A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #2: How Do You Spell “Regalement”?

Once upon a time (October 9th-13th, to be specific) in a land far far atop a mountain two hours outside of sunny Los Angeles, approximately 275 queer humans gathered for four days and four nights of revelry, carnivalia, intellectual stimulation, dance parties and deep sea bonding. They called it A-Camp 4.0, and it was beautiful! This is the second of four fantastic recaps which serve to ease our collective separation anxiety, give you a behind-the-scenes look at how your A-Camp soysage is made, enable us to wax nostalgic over times gone by and provide prospective campers with a brilliant glimpse into the A-Camp Experience.

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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 by renting a summer camp in the off-season and jam-packing a long weekend with panels, workshops, discussions, crafts, sports, entertainment, parties and so much more! We gave the idea a spin with an abbreviated, smaller edition of A-Camp in April 2012, followed by full-size full-length camps in September 2012 and May 2013, all hosted by everybody’s favorite dynamic duo, Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard. Which brings us to October 2013, the Little Camp That Could!

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This fall’s camp was unforgettable and fucking awesome. Our amazing team was complemented by talented Special Guests including comedienne DeAnne Smith, new media superstar Hannah Hart, Me & My Bois collaborators Lex Kennedy and Emotions the P.O.E.T., rock star Somer Bingham and songstress and actress Haviland Stillwell. Our camp staff included Autostraddle.com team members, A-Camp Tumblr Inventress Emily Gigler and Autostraddle Calendar Girls Miss October 2014 Kai, Miss February 2014 Chloe and Miss June 2013 Dani.

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A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #2: Day Two

Thursday, October 10th: Day Two of A-Camp

Robin, A-Camp Co-Director & Photographer: The morning was so incredibly beautiful. The sun beat down on tree branches weighed down by heaps of wet snow dripping steadily to the ground. By afternoon, camp was almost dry! It felt like a magical and cozy winter wonderland!

Megan, Program Support Coordinator: The first breakfast with campers is my favorite. There’s an energy and anticipation, and everyone is so excited for what’s about to happen, even if they don’t really know to expect.

(photo by robin)

(photo by robin)

Thursday Morning

Activities: Party of Ones: Introvert Feelings Atrium (Riese & Crystal) // Make a Thing: Merit Badges (Hansen) // Pure Poetry Challenge (Carmen & Kai) // Rage Against the Machine (Taylor, Bren & Cee)

But I’m a Cheerleader for Real (Kai) // Crazy/Beautiful Panel & Discussion (Riese, Taylor, Dani & Donna) // First Person Feelings: A Writing Workshop (Rachel) // Nailed It!: DIY Nail Polish & Makeup (Hansen, Mey & Kaylah) // Music Trivia (Stef, Crystal, Cara & Lane)

Crystal, Heartthrobs Counselor & HR Director/Writer: Being introverted at A-Camp is sorta my thing, so I was really excited about Party of One: Introvert Feelings Atrium.

Riese, Runaways Counselor & Editor-in-Chief/CEO: We’ve done introvert meet-ups before, but I felt like we needed to shake it up this time with an activity that talked about something I have in common with seriously like 50% of the campers – BEING A WEIRDO INTROVERT.

Crystal: So many campers showed up! More than we had anticipated. We played a game based on what kind of introverts we are, which involved stepping back and forward to indicate the accuracy of statements such as “I keep my cell on silent because the noise sends me into a hot panic.” Riese and I (mostly Riese) dealt out some advice about fears and so did a lot of new and returning campers, I learned a lot.

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Hansen, Hearthrobs Counselor & DIY/Food Editor: I am always really humbled by the incredible things campers make at camp and Make A Thing: Merit Badges was no different. People are so creative! Lanie made me a Snow Camp badge that I wore the whole camp with pride. There were so many people making badges that we ran out of supplies and everyone pitched in (Anna even went and grabbed her own sewing needles for us!) and it was just delightful.

(via Hansen)

(via Hansen)

Carmen, Holograms Counselor & Contributing Editor: My Pure Poetry Challenge introduced me to an entirely new poetry crew, but the ending was just the same: sex, sex, sex, bears.

Emily, Rockford Peaches Counselor: I stopped by Kai’s Cheerleading Workshop because Kai’s so much fun and I dig KPop and I told her I’d swing by. If there was a superlative for least likely to be a cheerleader I’d be it. But then before I knew it my head was up in the rafters while I white-knuckled some pompoms and trusted the shit out of the campers holding me up. It was awesome. Kai’s an amazing coach, and when she tells you to put your ass up, you do it.

Emily reaches for the stars (photo by Robin)

Emily reaches for the stars (photo by Robin)

Robin: I don’t get to attend many activities at camp, but I was able to catch part of Kai’s workshop and was amazed at what these campers learned how to do! I took photos and video of their performance! I was so impressed by our new staff member Kai who taught these campers lifts and an A-Camp themed cheer!

Yvonne, Stormtroopers Counselor & Associate Editor: The greatest moment at A-Camp for me was definitely that workshop. Kai, Autostraddle’s October calendar girl, told me that I should come to her workshop. I’ve never had a dance or cheer lesson in my life, not even as a kid, and I’m not a peppy person so this was definitely out of my comfort zone. But I decided to go try something different. I do not regret going because it was so much fun! We learned a cheer routine, some stunting and the official A-Camp cheer. Kai was a great teacher and her pep was definitely contagious. By the end of it I was cheering and moving those pompoms so hard!

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DeAnne Smith, A-Camp Talent & Writer: The Crazy/Beautiful Panel was Crazy Beautiful. It was really wonderful to hear everyone talking about their experiences, and how they’ve learned to cope with their beautifully complicated minds and body chemistries.

Riese: We’ve had lots of requests to do mental health related stuff at camp, but it’s a tall order because it’s so easy to fuck up. Taylor and I talk about mental health stuff a lot because we’re both crazy, and she had a proposal for a panel/discussion this time that sounded do-able. We recruited fellow crazies Dani RDS, Somer and Donna — it was extra-awesome to have Donna there because she has a master’s degree in therapeutic interventions. A-Camp’s Director of Feelings Sarah Evan was still on the road when we got started, but she popped in at the end!

Donna, The Gossip Counselor: Meeting Sarah Evan was a total delight. Something about her made me want to spill all my darkest secrets immediately. She rolled up to camp and jumped right in the Crazy/Beautiful panel. As soon as she opened her mouth she spewed therapeutic gems, and I thought, “I have to hang out with this human. “

DeAnne Smith, The Talent:In lesser hands, this type of panel could have gone sobbingly, uncomfortably, horribly awry, but this panel was a perfect balance of vulnerability, education, practical advice, de-stigmatization (is that a word?) and humor.

Riese: Although it wasn’t our intent, I think having Crazy/Beautiful on the first day set a tone of like, “FYI, you are totally not alone, you are amongst friends who get you, you can trust us, so take a deep breath and HAVE SOME KICKASS FUN!” Personally I feel like the sense of outsiderness I felt being crazy in a sane world overshadowed any possibility of discovering my queerness until I was fully medicated and therapized at the age of 23. So I think it’s a really important and unique discussion to have with a group of assorted crazy-ass homos.

(via Robin Roemer)

(photo by Robin Roemer)

Rachel, Girltrash! Counselor & Senior Editor: My first workshop of camp was the Mini Writing Workshop on Personal Writing that I’ve done every camp. Traditionally, this workshop has been attended by 5-8 people; this time, it was attended by TWENTY-THREE, which was insane and made me nervous that people had only attended because they thought it was something else, possibly a workshop wherein we would learn how to spin texts from our exes into gold, and that I would inevitably disappoint them.

Laneia, Runaways Counselor & Executive Editor: I was working on my piece for that night’s Staff Reading on the other side of  Eagle Annex, where Rachel was holding her writing workshop. I overheard a couple of the exercises and prompts and it made me want Rachel to be my personal writing workshop teacher. It was so good and perfect.

Rachel: I think it seemed generally well received, however, and I am super grateful to everyone who attended! Thanks for restoring my faith that sometimes people might be interested in talking with me about writing even when they aren’t required to by a university.

Stef, The Gossip Counselor & Music Editor: This Music Trivia was a little different – we swapped out Somer for Cara, and had the additional help of Lane and Sophia. Crystal acted as the scorekeeper, and I took over tossing candy out to teams who got the answers right.

Crystal: Everyone answered questions about Riot Grrrl and Hip-Hop and Former Disney Child Stars.

probably correct answer

probably correct answer

Stef: Crystal never told me, but candy-tossing turns out to be the worst job in all of music trivia, mainly because of guilt. I beamed several members of the purple and orange teams in the head with Tim Tams multiple times, and felt terrible every time. Near the end, I was just walking over to each team and solemnly handing them Toblerones.

Crystal: I didn’t tell her that it was the worst because I didn’t want to do it myself. Sorry Stef.

Stef: Despite my poor aim, the competition was pretty heated, and in the end the Orange team won – and their MVP received a pack of feminist musician playing cards, our first ever actual prize.

(via Robin Roemer)

Feminist Playing Cards (via Robin Roemer)

Sophia, Holograms Counselor: I felt a bit aimless in the morning but I knew there would be candy at Music Trivia and although Cara, Lane, Crystal and Stef seemed like they had it down I thought perhaps my help was needed and perhaps I might be rewarded for being so generous with my time.


(photo by robin)


Next: Thursday Afternoon brings love and light into our lives!

Thursday Afternoon

Fanfic Workshop (Geneva) // Queerituality: The Panel (Vanessa, Hansen, Mey & Fikri) // “Ropes Course” & Kink Workshop (Ali, Lizz, Dani & Carolyn) // Scrub a Dub Dub (Laneia) // Thank You For Being a Friend: Peer Counseling For Everybody! (Liz C.)

Gender Panel (Marni, Katrina, Mey, Dani, Carly, Chloe, Lane & Cara) // Nerdcraft (Taylor, Carolyn, Bren & Ali) // DIYke Hardware Jewelry (Liz C.) // Twerkshop (Kaylah & DJ DasGigler)



Vanessa, Blackhearts Counselor & Contributing Editor: Oh man, the Queerituality Panel! I was so nervous about moderating and participating on this panel. I told the audience about 10 times how nervous I was? At one point I announced how scary it is to lead a panel. I believe this transparency put us all at ease (or that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…). Talking about religion is a scary thing!

Hansen: After a pretty busy morning with Merit Badges, I was excited to kind of chill out and talk about religion. I feel really comfortable talking about religion even though it’s a pretty touchy subject, so it was going to be fine, right? Nope. I burst into sobs when talking about being kicked out of my church when I came out, and campers actually came up to the stage and group hugged me. Vanessa got me tissues, and I was really embarrassed, but there was really no reason to be embarrassed because everyone was so sweet.

Vanessa: Even in a space as open and loving as A-Camp, I could tell that everyone was a tiny bit scared to be Talking About Religion. But we did it! We laughed, we cried, we acknowledged how wacky parents can be.

Mey, Flashdance Counselor & Contributing Editor: There were some funny moments and some moments full of feelings (like when half of the front row gave Hansen a group hug, my heart wanted to explode).

Hansen: Talking about hard things in front of a bunch of very sympathetic faces of humans who have probably had similar experiences is hard!

Lizz, Flashdance Counselor & Contributing Editor: If someone could track down the venn diagram of “people who want to attend the queertuality panel” and “people who want to attend the bondage workshop” with “Vanessa Friedman” in the middle I would really appreciate it.

