The Dog Whisperer Writes in Scene: Literary Lessons from the Dog Training Trenches

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The Myth of the Real Deal

My friend and the teacher who brought me back to writing, Jenn Berney, with a succinct, intelligent response to the inflammatory Mr. Boudinot.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Well, if you can't impress me, you're never going to make it!Well, if you can’t impress me, you’ll never make it!

A guest post from Jennifer Berney:

When I entered my MFA program in 2003, I hoped I might be a literary success in the making. Though I had only written a handful of short stories, I imagined that a two-year writing program would provide me with the structure I needed to complete a book-length manuscript, and after that I’d have it made. I’d find an agent and land a publishing contract. I might not make the bestseller list right away, but I’d have a steady, respectable career. At the time, this seemed like a reasonable dream.

Surely I was the kind of student that Ryan Boudinot writes about in his recent essay in The Stranger, “Things I Can Say About MFA Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One,” in which he groups his former students into…

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Me and Tzinta Attempt To Burn Down The House (A Conversation)

So, something I think about a lot and discuss frequently in domicile with my paramour and fellow artiste, Migueltzinta Solis, is WHY DOES THE QUEER WORLD HATE ART??

Ok, not hate. Distrust. Outside of a limited range, queer culture is extremely suspicious of art, which I just feel is fucking sad, considering the influential, powerful queer artists of previous generations (Wojnarowicz, Baldwin, Cahun, Stein, Langston Hughes, etc). Anyway, it sucks to be a politically-minded/aware homo coming up these days because all your friends are like, Cool! Design a propaganda poster for my upcoming fundraiser! And then you’re like, uh, actually, I want to get my MFA and write a literary novel, they give you a vast and endless sea of shade. Kaput, friendships or else, kaput dreams. Thus a generation of queer novelists writing on the smallest range of topics imaginable (mostly romance, transition, drugs and childhood trauma), because these are condoned by the social circus. WHEN INSTEAD WE COULD BE BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE OF ART AND REBUILDING IT IN OUR OWN IMAGE. WTF??

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But actually, a much more cogent and entertaining analysis of this topic–along with similar issues faced by writers of color, can be found on the Apogee Journal blog, where Migueltzinta and myself go at it politely. Check it out.

LDB: So, what I think we’re saying is that there’s a silent/subtle expectation about the work we (female-socialized queer creative types) should be doing. e.g.: therapy, social work, elementary school teacher, homeless advocate, activist, fundraiser, nurse, healthy food-providers–any of the traditional female professions would be considered acceptable by that community. Slam poet, yes. Novelist, no. Not unless you publish on an explicitly queer press and direct your work toward an exclusively queer audience.

MCS: Right. I imagine my “appropriate” work would involve activism, slam poetry, Chicano poetry circa Gloria Anzaldúa/Luis Rodriguez. Which had it’s time! Without those minds we would not be where we are now. But, these categories are not at all good representations of what I do. It makes me really mad that people have these bizarre expectations of my work. Old school Chicano poetry is so straight and, honestly, I don’t think I have a single slam poetry bone in my damn body. What’s worse, I have the most inconsistent and, just, the most shady politics ever.

Ok, and then, artists, go apply to this residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal. It’s a month in Guadalajara, free once you pay for your plane ticket and you spend it with four other artists working in all mediums. I’m about to head there myself. If you’re a queer artist, especially a female, trans or POC artist, please don’t second-guess this opportunity based on some kind of received political analysis. Allowing yourself to participate in international dialogues via travel (even–sin of sins–spending your hardearned $$ on such a journey), widens your perspective, forges allyships and makes your work more complex, riskier and ultimately more powerful. And yeah, some of your peers might respond with skepticism–but ask yourself, who does it serve when female-bodied queers make ourselves shrink?

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