Red Hen's Kate Gale: "AWP Is Us" Fiasco


Kate Gale, the managing editor of Red Hen Press (the press that published my novel YEAR OF THE RHINOCEROS), has made the careless mistake of showing her foolishly racist and generally insensitive nature in public. Gone is the facade of the beneficent white liberal out to help writers and make the world a better place. The war she has stirred up on Internet is just this side of stupendous, or horrific, depending on your pov. A sample of the posts and commentary:

Los Angeles Times

Publisher's Weekly

Huffington Post (her "committed to diversity" attempt at apology)

The Adroit Journal

Inside Higher ED

She has attempted damage control, but it has failed. In Kate Gale's own words from her blog:

It has been recommended by many that I not write this personal message, that I let my initial retraction stand in its place. But I did not become a writer to stay silent. I was raised in—and escaped from—a cult that enforced child abuse, silence, and ignorance upon its members, and I have since dedicated my life to diversity in publishing, to making voices heard that were not heard before. I am grateful for the calls for action, for diversity, for underrepresented voices, for empowerment.

What I can do is tell you how truly dedicated I am to diversity. This is not an empty promise, but a record of twenty years of publishing that reflects this dedication and lifelong mission; a record that stands not for itself, but pushes me forward into projects already in the making to improve and expand on this diversity

I'm not out to pile on Kate Gale for the sake of pilling on. For years I have openly wanted to talk about my especially bad experience with Kate Gale in her role as managing editor of Red Hen Press. As a matter of fact, it was undeniably one of the top worst experiences of my entire life, right up there with a chronic illness, and that's because of the humiliation she inflicted and the calculated hateful impact she leveled on me at a time that should have been my finest hour. Kate Gale demonstrated a near pathological insensitivity towards me as an author,and in a way I can only explain below by relating what took place just before Red Hen actually published my work, and then later, at the AWP conference in Chicago where my novel was to debut in 2009.  

After Red Hen agreed to publish my ms back in 2008, Kate Gale obtained my manuscript, YEAR OF THE RHINOCEROS, sent by me after a clean-up draft. A few weeks later, she returned the manuscript by snail mail, with a note that she'd made some edits. The "edits" consisted of 136 GIANT RED X's slashed onto the pages of my manuscript--coincidentally smearing all my best
passages of prose narrative, and without any explanation. Nothing. No notes in the margin or elsewhere. Just one giant red X after another, some half a page in size. I am not exaggerating.

If you are a writer, you must have known how I felt. I oscillated between a state of anger and confusion. Who would do something so obviously insulting and cruel? Kate Gale was a writer, the managing editor of a well known literary press. She should have known better? And for the first time, I wondered at her sanity. I showed the ms to writer friends and they stared in disbelief at the well over a hundred giant red X's. Proof of an unsettling and disturbing episode of manic hate on her part? I don't know how else to describe it. A day later I called Kate Gale, prepared to tell her the deal was off. Over the phone she behaved as if nothing was out of place. She was guiltless, of course. Her ridiculous answer to me would have me believe those huge red X's were "just there to make me think about editing those particular paragraphs." 

I once again emailed my ms to Red Hen, but without removing or arbitrarily editing the 136 paragraphs of narrative slashed with X. To make a long and horrible story short, my ms underwent six galley changes due to incompetent errors created in the pages by Red Hen staff working directly under Kate Gale. Finally at wit's end, I called the press. Kate ignored my calls to her regarding her personal staff creating errors in my 426 page ms. Yes, they actually *created* errors! One of them, for example, was to remove any space separating an overhanging letter at the end of a sentence from the opening letter of the next line, so sentences appeared joined. After four galleys worth of frustrating edits and re-edits forced on me by Red Hen, her husband Mark joined in the fracas and sent me a sudden diatribe accusing me of not cooperating in the editing of the galleys. I was in disbelief. The circumstances were just the opposite, but I presumed that he'd been lied to because his diatribe directed at me was so genuinely full of indignation. 

Months later, at AWP in Chicago, the date my novel was to debut, she set me up for a humiliating incident involving her staff production manager. She asked me to meet her at breakfast time in the hotel lounge to discuss the book. I met her and we small-talked a bit, then she said, "I have someone who needs to tell you something." I had no idea who she was talking about. She lifted her hand in air and gestured. From off stage came the production manager of Red Hen Press. She walked up to me, sat down in front of me with a look of pure rage that was very theatrical, and proceeded to erupt at me in front of everyone present (yelled, not talked loudly) in the hotel lounge for daring to email Red Hen staff regarding multiple typeset errors and other errors not in the draft I sent them. I sat there listening, not daring to become angry. I politely denied her accusations whereupon she stood up and stomped off. This is precisely what happened. It was altogether a surreal, distressing and mystifying experience. Kate set the whole thing up. She didn't apologize or show any sign of surprise. She knew it was coming. She even grinned when I expressed my opinion of the whole charade.

After having observed me being unfairly trashed (the production manager told so many lies I lost count) and without any intervention on her behalf, she then set up a fake book signing at AWP without providing even a chair, and no announcement of the signing. As crazy as this sounds, it's all true. One thing after another after another. Myself and one other guy simply wandered in front of the table looking like idiots. I supposed that he was on her shit list too. I could not help but suspect that she hated men. She was known for her warmth towards her female poets. Whether that rumor was true, I can't say for certain.

In the months following publication of my novel, Red Hen never promoted my book, never listed it on the front page, and never included it at events. Btw, I'd met Kate Gale at a hotel in DC months before AWP to pick up my book contract and have a social drink. To my shock, she arrogantly blew me off without explanation and went back to her room after less than ten minutes--and this after I'd driven over 50 miles in horrendous D.C. traffic to meet her--a meeting called and arranged by her! 

Another jaw dropping experience, one of those you just have to experience to believe. 

For reasons I never truly understood, Kate Gale behaved like the worst human being I've ever had the displeasure of meeting. To this day I still don't get it. I found her frightening and vengeful. What I did to deserve her wrath, I never understood. I'm just glad I finally got this terrible episode off my chest.

Criticism of diversity issues at AWP inflamed by Kate Gale ...
Los Angeles Times
Aug 26, 2015 - AWP will bring its conference to Los Angeles next year. This week, one planner's dismissal of questions about diversity inflamed passions on ...

Article defending writing program association infuriates ...
Inside Higher Ed
Aug 26, 2015 - Further, the petition states that AWP has rebuffed requests to provide a ... Against that backdrop, Kate Gale, managing editor of Red Hen Press ...

AWP Exec Director Defends Kate Gale - Publishers Weekly › ... › Shows & Events
Publishers Weekly
Aug 27, 2015 - After PW ran a story Wednesday morning about a Huffington Post article called “AWP Is Us,” that stirred existing concerns about discriminatory ...

AWP Is Us | Kate Gale - Huffington Post
The Huffington Post
Aug 26, 2015 - Update (8/26/15): I apologize for this post and the hurt it caused. Red Hen Press values inclusiveness and diversity in publishing. Our Mission: ...

Letter to Kate Gale of "AWP is Us" — The Adroit Journal
Aug 25, 2015 - Dear Kate Gale,. Thank you for bringing the important matter of the privileged homogeneity of the AWP Conference to light via your recent ...

Red Hen's Kate Gale: "AWP Is Us" Fiasco - The Writer's Edge
Aug 27, 2015 - Kate Gale, the managing editor of Red Hen Press (the press that ...

About Kate Gale's post - American Indians in Children's ...
Aug 26, 2015 - If you are looking for it, here is a link to download a pdf: AWP Is Us. Yesterday (8/24/2015), I read Kate Gale's post, "AWP Is Us." Here's a screen ...
My rush to defend AWP lacked careful thought, hurting those on all sides. I am truly sorry for my words and the hurt I have caused. It was never my intention to ...

“A Series of Unfortunate Events”—AWP, David Fenza, and ...
Aug 26, 2015 - LATEST NEWS: AWP director Fenza defends Kate Gale's piece. ... -red-hen-press-kate-gale-apologizes-for-commentary-awp-defends-her.html.


The Writer's Edge Interview With Author Jenny Milchman : A Lesson in Tenacity and Smarts

Jenny Milchman
I wish I’d known just how polished and perfected a work has to be to get published traditionally. I was lucky enough to get kernels from industry pros that allowed me to go back and hone my craft...

How long did it take you to get published? 

