Recent Visits

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Recent Visits

Trebor Healey Visits with Southern California GSA students

trebartaudfaceTrebor Healey recently visited the GSA offices in Southern California for their monthly meeting with GSA representatives from Southern California.  Following a short introduction by Lambda Literary Foundation Executive Director, Tony Valenzuela, Healey conducted over an hour long writing workshop with the students. LGBT Writers in Schools hopes to highlight many more visits with GSAs in the future.

Here’s what the some of the students had to say:

“It’s vital to keep our culture and history alive. It is who we were, who we are, and who we will soon be.” – Brenda Saldañer, 17

“Students are already going through a lot of self-discovery, it’s good to know they have understanding role models.” – Alejandra Alfaro, 17

“It’s important for our stories to be told and for queer and trans youth to see representation in books.” – Dean, 17

emily danforth Visits with College of New Jersey

emily_danforth_smDr. Emily Meixner’s class, LGBTQ Young Adult Literature, had another great LGBT Writers in Schools author visit.  Emily Danforth joined the class via Skype to discuss her novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. The students asked emily about many aspects of her novel and enjoyed emily’s personality. Set in rural Montana in the early 1990s, emily m. danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a powerful and widely acclaimed YA coming-of-age novel in the tradition of the classic Annie on My Mind which not only explores sexual identity, but also loss, grief and redemption.

Here’s what the students had to say:

“This book is a definite must-read among high school and college students.” – Alexis McCaughlin, 21

“Cameron feels more like a friend than a character; it was hard to put the book down because it was so brilliantly real.” – Megan Carr, 21

“It’s important that LGBT writers to be in schools because there is still so much that people don’t know or don’t understand about the community. People may think that if they aren’t LGBT it doesn’t apply to them, but there’s a lot to learn.” – Christine Albischer, 21

“It’s vital for students to get that direct insight into the writing process so they can better understand it.” – Sam, 21

“Danforth mentioned that she gets emails saying how many people can connect their life experiences to the book; that’s important for school kids to experience.”  – Gabrielle, 20

“Being able to include LGBT Writers in Schools in curriculum helps students connect to the writing of these authors on a deeper level, even if the specifics of the novels don’t parallel our own lives.” – Ashlee Gray, 23

“A book is a safe place and a private experience for readers struggling with similar sexual issues.” – Gina, 21

“It was extremely cool to talk with emily danforth.  It was great to hear her perspective on the novel.  Was a great experience.” – Kelly Weber, 21

“It is important to include a scope of experiences in schools.” – Anon. student, 20

“It is so important to incorporate the works of LGBT writers in schools in order to represent a population that is often mistakenly avoided or overlooked in YA lit.” – Kari Rowe, 21

“LGBTQ writers provide answers to questions silently filling school hallways. It is imperative that these writers be showcased, so LGBTQ youth are given outlets, and so all youth can break the silence.” – Jaclyn Trippe, 21

Alex Sanchez Visits with College of New Jersey

Alex_Sanchez_smOn October 21, 2013, Alex Sanchez did a Skype visit with Dr. Emily Meixner’s LGBTQ Young Adult Literature class to discuss his work, Rainbow Boys.  Rainbow Boys is the first in a trilogy focusing on three teenage boys, coming of age and out of the closet. Alex Sanchez follows these very different high-school seniors as their struggles with sexuality and intolerance draw them into a triangle of love, betrayal, and ultimately, friendship.  Dr. Meixner said the visit exceeded their expectations, “It’s one thing to read and study texts in a college seminar. It’s an entirely different experience when the text’s author is a part of  that conversation. Our understanding was both deepened and challenged as a result of our discussion with Alex Sanchez.”

Here’s what students had to say:

“Even more so than media portrayals (ie. “Will and Grace”), this book provided emotional experiences that pave the way for progress. I enjoyed his genuine and sincere energy!!! Completely unpretentious, which makes me admire him all the more.”

“LGBT Writers in Schools are imperative in schools in order to empower young adults to stand up for gay and lesbian friends and classmates.”

“I think this experience helps to ground literature students – we often get so wrapped up in analysis that we forget some of the heart that goes into the work, and how the creative process can be more organic than intentional.”

“I believe it is vital to talk with these authors who are shedding some light on a subject that has been ignored/unaddressed for so long. Thank you, Alex Sanchez!”

“Alex Sanchez talked about how everyone experiences homophobia and may be kept from their passions because of it, especially in schools.”

“It is of extreme importance that LGBT Writers in Schools continue to do their work. I learned so much from my conversation with Alex Sanchez.”

“This experience allowed me to connect with an author who gave me the opportunity to become involved in a world I was unfamiliar with.”

“Books by LGBTQ writers, especially those about LGBTQ youth, are significant in schools because they provide an outlet for students that may not have one. These books tell kids it’s okay to be who they are in a society that says otherwise. As an aspiring teacher, I know I will fight to teach these books.”

