Thursday, September 10, 2009

I’d like the high of completion without the despair afterward, please.

A number of months ago, a friend of mine who completed his MFA with me at Maryland noted that what he missed most about school after graduation was losing the milestones, the markers along the way. I think I grimaced at the time feeling the pressure of many new milestones ahead of me in the PhD program. I understand today more of what he meant.

At the end of August, I finished one of the first milestones of my PhD program. Honestly, it was exhilarating. I spent the summer reading and annotating a list of books and articles. Then seventy-two blissful hours of writing. Integrating the ideas and information. Playing with them on the screen. Printing the pages, editing, correcting, altering. It was a game for the seventy-two hours to see how many citations I could build in from the larger list within the constraints of the thirty pages allotted for each essay. Then, one Monday at noon, it was over. All printed, sealed with a binder clip and delivered to the university. I came home and cleaned my workroom. I vacuumed. I emptied out the pending emails that I had stored away. I poked around at a new project. I picked up a new book or two. Still, I felt empty and at bit at loose ends. That weekend we whisked off to the Midwest to visit family and I didn’t read at all, or work online. Home. Silence. No looming deadlines (well, a few.) I started new projects, but still there was a particular emptiness, even loneliness, to the completion.

Now, a few weeks later, I’m embroiled in other projects. One nearing completion. One that is a huge and hairy project which exceeds any possibility of completion before the end of my natural lifetime. The despair of those first days after the last milestone is dissipating, slowly, though at this moment as I think about the milestones ahead, I remember the high of completion and honestly, I crave it again, but I know that it comes with the despair, the loss of focus, the silence, the loneliness afterward. I’d like to avoid that, please. I’d like only the pleasure of the driven weeks, days, and hours in advance, the glory of the intense engagement, then, then, I don’t know what, but I know what I don’t want. I’d like to replace it with a satisfied, clear mind. With the revelry of some free time, the restfulness of accomplishment.
It’s like how at the end of a day of writing, the writing seems so perfect, so clear, so accurate, so beautiful. Then the next morning, with a fresh cup of coffee and the computer quickly booting up, the clarity of the previous day vanishes. Edits, slack prose, poor word choices, doubt. They creep in to that mid-morning despair. Can’t we do away with that? Can’t we preserve the high of completion without the despair afterward? Please?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Cotillion Festival for GLBT writers of African descent heads to Austin


August 27, 2009

Contact: G. Winston James

*Cotillion Festival for GLBT writers of African descent heads to Austin*

Registration is underway for Fire & Ink III: Cotillion, a festival for
gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of African descent, to be
held October 8-11, 2009 in Austin, Texas. Cotillion presenters include
keynote Nikky Finney, poets Samiya Bashir, Staceyann Chin, Lenelle
Moïse, Anton Nimblett, Tim’m T. West, Marvin K. White and avery r.
young; writers Sharon Bridgforth, Laurinda D. Brown, Terrence Dean,
Thomas Glave, and Nalo Hopkinson and Ana Lara; filmmakers M.
Asli Dukan, Thomas Allen Harris, Yoruba Richen and Yvonne Welbon; visual
artists Torkwase Dyson, Zanele Muholi, Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Carl
Pope; and performances by E. Patrick Johnson and Daniel Alexander Jones.
Cotillion will be held at the Hilton Austin, 500 E. 4^th  St. in
downtown Austin, with additional Cotillion events at the Blanton
Museum and the Historic Victory Grill, among others. A complete listing
of presenters can be found at

Early bird registration ($125) for the four-day festival ends Sept. 4,
2009; regular registration ($175) ends Oct. 1, 2009. There is no on-site
registration. Cotillion is open to the public with paid registration.
More information can be obtained at

Featuring more than 40 workshops, panels and roundtables, Cotillion
attendees can expect engaging, thought-provoking discussion in such
panels as “Dash: Metaphor and Connection,” which explores how writers
influence visual artists’ work; “Contemporary Caribbean LGBTQ Writing”;
“Witness to Tradition: LGBT African Media Makers”; “Canaries in the
Mine,” about black queer political theater and social change; and “Pot
Calling Kettle Black: Heterosexism in Homo-Hop.” Cotillion writing
workshops target beginning, intermediate and established writers;
Cotillion also brings a sampling of today’s hottest performance work
with a staged reading of /delta dandi/ by Sharon Bridgforth, /Pouring
Tea/ by E. Patrick Johnson and an intimate cabaret evening with Jomama

Cotillion brings together writers, readers, scholars, students, editors,
publishers, curators, audio and visual artists and media professionals
from around the country. Dr. Dwight McBride of the University of
Illinois-Chicago describes the festival as “one of the few critical
spaces where writers, critics, and publishers interested in literature
by LGBT persons of African descent can come together to have dialogue
about the state of literary culture, important issues in the African
American community addressed in that literature, and to chart new
political and aesthetic directions.”

