originally to put pen to paper about this topic?  O.K, now let’s start from there.

Ark:  How much would you say that your faith comes through in your writing?

AP: I view faith in several different ways through my writing. For example, 1) Religious faith; 2) Spiritual faith; 3) Personal faith in myself, others, and things.  Not only am I an emerging writer, but I am an emerging human in this world.  As I am discovering my own religious/spiritual/faith beliefs, my writing will reflect that deep, internal work of what I will stand by and what will stand by me. As of now, I am focusing on the exploration of faith on various levels. 

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, what are you working on now? Are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

AP: Currently, I am a poet and researcher for a new National Geographic six-part podcast series, “Into the Depths”.  It follows National Geographic Explorer, Tara Roberts, as she follows Black scuba divers across the world searching for buried shipwrecks from the transatlantic slave trade when millions of enslaved Africans were trafficked to the Americas during the 15th to the 19th centuries.  Roberts sets off on the journey of a lifetime to meet the divers, marine archaeologists, descendants of those brought over on ships, and historians investigating the lost stories of the slave trade.  Our hope in doing this work is to share their accounts both to expand the historical record and to honor the estimated 1.8 million unsung souls who perished during the Middle Passage. 

Ark: Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “28 Days” and “Return” here!


Alyea Pierce is a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow & Explorer, educator, and poet. Pierce has performed her spoken word poetry internationally from the UK to South Africa and at numerous TEDx events. Her work has been published online and in print, including The GuardianNew York Daily NewsCaribbean WriterAutism Speaks, to name a few. As an educator, her mission is to help students transform creative ideas into professional voices, empowering diverse learners to be leaders within their own communities.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Janet Kenney

Arkana Editors visited with playwright Janet Kenney. Her creative nonfiction work, “What Else but Grace,” is featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.


Arkana: “What Else But Grace” is part of a longer project. Can you give us an overview of the book-length work?

Janet Kenney: Around 1980, we saw signs of illness. Six long years later, we had a diagnosis: lupus. I did not take it well. The story is about all the wild and many catastrophes I’ve endured, and the many tree roots I tripped over as I made bumbling attempts to grow up, earn some grace and live a good life anyway. It’s told in a series of chapters and updates; in updates, I share some of the issues and events that occurred while I was writing the book. The updates, I hope, will help readers understand a little about what chronic feels like. And I cannot tell my story without including my little white fluffy mutt, Grace.

Ark: “What Else But Grace” recalls a situation you experienced over thirty years ago, yet feels timely and fresh in the essay. What inspired you to return to this event and tell this story today?

JK: I have Irish blood, both sides, all the way back; I’m a natural-born storyteller. I know a good story when I live one.

Ark: The style in which you write takes the reader all across New York, causing a bit of the traveling fatigue and confusion that your main character relays as limbs become heavy and tired. Was this intentional, this shared burden of movement?

JK: What a powerful question. It was my intention to make the feelings from inside a body with such illness clear, nearly tangible, to the reader.

There’s a continuity between the morning and afternoon sensations—the gown, the tiara, the dull ache, the children’s shouts and then, later, we’re still in the details: the woman’s red cheeks, the sneakers, the policeman’s eyes. I’m trying to help folks stay connected even though they might want to back away.

Ark:  How does your background in theatre influence your writing?

JK:  Dialogue is action, we say in playwriting. There’s a lot of dialogue in the piece—more than might be expected for a memoir. I think the way people speak reveals their outer and inner lives, their true charm, or their ill-will, and that delights me. We also say that character is everything. My dad, my doctor, and my dog are major characters in the book. Theater teaches you how to entertain an audience. Laughter leaves you open to the next moment. In theater, you cultivate timing, authenticity, and vulnerability. Anything can happen. Live. I hope the book is live – always capable of surprising you.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

JK: During the height of the pandemic, I had a quiet life that gave me time to write a new full-length play, Cape Haven. (Even with all that time, I’m just recently feeling it’s finished!) It’s set in the family house on Cape Cod over an August weekend in 2019, six years after the Boston Marathon bombing. Lou lost part of her leg in the bombing and she and each of her family members all face more unbearable loss. I think it’s one of the things that binds humans to each other—surviving loss.

