A brief essay on Arkana and the importance of diversity.
by Jacqulyn West, Nonfiction Editor
Here at Arkana, part of our mission is to uncover the hidden and provide a platform for voices that are frequently silenced, overlooked, or ignored. We embrace our responsibility toward and embrace a commitment to diversity. But what exactly does diversity mean? As the new folks on staff, we discussed just that – and here’s what we said to each other:
“Diversity means that there are always others besides myself.”
“Diversity is a range of ideas, platforms, styles, life experience, identity, and history.”
“Diversity includes different backgrounds – not just the straight, white male.”
All true, valid, honest assessments right? But what do we actually do about it? First, we did some research to find out more about diversity in publishing.
Regarding gender identity and representation, we found the VIDA Count – available at http://www.vidaweb.org/category/the-count/ – both informative and engaging. This tally takes a look at who is publishing in a number of different periodicals and journals and shows how many women and how many men are publishing within them. VIDA is a nonprofit feminist organization that brings awareness to concerns of disparity among traditionally marginalized populations. Since we’re a new organization preparing to publish our first issue, we don’t yet have the data to run a count on our publications, but we’re confident we’ll represent both women and men.
Of course, we want to encourage and invite writers from multivariate backgrounds and identities to submit their best work to Arkana. In order to reach a variety of audiences, we’re sending our calls for submissions to places and organizations that already have an audience and the infrastructure already built in to reach out, like Writers of Color on Twitter. We’ve also reached out to Cave Canem, an organization supporting African American poetry writers. See more about the organization, their outreach, events, and publications at http://cavecanempoets.org/ .
With more information about what’s happening in the wider world of publishing, we looked locally to see how we could reach out and hear back from diverse writers and readers. Our team has made contact with representatives from the KIPP Delta public schools, an equal opportunity provider serving six Arkansas schools and alumni teaching life skills for success. We hope to receive submissions from their alumni, and get the word out about our magazine to their students as well. Check out their website at http://www.kippdelta.org/ .
In addition to these, we also want to encourage and embrace work both from and about a diversity places as well. Since we are part of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas, we are definitely situated in the South, and we welcome and enjoy works from this region. But we don’t want to exclude works and voices from other places. The big publishing houses have received (valid) criticism about their focus on stories and voices from big cities, especially on the coasts. At Arkana, we want to read stories from the sticks and the cities, and to find out how and why culture works from the people living and creating in those spaces.
Finally, we encourage diversification and fluidity in genre. Works don’t have to fit neatly into one category to find a home in this magazine. If you have suggestions on how we can continue to reach diverse audiences, grow our readership, and publish infrequently heard voices, reach out to us on social media. And if you want to share your own voice, take a look at our Submission guidelines. Keep our mission statement in min, and share this with writers you think would be a good fit. We’re all in this together, and we want to represent.