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by Writing Workshops Staff

3 months ago


Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing the Queer Body with McKenzie Schwark

by Writing Workshops Staff

3 months ago


Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing the Queer Body with McKenzie Schwark

by Writing Workshops Staff

3 months ago


McKenzie Schwark is a dynamic writer, editor, and content strategist, whose exploration of the body through the lens of queerness and illness has been published by Teen Vogue, bitch magazine, Catapult, and more.

McKenzie's unique perspective on the queer body takes center stage in her new Zoom class, Gay Bones: Writing the Queer Body. In a world where body horror, health, wellness, and illness are prominent themes in writing, queer individuals experience their bodies in a distinct way.

Through this enriching three-week generative course, participants will delve into the writings of queer authors who navigate topics such as sex, pregnancy, disease, movement, and joy. With McKenzie's guidance, students will embark on a journey of self-exploration, tapping into their physical bodies to craft narratives that reflect the nuanced experience of being gay and alive in a world that sometimes feels unwelcoming. Each class promises a vibrant mix of generative writing exercises, insightful discussions on curated readings, and an opportunity to foster connections within the queer writing community. This transformative course draws inspiration from the works of prominent authors like Audre Lorde, Eileen Myles, Carmen Maria Machado, Melissa Febos, and more, offering students an exceptional opportunity to harness the power of their own bodies and stories.

Over the span of three weeks, Gay Bones: Writing the Queer Body will explore themes ranging from the intricacies of gay emotions to the challenges of pain, illness, and disability, ultimately culminating in a celebration of joy, sex, and movement. Students can anticipate a wealth of generative writing prompts, engaging discussions on queer literature, and a trove of new material to transform into essays, stories, or poems. Most importantly, participants will leave the course with a newfound sense of empowerment, ready to amplify their voices and stories through a queer lens, confident that their narratives hold a vital place in the rich tapestry of the writing world. Join McKenzie Schwark on this transformative journey of self-discovery and creative expression, where the body is the canvas, and queerness is the vibrant palette.

Hi, McKenzie. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

The most important thing to know about me is that I have a pitbull chihaua mix named Junie B Jones who is the love of my life. We live with my partner in Chicago. I work as a copywriter and content strategist for menstrual and reproductive health brands, and my writing work has heavily focused on chronic illness, reproductive healthcare, and the gays.

What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?

My writing has always focused heavily on the physical body, and when I came out I started to realize how much queerness affected my experience of chronic illness and vice versa. I think oftentimes "queer writing" is offered as a niche topic, but I wanted to teach a niche topic for queer writers.

Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?

I took a workshop about a year ago on writing about illness and the whole time I felt like that Tik Tok sound that goes "I need to talk to a gay person!" I am excited to provide that for these students. Although this topic might feel heavy, we're going to have a ton of fun in this course.

What was your first literary crush?

Miss Spider from James and the Giant Peach.

What are you currently reading?

Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth (five stars from me!)

How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?

I'm a Gemini and I fall down Wikipedia and Reddit rabbit holes all of the time. If I find myself returning to a topic over and over I know that it's something I need to write about. I'm terrible at getting to the end of anything (again, Gemini) but knowing someone else is going to read my work helps me to finish. I'll ask a friend to read something on a certain date or enroll myself in a workshop. The shame of potentially turning up empty handed works for me!

Where do you find inspiration?

That moment when the energy in the room shifts because someone shares a story about something they've felt ashamed or otherwise weird about, and then everyone around them is like "Wait! Me too!" I was recently at a holiday party where the topic of conversation turned to ovarian cysts and literally everyone had a story to share about themselves or someone they know. I love watching when that dam of shame or mystery about our bodies breaks, and I try to do that in my own writing.

What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?

If you feel stuck in your own writing read someone else's. This has helped get me out of countless writing ruts and it's a good reminder that writing isn't just sitting down at your computer and typing.

What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?

Body Work by Melissa Febos. Queer writer on how to write about the body and its vulnerabilities.

What’s your teaching vibe?

Chill but still structured. I'm a Gemini Sun, Capricorn Rising, Capricorn Moon. So we are going to play around and have some fun, but within the structures of a diligently outlined syllabus and lesson plan.

Learn more about working with McKenzie:

Learn more about McKenzie's upcoming class, Writing the Queer Body, and sign up if interested.

Instructor McKenzie Schwark is a writer, editor, and content strategist whose work explores the body through illness and queerness. Her writing has been published in Teen Vogue, bitch magazine, Catapult, Feminist Food Journal, Elemental, the Rumpus, and more. She can regularly be found reading essays about her period in grungy and/or lesbian bars in the Chicago area, or walking her very weird rescue dog, Junie B Jones.

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