Lambda Literary, the LGBTQ writers organization, has selected Samiya Bashir as its next executive director, effective today. Bashir succeeds interim co–executive directors Cleopatra Jach Acquaye and Maxwell Scales, who have led the organization since January, after Sue Landers stepped down as executive director.

Bashir is a poet and associate professor of creative writing at Reed College in Portland, Ore., and a two-time Lambda Literary Awards finalist. She was a founding organizer and longtime board member of the nonprofit Fire & Ink, which worked to promote the work of LGBTQ writers of African descent and heritage.

“I couldn’t be more excited to welcome and support Samiya’s leadership and success,” Roz Lee, president of the board of directors of Lambda Literary, told PW. The search process, she added, “was deep and wide, and centered a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion approach. Samiya stood out as a creative, visionary and inspirational leader. She’s a proven trailblazer and institution-builder who’s collaborative, values-driven, and loves LGBTQ literature, writers, and queer communities.”

The selection is the latest result of what Lambda called “a community-driven strategic planning process” to develop a “roadmap” for the organization's future. That process, Lee said, encouraged “critical and constructive feedback and input” from “community members from the publishing industry, as well as literary-focused organizations, LGBTQ arts groups, literary influencers, reviewers and media sites, bookstores and community gathering spaces, and LGBTQ advocacy organizations.” Bashir will, Lambda said, “steward that roadmap, while creating opportunities to apply her own distinctive vision and holding space for ongoing community input.”

On the occasion of her appointment, Bashir spoke with PW about her plans for the organization and more.

What are your hopes for Lambda Literary?

Queer and trans writers are among our most vital culture creators across every segment of the arts, and the reach of our work is further widened across the fields of publishing, journalism, education, and advocacy. For over 30 years, Lambda Literary has brought LGBTQ+ writers and our work together with each other and out to the wider world we all share. As we move toward our 40th anniversary, we are ideally positioned to elevate that impact through strategic learning, community building, and growth.

What are some things you love about what Lambda does?

What I have always loved most about Lambda Literary is the embrace of its vision as a service-driven organization. Lambda Literary supports our communities, and the life-giving, life-saving–and sometimes just wildly entertaining–work we create by creating avenues to introduce, unite, and elevate the voices of queer and trans writers to and with each other as well as to and with readers, artists, publishing professionals, and the larger world.

What are you looking forward to adding or changing at Lambda?

I am most immediately excited by building, strengthening, and even rebuilding where necessary, Lambda Literary’s current programming—from the Literary Review and LitFest, to the popular, powerful, and influential Lambda Literary Awards and Writers Retreats. I am also actively exploring opportunities for Lambda Literary to support the growth and reach of LGBTQ+ writers and their work including mentorship programs and a variety of relationship building activities between writers, readers, and publishing professionals.

Why is Lambda's work so vital right now?

The moment in which we are all currently wrapped finds our very humanity seemingly on trial, from our schools to our statehouses to the digital spaces in which so many of us live so much of our lives. Our stories continue to save us, to speak to and for us, and to offer some of the few avenues of access to who we are as fully rounded people. Our words, our images, our stories, and our lives are needed—by us, and by the larger world we share.