Looking for information on how to apply to Queer Words Project Scotland? You'll find that in this post down below. Meanwhile, read on to find out why QWPS matters and, if you've convinced yourself it's not for you, why we'd like you to reconsider.
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We know how it goes. The perfect opportunity comes up, and you're so ready to apply... but excuses spring up like weeds: Your work is too plain, or too weird; you're not good enough to apply, or you've moved just beyond what the opportunity requires; perhaps you just flat-out can't handle the possibility of another rejection. Whatever the reason, that deadline comes and goes because you think it's not for you.
Everyone's been there - but when you're queer, sometimes it feels like you live there.
In preparation for QWPS, we ran a survey which asked: when we force ourselves out of that doubting headspace and into our communities and art, do we feel welcome? In the poetry we read, the stories we write, the industry we have to engage with, whether as willing participants or anti-establishment mavericks - can we see our queer selves represented, assisted, valued? If so, is it comprehensive enough?
If you're reading this post - heck, if you read anything at all - you probably already know the answer. While we can't share specific experiences presented to us in the survey due to privacy restrictions, we do have some general graphs to back us up. Here comes the science bit...
Predictably the results were a mixture of hopeful and frustrated. While cisgender queer writers and readers want to see work that breaks from familiar stereotypes of gay, bi and lesbian lives, the voices of trans, genderqueer, intersex and asexual writers are almost entirely absent. More than a couple of professional writers reported their work had been rejected because it wouldn't sell as well, citing too many queer identities. Others feared being pigeonholed as queer writers and pitched to a niche market. Still others found their work criticised for not playing to well-worn and easily-pitched representations, as if their queerness was meant to be as comfortable to the general reader as a butt-groove in an old sofa. No. Thank. You.
As the responses stacked up, the catch-22 of minority representation became ever clearer. In order to make creative work sustainable, never mind lucrative, our art must often scrub itself clean of specificity and variety. But in doing so we risk betraying the audience who needs to experience that nuance the most. Then again, if representation only moves at the same pace as what the majority accepts, it falls to us to put ourselves out there and push for that shift, all the while knowing that without extra support it's likely we'll not get back from the work anything close to what we put in.
Of course, the extent to which this gets you down depends on your own personal reasons and aspirations for writing, but each one of us at some point has to balance our queerness against what setbacks we're willing to endure. It's a conversation most writers don't have to have with themselves - and that's not even taking into account the extra complications of intersectionality. If it's tricky to navigate queerness in our own work, to simultaneously also be something else - disabled, neurodiverse, a person of colour, working class - can turn those conversations into a storm of doubt strong enough to sink even the hardiest ship.
So what of that extra support? Financial help, or mentoring, or residencies are set up to help writers of all kinds in those negotiations with success. But many writers who replied to our survey confessed they were quick to disqualify themselves from these opportunities - that they couldn't shake the feeling those chances weren't really for them. This was rarely due to a lack of confidence, but a pattern experienced by professional, emerging and casual writers alike. Time and again, they'd shown a specifically queer work in progress to someone who wasn't, and the lack of context made for unhelpful or even downright damaging responses. Even good advice is difficult to accept from someone who just doesn't get what you're trying to achieve.
Queer Words Project Scotland, then, will go some way to breaking this cycle. In pairing queer writers with queer mentors, in creating a space in which queerness is the context of the discussion and not a barrier to it, we hope to enable, discover and platform great writing that might otherwise fall by the wayside.
If you've seen the call for submissions but decided it's not for you, reconsider. QWPS isn't just for you - it's only for you.