SAMANTHA (“Sam”) TETANGCO‘s short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in a number of literary magazines and selected anthologies including The Sun, Gargoyle, Phoebe, Gertrude, Oklahoma Review, Stone Path Review, Vela and several others. She has an MFA from the University of New Mexico where she served as editor-in-chief for Blue Mesa Review. You can usually find her biking around town, writing in coffee shops, or binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns. She currently resides with her wife and two dogs.
Sam has recently joined the AWP LGBTQ Caucus as one of two communications officers. She writes to us from California’s Central Valley, where she teaches writing at the University of California, Merced.
Why did you want to become involved in the AWP Caucus?
I am one of those weirdos who loves going to AWP for the panels. My first AWP was in 2008. I was a new MFA student, I had never published a word, and I walked around New York wanting to absorb everything (and I mean EVERYTHING, from panels on book deals to fellowship applications to craft to pedagogy, and so on). Those panels helped to shape me as a writer, especially the panels that focused on LGBTQ writers. Last year, I was lucky enough to stumble on a panel by Garth Greenwell (author of What Belongs to You) called the “Queer Writer’s Dilhemma: LGBTQ Writers on Identity and Representation.” As the title suggests, the panel was about what it meant to be (and/or be labeled) as a “queer writer.” All of the speakers were inspiring, but Garth’s words, in particular, resonated with me. He spoke vehemently about the need to embrace the queer identity, stating unapologetically (and here I paraphrase), I am a queer writer, writing queer characters for a queer audience.
I guess you could say that I had a bit of a James Joyce moment there. (Sorry Charles Baxter, but sometimes, epiphanies do happen in unexpected places). For I realized in that moment, that I was a writer who had resisted the label, worrying about that so-called “gay ghetto” (Greenwell said that if Virginia Woolf and James Baldwin were in that ghetto, then count him in!), and striving for the Aristotilean universal so much so that I was starting to doubt the strength of my perspective and experiences. Needless to say, I was incredibly inspired both to write more as well as be more involved in the Queer Writing community.
When I arrived at the LGBTQ Caucus meeting that afternoon, I saw the opportunity to do this. Miguel and Tiff let us know all the things they’d done to help the Caucus gain more visibility at the Conference (increased panels, connecting panelists, organizing a booth and a mixer!), and I wanted to be a part of it. At AWP, I am continuously hearing about books and writers whose books I would like to read. I wanted to help promote those works as well as help us maintain more connected throughout the year. And so, here we go. A Caucus blog!
Shameless plug: If you “follow” this blog, you’ll get emails every time there is a new post. Posts will promote authors, upcoming events, as well as keep you informed about LGBTQ Caucus business.
What do you like most about AWP?
Like I said, I really like going to panels. I spend the rest of the year standing in front of a classroom, trying to be wise, and the panels remind me to be humble. That there is still so much to learn.
Also, believe it or not, I also get a LOT of writing done at AWP. I am always amazed at the hundreds and hundreds of writers who come to the convention center every year, and most of them seem to always be playing around on their phones or catching up with friends (things I also like to do), but no one seems to be writing! So, I decided many years ago to make it a point to finish a short story during the long weekend. I like to imagine that everyone else’s muses are hanging about the convention center, wishing their person would sit down with their pens. Then, the muses see me and are happy to whisper in my ears instead.
Do you have any advice for first time AWP goers? Panelists they must see or events they must attend?
My only advice is to not feel like you need to follow anyone else’s advice. As you can tell, I gorge on panels, but a friend told me that she limits herself to 3 events a day. Another friend only goes to off site events and mainly plays social catch-up when at the Conference. Another friend only goes to the readings. Everyone is different and everyone will tell you what to do (heck! if you follow this blog, I will tell you things to do or not do!), but there is no wrong way to absorb the conference. Heck, one day I even played board games in my hotel room…
BUT, that said, if you DO go to panels, know that they greatly vary depending on who is on the panel and what it is about? Sometimes, the panel might sound perfect, but you realize five minutes in that it just isn’t right for you. It is more than okay to sit by the door and leave, as long as you do it quietly. It’s also okay to walk in halfway through a panel that is already in session. As for must see panelists, anything involving Roxane Gay is worth attending. And I mean, ANYTHING. Don’t even look at the title, just go listen to that woman speak! I also liked listening to Lori Ostlund, Summer Wood, Ariel Gore, and, of course, Garth Greenwell.
ALSO, and holy cow, I can’t believe I almost forgot to say this. Come join us at the LGBTQ Caucus meeting!