Lesbian Writers Fund

Lesbian Writers Fund 2009-2010

The Lesbian Writers Fund provides grants to emerging lesbian poets and fiction writers across the U.S. Grants are determined by a panel of judges. This year, the Fund awarded a total of $26,600 to 12 women whose work shows extraordinary promise in the arenas of fiction and poetry. A portion of these awards was made possible by Skip's Sappho Fund at Astraea. Each year, awards are made from the Lesbian Writers Fund and the Lesbian Visual Arts Fund to artists located west of the Mississippi in posthumous honor of Skip Neal, a lesbian artist and Astraea supporter.

This year’s panelists were: Kristen Hogan and Lisa C. Moore in fiction and Sharon Bridgforth and Pamela Sneed in poetry.

Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Awardee, Poetry | $10,000

Lenelle Moïse | Northampton, MA

» Read “We Alive”

Lenelle Moïse is a Haitian-American poet, playwright, musician and nationally-touring performance artist. Equipped with an MFA in Playwriting from Smith College and a BA from Ithaca College, she creates politicized texts about identity, immigration, spirituality and the intersection of race, class, gender and sexuality. Her writing spans genres from poem to essay to script and has been featured in Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken World Revolution; We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists; and Does Your Mama Know: Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories as well as Utne Reader, Make/shift Magazine, OurChart.com and Velvetpark. Lenelle co-wrote the award-winning feature film Sexual Dependency and her play, Expatriate, was produced Off-Broadway to critical acclaim. Her work has been well-received by the New York Times among others. Curve Magazine calls her debut poetry CD Madivinez "piercing, covering territory both intimate and political...vivid and powerful." In addition to teaching and touring, Lenelle is currently working on a music CD and a poetry manuscript. www.lenellemoise.com

Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Awardee, Fiction | $10,000

Laurel Fantauzzo | Brooklyn, NY

» Read excerpt from "Sometimes There Are Trees," a section of a novel-in-progress

Laurel Fantauzzo was raised in Ventura County, California and graduated from La Reina, a private Catholic high school for girls. In addition to writing fiction, she has written for a sketch comedy troupe, worked as a freelance journalist in New York City and the Philippines, and served as assistant editor for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. She worked for two years as a restaurant reviewer for New York Magazine online, and has contributed to AfterEllen and Go Magazine, among other publications. She also founded the popular We Are Not the Enemy photo blog in response to California’s Proposition 8. Currently she is at work on a young adult novel and a collection of comedic essays. Laurel attended the University of California, Santa Cruz and Sarah Lawrence College for her undergraduate work. She was awarded an Iowa Arts Fellowship in 2010 and will pursue an MFA in nonfiction at the University of Iowa.

Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Finalists, Fiction | $1,500

Karma Mayet Johnson | Brooklyn, NY

» Read excerpt from the novel, Nothin in All This World

Karma is part of the first generation of her family born out of Mississippi. She is a writer and performer in movement and voice who has performed internationally and has been featured on MTV. Recent stage work includes the off-Broadway production of FELA! and the premier of Keith+Mendi Obadike’s Four Eclectic Ghosts. She is a lead vocalist on the album The Mercy Suite, a collaboration between poet Yusef Komunyakaa and composer Tomas Doncker. Karma is also the composer/director of the innovative blues opera, Indigo. Her work has been presented at D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Joyce Theater, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Her poetry has appeared in Renaissance Noir, exittheapple.com, Nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts, Gathering Ground and Voices Rising. She has taught Creative Writing at Rutgers University and NYU. Karma is an alumna of the Cave Canem Workshop--Retreat for African American poets and holds an MFA in Poetry from New York University.

