Friday, November 14, 2008

Interview with Evecho, e-publisher of the Read These Lips anthologies, Openings and Second Helpings provides beautiful compilations of not just lesbian stories, but also talent and generosity. The writers give their stories without charging any fees. The work involved in producing these anthologies is made possible by the pro bono services of the RTL team
ReadTheseLips is about collating new lesbian short stories into handy, single volume compilations, and providing them free to readers. They don't just bring together stories that are already out there; they source for new talent, encourage established writers to participate, and accept multi-genre short fiction that they compile into free e-books.

GMK: Is the rumour true that the idea to publish a free e-anthology of lesbian short stories came to you one day at an open air concert? What were your thoughts about lesbian anthologies at the time, both in print and online? And all for free?

Evecho: Yes, it’s true about the idea being born at a concert. My partner and I, along with about a hundred thousand people, were at the Domain enjoying the annual Symphony in the Park concert. Somewhere in the midst of the programme, the idea for what would become the Read These Lips series of anthologies flashed into my head. It was an Eureka! moment, and it came with a bang - along with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. I think it was along the lines of ‘Gee, isn’t it nice that a free celebration of art gives pleasure to so many? Why can’t I do that?’ And then I thought about the kind of creativity that moved me and lesbian literature was at the top of the list.

I babbled excitedly about the brilliant idea (it had to be that) to my partner, and as soon as we got home, I jumped online and sent out a mass of emails. Fantastic stuff, email.

An anthology that is not themed around a genre, is in itself not unusual. What was needed, I felt, was a place that honoured lesbian life in stories; not just moments, not just fantasies, but real life. There must be millions of lesbians in the world, of all sensibilities, shapes and colours. Our literature should reflect that diversity as much as possible.

I want to show a wider range of lesbian interests, to show that we can engage and connect in more ways than just the basic. To do that, I would cross language, colour, lifestyle, age and just about any –ism you can conjure. We don’t grow up with the same stories and we definitely don’t express ourselves homogenously. Sometimes I think what’s needed is a little less strict definition and a lot more pride and enquiry. Read These Lips is about encouraging the fulsome development of lesbian interests and identity through our anthologies.

GMK: So why an anthology format?

Evecho: I have a collection of lesbian and women erotic anthologies going back twenty plus years. There was no Internet then, and hardly any decent lesbian literature available where I was. An underground scene of jealously shared books and videos was the best one could get. Under those limitations, the lesbian and bi stories were instrumental in fostering and strengthening my sexuality. Lesbian novels were rare but anthologies somehow slipped through, and queer stories were always part of any anthology. I developed a fondness for variety and off-the-wall women’s stories.

The short story is, to me, one of the heights of literary form. Anthologies are handy collections of short stories - the cream of the crop when it comes to smart storytelling. They cater for readers who want a quick fix as well as those on slower, longer ruminations. Recently, I’ve discovered a campaign to ‘Save the Short Story’, which means our anthologies are relevant beyond lesbianlit.

GMK: The premise is you simply approach well known writers and ask them to contribute for free. And you get some really big names. The deal is because the anthology is free they get massive exposure for their work. Is this near genius or are you slightly mad?

Evecho: (Laughs) Well, genius and madness are a matter of perspective. I don’t think I’m either. What I had was an opportunity to pursue an idea that I knew, deep down, I had to do.

Read These Lips is at heart a project to spread quality lesbian literature as far as possible, particularly and especially to those who find it hard to afford or obtain stories to relate to.

We’re interested in writers, all writers. Fame is relative. Writers may be well-known in the UK but not in the US, and vice versa. A newbie today could be a superstar tomorrow. What we want is for one part of the world to see the other. What we offer is a place for stories that don’t fit mainstream expectations. Our threshold for submissions is open and quite unburdened by requisites. Being an unpublished writer is not a detriment, in our view. We’ve had great success mentoring new writers, and we’re delighted when they go on to long and successful careers. Writers who are committed to their stories shine through every time.

We are conscious of our commitment to the writers, readers and lesbianlit as a whole. By bringing them together, our goal is to nourish the development of multi-faceted lesbianlit that crosses opinions and inspires lesbians to want to express themselves.

GMK: What's your vision for the future?

Evecho: We’re a young publisher and we have loads of ideas. However, nothing moves fast, or fast enough, in publishing. Stay tuned to our blog ( where we’ll have regular updates as well as Read These Lips, Volume 3.

GMK: Finally, writers, published and unpublished alike get a massive audience. The production team gets valuable work experience, and folio expansion. Even your professional editors gain great kudos for their fantastic efforts. What do you get out of it? It’s so much hard work for the global community, and all for free? Are you really just a philanthropist at heart?

Evecho: The great thing about publishing is that you never go it alone. There are resources and wonderful important people with you every step of the way. Sure the work can be tough at times but it is never hard when you do something you love. Read These Lips is a deeply rewarding and hugely satisfying project.

Interview by Gill McKnight. For more information about, check out their website at or email



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