This issue already marks a full year since The Queer Writer came out! (Ha.) In honor of the first anniversary, I have multiple announcements:
1. I'm finally expanding this newsletter's goals with something I've always wanted to offer: an advice column on all things literary, appropriately named Queeries! Questions can be submitted via this form. You don't have to be a subscriber of any sort, paid or free, to submit a question. Questions can involve craft, contests, literary journals, residencies, querying, publishing, socio-political barriers, anxieties, concerns, struggles, and whatever else to which you think I can lend some thought. I don't know everything, but I know what it's like to navigate the murkiness of the writing world without information. As someone with over 15 years of experience, I hope Queeries helps folks out!
Queeries will run every second Thursday of the month with a response to a question submitted through the above form. In appreciation for my paid subscribers, a response to an additional question will be available to them. (Any paid subscription tier, monthly or yearly, makes you eligible to view the extra content.)
2. In celebration of the first-year anniversary, I'm giving away ten whole 6-month paid memberships! Five will go to new free members as of September 1st and five will go to ongoing free members. If you don't have a membership yet and would like to enter, simply sign up for a free membership! If you already have a free membership as of August 31st, please fill out this form to be considered for the giveaway. The contest ends on September 30th and winners will be notified in early October. (Keep an eye out for future giveaways for both free and paid members!)
3. I've created collapsible sections for the site version of The Queer Writer Monthly! Now you no longer have to scroll to what you want. Just click your desired section and you should be good to go. (Sadly, this doesn't apply to the email version since email just doesn't work that way.) I had to sacrifice my beloved fox headers for formatting reasons, but it was a worthwhile trade.
4. Registration is open for the 2023 GrubStreet LGBTQ+ Writers' Weekend in Boston, which will take place in late October! Most events are free, but space is limited, so be sure to register!
Whew, that was a lot! But back to books. It looks like the spooky season is starting early this year with such new releases as a queer sci-fi retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet, a Scream meets Clueless YA horror, a sapphic detective agency seeking the truth behind a growing trail of missing girls, a dystopian society bent on relentless conformity, an ability to see monsters and travel to a terrifying spirit world, and more!
Is there an upcoming queer book you’re excited about? Know of a great opportunity for queer writers? Read an awesome article about the (marginalized) writing world? Let me know! And as always, please share this newsletter with people you think might be interested.
- Saturday, September 9th, 2023 from 10:30am to 1:30pm ET
- Virtual via Zoom
- $85, scholarships available
- 12 students maximum
Over the past several years, the publishing world (and its readers) have thankfully demanded more diversity within stories. But as welcoming as this change is, it can leave many non-marginalized writers with anxiety. How are you supposed to go about it? What if you mess up? Are you allowed to write about marginalized people at all? This 3-hour course provides mainstream writers with the basics of how to write a marginalized character with which they don’t have a lived experience, breaking the process down into the bare bones of Self-Reflection, Research, Craft, Editing, and How to Handle Backlash. With pragmatic and clear-cut information—as well as the wisdom from such writers as Alexander Chee, Peter Ho Davies, and Stella Young—writers will leave this course with significantly more insight, awareness, and confidence to produce the most accurate and empathetic work they can.
*This class is open to all identities.
- Friday, November 3rd, 2023 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm ET
- Virtual via Zoom
- $85, scholarships available
- 20 students maximum
Get closer to the literary journals you admire with this specialized series of seminars. The Sessions with the Editor series offers insight into the featured journal’s aesthetics, archives, how to submit, and the editorial process– straight from the editors! In this informative 3-hour session, featured editors will talk about their journal and share their insights, including some of their favorite published pieces. They will also answer your burning questions about writing, editing, and submitting! These seminars are great for any writer interested in learning more about the editorial process for literary journals, or writers who are actively submitting.
