Welcome to the third of four fantastic recaps of our experience at A-Camp 3.0, which took place 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles at Alpine Meadows Camp atop a mountain in Angelus Oaks, California, from May 23rd-27th, 2013. These recamps serve to ease our collective separation anxiety, enable us to wax nostalgic over times gone by and provide prospective campers with a brilliant glimpse into the A-Camp Experience.
A-Camp was the genesis of an idea Riese had at 3AM in July 2010: the concept was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions and create an affordable vacation for queers for whom other lesbian-marketed vacations aren’t a perfect fit. In April 2012, we did it for the first time— along with 160 campers and 35 staff members, we rented out a summer camp in its off-season and enjoyed a transformative weekend of fun, friendship, panels, workshops, classes, sports, entertainment, events and so forth. It was probably the most awesome experience of our life and we knew from there it would only get bigger and better — and it did, in September 2012!
Which brings us to May 2013, when our largest-ever group of campers arrived on the mountain, and were greeted by dedicated counselors and treated to four days of kickass programming. Swagger 101! Comedy Improv! Yoga! DIY Body Scrubs! Hop-Hop Dance! Kink Panel! Know Your Whiskey Tasting! Recess Games! Drag King Workshop! Femme Luncheon! Lilith Fair! Julie Goldman & Brandy Howard! Deanne Smith! Somer Bingham! The cast of Unicorn Plan-It! Calendar Girls! Team Autostraddle! Most importantly: EACH OTHER! And So. Much. More.
In the past, these recamps have been exhaustive recollections of every minute of A-Camp, but this time we’re tightening it up a bit. See, A-Camp is whatever you want it to be — and it’s something different for everybody. You all have your own stories in your hearts and brains and cameras and in the notebook paper pieces in your back pockets and this is our story of what goes on behind-the-scenes and also in the front of our brains to make this whole she-bang come together with relative grace. Are you ready? I don’t think you’re ready. (Also, we miss you!)
Saturday, May 25th: Day Three
Early Morning: Sunrise Eagle Cafe // Early Bird Yoga (Devyn)
Block A: Zine-Making (Riese, Laneia & Rachel) // Pure Poetry Challenge (Carmen & Whitney) // Kickass Heroines in Popular Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Julia, Vanessa, Geneva, Mey) // Music Trivia (Crystal, Stef & Somer) // Handy Jobs (Marni) // Mentoring Sessions (Cee, Meredydd, Jess R, Robin, Carly)
Block B: Basketball & Recess Games (Brittani & Carrie) // Heart of (Google) Glass (Taylor) // Real Talk: Your Relationship Doesn’t Have to Suck (Sarah Evan, Gabby, Riese, Laneia, Somer, Daniela) // Sexual Health Q&A With (Almost) Dr. Lizz (Liz) // Into the WordPress (Cee & Geneva) // Devyn’s Dance Grooves (Devyn)
Crystal, Music Editor & Toros Counselor: By Saturday morning I was experiencing some serious sleep deprivation and so I stopped by one of my favorite places, The Breakfast Club, to trade some Tim Tams for two cups of the most delicious dark french press.
Carmen Rios, Contributing Editor & Inferno Counselor: I created the Pure Poetry Challenge for Camp because I knew people wanted to write poetry and I knew I needed to make it fun in order to make it worthwhile for them because, seriously, life is hard enough and sometimes you need a goddamn writing prompt, okay? Each round, I selected a type of poem randomly and then gave them a random keyword (kittens, headlamp, the patriarchy) as well as an excerpted line from a famous poem we featured during Pure Poetry Week. (You may remember these poems from the Pure Poems post that went up while we were writing things on the mountain.) The poems, produced in four to five minutes each round, were absolutely perfect – and every single one was about sex. Like, every single one. Either a lot of campers were having sex in the woods or a lot of campers were wishing they had. It was like a freudian slip nobody was trying to keep from slipping. Highest moments include our rap round, in which I spit game but forgot the keyword we were supposed to incorporate and an anonymous participant wrote about “midnight creaming.”
