In the intimate Desuetude Gallery in Olympia, a crowd packed into every available space and sat suspended — hanging onto every word of the stories and poems read aloud by local authors.
Melissa Bennett was the first to present her work to the group. The Indigenous storyteller’s voice echoed with passion as she read an ode to J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. In it, she emphasized her opposition to his character, Tiger Lily, who is steeped in problematic stereotypes.
“I reject your Tiger Lily,” she repeated throughout the piece, explaining that real Indigenous women are complex and capable of telling their own stories.
The piece resonated with the audience — and the theme of the event overall. All of these members of the community, who applauded and hurrahed Bennett’s refusal to accept this version of Indigenous women, were gathered in support of The 3rd Thing Press: a recently founded independent publisher dedicated to “necessary alternatives” — highlighting authors who identify as women, LGBTQ+, people of color, or other identities that face erasure or misrepresentation in popular media.
The 3rd Thing, founded by Anne de Marcken and Sarah Tavis in 2019, was celebrating its inaugural book release and Kickstarter campaign launch. The press produces a handful of projects each year by enlisting a cohort of intersectional writers to create written works and, ultimately, a more inclusive culture.
Bennett was this year’s land acknowledgment writer, meaning a poem of hers and a land acknowledgment statement is featured in each of the four books produced by the press, including Fugitive Assemblage by Jennifer Calkins, The Illuminated Space: A Personal Theory & Contemplative Practice of Media Art by Marilyn Freeman, There Must Be Happy Endings: On A Theater of Optimism & Honesty by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, and The High Alive: An Epic Hoodoo Diptych by Carlos Sirah. All four book covers feature art from the same series by Juan Alonso-Rodríguez.
Every member in The 3rd Thing’s introductory cohort — comprised of the four book authors, the land acknowledgement writer, and the cover artist — was selected to highlight works and perspectives that the founders felt were missing in the current cultural landscape. “We care about projects that say something new, something nearly forgotten, something necessary,” according to The 3rd Thing’s website on its selection process. Although the artists work independently, The 3rd Thing implements a cohort model to create a feeling of community within the collective and cultivate a through line connecting the different works, despite the separate creative processes. The 3rd Thing is close to announcing its 2021 cohort, and intends to continue this method in the future.
The company’s foundation is built on inventive thinking down to its name: “The 3rd Thing” is a concept that co-founder de Marcken and her partner implement in their day-to-day lives — the idea that in the battle between “this” and “that,” there’s always a third thing. There’s no need to compromise when you can imagine up an alternative that resolves that conflict, meets that need, provides a different path. In this same vein, The 3rd Thing Press was born as a solution to societal issues relating to white privilege, heteronormativity, capitalism and wealth disparities, and the stories that perpetuate them.
The South Sound writer and reader community has welcomed the press with overwhelming support, proving that this platform addresses an unmet need. The company launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the books and authors of the 2020 cohort and, within a week, The 3rd Thing is only $500 away from its goal of raising $5,000. The founders will soon be announcing stretch goals to elongate this campaign, which will close on March 18.
Kickstarter contributors have the opportunity to pre-order one or more of the recently published books, even after the funding goal is met.
“This is about so much more than creating beautiful books,” said de Marcken. “It’s about creating culture.”