On receiving the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Award in Fiction, Francesca Austin Ochoa said, ”The last, and only, writing award that I received was from a contest held at my Catholic grade school. I was twelve years old and I remember having my name called from the pulpit and awkwardly making my way up the church aisle to claim a $25 check and a card signed by the presiding reverend. It is an absolute honor to be recognized by the Astraea Foundation many years later and for much more genuine convictions.”
Today, her convictions include the idea that, Both art and social justice can be expressions of how we see, and how we wish to see the world. It is about contributing to the library of human thought and imagination in a way that recomposes truth and reinterprets dreams.
Francesca plans to use the award towards her MFA in fiction at Columbia University. [read her work]
Lori Swartz, based in Santa Fe, is somewhat of a renaissance woman who performs burlesque and trapeze, makes films, writes and works metal in her art studio. She said that the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Award in Poetry was a validation of all my years of solitary writing.
To Lori, making art is an essential part of social justice. As lesbian or queer writers, there are so many barriers to writing down our stories. There is the struggle of coming out, accepting our histories and then having the guts to put it on paper. Putting our experiences in writing lends them credibility.
Lori plans to use the award to fund a month-long writing sabbatical in an as yet undetermined city. Its important that this gift contributes to my writing, travel and freedom, she said. Lori recently made a documentary on the challenges artists face in marketing their work and is currently writing her first novel. [read her work]
A prestigious panel of writers determined the awards: Fiction panelists were Ana-Maurine Lara and R. Erica Doyle. Poetry panelists were Chrystos and Nikky Finney.
Also recognized for their work were Finalists in Fiction Sheree L. Greer and Chinelo Okparanta; Finalists in Poetry Donna M. Lane and Lauren Peterson; Honorable Mentions in Fiction M.J. Corey, Sassafras Lowrey, and Jenie Pak; and Honorable Mentions in Poetry Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers, Nicole Santalucia, and Kirya Traber.
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.
To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Lesbian Writers Fund, Astraea is hosting Writeous! Celebrating 20 Years of the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund in New York City. Join us on November 11th, 2011.