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.


  1. I want everyone who reads this to know I debated long and hard about airing this surreal and filthy laundry, but I had to do it. I hope this seems like a genuine explanation.

    1. Also, I just want to add that before the advent of the big red X marks, I believed Kate to be a wonderful person. The X's were very hurtful. Everything nightmarish followed from there, and it just got worse and worse and worse.

  2. Wow...I'm speechless. I know this was incredibly difficult for you to experience, and now share with the world. I'm so sorry this happened to you, Michael. Just gut-wrenching...

    1. Thank you, Lee Ann! It won't happen again, that's for damn sure.

  3. Wow. Took a lot of guts to write that, Michael, but it sounds like she acted in what can only be described as an unprofessional manner. I guess that's the nicest way to describe it.

    1. The account is in no way exaggerated. I recall it like live cinema. It took time to absorb it all and attempt to find an explanation for the behavior. It was a vendetta over the course of months, but I never could pin down what might have sent her into such a lasting state of cold rage.

  4. Here is an interview I did with Kate Gale in the days prior to the red X incident.

  5. For the record, I have been alerted backchannel via Facebook, to the existence of five similar stories regarding Kate Gale's terrible behavior.

    No one has stepped up to defend her. If they do, I will encourage them to post here.

  6. Her blog motto is "I am a goddess."

    How about, "I am a Gila Monster"? And btw, goddess of what, frauds everywhere?

  7. Using such hate-filled and unreliable sources as the LA Times and Huff & Puff post makes me question everything this poster has said, especially since the Left Wing specializes in being offended every time the wind blows. Off the read the original post and draw my own conclusions (which very likely will not match this writer's.)

    1. I don't disagree that Huff and others have agendas, but I told my story that involved a whole other issue. It was complex, ongoing and morale destroying. Everything happened, as I said, no matter what anyone else picks and chooses to believe. That doesn't matter in the least to me. There are scores of other victims of Red Hen who know and understand the absurd circus of Gale.

      But it takes a certain aggressiveness to dismiss another person's many instances of bad experience told in detail as just a knee bend to the PC agenda of an outside news source.

      Is that even logical?

      But so be it. Thanks for your comment.

    2. btw, "Kell" just created her blogger profile this month. Looks like it was a custom job just so she/he could come here and play champion of Kate Gale.