Ark: We wish you well with your new play and look forward to seeing “What Else but Grace” in a book-length work in print in the future! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “What Else but Grace” here!


Janet Kenney is an award-winning playwright whose plays have been produced from Boston to Alaska. She spent the pandemic year writing her new full-length play, Cape Haven. She has a Masters in Playwriting/English from Boston University and a BA in Theater Arts from the University of Massachusetts/Boston. She teaches ESOL for fun.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Holly Day

Arkana Editors visited with instructor and poet Holly Day. Her poems, “Testing One” and “The Pond,” are featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.


Arkana: Your pieces challenge the reader to slow down and take in the natural surroundings, animals, and sounds of the poetic environment you are creating. What are you hoping readers will experience by taking it all in and “put[ting their] ear to the ground”?

Holly Day: Exactly that—just to stop and look around, take notice of little things, take a breath. I have a fascination with the personal relativity of time, and how some activities make time slow down, while others make it go by too fast. You would be surprised how amazingly long a day feels if you spend the whole time just walking and observing and just being a part of everything. This is only a comfort if you want time to go by slowly, of course. Some people seem to want it all to be over as quickly as possible.

Ark: “Testing One” features a government testing site in the desert. What drew you to write about this sort of location?

HD: I had several family members on my mother’s side that quite possibly developed very aggressive cancers in the 1940s from observing nuclear bomb tests in New Mexico before they knew/admitted that they had miscalculated the “safe distance” from those tests. That, and growing up during Reagan’s Cold War, one always worried about bombs going off.

Ark: What kinds of works and which poets have served you well in your writing career and in what capacities?

HD: I try to read everything, but I would say I’m especially drawn to the exquisite melodrama of Victorian poets like Elizabeth Barret Browning and John Keats. I’ve never had much luck writing decent form poetry, but I like to read it.

Ark:  Do you dabble in other genres or do you mainly focus your creative efforts on poetry?

HD:  I’ve written everything from ad copy to feature writing to technical writing to fiction and poetry. The first three pay way better than the last two. Now that my house is paid off and my youngest is preparing to go to college, I’m trying to spend more time writing poetry and fiction because that is where my heart is.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about? What are you working on now?

HD:  I’m slowly but surely finishing writing the first draft of a novel, which has been a lot of fun. I’m trying to avoid looking for or thinking about new nonfiction book projects since there seems to always be one of those waiting to suck up more of my time, but other than that, just trying to spend more time writing the fun stuff. 

Ark: We wish you luck while you carve out that time to write the projects of your heart! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Testing One” and “The Pond” here!


Holly Day (hollylday.blogspot.com) has been an instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her writing has recently appeared in Hubbub, Grain, and Third Wednesday, and her newest books are The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), Book of Beasts (Weasel Press), Bound in Ice (Shanti Arts), and Music Composition for Dummies (Wiley).

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: L Mari Harris

Arkana Editors were excited to chat with L Mari Harris about her process and story inspiration. Her microfiction piece, “Highlights From the First Hour of Tradio at 88.5FM,” is featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.


Arkana: “Highlights” is a work of microfiction. What is your process in writing with this medium to create the most impact with so few words?

L Mari Harris: In the simplest terms, you want the most bang for your buck. When I begin a new piece, my first draft is free-flow and is usually about three times its final length. Then, with subsequent drafts, I start to whittle it down, first getting rid of unnecessary weight, be that exposition or imagery. And as I revise, I also add. As I listen to the piece in my head, new imagery arises. It’s all a weaving process as I build what I am ultimately happy with, what ultimately speaks to what I hope to show readers.

Ark: What inspired you to write this piece in this format?

LMH: There really is a morning call-in show in my rural Ozarks county where people buy, sell, and trade. Many of the calls are your average “I have a Ford F150 for sale”, but some of them include the caller’s story of why they’re calling, and they will break your heart. While everything in this micro is fiction, the host really does say, “I don’t make the rules, I just follow them, folks” every time someone calls in to sell a handgun. Long guns are legal to advertise, but short guns are not, and the host is constantly reminding callers they can’t advertise short guns for sale and he’ll interrupt them if they start to say they have a pistol or revolver for sale. I hear it at least once a day, and I just had to use it.

Ark: When writing this piece, did you have a particular community or location in mind? Do you have experiences or memories that might speak to the tight-knit community feel of the calls being received and the dialers making those calls?