Nancy Garden Visited Western Washington University Via Skype

Nancy Garden had a Skype session with Kristin Mahoney’s Young Adult Literature class.  The students, Teacher and Nancy felt the visit was a success and Nancy added:

“The students had prepared questions in advance, mostly about my novel, ANNIE ON MY MIND, LGBT-YA literature in general, and writing techniques,and the teacher had given me a list of 22 of them, many of which included more than one question, the night before. I think we covered nearly all of them. I enjoyed answering them and we could easily have spent twice the length of time.”

Kristin was impressed not only with Nancy, but with the value of the LGBT Writers in Schools program, saying, “This program is a fantastic resource for Young Adult Literature courses.  Students have the opportunity to speak with authors of some of the most important LGBTQ YA texts.  Future educators get to questions these authors about approaches to teaching LGBTQ YA fiction in the high schools. Aspiring authors of YA fiction will have the opportunity to discuss the nature of the YA publishing industry with successful writers.  Students interested in literary history will be able to consider the emergence of this literary category and its significance in relationship to the history of YA literature.  This was such a fantastic use of class time.  I would highly recommend this program to other instructors.”

What the students had to say:

“It is important for the expression of all voices to be heard from the authors who beckon to youth with a way to escape narrowed perspectives of currently taught literature and open our eyes to new experiences.”  – Leah Burrous, 21

“I believe that the LGBT community deserves a voice, both in the schools and the wider world, and I believe that LGBT novels are an effective way of doing this by breaking down stereotypes and offering readers a broader perspective.”  – Will Crow, 22

“LGBTQ literature is just as important of a subject as race, history and class differences.”  – Hannah, 20

“When I was middles and high schools, we never once touched on LGBT literature.  I think this organization does something incredible by giving students access to material that doesn’t get read enough in classrooms.”  – Kayla Derbyshire, 19

“As we learned from Nancy Garden, there isn’t an absence of LGBT authors or books being written, there’s an absence in them being published to the politics of who will read them.  It’s important to be able to visualize those authors and really know they’re out there.”  – Gary Newlin, 19

“Establishing a connection with the author gives students and teachers the chance to open up a dialogue about the LGBT experience and what needs still need to be addressed in queer literature.”  – Rose, 20

“LGBT writers lend a voice to young adults who may or may not be struggling in their everyday life.  They give them answers and advice.  Noe matter who you are, everything is alright!”  – Colin Bernhardt, 22

“LGBT Writers in Schools encourages future educators to use LGBT fiction in their course work and help students, as Nancy Garden said, “‘to be okay with being who they are.'”  – Courtney Knotsman, 22

“Bridging the gap of acceptance for LGBT Youth is of monumental importance, and we can only begin this journey towards a better tomorrow in our schools.”  – Taylor Martin, 20

“Nancy Garden was outstanding.  To see such a moving presentation about issues so unfair and challenged, I wish time would have lasted longer.  Her words brought tears to my eyes.”  – Austin Harris, 22

“Literature is a very influential medium.  I can challenge ideas as well as develop and reaffirm them.  Through the medium of books and novels, LGBT writers show the youth of the nation that love is not hetero-exclusive.”  – Riley Fraser, 20

“LGBT writers focus on the coming out of teens and adolescents–this message goes beyond the narrative of the figurative closet–and is very much as universal as it is powerful to youth.”  – Alex Rubsenberger, 21

“LGBT writers are necessary in schools because the books can be highly influential for someone wanting to come out or isn’t sure.  LGBT books are great for everyone, too!”  – Caley Mintkin, 21

nancy GardenNancy Garden at the Gay/Straight Alliance of Etiwanda High School

Nancy skyped with Karman Vega’s Gay/Straight Alliance and here are a few of the reactions:

Students said:

 “It’s important to provide LGBT writers because it shows more diversity as well as showing that ‘hey, I can do it too!’” -Cynthia Gradilla

“The best part of the presentation would be when Nancy told us about how she fell in love and the experience that she went through. I learned that it’s good how you express yourself and things should have a happy ending.”

“I will use what I learned from Nancy’s visit to love without exceptions.”

“She seemed to connect with everyone.”

“Yes, I think it(the presentation) would help straight people to understand gay people and how they should treat us like equals.”

“I want to make her cookies.”

Teacher, Karman Vega,  said:

When asked, “What information did the writer provide that you can use in your classes?”

