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The Amazon Trail                        

Queer Places to Write

By Lee Lynch


Lee Lynch
Photo: E. Mulligan

I have been writing for 46 years. In that time I've written everywhere from my state police office to the driver's seat of my old Volvo, moving at 75 mph along a windy California mountain pass. Once, I taped a whole story while walking my lover's dog on a country road. When I worked in the Food Stamp Program I'd do interviews for half the day, dash through the paperwork, then start writing at my very public desk, distracted only by a gum-snapping co-worker in the row of desks behind me.

There are a lot of lesbian and gay male writers in our midst. I see them at readings and workshops and they tend to ask the same questions, questions which boil down to one word: how? Even the readers want to know about the magical process of writing. Do you use an outline? Do you write a set number of hours a day? How do you get your characters? Do you write in the morning or at night?

So many questions; so many answers. It might be easier to have a consistent writing regimen, but I'm not the sort who gets up at 5:00 a.m. and requires of myself that I write 11.333 pages by 11:23 before I can go off to the sunny village on my Vespa for croissants and café au lait in order to study the quaint locals. For one thing, I work for a living and at 11:23 a.m. I am probably talking by phone to a harried, urban anything-but-quaint business person.

Writing has always been catch as catch can for me. Where I write has become part of my stories and I have been fortunate enough to find inspiration lots of places. For example, I feel a fog horn story coming on as I sit in the garret of the home I rent near the ocean. About every twenty seconds the horn sounds, punctuation to my sentences. Back east I lived in a condo also in fog horn territory and the mournful warning encouraged my imaginary adventures. A few years ago I lived with a musician who needed the house to herself once a week. I found a road overlooking the mouth of a river where I could see wild birds, harbor seals, fishing boats and a graceful old bridge - all within earshot of the fog horn. Paradise, except for the P.A. system on a passing tour boat and my laptop running out of power.

It was hard to write in my parents' apartment in New York. My mother had a thing about closed doors, so my lack of privacy led to a knack for clandestine scribbling. A nearby park was my garret as a teenager, uncrowded enough that I always found a bench to myself where I could write romantic poems about sylvan glades and frolicking squirrels and the way I felt about my girlfriend. When I lived in a trailer in my forties I removed a bed, replaced it with a door over two filing cabinets and typed out a book or two. I've written on planes and trains and boats and bicycles and city buses. I carry index cards in a little leather "desk" that's easy to slide in and out of my jeans back pocket at a supermarket or concert. I used to write in spiral memo pads to keep my employers from getting suspicious. Now in my writing chair I have the luxury of a notebook computer on my lap and I can research a word or place or name that I need with a few keystrokes.

One lesbian I know did most of her work at writers' retreats on vacations from her job. Reading and critiquing and living with other writers would drive me bananas, but it worked for her. I took a creative writing class which completely inspired me - and another which discouraged me from writing for weeks. Having a place to publish is encouraging, but if that publication wants me to write a certain number of words on a certain theme I will generally run in another direction as fast as I can. Other writers might work very successfully with such structure.

Where I write is everywhere, when is any time and what is about gay people, plain and simple. The point is, there is no "how." There are only opportunities to set down our stories so they, and we, never disappear again.
© Lee Lynch 2008
Lee Lynch, Author of Sweet Creek from Bold Strokes Books

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