McClelland talks writing 'Gay Zoo Day'

Category:  The Arts
Friday, November 1st, 2019 at 11:14 AM
McClelland talks writing 'Gay Zoo Day' by Amber Chisholm

Writer Mike McClelland, a recipient of the 2017 Silver IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for LGBTQ Literature, was invited to Edinboro University on Friday to read from his book, “Gay Zoo Day: Tales of Seeking and Discovery.” The reading, hosted by the English and Philosophy Department, began at 7 p.m. in the basement of Reeder Hall.

Caroline Campbell, an associate professor in the department, introduced him, stating that his work has appeared in publications such as Boston Review, Queen Mob’s Tea House and more.

McClelland is a 2007 graduate of Allegheny College with a degree in creative writing, received his master’s degree in science from the London School of Economics and a master’s degree in fine arts from Georgia College, and is currently completing his doctorate in a creative writing program at the University of Georgia.

Campbell described “Gay Zoo Day,” which is divided into eight stories, as “an anthology about gay and lesbian cowboys seeking more than what life has handed them.” The stories cover “themes of love and alienation, race and gender, class and privilege,” along with various settings and life elements.

With a focused yet friendly presence, McClelland read a story called “The Self-Banished,” which talked about a group of boys and their experiences of self-discovery while living in Jumonville, an actual Methodist retreat center in Pennsylvania.

Finishing after nearly 20 minutes, he answered questions from the audience, the first of which focused on what inspired him to write his current work.

McClelland shared that he was affected by the arrest of an Allegheny College professor and then referred back to the book, which is fiction, saying that, “I try to think about a person who would deal with that in their own life.” This was both how and where the work for this book began.
He also processes his life experiences through fiction and tries to express all details before editing, ultimately giving himself control over the endings.

The story that he identifies most with is “Olive Urchin,” which discusses social issues in Hong Kong and is “a lesbian version of Oliver Twist.” He explained, “It was a story I really wanted to tell” since it represents his experiences with what he has witnessed, along with the ability to share “truth to power” with fiction.

During an interview afterward, McClelland mentioned other authors he enjoys such as Alexander Chee and Ocean Vuong. He also revealed that his next book, called “Magic, Most Queer,” which touches on witches and is heavy in both sexual and violent content, is expected to be released in 2020.

“Gay Zoo Day: Tales of Seeking and Discovery” is available on Amazon and more information on McClelland can be found on his website:

The book was released in 2017 by Beautiful Dreamer Press.

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