Recently, Ian interviewed the queer literary group inQluded. Please meet Medina and Gaby — the folks who oversee the publication!
Q: Tell us about how you got inspired to start InQluded and how it came about?
medina: I was applying for my MFA program and kept getting emails about a new fellowship for entrepreneurs. I had always wanted to work in writing and publishing non-profit organizations that work with LGBTQIA+ youth — after a couple of years of applying for those types of jobs — I was never hired. My desire to work with this population and create a difference never ended — how could it? I am them. We are each other. So, inQluded was born when I pitched it and got into the fellowship. I’ve long felt excluded, even from my own communities, so perhaps inQluded was always in the making.
Q: What have been some of your favorite experiences running inQluded?
medina: Every day that we can celebrate who we are is a joyful experience. Our free writing workshops and author panels are super fun because we are able to meet people who are part of the inQluded fam.
Gaby: There are so many wonderful moments but a recent one is seeing a display copy of our first ever issue! We put so much love and work into our issues and to see it real! Just made my heart sing!
Q: What do you look for in submissions?
medina: Sometimes it’s one of those, “I know it when I see it” moments. For me, I look for passion and whether this person putting in the work to hone their craft? Is there an undeniable voice? What makes me keep reading or unable to look away? Being previously published is not a requirement, in fact, it is a joy to be able to first publication that publishes someone’s work!
Gaby: I definitely look for fully developed ideas, or characters. As I used to work as Fiction Editor, I loved seeing fleshed out characters sometimes even more so than a stereotypical plot. It’s exciting to see how all of these new worlds and characters and it’s so wonderful we get to help to put it out into the world.
Q: Has working with QTIBIPoC youth (queer, trans, intersex, Black, Indigenous and people of color) changed your outlook or views on certain things?
medina: Adults still aren’t taking young people seriously. Adults aren’t always allies. We have seen first-hand how power comes into play and how it’s distributed — so our view of how other QTIBIPOC people who may have ‘more power’ has changed. We see how power is cyclical and how people in power need to maintain the status quo and if you are not going to help them maintain it, you’re not a thought in their head. But our views about how young people are strong, assertive and motivated has never changed.
Gaby: My outlooks haven’t especially changed — more like cemented them. It’s tough seeing the lack of support from larger orgs in these spaces. Tougher to be called out for not compensating when nobody is stepping forward to help fund us. It’s definitely cemented the fact that we need this space and we will continue working at it.
Q: Tell us how you went about staffing InQluded?
medina: The people who have been with inQluded since the very beginning (about a year) were the first people to submit when it was only me and Iwas posting submissions on the website at inqluded.org. As for finding more editorial staff, we have an open call for editors on social media and interview and hire people that way!
Gaby: As someone whos graduated from being staffed to staffing I can definitely tell you it is one of the kindest processes! We only hire QTIBIPOC as it aligns with our mission. We value people’s work ethic rather than previous experience because we recognize that opportunities to gain experience are not always afforded to QTIBIPOC. I’ve been on since the very beginning and it’s such a treat seeing the new folks who’ve joined us!
What was it like getting your first issue out there?
medina: Exciting! It was everyone’s first time putting out a digital issue so it was definitely something we were learning. Isaiah, who is a superhero at design creates each issue, and has really done an exceptional job with our overall aesthetic and branding.
It was really exciting to have it on gumroad and watch people not only buying the first issue but sharing and telling us how beautiful it was. It made all the hard work really worth it. we always wanted to produce something that was not only accessible but visually beautiful.
Gaby: So amazing! We had been hard at work and managed to have a quick turnover to celebrate Pride. All of the contributors were so grateful just as I am grateful to help them! It’s also amazing to see how an idea that I had pitched to medina a couple months before became reality and is now our staple. Things like that are another reason why this org is necessary, I was not only listened to, but encouraged fully!
Q: Tell us about your mentorship program.
medina: when we think about any programming we want to implement we not only thing of intention but think of impact. Our entire existence is for people who have felt excluded (QTIBIPOC people can feel excluded in spaces that are meant for them, too. And that feels like betrayal.) So with our mentorship program, we want to make it a point to offer writers and illustrators who have been excluded from traditional publishing opportunities in the past to be paired up with a mentor who also IDs as QTIBIPOC.
The mentorship will last five months, for one hour a month. We got an overwhelmingly high interest from mentees — so we are working on how we can meet this demand.
Q: What have been some of your biggest struggles getting InQluded out into the wild?
medina: Our biggest challenges are visibility and funding. Over the last couple of months we have definitely grown and we reach our target audience — but it just so happens — that our target audience and demographic we are hoping to reach don’t have access to capital.
So we need allies, we need adults to support what we are doing so we can sustain inQluded.
Gaby: Agreed. We need support from those with power, from those with social and monetary capital. Without their support monetary and otherwise it is so hard to continue our mission.
Q: What’s something you’d tell young queer creatives that you wish you’d known back when you were younger?
medina: So many things! Work on your craft every day — you’ll only get better. You only need one yes! We deserve to celebrate who we are and to not only exist, but to thrive!
Gaby: You got this! You deserve to be confident! As Michelle Obama said, “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N. They are not that smart.”
Q: What are you most proud of about inQluded?
medina: that we created a space where we can celebrate who we are.
Gaby: Our resilience! We continue to make space for those who need it, we continue to fight for our art and our people. We continue to rise, and blossom and flourish!
Also: We have an open mic coming up in march and we are still looking for mentors!
You can read more about inQluded on their website.