LMH: We are about as rural as you can get. The largest town is 40 miles away, and it’s a whopping 22,000. If you break down on one of the roads, sit tight because a farmer will eventually drive by and fix you right up. We have a wonderful community kitchen where seniors and anyone else needing companionship and a hot meal can go free of charge every day of the week. If someone says they need help cutting firewood or patching their roof, a half dozen strangers will show up. I’m proud of how we look out for each other without asking for anything in return.

Ark:  What led to your decision to highlight, in particular, the first hour of a radio show as opposed to the third or fourth hour? What kinds of tones and messages were you hoping to capture by featuring the first hour’s calls?

LMH: The first hour of the real call-in show is always the most unpredictable and most prone to backstories from the callers. It’s supposed to be a two-hour show every weekday, but sometimes the calls dry up, and the host will just segue into a Judds song without explanation. I love the drama of never knowing what’s coming next.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

LMH: I’ve been getting two chapbooks of flash fiction ready for spring contests, I have about a dozen different flash and micro drafts in process, and I’m working on a longer story, also inspired by true events. Right now, I only have two pieces I’ve submitted to journals this year. Last year was so incredibly busy for me with my day job that I ran out of unpublished material to submit. It feels like I’m starting from scratch, and that’s a fun place for me to be right now like the entire world is just waiting to open up for me again.

Ark: We can’t wait to see what windows and doors open and where they might lead! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Highlights From the First Hour of Tradio at 88.5FM” here!


L Mari Harris’s most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in No Contact, matchbook, Milk Candy Review, CRAFT, Okay Donkey, among others. She works in the tech industry and lives in the Ozarks. Follow her on Twitter @LMariHarris and read more of her work at www.lmariharris.wordpress.com.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Linda Scheller

Arkana Editors were excited to chat with Editor’s Choice winner Linda Scheller and discuss her poetry, research, and process. Her piece, “The Coming of the Yamnaya,” is featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.


Arkana: Of all the historical cultures known for conquests, what inspired you to write about the brutal conquests and colonization efforts of the Yamnaya people?

Linda Scheller: I was inspired to write the poem after reading “The Skeleton Lake,” an article by Douglas Preston in the December 12, 2020 issue of The New Yorker. It described the Harvard geneticist David Reich’s genomic analysis of 270 ancient skeletons from the Iberian Peninsula. He concluded the incursion of Yamnaya nomads into Europe left a “genetic scar” because even now, “the Y chromosomes of almost all men of Western European ancestry have a high percentage of Yamnaya-derived genes, suggesting that violent conquest may have been widespread.” This finding corroborates Marija Gimbutas’s 1956 Kurgan hypothesis of continuous raids by the Yamnaya warriors who apparently killed the men they conquered and subjugated the women, creating a male-dominated warrior culture of sexual inequality and social stratification that supplanted the peaceful, goddess-worshipping society that she believed had existed previously. Gimbutas’s hypothesis had been largely discredited until this recent scientific finding.

Evidently, the coming of the Yamnaya was a terrible turning point for women in the European continent. As someone who is fascinated by history, I found this revelation profound and very moving. I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like for the women who saw their lives destroyed by this sudden, brutal conquest.

Ark: Have you written about other cultures like the Yamnaya? What significance do these historical events hold for you, four to five thousand years after their occurrence?

LS: I haven’t written about similar cultures, but that article brought to mind When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone, a book I read decades ago. I’m keenly interested in women’s history—and prehistory—and seek to understand how events, religions, traditions, politics, and cultural movements affect women’s lives.

Ark: What advice do you have for writers who seek to recall the narratives of historical events and peoples in their own works?

LS: Read as much as possible to garner knowledge and build understanding from different perspectives. For my book Fierce Light, a collection of persona poems based on my research into the lives and work of 36 historic women, I spent years reading biographies, articles, documents, and autobiographies. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about the women’s lives within the context of the times and places in which they lived.

Ark:  What other topics and themes do you most enjoy exploring in your poetry?

LS: I enjoy writing about the natural world, its effect on humans, and our effect on nature. Also, I have a new book of poetry coming out from Main Street Rag Press, Wind and Children, that contemplates childhood poverty and violence from the perspective of an elementary school teacher.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

LS: I’m working to secure publication for a poetry manuscript called Black Forest which examines the effects of power, especially absolute power, on women. Fairy tales are the vehicle for much of this examination, and I experimented with form and voice in many of the poems. “The Coming of the Yamnaya” is part of this manuscript. Currently, I’m reading books about Joan of Arc, and soon I’ll start writing about this brilliant, courageous young woman. In addition, I’m seeking publication for two reviews I just finished writing on the poetry books Scale Model of a Country at Dawn by John Sibley Williams and The World That the Shooter Left Us by Cyrus Cassells. Writing reviews is time-consuming but rewarding because the effort of analysis helps me better understand what makes poetry effective in terms of craft, tone, sound, and presentation.

Ark: We wish you the best of luck and be sure to keep us updated! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “The Coming of the Yamnaya” here!


Linda Scheller is the author of two poetry books, Fierce Light from FutureCycle Press and Wind and Children, forthcoming in 2022 from Main Street Rag Press. A widely published poet, playwright, and book reviewer, she is a founding board member of Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center. Her website is https://www.lindascheller.com/home-1.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Joe Baumann

Joe Baumann discusses his fiction featured Arkana’s 11th Issue with Arkana Editors.


Arkana: What inspiration drew you to write a piece like “Hot Lips?”

Joe Baumann: As with many things I write, I started with an idea—a kid who could breathe fire—and a title (“Hot Lips,” though I can’t recall where that came from.  Those are the two seeds I usually need to get started on a story, and at that point, it was simply a matter of engaging in exploratory writing until the arc of the story managed to emerge from what I was trying out narratively.

Ark: Is there any sort of backstory for Allen’s ability, or is his fiery breath just something he can do?

JB: Not really.  Most of the fabulist/surrealist stories I write are like this; I’m not usually interested in explication or an “origin story”—I find they take up precious space and are often not that interesting.  I tend to simply create unusual elements and slip them into the world as if they belong. 

Ark: Allen’s room is featured in several scenes in this piece, with its lilac walls. Was this an intentional choice? What made you decide to have Allen’s room painted this color specifically?

JB: One of the things I’ve been playing within several stories recently is upsetting what I sometimes think of as “dogmatic masculinity” (a version of “toxic masculinity” that is maybe not quite as toxic).  So, in this case, it’s the detail of Allen’s walls.  I think lilac isn’t a color most of us would expect from a young man, especially one who is in a fraternity and living in a fraternity house.  So that was really simply one way of upending expectations for the kind of person Allen, and those around him might be.

Ark:  In writing craft classes, there is usually a discussion about character creation through observation.  Did you base Allen or Clive’s characters off of people you know in real life?

JB: If anyone, Allen is marginally based on me, in that his uncertainties about himself parallel a number of the confusions and uncertainties I experienced as a young man in college (and the fraternity and its house are near-identical liftings of the fraternity and its house that I joined at my small liberal arts college, too).  Clive isn’t so much based on an actual person—I was really trying to craft someone who appeared to be in many ways Allen’s opposite.  When I was thinking him up, I managed to be struck by an image of this tall, languorous, dark-haired kid, almost a rock-and-roller who’s slipping through college.  He somehow arrived in my head largely fully formed.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about? (What are you working on now?)

JB: I’ve got a couple of books coming out soon—I was honored to find out my manuscript Sing With Me at the Edge of Paradise, a collection of short stories, was chosen by Texas Tech U. Press for its inaugural First Book Award, and I now also have a second collection, which reimagines the plagues of Egypt in modern settings, forthcoming, too.  In terms of things I’m at work on now, “Hot Lips” is actually part of a sequence of stories that I hope to bloom into a full-length collection of work centering on this same group of students, each of which has some bizarre or unique ability/feature/etc.

Ark: Congratulations on your award news, and forthcoming publications. Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Hot Lips” here!


Joe Baumann’s fiction and essays have appeared in Phantom Drift, Passages North, Emerson Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Iron Horse Literary Review, Electric Literature, Electric Spec, On Spec, Barrelhouse, Zone 3, and many others.  He is the author of Ivory Children, published in 2013 by Red Bird Chapbooks.  He possesses a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.  He was a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction.  His first short story collection, The Plagues, will be released by Cornerstone Press in 2023, and his debut novel, I Know You’re Out There Somewhere, is forthcoming from Deep Hearts YA.  He can be reached at joebaumann.wordpress.com.

Looking to the Literary World

The Future of Digital Publishing

By Janet Holmes Uchendu

Let me start with a definition of digital publishing. Often referred to as online publishing or e-publishing, it is any content made available electronically on websites, social media platforms, and electronic devices such as Kindle. Ebooks, eMagazines, online literary journals and even YouTube videos are forms of digital publishing.

According to various internet sources, digital publishing started in 1971 when the Gutenberg project was launched with the digitalization of the US Declaration of Independence.

My google search revealed that SwiftCurrent was created in 1984 and lays claim to the distinction of being the first online literary magazine. My search also revealed that in 1995 the Mississippi Review became the first large literary magazine to launch a fully online issue.

Some scholars believe that modern technology and social media are having an effect on the styles of young writers. Speaking at the Lahore Literary Festival in early 2014, Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid specifically made this observation and at one point asserted that the way young writers write today is very different from how people used to write ten or fifteen years ago. I agree with this observation, and I don’t see this change as necessarily detrimental. In present day, we are bombarded with so much information that we need faster and more efficient ways to disseminate and have access to the information. Technology has changed the way we take in this information and yes, it is affecting the way we read and write for online publication. Brevity is a necessity and digital publishing lends itself well to that brevity.

Digital publishing is a fast and efficient platform to reach many who may not have access to printed materials. Maybe the printed material is cost prohibitive whereas access to digitally published material may be free or available at a much lower cost. Digital publishing certainly bodes well for Arkana because it allows us to reach a much broader audience in the most cost-efficient way possible.

I believe there will always be a market for printed materials. There are those, myself included, who simply enjoy the tactile experience of being able to hold a book, or magazine in their hands, who enjoy the experience of being able to slow down, relax, and enjoy a good read. However, digital publishing has a function, and place. It is an invaluable platform and I would venture to say that digital publishing has a solid future.

As a first-year graduate student it is a richly rewarding experience to be part of the staff that produces our online literary journal, Arkana. It is a privilege to be able to read great works and participate in the decision-making processes that uphold our mission which is to seek and foster a sense of shared wonder by publishing inclusive art that asks questions, explores mystery, and works to make visible the marginalized, the overlooked, and those whose voices have been silenced. This is my first experience with digital publishing and it will not be my last.


Janet Holmes Uchendu is a first-year MFA student at the University of Central Arkansas. She lives in Little Rock, writes nonfiction, and loves music.

Looking to the Literary World

How Diverse is the Publishing Industry?

By Morgan Adams

The New York Times reported that of the 220 books on the Best Seller List in 2020, only 22 were written by authors of color. Only 10%.

Here in the twenty-first century, there has been a push for more diversity and representation in media, but just how successful has that push been?

In 2010, Erin Belieu and Cate Marvin created the VIDA Count, which tracks the number of works written by women that are published in major literary journals. The count compiles data from these journals to track trends. Unsurprisingly, the numbers are quite unbalanced, favoring male-presenting authors over female-presenting. The VIDA Count has been running for ten years to keep a running list of the top literary magazines in the country in order to hold those magazines accountable in this push for more representation of writers.

The most recent VIDA Count compiled data from 2019 releases. Out of the top ten literary magazines in the country, only three of those magazines had at least 50% of the authors were non-men. To top things off, one of these three publications announced that the issue in 2019 would be their last. Tin House shut down that year. The purpose of the VIDA Count is not to force literary magazines to change but to ask them to take a look at their own practices and push their staff and readers to be more conscious of the subject as they are accepting and what kind of authors they are choosing to showcase in their publications. The organization serves as a presence to hold those magazines accountable.

Sources like the VIDA Count aren’t perfect, of course. There is a disclaimer on the website that acknowledges that the VIDA Count wasn’t always conscious of non-cis writers. Trans and cis writers are included together, and the category for genders that are outside of the binary is broad and non-specific.  There is also a lack of intersectionality in the VIDA Count. Writers of color are lacking in the publishing industry. No matter what sort of influence the VIDA Count has on the publishing industry, it still has a central focus that results in another minority group to be overlooked.

There are countless opportunities in the age of the internet to go out and create a brand-new literary magazine that fits a certain niche. By doing this, writers can find an audience that will be acceptive of their own works and receive praise within their own group. However, as Belieu quotes in an interview in Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century, “I don’t think we address gender bias by taking our ball and going off to make our own game.” In order to continue the push to include diversity in the literary world, staff and readers alike have to be more conscious about the content that they consume and promote.


Morgan Adams is a first-year MFA student at the University of Central Arkansas.

Looking to the Literary World

We Live in a Diverse World: Our Literature Should Reflect This

By Amber J. Wagoner

The New York Times reported that of the 220 books on the Best Seller List in 2020, only 22 were written by authors of color. Only 10%.

I can assure you we live in a world where more than 10% of the population identifies as Non-White. This overabundance of White, whitewashing if you will, extends beyond authors. It applies to our literary characters, our television shows, and our films. Even our holidays are typically viewed and showcased through a White lens. When confronted with this fact—this lack of diversity, this White everywhere—the thought of achieving diversity can seem near impossible. It’s system-wide.

Here’s the thing about systems. They don’t change all at once. Some gears grind, change the pattern. The new pattern those gears created affects the other pieces. Eventually—perhaps after years, decades, despite the hope for a quicker turnabout—the system changes.

The lack of diversity in publishing is a publishing-wide problem. Diversity won’t spring into publishing overnight, as great as that would be.

Diversity, of course, extends beyond skin color. It includes ideas and beliefs generally overlooked, the LGBT+ community, and multiple other factors. All these different types of diversity must be acknowledged and welcomed into our literature.

And how do we accomplish diversity?

Diversity is our responsibility—each individual’s, regardless of whether they consider themselves a minority or not. Editors, publishers, even readers all have a responsibility to welcome and honor diverse literature.

We should learn to empathize and connect with characters who are not just like us. There is humanity in every individual, and we should connect with that humanity—with the character just for being a person—rather than if they are like us. What if Harry Potter or Percy Jackson had been Non-White? Would that have made Harry any less a loyal, brave friend? Would that have made Percy any less a witty, cheeky hero? Absolutely not. Non-White readers and authors have always been asked to identify with White characters. Now, White readers must identify and connect with Non-White characters.

We should not use quotas. Already have one Black editor on staff? Hire another. Already published a book by a Latinx author? Publish another. Already told one story centered around queer characters? Tell another. The world we live in does not have quotas on diversity. People are who they are. The use of quotas is justified by the argument that quotas match the diversity of society. They don’t. Publish good stories, regardless of who the protagonist is. People will read them.

We should celebrate diversity. Read books by colored authors. Read books by queer authors. Read books with Non-White characters, with queer characters, with characters who did not grow up in the same socioeconomic circle you did. Read diverse, and the system will adjust. Read diverse, enjoy and embrace diversity, and what is published will become more diverse.

As I said before, diversity is the individual’s responsibility. However we identify and define ourselves, we are responsible for diverse voices being heard and represented.

Readers must welcome diverse stories and diverse authors.

Editors must read and accept diverse stories and diverse authors.

Publishers must publish and market diverse stories and diverse authors.

Authors must praise and recommend diverse authors.

Here at Arkana, we strive for diversity. We welcome stories that are told beyond the scope of the identifiers we use for ourselves. We want those diverse voices out in the world.

We’re just one drop in the bucket.

But even one drop of food coloring can change the color of water.

Imagine that one drop changing to a multitude as individuals everywhere strive for a new, diverse publishing industry.

Just how rich and deep could we make the color of that water?


Amber J. Wagoner is a fiction writer and a keen reader. When not engaging with language, she enjoys hiking, horseback riding, or catching a film. She is a first-year MFA student at the University of Central Arkansas and currently resides in Conway.

Arkana News, Editor Notes

Arkana Issue 11 Virtual Launch Party

Join Arkana editors and friends on December 1st, 2021 at 6 pm CST!


Arkana Readers, Friends, and Family,


Please join us Wednesday, December 1st, at 6pm CST via Zoom for Arkana Issue 11’s Digital Launch Party.

Writers of Issue 11 will read their poems and stories, we will host our usual rounds of trivia, and come together to celebrate yet another Arkana Issue!

Save the Date! Find a link to our event here!


Read the latest issue of Arkana here!