Launched in fall 2018, inQluded is an online literary journal and event series that provides a space for young queer, trans, and intersex black and Indigenous writers of color (QTIBIPOC). The idea for the initiative was sparked last fall, when medina, a queer Honduran nonbinary trans writer, began pursuing an MFA in creative writing for children and young adults at the New School in New York City, where they are also an Impact Entrepreneur Fellow. According to medina, inQluded grew from their fellowship proposal “to start a community for young queer emerging artists of color.”
As the word spread on social media, via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, supporters and contributors came forward. The first issue of inQluded was published in June, featuring a Pride theme. For medina, the emphasis is on “accessibility and allowing artists to progress in their own career and goals. We’re not just an after school club; we help them get a foot in the door.” Submissions are open to QTIBIPOC writers between the ages of 13 and 30, though most contributors are 14–24. medina said, “Inherently, their pieces are always YA, but we publish under fiction, nonfiction, flash, poetry, and illustration sections.” Publication was initially on a monthly schedule, to build an audience, but has since shifted to a quarterly basis.
medina explained that, in addition to the virtual community, “We also have a physical presence [in NYC] through our writing workshop series, panels featuring queer authors of color, and we’re launching a mentorship program for queer, trans, intersex, Black, Indigenous, and mixed youth of color.” Participants will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with mentors in the field, as well as to join group chats with fellow mentees nationwide. Registration for writers is now closed, but inQluded is currently seeking mentors to volunteer their time and expertise for the program.
While inQluded of course welcomes and celebrates #OwnVoices stories, medina noted, “We don’t require our contributors to write stories about their identities. I think a lot of times marginalized voices feel pressured to reveal more about themselves than they may be comfortable with to be published. Sometimes we want to write a fantasy that doesn’t connect with queer identity and sometimes we do! But we want to have that choice—we want to write our own stories.”
And medina has many stories to tell. Represented by Marietta Zacker at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, they are the recipient of an SCBWI Emerging Voices Scholarship Award and are at work on a queer contemporary middle grade novel as well as a YA novel and a number of picture book projects. Meanwhile, medina is entering their thesis semester and will be working with author and v-p, editor-at-large at Scholastic Andrea Davis Pinkney.
When it came to building the staff behind inQluded, medina said, “The best way I felt I could center stories around the historically marginalized was to create a literary magazine that was for and by queer youth of color. My entire editorial team is QTPOC and that makes all the difference!”
New York-based fiction editor and events assistant Andy Lopez joined the crew in May 2019 after seeing a call for applicants on inQluded’s Twitter page. A Latinx writer, he is currently pursuing a B.A. in Creative Writing at Hunter College, where he has served as prose editor of the school’s literary and arts magazine, the Olivertree Review, since spring 2018. His role at inQluded encompasses reviewing fiction submissions and deciding whether they fit the upcoming issue’s theme, as well as coordinating events, including recent panels at Books Are Magic in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and Word Up Community Bookshop in Washington Heights, N.Y. Lopez told PW, “It was awesome to see people show up—that there is a genuine interest and want in this community.”
According to Lopez, the next author panel will take place at Books Are Magic on March 19, 2020, with a line-up that is yet to be confirmed. The group will also host a writing workshop in February with Word Up in Brooklyn.
medina emphasized, “We want to create this island of safety, but we also want to create a bridge so writers can go mainstream. We want to nurture these amazing voices and try to normalize queerness and POC-ness. inQluded is a declaration of art by and for queer, trans, intersex, Black, Indigenous, youth of color. It’s resistance.”
For more information on how to support inQluded, click here.