Lesbian Writers Fund

Lesbian Writers Fund 2010-2011

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, Fiction | $10,000


Francesca Austin Ochoa | Brooklyn, NY

Francesca Austin Ochoa is the co-founder and former editor of Aorta Magazine, a Bay Area publication by and for queer, trans and female-identified artists. Francesca is also the author of the chapbook Love Smut. Her work centers on the search for selves amidst post-identity politics movements, and she is forever exploring a Venn diagram of machines, humans and the natural world. She received a BA in Gender Studies from the University of California San Diego, and is currently pursuing her MFA in fiction at Columbia University.

» Read Excerpt from To Savior City

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


Lori Swartz | Santa Fe, NM

Lori Swartz is a painter, performer, metalworker and writer, living in an old mining town in New Mexico. She was raised by Jewish, hippie, fundamentalist-Christian parents. Over the past twelve years her poetry has appeared in various collections, anthologies and journals. She has won the 2000 Peregrine Prize and received an honorable mention in poetry from the 2004 Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund. Lori performs in burlesque and circus shows on trapeze, aerial fabric and aerial chain. As a filmmaker, her recent project was the documentary film, This Mad and Beautiful Game. Currently, she is at work on her first novel.

» Read “The Song of You”

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


Sheree L. Greer | Tampa, FL

Sheree L. Greer’s work has been published in the Story Week Reader, Hair Trigger, Windy City Times, Reservoir and Fictionary Magazine. She recently published the short story collection Once and Future Lovers and is anticipating publication in the Windy City Queer Anthology, Dispatches from the Third Coast. She is a recipient of a Union League of Chicago Civic and Arts Foundation Award. Sheree has been a featured reader across venues in Chicago and Tampa, at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, the College English Association Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, and forthcoming at the Associated Writing Program Conference in Chicago in February 2012. Sheree earned her MFA degree from Columbia College, Chicago and currently teaches writing and literature at St. Petersburg College.

» Read Excerpt from The Untold

Chinelo Okparanta | Iowa City, IA

Chinelo Okparanta is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Two of her short stories, “Runs Girl” and “America,” are forthcoming in Granta Magazine. Chinelo has read her work on the Anthology and Talk Art Reading Series in Iowa City, on KRUI Radio’s the Lit Show, and as part of the International Writing Program’s Prairie Lights Reading Series. For the past two years, Chinelo has worked as an Editorial Assistant for the Iowa Review and as a reader for NPR’s Three Minute Fiction Contest. Currently, Chinelo is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she is completing work on her first novel.

» Read Excerpt from “Confession”

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


Donna M. Lane | Oakland, CA

Donna M. Lane’s first poem at the age of 15 was a love poem to her first girlfriend. Since then, the sixth-generation San Franciscan spent the last 25 years as a gardener, most recently at Golden Gate Park. “Although it isn't a woman,” she says, “I've been in love with it since I first played there as a child in the 1950s.” Close to her sixtieth birthday, Donna plans to publish previously written work and begin a memoir centered on her lifetime adventures as a butch lesbian.

» Read “AVI”

Lauren Peterson | Ossining, NY

Lauren Peterson spends much of her time teaching students with autism. Helping children learn to communicate basic needs and wants is as essential to her life as poetry and vegan food. She and her rescued cat, Sonnet, live along the Hudson River.

» Read “Things to Do Inside the Egg”

Honorable Mentions in Fiction | $100


M.J. Corey | New York, NY

M.J. Corey is a creative non-fiction writer and pop-culture journalist of Lebanese descent. Born in California, she grew up all over the country and ended up in New York City to attend Sarah Lawrence College. She writes about New York City, issues in feminism, lesbian life, and rock music. Her current work centers on herself as an anthropological and occasionally existential study, as seen in The Brooklyn Rail, Killing the Buddha, and Shelf Life Magazine. Other work is published in Make/Shift Magazine, Tom Tom Magazine, Bend Over Magazine, Freshly Hatched, VelvetPark, The Sentimentalist, Autostraddle and guestofaguest.com. In addition to writing, M.J. conducts oral history interviews, promotes parties in the city and curates art shows. www.mjwriting.tumblr.com.

» Read Excerpt from Missing Communion

Sassafras Lowrey | Brooklyn, NY

Sassafras Lowrey is an international award-winning storyteller, author, artist and educator who believes that everyone has a story to tell, and that storytelling creates social change. She is the editor of the Kicked Out anthology www.KickedOutAnthology.com that brought together the voices of current and former homeless LGBTQ youth. The anthology was honored twice by the American Library Association and was a Lambda Literary Finalist.  Sassafras’ prose has been included in numerous anthologies, and she regularly facilitates LGBTQ storytelling workshops at colleges, conferences and community centers across the country. www.SassafrasLowrey.com

Photo by Syd London

» Read “Church”

Jenie Pak | Bayside, NY

Jenie Pak was born in Seoul, Korea and immigrated to the United States at the age of four. She majored in English Literature at Rutgers University and received her MFA in poetry from Cornell University. She her fiction, poetry, and other writings have appeared in Alligator Juniper, Asian American Pacific Journal, Blithe House Quarterly, Dangerous Families, Five Fingers Review, Lodestar Quarterly, Many Mountains Moving, The Oakland Review and Watchword Press among other journals and anthologies. Recently, she was a finalist in the Hyphen Asian American Short Story Contest.

