Feminist publication promotes enchanted narrative

VCU alumni Gretchen Gales and Christine Sloan Stoddard run Quail Bell, a feminist magazine that publishes writing from several genres. Photo courtesy of Christine Sloan Stoddard

Iman Mekonen, Contributing Writer

“Art + Ideas = Magic.”

That’s the “go-to magical spell” for Quail Bell Magazine, the feminist publication that has created a community to provide a platform for woman artists and help them showcase their talents.

Taken from the name of a fairytale written by founding editor Christine Sloan Stoddard, Quail Bell features several genres of writing, including fiction and non-fiction.

“Quail Bell is different from other publications because it is woman-run and uplifts the voices of new, emerging and marginalized writers,” Stoddard said. “It is also different because it is highly visual and plays with new media. It is not purely literary or journalistic.”

Stoddard, a 2012 VCUarts alumna, founded the publication during her time as an undergraduate student. She said Quail Bell serves in part to explore the boundaries between “what is real and what is unreal.”

The magazine explores narratives that focus on history and culture. Quail Bell’s website is updated several times a week, if not daily. They also publish special print projects, including zines and books.

“Her Plumage” Image courtesy of Quail Bell

“I wanted to create a feminist publication as a platform for female writers, artists and editors to express themselves, collaborate with each other and assume leadership positions,” Stoddard said.  “Not every piece we publish is explicitly feminist, but the community we foster is definitely a welcoming intersectional space.”

The Brooklyn-based artist develops ongoing ideas for events for the magazine, like art shows and partnerships, as well as collaborations with other writers and organizations. The magazine has editors and contributors in Richmond, New York, Washington and other locations around the world. She said developing a community is just as important as the magazine’s mission to serve as an alternative new media publication.

She works closely with executive editor Gretchen Gales, who helps Stoddard with creative discussions involving social media campaigns and creating print projects, such as anthologies.

Gales, who is also a VCU alumna, became involved with Quail Bell after discovering the publication at a First Friday art walk when she was a student.

“About a year later, I had my first poem accepted,” Gales said, “and was also invited to become part of the crew.”

She was later promoted to assistant editor, then managing editor before assuming her position as executive editor in 2018.

One of Quail Bell’s special projects, “Her Plumage,” is set to release this summer. The anthology will include essays, fiction and poetry from the staff’s favorite woman writers, with content starting from 2015. The writing highlights women’s issues and what it means to be feminine, Gales said.

All proceeds from the magazine will benefit She Is Rising, a nonprofit that supports survivors of gender violence and human trafficking.

Quail Bell created a fundraiser on Facebook to raise money for Her Plumage. If they don’t meet the goal, they can’t run the project.

“We figured since the anthology was focused on women’s writing that we should focus on a women-focused nonprofit,” Gales said.

Gales said the magazine values marginalized voices to inspire creative people from all over the world. Unlike some other publications, Gales said Quail Bell puts publishing important stories before profit.

“[Quail Bell] prioritizes the stories that need to be told,” Gales said. “We might not make loads of money, but our mission is something worth fighting for.”

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