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The Tale of the Inaugural Symposium

On the evening of April 2, 2021, the editorial staff sat down with friends, family, and the writers who made Volume 1, Issue 1 possible.

We didn't know who would actually attend. The event, scheduled for 8:00PM Houston time, would mean that Issue One writers in Europe and Africa would be logging into Zoom at 1-2AM their time to attend our virtual symposium. Once online, the event would last roughly two hours... who would want to show up to a "writers'-symposium-slash-launch-party" at 2AM and hang for two hours?

Rearranging the living room for the symposium.

Okay, maybe I'm just getting old, because I definitely did that a time or two in college.

None of those parties were on Zoom, to be fair.

They weren't symposiums, either.

I digress. Prior to the party, Rachael and I took some time for ourselves. We couldn't wait to celebrate with the writers, our family, and our friends, but we also wanted to celebrate the work that we had put into the journal ourselves, too.

It's been a long five months for us - I built two websites from the ground up (and trashed one of them). We scoured dozens of submissions from around the globe. Many nights were spent writing, editing, and tweaking the website, updating social media accounts, and researching best practices until the wee hours of the morning.

All while remaining employed with our day jobs, too.

I once read a quote that went, "When you own your own business, you only have to work half days! You can do whatever you want with the other 12 hours." Boy, did that ring true with Hearth & Coffin, but when stacked up with my "9-5" it was more like 19-hour days about half the time.

Were we feeling the cocktails? Maybe.

Those details aside, when Rachael and I look back at the submissions we received - the carefully crafted words, the considered application of couplets and turns of phrase, the perspectives from worlds much different than our own - we can't help but feel, with total truth in our hearts, that all that work was worth it. The Issue One writers and their remarkable creativity came through in spades.

Rachael and I kicked off the night with an intimate editors' dinner with our partners. We would love to thank Rainbow Lodge for the brilliant hospitality they showed us. If you're ever in Houston and you're looking for an upscale spot to dine that offers Michelin-quality meals without the pretention, you'll be met with a million options (Houston is, after all, famous for its culinary scene). But queer-owned Rainbow Lodge steals the show every. single. time. Take it from a HTown foodie.

Not to mention, their "rhum and Coke" old fashioned (an old fashioned made with Mexican Coca-Cola syrup and rhum agricole) is probably the best damn cocktail in town.

Our very professional Zoom setup with our ingredients for the event's signature cocktail, the Malt Whitman.

After dinner, we floated out of the restaurant thanks to our rhum and Cokes, negronis, and glasses of wine. Thankfully, we dined with our partners, so we each had designated drivers - safety first!

Back at my apartment, we rigged the laptop up in the living room. We attached the HDMI cord to the television. We sat on a very comfortable couch.

Look at these wonderful people!

Regina Thorne-DuBois, consummate performer that she is, kept us on track and entertained throughout the night with a little bit of country-pop and a lotta bit of musical theatre. We circled through live readings, giveaways, and a hearty game of Hearth & Coffin-themed trivia (won by Issue One published poet Kelly Lenox). We were graced with readings by writers we published in Issue One such as Lenox herself, Taylor Moessinger, Anthony Kelly, and even by our poetry editor Rachael, who elegantly recited a poem she only recently penned - a world premiere, if you will.

Drag performer extraordinaire, Regina Thorne-DuBois.

Being that our symposium was originally scheduled to be in person and therefore would have required face masks, we had planned to give out the Prospero Award for Favorite Face Mask and Outfit Ensemble. Once we pivoted to a virtual option in the continued interest of public health, we decided not to nix the award, but to instead reshape it into the Prospero Award for Favorite Mask, Outfit, and Virtual Background Ensemble. Prospero, of course, being a reference to Poe's Prince Prospero in "Masque of the Red Death". Symposium guest and friend of Hearth & Coffin Trace Pool took home the award for his brooding outfit and background, with a CDC-recommended (and brilliantly dazzling) double mask.

The party went on for a little over two hours, longer than we expected or hoped for. Despite the late hours, we did have several attendees from our list of overseas writers, tuning in all the way from Ireland and Germany - and we can't thank them enough! The laughs we shared over Zoom and across seas and time zones were invaluable. Considering the pandemic circumstances, we are so glad this was pulled off as well as it was, thanks in no small part to the participation of our attendees who saw our little literary journal, submitted work to it, and decided it was worth celebrating at the end of the day. Here's to you, to Hearth & Coffin, and to many more issues in the years to come.

Barrett and partner Alfredo doing totally normal things.

Rachael, our partners, and I nightcapped our cloud-nine evening by stopping into a bar across the street from my apartment building, Hungry Like the Wolf, a neon 1980s wet dream. We ordered boozy milkshakes and that was... a mistake. (We love you, Hungry Like the Wolf, but maybe ordering boozy milkshakes on top of everything else that evening was just not the best idea!)

Regardless of our late-night lactose mistakes, in the end we threw a party we can be proud of with a community who we are proud associate with, whose works we are honored to host, and whose friendships we will cherish. This dream was possible because the support of all of you. This was a long-time coming and we were thrilled to share this evening with you all.

Also, we fell asleep on the living room floor.

…worth it.

Thank you all and happy writing,

Barrett White



We will be taking April off (well deserved, if I may say so), but we will be back full steam ahead for Issue 2 beginning May 1. Submissions for Issue 2 will run May 1-31. Hope to hear from you then! The theme: Pride.


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