Literature has always been a pivotal part of queer culture. We would not have the term “drag” were it not for Shakespeare. Writers and thinkers like Leslie Feinberg, who preserved queer history when it was shunned from the mainstream, and Roxanne Gay, who has kept pivotal conversations of intersectional identities and activism alive, are critical to our community and nuanced discussions of queer identity.
Writing can be intimidating, challenging, and often isolating, but there are beautiful communities by creatives, for creatives that promote community in writing.
The Porch is a not-for-profit collective of writers who host readings, workshops, and events in an effort to create a collaborative environment. Started by Susannah Felts and Katie McDougall in 2014, their classes and events have hosted authors of all varieties to teach classes in any and every writing medium. It’s a great melting pot of experience levels and interests.
One such writer and teacher is Eliana Ramage, a queer-identifying Cherokee citizen, born and raised in Nashville. She studied creative writing at Dartmouth College before getting her master’s through Bar-Ilan University. She returned to Nashville in 2020 after her time living in Israel. Through this time, her focus was writing and submitting short stories to journals and publications until she later began work on a novel.
Returning to Nashville in the midst of the pandemic pushed Ramage into her writing and into developing a writing community. For her, The Porch was a godsend. She worked in the non-profit sector, and found it challenging to make time for her writing and the community she was trying to build.
Balancing creativity for creativity’s sake with professional creativity is delicate, and Ramage explained that an early morning routine suits her well.
“I love to write alone in the quiet, while it’s still dark out. There’s something fun about writing before anyone else is awake.”
While writing alone may take a lot of her time, Ramage loves to work and critique in community.
“It has been my habit since school, and I have friends all over and we pass our work back and forth. But there is also a great writing community in classes, too.”
Ramage is preparing for her next round of classes through The Porch, and an important part of her class structure is to focus on facilitation rather than teaching. She crafts her curriculum to be exercise driven, prompting her participants to generate material off of prompts.
“I love collaborative classes. I don’t want to claim to be an expert, and I get just as much from the class as the students do.”
Her next classes through The Porch are Queer Fiction, starting October 12th, and Write Nashville, starting October 29th. Queer Fiction, a class she has taught before, is a fourweek course focused on the craft of fiction writing. Not only will Ramage review and discuss the elements of prose, but she will also feature queer writers. This workshop-based class will allow participants to develop their work in a supportive, collaborative environment.
Write Nashville is a four-week class about getting to know the city of Nashville. Meeting in a different spot each week, Ramage will provide her students with story prompts while they take time to get to know where they are and develop a sense of place, whether they write fiction or nonfiction.
“I want my students to walk away from this class with a vignette or essay about their neighborhood, hopefully having learned something about it, and feeling more connected to it. I’m from Nashville and am excited to explore, so it is open to anyone, new or old to the area.”
Beyond The Porch, Ramage will also be leading a workshop at the annual MTSU Creative Writing Conference. Open to all, the conference has breakout sessions over two days, September 23rd and 24th. The sessions on Friday the 23rd are mostly virtual, while most of Saturday’s sessions are offered on MTSU’s campus.
Ramage’s specific worksop during this conference is called Strategies for Revisions, offered from 10:45-12:15.
“Editing and revising is my favorite part of the writing process,” said Ramage. “I love to see a piece come together, and I want to help writers who struggle at this stage work through it.”
Other than teaching, Ramage is in the process of editing and finishing her first novel, with her second in the works as well. Here Men From the Planet Earth is a coming-of-age retrospective novel about a queer Cherokee woman who wants to become an astronaut. It is a relationship-driven story, focused on her mom, sister, and girlfriend and their dynamics. The heroine is processing her intersectional identities and how they impact not just her future but her family and tribe as well.
“My next step with my novel is to get it to agents,” Ramage explained, so there is no release date yet.
A chapter is available for preview through Craft Literary. Ramage earned the 2020 Craft Elements Contest for conflict in this story, and a chapter is posted to their website. Her classes through The Porch are posted on their website, porchtn.org, and you can sign up for the MTSU Creative Writing Conference at mtsu.edu/write.