On March 15, I shared the stage at The Happy Dog at the Euc with Terry Dubow for “Girls Who Write Boys, Who Like Boys Who Write Girls” the month’s installment of the Lit’s Between the Lines series, which pairs writers with a common theme.
Terry and I have been writing friends for a long time, but it wasn’t immediately obvious what theme would connect us on stage. As members of the same writers group, we have read and offered critique of each other’s drafts for several years. We both have a tendency to be too thinky and introspective in early drafts, but that’s not really an interesting topic for a reading.
When Terry offered that he wanted to read from his newly published story, “You Are Not My Mother, Missy Gallagher” (in The Greensboro Review, Issue 100), it clicked. That story depends on a strong, believable (and funny) female voice. In fact, a lot of Terry’s most successful fiction features female protagonists. I tend to write in my own gender, but I’m working on a novel in which I changed the genders of the two main characters after my second draft. In order to make the story work, I needed to break out of what could too easily become stereotypes. My cynical New York investment banker is a woman now; her brother is the one living a haphazard New Age life in the woods.
At the Happy Dog, Terry and I explored why we’ve made these decisions and how the lens of gender has helped us to gain a needed creative distance from our characters. Questions from the audience led us to muse on issues of authenticity, appropriation, androgyny, and artistic license.
We left with excitement for our own work and each other’s (and what beats that?), and a newfound appreciation for our shared gender-ambiguous names. We hope the audience did, too!