Here are my stats: 11 years, 8 novels, 3 agents, 15 almost-offers from editors. An almost-offer happens when an editor wishes to acquire a book, but gets turned down by her editorial board, or by people in the marketing or publicity departments, or even (as happened to me with my seventh novel) the publisher herself. My first published novel was the eighth one I wrote. And of course, there’s “long” in the non-numeric sense, too. It took an age, an epoch, forever. I thought I would never break through. 

Why did you hang in so long versus, for instance, self-publishing?

When I started out, self-publishing as we now know it wasn’t an option. There was so-called vanity publishing, and it cost a chunk of change, and carried with it a stigma of failure. This was in the day of snail mailed query letters, which had to include an SASE. An SASE, for those not familiar with the term, is a self-addressed stamped envelope in which your rejection comes back. I gave a publishing talk at a college recently, and asked the audience if they knew what an SASE was. When I got blank stares, I asked if they knew what an envelope was.

But I digress. When I began things were different. The very first agent who offered to represent me asked if I had email. If! Then Amazon came along and changed the face of self-publishing. However, it wasn’t the greatest option for me. When emerging writers ask how to identify their publishing path, I tell them to close their eyes and picture a few dream moments. The ones that make them want to try and put their stories out there for the world to see versus just scribbling away in a garrett somewhere. For me those moments meant seeing my book on shelves. Bookstores and libraries have always been extremely important in my life. I wanted the support of booksellers and librarians as I became a published author, and one day I hope that my books will lend them support in return. For all that Amazon does, it can’t reproduce the experience of a face-to-face encounter or a bricks and mortar.

So for me traditional publishing was going to turn out to be the best path. The right path. But that won’t be true for everybody. I have always believed that how you publish is a highly individual decision.

Jenny Milchman's First Novel
What one thing did you do as an "emerging author" that really made a difference and helped in getting published? 

I can’t whittle it down to just one thing, but I think I can manage 3 bullet points. Hope these are helpful!

  • Attend as many author events as you can. Support both the author and the bookstore—I used to buy a book to read, and a second to give as a gift. The bookseller will come to know you long before you have a galley you hope she or he will read, and the author might give you a friendly smile, some advice, an agent referral, or even a blurb.
  • Do things that connect writers and readers. Start a blog or a book club, depending on whether you prefer virtual or face-to-face. 
  • Follow agents on Twitter and Tweet their advice. 
  • Hold a literary series at your local library. 
  • Frequent Facebook groups and post interesting resources and helpful tidbits for members. You will be making a place for yourself in a world that is big enough to include your own work one day.

I basically believe that monies should flow toward the author, not away, but attending a conference became a pivotal piece of my own publishing journey. Determine whether you want to focus on craft or business in making your decision. If it’s the latter, look for conferences that include agent panels, pitch sessions, or talks by editors. Among others, I heartily recommend Algonkian events in New York and elsewhere.

What one thing did you do that worked against your getting published? 

I thought my work was ready long before it really was. Rather than seek out sources of feedback and additional reads—writers groups, workshops, classes, retreats, even a freelance editor—I kept squandering chances with agents. I wish I’d known just how polished and perfected a work has to be to get published traditionally. I was lucky enough to get kernels from industry pros that allowed me to go back and hone my craft, but I think I could’ve sped up the whole process—it didn’t have to take eleven years—if I hadn’t been handcuffed by the slow waiting time when you’re querying and submitting.

Now on your third novel, if you had it to do all over again, would you still keep trying for so long? In other words, is it all you hoped it would be?

I would try for twenty-two years. It’s all I hoped it’d be and more.

Jenny Milchman’s third novel, As Night Falls, is an Indie Next Pick and a summer release. Her first two books won awards, inclusions on Best Of lists, and critical acclaim. Find Jenny on the road, thanking all those people who helped her along the way, by checking out what Shelf Awareness calls the world’s longest book tour


The Pros and Cons of Hiring One-Stop Shops vs. Multiple Specialists for Book Publicity

There are many different services that publicity firms and individual publicity consultants offer to authors looking to promote their books. These services can include any combination of the following: ...
  • Creating media kits (press releases, fact sheets, Q&As, etc.), distributing press releases on the newswire services, and creating sales pitches targeted to specific markets
  • Working with you to fine-tune your website and create the best possible web promotion for your book
  • Scheduling book signing and reading events
  • Contacting local and national television and radio station producers to set up interviews
  • Working with local and national print and online editors to obtain feature coverage
  • Helping you identify your personal brand, your target audience, and your potential reach as an author
  • Setting up speaking engagements at targeted venues
  • Placing articles you’ve written in targeted print and online publications
  • Helping you identify your strengths as a blogger, so you can capitalize on the blogging community
  • Working with you to develop an integrated social media brand image on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and other social media sites
  • Setting up blog tours and online author interview opportunities
  • Providing guidance on the creation of promotional items (bookstore posters, bookmarks, postcards, tear sheets, business cards, etc.)
  • Acting as a sounding board for ideas, helping to answer general questions, and providing guidance on promotional issues

