A literary scene where parties are the order of the day

On a recent winter evening, Cat Fitzpatrick and Kay Gabriel were trying to decide how the former would introduce the latter, who was about to read from her new novel, A Queen in Bucks County. Woman. Fitzpatrick mentioned that the book had made her laugh on the PATH train.

Getting other trans women to “go freak out in public” was her goal, Ms. Sagte Gabriel said.

Woman. Fitzpatrick took Ms. Gabriel and about 100 others to her South Brooklyn townhouse for a winter salon at the LittlePuss Press, a small press, Ms. Fitzpatrick started dating Casey Plett last year. The two women, who met at a writers’ conference nearly a decade ago, came into their own as writers and editors amid what Ms. Plett calls the “trans lit renaissance” of the early 2010s. With first-hand knowledge of that not-so-long moment, Ms. Plett and Mrs. Fitzpatrick are now trying to spur another renaissance of their own. And like many other independent publishers and publications that shape the New York literary landscape, they do so with parties that are technically readings — but mostly just parties.

Regarding the scene at this particular reading, which also included readings by Elena Comay del Junco and Benedict Nguyen, Ms. Fitzpatrick called it a boisterous gathering of “drunk transgender people.” However, there were a handful of tactile cisgender folk scattered among the revelers.

“You have this line that I really like,” Ms. Plett said to Ms. Fitzpatrick. “What if we included cis people instead of asking cis people to include us?”

“Exactly,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said. “For example, we throw better parties than you. You’ll want to come.”

Named after a portmanteau of two of its founders’ books – Ms. Plett’s novel Little Fish and Ms. Fitzpatrick’s poetry collection Glamourpuss — LittlePuss is billed as “a feminist press run by two trans women”. For the founders, this means working with authors whose work would otherwise likely remain unpublished, whether because of the authors’ background, their lack of publishing experience, or the fact that they have not yet completed a manuscript.

Woman. Plett and Mrs. Fitzpatrick serve as editors to the press and each maintain a list of authors. Woman. Plett handles tax, finance and other practical aspects of the business while Ms. Fitzpatrick assists with design, advertising and events.

Their hosting responsibilities at the winter salon reflected a complementary division of labor: Ms. Plett, wearing a form-fitting oxblood leather cocktail dress, worked at the merch table, selling books, zines and dropper bottles of homemade Bitterpuss sodas. Woman. Fitzpatrick flew from room to room in a flowing black lace dress, starting conversations, refilling drinks and daring guests to “try the Volcanopé” — which, to the uninitiated, was a homemade six-story mountain of vegan pies with “flows” of roasted red pepper strips , streaming down from its top.

Their fledgling press has released two titles: a reissue of Meanwhile, Elsewhere, the 2017 sci-fi and fantasy anthology its founders previously edited for Topside Press, a trans-owned publisher that has since closed, and Cecilia Gentili’s “Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Are Not My Rapist,” a memoir of letters chronicling the author’s childhood and adolescence in Gálvez, Argentina.

An activist and artist some may know from her recurring role on the TV show Pose, Ms. Gentili said that working closely with Ms. Fitzpatrick, her editor-in-chief at Faltas, had gained a lot of trust.

“The fact that Cat is a trans woman has been such a relief to me,” said Frau. Gentili said. “But there were still barriers because I’m a woman of color, a Latina, and an immigrant. I mean, she’s an immigrant too, but she’s from England. It is different. I worried: will she get it? And she did.”

A similar collaborative ethos permeated the earlier “translit renaissance” that Ms. Plett spoke of. During this time, trans authors, editors, readers, and independent publishers led to a reappraisal of what trans literature might be, what narratives might be told, how they might be told, and for whom. Topside – also based in Brooklyn – played a key role in this shift, publishing books such as Ms. Plett’s short story collection, A Safe Girl to Love, which won a Lambda Literary Award, and Nevada, a novel by writer Imogen Binnie , which prominent transgender authors such as Torrey Peters and Jackie Ess call highly influential in their own writing.

“‘Nevada’ happened because Topside was like, ‘You got anything, Imogen?'” Plett said.

LittlePuss reaches another interesting moment for transliterature. Manhunt, Gretchen Felker-Martin’s gory gender apocalypse novel, which was published in February, was named Vulture’s Best Book of 2022 and recently entered its tenth edition.

Trans-authorized fiction has never been so commercially successful, yet so publicly contested. By September, conservative groups and lawmakers across the country had sought to ban or restrict access to more than 1,651 books, some of which contained trans characters and subjects.

Woman. Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Plett said they hope to have at least two new titles added to their book list by this time next year.

The first of these will most likely be a collection of short stories by Anton Solomonik, who helps run the World Transsexual Forum, an open mic series in Brooklyn where trans writers and artists can read and discuss their work. Because he “never took my writing to a publisher or sought an agent,” he embodies in many ways the kind of writer Ms. Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Plett would like to publish: someone whose work is weird, funny, and compelling—and for example, might have trouble finding their way to a Big Five publisher.

There will always be parties until the next book release. The print shop runs on a small budget made up of personal contributions from its founders, in addition to profits from the books sold, but Ms. Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Plett believe charging fees for events would run counter to the scene they are trying to build.

“If you have extra money, you have a moral obligation to buy people drinks,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said.

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