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Ladies Represent: Jonterri Gadson.

June 28, 2012 \am\30 9:15 am

A fair while ago now, Robin and I talked about the VIDA Count. I guess pretty much everyone did. We wanted to ask a bunch of great writers who also happen to be ladies about their publishing experience and basically just open up a space to talk about gender and publishing, or call bullshit on it, or spout conspiracy theories.

This will be ongoing. This has to be ongoing.

Next up: Jonterri Gadson.

Jonterri Gadson is Debra’s daughter. A Cave Canem fellow, she is a recent graduate of University of Virginia’s MFA program in poetry and the current Herbert W. Martin Post-Graduate Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Dayton. Her poems have previously appeared on The Rumpus, PANK, Tidal Basin Review, and other journals. Her chapbook, Pepper Girl, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in Fall 2012.


When I started feeling like my writing was strong enough to publish, I was struck with the fear that anything that identified me in my poems as a woman would automatically relegate my work to chick-lit or some other lesser designation of lit that would diminish my audience. I’m trying really hard to think about where I got this idea from and it scares me not to be able to pinpoint it.  Luckily, I overcame that fear (thanks to Professor Denise Duhamel’s example) and started addressing aspects of my identity head-on in my work.

Being able to pinpoint where this fear of gender bias comes from would probably help me suggest solutions. For now, I’ll say that part of the solution lies with the writers themselves, the women who possess these fears. We have to put them aside and submit our work anyway. I also think that publications should be aware of the potential for bias and make an effort to promote work by people who are different from how they define themselves. 

As a single mother, I certainly handle more than a fair share of motherhood and domestic responsibilities. Because I know that there is a huge potential for this to hinder my output, I am that much more on fire to write and to submit my work. It means that in that hour after my son goes to sleep and I want to immediately crash, I don’t. I write. I submit. It means setting boundaries in my household that will allow me the time I need to do this thing I love so I can set the example of how to be a whole person for my child. To me, motherhood and domestic responsibilities are categories to add to the list of things I’m referring to when I say I want to do it all.

If I’m not submitting, it’s usually because I’m in transition. Moving and grad school have been my biggest hold-ups. If I submit to only a few publications at a time and I receive a rejection, sometimes it’s harder to submit again right away. So I submit to 10 publications at a time, so that when I hear a no, I have 9 more opportunities to still hear a yes without having to muster up the courage to submit again.

The fact that gender bias exists in publishing should not effect what comes out of you when you are alone with a blank page. If we do work that we believe in–regardless of subject matter and audience–it becomes that much easier to submit. It’s our job as women who write to take away the excuse that we don’t submit, so the real issues surrounding gender bias in publishing can come forward more clearly.  

Have some thoughts? Comment and let us know.

Also check out what these ladies had to say:

Roxane Gay

Amy Letter

Michelle Augello-Page

Lucy Biederman

Carrie Murphy

KMA Sullivan


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