On Friday, November 3rd, get to know Foglifter Journal. Milo Todd, Managing Editor of Fiction, will lead this informative session. Foglifter is an award-winning literary platform created by and for LGBTQ+ writers and readers. It seeks out groundbreaking queer and trans writing, with an emphasis on publishing those multi-marginalized (BIPOC, youth, elders, and people with disabilities). Their biannual journal features the widest possible range of forms, with an emphasis on transgressive, risky, challenging subject matter, innovative formal choices, and work that pushes the boundaries of what writing can do. By putting extraordinary queer and trans writers into conversation, Foglifter uplifts a growing community of LGBTQ+ readers and writers, and carves out space in the larger literary community for voices that have historically been silenced.
Disclosure: I'm an affiliate of Bookshop.org. Any purchase through my storefront supports local bookstores and earns me a commission. Win-win!
Noah Byrd is the perfect boy. At least, that's what he needs to convince his new classmates of to prove his gender. His plan? Join the school's illustrious (and secret) Borrow a Boyfriend Club, whose members rent themselves out for dates. Once he's accepted among the bros, the "slip-ups" end. But Noah's interview is a flop. Desperate, he strikes a deal with the club's prickly but attractive president, Asher. Noah will help them win an annual talent show--and in return, he'll get a second shot to demonstrate his boyfriend skills in a series of tests that include romancing Asher himself. If Noah can't bring home the win, his best chance to prove that he's man enough is gone. Yet even if he succeeds, he still loses...because the most important rule of the Borrow a Boyfriend Club is simple: no real boyfriends (or girlfriends) allowed. And as long as the club remains standing as high as Asher's man bun, Noah and Asher can never explore their growing feelings for one another.
Don't go outside past dark. Come straight home after church. And above all--never, ever, go into Red Wood. These are the rules Latavia's aunt gives her when Latavia arrives in Sanctum, Alabama for the summer. Though, weird as they are, living in Sanctum does have its pros. Mainly, the cute girl who works at the local ice cream shop. But Sanctum is turning out to be as strange as the rules--and the longer Latavia's in town, the more suspicious she is that the people there are hiding something. And the more clear it is that she's an outsider. Everyone's nice enough, but they seem determined to prove everything is normal. But it's not. Because there's something in Red Wood that the towns' people are hiding. And if Latavia doesn't follow her aunt's rules, she might not be able to leave Sanctum. Ever...
Everyone hopes for a letter--to attend the Estuary, the Glades, the Meadows. These are the special places where only the best and brightest go to burn even brighter. When Eleanor is accepted at the Meadows, it means escape from her hardscrabble life by the sea, in a country ravaged by climate disaster. But despite its luminous facilities, endless fields, and pretty things, the Meadows keeps dark secrets: its purpose is to reform students, to condition them against their attractions, to show them that one way of life is the only way to survive. And maybe Eleanor would believe them, except then she meets Rose. Four years later, Eleanor and her friends seem free of the Meadows, changed but not as they'd hoped. Eleanor is an adjudicator, her job to ensure her former classmates don't stray from the lives they've been trained to live. But Eleanor can't escape her past...or thoughts of the girl she once loved. As secrets unfurl, Eleanor must wage a dangerous battle for her own identity and the truth of what happened to the girl she lost, knowing, if she's not careful, Rose's fate could be her own. A raw and timely masterwork of speculative fiction, The Meadows will sink its roots into you. This is a novel for our times and for always--not to be missed.
Elisheva Cohen has just returned to New York after almost a decade away. The wounds of her past haven't fully healed, but four years of sobriety and a scholarship to study photography with art legend Wyatt Cole are signs of good things to come, right? They could be, as long as Ely resists self-sabotage. She's lucky enough to hit it off with a handsome himbo her first night out in the city. But the morning after their mind-blowing hookup, reality comes knocking. When Wyatt Cole walks into the classroom, Ely realizes the man she just spent the night with, the man whose name she couldn't hear over the loud club music, is her teacher. Everyone in the art world is obsessed with Wyatt Cole. He's immensely talented and his notoriously reclusive personal life makes him even more compelling. But behind closed doors, Wyatt's past is a painful memory. After coming out as transgender, Wyatt was dishonorably discharged from the military and disowned by his family. Since these traumatic experiences, Wyatt has worked hard for his sobriety and his flourishing art career. He can't risk it all for Ely, no matter how attracted to her he is or how bad he feels about insisting she drop his class in exchange for a strictly professional mentorship. Wyatt can help with her capstone photography project, but he cannot, under any circumstances, fall in love with her in the process. Through the lens of her camera, Ely must confront the reason she left New York in the first place: the Orthodox community that raised her, then shunned her because of her substance abuse. Along the way, Wyatt's walls begin to break down, and each artist fights for what's right in front of them--a person who sees them for all that they are and a love that could mean more than they ever imagined possible.
