Sinister Wisdom publishes multicultural lesbian fiction, poetry, and art, so I was a little surprised when Zane DeZeeuw, a graduate student from Western Kentucky University, showed his interest in interning with Sinister Wisdom. I was even more surprised when he said he would come all the way to Florida from Kentucky for the internship.
Nearly three months later, I not only see why Zane wanted to intern with Sinister Wisdom, but I also see how well he fits in with Sinister Wisdom. In this interview, I talk with Sinister Wisdom intern, Zane DeZeeuw, about his experiences working with Sinister Wisdom all the way from copy-edits to office dogs.
Julie R. Enszer (JRE): Zane, we have had such a fun summer working together—and time has flown by! It seems like it was just May when you started. Tell me how you found out about Sinister Wisdom and decided to pursue and internship here.
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): Like most things in my life, my discovery of Sinister Wisdom was serendipitous. I am getting my MFA in Creative Writing from Western Kentucky University, and a degree requirement that my program has is a summer internship in a writing-related field. I researched and applied to various internships all across the nation but with no luck. I have some family friends, a lesbian couple, who live in San Francisco, and I asked them if they knew of any journals or presses in their area because I thought it would be cool to live in San Francisco for the summer. A week later, they sent me a list of journals they knew about and read, and Sinister Wisdom was on that list. When I applied, I had no idea the journal had relocated to Tampa, Florida. I applied to the internship, talked to Julie a few times on the phone, and then she said I could come intern with her. At that time, I had a few other offers for internships pop up, but after learning about what my tasks would be for the summer, what my working environment would look like, and learning about Sinister Wisdom’s dedication to preserve queer history, I knew that this internship is exactly what I wanted.
JRE: What was the scope of your work? What projects did you work on?
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): The easier question to answer would be what didn’t I work on this summer. One of the main projects I worked on was copy-editing the fall issue of the journal, Sinister Wisdom 106. I edited the issue, sent the edits to the editor, received the edits back, contacted the contributors of the issue to look over the edits, compiled and implemented the edits they made, and proofed the issue again. The whole process gave me an appreciation and understanding of what it takes to produce a top-notch literary journal. I also copy-edited the winter issue of the journal, Sinister Wisdom 107.
Another big project I worked on this summer was a set of teaching and reading guides for ten of the back issues of Sinister Wisdom. This summer I also logged back issues of Sinister Wisdom into a content database, logged out-of-print LGBTQ periodicals that we have collected, compiled bibliographies for the Lesbian Poetry Archive, updated the Sinister Wisdom website by adding pages for the back issues of the journal along with other website updates, contacted LGBTQ and women’s centers in cities and universities to offer them full runs of the journal for them to use as a resource at the centers, mailed out renewal reminders, uploaded ebooks of Sinister Wisdom back issues, wrote a grant application, played with the office dogs, and many other tasks.
JRE: Tell our readers a little about the offices of Sinister Wisdom and some behind the scenes insight into the journal.
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): The office at Sinister Wisdom couldn’t be a cooler place to work at. The office is in a guest-house that we endearingly refer to as The Casita. It’s on a beautiful piece of property east of Tampa. Each day, Julie would bring in her two dogs, a Mastiff/St. Bernard mix named Tiberius (aka Tibe) and a St. Bernard named Samantha. Whenever I needed a break, I would pet them or play with them outside in the yard. The Casita is lined with shelves filled with lesbian journals and queer books, and the walls are decorated with movie posters from various lesbian films. I sometimes would forget that I was at work because I was not stuck in a cold, metal cubicle.
JRE: What was the best part of the summer? What was the funniest thing that happened? What was the most memorable part of your internship?
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): By far, the best part of my summer was getting to work at a literary journal during the week and being able to go to the beach on the weekend. I honestly don’t know how life could get much better than that. I wouldn’t say I had a ‘funniest’ experience, but the most unexpected and joyous experience this summer was when Julie adopted Samantha, the almost-two-year-old St. Bernard. She may not look like a puppy because she is over ninety pounds, but she definitely is still a puppy on the inside!
One of the most memorable experiences for me this summer was contacting LGBTQ and women’s centers to see if they wanted a full set of our journal to provide as a resource at their center. We received so many responses and requests for full sets, and it is rewarding to know that Sinister Wisdom is helping LGBTQ individuals feel less alone in the world.
JRE: Tell me about your relationship to feminism and lesbian-feminism. What does Sinister Wisdom mean to you?