Fire & Ink, Incorporated is devoted to increasing the understanding,
visibility and awareness of the works of gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender writers of African descent and heritage. Cotillion is made
possible by major sponsorships from the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for
Justice; the John L. Warfield Center for African and African-American
Studies at the University of Texas at Austin; and ALLGO,
a Texas statewide queer people of color organization. Other sponsors
include the International Federation of Black Prides and the Law Firm of
Francés Jones, P.C.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Call for Submissions: And Then It Shifted: Women Open Up About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010)

Call for Submissions
Working Title:
And Then It Shifted: Women Open Up About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010)
2,000-4,000 words
Payment: Upon publication. Amount will vary, depending on experience and other variables ($50 and up). Please include a list of any previous publication credits with your query or submission. Contributors will also receive two copies of the published book.
Deadline: December 1, 2009. That said, we strongly encourage you to send us a query well beforehand, so that we can review it, give you helpful feedback, and have a good sense of what will be coming our way that month. If you are able to submit the piece earlier, we prefer that you do.
Editors: Candace Walsh and Laura André. Candace Walsh is the editor of the recently released anthology Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On (
As Dr. Lisa Diamond’s recent groundbreaking book Sexual Fluidity makes clear, women’s sexual desire and identity are capable of shifting. Cynthia Nixon, Carol Leifer, Wanda Sykes, Portia de Rossi, and countless others have left the fold of heterosexual identity to enter into or pursue same-sex relationships.
 Although this book will evolve as we receive submissions, we welcome first-person, literary non-fiction essays from women
1) who were aware that they had always felt robust same-sex desires, but wanted to try to make it work in the straight world, and also
2) who identified as heterosexual at one time, but found that the situation they were in just naturally led to embarking on an intimate romantic relationship with a woman.
We seek a diversity of voices, and welcome submissions from a variety of perspectives.
We also welcome essays from women who don’t fit precisely into the above descriptions.
Here are some questions that we’d like answered in your piece. It may be one of the questions, or you may touch on most of them, and throw in some extra, great stuff that didn’t even occur to us. Please don’t feel like this is an essay question test and that you have to cover them all—we want the format of your essay to feel organic and not be explicitly dictated by our questions.
How did you come to your moment of truth?
Did your perception of yourself change?
Do you feel that others’ perceptions of you changed? Did they surprise you with either an unexpected positive or negative reaction? How did this affect you? Did their reactions change over time?
Do you feel like you surrendered heterosexuality or elements of heterosexual privilege? Do you feel like your new life with a woman has yielded rewards? What were the rewards you expected and which ones were surprises?
What do you miss? What do you not miss? Everything from in the bedroom to out at dinner, at a wedding, as a parent, as a family member, at the gym, in the workplace, on a picnic—whatever comes up for you.
What is this journey like, in general and for you? How did you feel as you were setting out on it and how do you feel now? How do you mark your progress? Were there stages? Illustrative moments? Looking back, do you feel like you went through certain phases?
What is it like to shift your identity? What about you is the same and always will be? What about you has changed or altered?
How did you feel as you began your relationship with a woman? Did you get flak from individuals who second-guessed you? Did you feel like you had to prove yourself? How did you keep your internal balance?
How did your socialization as a straight woman prepare you (ill or well) for pursuing a woman or being in a relationship with a woman?
How did your cultural/religious/racial/ethnic background shape your experience?
Do you like, or are you attracted to certain things that your partner or girlfriend, or gay women do that are traditionally labeled as masculine? Feminine?
How do you define yourself? Do you feel like the current “labels” work for you or that what you are is not yet defined by a word or phrase? What paradigm do you imagine?
Are you still with the woman you left your previous relationship for? Was she just a catalyst, or a rebound, or something else, or “the one”?
As editors, we value specificity, detail, “showing, not telling,” honesty, epiphanies, clean, polished, yet real and un-prettied-up writing, and the sharing of insights.
Please send your submission (Word document, double-spaced), along with a short bio and full contact information to: