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Fabulous festivals: Dogwood, queer writers, women’s music, bears and more

dogwood festival

The next three weekends bloom with spring festivals sure to draw LGBT crowds. This weekend pick from Dogwood Festival in Piedmont Park, a full day of LGBT writers organized by the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival, or Sandy Springs Artsaplooza, organized by the gay-led Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces.

Next weekend, stay home for Atlanta's most eclectic neighborhood festival, or hit the road to North Georgia for Women's Musicfest or to Unadilla, Ga., for Bearapalooza. Then pack your suitcase again May 3-5 for Gay Days at Tybee Island, a chance to experience an LGBT beach weekend at the vacation haven near Savannah.

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Atlanta Queer Literary Festival celebrates LGBT writers

Atlanta Queer Literary Festival

While the word “literary” may bring up bad memories of memorizing Chaucer in high school English class, Franklin Abbott, co-founder of the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival, promises that his event is nothing like that.

“Not that we aren’t literary,” Abbott says. “But many people think it is somehow or other like graduate school, high brow, and doesn’t resonate with them personally … like the dreaded English class you had to take in college. I can promise there is useful stuff and it is entertaining and engaging. We don’t put on boring events.”

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the grassroots festival. Keynote speakers for 2011 are Atlanta’s own Theresa Davis, the reigning champion of the Women of the World poetry slam, and Bryan Borland of Little Rock, Ark., a Pushcart-nominated poet and owner of Sibling Rivalry Press.

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Queer Literary Fest writers think globally, act locally

Ana Božičević and Cary Alan Johnson headline this year’s Atlanta Queer Literary Festival

Queer writing has come a long way since the scholarly secrets of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Walt Whitman’s naked bathers, and the scandalous behavior of bad girls like H.D. and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Post-Stonewall, post-AIDS, and post-big-box bookstores, the changing landscape of queer lit offers perhaps the greatest diversity of writers, audiences, and venues ever.

It is in this context that this year’s Atlanta Queer Literary Festival shows signs of real growth.

Like New Orleans’ Saints & Sinners litfest in May, Atlanta’s AQLF in October has offered both local and national queer literary audiences a strong forum in the Southeast — something that had been missing until less than a decade ago.

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GA Spotlight: Atlanta Queer Literary Festival

The Atlanta Queer Literary Festival traces its roots to a one-day special event held at the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library in 2006.  From there, the event has blossomed: Last year’s festival drew a crowd of more than 500 to see 70 participating authors, including keynotes Staceyann Chin and Manil Suri.