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): Feminism is extremely important to me. Until we fix the wage gap, improve maternity/paternity leave, stop sexual harassment and sexual assault, and improve attitudes towards femininity, we will continue to live in a society that marginalizes women and other minority groups. I want to live in a world where my female friends aren’t afraid to walk home alone at night in the city or on university campuses. I want to live in a world where women aren’t afraid to go on first dates because they are in fear of their lives. I want to live in a world where movies, tv, music videos, music, and other forms of media don’t only view women as sexual objects for men. I want our sisters, cousins, daughters, and friends to grow up in a world where they not only deserve an equal place in the world, but that they do in fact have an equal place in the world. I want our sons and brothers to play with more dolls and be allowed to cry. We need to fight for equality towards straight women, lesbians, trans women, asexual women, non-binary people. If you truly care about the rights of all humans, you have to be a feminist.
JRE: How do you think Sinister Wisdom speaks to younger generations? In particular, does it have anything to say to younger gay/queer men?
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): I have come to find out that Sinister Wisdom is extremely important for younger generations to read. Old issues of Sinister Wisdom fill in the historical gap of what lesbians have experienced the last forty years, and current issues of Sinister Wisdom help young readers feel connected to how current social and political issues impact lesbians all over. Sinister Wisdom is a testament that all history matters and that in order to preserve some history, we need advocate support for all history. We need to advocate for the documentation of lesbian, gay, trans, latinx, black, disabled, etc. history, and one way to do that is to support publications such as this journal.
Yes, this is a lesbian journal, but Sinister Wisdom is not just for lesbians to read. I went to the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity a few summers ago, and one lesson I took from that all humans know how it feels to be hurt and marginalized. We have all been discriminated for or put down for some aspect of our identity whether it be sexuality, class, race, nationality, etc. On the other hand, we all know what it feels like to love and be loved. Some of writing in Sinister Wisdom is filled with love and heartache while other writing comments on erasure and discrimination. These themes are relatable to all humans. Writing from a contemporary, black lesbian is just as relatable as writing from a straight, white man from the 1920s, if not more relatable. All humans are complex and different, but the more I read from authors of different background, the more I see that we are more similar.
Of course, I can empathize and understand more of the closetism, coming out, and societal attitudes that are written about in Sinister Wisdom because I have experienced similar things as a queer man. I think other queer/gay men will feel a strong connection to the pieces in Sinister Wisdom because there is a lot of overlap of common experience in the LGBTQ community. However, I think queer men will also get a better understanding of their own sexuality by seeing how the lesbian experience deviates from gay experience in other areas.
JRE: What are you taking with you from you this internship?
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): To be literal, I’m physically taking copies of Sinister Wisdom to share with friends and family. The writing in Sinister Wisdom is fantastic and important, so I feel the need to share it with everyone I can. As far as what I’m taking in an intangible sense, I am taking a renewed sense of hope with me. Sinister Wisdom has shown me that more and more people are striving to prove that LGBTQ people matter. The authors, subscribers, donors, board members, and Julie Enszer not only keep this journal alive, but they keep it thriving. I am also taking with me the awesome skills and knowledge that Julie has given me over the summer. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would not only learn but also accomplish so many things during a summer internship.
JRE: What are your future plans?
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): I have one year left of graduate school. In these next two semesters I am taking classes, teaching ENG 100: Introduction to College Writing, and writing my thesis, which will be a novel. I’ll defend my thesis next July, and then I will hopefully score a rewarding job. I am going to look at editing, publishing, and copy-writing jobs.
JRE: What advice would you give to future Sinister Wisdom interns?
Zane DeZeeuw (ZD): The first piece of advice would be to intern at Sinister Wisdom! I cannot reiterate how amazing of an experience this internship has been. Second, I would advise future interns to be vocal about their internship experience. In order to show the world that lesbian writing is not deviant and is just as valid as any other writing, it is important to break down people’s misconceptions by informing them what lesbian writing looks like and why it is relatable. And three, I would advise future interns to read as many issues of Sinister Wisdom as they can while they are interning. It’s not often that you have access to some of the best lesbian writing around, so it is important to make the most of it. Reading past issues is also a great way to holistically understand Sinister Wisdom, and this will help interns better approach future Sinister Wisdom projects.
Zane DeZeeuw, is a writer and graduate student from the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. He has a BA in English from Truman State University, and he is currently getting his MFA in Creative Writing from Western Kentucky University. He writes book reviews for Lambda Literary, and his work has appeared in Windfall.