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The LGBTQ Writers Caucus

Representing LGBTQ Writers at AWP since 2012

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LGBTQ Caucus Board

Meet Tiff Ferentini, Your LGBTQ Caucus VP

Tiff Ferentini is a former editor of The Manhattanville Review, and has previously served as the Communications Coordinator for the AWP LGBTQ Caucus. They are the current Marketing Manager for Monkey Business International and the Vice President of AWP’s LGBTQ Caucus. Their work has appeared in The Gambler; Off the Rocks, the LGBTQ Anthology of Newtown Writers Press; and Songs of My Selfie: An Anthology of Millennial Writing, published by Three Room’s Press in April 2016. They can be found on Twitter @ferenteeny.

Why did you want to become involved in the AWP Caucus?

I attended my first AWP LGBTQ Caucus meeting during the 2014 conference in Seattle. It was only my second time attending AWP, but AWP had become a place where I felt I truly belonged; where I could meet fellow writers who had the same passion and goals as me, and who just understood me. At time I had been struggled with my sexual orientation and identity, and I thought attending the Caucus would help me confirm some of the suspicions I had about myself. While I admit at the time I wasn’t sure what it was a Caucus was, I knew I belonged there. Once I realized the purposes of the Caucus, I wanted to get more involved and contribute to the Caucus and give back to its community, the same way the Caucus served as a resource for me.

What do you like most about AWP?

I find writing to be such a solitary profession, and I often get overwhelmed and forget that the writing community can also serve as a network where which you can find support, feedback, and personal and professional relationships that can impact and stay with you your entire life. What I love most about AWP is that it has presented me with so many opportunities in the few years I have been attending; I’ve been able to make professional strides, as well as meet and discover amazing writers, colleagues, and friends whom I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.

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?

I first made Kim van Alkemade’s acquaintance when I attended her Historical Fiction panel at AWP14 in Seattle, and to this day it’s still one of my most favorite panels I have ever attended at AWP. Not only is Kim an amazing panelist and resource to learn from for fellow historical fiction writers, but her panels are so amazing well crafted, organized, and constructed that I’ve found them to be a source of inspiration and model when crafting my own AWP panel proposals!

Who are your favorite contemporary writers?

Vee Hoffman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Kazuo Ishiguro, Neil Gaiman, and Garth Greenwell – just to highlight a few!

 

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

Roger Sedarat, Kim van Alkemade, Garth Greenwell, and Roxane Gay

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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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!

Meet Samantha Tetangco, Your LGBTQ Caucus Communications Officer/Blog Master

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, PhoebeGertrude, Oklahoma ReviewStone 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 Youcalled 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!

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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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