Applications due January 16

Lambda Literary has announced their new writers for their queer writer retreat, bringing back another chance for LGBT writers to strengthen their skills, build connections and get published.

The retreat this year, which will run from July 24 to July 31, will feature authors like Andrew Holleran, who wrote “Dancer from the Dance,” and Robert O’Hara who won the NAACP Best Director Award. It will be another chance for eager writers of all ages to practice their skills with the best.

Tony Valenzuela, the executive director of Lambda Literary, said two of the biggest changes in the event, other than the new faculty, are the increased number of applicants and increased number of workshops.

The organization now offers five faculty led workshops in fiction, nonfiction, genre fiction (this year, “young adult fiction”), poetry and playwriting. Valenzuela said that originally only fiction, nonfiction and poetry workshops were offered.

“We also get many more applications (hundreds) as the Retreat has grown in popularity and prestige,” he said. “It’s become more competitive.”

The Retreat has also been opened up to the past students who can return as “Writers in Residence” and work on a project without faculty led workshops. Valenzuela said usually three to four writers in residence attend each year.

Bryan Borland attended the event in 2015, and he said he’d do it again, if he weren’t so busy because of the opportunity last year’s event presented him.

“While at my retreat, I met Fellow Marcos L. Martinez who is the editor for Stillhouse Press,” he explained. “He convinced me to send my manuscript-in-progress, DIG, to him after the retreat, and it was accepted by Stillhouse for publication in September, 2016.”

With the new book recently published, he said he will be spending his free time on a book tour. He said the event changed his life, but it also presented a teaching moment.

“It was like being in an alternate, wonderful reality,” he said. “It also taught me about the diversity of our own community and how I can be more inclusive of that diversity both as a writer and publisher.”

The retreat, Valenzuela shared, is actually the only queer writers’ residency in the country, and it’s open to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“At Lambda’s retreat, the faculty and students are queer, and the writers spend less time ‘explaining’ queerness, which happens far too often in other workshops,” he said.

Borland said this helped him a lot.

“It’s worth attending just to see how your creative side reacts, what ideas appear, what happens when your defenses are down when all of your peers have shared a little bit of your own experience,” he said, “when there’s no need to ‘come out,’ when there’s no need for explanation.”

The new staff, Andrew Holleran (fiction), Joy Ladin (poetry), Robert O’Hara (playwriting), Benjamin Alire Saenz (young adult fiction) and Sarah Schulman (nonfiction) will help the writers grown.

“The students are mentored by successful, leading LGBT authors,” Valenzuela said.

He said the retreat is also a place where writers find community, leaving the week with about sixty new friends, many of whom they can count on for support throughout their writing careers.

Borland said this was true for him.

“With every new poem I write, I hear the voices of my workshop group in my head,” he said. “I hear Paul Tran saying, ‘We’ve got to be careful with our metaphors.’ I hear Kazim Ali saying, ‘All poems are performance poems.’ I walked out of that workshop with twelve new perspectives. And I apply those perspectives to everything I write.”

Applications for the retreat are open until Jan. 16, 2016. You can apply at the Lambda Literacy website. Scholarships are also offered.