Spotlight on New Queer Literature: A Conversation with Gertrude Press
Author: Alyssa Greene
August 14, 2018
“Our mission is to continue holding space for queer stories by supporting writers and artists throughout all the stages of their careers.”
Spotlight on New Queer Literature is a new monthly series highlighting publications that are LGBTQIA owned, promote queer and trans writers, or publish work on LGBTQIA themes, seeking to connect Lambda’s readership with contemporary queer publishers and authors. For the inaugural interview, Lambda spoke with Tammy Lynne Stoner, publisher of Gertrude, the longest consecutively published queer journal about responding to the current political climate and supporting artists and writers at all stages of their careers.
Tell us a little bit about Gertrude and its mission.
Our mission is to continue holding space for queer stories by supporting writers and artists throughout all the stages of their careers. Gertrude journal often publishes newer writers and artists; our chapbook contest supports writers at the next level—those who have complete a collection/novella; and GERTIE, our new book club, selects the best in queer literary books to give a boost to more established writers.
How long has Gertrude been around? How has it developed or changed since it began?
Gertrude began twenty years ago in response to anti-gay legislation. I got involved in 2007—ten years in—as the fiction editor, then VP on the Board of Directors. In 2015-16, we went on hiatus because so many of us had big life changes (I moved to SF for a year, our managing editor and art editor had babies, our fiction editor was offered a teaching position in Kentucky, etc.) but then Trump was elected so I decided to respond in a positive way to that negative business and brought Gertrude back.
Aside from introducing GERTIE, the biggest change is that the journal is now solely online, which makes it easier for us to operate and reaches more people globally—a big commitment for us. The chapbooks, however, will remain printed.
What kind of work do you publish?
We publish all kinds of art—this year we chose hand-painted collage, bold trans portraits, photographs of gay Muslims, and a cheeky nod to Art Deco—for our covers. On the writing side, we publish fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, interviews, profiles with our “Lineage” series, and book reviews.
How would you describe Gertrude’s aesthetic?
Each editor determines the tone and style of work accepted during their tenure. Overall, though, we are forward-leaning and interested in different ways of seeing—as mildly ambiguous as that may sound.
Can you highlight some of the work Gertrude publishes?
We have a long history to choose from—including a short story from a man from a small village in Africa who told me that after the journal arrived in the mail, he passed it around and it legitimized him being gay. This publishing credit, he said, also helped give him the courage (clearly he already had plenty) to move to a bigger city and be more true to how he wanted to live.
This past year I am especially proud of our Issue 25 cover featuring photographs of gay Muslims who had escaped violence in their homelands. The photographs and the stories that go along with them are now making their way around Europe in gallery shows. Click here to read our interview with the photographer, Jean Christophe-Husson, and in the people he photographed.
Our poetry editor, Stephanie Glazier, was particularly blown away by “Two Sacraments” by Janell Tyron because “her poem moves with graceful narrative gestures, traversing time, landscapes, and loss.”
In fiction, we publish—and adore—a wide range of work, from literary kitsch like “It Starts With a Girl in Trouble” to haunting work like “The Stone House Where we Remembered Her” to gorgeous, more traditional narratives like “Venus Furtiva”—often with an odd bent, of course.
In creative non-fiction, we are drawn to work that digs deep into life, like Daniel Elder’s piece “Marrow,” which, according to then-editor Allison Tobey (now our Managing Editor), was chosen because it “deftly captured complicated family dynamics without being trite, and even managed to squeeze a tear from my cold, hard eye.”
What would you like writers and artists interested in submitting to Gertrude to know?
When you submit, please make sure to read the guidelines and send only clean, copyedited work (without crazy cover letters—though they are pretty damn amusing). And the queerer the better.
As a side note, we are all writers and get that this profession requires tenacity, humor, and right-place juju in addition to talent. Understanding this, we work to support you and your work as best we can—so if you get accepted, please always keep us up-to-date on what you are doing and ways we can help.
If you are at the next level and would like us to consider your novel, collection of poetry, short story collection, or book of essays for our book club, GERTIE, please contact [email protected] and be prepared to send an electronic galley. We prefer new releases form established presses, and the work must be written by a queer writer and contain LGBTQ characters/storylines.
We look forward to seeing what you’ve got, and thanks for this interview!