A year ago, beloved cheerleader Stella Blackthorn vanished without a trace. Devastated, her younger sister, Iris, launched her own investigation, but all she managed to do was scare off the police's only lead and earn a stern warning: Once she turns eighteen, more meddling means prison-level consequences. Then, a year later, the unthinkable happens. Iris's ex-girlfriend, Heather, goes missing, too--just after dropping the polarizing last episode of her true crime podcast all about Iris's sister. This time, nothing will stop Iris and her amateur sleuthing agency from solving these disappearances. But with a suspicious detective watching her every move, an enemy-turned-friend-turned-maybe-more to contend with, and only thirty days until she turns eighteen, it's a race against the clock for Iris to solve the most dangerous case of her life.
Dearie and Cole are inseparable, unlikeable, and (in bad luck for them) totally unbelievable. From the day they met, Dearie and Cole have been two against the world. But whenever something bad happens at Stone Grove High School, they get blamed. Why? They're beautiful, flirtatious, dangerously clever queen bees, and they're always ready to call out their fellow students. But they've never faced a bigger threat than surviving senior year, when Mr. Sandman, a famous, never-caught serial killer emerges from a long retirement--and his hunting ground is their school Queer Club. As evidence and bodies begin piling up and suspicion points at Dearie and Cole, they will need to do whatever it takes to unmask the real killer before they and the rest of Queer Club are taken down. But they're not getting away from the killer without a fight. Along the way, they must confront dark truths hidden beneath the surface of their small desert community. When the world is stacked against them and every flop they know is a suspect, can Dearie and Cole stop Mr. Sandman's rampage? Or will their lonely nights soon be over...
Hayden Lichfield's life is ripped apart when he finds his father murdered in their lab, and the camera logs erased. The killer can only have been after one thing: the Sisyphus Formula the two of them developed together, which might one day reverse death itself. Hoping to lure the killer into the open, Hayden steals the research. In the process, he uncovers a recording his father made in the days before his death, and a dying wish: Avenge me... With the lab on lockdown, Hayden is trapped with four other people--his uncle Charles, lab technician Gabriel Rasmussen, research intern Felicia Xia and their head of security, Felicia's father Paul--one of whom must be the killer. His only sure ally is the lab's resident artificial intelligence, Horatio, who has been his dear friend and companion since its creation. With his world collapsing, Hayden must navigate the building's secrets, uncover his father's lies, and push the boundaries of sanity in the pursuit of revenge.
Some would call River Rydell a 'chosen one': born with the ability to see monsters and travel to a terrifying spirit world called The Otherwoods, they have all the makings of a hero. But River just calls themself unlucky. After all, it's not like anyone actually believes River can see these things-or that anyone even believes monsters exist in the first place. So the way River sees it, it's better to keep their head down and ignore anything Otherwoods related. But The Otherwoods won't be ignored any longer. When River's only friend (and crush) Avery is kidnapped and dragged into The Otherwoods by monsters, River has no choice but to confront the world they've seen only in their nightmares-but reality turns out be more horrifying than they could have ever imagined. With only their cat for protection and a wayward teen spirit as their guide, River must face the monsters of The Otherwoods and their own fears to save Avery and become the hero they were (unfortunately) destined to be.
In his early forties, nonprofit writer Tip Murray is just getting past the wreckage of his youth and settling into semi-humdrum married New England domesticity. Things take an unusual turn when he receives shocking news from his high school best friend, hippie farmer Natalie, that one of their former teammates from speech team, Pete, has committed suicide. Surprisingly mentioned in Pete's final Facebook post? A devastating comment made to him by their speech team coach, Gary Gold. Feeling nostalgic for their 80s adolescence, Tip and Nat decide to reconnect with two long lost friends from the team, haughty menswear designer Anthony and tightly wound college professor Jennifer. The reunited quartet quickly discover an unsettling thread: all were quietly wounded by Mr. Gold's deeply cutting remarks. The silver lining? Gold is still alive, and a quick Google search shows that he has retired to Florida. There's only one thing left to do: fly down to a posh resort to confront him. What happens next is far from what any of them could have imagined.
- What: "We seek essays that address subjectivity as an analytical category that troubles essentialist conceptions of belonging and raises critical questions about feminism as resistance politics. Specifically, we invite essays that explore how feminists of Africa write and articulate African feminist subjectivities (Cis, Queer and Transgender); how they negotiate power and build feminist communities; how they mobilize against domestic and sexual repression and violence; how they address politics of knowledge production and its embedded hierarchies of power (geographical, economic, cultural, racial and linguistic); and how they navigate essentialist renditions of African identity and what it means to be African and write feminisms in Africa."
- Fee: $0
- Pay: N/A
- Deadline: September 1st, 2023
- What: "nwp is a trans and gender-expansive poetry and hybrid journal, but that doesn’t mean work must be related to those topics. We publish work from emerging and established trans poets. We want polished work that makes us stop mid-poem to catch our breath and linger on words; words that surprise us; words that make us catch fire. Besides more traditional forms of poetry (which we welcome), nwp is a place for experimentation and hybrid process– work that mainstream journals won’t publish. Ultimately we want nwp to reside in the spectrum of life."
- Fee: $0
- Pay: $10
- Deadline: September 4th, 2023
- What: "The Roots. Wounds. Words. Annual Writers’ Retreat for Storytellers of Color is a sacred space wherein BIPOC stories are celebrated, and BIPOC storytellers immersed in liberation. At the Writers’ Retreat, Storytellers receive literary arts instruction offered by award-winning BIPOC writers in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, speculative fiction, and young adult fiction."
- Fee: $25 application fee and $1,300 tuition (partial scholarships available)
- Pay: N/A
- Deadline: September 10th, 2023
- What: "Radcliffe fellows are individuals at different stages of their careers who come to the Institute from across the United States and around the world and represent a broad range of academic, professional, and artistic fields. Fellows work on an individual project—a novel, a film, a map of the Milky Way—while mining and deepening the knowledge, ingenuity, and talent of the Harvard University community. Projects range from the poetic to the cosmic. Past fellows include Jill Lepore, Samantha Power, Zadie Smith, Elizabeth Warren, and the Nobel Laureate Michael Kremer."
- Fee: N/A
- Pay: $78,000 stipend plus $5,000 to cover project expenses
- Deadline: September 14th, 2023
- What: "The winner will be selected from this year’s submissions of original, unpublished short stories between 3,000 and 7,000 words with LGBT content on the broad theme of 'Saints and Sinners.' This contest would not be possible without a generous grant from The John Burton Harter Foundation."
- Fee: $20
- Pay: Publication in anthology and $500 grand prize / $100 second place prize
- Deadline: October 1st, 2023
- What: "Stonecoast Review is a Pushcart Prize-winning literary magazine aiming to publish innovative and deeply resonant literature that embodies our core values of justice, awareness, and exploration. We seek work from both emerging and established writers."
- Fee: $0
- Pay: $0
- Deadline: October 1st, 2023
- What: "So to Speak is seeking fiction with an intersectional feminist lens! The fiction team is looking for short stories and flash fiction pieces that engage, challenge, and surprise us. We particularly love stories that tackle multiple intersections (of race, class, ability, sexuality, and/or gender identity) and allow us to hear points of view that are not often heard."
- Fee: N/A
- Pay: N/A
- Deadline: October 1st, 2023
- What: "This anthology, edited by Ann LeBlanc, will feature cyberpunk stories written by transfem authors. What we want to see: Augmented bodies. Uploaded minds. Cybernetics, real cities, and virtual worlds. Putting the trans in transhumanism. Submissions are open to transfem authors, including trans women, transfems, nonbinary trans women, etc. We’re not the gender cops, and you don’t need to justify or explain your identity. If you think you’d fit in an anthology of transfem authors, you belong here. We’re especially interested in submissions from disabled writers, Black writers, Indigenous/Native writers, and other writers of color. Please don’t self-reject."
- Fee: N/A
- Pay: $0.08/word for originals, $0.01/word for reprints
- Deadline: October 15th, 2023
- What: "Foglifter welcomes daring and thoughtful work by queer and trans writers in all forms, and we are especially interested in cross-genre, intersectional, marginal, and transgressive work. We want the pieces that challenged you as a writer, what you poured yourself into and risked the most to make. But we also want your tenderest, gentlest work, what you hold closest to your heart. Whatever you're working on now that's keeping you alive and writing, Foglifter wants to read it."
- Fee: $0
- Pay: $50
- Deadline: November 1st, 2023
- What: "As part of our efforts toward equity and inclusivity, the Pinch offers no-cost submissions to reduce barriers of participation to marginalized populations. Over the last decade, the majority of what we've publish online and in print is from authors and artists who have been excluded from traditional publishing venues."
- Fee: $0
- Pay: N/A
- Deadline: November 2nd, 2023
- What: "Lambda Literary Awards celebrate the outstanding LGBTQ+ storytelling from a given year. Lambda uses 'LGBTQ+' as a catch-all term, meaning that works reflecting identities beyond lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer or questioning are also welcome, to include two-spirit, intersex, pansexual, aro/ace, and other emerging identities."
- Fee: $55 to $115
- Pay: $0
- Deadline: November 19th, 2023
- What: "Founded in 2015 by Tobi Harper of Red Hen Press, Quill seeks to publish quality literature by queer writers. The Quill Prose Award is for a work of previously unpublished (including self-published works) prose with a minimum of 150 pages by a queer (LGBTQIA+) writer. The awarded manuscript is selected through an annual submission process which is open to all authors."
- Fee: $10
- Pay: $1,000 and manuscript publication
- Deadline: November 30th, 2023
- What: Baest Journal, "a journal of queer forms and affects," seeks to publish work by queer writers and artists.
- Fee: $0
- Pay: $0
- Deadline: rolling
by Laura Hartenberger
Broadly, good writing seems to require a balance of conformity and nonconformity, and at times, deliberate rule-breaking. A certain amount of Strunk and White-style convention is necessary to convey ideas coherently — after all, language is a shared system of meaning, and straying too far from its rules risks losing connection with readers or becoming unreadable altogether.
But good writers recognize that grammatical rules are dictated by problematic power structures and are not independent measures of correctness. Good writers assess the rhetorical context for their writing and make deliberate decisions about where to conform and where to stray.
...I teach my students to understand writing conventions well enough to stray from them in deliberate, nuanced, powerful ways. ChatGPT can understand grammatical conventions, imitate them and break them on command. But because it has no intention, it can’t be purposeful in how it adheres to or strays from the rules. Its arguments are built not from critical thought, but from predictive phrase sequences — it doesn’t “know” what its passages are really about, only that their words tend to occur together, so it lacks the meta-cognitive awareness needed to selectively break the norms of composition to add layers of meaning.
by Constance Grady
A question I occasionally come across browsing through the bookish internet: I haven’t read a book since high school. I’m thinking of trying one. Where do I start?
Or maybe: I got through high school on Sparknotes and bullshit, so I’ve never read a book from cover to cover in my life. I’m interested in seeing what happens if I read an actual book. What should it be?
There seems to be, for one reason or another, a surprising number of adults in the world who are literate and fully capable of reading a book, but who have chosen not to for a long time. They might have fallen out of the habit during lockdown, when the idea of giving something sustained attention felt impossible; or after they left school, when no one was forcing them to read; or perhaps they never found the habit of reading whole books in the first place.
...If you’re coming back to books for the first time in a long time, or even the first time ever, the idea of sitting down with a whole novel might seem more than a little overwhelming.
That’s why we’re here. I talked to librarians about the strategies they use to help readers introduce themselves to books, whether it’s for the first time in a long time or the first time, period. Here’s how they go about it.