Eric Leven

The Open Door Project: Calling All Unpublished Queer Writers

Filed By Eric Leven | November 13, 2007 4:52 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: HIV/AIDS, writing a book

Don Weise, a New York gay fiction book editor and his colleagues are launching the first ever Open Door writing competition. With world AIDS day around the corner, December 1st, this competition invites all non-published authors to write anything and everything relating to what is considered the "post AIDS" era. After the submissions are collected and read, a winner will be announced in June '08 and invited to a New York publishing intensive with private and public readings, meetings with literary agents and a meet and greet with the who's who of past and present gay literature.
Don Weise's open letter and project guidelines are after the jump.

Don Weise's letter:

With World AIDS Day approaching (December 1), I thought perhaps you might be looking for an original angle to this important event. I'd therefore like to let you know about The Open Door Project.

Started by six of Manhattan's leading gay book editors, including myself, the project is in fact a national short story contest launched recently in response to AIDS. A very 21st century response you'll find. Our intention is two-fold. First, we're seeking to help replenish the ranks of gay writers killed by the epidemic by opening doors of the publishing industry to the best unpublished newcomers. Drawing on our vast professional connections, we editors will fast-track careers that might otherwise take years to get started. On a larger level, however, we're attempting to reclaim and renew the gay literary landscape in what today is commonly called the "post-AIDS era".

As a group we editors have published landmark AIDS-themed works by Larry Kramer, Randy Shilts, Paul Monnette, Edmund White, Essex Hemphill, and Allen Barnett to name only a handful. It's especially historic that we come together not around our literature's past but its future. For just as the face of the epidemic has quite literally evolved (ballooning overseas at a horrific pace), so too has the response of gay men to it; no longer content with candle light vigils, red ribbons, and quilts, we've become more creative in our role as witnesses, if not survivors. Where once we gave voice to dying men by publishing their books, we editors now feel called to step up and remedy the void that's been left behind--a void that persists in spite of the tremendous medical advances that have seen a return to normalcy for so many in the US.

More than discovering new talent, The Open Door Project marks the first time ever leading gay editors and leading gay authors--as one publication put it, "a virtual who's who of gay literature"-- have united around AIDS at this crossroads. I'd be thrilled to discuss the project with you further. If the story is not quite right for you, I'd very much appreciate being put in touch with anyone who might be interested.

Very sincerely,
Don Weise

And the winner of The Open Door Project receives:

A five-day publishing introduction intensive in New York City-- including a series of lunches with literary agents, book editors, and other publishing figures, a public reading, and a private cocktail reception with New York's writing community will be awarded to the winner of the first Open Door Project fiction competition. The contest is open to gay men writing fiction with queer content who have not yet published a book of fiction. Accommodations and transportation will be provided to an out of town winner. Judges include Christopher Bram, Alexander Chee, Samuel R. Delany, Dennis Cooper, Robert Gluck, E. Lynn Harris, Scott Heim, Andrew Holleran, David Leavitt, Stephen McCauley, Dale Peck, and John Weir. Submit stories or stand-alone novel excerpts of up to 8,000 words by March 1, 2008. The winner will be announced June 08. There is no entry fee. Submissions should be mailed to:

Don Weise, Open Door Project
c/o Oscar Wilde Bookshop
15 Christopher St
New York, NY 10014

I encourage all writers impacted by HIV/AIDS to step up to the plate. For any questions please contact Don Weise at:

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Truly a pity that the so-called "Open Door Project" only actually opens its doors to gay men, and excludes women and trans writers, many of whom have also written great stuff on AIDS.

A pity, but not at all surprising. If you've ever been to the Oscar Wilde Bookshop, as I have, you'd understand why. The entire place is geared toward stereotypical Village gay men, and the open disdain for other segments of the community is palatable among their customers and staff. What wasn't surprising to me was that I felt a strong, compelling need to immediately take a shower the moment I got home from there.

I'm guessing you were trying to be more inclusive when you wrote into your title "Calling All Unpublished Queer Writers." As an unpublished queer writer however, it was incredibly frustrating to read the whole thing very carefully and only at the end realize that I'm not actually eligible.

I wouldn't have been upset if you had the title be "Calling All Unpublished Gay Men Writers," as I know some organizations have demographic focuses like that. But making the title inclusive when the competition is not only served to get my hopes up.

Wait - did I miss something? I've read the letter twice now and haven't noticed any gender-specific language as a qualification for entry. I noticed "gay men" in one section but I didn't take this to be a requirement for anything. Has anyone e-mailed to inquire?

Did you miss this line Bil?

"The contest is open to gay men writing fiction with queer content who have not yet published a book of fiction."

Seems pretty straightforward (not to mention limited, elitist, and exclusionary) to me...

Damn. I sure as hell did miss it. I only looked at the first part and thought the 2nd part was about prizes and judges. Mea Culpa. I even looked twice! *winces*

So, yeah, I agree. Exclusionary. Sad. It had such promise.

Boo hoo.
You know, through my days in college and post college I've come across "Women only" writing competitions and did I crumple my face and call them limited, elitist and exclusionary? No. I just considered it a women's writing competition. Just because a project or call to action doesn't fit the sudden new requirement that everything must adhere to the tremendous, often absurd rainbow parade that is our community, doesn't mean the suggestion should be denounced. I'm not even sure women and trans are excluded from this competition (I'll try to find out.) And yes, I'm sure both women and trans have a lot to offer on this subject. Duh. It doesn't mean you can't write about it. You have blogs, I'm sure, and opinions definitely, so go ahead and write about it. Nobody is stopping you. Besides, after your wonderful description of the Oscar Wilde bookstore and those who run it, why would you want to be part of it anyway?

Very true, Eric, but then I wouldn't be misinforming the community by titling my post with something like "...Calling All Unpublished Queer Writers" either.

You wanna have your own exclusive little Village boys writing club, go ahead, but at least be honest about it, and don't try to mislead readers into believing it's really anything more than that.

Ramon Moreno | August 21, 2009 10:15 PM

We are currently in 2009, August. I was wondering if this is an ongoing contest or just a one time thing. If still open can you send me info. on what the guidelines are and any other info. I may need to participate. I've got a story that will knock your socks off.
thank you for your time.