Dear Writers,

Congratulations on having a short story accepted for publication in the anthology Rusted, Lusted, Busted: Contemporary Southern Fiction, edited by myself and my good buddy Richard Head!

Richard and I, both of us straight cisgender nominally Christian white males, have put a shit-ton of work into this anthology, mostly over beers and hot wings at the local Tilted Kilt while our wives assumed 100% of the burden of watching our kids. Now this baby we’ve labored over is out and it’s time to party!

That’s why we’re hosting an all-male, all-white panel tomorrow at Lily White Books in Mansfield, SC, to celebrate the anthology’s release and your contributions to it. We’d love it if some of you could come be part of the panel!

Given the twelve-hour notice, however, along with our inability to compensate you in any way, and our unwillingness to compensate you even if we could, I completely understand that most of you — including all our woefully underrepresented contributors who do not identify as heterosexual white men — will not be able to participate in this seminal event, except perhaps as late-arriving, paying audience members ($5 at the door).

Your practically guaranteed disinclination to participate is a shame, because, as the literary gatekeepers for this region, we’re trying to give you a once-in-a-lifetime, breakthrough-level opportunity here.

But since by design you won’t be able to respond in a timely manner, worry not: We’ve already filled the five available panel slots with cutting-edge, straight Caucasian male novelists. They agreed to this several weeks ago, actually, when we were all shooting the shit, chowing down on some barbecue and guzzling bourbon at one of Richard’s monthly cookouts, and the idea for a panel came up. We figured what the hell, let’s do this thing! So just know you’re in good hands. We trust these guys will do a wonderful job representing your experiences whether you can make it or not.

As the panel chair, it is my mission to build a diverse program that welcomes and celebrates multiple perspectives. That’s why I’ve put this group of white men together. Heterogeneous in so much more than the sexual sense, these fine fellows hail from all walks of life, from counties far and wide: Some are from the country, while others are from the city. Some are academic intellectuals, while others are blue-collar workers. Some are functioning alcoholics, while others are raging alcoholics.

You see, the diversity of this panel will be something to behold. I’ve even worked tirelessly to ensure that at least one panelist is not a belligerent womanizer.

Look, I understand some of you in the anthology and/or folks from the disaffected politically correct masses at large will find something to critique about the supposed lack of representation on this panel, as though featuring a white neo-Confederate on the one extreme and a white fiscal conservative on the other was not diverse enough. As though featuring a white man with a soul patch alongside a white man with a disheveled beard was not diverse enough. As though featuring five white authors who have novels with cover images of junked pickup trucks in distinct, multifaceted states of rust and decay, set against background landscapes varied as fields and meadows and woodland edges, was not diverse enough.

Sure, one author I’ve scheduled for the panel is an uninhibited misogynist, but I have balanced his worldview by also scheduling a no-frills, old-fashioned, keep-your-prejudices-in-your-pocket sexist. Scoff all you want, but know that I’m trying. With or without you — and I understand it will almost certainly be without — this is going to be an assemblage like none other, a grand celebration of the written word, an occasion in no way indicative of a problem that has beset the literary world for at least two millennia: White men, and only white men, pontificating at the very same conference table, pulling things from their asses beneath the very same roof, enlightening a rapt audience!

Look, what more do you want? These privileged gentlemen of diverse Western European descent all have women and minor minority characters in their novels, okay? One even has a female protagonist, a complex and artfully manufactured woman whose sense of purpose and self-worth derives from the many white male characters she encounters, depends upon, and sleeps with throughout the story.

And if that weren’t enough, these five down-home white guy novelists, who all happen to have contracts with major publishing houses, unabashedly and selflessly carry books by women on their nationwide book tours because they know that women writers depend on them. Criticize that, and I say you’re the one wanting to take away women’s voices by taking away the voices of their white heterosexual spokesmen. You’re the real bigot here.

We hope to see you in a few hours! If you can make it, please remember to bring cash for the door and to purchase a copy of the anthology in which your work appears, which all the panelists will be signing. Thanks in advance for the beer money!

Allen W. Peterson, Co-Editor
Rusted, Lusted, Busted: Contemporary Southern Fiction