Courtney began publishing her writing several years before pursuing her MFA. Since 2005, she has published essays, short stories, and book reviews in various publications and anthologies, including Spinner, The Huffington Post, After Ellen (MTV’s lesbian pop culture blog), Lambda Literary Review, and Kirkus Reviews. In 2006 she contributed to the Lambda Award-winning anthology The Full Spectrum (Knopf) and the YA anthology Truth And Dare (Running Kids Press 2011). Her essay “You Want A Social Life With Friends” was shortlisted for the PRISM International Nonfiction prize in 2012. And, most recently, her essay, “How to Like Girls” was accepted by The Masters Review.
Courtney’s Website: http://courtneygillette.com/
Follow Courtney on Twitter: @courtneyaj
Courtney graduated from Lesley University on June 29th (Congratulations!), and she was selected by the rest of her cohort as their Student Speaker! Here is some of what she said to them:
“It may be unconventional to give a graduation speech in which I suggest we all not graduate. But there’s nothing conventional about getting an MFA in Creative Writing, either. I’ve got it all planned out. There’s going to be a third year for us, and it starts today. Tuition, for this third year, is free. Deadlines will be the same, the first Monday of every month. And while this third year cannot afford us the loving guidance of our faculty mentors, we can press ‘send’ on manuscripts to each other. If we’ve done this for the last two years, why can’t we do it for one more? One more year of neglecting the yard work or the bathroom that needs to be repainted, one more year of living with a roommate while we work part-time, or rising at five a.m. to write before leaving for our day job. One more year of banging out drafts the day before they’re due. One more year of pushing ourselves, of cheering each other on, of sitting and doing that work that drove us here.”
“I think all writers can find publications that they get very excited about and that they know they belong to.”
“Everything I write is going to be gay. Even if it’s an essay about my mother having breast cancer, it’s going to be a gay essay about my mother having breast cancer.”
[On Grad School] “It was the accelerator I needed.”
Who’d we talk about this time?
- Lorrie Moore (new short story collection)
- A.M. Homes
- Lauren Groff
- Emma Donahue
- David Levithan & Billy Merrill
- Pamela Petro (“I would do a whole interview just singing her praises!”)
- Suzanne Berne
- Valencia by Michelle Tea (“It blew my mind in terms of what I thought queer people were allowed to write.”)
- The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
- Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary (“Good old Ramona. She was straight, right?”)
- The Creative Writing MFA Handbook by Tom Kealey (There is also now a Low Residency Creative Writing MFA Handbook by Lori A. May.)
Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet. ~ Cheryl Strayed, Dear Sugar
Before we give our episodes a green light here at The Postmasters Podcast, we do allow our guests to give their audio files a preview. After Courtney listened to her interview post-edit, she was excited, but reticent about one moment at about 8:35.
“You guys cite that I’ve written a lot about gender identity, but actually I think the better phrase is sexuality, concerning the LGBT pubs I’ve written for.”
Courtney, of course, is absolutely right. “Gender identity” and “sexuality” are different, and we (Audrey & Lacy) do know the difference. But the way I (Audrey) interchanged the two terms is evidence enough that, though we live in an increasingly enlightened society, there remains to be confusion around the matter, even in the minds of those with the best intentions. So, I apologize for broad-brushing. That said, since I’m the one who misspoke (and because I managed to correct the statement moments later) we decided, with Courtney’s approval, to let the interview go live as-is.
We want to keep these conversations with writers at every level of personal success as real as possible. This means that, so long as we don’t inadvertently insult or undermine anyone, we’ll keep the interviews quite close to the original content and structure. It can’t hurt to remind our audience (and ourselves) that there exists a rich diversity within the catchall acronym of LGBT. Nor is it a negative thing to admit that we (Audrey & Lacy) are still learning about the nuances of queer culture in the writing world. Let’s learn together!