Tara Lake | Durham, NC

» Read excerpt from “A Time to Rise”

Tara, a wordsmith, performer, and teacher, has been published in outlets such as BET.com and Washington Blade/Southern Voice. As an artist, Tara has also performed throughout the country. Her repertoire includes classical theatre, storytelling, and vocal jazz performance. For three years, she led an African American Studies program at a small Los Angeles-area college. In addition to writing, her current projects include leading community education projects, developing productions for the stage, working in youth literacy, hosting a podcast, researching aspects of black performance culture of the early 20th Century, developing new courses, directing a documentary, and building pathways to understanding around race/gender/sexuality/class. She was a nominee for the Hippo Award in its Best Overall Story category (2009) and is a 2010 Durham Arts Council Emerging Artist Grantee. Tara holds a BA in English from Florida A&M University and an MA in African American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. www.TaraLake.com www.YearOfTheGriot.com www.taralake.blogspot.com

Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Finalists, Poetry | $1,500

Juliet P. Howard | Brooklyn, NY

» Read “Lover”

Juliet P. Howard (JP Howard), born and raised in New York, is a poet, lawyer and Cave Canem fellow. Her poems have been published in TORCH, Queer Convention: A Chapbook of Fierce, Cave Canem XI 2007 Anthology, Promethean Literary Journal, The Portable Lower East Side (Queer City) and Poetry in Performance. She is currently completing her first manuscript of poetry, Voices Unleashed. Juliet has been selected to attend Soul Mountain Retreat Writer’s Residency in the summer of 2010. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of the City University of New York, a BA in English from Barnard College and a JD from Brooklyn Law School. She currently resides in New York with her family.

Maiana Minahal | Oakland, CA

photo by Leilani Nisperos

» Read “Ordinary”

Maiana Minahal is a poet, educator, interdisciplinary artist and the author of the poetry collection Legend Sondayo. She has performed and taught poetry workshops throughout the Philippines and the U.S. including the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Minnesota. Her essays are forthcoming in the anthologies Reclaiming the Now and Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic. Maiana’s work has most recently been published in Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sounds, Going Home to a Landscape, Screaming Monkeys and Berkeley Poetry Review. As an interdisciplinary artist, she created the collaborative, multimedia performance before their words that combined poetic narrative with pre-colonial Philippine cultural traditions. Born in Manila and raised in Southern California, Maiana holds an MFA from Antioch University and currently teaches writing in Oakland. http://www.maianaminahal.com/wordpress/publications

Honorable Mentions in Fiction | $100

Tally Brennan | Philadelphia, PA

» Read excerpt from the short story “Landscape with Figurine”

Tally Brennan is currently engaged with a series of short fictions focused on lesbians in the workplace, where personal interest engages communal endeavor such as history, science and art. Her work has appeared in Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly, Room of One’s Own, PMS/poemmemoirstory, Rosebud and the 30th anniversary edition of Kaleidoscope: Exploring the Experience of Disability through Literature and the Fine Arts.

Audrey Colombe | Tampa, FL

» Read excerpt from “Get Out”

Audrey Colombe was born and raised in Oakland, California, has lived and taught in Oregon, New York, Texas, and Florida. She is currently an associate professor at University of Tampa, where she teaches literature and fiction writing and is an editor at University of Tampa Press. Her fiction has appeared in several journals, including Los Angeles Review, Portland Review, and Alaska Quarterly. A short story is forthcoming this spring from Puerto Del Sol.

Barb Johnson | New Orleans, LA

» Read excerpt from “The Invitation”

Barb Johnson worked as a carpenter in New Orleans for more than twenty years before receiving her MFA from the University of New Orleans in 2008. She has won Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers and Washington Square's short story competition. Her work has appeared in such magazines as Glimmer Train, Washington Square, The Greensboro Review, Guernica and Oxford American. She has received grants from the Astraea Foundation and A Room of Her Own Foundation, which will support the writing of her first novel. A collection of her short stories, More of This World or Maybe Another, was released by Harper Perennial in fall 2009.

