Monthly Archives: February 2011

Queer as 3 Dollar Bills: Being Gay at AWP

by Saeed Jones

Last Wednesday through Sunday, more than 6,000 writers, editors, MFA spokespeople, literary presses (and at least 2 dogs, but that’s just an estimate) descended upon Washington DC for the 2011 AWP (Associated Writers & Writing Programs) Conference. The weather was beautiful (compared to what we’ve seen in the Northeast this winter) and the city damn near sparkled.

If you google the words “blog” and “AWP,” I’m sure you’ll come across a much more comprehensive recap of the conference, but I’m going to focus on the experience of emerging queer writers at AWP or — as we’ve started to call it casually GAY-WP.

The first time I attended AWP, I was a junior in college & quite overwhelmed. It was wonderful to see so many people come together to celebrate writing, but I didn’t quite feel a part of the celebration. That year, I saw maybe 6 people of color (not included big-named writers)* and it hadn’t even occurred to me at that point to actively seek out a community of queer writers.

This year, my fourth year attending the Conference, the presence of queer writers was undeniable and thrilling. From the Queer as a 3 Dollar Bill reading organized by the Lambda Literary Foundation and hosted by the Human Rights Campaign Equality Forum to panels that examined issues like LGBT Literary Legacies, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell the Workshop,” and teaching queer writing (to name a few) as well as the after party hosted by Bloom and all the spontaneous meet-ups and city outings, it was clear that we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re writing. Matthew Hittinger & I even took a mini-field to the National Portrait Gallery to see the “Hide/Seek” exhibit that everyone is talking about.

And now that it’s over, I feel reinvigorated and even more passionate about writing my way into this world. It’s great to be here with you. And you. And especially you.

(And while the presence of writers of all colors and lifestyles continues to grow at AWP, we do have a long way to go. Groups like VIDA, the Macondo Foundation, Kundiman, and Cave Canem have done/continue to do amazing work, but they can’t do it alone. Check them out & join the conversation.)