Rigorous is an online journal that edited and written by people of color. They are currently open for submissions of “fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, visual art, sound art, audiovisual art and movies, cartoons, and any other artistic creations by people of color” until July 5, 2020.
I wondered how and why this journal came to be, so I asked editor Rosalyn Spencer some questions to find out. See my interview with Spencer with her generous responses and a link to their submission guidelines below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about Rigorous.
SPENCER: Rigorous is an online journal highlighting the works of authors, artists, critics, and educators of color. We take our name from an accusation commonly leveled at authors of color--that our works are not as rigorous as works created by white authors. We add our voices; we continue to prove otherwise.
HOPKINSON: How/why was Rigorous originally started?
SPENCER: I have worked for many years in some capacity with the literary/arts field. I have served as Board Director of Festival of Words, a small literary festival in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, worked as a grant writer and children program coordinator for Thensted Outreach Center, library assistant, and as an educator. I even created an arts advocacy group Project S.O.U.N.D. to teach spoken word, writing and visual art to youth throughout southern Louisiana, especially those of lower socio-economic status who were no longer offered art or creative writing classes.
Over the years I began to notice a trend, especially when I began teaching, of an erasure of multicultural voices in literature and lessons we taught our children. Districts would drop novels that feature diverse characters or lessons that truly broached difficult subjects. If it was taught, it was so sanitized there was no room for growth or critical thinking. Upon reflection, I realized it happened daily in the art scene. There would only be room for a few artists of color to be featured or a piece was deemed "too much" or not "rigorous" enough. It would be done in an additive measure where it was featured for a month or a special issue. These thoughts began to weigh heavily on me.
During a meeting with my team on incorporating a more diverse and robust curriculum, I began to list different authors. I was interrupted and question on the "rigor" of the chosen titles because titles like "that usually aren't 'rigorous' enough to teach our children." I was caught by surprise due to the fact that all were award winning and vetted novels with rigor. The only difference being was that they were written by authors of color. The novels were deemed “problematic” or “too much work” in dealing with uncomfortable questions. I had been working for years creating spaces and avenues for people to express and create. I would just have to do it again.
While working and editing with Jonathan Penton of Unlikely Stories for a "Black Art Matters" issue to address police brutality and the death of Alton Sterling, I began to form the idea for Rigorous. It was during this time that I came across Kenning JP Garcia's work and was encouraged to reach out to them to ask if they could be a co-editor at Rigorous. I was so lucky in being able to bring in Carla Williams, a writer, editor and photojournalist historian as our arts editor. It just all clicked together.
We realized that we did not want to limit ourselves by themes or genres but instead celebrate the creation of all genres/mediums by people of color.
HOPKINSON: Who is your target reader audience?
SPENCER: Everyone. I would also love for this to be a way for authors across the spectrum to connect, share and start conversations.
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
SPENCER: We accept all type of work and genre. We have been really blessed or lucky to have published traditional poetry, avant-garde poetry, visual poetry, prose, criticism, flash fiction, short stories, spoken word and creative nonfiction.
HOPKINSON: What do you wish you’d see submitted, but rarely comes in?
SPENCER: The editors of Rigorous all have a love of speculative fiction and would love to see more of that genre from our writers. I love the works of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor and am so excited by the new crop of speculative and science fiction novels which feature women, queer and people of color as the main character. We also would love to have more music and visual art come into Rigorous. As evidenced by our cover artists, we love exploring multiple aesthetics and want to highlight their vision.
HOPKINSON: What are some of your favorite lit mags/journals?
SPENCER: FIYAH literary magazine and Black Warrior Review.
HOPKINSON: What is your favorite part of being on staff with Rigorous?
SPENCER: We as a staff just flow so well together. Which is funny because while some of our taste do intersect with one another, we are all so very different in our approaches and styles, but have so much respect for one another.
HOPKINSON: Where can we send submissions?
HOPKINSON: If someone has a question, how can they contact you?
SPENCER: They can also contact us through our Rigorous Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org
DEADLINE: July 5, 2020
SUBMISSION FEE: None
FORMS: fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, visual art, sound art, audiovisual art and movies, cartoons, and any other artistic creations by people of color
SUBMISSION METHOD: Submittable
SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook