Interview with Stone of Madness and swallow::tale Editors

Diane R. Wiener interviewed colleagues and comrades, L Scully, editor of Stone of Madness (SoM), and Cavar, editor of Stone of Madness and swallow::tale (s::t) presses, for Wordgathering.

WG: During a conversation we had a little while ago, Cavar noted that the main differences between swallow::tale and Stone of Madness are that the former “is specifically aimed at printing books and chapbooks, while Stone of Madness is an online lit mag. But also, SoM is open to queer, trans, ND, disabled, and Mad-identified creators, whereas swallow::tale is looking for Madness specifically, both as an identity and as an aesthetic, ethos, and framework.”  First and foremost, I love everything about these descriptions. As a Neuroqueer Mad Crip who edits and writes in CripLit spaces and beyond, I am a huge fan of your endeavors. Thank you for your labors and commitments. It’s such a pleasure and a privilege to talk with you about both Stone of Madness and swallow::tale. Thank you for this opportunity. Can you kindly share a bit with our Wordgathering readership about the history of these literary spaces and their “origin stories”? And, in that regard, can you comment somewhat about your sense of the roles of—or, that you perhaps have in mind for—these two relatively new literary spaces, within a larger and ever-growing CripLit landscape? Much appreciated!

L: Thank you so much for including us! The pleasure is ours. I first had the idea for SoM during long days of lockdown in Madrid. It was spring of 2020 and I wasn’t permitted to leave my apartment for months, so I really dove headfirst into getting involved with the online lit community. I was living with a wonderful writer friend at the time and corresponding with others across the pond, and the birth of SoM really came out of a “writing accountability” group chat with co-EIC Olivia Braley and our dear friend and EIC of MixedMag, Carolina Meurkens. Carolina really led the way with her development of MixedMag, a space for multicultural and multiethnic voices and creators. So basically, a huge shout out to Carolina for the idea of actually creating a mag that you feel would fit your work, your values, and your own identities. I pitched a lit mag to Olivia shortly after, citing my desire to be seen more fully as a writer in my queerness/transness and neurodivergence and disability.

Upon creating SoM, we joined an already flourishing community of queer and disability lit, and hopefully added one more option for writers at the intersection of these identities. The name Stone of Madness comes from a Hieronymus Bosch painting, “Cutting the Stone,” also known as “The Cure of Folly.” The idea of an extractable, physical seed of madness felt so interesting to me. I wanted to plant this seed, positively, as the basis for our community. In terms of roles, I am personally so happy to have joined the constellation of incredible, star mags in the CripLit galaxy. My sincere hope is that we continue to grow so that we can use our platform to promote and advocate for trans, queer, and neurodiverse writers. We truly have the greatest readership, submitters, and contributors, and if we can just keep doing what we’re doing and bring CripLit to more people, I’ll feel like the luckiest editor around. It’s really just an honor for this small, lockdown pipe dream to have gained so much support and the esteem of our fellow extraordinary queer and disability lit mags, certainly including Wordgathering! Thank you so much.

Cavar: My own origin story with Stone of Madness begins in the spring of 2020, when SoM was just starting out—back then, L, Olivia, and Carolina were the whole team (we now have three editors, an editor-tech wizard, reader/tech wizard, and two (and counting) other readers!). I had been working on my writing over the course of my college career, slowly submitting to (and becoming interested in the workings of) literary journals, while curating some zines of my own and editing a section of my college’s paper. When I came across SoM, I got so excited, and briefly debated whether I wanted to submit or offer myself as a reader. Ultimately, I did the latter, cold-emailing Olivia and L asking “hi, can you put me to work?”

That summer, they took me on as a reader. I learned I not only loved reading submissions, but also deeply valued what they did for my own writing: I became a more astute self-editor, better able to see my work from more perspectives than just my own. Now, in addition to editing Stone of Madness, I’m also, of course, editor at swallow::tale, and a staff reader on…way too many things!

Editing is such an intimate, beautiful sharing of skills between the writer and editor, and to build that relationship between and among queer, trans, disabled, Mad people is really special. In terms of swallow::tale and its relationship to Stone of Madness, I think the most interesting differences stem from the same places as their similarities. Both attend to nonnormative bodyminds, marginalized perspectives, and knowing-feeling-being in ways that surprise those around you and destabilize their assumptions. Our joy and creativity is disruptive. The aims of that disruptiveness differ, I think, between s::t and SoM: while swallow::tale is an inward-facing disruptiveness, Stone of Madness is outward-facing. swallow::tale is a press concerned with radical illegibility, in printing works that don’t make, and actively “unmake,” sense. This is a CripLit for crips, a MadLit for Madpeople. Maybe sane normates don’t get it, and we like it that way. On the other hand, Stone of Madness welcomes all readers with open arms. SoM plants, as L notes above, a “seed” we hope will grow into a queer disabled community thick with accomplices. The goal of the magazine isn’t to “raise awareness,” necessarily, but it does aim to be a source of genuine empowerment—passing the mic, rather than talking-over—for writers whose bodyminds “misfit” the literary establishment. In short, s::t and SoM serve similar writerships while embarking on vastly different missions, and I’m grateful to live in a world where both are necessary, possible, and have space for me within them.

WG: Thanks, so much! Can you say more about the importance of “disruption,” as described in these thoughtful responses? What do you mean by disruption, and why / how is it important in Disability, Crip, Neuroqueer lit publishing, and beyond?

Cavar: I think that the disruptiveness of s::t and SoM functions on two levels: one, there is the obvious disruption to narratives of “mental illness” as a deficit, a danger, and a hindrance to creativity. Indeed, I think these publications show that Madness is in and of itself a form of creativity––not a form that is universally easy or positive, but nevertheless a form of experience that “creates” new meanings, new worlds, and new possibilities for each of us. Then, relatedly, there’s the second form of disruption: the form that says, okay, “mainstream” forms of representation are also not working for me, because they claim that we as Madpeople create generative work in spite of our Madness, or only once we “recover” from it. I’m looking toward a publishing that does not demand recovery, and is even, in many senses, against recovery.

I know that the notion of “anti-recovery” is looked upon with suspicion in a lot of Mad, ND, and crip communities, and for good reason. I’m not interested in an approach to distress that dismisses suffering in pursuit of ideological purity. I’m Mad and ND and disabled and sometimes I suffer, sometimes I take medication, sometimes I seek therapy––all things that are most often associated with “recovery” in the minds of the abled/sane/NT.

When I say I’m anti-recovery, I’m speaking more from an abolitionist perspective than anything else. I am not looking to get rid of supports, but to abolish recovery as a paradigm, and this extends to my literary work. As an editor, it is not my job to “rehabilitate” works into forms digestible for the “standard” (normate) audience. It’s not my job to censor uncomfortable realities, including realities that I may not experience! Disruption in Mad publishing means publishing the widest array of voices we can, including and especially those shut out from the realm of “good writing.” The entrance of these voices into the “literary magazine/publishing” scene is a very literal disruption: I only have a select number of spots to fill, and selecting a less-legible voice displaces a more-mainstream voice. It’s not always zero-sum, but with financial and editorial constraints, it sometimes is. This is the way I disrupt expectations about whose work gets accepted, who has access to acclaim, who can socially and monetarily benefit from their creative labor.

I feel particularly obligated to do this given my rare position as a Mad, disabled, ND person with access to this kind of editorial control, as well as a graduate education and the (ambivalent) ability to write “respectably.” These are privileges, and they also allow me to be a kind of editorial doula for others’ writing. Having a press is a lot like being a doula, really. Supporting writers in all their complexities as they deliver their words into the world.

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About Cavar

[sarah] Cavar is a PhD student, writer, and critically Mad transgender-about-town. They are Editor-in-Chief at Stone of Madness and swallow::tale literary presses, and have had work featured in Bitch Magazine, Disability Studies Quarterly, Electric Literature, The Offing, and elsewhere. Their third chapbook, OUT OF MIND & INTO BODY (2022), is available now from Ethel Press, and their fourth, BUGBUTTER (2022), is forthcoming from Gap Riot Press. Cavar lives online at and tweets @cavarsarah.

About L. Scully

L Scully (they/them) is a trans writer and double Capricorn currently based in the ether. Their work has appeared widely in print and online and can be found in Jellyfish Review, Hobart, and Wales Art Review, among others. Their debut chapbook, Like Us, is available from ELJ Editions Ltd. They are currently finishing their MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge MA. As cofounder of Stone of Madness Press, L has sought to create a virtual space for queer trans and disabled authors.

About Diane R. Wiener

Diane R. Wiener (she/they) became Editor-in-Chief of Wordgathering in January 2020. She is the author of The Golem Verses (Nine Mile Press, 2018), Flashes & Specks (Finishing Line Press, 2021), and The Golem Returns (swallow::tale press, 2022). Diane’s poems also appear in Nine Mile Magazine, Wordgathering, Tammy, Queerly, The South Carolina ReviewWelcome to the Resistance: Poetry as ProtestDiagrams Sketched on the Wind, Jason’s Connection, the Kalonopia Collective’s 2021 Disability Pride Anthology, and elsewhere. Her creative nonfiction appears in Stone CanoeMollyhouse, The Abstract Elephant Magazine, and Pop the Culture Pill. Diane’s flash fiction appears in Ordinary Madness; her short fiction is published in A Coup of Owls. Diane served as Nine Mile Literary Magazine’s Assistant Editor after being Guest Editor for the Fall 2019 Special Double Issue on Neurodivergent, Disability, Deaf, Mad, and Crip poetics. Diane has published widely on Disability, education, accessibility, equity, and empowerment, among other subjects. She is a proud Neuroqueer, Mad, Crip, Genderqueer and Enby, Ashkenazi Jewish Hylozoist Nerd (etc.) who is honored to serve in the nonprofit sector–including as a Zoeglossia Board member. You can visit Diane online at: