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Category: writing about writers

South Florida Poetry Reading

Starting the year off, a longer poem of mine has been published in the newest issue of the South Florida Poetry Journal. There’s also an audio recording if you’d like to hear it aloud and follow along. The editors invited me to do a reading – my very first reading anywhere – at the Broward County Library. I don’t like public speaking and I was nervous, but I think it went well. I met poet Denise Duhamel and she signed my copy of her latest book. She was funny and full of infectious energy. She teaches poetry at my alma mater and was trying to convince me to pursue an MFA. I still think about it from time to time.

More good news: I was recently named a finalist for the 2016 Lascaux Prize in Poetry. My poem will be published in an upcoming anthology alongside the other finalists and winner. The poem was inspired by “A Chinese Banquet” by Kitty Tsui. Please do yourself a favor and read her work. Her poems are coming back into print soon, which I’m very excited about.

I’m working towards a full-length collection and have figured out its structure. It’s helping to push me forward, along with a fresh spreadsheet keeping track of all my rejections/acceptances. I’m hoping these neuroses turn into something I can eventually hold in my hands and hug to my chest.

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I’ll Be as Universal as You Want Me to Be

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Originally published in Metazen (now presumably defunct, RIP), my story, “Year of the Queerling,” has been included in Best Gay Stories 2015. The anthology is now available for pre-order and will be published next month by Lethe Press.

Many gay writers wonder if they identify as a “gay writer.” Taken literally, this is silly. Of course you are a gay writer. However, it’s not the literal term that brings about such conflicted feelings, but rather the label used in terms of the literary landscape, readership, and what you see on bookshelves. It’s really the same question women writers face: Is what you write “women’s fiction”?

Many writers, more so than anyone else, have a great fear of being pigeonholed or put in a box. “We are not gay writers,” they say. “We are merely writers.” In other words, they don’t want to write only for a gay audience; they want to write fiction that transcends category and can be enjoyed by anyone of any sexual persuasion or background. Many will say this proudly, even though I think most of these sentiments arise from a great fear—fear of not finding a more mainstream readership (see: the straights) and fear of not being taken as seriously because of that. You write “gay fiction,” therefore, your perspective is somehow limited or bound by certain tropes of a genre. It can’t cross boundaries. At best, it may garner a cult following with a very particular readership.

It reminds me of a question once posed to Toni Morrison: Can she just not write about race issues for once? She looks puzzled at first, then feels insulted. Can she? Of course she can! She’s Toni Morrison. But Ms. Morrison wasn’t insulted because the question inferred that her writing abilities may be limited, no—she was insulted because the question inferred that the white perspective is the only valid perspective to write from, the only perspective that can be viewed as universal and possible of transcending category.

I admit: I used to feel the same way about these labels. I was that kind of writer. I understand these fears and where they come from, but I no longer care. I’ll just let the readers and publishers decide what words they want to use to describe my writing.

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Basic Space

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I decorated my desk at work, which is unusual. In terms of personal living space, I prefer things simple and often unadorned. Truthfully, I am just not very cognizant of the arrangement of objects around me and how they look next to each other. I don’t like giving myself more to clean and organize. I am quick to discard anything that isn’t a book or things to write with. I wonder if this is a common trait among extreme introverts; if we’re more likely to prefer organizing what’s jumbled up inside our heads and neglect what’s obviously right in front of us in the real world.

At the end of November, I went to the Miami Book Fair again with Melissa. This year, I was there primarily for Ocean Vuong‘s poetry reading. It was very emotional and I was awestruck. People were fanning themselves, and not just because of the unrelenting heat. Poetry is alive and quite well, I am happy to report. You just need to look for it. He read this beautiful poem that was published in Poetry. You should listen to it too. I cannot wait to get my hands on his debut full-length collection. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until 2016.

I had a very short story published in this month’s issue of Maudlin House: read it here. I was determined to send them something right when I first learned their name. Oh, and there’s the writing and beautiful design, of course.

Since it’s almost the end of the year, I’ll be posting some kind of best-of collage and vague resolutions soon. I reached my Goodreads goal! Fifty books read, which is pretty good for me. Poetry, short story collections, graphic novels, essays, huge tomes. Very eclectic. I also have my first ever memory jar that I’ll be able to open and spill out and show you what I collected throughout the year. Stay tuned. In the meantime, go and read the “A Year in Reading” series over at the Millions.

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