Riese, Editor-in-Chief and Runaways Counselor: We billed zine-making as more of a drop-in crafts session for this camp because we decided last time we weren’t qualified to lead it as a legit “workshop,” nor did we have enough time to carry out the ‘zine-making post-camp projects we often cooked up. My two co-hosts were a little late which left me a little flustered and perhaps seeming slightly unhinged, but soon enough we reached my favorite part of the experience which is the part where I can sit on the floor and cut & paste things with allt he best humans.
Riese: Thank goddess for Megan, who not only provided me with coffee, snacks and Supply Whistler assistance, but eventually located my sisters and brought them to me.
Vanessa, Contributing Editor & Blackhearts Counselor: I love to talk and I love kickass fictional heroines, so I was really excited about the Kickass Heroines in Contemporary Sci-Fi/Fantasy panel. During the planning stages we couldn’t decide if like, five humans would show up, or if 100 humans would show up, so we had a little bit of trouble conceptualizing what the panel would look like. We knew that we really wanted to foster a discussion rather than just talk at people about how much Geneva and I adore Buffy, but we were a little bit nervous about how that would work in practice.
Vanessa: But then on the day of the panel 50 humans showed up, and we somehow had an amazing and thought-provoking discussion about the Whedonverse, Hunger Games, Divergence, and more. It felt like everyone had a chance to speak – and I hope the campers felt that to be true, too – and I was really blown away by the level of respect and intelligence present in our conversation. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because Straddlers are awesome like that, but I so rarely find other people who want to have serious conversations about fictional characters and plots and worlds, and it was just really validating to be around a group that wanted to geek out as hard as I do all the time. Also special shout out to the camper who said “war changes you” as a way to think about the epilogue of the Hunger Games, you really changed my perspective on the end of the book and that was really cool!
Crystal: Stef, Somer and I hosted Music Trivia, proving once and for all that we are not the same person.
Stef, Contributor & Bombshells Counselor: This was the Music Trivia where we finally figured out how to get shit done. We tried out some new categories this time, including a series of hip hop questions donated and presented by one very raspy-voiced Miz Gabby Rivera.
Gabby, Writer & Foxfire Counselor: Before camp, Stef and I were gchatting about how much shit we still had left to do and she mentioned that she was hard up for music trivia questions. I offered to come up with some hip hop ones and she accepted. Her and Crystal liked my Qs so they kept them.
Stef: If I may say so myself, our new scoring system was a great success and Somer was a very welcome addition to the team, providing an extra bit of flavor to the good cop/bad cop dynamic Crystal and I had established in prior sessions.
Cyrstal: Stef and Somer tag-teamed the question-asking while I threw around Tim Tams for correct answers. Everyone was somehow able to guess the name of Ali Lohan’s holiday album. Red team was victorious.
Gabby: On my way to one event, I landed in the middle of the music trivia just in time for the hip hop segment and yo, Stef and Crystal let me give out the clues. It was so awesome. I know someone ragged on my questions for being mostly about 1990s hip hop but other than that one hater, everyone was into it! People knew Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s aliases, what borough Nicki Minaj is from and the rap group that jump started Lil’ Kim’s career. Badass queermos rocked the hell out of that hip hop shit and made me want to come up with even better questions next time. Play on, playas.
Stef: I’d venture to say that Music Trivia has started to reach its potential, and I can’t wait to torture campers with even tougher questions in October.
Carrie, Community Managerette & Tiger Beat Counselor: Despite having not worked out since 2010, I was feeling fairly okay with the altitude situation at this camp. Then I played basketball. Guys, did you know that Brittani played for Yale and she and many other A-campers have real basketball experience? The last time I played competitive basketball POGS were a thing.
Brittani, Contributing Editor & Hellcats Counselor: Playing basketball is always one of my favorite parts of camp. Yes, it’s hard to breathe in the altitude and yes, we end up going on several unplanned hikes when the ball plummets into a ravine and needs to be retrieved but it’s always a lot of fun. Everyone does a great job of making it a positive experience for campers of all skills levels. This time around we played shirts versus skins which should inspire more people to come cheer us on next Camp.
