What inspired you to take on this project?

The name of this new publishing house is The Los Angeles Press, which is obviously a bold statement about our feelings about the breadth and importance of the project. I was always struck by organizations, especially women led organizations who defined their scope when they chose a name for a project. Surely, naming is a way to get specific, if you do comics and you name yourself Comics Inc., but in other ways it’s also terribly limiting. And historically, outside sources and oppressive limits have attempted to box and block us, so even baby steps to redress this are important.


For example, there are women I’ve worked with who call themselves “crazy girls” or “hysterical chicks,” even a seminal group like the guerrilla girls who, for many excellent and reasonable aims, chose to cloak themselves in anonymity, even so far as to mask their humanity. I mean are the women in groups like the crazy chicks speaking to larger mental health issues, or are they in some ways estranging and self-limiting? I think it’s important to note little things that could be construed as micro-aggressions towards self and community. Along with macro-challenges, this can contribute to preserving stereotypes and limitations. So at The Los Angeles Press we want to be aware, to wake up. The Los Angeles Press seeks to redress self-effacing, self-deprecating smallness and quietude, and hopes to express–through femalesex-positive, as in gender-positive, as in woman-positive, as in girl-positive, as in woman-of-color-positive–that we are here in the Southland, and this is our place. Our scope is vast and works in broad language, broad experience, while drawing from community to uplift and support our ideas. We’re looking to work with like-focus people, interested in raising the stakes and in rising up from self and outside deprecation, lifting the possibilities extant for women (and men) in many different fields, in our case, publishing, literature and art in Los Angeles.


We are The Los Angeles Press in no small way because we want to inspire people from Los Angeles who have been historically underrepresented to recall that this is their place and they can lay claim to it, they don’t have to continue a cycle of marginalization by calling themselves “the people only from this block” or “the people only from this Hillock” or “the people who have only this color skin” or ‘the people who have only this common experience,” even though those are very important things, and if that’s your bag we respect you. But we don’t want the past injustices to define our trajectory. We don’t want past injustices and misappropriations to define our course into a new, just, horizontal, transparent place. We want to think big and do big.


As a matter fact, I was talking recently about these arguably grandiose trajectories, and two white women said that I was aggressive. Which of course is code for you’re not allowed. It was stunning, but also kind of let me know that I’m on the right path. If I’m already stirring up people’s juices, and if the only way that some people know how to respond is by trying to instantaneously shut it down using historically misogynistic approaches, then yes, this is a desperately needed endeavor.


I want to think justly and do just works. I don’t want to be small and hurt, I want to be in a state of blossoming, healing, inspiring others that this is possible, no matter what they’ve seen, what their family‘s been through, how much injustice was heaped upon them. I want them to know that their story is important, and that their journey is important, and that people are listening.


I mean imagine, some people start companies and call themselves Universal or Worldwide Pants, even tongue-in-cheek ventures like that, though trying to be funny or trying to lay claim to giant stakes, really lay out what their aims are, really make bold statements about how much they think of themselves. When you juxtapose that with small, kind of Etsy-like, women lead organizations who are small batch, local, homegrown, low on the ambition scales, well, that is heartwarming and obviously has kept our gender alive and doing small, necessary, human, beautiful work; however I’d just like to say a big fat fuck you to oppressors and people who thought that they were the only ones who could get on the mic.


In some respect, I’m coming with my heart on my sleeve and tongues blazing. We’re all about nailing our plaint to the to the door like Martin Luther. I’m not trying to hate on anyone. I’m trying to put focus on historical inequalities in a way that might shake things up. I’m not here to just get at the back of the line, I’m here to say we’re done with the back of the line, we’re done with what’s happening at our borders, we’re done with saying thank you to the 1% for small college scholarships and contributions to NGOs, we want a redress in representation, and that means a redress in power, and that means a redress in money, and that means let’s focus on income inequality. So I’m coming right for those people who have historically power grabbed; we’re here for your seat at the table. And we want a literature that is representative of that.

How does your project respond to a need or a gap in the industry?

The Los Angeles Press is in direct, historical response to our repression and to the silencing of women and people of color and historically marginalized groups in Los Angeles and the west, who live and work here but whose experiences, struggles and commerce has been ignored or taken advantage of or in so many cases cannibalized and enfolded into someone else’s work, i.e., theft. In this respect, I refer to mostly white people and mostly transplanted people in that colonial mindset, who come to Los Angeles to grab land, gentrify neighborhoods, and use what I’ve heard so often, the hive mind, to lift knowledge and lineage from this place and from its people and then enfold it into their own byline. Often I hear about these as so-called curated projects, and how the person from the neighborhood, from Los Angeles, is either given a very small bit of recognition for the use of their knowledge and experience, or is erased entirely. The curator, more often than not, the white person, receives the accolades, the recognition, and the funding.


This preserves a very frightening and silencing modality of using people’s knowledge and work and ethic to aggrandize an externalized person, who was already in a significant place of power in our industry, for instance, art and literature. Perhaps it is a museum curator or a gallerist or an academic or someone in our industry, publishing, who, because they already have tenure, a full-time job, all of the benefits that go along with that, they are in a position of power to offer token positions to people in our community who, desperate for expression, recognition, and the opportunity to do meaningful and recognized work, often have their careers subsumed by someone else’s. This happens all the time across industries. Our publishing house works to redress that by going directly to the story keepers themselves and to hopefully invest power in those people.

How does this project contribute to creativity, innovation, representation and/or access in the industry?

I hope The Los Angeles Press will inject a new sense of urgency into existing power dynamics and support the creative and innovative people in our community who have not been imbued with the representation they so richly deserve. By supporting them through the access of publication, of print, of media recognition, and the commerce that might result from these venues, I hope their cache, their name, their story, their experience, and their community will be uplifted, bringing up many others as well.

What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the workshop?

I hope to offer a platform of inclusion and gratitude towards the story-keepers and storytellers and workers in Los Angeles and in the west who have kept these fires of experience and representation burning all these years. I hope that through this work and through the tributaries that flow from it, the power sources already at work in our community–for instance USC and LARB and other publishing houses, the panelists we meet, the other teachers and writers–will be inspired to offer up more space at the table, offer more placements for their colleagues from historically marginalized groups, and that they themselves will seek to hire and uplift and listen to those important voices. I hope that The Los Angeles Press will offer an inspiring platform that others might follow and support in word and deed and funding opportunities.

What do you hope will be the long-term impact of the project

I hope that The Los Angeles Press can continue to find and promulgate the work of Los Angeles writers and writers of the west, inspiring other communities and regions to recognize that it’s important to hold diversity not just in your masthead, but in your day-to-day business dealings.


Even as I respond to these questions, there is definitely a sense of humor about it all, because in so many ways these are the same exact dynamics that have existed through time. If you look at the headlines, the stock market is always crashing, everyone’s always screaming at the president, women are always being stabbed in an alleyway, Kilauea is always erupting, there’s always a fire on the mountain. We keep thinking we were the only people who’ve ever experienced a sunrise. It’s the Narcissism of Now, and there’s got to be some sort of recognition of the great lineage we share in and of eternal truth and beauty, even in our political struggles. Somewhere in there, there also just has to be breath at the end of the sentence and a handshake at the end of the diatribe.

Linda Ravenswood is a poet and performance artist from Los Angeles. She is the editor-in-chief of The Los Angeles Press, and the co-founder of The Melrose Poetry Bureau. She was shortlisted for poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2017.