Much has been said about the “gay ghetto,” the notion that queer narratives are relegated to a hidden corner of the literary world. On the other hand, gay literary legend Alan Hollinghurst declared the gay novel “dead,” indicating that a sense of urgency around gay rights and AIDS awareness were no longer as relevant as they once were.
This class will help writers push back against either extreme or any preconceived notions of what it means to write queer fiction, drawing from the work of key authors of various eras and genres (James Baldwin, Garth Greenwell, Sarah Waters) and examining why they succeed, persist, and reach beyond any boundaries in the marketplace, and how we can apply these elements to our own craft. At the same time, we’ll focus on the unique stories students have to tell, giving ourselves permission to write what moves us, rather than what we think we’re supposed to write.
This class is open to writers at all levels, but it is especially encouraged for those who may be drafting a new piece or reworking an existing one—short fiction, novel, or another form—and seek the motivation and supportive atmosphere they need to tap into their stories and to sharpen their work.
The session will include an interactive craft discussion with accompanying readings and mini-workshop of the beginning of a previously written short story or novel excerpt (up to 3 pages double-spaced).
You will leave with a stronger sense of the narrative of your piece, an understanding of how your work fits into the broader conversation of queer fiction, and how you might fearlessly embrace the possibilities of queer fiction in your work going forward. You will also leave with ideas on how to thrive outside the classroom as part of an LGBTQ+ writing community.
Feedback you will receive:
You will be encouraged to participate in our discussion of the assigned readings and bring your own insights and questions to the conversation. You will also be encouraged to share your work for comment and discussion. Finally, you will trade your previously written piece with a classmate, and, drawing upon the concepts we’ll discuss in the session, you’ll provide written feedback and help each other discover the possibilities inherent in your narratives, and push the stories even further. You’ll be encouraged to discuss your findings with the entire class.
There will be a packet of selections from short stories and novels illustrating concepts we will cover in the class. It will be emailed to participants before the class, with a request that they read it in advance. Printed copies will also be available during the class.
Additional course details:
Much LGBTQ-focused literature has centered on the coming out story, which remains viable, but this class would encourage students to explore all aspects of their lives, or the queer narratives they’ve imagined, and tap into that to craft their fiction.
- What story has been building up inside you and what challenges have you faced getting it onto the page?
- How can you best shape it?
- Examples and influences. We’ll read passages from queer authors of various eras, but focusing more on contemporary: novel excerpts, short stories, etc. What did they do successfully and how can the writer draw inspiration from that?
- Letting go and moving forward. We’ll discuss how to push through the inner critic, the beliefs, whether internal or external, that have convinced us that queer stories don’t matter or should be hidden, or that queer narratives never succeed in the marketplace. We’ll discuss the best forms for our work and how we can get it onto the page in the most effective way.
- Students will pair up and share the writing samples they bring to class, and we’ll discuss how can we use feedback from each other to fine-tune our work, reviewing key concepts from the course.
- We’ll regroup and discuss a piece of writing from a queer author that gives us a “battery pack” of inspiration to keep moving forward with this work beyond the class structure.
- We will equip writers with ideas on how to thrive outside the classroom: attend local readings, join an LGBTQ+ writing group, etc.