This Week I Have Been Mostly…Launching A Zine 22/02/16

The official launch events of the zine have been slightly delayed due to me being extremely close to a new draft of the mysteriously titled (for now) THIRD BOOK… I know. Very, very exciting. More on this imminently…

This last week however, I received the printed zines (60 pages), and have been posting them to the contributors. British essayists and artists began to receive their copies this week; international wordsmiths, cartoonists, and illustrators will find their issues landing in post boxes over the next fortnight (several of our contributors are from the Southern Hemisphere, including a trainee nurse who has news for you about the fabulous, and shrewd, work of a new domestic abuse charity).

The tongue-in-cheekily titled I Hope You Like Feminist Rants (known colloquially as Rants Zine due to our Twitter handle @RantsZine), has its roots far back, in my work with British performers’ union Equity’s Women’s Committee (lots of apostrophes there). When I got my O1 work/live visa for the good ole U.S. of A in 2013, I stepped down from my work with the committee, and as chair of the union’s Young Members’ Committee, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to fly back four times a year for the meetings. Pragmatism had to win out.

Still, I wanted to do something, personally, for women. I think a lot of us feel an emptiness inside if we are not doing something for the good of others, or the planet (I sound like a Miss World competitor). I always wanted to leave the world better off for my being here, and I think most people either want the same thing, or, if they haven’t realized they want it, feel empty for the lack of that ambition. Writing Golden Boy and presenting lectures on intersex and gender helps me feel good about who I am, but, although my gender politics are likely to infect every book I write, it’s not enough.

Over the last few years I’ve scratched this ‘do something good’ itch by writing articles for British newspapers about libraries, donating to charity, and volunteering for political campaigns, including manning phones for Obama for President 2012, and producing videos for the Green Party’s Romy Rayner for MP in 2015. In autumn of last year, I concocted a plan for a women’s retreat, and ran it earlier this year (see the blog from January 11th).

For the retreat, I created welcome packs to set the tone for the event. I included a tampon from Time Of The Month, producers of 100% Pure Certified organic cotton, unbleached, hypoallergenic tampons with no chlorine, perfume, viscose, rayon, pesticides, or chemical fertilisers, a steal at £2.80 for 10, and with none of the nasty chemicals linked to reproductive problems or cancer. We also had Fair Trade, vegan, organic, ethical condoms made in the U.K., from our sponsor French Letter (try their Aroma Passion or Ultra Thin 3 packs now on offer for £1.99). For the packs too, I planned a zine.

The zine would be called I Hope You Like Feminist Rants as a nod to its content. I asked incredible, intelligent, talented women from around the world if they had any topic they would love to rant about, and encouraged them to write in whatever fashion they liked, as the typical journalistic style was created in a patriarchy, by men. They didn’t have the constraints of a required word count, or format. The only guidance writers had before they wrote their pieces was a short chat as to the subject, to make sure we didn’t have lots of people writing about the same thing! (The theme of essay “Boys Will Be Boys. Girls Will Be Sluts” by K.C. was suggested by at least three writers, so it must be a hot topic.)

Everyone submitted first drafts to me in November. Some essays needed only a comma adding here or there, some needed restructuring for the idea to be communicated, and all were a joy to read. You can’t imagine how wonderful my mornings in California were that month, opening my inbox to find yet another riveting, passionate essay.

I really love editing. My approach is simple: editing is about cutting out the chaff and working with structure to a) reveal the purest version of the writer’s voice and b) (particularly in non-fiction) communicating as best as one can the thrust of the essay or story. I always say to writers that they can reject any suggested change – they decide the final version of their work (which is how it is with novelists, at least, with my editors), but that I won’t publish something that will embarrass them, or me, mostly meaning poor grammar, spelling, or something incorrect presented as fact (creative grammar can be interesting, but if it gets in the way of my understanding your work, it’s working against you).

I can’t understand when writers balk at having their work edited. What I wouldn’t give for someone to edit my work for free, and how grateful I am to my editors, past and present, for helping me see where I am going wrong – and what I’m doing right!

The zine is a contribution; a platform for women to talk about subjects they can’t speak about

My Reply To A Contributor

My Reply To A Contributor on Twitter

elsewhere. This might be because those ideas go against the grain, are controversial, or oppose accepted feminist ideas and approaches; or it could be because contributors are not ‘famous’ enough to get asked to write for mainstream publications – our contributors include a fourteen-year-old school pupil, two trainee nurses, and a nursery school worker and expectant mother.

We also have, of course, some household names writing for us. Kit De Waal is an author and funder of a creative writing scholarship at a University in London. Eminent and frequently published mathematician Leila Schneps writes for Rants about growing up in Boston, Mass, in the 1960s, in the heart of hippydom. Comedian Samantha Baines, Time Out’s Featured Blogger of the Year 2015, made me laugh my head off with her contribution.

Shelley Harris, bestselling author of Richard and Judy book club pick Jubilee, and new novel Vigilante, provided more giggles with her piece on the menopause. Lastly, I was excited to have a book recommendation by Natasha Minoso, blogger and creator of Book Baristas. Natasha warmed my heart with her loyal support and frequent recommendations of Golden Boy on her blog, Instagram, and twitter, and I ‘followed back’ two years ago, when she had about 1500 followers… she now has 76.5k on Instagram alone, and a smashing job at Penguin in New York to boot!

Like most independent zines, contributors are unpaid. No one is forced to write; they submit because they want to reach other women, and I edit and publish the zine because I want to make a space for women’s voices which would otherwise go unheard, on topics which would otherwise not be broached. The cost of the zine – available to buy here online – recoups the production costs only, in printing the zine and posting to contributors. Costs are kept to a minimum, so content doesn’t have to be. Any extra funds will go to the printing of issue #2; the aim being that slightly less will come out of my own pocket next time.

Believe me when I say, it is so worth ordering. These essays and pieces of art were so, so brilliant to read, and make fabulous material for book clubs, youth groups, schools and women’s communities to use as starting points for serious debate. So, enjoy, and… please consider contacting me to contribute next time! I will start work on issue #2 in March, and am looking for diverse voices in general, women from developing countries, innovative forms of expression, and points you feel you’d be shouted at for making. If you are a shop owner: I will be announcing news on stockists soon, and would love to add your name to the list! Send me an email at abigailtarttelin [@] hotmail dot com.

Longest blog yet, and now I will reprint the editor’s letter below:

“Imagine for a moment a world in which women of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, professions, and feminisms, are important and worthy of attention. Dedicated to discussion, Rants rejects a journalistic style developed in and by a patriarchy, allowing women to speak in their own voices, be they conversational or formal; in their own format, including thoughts, essays, poems, and art; on topics that might not be current; with opinions that might be controversial, and might not be popular, but are relevant, thoughtful, and have worth. We will not always agree with every rant we publish, but feminism is a critical project, and its advancement relies on fearless exploration. We stand by the rights of women to have differences of opinion, to debate, and to discuss. It is the only way we as a society, and as a movement, have ever progressed.”

Phoenix is Number One, babes… 22/07/14

Very happy to see this. Even more excited about the next edition of Phoenix, which is a little rejig and oh-so-much my agenda version of the Books Section (I’m the Books Editor btw), mainly because we are featuring some STUNNING new fiction from two writers whom I love, love, love. So proud and honoured I got to edit their work it’s ridiculous. PLUS, an interview with a New York Times bestselling author and, of course, my column. I’m attempting to be more personal and vulnerable. It terrifies me. Let me know if you love it.

PHOENIX Mag presents: Sunshine by Tim Horner 24/05/13

It’s been crazy on le road, but I’m loving it, and in a few spare minutes one night this week (I can’t remember which) I managed to edit this charming short story – or perhaps flash fiction – by Tim Horner, for the Phoenix Magazine App and website. If you didn’t know already, I am very happy to be Books Editor at Phoenix, a London Fashion Magazine that is nevertheless distributed worldwide. Here’s the little introduction I wrote for Tim:

The only paid job writer Tim Horner could get after University was working as Assistant Editor at a porn mag. While we look forward to reading a memoir of these times, we thought we would share this story with you. Sunshine was written exclusively for PHOENIX, and we are proud to release it today as a sneak peek at the wonderful new writing we are publishing in our Sunshine and Showers summer edition of the print magazine, due to hit the newsstands in two weeks time.

