Raquel Thorne: First, I want to say thank you Meggie for working on this issue for us. Personally, while it has been extremely rewarding, I have been finding that the work has produced a mixed set of emotions for me—from feelings of cathartic release through tears and gratitude for our creative community’s trust, to anger and shock at bearing witnessing their myriad of triggering experiences, and everything in between. What has editing our Trigger Warning issue been like for you?
Meggie Royer: Thank you, Raquel. Editing this issue has been a pleasure, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. I also felt enormous gratitude at our contributors’ willingness to share such painful and intimate experiences with us, and to trust us with keeping them safe and in good hands. A good deal of what I felt while editing this issue can best be summed up as awe: awe, particularly, at the ability of individuals who have experienced things most of us could never imagine to turn those experiences into something not only moving, but sometimes even beautiful. Anger was also a key emotion in my editing of this issue. I feel anger not only at the life circumstances that led to our contributors’ various traumas, and at the perpetrators who enacted those traumas, but also at the fact that many of our contributors had never been able to share their stories until now, or felt as if they couldn’t. I feel incredibly proud of cahoodaloodaling and this issue for taking an important step in helping people fight against the silence they feel that they have to maintain about their traumas (whether through shame or threats from perpetrators, etc.). I’m proud of our contributors, and I’m proud of us.
RT: I am a big fan of Words Dance Publishing, who publishes a lot of important and innovative work. Your full length, The No You Never Listened To, published by them last year, is a volume I deeply believe in. Can you talk to us a little about your experiences writing, compiling, and finalizing this volume? Also, what was it like working with Amanda Oaks? And, for those seeking a home for their own transformative work, what suggestions do you have? (And please share a poem from the collection with us.)
MR: Writing The No You Never Listened To was an experience unlike one I’d ever really had until that point. As one might imagine, the most difficult part of publishing the volume was writing it. Sexual violence is something that lends itself so easily to shame and embarrassment, and often to denial. Writing the volume was painful, because it forced me to return to memories I tried so hard to keep down, but it also did something powerful: it reminded me, and reinforced, that what was done to me did happen, that it mattered, that it will always matter, and that my truth is the only truth that exists, and the only one that matters. Actually finalizing the volume and sending the final manuscript off to Amanda was thrilling and terrifying, because it signified that my story was about to be told, in full, for the first time.
I have never once regretted writing the volume or working with Amanda. I remember the day it was released, a friend of my rapist who had supported me for quite a long time contacted me to say he didn’t believe it was right to “profit financially and artistically off of something that may or may not have happened.” Needless to say, that was the end of that friendship, but honestly, working with Amanda made the severing of that tie so much easier. Her constant support and empathy reminded me that writing out a trauma is never, ever self-indulgent or conceited or wrong or laughable. The day the book came out, Amanda contacted me to say she knew it would be a difficult day full of a great deal of emotion, and that she was there if I needed to discuss anything or someone to turn to. That idea reinforced that there will always be someone who believes survivors, despite the overwhelming number who don’t. In all honesty, Amanda was more of a friend than my former, disbelieving friend ever was. And that mix of business partnership and friendship is so important in publishing.
As far as advice for those seeking a home for their own work goes, especially work about trauma, I would say this: Choose someone to work with who lets you go at your own pace. If a publisher or agent is ever trying to rush you into creating something too quickly, or isn’t sensitive to your own needs, drop them. A publishing partnership should be mutually beneficial. If you feel stretched or overwhelmed and whoever you’re working with refuses to work around that stress, then it’s probably not a good idea to continue with them. Also, if you’re working on a book or project that is centered around trauma, the actual experience of working with the publisher who will publish that book or project should never, ever be more traumatic than the topic of the work itself.
I would love for you to share this poem from the collection:
RT: Last year you also founded the online literary magazine, Persephone’s Daughters, a “lit magazine dedicated to empowering women who have experienced various forms of abuse and degradation.” I know as an editor it’s hard to pick favorites (making those final cuts are hard enough!) but can you share a few of the pieces which most moved you, or were most personally transformative for you?
I was moved by these pieces by the way some of them, especially “Sati” and “Witch Trial” combined elements of historical narratives with the present, offering an enchanting and angering timeline of the way women have been treated throughout history. Kiki’s piece is so familiar, almost comforting, in the way it presents the reader with ordinary details of a life disrupted, and the way the owner of that life copes with this disruption. And “Persephone,” well, it was everything I wanted out of an art piece for my first issue. A lot of people mistakenly believe that the story of Persephone and Hades is a love story. It’s not. It’s a story of abduction and deceit, and Kathie’s art depicts Persephone’s trials beautifully and creatively through the eyes of her model.