In 2014 I got angry, and in my anger I created a literary journal, called it West Trestle Review. I was angry because I'd read The Count by VIDA—an organization, you probably know, that counts how many men, women and nonbinary writers are published in prominent literary outlets each year—and like so many others I saw that the literary landscape was unbalanced. Unbalanced like one side of a teeter totter was a Mount Everest of (mostly white) men and on the other side was an anthill of (mostly white) women.
Since then, many journals have improved not only gender equity but racial equity as well. Still, according to VIDA's most recent count in 2019, Gettysburg Review, Southwest Review, Harvard Review, n+1, New American Writing, and nine other "top tier" journals had large swaths of improvement ahead of them. That's super frustrating. It's almost as if the editors of those journals don't believe that voices outside of the white male patriarchal structure are important. Huh.
There's a lot of conversation right now about why it's important for kids to read about diverse characters, not only written by women and nonbinary authors, but by authors who are BIPOC / LGBTQIA / and body positive. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of conversation, that I can find, about why the same is also true for adults. Yes, adult brains harden and become more resistant to new ideas over time, but I still believe that adults need literature to be windows, mirrors and sliding doors every bit as much as children do—and that our minds at any age can be changed by someone else's words.
Preaching to the choir is an expression that comes to mind as I write this, and I've just now decided that I am not a preacher. I'm not even Christian—maybe you're not, either—and besides it's not only the pious who are in the know. Sometimes those who claim to be pious are decidedly not in the know, as far as empathy is concerned. In any case, whenever I share information that I believe everyone knows, I'm surprised to find that not everyone does, and sometimes people are grateful.
So here's a little more: Since my first WTR post in 2014 I've gathered a team of volunteer editors — DeMisty Bellinger, Annie Stenzel, and Kathy Huang (who's recently been promoted from reader to poetry editor!) — and together we've published work by nearly 300 women and nonbinary authors and artists, most of these since our relaunch three years ago. We have done our best to stay true to the commitment we made in 2020 to actively seek the voices of those for whom literary gates often stay locked.
In addition, with support from the Auburn Arts Commission, we launched Silver Tongue Saturdays last year, a monthly literary series and open mic that's sweeping Auburn, California by storm—admittedly it's more of a microburst, but it's growing! Our most recent event featured Devorah Major. Watch here.
And now, we're pleased to announce WTR's first Celebration of West Trestlers, a Zoom reading to take place on Saturday, May 20 at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific, featuring 2023 contributors Melissa Eleftherion, Merie Kirby, Natalie Marino, Amanda Rosas, R.B. Simon, Sudha Subramanian, Maggie Yang, and Ellen Zhang. Please join us! More info will be coming your way soon.
Phew. It is a lot of work! Honestly, this work, this life, sometimes feels like walking the wrong direction on a never-ending escalator while someone in the distance is sobbing. Or maybe it's me. I often think I can't do this. And then I remember the words of the wise doulas who once long ago trained me to be a doula, how amid the contractions, the parent, sweaty, tear-swept, vomiting, cried, "I can't do this," and the doulas said gently, You are doing this.
We are doing this. Together.
And here's what we've done now! We've created another stunning issue featuring art by sometimes surreal, sci-fi-inspired, environmental artist Jennifer Peart paired with poems and stories by Jane Zwart, Ellen Zhang, Senna Xiang, Tanya Thamkruphat, R.B. Simon, Priyanka Sacheti, Amanda Rosas, Clara McClean, Elizabeth Joy Levinson, Merie Kirby, Kathy Jiang, Sarah Elkins, Eliza Dunn, Elizabeth Crowell, Nicole Callihan and Deborah Bacharach.
Please remember that every issue comes with a general content warning; feel free to use it liberally when sharing. Please do share. Shout it out on social media — or in the street! — when you read work that moves you. Please email and let us know if you love what we're doing here. Help us build the community we want to be.
In gratitude, Patricia Caspers Founding EIC, West Trestle Review
WTR is a volunteer-run endeavor. If you'd like to donate to help us keep the lights on (pay our Submittable fee) and offer occasional free submissions to all, we will love you forever. Check out our 2021 finance report.