Honorable Mentions in Poetry | $100

Cristina Izaguirre | Brooklyn, NY

» Read “New York”

Cristina was born in Nicaragua and raised in New York City. Her performance work has been featured at various venues including The Mott Haven Public Library, Pace University, Bluestockings Bookstore, and Hispanic Panic! queer Latino reading series. She was a featured contributor to Sinister Wisdom's 2008 Latina Lesbian issue and a participant of Tongues Afire, a queer women of color writing workshop. Cristina is also member and producer of Rivers of Honey, a queer and trans women of color cabaret show. Currently she is working for an LGBT civil rights organization while pursing a degree at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Vanita Leatherwood | Columbia, MD

» Read “Caledon Kitchen”

Vanita is a literacy tutor, storyteller and has taught poetry-writing and produced an autoethnographic DVD documentary, They Called Her Funny: Voices of Triple Jeopardy. Her work can be found in anthologies such as Pegasus, A Starlit Night and the online journal Trivia: Voices of Feminism. Vanita is a member of the Wineglass Court poetry group, and self-published a book of her poetry, Scratching the Itch and Other Natural Tendencies. She holds a MA degree from Goddard College in Transformative Language Arts. Currently, she is the owner of Livingwell Workshops (www.livingwellworkshop.com), facilitating self-awareness, stress relief, dialogue and change through creative expression.

Marlon Rachquel Moore | Wilmington, NC

» Read “Writer’s Block”

In addition to poetry, Marlon writes short stories, essays and academic papers. Her work has appeared in diverse publications including African American Review, Purple Panties and the e-zine In The Fray. Marlon has forthcoming edited collection of southern lesbian writings, From Geechee to Gumbo and Queering the Soul, research on black queer spirituality in literature. She was raised in the piney woods of East Texas and after a stint in the military was transplanted to Jacksonville, Florida for more than a decade. Currently, she is an assistant professor for the University of North Carolina where she teaches African American literature.

Lesbian Writers Fund 2009 Panelists | Fiction

Kristen Hogan | Austin, TX

Kristen started participating in an ongoing history of radical literary advocacy by working in feminist bookstores and interviewing feminist bookwomen. She has worked at BookWoman in Austin (Texas’ only remaining feminist bookstore, open since 1975), and she has served as co-manager and book buyer at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore (an anti-racist, trans-positive feminist bookstore open since 1973, one of two feminist bookstores remaining in Ontario). Kristen’s writing about the literary activism of feminist bookwomen has been published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Rain and Thunder: A Radical Feminist Journal of Discussion and Activism and ThirdSpace. After teaching women’s and gender studies, queer theory and feminist literature at the University of Texas at Austin and at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Kristen is continuing her commitment to advocacy for queer, anti-racist and small press literature by transitioning out of the academy and into librarianship.

Photo by

Lisa C. Moore | Hyattsville, MD

Lisa is the founder and editor of RedBone Press, which publishes work celebrating the culture of black lesbians and gay men and promotes understanding between black gays and lesbians and the black mainstream. Most recently, RedBone Press published Spirited: Affirming the Soul and Black Gay/Lesbian Identity; Blood Beats: Vol. 2, film and music criticism by PEN Award winner Ernest Hardy; and reprinted In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology and Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men. Lisa is the editor of does your mama know? An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories. She is also board president of Fire & Ink, an advocacy organization for LGBT writers of African descent.

Lesbian Writers Fund 2009 Panelists | Poetry

Photo by
Matt Richardson

Sharon Bridgforth | Evanston, IL

Sharon, two-time Alpert Award Nominee, is recipient of the 2008 Alpert/Hedgebrook Residency Prize. She is currently touring her piece, delta dandi, a NPN Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Women & Their Work in partnership with the National Performance Network. Sharon is the Lambda Award-winning author of the bull-jean stories and love conjure/blues a performance/novel. Anchor Artist for The Austin Project (Produced by The John Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, UT Austin), Sharon is co-editor of The Austin Project Archive: Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic. Sharon was an artist-in-residence at Northwestern University, in the Performance Studies Department for Fall 2009. www.sharonbridgforth.com

Pamela Sneed | Brooklyn, NY

Pamela is a New York-based poet, performer, writer and actress. She has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Source, Time Out, Bomb, Next and VIBE magazine. She is the author of the poetry collection Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom than Slavery, and KONG & other works. She has headlined the New Work Now festival at Joe's Pub/Public Theater and performed before sold out houses. Her current publications include work in Best African American Poets edited by Nikki Giovanni, Essence Magazine, Downtown Brooklyn, To Be Left With The Body and Best American Plays 2005-6. She holds an MFA in New Media Art & Performance and is a professor of Speech and Theater at Long Island University.