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The LGBTQ Writers Caucus

Representing LGBTQ Writers at AWP since 2012

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Favorite panels

Meet Todd Summar, Your LGBTQ Caucus Secretary

TODD SUMMAR

Todd has joined the LGBTQ Caucus as the team Secretary.

What do you like most about AWP?

One of the things I like most about AWP, besides the panels, is the opportunity to explore the book fair. It is a rare experience for writers, editors, publishers, organization members, and other writing professionals to interact, have casual conversations, hopefully strike up new relationships. There is a seemingly endless amount of tables and booths, so it can be overwhelming, but to me, it is one of the most important parts of every AWP conference.

Thinking back on previous AWP conferences, are there any panels or events that stick out most in your mind? What happened and what was memorable?

One of my favorite AWP panels occurred at the last conference, in March 2016. It was called “Coming Out Narratives: Beyond Queer 101” and featured an interesting mix of writers, including Charlie Jane Anders, a science fiction author, and Justin Torres, know for his semi-autobiographical fiction. The panelists discussed the pros and cons of LGBTQ writers applying the “coming out narrative” trope to their work. I found it striking that they emphasized that the coming out narrative was still important, for writers and readers alike, but that the conversation has evolved from there, and that writers need to evolve with it.

This post is part of a series of posts aimed at introducing you to your LGBTQ Caucus board members.  Got your own AWP advice or your own must see panelists?  Leave a comment below!

Meet Sean Patrick Mulroy, Your LGBTQ Caucus Communications Officer

SEAN PATRICK MULROY is a queer poet, songwriter and general loudmouth from Southern Virginia.  He has been writing his whole life but got involved seriously with poetry in 2005 and hasn’t stopped since.

Sean will serve as one of the Communications Officers for this year’s Caucus.

Why did you join the LGBTQ Caucus?

I became involved with the Caucus because I saw that the caucus was quickly becoming more than just a yearly meeting—it was clear that it was becoming an organization for the furthering of queer ideas and people, writing, art, and careers.  I’m passionate about any organization that’s run for and by queers, and so I find myself jumping on board to help out with some of the web content.

What do you like most about AWP?

I think what I like most about AWP is the opportunity to meet the people I’ve been involved with in various ways prior to the conference—sometimes I develop rad relationships with other folks via social media, and AWP is a great excuse to finally shake hands or exchange hugs.  I also love the book fair—it’s so exciting to see all the different work that’s being written, and also the different methods that work is being distributed.  I’m a huge fan of objet d’art, and hands on writing pieces—the Spork table leaps to mind, but there are other presses that do similar things.

Thinking back on previous AWP conferences, are there any panels or events that stick out most in your mind? What happened and what was memorable?

The best AWP event overall that I’ve seen, and indeed, one of the best readings I’ve seen, was the Yes-Yes Books and Button Poetry collaboration at AWP2016. The lineup was very young, a lot of people who are flourishing in academia now, who were flourishing in Spoken Word and Slam just a little while ago, mixed together with some really edgy contemporaries who had always occupied the print media side of things—there are plenty of poets and readings to see at AWP, and I by no means think that spoken word poets are the best showmen—but there was something about that location, those artists, the energy of the room.  Definitely the kind of event that I go to conferences like AWP specifically to experience.  I think it’s really important to do your research on off-site events; you’ll often find the most happening goings-on just a little to the left or right of the main circuit.

Who are your favorite contemporary writers?

In regards to my favorite contemporary writers, I have to say, I’m going to plead the fifth—most of my favorite writers in today’s field (in regards to poetry, anyhow) are my friends, classmates, or mentors, and maybe I’m alone in this thinking, but rattling off a list of my talented buddies seems just unbearable.  If I’m being honest, also, I’d have to say that lately I’ve been really invested in reading writers from other eras—a lot of dead British dudes and overlooked American women who are either part of (or should be part of) that oft-maligned and obliquely dismissed institution of indoctrination known as, ‘the canon.’  I just read a book of Emerson essays that made me want to turn cartwheels, and in revisiting Coleridge and Sexton, I’m finding my writing pushed in new and exciting directions. All this aside, if a person who doesn’t know a whole lot about poetry asks me who to read, I usually jump to mention Olds and Siken, sometimes Forche. I find the line those authors walk between the personal and political, cinematic and understated, is really inviting to a reader who might not be experienced with poetry as a modern art form.

Are there any AWP panelists that you think are “must sees” for any AWP goer?

Regarding AWP and panelists—I think the best AWP panel I’ve seen so far was a panel on writing through grief that was put together in Los Angeles.  I’m usually all over Twitter at big conferences, and it was kind of a joke with my MFA cohort, because the things Richard Hoffman said at that panel were so incredible, I think his quotes were my entire feed for like 2 days.  I had just started work on a grief-related manuscript and it was really exciting and important to get such a wealth of new insights and memorable words of encouragement.  So yeah, I’m loathe to fanboy, but I think I’ll probably go see anything Hoffman was involved in, from now on.

This post is part of a series of posts aimed at introducing you to your LGBTQ Caucus board members.  Got your own AWP advice or your own must see panelists?  Leave a comment below!

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