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The LGBTQ Writers Caucus

Representing LGBTQ Writers at AWP since 2012

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Panel must sees

What to do? What to Do?: 5 Panels that Speak to Writerly Choices

Whenever we sit down to write, we make choices – What should we write about?  How should you write it?  Where should it be set?  Where should the story start?  Should the poem take on a specific form?

The more we write, the more the questions become compounded.  Queer writers, for example, may wonder about the nature of queering characters – must we always “queer” them?  Or are those characters “queer enough”?   Others may wonder about the “ethics and politics” of writing about family members, particularly when those family members are “politically vulnerable.”  And what about when you want to break away from your own identity and write outside your own race, gender, or ethnicities?   As one panel puts it, our personal “experiences (re)shape and complicate our writing both in terms of form and subject.”  The questions, as you can see, are seemingly endless.

Lucky for us that these 5 panels offer up some answers (or at least promise some insightful discussion!):

The Politics of Queering Characters

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Shameless plug: If you want to hear from your blog master in person, you know where to find me!

For queer writers, creating a queer character is a political act that involves conscious decisions and unexpected obstacles. How can we tell when our characters are too queer or not queer enough? What other complications may arise when we try to define our audience and their expectations? How do we choose to out ourselves and our characters in our work? This panel considers the politics of queering characters within fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.  Panelists: Samantha Tetangco (that’s me!), Marisa P. Clark, Lisa D. Chavez, Lori Ostlund, Jervon Perkins

Details: Thursday, 10:30 am to 11:45 am, Marquis Salon 1 & 2, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

In the Box/Out of the Box: Writing With/Against Your Gender/Race/Ethnicity/Etc.

As fiction writers, we often feel pressure to write inside the confines our own experience, as defined by our ethnic identity, gender, sexual orientation, economic class, and so on. This panel explores the edges and interstices of that pressure. In what contexts is it acceptable to write outside such confines? In what contexts is it not? What does “diversity” mean when creating a fictional world? As writers, who has cultural permission to press past the confines of one’s own identity? Panelists: Bich Minh Nguyen Nguyen, Luis Alberto Urrea, Kelly Luce, Rob Spillman, Christian Kiefer

Details: Thursday, 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm, Room 202A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

Gender and Genre: How Do Our Prejudices Affect Our Preferences?

Do gender stereotypes influence literary tastes? Does a love poem from a male-identified poet seem more tender because it defies common gender assumptions? Does a critique from a female-identified writer feel more barbed for the same reason? What about writers whose identities or work blur society’s imposed gender distinctions? Join this panel as we explore whether we value writing more or less because of the perceived gender of the author, including how that may affect publishing decisions. Panelists: Jill McCabe Johnson, Kevin Clark, SJ Sindu, Viannah Duncan, Martha Amore.

Details: Saturday, 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm, 2017 Marquis Salon 9 & 10, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

Queering Masculinities

This cross-genre panel—comprised of writers who identify, previously identified, or live(d) as male—considers how we, as trans folk, gender nonconforming individuals, and/or cis men have experienced and challenged our relationships to masculinity. To explore how these experiences (re)shape and complicate our writing both in terms of form and subject, each panelist reads some pertinent work and comments on the roles their (dis)affiliations with masculinity played in shaping it. Panelists: Charlie Bondhus, Michael V. Smith, Jarrett Neal, CJ Southworth, Joy Ladin

Details: Saturday, 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm, Liberty Salon I, J, & K, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

Poets Mothering Otherwise: Race, Disability, Queerness

What are the ethics and politics of writing about our children when our families are politically vulnerable? Questions of censorship, privacy, and children’s rights resonate differently in poetry of witness or advocacy than in memoir or confessional work. As queer mothers, mothers of color, and mothers of children with disabilities, what do we refuse to write about our families? What may we, must we, share as poets of witness? And how do we tell the difference? Panelists: Joelle Biele, Amanda Johnston, Hoa Nguyen, Deborah Paredez, Lisa L Moore

Details: Saturday, 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm, Room 203AB, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

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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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