Spotlight on LGBTQ AWP Panels: Genderqueering the Lit Conference

Happy New Year, LGBTQ writers! We hope you had a fantastic new year’s celebration, made some amazing goals for 2019, and got some ideas for more writing projects!

Now that it’s 2019, it gets us thinking about a countdown to AWP 2019. It’ll really be here before we know it.

In the lead-up to AWP, we’re going to highlight a few LGBTQ panels that we think you’ll enjoy. Make sure to get out your planners, calendars, or apps and add these to your schedule! Want us to feature your panel? Contact us!

Below, we spoke to Sassafras Lowrey about a few of hir awesome genderqueer panels. We also love how ze writes surrounded by dogs! If we did that, maybe then we’d finish our dang books.


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Sassafras Lowrey

WHAT’S THE PANEL(S): For AWP19 I’m coordinating two panels, and I’m reading at a queer off-site event that Michelle Tea is organizing during the conference:

There continues to be tremendous gatekeeping as well as homophobia and transphobia within literary spaces, which makes it all the more important for queer writers to connect, strategize and mobilize together.

WHY DID YOU WANT TO CREATE THIS PANEL: If I’m going to be at a mainstream literary conference, I want to be part of queering that space. So to me the way to do that is proposing queer panels.

I went to AWP for the first time in 2017 and was a presenter on a queer panel that was standing room only in a tiny room. I saw firsthand how important it was to have queered spaces for queer writers. I saw how hungry queer writers (myself included) were for more queer spaces at the conference and I wanted to be part of pushing AWP to create more spaces for queer writers.

If I’m going to be at a mainstream literary conference, I want to be part of queering that space.

Specifically, I want AWP’s programming to include more panels that are by/for queer writers. I want spaces where genderqueer writers talk about the challenges we have had in mainstream literary spaces (including AWP). I also want to create a space for queer literary writers and organizers to skill share, strategize and discuss successes as well as challenges with creating literary focused queer spaces. There continues to be tremendous gatekeeping as well as homophobia and transphobia within literary spaces (big publishing and small presses), which makes it all the more important for queer writers to connect, strategize and mobilize together.

SassafraswithDogs
Bonus picture of Sassafras with hir dogs!

WHAT CAN WRITERS/AUDIENCE MEMBERS EXPECT: Probably not a whole lot of respectability politics! Panelists will be sharing our own queer literary journeys in terms of telling our stories (fiction and nonfiction) as well as talking about what it’s like to organize queer literary events in diverse places for diverse audiences. We will be talking about our experience and then we will be opening up the conversation to everyone in attendance at the panels to answer questions and have an audience-inspired conversation about these themes. We also want to hear from you! These panels will incorporate lots of opportunity for Q&A/ dialogue with you!

THE TITLES OF YOUR PANELS ARE SOMETHING ELSE! CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS OF COMING UP WITH PANEL TITLES — SOMETIMES THAT’S THE HARDEST PART — AND THE TONE YOU CHOSE: Thank you! David Groff gave me feedback on my panel proposals before I submitted them. Huge thanks to David and his willingness to provide this feedback to queer writers in the LGBTQ Writers Caucus! I really suggest that everyone take him up on this if he offers it again and you are considering submitting panels to AWP.

I wanted titles that were queerly in your face.

When I sent the drafts of the panel descriptions to David, I had pretty boring panel descriptions because … I don’t even know, I guess I was trying to appeal to AWP, which I think of as a fairly conservative organization (even though I’m mentoring in their Writer to Writer program and I know they do want to be more open to diverse writers). David encouraged me to sound like myself with the panel titles — so I punched them up and came up with them! I wanted titles that were queerly in your face and I think I got there with these.

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOU DO YOUR BEST WRITING: I wrote my first two novels commuting to and from my muggle (day) job on the NYC subway, mostly on my iPhone! Now that I write full time, I get to spend my whole day working on writing projects — I tend to write with music playing, one or two YouTubes playing (yes, at the same time). I’m not the kind of writer that does well at a residency-type writing environment — I love to be at home. I spend my day writing surrounded by my dogs.


Want us to feature your panel? Contact us!

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