» Read Excerpt from Illumined Pleasures

Honorable Mentions in Poetry | $100


Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers | Ithaca, NY

Born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers is a writer, dancer and teacher. She spent several years living in rural China, where she taught English and dance at an agricultural school and is currently a Lecturer of English at Cornell University, where she teaches creative writing and courses in twenty-first century, Southern and queer literature. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines including Crab Orchard Review, Field, Agni Online, Seneca Review, Asheville Poetry Review, StorySouth, Comstock Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal and on Poetry Daily. Elizabeth holds degrees from Oberlin College and Cornell University.

» Read “Duet in E minor: 2002”

Nicole Santalucia | Binghampton, NY

Nicole Santalucia is a poet and educator. She attended Cazenovia College and Binghamton University for her undergraduate studies, holds an MFA from The New School University, and is pursuing a PhD in English with a concentration in creative writing at Binghamton University. She is currently working on her first book, The Birds that Growl, and a creative writing collaboration entitled Bitch. Her poetry has appeared in Pax Americana and is forthcoming in The Patterson Review. Serving as the poetry editor of Binghamton University’s literary journal, Harpur Palate, Nicole also leads the Graduate Student Readers’ Series and assists the director of The Binghamton Center for Writers. She has taught English, public speaking and reading and writing skills in New York City at Berkeley College and the ASA Institute.

» Read “The Trees That Suffer”

Kirya Traber | San Francisco, CA

Kirya Traber is a national award-winning spoken word artist. She has performed her work for audiences as varied as a U.S. President, the incarcerated, and classrooms of kindergartners. Kirya toured the United States and Canada with the legendary queer girl literary road show, Sister Spit, and her work can be found in the pages of Tiny Little Maps to Each Other by First Word Press, Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out by Inanna Press, and in her chapbook black chick. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Acting at the New School for Drama

» Read Excerpt from “If This Be Sin”

Lesbian Writers Fund 2011 Panelists | Fiction


R. Erica Doyle | Brooklyn, NY

R. Erica Doyle was born in Brooklyn to Trinidadian immigrant parents, and has lived in Washington, D.C., Farmington, Connecticut and La Marsa, Tunisia. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Best American Poetry, Our Caribbean, Gumbo, Callaloo, Ploughshares, Bum Rush the Page, Bloom, and from the Fishouse, among others. She has received grants and awards from the Hurston/Wright Foundation and the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund, and was a New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellow and is a Cave Canem fellow. Her manuscript, proxy, was a finalist for the Cave Cavem Poetry Prize, selected by Claudia Rankine. Excerpts from proxy were also published as a Belladonna* chapbook. She received her MFA in Poetry from the New School, and lives in New York City, where she teaches in the NYC public schools and facilitates Tongues Afire: A Creative Writing Workshop for queer women and trans and gender-non-conforming people of color.

Photo by Nathaniel Siegel

Ana-Maurine Lara | New Haven, CT

Ana-Maurine Lara is an award-winning novelist, playwright and poet. She is a Cave Canem Fellow and a member of The Austin Project, a collaborative workshop between artists, activists and scholars out of UT-Austin.  Her debut novel, Erzulie's Skirt, was selected as a Lambda Literary finalist in 2007; her second (unpublished) novel, Anacaona's Daughter, won Third Place Prize in the National Latino/Chicano Literary Prizes. She coordinates We are the Magicians, the Path-breakers, the Dream-makers LGBTQ POC Oral History Project and is currently pursuing a PhD in African American Studies/Anthropology at Yale University.

Lesbian Writers Fund 2011 Panelists | Poetry


Chrystos | Tacoma, WA

Chrystos is the pen name of an Indigenous Two Spirit activist, who first began fighting for justice at age 13, marching to desegregate schools in San Francisco, where she was born in 1946. She has been a part of struggles for Native Treaty Rights, prisoner rights and Palestinian land rights, and against anti-war, sexist violence as well as many other instances of injustice. Racism and sexism have been her greatest teachers, as well as obstacles. She travels internationally to perform her poetry. Her books are: Not Vanishing, Dream On, In Her I Am, Wilder Reis (German translations), Red Rollercoaster, Fugitive Colors and Fire Power (the latter two are still available). She also appears in many anthologies and textbooks, most notably, This Bridge Called My Back and Reinventing The Enemy’s Language. She will be the lead poem in a new anthology forthcoming in spring 2012 entitled, We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Militarism & Racism in 21st Century America.

Nikky Finney | Lexington, KY

Nikky Finney is the author of four collections of poetry, On Wings Made of Gauze, Rice (PEN America Open Book Award), The World is Round (2004 Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry), and Head Off & Split published by Northwestern University Press in 2011. She also authored Heartwood, a short story collection, and edited The Ringing Ear, an anthology of African American poets writing and reflecting on that historical American geography known as “the South.” She wrote the script for a PBS documentary, liner notes for folksinger Toshi Reagon, and the introduction to photographer Bill Gaskins’ collection. She has been awarded the Kentucky Foundation for Women Artists Fellowship Award and The Governor’s Award in the Arts. Nikky has taught at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, and is a former faculty member at Cave Canem, a writing home for African-American poets. She is presently professor of Creative Writing at the University of Kentucky. http://nikkyfinney.net/home.html

Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths