Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Retreat: a few reflections

Here’s a tweet from the week I taught the Genre Fiction workshop at the Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Retreat:

It’s hard to overestimate the value of a specifically queer writers’ retreat (while recognizing that not everyone is a fan of the word queer). Despite the enormous variation in people’s individual experiences of sexuality and gender (and everything else), there was an overall sense of community and connection not simply within each individual workshop cohort, but among and across them all — poetry, nonfiction, fiction, playwriting, and the one I taught: genre fiction with a dual focus in comics and YA.

I really appreciated how a shared understanding of queerness informed the way people responded to each other’s work. When no one has to spend time explaining or justifying queer themes, characters, etc., it creates more room in a workshop to focus on other aspects of craft and storytelling.

As someone whose queerness can often be invisible, I also welcomed,well, being welcomed in a queer space.

And speaking of space, I’m certain that the sense of community I referred to above was significantly enhanced by the fact that we were all, faculty and Fellows, staying in the same dorm, which had a shared courtyard where many folks chose to gather in the afternoons & evenings. (Sometimes very late into the evenings…)

We had a faculty reading and Q&A the first night, on campus:

lambda faculty reading group

l-r: me, Justin Torres, Linda Villarosa, Kazim Ali with the mic, Cherríe Moraga, and Lambda Literary Executive Director Tony Valenzuela at the lectern. It was an enormous honor to share a stage with this group of people! (Also: I’m pretty sure this photo was taken at a serious moment, but I’m amused in retrospect by how the rest of us are all looking thoughtful in different ways as Kazim speaks.)

Oh and here I am, very professorial (the lectern helps, as does the jacket) while reading from Bad Houses:

lambda faculty reading

Besides the faculty reading, there were three nights’ worth of Fellows readings. We also got to hear from Amy Scholder and Ryka Aoki — these talks were ostensibly for the Fellows, but I think all the faculty attended each one, too.

You can watch the Fellows readings and I highly encourage you to do so. I think it’s so smart of Lambda to build public readings into the retreat. Not only is it great practice — a lot of writers don’t get many opportunities to do readings — but the presence of other Fellows and faculty makes for an incredibly enthusiastic audience response! (Said response may or may not include referring to and cheering for the various cohorts as Hogwarts houses; in 2015 the poets were Slytherin and the Genre folks were Hufflepuff.)

I’ll quote what Malinda Lo said in the post she wrote about teaching in 2013: “Even though I didn’t have my own writing workshopped at the retreat, I thought a lot about my writing too. I thought about what I owe to other queer readers, and what I owe to myself as a queer writer.”

It’s very easy for me to focus so hard on trying to solve problems in what I’m writing — and there are always problems — that I forget why I write in the first place.

Teaching at Lambda helped me remember.

I’m so grateful to Lambda for inviting me to teach, and to the terrific Genre Fellows whose talent, hard work, and mutual support made it such a pleasure. Here I am with them all:

lambdagenrefellows

l-r: Top row: Karen Yin, Parker Goodreau, Caitlin Hernandez, Kate Goka, Isabel Galupo, Jasmine Molina, Sarah Jiménez, M-E Girard. Bottom row: Catherine Healy, Pam Watts, me, Meg Allen. Remember their names!