There are more queer books coming out every year thanks to a more welcoming environment on both the reader and publisher side of the equation. From young adult novels to history to romance to picture books, LGBTQ+ literary content is flourishing.
Thankfully there are entire festivals dedicated specifically to the rainbow side of the publishing world where anyone can discover their next read (or ten). While there are a few in other countries, the U.S. leads the way with five annual queer litfests, each in a different region of the country.
City: New Orleans
2020 Dates: March 27-29
Founding Year: 2003
Ticket Price: $150
This is the longest-running of the four festivals, celebrating its 17th annual event this year. Every year this three-day event brings writers and readers to the French Quarter. Even the conference venue, the Hotel Monteleone, has queer literary connections (the likes of Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, and Ernest Hemingway wrote about it or stayed there).
SAS also holds an annual short fiction contest and sponsor Bold Strokes Books publishes the top submissions. There is a book release party and reading from the winners as part of the conference.
City: Albuquerque, NM (changes every year)
2020 Dates: July 8-12
Founding Year: 2005
Ticket Price: $269 (varies)
With book distribution by Bella Books, Golden Crown Literary Society puts on a large conference that is a must-attend especially for any queer women who love their lit to have a little romance or mystery. This Wednesday-Sunday affair celebrating lesbian literature features events from nighttime karaoke to keynote addresses. The Society also provides a mentoring program, annual awards, and writing classes.
Full-access ticket prices vary from $199 to $424 depending on if you include food, buy early or late, and other factors. You can also get a one-day pass for any day at the door for just the panels, presentations, and classes for $65. This is the only one of the five conferences that moves cities year to year (2019’s was in Pittsburgh, PA and 2021’s will be in Orlando, FL).
City: Washington, DC
2020 Dates: July 31-August 2
Founding Year: 2010
Ticket Price: Free
Produced by DC’s LGBTQ+ community center, OutWrite is a three-day celebration of LGBTQ+ literature of all kinds. Last year’s panels and workshops included: Hidden Histories, Inside/Out Crime, Bi Bi Bi, Query Letters, Drag Poetics, Embodied Fiction, The Culinary Speculative, and Writing Horror. OutWrite also puts on other events year-round in addition to the large annual festival.
City: Los Angeles
2020 Dates: Not yet announced (2019 dates were September 21-28)
Founding Year: 2016
Ticket Price: Free
Lambda Literary is synonymous with the queer book world, offering book awards, writing retreats, book reviews, and even a program that brings LGBTQ+ authors into New York City public schools. Their LitFest is a week-long series of free events around Los Angeles that all lead up to the “Main Day” of performances. 2019’s Main Day headliners were Tegan and Sara!
Last year’s 40+ events included “Dog Dyke Afternoon: Queering the History of Man’s Best Friend,” “I Get So Emotional, Baby: Queer Asian & Pacific Islander (API) Writing in the Time of AIDS,” “In a Body as Queer as Nature: on a queer.femme.ancestral eco-poetics,” and “The Bitter Laugh: Queer Writers on Comedy.” Going into their fifth year, Lambda LitFest draws a crowd of 1,500.
City: New York City
2020 Date: Not yet announced (2019 date was October 12)
Founding Year: 2009
Ticket Price: Free (but there is a suggested donation of a few dollars)
The Rainbow Book Fair in Manhattan annually draws 1,500 participants to engage with booths, readings, and panels. 2019’s event featured a four-hour marathon poetry reading of 24 poets, a drag queen story hour, and a feminist zinefest. The one-day fair is more friendly to small indie presses and self-publishers than other LGBTQ+ lit fests.
All five of these events have a sense of LGBTQ+ community free of the club or bar scene which is a breath of fresh air for many. Aspiring writers will gain a lot from the workshops, and those who only want to consume writers’ words will love the readings by established authors and poets. Follow them on the linked social media to find out about their 2020 line-ups as they are announced!