Final Reflections on the LLF LGBT Writer’s Retreat

Me and Alex Sanchez! (The classic Hesik long-arm photo!)

Top three surreal moments of the week:

3. Being so inspired that the first and last thing I did each day was write, write, write!

2. Having Dorothy Alison call out, “Hey, Good Looking!” to me as I crossed the parking lot to say hi to her.

1. Sitting in a dark room at The Getty, watching Madonna’s “Cherish” music video with Alex Sanchez.

This week was inspiring, life changing, jam-packed, exciting, educational, and super amazing! I learned so much from the incredible Alex Sanchez and from my talented cohort of writers.  I’m home now, and not only do I miss the three  kosher meals a day, but I miss my new friends and being part of a community of writers that was accepting, smart, creative, funny, and SO GAY!!

For the first time, I didn’t have to explain, defend, or worry about how others were going to react to my lesbian characters.  What a relief! Not only that, I got to read some of the most unique stories about other important queer experiences- experiences that soooo need to be shared.  Experiences that I know my students are having and that need to be written in books. I was in awe of the intelligent feedback and thoughtful comments that everyone in my group provided me and each other.  We were polite, but direct.  Friendly, yet professional.  I hope to remain friends with these writers for many years to come.  Here they are~

The overall arching theme of the week: Go Deeper Into the Emotions! Stay with the emotion of your protagonist. It’s great to have a lot of action on the page, but I need to remember to show the impact of the actions on my characters.  How does it make them feel? This is the biggest lesson I will take from my sessions with Alex. Ironically, here’s the brochure of the American Jewish University: 

In addition to providing us with incredibly talented teachers, LLF also brought in a panel of industry experts, a YA editor (Arthur Levine!), and provided us the opportunity to read from our work in front of the entire group of attendees.  I read a found poem I wrote using Facebook posts and a bit from my novel, The You Know Who Girls: Freshman Year (Bold Stokes Books, 2012).  It was really nerve-wracking, but a good experience for me since I will be doing book readings very soon!!

In addition to all that, we got off campus once in a while.  One day I totally got peer-pressured into going to The Getty!  Here’s a pic of me and my main squeezes.

Me, Alex Sanchez, Aj Reyes, and Jef Blocker at The Getty!


Totes working hard in class.

It was fun to get away, but for me, the gift of time was so valuable.  Here we are in class, working hard, critiquing each other’s work, and sharing ideas.  After class, I ate lunch and then headed right to my very own dorm room and wrote ALL afternoon until dinner!  In the pic, I already packed up and cleaned up. What you are not seeing here is how incredible sloppy I was during my stay!  It was really fun being a slob, but I like my tidy and BIG bed here at home better :)

This past week was one of the most valuable weeks of my writing career.  I feel so lucky to have been selected by Alex Sanchez to participate in LLF’s FIRST YA cohort!  I spent the week surrounded by smart, funny, and sweet people who all have the same goal as me: to provide LGBT youth and their allies with exciting, well-written books that are about their lives and their experiences. We are writing books that will touch our readers and change the way the world sees LBGT people and their families. It was a privilege to sit with these writers each day and to hear them tell/read their stories.

I will never forget this experience.

If you’re a writer of LGBT books, poetry, or non-fiction, I highly recommend you apply for this retreat.  If you are a reader, especially a YA reader, get ready…there are some amazing books coming your way!!

Tony Valenzuela and Jenn Reese, directors of the LLF LGBT Emerging Writer’s Retreat and all-around amazing people!

Thank you Alex, Jenn, Tony, my YA cohort, my lovely wife, and all my friends and family who helped me get there.

This little/big lesbian is ready to take on the world…and finish her next book!

Peace and love and LLF por vida,

Annameekee Hesik :)


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