Writing contests have long been a great way for young writers to get noticed, but Deborah Owen’s Creative Writing Institute’s latest flash fiction contest implemented rules to make sure the content of that writing doesn’t include any “swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, LGBTQ.” First of all, huge shoutout to Deborah for the inclusion of the “Q” at the end of the acronym; it’s great to see queer inclusion. However, while many might be curious why a writing institute felt the need to put both “swearing” and “profanity,” the real issue is obviously the inclusion of LGBTQ in that same category.
The contest, which ends on Halloween (which is insult to injury for LGBTQ writers, given that Halloween is the gayest holiday), is apparently in celebration of the institute’s tenth anniversary. After the contest rules were spread around social media, they were amended to move LGBTQ from the “swearing” and “profanity” section, instead being placed into the “[w]e are not interested in the following genres” section, along with “sexual scenes” and “romance in general.”
Far be it for this humble politics and music site to tell a writing institute, which offers classes and workshops that cost hundreds of dollars, how to handle their flash fiction contests, but one has to question the thought process behind being so brazenly bigoted. I reached out to Deborah via email. As I promised her, here is the full text of our interview (my commentary is in italics):
I am writing an article on the Creative Writing Institutes latest "Flash Fiction" contest, specifically the choice to include among the original rules "no LGBTQ." Would you like to comment on why this choice was made? Why was the choice made to amend this to "LGBTQ – some have asked if they can use gay characters. It depends on the story and how it is written. The judges will make that determination." What specifically, within the new current rules regarding LGBTQ characters, would determine whether a "gay character" can be used?
I plan on submitting my article tomorrow, so if you plan on commenting please plan on doing it before then.
I'm sure you won't print the whole story or you would have asked about the threats I have received, the interview the gays disrupted, how my personal mailbox is jammed, my name and writing school slandered, the pictures I've received and the lewd stories being stuffed down our throats. Are you sure you want the whole story - or just the side you prefer?
I do not plan on omitting anything and would love more information. Aside from my initial questions, I would love to know:
First, what is the nature of the threats? Do you have any proof? Have you filed a police report? How was your interview disrupted? How do you know the orientation of those that disrupted it? Can you quantify "jammed" in terms of your mailbox? How has your school been slandered?
Dylan, I have neither the strength nor the desire to supply ammo for a one-sided story.
This whole story is one sided. There is a clear right and wrong. There’s no middle ground to find.
I have answered most emails personally for three days, but that has to stop. The gay community will not be happy until they change my rules to read as they please - but that is not going to happen.
I just want to point out the “gay community” is a hilarious identifier here. What happened to LGBTQ?
Every contest has parameters. When I am about to enter a contest, I read the guidelines and I either abide by them or I go elsewhere.
Vote with your pen!
We welcome everyone, but
“We welcome everyone, but” is like the motto of Christians that want to hate the ‘gay community’ but don’t want to be thought of as a bigot.
[We] are not looking for LGBTQ issues or themes, horror, romance of any kind, sci-fi, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, robotic, futuristic stories, and perhaps a few other things. We are looking for homespun stories well told.
Homespun stories about straight folks doing straight folk things.
Many in the gay community have said they can't write anything else. If so, maybe this isn't the contest for them.
Here in lies the actual crux of Deborah’s misunderstanding of the frustration. Members of the queer community that enjoy writing actually spend most of their lives not writing about queer themes. At every level of academic writing, passive deference is always given to generic or so-called universal themes. This might be one of the few contests to overtly state their distaste for queer themes, but it’s far from the only one with mostly cis het judges preferring cis het stories.
I have been threatened with a cease and desist order, a slander suit, and then there are the lovely emails that say "I hope you die." And yes, I have tons of proof.
In her initial email, Deborah said “the threats I’ve received…” and I guess threat of lawsuit is a threat, but saying “I hope you die” is not, even if it’s pretty close. I only bring this up because recently someone was arrested for saying they hope a politician in Ohio dies.
No, I have not filed a police report and am not likely to do so.
Well, yeah, cause saying “I hope you die” isn’t illegal. A lot of queer individuals would be able to file charges if that were the case.
Gays continually disrupted my live interview by sending angry emoticons and a few very nasty remarks.
I didn't have an enemy on planet earth until two days before the interview. They identify themselves as gay or gay supporters, and most of them make a very bad name for the community they supposedly love.
I didn’t have any enemies until I told people I don’t like them lol
I am receiving hundreds of emails and have tried to answer most of the sensible ones. Half of the emails are from extremists using very foul language.
It’s hard to know what she means by “extremism” when she views the existence of queer stories is too scary for her.
My school has had gays on staff and we have gay students. We have always been gay friendly. We treat them like anyone else.
I have a gay friend.
The gay community has started a rumor, for example, that we will not accept a story about a cancer survivor who is involved in violence. No, we don't want violent stories like chain saws cutting off heads and Freddy Krueger enveloping a child in bed, but the story of a cancer survivor fighting a horrid disease would be awesome!
Gays have sent me filthy pictures, lewd stories, called me every name in the dictionary, hounded my friends, and defamed my name.
If there is a god she will publish those stories.
They accuse us of being anti-gay, but we have had gay staff and do have openly gay students. I am 77 years young, sick, and partially handicapped. I know of some people who call themselves Christians and act like anything but, but I'm not one of them.
The liberal thing to say would be to say “you aren’t acting like a Christian” but honestly hating the gays and then being pissed about people pointing that out is pretty Christian.
I am kind to everyone and you will be hard pressed to find anyone who will say differently, but this has become a war.
Is that not a threat or extremist?
One that should have never happened. I do have a message for the gay community:
You are welcome at Creative Writing Institute and we would like to see good creative writing from your community... according to our guidelines.
You honestly can’t make this up.
Don't let the lies of others influence your personal decision to write good fiction.
A great message to any young members of the LGBTQ community who read this.
Dylan James Harper is the Political Editor for CSUITEMUSIC.com
Read more from Dylan at http://www.dylanjamesharper.com