A literary scene where parties are part of the agenda

On a recent winter evening, Cat Fitzpatrick and Kay Gabriel were trying to decide how the former would introduce the latter, who was about to read her new novel, ‘A Queen in Bucks County’. Ms. Fitzpatrick mentioned that the book made her laugh on the PATH train.

Crushing other trans women in public was her goal, Ms Gabriel said.

Ms. Fitzpatrick had invited Ms. Gabriel, along with around 100 others, to her south Brooklyn townhouse for a winter fair celebrating LittlePuss Press, a small press that Ms. Fitzpatrick started with Casey Plett the year last. The two women, who met nearly a decade ago at a writing conference, established themselves as writers and editors amid what Ms Plett calls the ‘trans bed renaissance’ of the early 2010s. With firsthand knowledge of that not-so-distant moment, Ms. Plett and Ms. Fitzpatrick are now trying to spark another renaissance of their own. And like many other independent presses and publications that dot the New York literary landscape, they do so with parties that are technically readings — but mostly just parties.

Reviewing the scene at that particular reading, which also included readings from Elena Comay del Junco and Benedict Nguyen, Ms Fitzpatrick called it a noisy gathering of “drunken transsexuals”. There were, however, a handful of timed cisgender people scattered among the revelers.

“You have this line that I really like,” Ms. Plett told Ms. Fitzpatrick. “What if we included cis people instead of asking cis people to include us? »

“Exactly,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “Like, we’ll throw better parties than you. You’re gonna want to come.

Named after a portmanteau of two of its founders’ books – Mrs. Plett’s novel “Little Fish” and Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s book of poetry “Glamourpuss” — LittlePuss is billed as “a feminist press run by two trans women.” For the founders, that means working with writers whose work would likely be unpublished otherwise, whether because of the writers’ backgrounds, lack of editing experience, or the fact that they haven’t finished yet. a manuscript.

Ms. Plett and Ms. Fitzpatrick are editors of the press, each cultivating a list of authors. Ms. Plett handles taxes, financing and other practical aspects of the business, while Ms. Fitzpatrick helps with design, publicity and events.

Their winter lounge hosting duties reflected a complementary division of labour: Ms. -drops of homemade “Bitterpuss” cordials. Ms Fitzpatrick flew from room to room in a flowing black lace dress, striking up conversations, refilling drinks and urging guests to “try the volcanapé” – which, for the uninitiated, was a mountain of vegan six-pie tiers with “rivers” of roasted red pepper strips flowing from its top.

Their fledgling press published two titles: a reprint of “Waiting, Elsewhere,” the 2017 science fiction and fantasy anthology its founders previously edited for Topside Press, a trans-run publisher that has since closed its doors, and “Faltas” by Cecilia Gentili. : Letters to everyone in my hometown who is not my rapist”, an epistolary memoir that recounts the childhood and adolescence of its author in Gálvez, Argentina.

An activist and artist some might recognize for her recurring role on the TV show “Pose,” Ms Gentili said working closely with Ms Fitzpatrick, her main editor on “Faltas,” took a lot of trust.

“The fact that Cat is a trans woman was such a relief for me,” Ms Gentili said. “But there were still barriers because I am a woman of color, a Latina, and an immigrant. I mean, she’s also an immigrant, but she’s from England. It’s different. I worried: is she going to have it? And she did.

A similar collaborative ethos permeated the earlier “trans-enlightened renaissance” Ms. Plett spoke of. Meanwhile, freelance trans writers, editors, readers and publishers have given rise to a reassessment of what trans literature might be, what stories might be told, how they might be told, and for whom. Topside – also based in Brooklyn – has played a key role in this change, publishing books like Ms Plett’s collection of short stories ‘A Safe Girl to Love’, which won a Lambda Literary Award, and ‘Nevada’, a novel by writer Imogen Binnie who prominent trans authors like Torrey Peters and Jackie Ess both cite as highly influential in their own writing.

“‘Nevada’ happened because Topside was like, ‘Do you have anything, Imogen?'” Ms. Plett said.

LittlePuss comes at another interesting time for trans literature. “Manhunt,” Gretchen Felker-Martin’s bloodthirsty genre apocalypse novel published in February, was named Vulture’s Best Book of 2022 and recently entered its tenth printing.

Trans-written fiction has never been so commercially successful nor, at the same time, so publicly besieged. By September, conservative groups and lawmakers across the country had attempted to ban or restrict access to more than 1,651 books, some featuring trans characters and themes.

Ms Fitzpatrick and Ms Plett said that by this time next year they hope to have added at least two new titles to their list of books.

The first of these will most likely be a collection of short stories by Anton Solomonik, who helps run the World Transsexual Forum, a series of open mics in Brooklyn where trans writers and artists can read and discuss their work. Having “never submitted my writing to publishers or sought an agent”, he typifies in many ways the type of author Ms. Fitzpatrick and Ms. Plett want to publish: someone whose work is quirky, funny, engaging – and might have a hard time finding your way to a Big Five editor, for example.

Until the next release of the book, there will always be parties. The press operates on a small budget made up of personal contributions from its founders, in addition to profits generated from the books they have sold, but Ms Fitzpatrick and Ms Plett believe charging for events would run counter to the scene that they’re trying to build.

“If you have extra money, you have a moral obligation to buy people drinks,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

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