“We asked Nancy advice about some of the student athletes at our school who have a coach that make it difficult for them to be openly gay. When asked to be interviewed for the yearbook about being a lesbian couple, two female JV basketball players declined, stating not their family, but their coach as a major reason why they could not do so.  Nancy was able to give us ideas of how our GSA Club can support student who are too shy to join us at meetings. As an elder advocate and activist, she didn’t mind giving me, as a teacher, ideas of how to reach out to young people and staff who are biased.”

nick burdNick Burd at the Gay/Straight Alliance of Etiwanda High School

Nick Burd was on of the authors requested by the Gay/Straight Alliance of Etiwanda High School to Skype with them during one of their meetings. The school librarian, Karman Vega, who organized the visit, said, “Nick was right on par with these young adults. He spoke with them about their real life both during the visit and in his book. Several of the teens remarked that his writing was better than others in the LGBTQ genre that didn’t seem real to them. They identified with his characters and felt that he really understood them from the inside based on his own experience growing up.” About the value of the program, Karman added:

Having a young author like Nick Burd interacting with my young adults was an experience of a lifetime. This is potentially THE most important thing I will ever do with my life, connecting eager young adult reader/writers to their heroes. Inspiring does not even begin to describe the feeling. This is REAL for them. They crave this kind of attention in a way we may never fully understand. They not only learned from him, they opened up to him, and the mystery of who authors are, who LGBTQ authors are, was revealed. No magic, just conversation, is so important. The authors are who they will become in the future and the future never looked so bright.”

[box]Nick Burd is a writer/music fan living in Brooklyn. Author of the novel The Vast Fields of Ordinary. I love books, Batman, and the beach. Website: http://nick-burd.com.[/box]
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noel alumit

Noel Alumit at Tatnall High School

Noel Alumit skyped with Noelle Levy’s Comparative Literature which were studying minority voices in the U.S. Ms. Levy thought her class truly benefited from the visit, adding, “The students filled out an evaluation with the question ‘Has your world view changed at all from taking this class?’ One of the students wrote, ‘I no longer look down on gay or bisexual people.’ At our school, there are no openly gay students, and this is something we talked about in class before the interview. We really appreciate Noel being so open with the students, because I don’t think they’ve ever been able to ask anyone those kinds of questions before. It was extremely valuable that he was willing to hold that space and to allow the students to experience his life and stories from his point of view.”

Here’s what students had to say about Noel’s visit:

“From the ages of 2-3 Noel said he noticed he was different. His family was accepting of him being gay, which was really interesting to me.”

“The way that Noel explained his experiences it seemed that being gay is just as natural as being heterosexual.”

“I never really looked before at writing and thought about the person behind it who thought about it and put it on paper. I enjoyed hearing the author speak from his perspective rather than just hearing the point of view of the readers. When he explained the experimental quality of his story, it made me understand his process and why he wrote it that way.”

“I liked how he put so much of his own life into his writing and was open with us about his struggles.”

“I liked how he related writing fiction to acting and taking on a persona that isn’t your own.”

“I liked that he was genuinely interested in our responses to his stories and questions.”

[box]Noel Alumit had published two novels, Letters to Montgomery Clift and Talking to the Moon. His play Mr. and Mrs. La Questa Go Dancing has been produced in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. His one man shows, The Rice Room: Scenes from a Bar and Master of the (miss) Universe received critical acclaim across the United States. He has also contributed to Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing and Take Out, Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America. Website: http://www.noelalumit.com/ [/box]

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chris bramChristopher Bram at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County

Christopher Bram spoke with Dr. Pruitt’s class, an independent study on the contemporary gay male American novel, via skype. Dr. Pruitt said that Mr. Bram’s visit was a huge success with the students, saying, “He was humble, conversational and interesting for the whole hour. We discussed how gay fiction has changed since the 1960s and about the recent rise of gay detective fiction, which I can take with me to future classes.

Mr. Bram also found the visit valuable:

“I had a wonderful conversation with a class in Wisconsin about a novel I feared was forgotten–and I didn’t have to leave my New York apartment. Because we Skyped, I did have to shave and put on pants, but the experience was easy, enjoyable and very enlightening. The teacher and students asked excellent questions. The LGBT Writers in Schools is a great program. I recommend it to everyone.”

[box]Christopher Bram is the author of nine novels including Gossip, Exiles in America and Father of Frankenstein, about film director James Whale, was made into the movie Gods and Monsters starring Ian McKellen, Lynn Redgrave, and Brendan Fraser. His latest nonfiction work is Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America. Bram was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001. In May 2003, he received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. Website: http://www.christopherbram.com/site/Christopher_Bram.html.[/box]

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Rita Mae ReeseAuthorBlue

Rita Mae Reese at University of Memphis

Rita Mae Reese spoke with Dr. Brandy Wilson’s literature class via Skype. Brandy said the visit was fantastic and that her students enjoyed it.

[box]Rita Mae Reese is the author of The Alphabet Conspiracy, which was just awarded the Drake Emerging Writers Award for 2012. Rita Mae has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Stegner fellowship, and a “Discovery”/The Nation award. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Website: http://www.ritamaereese.com/Rita_Mae_Reese/home.html[/box]

 

 

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