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  • Writer's pictureJenia Browne

Organization, Outlines, and Timing

Lisa C. Moore, editor of Does Your Mama Know? An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories

After finishing the readings, the more complicated part of the writing process began. I've researched before, yes, but never like this. I had almost 1,200 pages of reading to organize into a 15-20 page coherent argument. Even further, I had dozens of short pieces floating around in my head, each one of them with a different topic, theme, and even style of writing. So how was I supposed to decide what to write about, what points I wanted to make, and how to fit them into my thesis?

The first step was consolidating my notes. While reading, I annotated and sorted each story into the main themes I was considering. I sorted by book, to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of sources I could use. Each theme represents a way in which Black lesbian writing is a resistive practice - writing that inherently challenges oppressive systems and beliefs like heterosexism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. After sorting these stories, I had to consolidate further by creating a large spreadsheet with all of the stories that fit under the themes. This process took a bit longer, as what stood out to me in each anthology changed as I continued to read them. Each theme had sub-topics, so I had to sort the pieces into those as well. The large themes that I stuck to in the end were:

  1. Overt Expressions of Sapphic Desire

  2. Self-Definition

  3. Radical Political Thought

  4. Exclusion, Silence, and Erasure

After creating a gigantic spreadsheet with each theme (and their sub-themes) listed, it was time to select the best examples from each. I went through all the stories I highlighted, deciding which could create the best argument for Black lesbian writing as a resistive practice.

Then, it was time to outline. Outlining is a painstaking, time consuming, but necessary practice for me. I get lost in my thoughts easily, and writing off of the top of my head leads to disorganized and sloppy writing. But there has to be a balance in spending too much time outlining and not doing enough of it. This is where I struggled, as starting to write was urgent in order to get feedback, but I was scared I wasn't organized enough. I went through each selected story and chose the quotes that I found most useful, and then formed my argument for them.

In addition to the anthologies themselves, I needed secondary sources! My paper also discusses a Black queer feminist framework and why anthologies are the perfect medium for Black lesbian writing. This process, for some reason, has always been hard for me. I know I don't utilize the library resources I have enough. I struggle with search terms. Dr. Régine was very helpful during this process, and it is far simpler than I anticipated. I also took advantage of JSTOR, which may be my favorite new website.

One aspect of research that I have never heavily considered is the age of sources. I've always known it's important, but somehow I always end up with sources from the 1980s. This time around, I made sure to dig deeper for sources with newer information that reflects society today. Despite some of the anthologies being older (1995, 1997), the argument I'm making is more focused on the present day.

After hours of flipping through four anthologies, scouring JSTOR, and searching the Northeastern Library website, my outline was done! It was time to start a rough draft. Extremely daunting, but exciting. It was time to turn my work into something concrete. Next blog, I'll get into more detail about this process!

Talk to you later,


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