The LGBTQ Resource Center at the Gulfport Public Library will offer queer writers a space to share the love from Friday, February 26 to Sunday, February 28 at ReadOut: A Festival of Lesbian Literature.
For the first time in four years, the festival will be completely virtual.
“Before corona, we were going to reserve the Gulfport Casino to hold everybody,” LGBTQ Resource Center Board President Susan Gore. “We would have been bursting out of the building.”
With a virtual platform and a niche, but passionate following, the festival has at least 250 registrants and more than 80 authors, with some attendees coming as far as New Zealand and Africa.
“Knowing nothing about how to do this, we took the risk,” Gore said. “This is going to change the way we do events forever.”
The three-day event will feature pre-recorded author readings, live-streamed interactive sessions, women-led plays, live music and more.
“All lesbian voices are important,” Readout organizer Edie Daly said. “We’d like to feature all women’s voices, and that’s why this year we have more emerging writers.”
For the first time, authors do not necessarily need to be published to engage in the festival; all manuscripts are welcome.
Lesbians from Near and Far
Three years ago, when Illinois-based writer JB Marsden was looking for lesbian-friendly venues to showcase her series-style novels, sunny Florida seemed like the obvious choice.
“This festival has changed tremendously,” Marsden said. “When I first came down, there were only about 20 authors involved.”
This year, Marsden will read from the final book in her eight-book romance series, “Yancy in Love.”
“I miss coming down. I’ve made a lot of friends through the festival,” Marsden said. “But I’m glad we still have the opportunity to do this virtually.”
Thirty-five minutes away in Tampa, author Erin Zak found community in the Gulfport LGBTQ scene.
“I don’t know what queer really means, but I do know I am a lesbian,” Zak said. “It’s really nice to be included in something that started so small. I have such a connection to this festival.”
Zak began writing lesbian romance stories in 2017; now, she has eight published works and will read for the third year.
“I try to make my stories original,” Zak said. “I don’t follow the normal patterns of the meeting, the falling in love, the big breakup; I mix it up.”
Registration is required for a Zoom link, register for the festival at readout2021.eventbrite.com.