This is the first of three pieces of short fiction I commissioned for Phoenix’s issue – on news stands in two weeks. I really think this issue features the best work I’ve ever done for the magazine, and our best Books section yet. And what’s more, editor Hannah Kane says the magazine as a whole is better than ever as well! In Books: two gorgeous, strong, powerful new voices, novelist Nicci Cloke and poet Kate Squires, have written stunning stories for us, I recommend my favourite summer reads and wine to go with them, and I also interview Children of the Jacaranda Tree writer Sahar Delijani!

I am SO proud of this issue!! Please check out Tim’s story here and pick up a copy of PHOENIX ! (Right now with an annual subscription you can get 50% off the cover price!)

Baltimore to NYC, Cosmopolitan, and On the Eve of Publication… 21/05/13

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I’m in New York City! Yesterday was the journey from Baltimore airport (featured above) to NYC. Airport verdict: The American Airlines check in was the easiest yet, but we were delayed for almost two hours and on the runway most of the time! Which is the longest yet we’ve been delayed and the plane was totally tiny – it was like being in a flying car. Although that actually sounds really cool. I have answered the question ‘What would you like to be if you could be literally anything?’ on some interviews and I answer ‘a fighter pilot in space’ because I love watching Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica do her thing and I grew up on the original Star Wars film (like all civilized animals, I refuse to recognise the ones made in the 90s).

After the flight however, I was picked up by a lovely driver. She was a grandma of 14 and mother to 9 and was sweet enough to encourage me to nap in the car! Usually I talk til I can’t talk anymore but I was really sleepy so we listened to music. And then arrived at a really cool hotel! Sometimes having a book like Golden Boy and publishers like Atria and a book tour seems so surreal, and then sometimes it will hit me and I will think ‘Oh my god, LOOK at this hotel!… They must really like my book!!!’ And then I’ll feel excited, and also proud about what we’ve managed to achieve with Golden Boy – myself and my agents, and the teams at Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Atria. And the international publications are yet to come!

Today is the eve of the US publication. It was a beautiful, warm day in New York, and I gave my yellow and blue dress a last spin as I walked down to the Simon and Schuster offices. I used to walk past these offices a lot, coincidentally, and think, ‘One day I’ll be published by a great publisher – but I’ll never be published by someone as big and awesome as Simon and Schuster!’ I really remember thinking that – so HOW COOL is tomorrow going to be?!?! A side note: on the walk down I realised I hadn’t eaten, so I got a Mr Whippy for breakfast/lunch (they call it a Mister Softie here).

At S&S, I signed some stock copies of Golden Boy – so stupid of me not to take a photo, but I had such a nice time catching up with everyone, and signed Mellony, Lee Anna and Tory’s copies (they all work at Atria). I popped in to see my fantastic publicist, Paul, and my brilliant publisher, Judith, too. Then I chatted to Mell and my amazing editor Sarah Branham (everybody gets adjectives!), and Mell handed me a file with Golden Boy on it with press info and then a credit card with my name on it. Another moment of: ‘Wow, they must really trust me.’

Then Mellony, who is another of my absolutely awesome Atria publicists!, and I walked over to Cosmopolitan Magazine. Cosmo reviewed Golden Boy in their latest issue:

GOLDEN BOY | This gripping debut novel explores the private life of intersex teen Max Walker, whose ambiguous gender has been safeguarded by his parents until his oldest friend violates his trust int he most horrible way.

They couldn’t make the book launch at Powerhouse Arena in Dumbo tomorrow night (May 21st, 7pm – I’ll be there to read and sign books, come on down!), so they invited us to see their offices and talk Golden Boy. They are in the stunning Hearst building, where Mellony and I took the black and white pic and the view pic, above. We had an awesome conversation about the novel, gender in general, their recent coverage of punk rocker Tom Gabel’s, now Laura Jane Grace’s, first year as a woman, and the new direction Cosmo is taking under editor Joanna Cole’s captainship. What an exciting time for the magazine!

I had a couple of hours to kill after the meeting, so I wrote a few emails and then hopped in a car  (another omg moment – I used to never take cabs because I couldn’t afford them and now every car I get picked up in here has BLACKED OUT WINDOWS – whaaaaat???? Mental). I went to DB Bistro with my publisher Judith Curr, editor Sarah Branham, Chris Goldberg of Twentieth Century Fox fame, and we were joined at dessert by my agent Clare Conville. Wow, what a lovely meal and a lovely way to celebrate the publication tomorrow! We had a long talk, we toasted Golden Boy and we ate delicious food! What a way to call in tomorrow…