Hexmistress Jess is the name I gave myself in 2013, after I had been kicked out of the press I co-founded and named: Headmistress Press.
At the time I came up with the name ‘Hexmistress Jess’ for myself, I was twenty-eight years old and had just been kicked out of a publishing company that I invented by two fellow lesbian writers. They had created a business plan that left me high and dry while using me as a sort of start-up for their company, of which I was led to believe I was a member. I believed their overtures and thought I was an equal co-founder and co-operator of the press, but I was wrong. I had been misled and exploited by my former cohorts; my creativity had been used, my ideas had been stolen, and eventually I was discarded.
Eventually, after a short period following this experience, I decided to focus my attention on the path ahead, not behind, and was able to conjure my way toward restorative justice. I gave myself the name Hexmistress Jess, Our Lady of Substitutive Lesbian Justice.
Head is the key word here. Because Headmistress Press, literally, came from my head– my imagination. The concept of a Sapphic school and the concept of literary Sapphic mistresses –and the playful, flowery headmistressy concepts that defined the press came from my head. I created and built the foundation of the press. HP was my brainchild, taken from me by my unfortunately ethically deficient former cohorts. Thus, I had to use my head to take back my brainchild while allowing the crooked cohorts to shirk responsibility and move on without me.
And so: Head became synonymous with Hex and Jess (my name) became an obvious and poignant substitution for Press.
I decided to substitute Hex for Head, and continued the radical substitutive linguistic practices that I started long ago, the ones that are the foundation of the Headmistress Press that Mary Meriam and Risa Denenberg are now running and profiting. My part in the history of the press will not be erased.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (Dylan Thomas)
Headmistress Press came from within me, and a literary mother has literary birthrights. The press was created with the goal of combating, via linguistic art, the erasure of lesbian lives and histories, which is certainly ironic, given that in some quarters, the lesbian who invented HP has been virtually erased from its history (herstory).
The persona of Hexmistress Jess developed over time, eventually resulting in performance art and fiction and the ‘Language of Hex’ — hex-wife, hex-nuns, hexuality studies, hexology, cliterary theory, cliterature, and nun-fiction: a genre I invented in ’15.
My substitutive practices are most closely linked to two lesbian writers of definite genius, both of whom I respect: Gertrude Stein and Mary Daly.
I was never a visiting mistress at Headmistress Press, as they at times have indicated on their website. That was not my role. “Visiting Mistress” was a name that my former cohorts gave me after in an attempt to create a false narrative about my role. Not at all a ‘visiting mistress,’ I am actually the one who conjured Headmistress Press into existence. I am the inventor of the name and idea of Headmistress Press and a co-founder/creator of the press. I spent eight months of my life, close to the time it takes to grow a child in one’s womb, devoted to getting HP on her feet because it was a labor of absolute love and Sapphic devotion for me. It was not a business venture for me nor was it a way to make a profit; it was a way to give birth to ideas that were in my head.
I named Headmistress Press after someone in my life that I admired, loved, and wished to honor, as well as based on Sappho of Lesbos– mostly, based on the conflation of the two sources. I am a lifelong student and teacher of Sapphology (a term I began using in 2013), a writer, a performer, a conjurer, a neologism whiz, a nun sympathizer, a mother raging with love and devotion, and a social justice Sapphologist with Hexpertise in The Sapphic Arts.
My name is Jessica Lowell Mason, co-founder and former co-operator of Headmistress Press, co-founder of Madwomen in the Attic (MITA), and graduate student in the Global Gender and Sexuality Studies PhD program at the University at Buffalo.
I created this website to honor my herstory, and to honor the herstory of Headmistress Press – as well as to continue the work I was starting when I created HP in 2013. This site will be used as my personal website. Here, I will honor the spirit of Headmistress Press by sharing some fragments of my life and work.