Women Reclaim the Power of the Imagined Through Speculative Nonfiction
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Becoming Real: Women Reclaim the Power of the Imagined Through Speculative Nonfiction, edited by Laraine Herring, seeks speculative essay and memoir submissions from women, especially women of color, marginalized groups, and varied socio-economic classes, celebrating, questioning, debating, and integrating the role of their imagined lives on their external lives.
We define speculative memoir/creative nonfiction as: an umbrella genre in which the questions of the author’s work are addressed through speculative elements, which may include ghosts, metaphors, what-ifs, imaginative scenarios, and fantasies. It is memoir/creative nonfiction focused more on the possibilities of the internal world than the facts of the external world.
We are interested in how women relate to the speculative in their lives—how they’ve been told to silence it, how it speaks, how it manifests, how it hides. We’re interested in intergenerational approaches and family tales and ancestral stories and your own complex internal world. You do not have to write a trauma narrative, though you could if that’s what’s calling you. We are more than our trauma, and this anthology seeks to also express those facets.
Send us your weird: hybrid forms, hybrid upon hybrid forms, fairy tales, tales with talking objects, stories of plant and animal magic, all manner of magic and ways of expression. Show us how your engagement with your imagination has impacted your life. Show us your hidden. Show us how intuition, conversations with the dead, the inanimate (as if there were such a thing), and the non-human life forms hold you together. Show us the unexpected ways your unique relationship to the world saved you. Show us your synesthesia. Your imaginary friends. The story that made you Real.
Please don’t send us Aristotle. We’ve read him.
We anticipate most essays will be in 1st person, but other POVs will be considered to allow for freedom in form. Please note that this is not an academic call for papers or a request for reported articles. We are looking for personal speculative creative nonfiction and memoir essays.
Becoming Real will be published by Pact Press, under the auspices of The Regal House Initiative, the nonprofit arm of Regal House Publishing, for its Spring 2024 frontlist. Please note this anthology is an act of literary citizenship.
50% of the net revenue from Becoming Real will be donated to Girls Write Now, an organization focused on elevating marginalized voices. Their mission stipulates: For more than two decades, the nationally award-winning nonprofit Girls Write Now has broken down the barriers of gender, race, age, and poverty, elevating the voices of writers who are too often not heard—or worse, silenced.
Pact Press will be donating production costs, such as editing, typesetting, and cover design. Laraine Herring, the editor of the anthology, is donating her time. Contributors will receive one contributor copy, and they will retain all rights to their work.
Essays should be 3000 words or less, and should be in publishable condition. Only light editing will be done. Please include a short bio with your submission. No pitches please, only complete manuscripts. No reprints, and no work that requires permissions (uses of song lyrics, etc).
Submission deadline: June 1, 2022.
A note from the editor:
A 16th century definition of speculate is “to perch, as if from a watchtower.” To speculate on the page is to first decide where “to perch”—how to view the story. Which angles will we see? Which worlds will we inhabit? Which ones will we turn from? As women, we learn early there are right places and wrong places from which to perch in our narratives, and by not conforming to those predetermined perches, the legions of women, people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, the neurodiverse, and those with disabilities and chronic illnesses are left out of the storyteller role, and as we all know, whoever controls the narratives controls the world.
Who does that benefit? Who does that leave out?
The traditional American publishing industry is not exempt from the patriarchal, capitalistic values our country elevates, and the result has been a marginalization—if not elimination—of stories about lives, worldviews, and inner landscapes that did not fit the homogenous, male, Eurocentric view of life. A story must take a form, and that sanctioned form, the upside-down checkmark, is, not coincidentally, the journey of a male’s orgasm.
(No wonder so many women fake it.)
And many women have been faking it in their writing, too, because that’s been the way to achieve any modicum of success. For heaven’s sake, blend in with the dominant paradigm. You may not make it to the top, but you won’t get shut out. It is safer if they like you.
But at what price?
Who taught us that our intuition, our secret rituals, our communication with the unseen was not valid? Not safe? That’s a trick question, of course. You know who taught us. We were burned, imprisoned, raped, colonized, enslaved, and exterminated. Ancestral traumas pass through our cells generation into generation. For centuries (and still in many parts of the world), to claim the power of women’s inner worlds was to risk our lives and livelihoods.
That kind of patterning dies slow.
It’s one thing to write a novel full of ghosts and speculations and imaginary friends and worlds, but it’s an entirely different thing to claim a story like that as a memoir. As a true story worthy of the readers’ belief. Speculative has long been accepted in the domain of fiction, but speculative is not in conflict with a lived experience. It’s not in conflict with the story of a life. Speculative memoirs and essays empower us to claim all of our lived experiences—not just the ones the patriarchy wants to reinforce.
I believe that speculative creative nonfiction and memoir have the power to help heal the centuries’ old rifts inside women’s hearts. That’s what stories do—they remind us of who we are and who we can be. Embracing the role of the speculative in our “true” stories will give permission to others to welcome back the parts of themselves they’ve been told are too weird, too evil, too witchy. The parts they severed from themselves to survive.
The imagination is the most powerful tool we have. It is free. Our intuition is a trusted companion. It is free. Elevating personal stories that integrate these elements will shine a light into a future that celebrates the inner landscape and values its gifts.
About the editor:
Laraine Herring’s books include the speculative memoir, A Constellation of Ghosts: A Speculative Memoir with Ravens (Regal House); Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice (Shambhala); The Writing Warrior: Discovering the Courage to Free Your True Voice (Shambhala); On Being Stuck: Tapping into the Creative Power of Writer’s Block (Shambhala); Lost Fathers: How Women Can Heal From Adolescent Father Loss (Hazelden); the novels Ghost Swamp Blues (White River Press); Into the Garden of Gethsemane, Georgia (Concentrium); and Gathering Lights: A Novel of San Francisco (Concentrium). She is also the author and illustrator of The Grief Forest: a book we don’t talk about (White River Press). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Entropy, The Brevity Blog, JMWW, The Rumpus, Catapult, The Manifest-Station, K’in, Tiferet, Cleaver, The Arizona Republic, and has been widely anthologized. She won the Barbara Deming Award for Women for her fiction, and her nonfiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
She has been on the Arizona Artist’s Roster, and she has taught nationally at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Omega Institute, the Antioch Writer’s Workshop, ASU’s Desert Nights Rising Stars, and the Tucson Book Festival. She has worked at Hospice of the Valley, the New Song Center for Grieving Children, Camp Paz, a grief camp for kids, and has received grants to bring writing and grief workshops to women in transitional housing and women in addiction recovery. She is the founder and editor-in-chief for Hags on Fire, an online zine dedicated to women’s writing on perimenopause, menopause, and aging. She is a tenured professor of psychology and creative writing at Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ, and is also a private book coach and grief coach for women over 40. Find out more at laraineherring.com.