Carrie: Thanks for reminding me how out of shape I am, everyone. And to the campers who made half mile treks down the mountain to retrieve loose balls and the camper who commandeered a trash can for a mysterious (Canadian?) recess game, I salute you.
Brittani: I also dunked on Nate in case anyone was wondering. It was very quick. Everyone might have missed it. Including Nate.
Taylor, Contributor & Vipers Counselor: In spite of some pretty stiff competing programming, lots of you all attended my Google Glass “workshop” i.e. me talking at your faces with a thing on my face. You were so smart and had so many good questions! You will all be spared from my lasers in the Great Cyborg Reckoning.
Lizz, Contributing Editor & Starjammers Counselor: My Safer Sex Workshop was so fun. I think people had a good time a learned a little bit. I particularly loved the cards with different sex acts written on the (illustrated by the wonderful Kristen).
Kristen, Contributing Editor & Scissor Sisters Counselor: I had more fun prepping Liz’s Safer Sex Panel than I did prepping my own. I don’t think that’s how camp is supposed to work, but I’ll just make a point of sexualizing Plant 101 with Cara next time. Early Thursday morning Liz, Mey, Ali, Hansen, Cara, Rachel, Meredydd, Intern Grace, Julia and I sat around a tree stump brainstorming possible girl on girl sexy acts. Eating poop? Vore? Vulva-slapping? Cake sitting? Campers needed to know, and more importantly, know how safe these acts were. But of course, Hypersexual Flashcard Crafts became all the more thrilling when I had a chance to bask in the sun on Friday and ask randoms to help me illustrate strapon sex (giving and receiving) and nipple clamping among other things. Somehow I managed to round up Cara, Nic, Stephy, Mey, Julia and Kira of Scarlet Tentacle Fame, so let’s just say that those flashcards were raunchy and accurate as fuck.
Lizz: It was particularly great because it ended up being a discussion at times instead of a panel/presentation. Who knew “cake sitting” would be such a conversation starter?!? Just kidding. I knew it would be! But I loved it anyways.
Riese: The Your Relationship Doesn’t Have to Suck Situation was invented by Robin, Marni and I during our Pre-Camp planning meetings, and came out of a lot of things — like all the relationship advice questions you guys send us! Often same-sex relationships can become both really private and really self-destructive really quickly and people aren’t always eager to reach out for help. I had experience with all manners of sucky-relationships (with men and women) and also healthy ones, as did many of the panelists. We answered some questions from campers and it felt like a really important thing was happening.
Laneia, Executive Editor & Runaways Counselor: I’m so glad we were able to hold the healthy relationships discussion with Sarah Evan and the rest of the amazing panelists. Deer lodge was packed with so many bodies and so much support, and I really believe we each came away with something helpful that we’ll keep for when we need it most. This workshop was another example of the realness and honesty people bring to A-Camp — so we’re willing to be really exposed and vulnerable, while at the same time we’re able to help hold someone else up in their vulnerability. I sound like I’m on MDMA but I’m being totally serious here. This workshop was fucking hard for me, but I was so proud to be part of it.
Riese: Last camp Sarah Evan moderated our Body Image/Eating Disorders Discussion/Panel and after we got through this one, with all its disclosures and looking-at-the-carpet-to-avoid-crying, she was like Jesus Riese, you’ve had some fucked up shit happen in your life! And I was like, “it will all be in the book!”
Mey, Contributor & Slayers Counselor: The Femme Meet-Ups were maybe my favorite thing about camp. First of all, I got to make a super cool Lisa Frank sticker and glitter-covered poster. Plus, I found out that Femme Meet Ups are something that I had never realized that I needed so badly in my life.
