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Monday, July 31, 2006

Looking for Warriors with Words

Someone at our forums recently posted that s/he (don’t recall who it was) always felt like a freak, an outsider in the world, and I responded that that could well be a definition for a Word Warrior. Our latest author also has this great tidbit in her book:

"What are you here for?" Matt asked me.

"Words," I said.

I was going to explain how my heart danced when I wrote and how finding the truth was the only thing really worth living for, but Matt didn't need the explanation. He nodded. “Yes," he said. "I can see that."

A couple of Word Warriors, those two! And I know there are more of you out there, people who need to send your words someplace they’ll be understood. What’s unusual about this press is that we intentionally seek out those people and those stories that tend to be ignored.

The other day, someone suggested I do an anthology of essays from high school students, about the “more typical” teens and their experiences. I thought about that, and finally had to dismiss the idea because that’s just not what we’re about. I realize that younger people aren’t heard from much in the mainstream—not only people in their twenties, but teens as well. But the “typical” teen does at least have some venues for their experiences—such as writing those high school essays. On the other hand, a Word Warrior writing an honest academic essay is likely to be told that their subject matter is “inappropriate” or referred to the school psychologist. (If they have one.)

I see Word Warriors as passionate people who love the words that carry living realities, and they interact with those words in a great love affair. They know they’re unusual. They’re reminded of it all the time by the world. Society may tell them they have “too much” heart or imagination or thought. And not enough patience for the “necessary” BS of the world. They’re maybe even people who have looked death in the face . . . and chosen life—real life, not the pseudo, plastic images that pass for it.

What is Word Warriors Press all about? Well, in a nutshell, here’s our mission statement: “We give venue to distinctive alternative voices that empower, educate, and entertain.” Distinctive: That means you have a unique voice, that you see things in ways that are different from how others perceive them, or you at least convey what you see in an unusual, creative way. Alternative: This implies that your experiences or values or lifestyles are outside of the institutional social systems. For whatever reasons, you don’t seem to “belong to the mainstream.”

What does it mean that this press attempts to “empower, educate and entertain”? Well, I’ll assume you understand the “entertain” part; that’s what any good art does. And if it’s done right, the “education” will simply be an integrated part of the entertainment—Don’t you get bored unless you’re being presented with something new? And what do we mean by “empower”? To validate, and thereby help people gain the ability to act in the world with confidence and power. Because we believe that social and political change begins with psychological change: a sense of individual and group power, and the realization that change is possible.

We also have “values” that we try to assess potential books by. What are those values?

1. We address social and political injustices.

2. We encourage critical thinking.

3. We embrace controversy.

4. We call people to action toward a better world.

Obviously, not every one of our books will meet every one of these criteria. But the more your manuscript is in line with our goals, the more likely we are to publish it. Please do not, however, interpret these values too literally and concretely. I certainly do not want to be sent a lot of political preaching! I should maybe clarify how I use the word "political," since so many people use it only to refer to the world of politicans. But that's not how I'm using it. For instance, my guess is that at least two of my three authors so far would be shocked to learn that I even consider their books political. But if I asked them if their books had anything to do with human systems of power, they'd sure agree. And that's how I'm using the word. I hope this helps to clarify for writers what we’re all about, and what we’re looking for.

We’d like to see more people of color submitting, and are very interested in doing a Spanish/English book in some form (the Big Boys tend to ignore the Latin@ population). Right now, I’m looking at a prison anthology also, so if you have been or are in prison, send something.

And I’m happy to look at anything at all--anything.at.all!-- from a true Word Warrior!

Think and Be Dangerous

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