Most publicists feel comfortable doing the majority of the items listed here. Some, however, may specialize in one or more these tasks – there are those, for example, who work only with authors and books in specific content areas; others specialize in scheduling feature interviews with national media; some mainly offer blog tours or set up social media pages, while others specialize in magazine article placement. 

What any publicist does specifically for a client will vary depending on the book’s subject matter, whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, the amount and types of publicity the author is looking for, the author’s platform, and the author’s budget.

So, what should authors consider before hiring a publicist? I suggest thinking about 1) the scope of promotional work you’re looking for, 2) the budget and timeframe for the work, and 3) whether or not you want to hire one publicist to handle everything, or use a number of specialists to handle different aspects of your publicity.

Which brings me to the main question: Which is better, the one-stop shop (hiring one publicist to handle all of the work), or farming out different parts of the publicity work to multiple consultants?

Here are the pros and cons (from a publicist’s point of view) for each option:

The Pros of the One-Stop Shop 
-       You get one unified, focused perspective and source of guidance to work with (rather than possibly having to deal with conflicting information and points of view from numerous consultants)
-       You have one contact point for your publicity, which makes it easier for media, speaking venues, readers, etc., to reach you or your publicity contact
-       The person handling your publicity will be able to easily integrate all the aspects of the book’s promotion because s/he is the only one doing so
-       Your branding and all of the publicity information put out about you is consistent, because it comes from one place
-       You may be able to save time on your projects because just one person is handling all of them (rather than having to wait for different people to coordinate/adjust their schedules)
-       You may be able to save on costs by hiring one person whose rates, style, and availability fit your budget and needs

The Cons of the One-Stop Shop   
-       The publicist you choose may not handle all of the types of publicity you want to use in your promotional campaign
-       The publicist may not be able to accommodate the timing you want for some of your promotional projects
-       You might want more perspective than just one person’s on your promotional campaign

The Pros of Hiring Multiple/Specialized Publicity Consultants or Firms 
-       You can spread out the expertise you need depending on what each publicist/promotional expert offers
-       You can bounce ideas off of multiple experts to see what fits/suites you best
-       If all of your consultants are on the same page, you can use them as a kind of marketing team that works together to help you promote your book
The Cons of Hiring Multiple/Specialized Publicity Consultants or Firms 
-       You can get conflicting information and/or opinions from different PR consultants, which can result in confusion, misunderstandings, and/or discord in your working relationships
-       You can have problems establishing boundaries, especially if some or all of the consultants are used to doing the same thing
-       People looking to contact you or your publicist may have a hard time deciding how to best reach you if there are multiple individuals promoting your work at the same time
-       Your brand may be difficult to manage as a unified image if multiple people are presenting you to the public, or if your consultants aren’t all on the same page
-       You may find it time-consuming to juggle the intricacies of having all the consultants work together efficiently
-       You may be tempted to play one expert off another in the hopes of finding a champion when you don’t agree with one of your consultants, which can result in a breach of trust
-       Your projects may take more time if there are any scheduling conflicts or miscommunication/confusion/misunderstandings among the consultants.
-       It may cost more to hire multiple consultants or firms

There is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should hire just one person for all your publicity needs, or consider using a number of different people with expertise in certain areas. Personally, I prefer to handle all of my client’s publicity – doing so makes it easier to be responsive, provide guidance, and maintain a consistent promotional and brand image. But, I have, on many occasions, worked with other consultants on client projects, and I’ve enjoyed those interactions.

Whichever way you decide to go, it’s crucial to be up-front from the beginning about what you want the individuals you’re hiring to do (rather than spring it on the publicist or team after the work gets going). If more than one consultant or firm will be involved, it’s especially important to be clear on individual assignments, so that each consultant knows what his boundaries are and how his work fits in with that of the other consultants you’re using.  

Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at, or visit her at, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.