Q&A: HAFIZAH GETER, AN EDITOR FOR LITTLE A & TOPPLE BOOKS
What are you hoping to see in your submission queue?
For fiction, I’m looking for character-driven stories that engage the more nuanced aspects of attachment: the bitter/tender, humorous/tragic, the desperate/cruel—fiction that is accessible and entertaining but also ambitious, complex, and emotionally or intellectually rigorous. For nonfiction, I am looking for writing, memoir especially, that is persuasive, beautiful, and challenging—nonfiction that introduces complex questions (of intersectionality, transformation, relationships, beingness, contemporary culture) and arrives somewhere new without being reductive. For journalism, I’m eager for well-researched work that is telling an important and intersectional story, especially stories of the overlooked or actively suppressed. At Little A, we are looking for stories that speak across cultures and backgrounds, stories that reflect the incredibly diverse world we live in.
You acquire for TOPPLE Books as well?
Yes! TOPPLE Books is an Amazon Publishing imprint curated by Jill Soloway, creator of Amazon’s Transparent, with a commitment to publishing LGBTQ voices, writers that identify as gender-nonconforming, and women of color. I’m excited to be working with Precious Brady-Davis on I Have Always Been Me, her memoir about growing up Pentecostal and queer in the Nebraska foster system and her transition from Nathan to Precious. Also in the works is Tomboyland, a debut essay collection coming from Melissa Faliveno, senior editor at Poets & Writers magazine, interrogating gender, identity, and belonging in the American Midwest.
In 2019, I’m hoping to see even more stories in my TOPPLE queue. I am a queer black woman in publishing and in the writing world, and I want to help dispel the myth that our stories are unrelatable just because they are traditionally the least amplified. I’m actively scouting for new, undiscovered voices, stories that grant their narrators and the characters in them all the complexity of real life, regardless of if they are the heroes or villains of the stories.
What’s your favorite part of being an editor?
It’s powerful work. Telling stories is serious business but also an exciting one. Stories are one of the fundamental aspects of any culture, community, or even our childhoods. Stories help us understand what to do with history, they give us lore, and too they offer us comfort, safety, and literarily send our synapses firing. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. There is something beautiful about the trust you build editor to writer. Sometimes I have to say to a memoirist: “I want to help you tell the very best story and to do that we are going to have to look at some of your past relationships differently.” It’s my job to stretch their empathy. There is the satisfaction of coming to an end of final edits with writers who feel complete in what they’ve just accomplished in their writing and their work with you. Additionally, I especially love the power of novels, how sometimes the closest way to get to the truth is through fiction—unpacking and understanding the characters’ motivations both on and off the page.
How do you think the publishing industry is changing?
Opportunities for writers are changing across the board. Technology, social media, and the web have opened the doors to new and innovative ways to share our stories. Disenfranchised voices can independently establish a following without backing from academia or literary journals, making it difficult for anyone to ignore or dismiss these voices by claiming lack of marketability or audience. And the publishing world has slowly taken notice that these disenfranchised voices have an audience. It feels like we are alive in the smartest time in history. There are so many brilliant minds on social media, on news sites and blogs. All publishing has to do is keep up.
Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter is an editor for Little A & TOPPLE Books from Amazon Publishing. Her poetry and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, McSweeney’s,Longreads,Tin House,Narrative Magazine,Gulf Coast,Boston Review, and theLos Angeles Review of Books, among others. She serves on the poetry committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival. Find Hafizah at the upcoming AWP 2019 Conference in Portland, OR, on panels including “So You’ve Got a Book Deal – Now What? How to Make the Best Use of Pre-launch” on Friday, March 29th.