Creative Nonfiction: Behind the Scenes with Keagan Wheat, author of Feeling Trans
Teresa Douglas 00:10
Welcome, listeners to this week’s behind the scenes episode of Latin X lit audio mag. I’m your host Teresa Douglas. And today we’re going to be speaking with Keegan Weat, who is the author of ‘Feeling Trans.’ Keagan Wheat writes poetry focused on FTM identity and congenital heart disease. He is Mexican-American. His work appears in Anti-Heroin Chic, Houston Review of Books, The Acentos Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, and more. Living in Houston, Texas, he enjoys collecting odd dinosaur facts and listening to many hours of podcasts. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @KWheat09. Welcome, Keegan.
Keegan Wheat 00:49
Hi, thanks for having me on. I’m so excited to be on.
Teresa Douglas 00:54
I’m excited to have you here too. And before we actually talk about your very important piece, because obviously, this is what this entire podcast episode is about, I have a very important food related question for you. Super important. So we put it first so we get it in. You’re here in my metaphorical house, sitting at my metaphorical table. I would of course, love to feed you something that you enjoy eating. So what is your favorite comfort food?
Keegan Wheat 01:27
Oh, I think I have two really weirdly disparate answers. One of them is Kraft mac and cheese like microwave Kraft mac and cheese.
Teresa Douglas 01:39
Keegan Wheat 01:42
The other is how like, specifically the way that my grandma makes tortillas, because it is very simple. And it is just the best. They’re so soft. And they’re great. I could eat way too many of them in a row.
Teresa Douglas 02:01
That’s not a thing; too many tortillas isn’t a thing. Sorry to inform you about that. This is breaking news, people. Just so you know, I’m jealous. I live up here in Vancouver, Canada. And there aren’t many of our people here, I have to say. And the tortilla situation reflects this sad reality. So.
Keegan Wheat 02:28
Oh that is sad.
Teresa Douglas 02:30
Yes. So think of me next time you eat a delicious tortilla, and have one for me too. So thank you for sharing. And mac and cheese, let me just say that is like the childhood food a lot of people learn to make first. Like that’s when you felt grown up like I can make my own mac and cheese.
Keegan Wheat 02:50
Right? Like I can feed myself now.
Teresa Douglas 02:53
Exactly. It’s very empowering. You don’t understand that, like all of the stuff in there, is maybe not so good to live on. But you gotta have it for childhood reasons. That’s what I’m saying. Thank you for sharing your your favorite comfort food. So we should probably talk a little bit more about you now. Besides food. I would love to hear how long you’ve been writing?
Keegan Wheat 03:19
Um, well, the answer kind of depends. Because I initially started writing songs. And I started that probably maybe almost 10 years ago at this point. But I didn’t start writing like literary stuff until about five years ago, when I took my first Intro to creative writing class at UNH. And I had a really wonderful professor named Kate, Kate Weiss Orchid. And that’s kind of when I started writing literary and taking it seriously.
Teresa Douglas 04:14
Teachers are the best. I was just speaking with someone else about this. And that idea of people who give you that experience of learning, because there’s learning to write. And then there’s the experience of learning to write. And I am firmly convinced that one’s teachers or mentors or whoever it is that sort of gives you that oomph, that encouragement can can help. I know it did in my case, it made me feel more like a serious writer. Like oh, wait a minute, maybe there’s something to this. So thank you teachers. We’re probably going to say this on every episode, but thank you teachers, for for all that you do. That’s amazing. I have to ask then, if you start writing songs, did you ever write poetry?
Keegan Wheat 05:04
Um, no, actually, I don’t know why. And still, in my mind, they feel very separate. I haven’t written music in such a long time. Because it just feels like two different modes to me.
Teresa Douglas 05:25
Keegan Wheat 05:26
Yeah. I don’t know why I never was like, What about a poem? That was like, no, no. Here’s my guitar. I’m writing a song. Let’s go.
Teresa Douglas 05:35
Yeah and it’s not to say that they’re exactly the same. It’s just I think sometimes people who write songs sometimes go to poetry. And that’s totally unscientific. I have absolutely no background to backup that kneejerk opinion of mine. But there you go. So listeners, I’m not scientific. So you’ve found that out, too. But that’s wonderful. So is nonfiction, then, your first love? Do you write other things? I mean, we love all our children, no matter what we write, but but do you write other things?
Keegan Wheat 06:10
Yeah, nonfiction was sort of my third writing related love. It started with songwriting. And then I went to poetry and wrote a bunch of poetry and love it still. It’s, I think, one of my favorite ways to write. But nonfiction has become a really like, interesting place, I think, for me to put a different spin on the things that I’m trying to say. Because I think poetry can be very wild in a way. And creative nonfiction feels like you can say things a little bit more directly without it feeling cliche or weird, I guess.
Teresa Douglas 07:01
It is a different form of writing. And I mean, big obvious, right? There’s poetry. And there’s fiction, and there’s nonfiction, so we have buckets. And they can cross over each other. But you’re right, there are things that because they’re your lived experience, or if you’re writing something autobiographical, for somebody else, there’s that idea that this happened. So here’s how it happened, which comes out more in nonfiction than it does in any other genre really, because poetry is so lyrical. You’re using image and you’re talking about different things. And then in nonfiction, you can be very understated in some of the best possible ways. And I thought, that’s one of the thing, just sort of to actually talk about your work, which is the entire reason I brought you on here–that was one of the things I saw as a great strength in the piece that you have, because it’s, I say understated, but it feels very spare. In the writing, there’s no, there are no wasted words, but you feel the emotions and see the actions, just so, so well. And before I start gushing about your piece–because that’s coming–before we do that, can you can walk us through how you decided to write about this and just sort of your process for writing it.
Keegan Wheat 08:39
I decided to write about this because I I mean, it’s a very clear experience. In the story, going to this pool, with literally only like queer and trans people was a wild and beautiful experience. I had never felt like so comfortable in a place that had so often been the cause of anxiety for me. So I had this really wonderful experience. And I thought that I could write about it in poetry, but it never felt right to be sort of lyrical about it. It felt like I was almost beating around the bush instead of just actually discussing it.
Keegan Wheat 09:32
So I tried my hand at nonfiction. And I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed how much I could put the people who made this experience wonderful into the piece, and them be themselves not an image or a lyric but like the actual people.
Teresa Douglas 09:55
Yeah. And that comes through so well especially at the end here. But when Aiden–you say “They meet me, with stepping in front of me, grabbing my shoulders in an easy sort of way, they look into my eyes, I can tell even though even through their sunglasses,” and there’s just this moment of absolute connection that comes through that moment. And how it says “They smile with all the conviction of someone who knows what keeps me from the pool.” And there’s so much–I hate to say buried because it’s not buried at all. It’s like, there’s just so much in those sentences, that’s coming through. And it’s a beautiful moment in there. And I love that this happens, especially toward the end of the piece, because we get all along this feeling of coming to the pool. But it’s that moment of connection when, especially toward the beginning. We in listeners, you’re hearing me shuffle pages, because I printed this out. I’m old school like that. And especially the beginning where there’s some some awkwardness, like taking, off your shirt. But you don’t have to be awkward. You’re surrounded by people who just accept you. And it’s just a lovely, lovely piece. And, I was gonna wait to gush, and I didn’t. So there we go. But going back to your process. You had this moment you wanted to write about, were you able to get it out in one go? Did you draft a lot? How did how did that look?
Keegan Wheat 12:06
I’m weirdly the type of person who doesn’t do a lot of drafts. Because I think I’m very interested in I guess overthinking sometimes. So I think about a piece for weeks. And then finally get it out. I think it’s one of the reasons why procrastinating actually works for me sometimes, because if I write it, it seems like I’m only writing this just now in four hours. But really, I’ve spent like two weeks considering my options and putting it together. So I think this was mostly in one go besides a couple tweaks here and there.
Teresa Douglas 12:56
Yeah, I feel like that thinking process is definitely part of the writing process. Because you’re drafting it, you’re thinking things through. That totally counts as writing. It was invisa-writing–I was gonna call it procrasta-writing, but that’s actually not writing, that’s when you clean every piece of your house or do some other thing, when you should be writing. It’s very important. So if I may ask, because, you know, we, we, as writers, we write things down, we send them off into the world. And then people look at them and react to them and have their own opinions about them. But if you could reach out to our listeners who have at this point, and you better listen to this piece people because none of this is going to make sense if you haven’t, but now that they’ve listened to your piece, what impression would you hope that they leave with after listening to your piece?
Keegan Wheat 13:55
I think the biggest impression I really want them to take away is that sometimes the simplest of things can make you feel like a whole person almost. Like you were talking about the ending of Aiden and looking me in the eye, just one single moment without even many words or a hug or anything like that. It’s this moment of like, like you said connection and really sort of opening the community to me and saying like, we are here for you and we are glad you are here. So I think I want people to take that away because it’s a great feeling.
Teresa Douglas 14:43
Yeah, and it’s empowering because you don’t have to be someone who who like prys off the door of a burning car and like rescues people. If you do that, you’re awesome, we’ll lay that out there–but ordinary people being decent in ordinary ways can have a profound impact.
Keegan Wheat 15:07
Teresa Douglas 15:07
And that’s incredibly empowering because we all can be decent people. It’s in our choices. And we can do small things like just tell someone that you’re glad they’re there.
Keegan Wheat 15:22
Teresa Douglas 15:25
Well, this is lovely. I do need to ask because you do your writing things. And you’re getting them seen in other places. Is there somewhere where a listener could follow you if they’re interested in hearing more of your work?
Keegan Wheat 15:41
Yes. At K wheat oh nine is all of the socials like Instagram, Twitter. I really don’t use Facebook as much as I probably should. So Twitter is usually my most up to date place. And I post about all the things I get published or if I’m teaching a workshop or something.
Teresa Douglas 16:10
Well, you heard it listeners. That’s where you go, and I will type it in the show notes if you didn’t get that, but Keegan if you can spell out your handle, that would also help everybody.
Keegan Wheat 16:21
Yes. It’s the at sign. K w h e a t 09. It’s wheat just like the bread.
Teresa Douglas 16:35
Well, thank you so much for for coming to the show. I really enjoyed having you here.
Keegan Wheat 16:40
Thank you so much for having me. I am so glad that this piece found a home because I really love it. And I’m glad that oyu also–
Teresa Douglas 16:50
I love it too. We’re we’re just going to use that word. It’s okay. It’s not awkward. I love it too. Well, thank you so much.