As with 2020, there’s nothing ordinary about this year’s OutWrite, the annual literary festival presented on the first weekend of August by The DC Center. Prior to the pandemic and the need to take the festival in a safety-first, all-virtual direction, the in-person, weekend-spanning OutWrite featured assorted workshops, panels, and dedicated areas where LGBTQ authors met face-to-face with readers in the hopes of adding just one more book to their shelves at home.
OutWrite 2021 authors can still sell their works through an inspired (and inspiring) online sales platform hosted by the local, LGBTQ-owned Loyalty Books working in partnership with BookShop.org (visit www.bookshop.org/lists/outwrite-2021 to purchase or pre-order from a special list dedicated to the festival). But there is once again no face-to-face interaction at this year’s event, which runs August 6 to 8, and all its readings and panels will occur in a virtual space.
The plus side, says OutWrite 2021’s co-chair Malik Thompson, is that attendees no longer have to pick and choose which events to attend, as everything can be revisited after its original online “broadcast” date.
“These virtual events will be recorded so they can be returned to if you don’t get to see everything you want to see on the day of,” says Thompson. “I think having it be less ephemeral is a huge, huge, huge boon to the community and to the culture and to the archives.”
Thompson also trumpets the fact that OutWrite’s virtual aspect expands its borders beyond the immediate D.C. region.
“There are so many queer people who don’t live in D.C. who can now attend just by sitting down at their computer and plugging in headphones,” says the 25-year-old D.C. native. “It gives people access to queer community and queer spaces.”
Thompson, along with co-chair Marlena Chertock, took over stewardship of the festival from longtime organizer Dave Ring, who stepped down following last year’s event. “Marlena and I are both writers — poets,” notes Thompson. “And Marlena is also a speculative fiction writer, as well.” (Fun fact: the pair share a birthday on August 16.)
Thompson and Chertock have assembled a powerful roster of panels, including “A Decade In Queer Publishing,” co-moderated by noted playwright Rikki Beadle-Blair, who authored the screenplay for the 1995 version of Stonewall; “Gay Today: Reflecting on Modern Gay Life in Literature,” featuring writers Brontez Purnell, Eddy Boudel Tan, and Zak Salih; and “Some Like It Hot,” an interactive panel of female LGBTQ authors discussing romance and sex between women in literary works.
Michael Dumlao, Stephen Salvatore, and Patrick Earl Ryan, a winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, will participate in “Queer Debut Authors,” in which they’ll discuss their experiences of queerphobia in the publishing industry. In “Writing Trans Characters: Beyond Disguises & Deceptions,” Robyn Gigi, Edwin Hill, Dharma Kelleher, and Maddox Pennington will lay out methods for developing complex and sensitively drawn trans characters in crime fiction. And Christopher Bram, Brian Malloy, and John Medeiros are featured on the “Writing the AIDS Generation” panel to discuss the impact of HIV/AIDS in LGBTQ literature. And then there are an abundance of readings from LGBTQ authors of all stripes.
For a complete listing of readings and panels, including dates and initial times, click here.
“I am personally really looking forward to the Queer Boys Behaving Badly panel,” says Thompson. “It features Eric Ngyen, who is local and has written his debut novel. It was published a couple of months ago and is getting a lot of attention. I’m also really interested in hearing Brontez Purnell speak in the ‘Gay Today’ panel. He was a punk rocker back in the early aughts and has written multiple books about those experiences and just has a very iconoclastic presence in the social media realm.”
Again, Malik stresses that “all of the events are being recorded, so I want to encourage people to experience what they feel drawn to at any given moment. And if they feel drawn to another event at a later moment, please attend that later.”
Since 2018, Metro Weekly has been helping set the table for OutWrite by publishing excerpts of poetry and prose created by its participants. Click the link below to access by these 19 talented, diverse LGBTQ voices. So grab a cup of tea, your favorite tablet, and enjoy the read.
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