“It’s a coming-out process,” John Medeiros says, referring, of course, to participation in the GLBT Reading Series that he cohosts. Medeiros adds, with a wry chuckle, “It’s a queer person who’s coming out as a writer.”
The series is presented by Intermedia Arts, which describes itself as “Minnesota’s premiere multicultural, multidisciplinary arts center.”
In essence, it’s a multifaceted story factory that dispenses modern lore, according to Intermedia, “through visual arts, theater, dance, music media, literature—from folk arts to hip-hop culture.”
As for the GLBT Reading Series, it’s meant to create safe haven for GLBT writers and GLBT audiences to explore the day-to-day material of life without censorship of any stripe.
“It’s a community-based literary arts program,” Medeiros elaborates. “It’s people in the community volunteering, people in the community coming to hear this.”
Series copromoter Andrea Jenkins explains, “This is a chance for writers to build an audience, to build their confidence in a public way. The series is a testament to the queer community, but it also validates and creates a historical footprint for the thoughts, the ideals, and the goals we have.”
Medeiros beams, “What Andrea and I have been doing since 2005 is featuring two writers per month, and we have not missed a month. The reading takes place the fourth Wednesday of every month at 7 PM. The events are free and open to the public.”
A reading series needs something to be read, and before something can be read, it first must be written.
Medeiros notes, “The writers are either beginning, or intermediate, or emerging, or well-established, depending on who wants to read on any given month. We believe that anyone could be a writer. We welcome that. We welcome the beginning writer into the series. We welcome the experienced writer into the series. It’s very informal, and it’s always, always, always supportive.”
So, which readees attend these readings?
Jenkins characterizes them in this way: “Friends and family of the writers, members of the queer community who are writers themselves, and members of the queer community who are readers and appreciators of arts and literature.”
Medeiros continues, “We also have a lot of queer students who come. Hamline University especially really promotes this within their literary programs. In fact, some of the instructors have sent their students as part of their requirements to come listen to us.”
The line between reader and readee, however, is rendered deliberately blurry by a postreading question-and-answer session.
Medieros points out, “What we do after the reading is that we open it up for questions and answers, because we know there are a lot of queer writers out there in the audience who have questions about what it means to be a queer writer, about writing from that perspective, and writing about that experience. The Q-and-A section is really important, because it keeps the reading from being ‘us and them.’”
Sometimes, a kind of meta-art binds the readers to each other.
As Medeiros puts it, “Even though we can say that we feature two writers each month, there are times we try to make it a theme. One month, we might feature queer youth, so we might get people who are connected with that community. Another month, we featured queer Native Americans. That was the month of November , so we could enter in the Thanksgiving season with just bit of a different perspective. We try to reach out to subcommunities within the GLBT community, but also the larger community, as well.”
This outreach will take on a very specific form during the last weekend in June.
“We’re going to have a booth at Pride this year, Medeiros announces. “What we really want to do is be a very visible part of the larger Pride celebration. [The GLBT Reading Series] is something a lot of people don’t know about, yet it keeps growing. Each month, we keep getting more and more and more interest.”
A special Pride-oriented reading will feature writing alumni from the previous year’s GLBT readings.
“The reading will take place on June 25, 7 PM, at the Central Library in Downtown Minneapolis,” Mederios relates.
But that’s just the most mere aspect of Intermedia Arts’s Pride presence.
Jenkins elaborates, “At our Pride booth, we’ll be writing a community poem. We want to have fun, but we also want to build community.”
And that sense of community-building is at the very core of the GLBT Reading Series.
Mederiros insists, “It’s really about writers—queer writers—supporting each other.”
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