The din of excited chatter grew louder as more people trickled into Lost + Found Café. The crowd was here for the launch of Dagger Editions, an imprint of Caitlin Press. Caitlin Press was bought by Vici Johnstone eight years ago, and has continued to grow as a feminist publishing company since then. The name of the imprint is indicative of the type of role Dagger Editions is taking on the literary scene; it is the result of crowd sourcing and re-appropriates what was a derogatory term for queer women. It is, like the imprint itself, unapologetically serving its community. Today, Dagger Editions focuses on providing a platform for the voices of queer women.
There are a number of platforms across Canada that publish queer and women’s voices, so why a platform specifically for queer women?
Vici Johnstone's response to this question was met with cheers and hoots from the crowd: “Being included in the party is not the same as having your own party.”
Even when queer voices or women’s stories are pushed to the forefront, queer women are often erased from these conversations, which is where the value of Dagger Editions shines. The imprint still risks repeating the mistake that so many queer spaces have in the past: featuring only certain voices from within the communities of queer women and erasing others. However, still in its early stages, Dagger Editions has the potential to break down so many of the barriers that queer women face in getting their voices heard.
The night started with Ali Blythe reading from “Twoism,” followed by Jane Eaton Hamilton reading from Weekend, and Shelagh Plunkett reading from an original essay. After a short break, we returned to hear from Betsy Warland and Nicola Harwood, two of Dagger Editions’ inaugural authors. Warland read from her new book Oscar of Between – A Memoir of Identity and Ideas, an exploration of gender, identity, and their fluidity. Added bonus for those Virginia Woolf fans out there: Oscar of Between has been described as a modern day Orlando. Harwood read from Flight Instructions for the Commitment Impaired, the story of a lesbian couple who takes in a foster kid with gender identity issues, and the author’s journey in navigating topics of race, gender, and family.
With a huge turnout, engaging readings, and a promising push to further the voices of queer women, the launch of Dagger Editions was undoubtedly a success. According to Johnstone, her “aha!” moment about the value of such a project came from a friend’s Facebook comment, where she realized Dagger Editions was reflecting the community back to itself. And that is something that we desperately need.