AWA and G.S.A. Collaborate Held First Ever Creative Writing Cafe Themed, “Queering Your Writing”

Painting titled “Val d’Aosta. Man Fishing” by John Singer Sargent discussed and referenced during the workshop.

One of the pieces, Queer Fish by Mabel Dwight (American artist), that the
writers explored in their writing.

As the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (G.S.A.) weekend continued last weekend, the Andover Writers Alliance (AWA) and the G.S.A. collaborated to host a Creative Writers Cafe at the Addison Gallery of American Art. The cafe served as a place where students and faculty could use their words and creativity for self-expression and exploration, prompted with the theme of “Queering Your Writing.”

One of the coordinators of the AWA, Frank Zhou ’22, explained the purpose behind hosting this Creative Writers Cafe, the intention behind the theme, and what impact he hoped it would have on his fellow students and faculty members.

“The Creative Writing Cafe was an attempt to fill an academic lacuna on campus. Creative writers have opportunities to submit via our campus literary magazine, the Courant, but there are no ways for writers to network or to be in community and solidarity with each other. The creative writing center is an attempt to adjust that—to be able to integrate different influences. This particular installment was inspired by the G.S.A. weekend: having the opportunity to present writing as something that is intersectional and necessarily relevant to whatever we’re doing on campus is even more important given that we’re newly in-person again,” said Zhou.

The writing cafe was centered around writing “creatively,” but as it was a collaboration with the G.S.A. weekend, its greater focus was on the expression of gender identity through arts and literature. Co-advisor of the G.S.A., Corrie Martin, Instructor in English, was also at the cafe last week with AWA, and shared information with students about the idea of queerness and its direct relationship with writing.

“The idea is to queer your writing, to think about how questioning gender and sexuality can change your writer-ly perspective even how you write. You can queer your writing not just the stories you tell and the kinds of characters, but also the way you write. So thinking about how questions of gender and sexuality change your identity as a writer,” said Martin.

During this cafe, writers were given two images with no background information, following a prompt asking them about the pieces’ representation of queerness. Emily Xia, ’22, an international student from Hong Kong, explained that through writing about gender identity, she was able to listen to other writers’ stories and even share her own.

“My main takeaway is that we can see many different perspectives from a single image, from a single painting, and that everyone has so many unique perspectives to share and that’s really important to put it down on paper, to share with the world or just to share with yourself, and I think it’s really wonderful to see because when we’re discussing about an image, everyone is like, ‘What if the aquarium wasn’t an aquarium but a mirror?’ or the different perspectives of the fish,” said Xia.

Kate Horton ’22, who enjoys writing poetry, also attended both the creative writing cafes hosted last week and the week before, and shared how this specific cafe was more streamlined and centered around one specific idea on one topic: queering your writing. This workshop, according to Horton, touched on the universal conversation about queerness and transness. 

“As someone who is a part of the LGBTQ community, it was nice to talk about representation in both literature and art. But also having a conversation, not necessarily all of them were part of the LGBTQ community, about the representation of queerness and transness and how we can incorporate it and be representative of people across the world, but also not alienate it,” said Horton.