The Black and White Issue

Taddle Creek looks at diversity (or lack thereof) in its pages.

Summer, 2015 / No. 35

Last fall, Taddle Creek’s editor-in-chief had the pleasure of speaking with a group of up-and-coming writers, at a lunchtime seminar hosted by Diaspora Dialogues, an organization dedicated to promoting diversity in new Canadian literature. Much of the discussion focused on topics common in such settings, including where to submit work, how best to submit it, and what type of work publishers are looking for. All of the authors in attendance were born in a country other than Canada, and eventually the conversation turned to why it was so hard to find literary magazines and book publishers willing to accept work focused on the immigrant experience. The general feeling in the room was that Canadian publishers simply weren’t interested in the stories immigrants had to tell. It was a discussion still on Taddle Creek’s mind one wintery Saturday morning earlier this year, when some tweeters who had read the magazine’s “Growing Up in Toronto” editorial package, from Taddle Creek No. 34, commented with dismay that nearly all of the artists featured in it were white.

Whether other magazines lack interest in the immigrant experience is not something to which Taddle Creek can speak, though perhaps it’s a conversation that needs to be had in another forum. Instead, the magazine will shine the spotlight on itself and address the question, Why is the fiction, poetry, and general focus of Taddle Creek not more diverse?

First, some background: Taddle Creek finds fiction and poetry for its pages in two ways: through unsolicited submissions sent via mail or E-mail, and by actively soliciting authors whose work it enjoys.

Very little of the work appearing in the magazine comes from unsolicited submissions. Taddle Creek loves nothing more than discovering a talented author previously unknown to it—except perhaps having the chance to publish that writer’s very first story or poem. Still, much of the work that makes its way to the magazine’s slush pile (as it’s known in the industry) is not up to the standards Taddle Creek has set for itself. There are many reasons for this: It could be that an author needs more time to hone his or her talent before being ready for publication. Or that the work submitted simply isn’t the type of fiction or poetry Taddle Creek is looking for in its mysterious, frustrating-to-writers hard-to-describe way. But most of the time, it’s that the work submitted, in Taddle Creek’s opinion, simply isn’t very good. Taddle Creek sometimes will write an encouraging note or provide feedback to an author who seems promising, and occasionally those authors eventually do make their way into the magazine, though this is not the norm. But Taddle Creek believes in the level playing field an open submission policy creates, and finding the odd gem makes the whole process worthwhile.

So, to answer the question posed at the Diaspora Dialogues session, if Taddle Creek rejected your work, it has nothing to do with ethnic background or subject, and more to do with the fact that the work being presented probably wasn’t ready for publication, much like the work received by the many non-immigrant writers Taddle Creek rejects in a given day.

With that said, Taddle Creek obviously solicits most of the fiction and poetry appearing in its pages, and herein lies the magazine’s failure. While Taddle Creek is very proud of the overall gender balance of its contributors, and of its regular inclusion of work by writers who do not identify as heterosexual, its record of publishing stories by authors and artists of non-European descent, admittedly, is not good. Taddle Creek does not actively seek to achieve balance in terms of gender or sexual orientation, it’s just something that seems to happen naturally, which makes the magazine’s lack of racial diversity all the more acute. If Taddle Creek solicits most of its fiction and poetry, it should be doing a better job soliciting from writers of different backgrounds.

In regards to the “Growing Up in Toronto” feature, Taddle Creek was aware that it lacked diversity prior to publication. Finding any artists who actually grew up in the city was difficult. Finding more diverse ones proved even harder. Taddle Creek did try, but should have tried harder, and accepts the criticism.

Taddle Creek cannot promise to be interested in every story told from the immigrant point of view, just as it cannot promise to be interested in every story told from any point of view, and the magazine does not believe in tokenism. But Taddle Creek would like to feel as proud of its ethnic diversity as it feels of its other types of diversity, and so it promises to make a strong, long-overdue effort to improve in this area. Reader discussion has shamed Taddle Creek, and hopefully reader discussion will help solve the problem. Taddle Creek thanks those who dared to point fingers.