Episode 63: Pride Week & LGBTQ Voices

On October 5th, Kasie and Rex welcomed Sheila Morris into the studio to discuss LGBTQ voices in literature and activism. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Pride Weekend & Voices of the LGBTQ Community

Agenda

  • Get to know Sheila Morris
  • LGBTQ activism & literature
photo of person holding multicolored heart decor
Photo by Marta Branco on Pexels.com

Segment 1

Last week we mentioned on the air that this is Pride weekend in Columbia — I know other states do June but it’s too hot here in June. So we do it in October. Anyway, we mentioned on the air we’d love to have a voice from the community on the show and before we’d even signed off, our friend and literary publicist Chris Errol Maw had nominated someone.

Quick plug for Chris — she’s organizing signings and speaking events and readings all over town and she knows everyone. Her monthly event Words & Wine is held the 3rd Tuesday of each month at the Lourie Center,  1650 Park Circle (Maxcy Gregg Park), Columbia, South Carolina 29201.

Okay, so Chris emails me with all your (Sheila) contact info and bio. Here are those details:

“Sheila Morris is the author of 5 nonfiction books including Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing which won the 2008 Golden Crown Literary Society Award in nonfiction. Sheila is also the editor of the anthology Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home that was published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2018. Her blog I’ll call it like I see it has an international following – the perfect venue for her wit and wisdom during the past 8 years. Her latest book Four Ticket Ride is a collection of her blogs plus other thoughts from an aging lesbian. Two short stories were published in the midst of her nonfiction career. Sheila was born and raised in rural east Texas and credits her grandmother Betha on her daddy’s side with her storytelling abilities. She is married to Teresa Williams and lives with her wife and two dogs Spike and Charly in West Columbia, South Carolina.”

Chris Errol Maw really is a kickass publicist. 

Book cover picture for Sheila Morris's new book published by UofSC Press
Book cover picture for Sheila Morris’s new book published by UofSC Press

So, tell us more about you, Sheila. How did you get to SC from Texas? What has your professional life been spent doing? Did you always want to write?

Segment 2

Our show is dedicated to the craft. Rex and I are both novelists and we spend a lot of time talking about the mechanics of writing and the strategies we’ve learned over the years for storytelling, dialogue writing, character building, and even publishing and marketing.

We had two weeks ago a nonfiction author here talking about the difference between a fiction project and a nonfiction project. Perhaps you’d like to weigh in on that?

And we’ve talked extensively about the need for art — whether it’s fiction or poetry or nonfiction or oral storytelling — to show us what life looks like from other angles and perpectives.

That, I think, is what you and I maybe thought we could share today. Last night’s parade and today’s Pride festival is all about visibility to the LQBTQ experience.

Maybe we can riff on that a bit? How does activism in a community bring understanding? Acceptance? Acknowledgement?

You’ve been an activist for a long time. What are the goals of that activism? Are you (or the community) any closer to achieving them?

Segment 3

On Monday night at our Central Libertarians meeting (last Monday of every month at the British Bulldog Pub off Harbison), we hosted Matthew Butler of the Harriet Hancock Center and talked about the growth of the movement here in the Midlands and really in the state. We were preparing our party members for participation in the Pride Festival today — stop by the Libertarian booth if you’re out there on Main Street today — and asked Matthew how we, as a political party, could support the community.

Maybe you have some thoughts on that, Sheila?

We are a writing show, so let’s dig in to the surge in LGBTQ voices in literature lately: 

At SIBA, we heard from Hub City Press’s Cold Mountain Fund Series author Carter Sickels of Lexington Kentucky. His book, The Prettiest Star, is about a young man coming home in 1986 after the AIDS epidemic has devastated his New York City life. 

Do you have some authors you’d recommend? What are you reading?

This blog asks, “Does it matter who writes queer stories?” and says, “Just last year, YA novels were published that explored bisexuality, asexuality, and the complex makeup of our sexual identities. This year saw one book, Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, adapted into the first gay teen movie produced by a major movie studio, Love, Simon. Queer YA literature is blooming.”

There is value in diverse voices, in learning from diverse experiences. How many readers expect their lives to be enriched (themselves to be changed?) by experiencing what these characters describe?

Electric Literature wrote this about Queer voices creating new Queer genres; specifically, the article talkes about fragmented forms, narratives that seem familiar (universal maybe?) but are not necessarily what we think they are. The author suggests there’s anonymity in these forms that speaks to a need to hide or obscure one’s truth.

This piece took issue with LGBTQ art being a segmentation. The writer’s company, Cleis Press, has been publishing queer authors for 35 years. Says the op-ed author, Brenda Knight, their work and the work of an entity they call #OutWriters, has been to enable LGBTQ voices to be heard in mainstream literature:

“The intention of #OutWriters is very simple — being heard. Queer is not a brand or a product; it is a beautiful chorus of voices, louder and prouder than ever before.”

Knight’s piece was in response to this NY Times article suggested publishers and marketers in general reach for the “pink” dollar specifically in the travel industry.

Segment 4

Part of our conversation on Monday night was about how do we — as allies — talk about LGBTQ art and advocacy while not being members of the group. It is our intention to support the artists, the stories and the storytellers. Buy the books, share the books. Bring them to your book club. Reference them in your talks, your lectures, your sermons.

Your blog, I’ll Call it Like I See it is about family and music and art and really just this crazy mixed up life. Kind of like my Life on Clemson Road blog. Why did you start the blog? 

What are you writing now? What are you working on?

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