Prizm News / June 24, 2019 / By Ken Schneck

Cleveland-based writers Siaara Freeman and Lou Barrett

Two Cleveland writers create a Midwest Queer Writing Retreat

If a queer writer pens something in the woods and no one is around to hear it, do they make a sound? They sure as heck do, especially if other queer writers are there to listen. A new Midwest queer writing retreat has been created to provide just that inspiration. 

Cleveland-based writers Siaara Freeman and Lou Barrett know there’s nothing like a few days in the woods to revitalize a dead storyline or give a poem the punch it needs to feel audience ready. With the certainty that queer writers benefit from separate spaces to connect and tune into their work, they have crafted a queer writing retreat set to take place in the fall of this year. 

Freeman and Barrett partnered up after discovering their mutual interest in creating more spaces for queer writers in Cleveland and the Midwest. With such a rich and developing queer art scene in Cleveland, it felt like the perfect moment to create a new opportunity.

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“People think you have to move to San Francisco, LA, or New York to be an artist and make interesting work, but you really don’t,” says Barrett. “There’s so much happening in Cleveland without the high rent costs and ten dollar smoothies.”

The retreat has been named “Outsiders Queer Writing Retreat,” inspired by Audre Lorde’s book title Sister Outsider. They wanted the name to reflect a strong queer writer, and Lorde was the perfect choice.

“Audre Lorde is an intricate part of how we view intersectionality,” says Freeman. “Lorde helped make it possible to speak from multiple identities at once. Lorde is still a gift that keeps on giving to hearts open enough to receive.”

Freeman and Barrett acutely know that retreats are often accessible only for those who can afford to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars. They wanted to make this experience cost effective and accessible to writers of varying incomes. Writers must submit a sample and cover letter on the Purpled Palm Press website, and purchase a $25 submission fee. Pending acceptance, they just have to get themselves down to the actual site. Eight writers will be accepted for the retreat and the submissions are open until July 19th, 2019.

The retreat will be 4 days and 3 nights in Southern Ohio with workshops facilitated by queer writers from different disciplines, including a workshop about how to incorporate queer identities into writing. There will also be ample community building and writing time. 

Freeman and Barrett are fundraising through a crowd source funding campaign in which people can preorder the anthology Purpled Palm Press will publish after the retreat is over. Supporters can also pledge a donation that will nab them sessions to work on their writing with the organizers. They will also be doing in-person fundraising over the summer, all in an effort to make this important retreat a reality.

“The Outsiders Queer Writing Retreat will offer a space for writers to connect over queerness and art,” says Barrett.  “We could not be more excited to take on this opportunity.” 

For more information, visit www.purpledpalmpress.com/outsiders or email the organizers at outsidersretreat@gmail.com 

Ken Schneck
Ken Schneck is an author, professor, radio host, and rabble rouser. His travelogue, "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here?: The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" was published in 2017, "LGBTQ Cleveland" was released in 2018, and "LGBTQ Columbus" hits the shelves in June of 2019. He is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, Cleveland Magazine and FreshWater Cleveland. For 10 years, he was the producer/host of "This Show is So Gay," the award-winning, long-running radio show/podcast, and will launch “The Do Gooder Podcast” this September. In his spare time, he is a Professor of Education at Baldwin Wallace University where he teaches courses on antiracism and communities organizing for social change.