Mey: In case you weren’t lucky enough to be sitting near us at lunch, we were a group of femmes who met up at lunch to hang out, dress up, and bond. We had so many types of Femmes, everyone from Lazy Femmes, to High Femmes, to Blue Jean Femmes, to New Femmes and more. Everyone looked amazing and was even more amazing once I got to know them. We talked about the merits of wearing dresses (you only have to put on one piece of clothing!) and the frustrations of constantly having to come out to people. We had between 15-20 people each time at lunch, and the second day, we were all crowded around one table, letting out our femme feelings and talking about femme angst and why we love being femmes. I had been fixing my lipstick at meals all week before this, and finally other people at my table were doing the same thing, reassuring me that I wasn’t alone. There are some places where I’m allowed to be a woman, allowed to be queer and allowed to be femme (and lots of places I’m not), but at camp, and especially at these meet ups, I wasn’t just allowed to be those things, I was actively and enthusiastically encouraged to be them.
Robin, Photographer & Camp Co-Director: I always feel like I have very little time at camp to just sit and talk with campers so the One-on-One Mentoring Sessions was my favorite activity. I loved being able to see the photographs some of our visually-talented campers had taken (especially ones from A-Camp!) and just have a chance to share my experiences and hear their own.
Riese: This idea was brilliant and I’d never wished so hard that I was a camper so that I could sign up for one and have one of these women tell me what the fuck to do with myself. Because there’s no point in me having a feeling if I can’t share it with you, I’m gonna give you their bios because it was reading these bios in the Activity Descriptions packet that made me wish I had a one-on-one mentoring session. Perhaps you will feel the same way.
Meredydd- Getting a Job, Buying a House - Professionally, I have a lot of experience going on job interviews and acting as a hiring manager. I have helped people successfully prep for interviews in the public and private sectors, reviewed countless resumes and advised employees and friends on how to navigate challenging workplace situations. Personally, I have come back from near disaster (layoffs, job loss and other personal challenges) to own my own home and become reasonably financially secure. Let me help you get a job, keep a job, understand home buying and budgeting. I don’t have all the answers but I can help!
Robin – Photography, Owning a Small Business - As a professional photographer and business owner, I can offer advice on being a freelance creative. Pricing yourself (placing value on your work), working with clients, and fine tuning your own creative process are areas where I have some experience. Specifically if you are interested in working in photography! Or if you just want me to review a portfolio or help answer your photo questions, I’m happy to help!!
Carly – Television, Working in Media - I’m an expert in muppets, drag queens, all aspects of TV/video production, bowties, being an adult human, being married to an exceptional adult human, pretending to be a DJ, being less hilarious than B but still moderately funny and managing one’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sign up at your own risk.
Cee – All the Things, Money Management - I’ve lived through a couple dot com booms and busts, formed a company, lived abroad for five years, published a cookbook, traveled to over 50 countries, learned another language and bought a house. I’m an independent lifelong learner with a broad range of interests. I can help with repairing/building your credit line, home buying/mortgages, investing and handling money, starting a business, navigating the tech industry, traveling/backpacking/living abroad, self motivation tips, setting personal goals and how to meet people who can help you achieve those goals.
Jess R – Nutrition Counseling, Owning a Small Business - After working web design/social media strategy for 8+ years post-college, I decided to follow my fitness/foodie passion and became certified as a Holistic Nutrition + Fitness Coach helping people create a completely personalized roadmap to health that suits their unique body, lifestyle and goals. I now offer private coaching through the business I founded, Cake to Kale (caketokale.com), where I specialize in deconstructing food cravings, disordered eating and personal training. I have worked alongside countless business and life coaches, soaking up their knowledge to share with you on starting a business from your heart-centered core. My mission is to inspire, educate and empower people to become rockstars in their bodies and minds.
RIGHT??? Did you know that Cee published a cookbook? I did not. Anyhow, according to Meredydd’s Camper Survey evaluation, y’all got a lot out of your one-on-ones, so we’ll definitely do it again in October. (And we’ll have Grace Bonney, too!)
Next: The afternoon delights…