(via Stef)

(via Stef)

Vanessa: My goal was to get the audience to share as much as possible because while my panel-mates were amazing, there was no way the four of us could cover all religious experiences in the world. And this is the part where I have to thank the people who came and listened and participated SO MUCH, because oh my god the panel audience rocked. Everyone had SUCH insightful things to share, and people really opened up and got real and honest and sometimes it hurt and sometimes I felt the room stiffen or sometimes I saw one person look down or tense up but we did it. Together we were able to have a conversation about religion and spirituality, and what it means to be queer and religious or not, and when the panel ended people stuck around to keep talking. I heard later from some campers that some of the conversations continued long after the panel ended. That felt like such a success to me. I was so happy.

Mey: One of my favorite things about camp is being able to meet a bunch of other queer people who I can share experiences and feelings with. Where I live there isn’t a huge lesbian community, so that means that it’s really hard to find people who are like me. A-Camp gives me the chance to find those people and talk to them and find that I’m not alone.

Hansen: By the end of the panel, Vanessa proposed to me on stage and I said yes and Mey is going to officiate our wedding and all is right with the world.

sugar scrubs w/ laneia (photo by bree)

sugar scrubs w/ laneia (photo by bree)

Laneia: Sugar scrubs! Mixing sugar with oil has inadvertently become a camp tradition. This was a super chill group — lots of Runaways and Blackhearts even came by! — and I was wearing my favorite outfit that day, so really a good time was had by all I think. We learned a lot about not rushing the glass etching process.

Carolyn, Amazons Counselor & NSFW Editor: Kink 101: Ropes Course was unquestionably my favorite workshop to lead of every camp so far. Ali, Lizz, Dani RDS and I decided on a mix of information, live flogging and rope restraint demonstrations and hands-on components that let everyone get a feel for kink in a safe environment. In the hands-on session and afterwards, we also got to answer a lot of questions we might not have otherwise in a giant You Need Help come to life. It’s nice to have a chance to bring people together, and then to keep them together with bondage rope.

Ali: We were so excited to have Babeland partner with us and provide demonstration toys for our kink workshop. Out of all the places on the planet to obtain sex toys, Babeland’s hands down my favorite establishment from which to purchase naughty stuff. And we’re super intentional about sponsorship – we only enter into partnerships like that with businesses we truly love and care about, and with businesses that are kick ass. Babeland fits all of those criteria – they’ve got the best selection and the most knowledgeable staff. And they supplied a TON of rope so we could all tie each other up. TBH, the kink panel is what I think people imagine when I say I’m going to Gay Camp.

Ropes (via Carolyn)

Ropes (via Carolyn)

Robin: Lizz, Carolyn, Dani and Ali are quite a team. With their expert knowledge and a generous donation from A-Camp sponsor Babeland, I hope to have more kink-centric workshops in the future at A-Camp! I loved the practical, quite literally hands-on aspect. And because these four staffers stressed the importance of consent and taught participants the proper and safe ways to flog and knot, they turned a possibly uncomfortable topic for some into a really comfortable and fun time.

Ali: They also sent us this paddle, which is both pretty and stingier than a swarm of bees. Fun fact – generally the shinier the material is, the more on the stingy end of the sting-thud spectrum that toy’s gonna be. I even slapped myself on the thigh with it, just to check. Whoboy. Sweet Lesbian Jesus.


all tied up (photo by robin roemer)

Carly, Special Programming Director & Contributor: A Quick Note About the Kink Workshop: After hearing that Lizz was going to get flogged by Ali, several staffers who shall remain unnamed (including myself) hung out in the back and giggled and I want to apologize for how dumb we are. Obvs the giggles were hiding some WEIRD FEELINGS otherwise we would have been more well-behaved. I would watch Ali, Lizz, Carolyn and Dani lead a workshop on anything. Ever.

Donna: During the ropes workshop, during a very serious and hot flogging moment, Cee turned to me and held up a picture of a cat with the word “YUP” underneath. This cat was in direct opposition to the grumpy cat posters proclaiming “NOPE,” which were everywhere at camp. Something about the timing of this reveal, and the sheer silly randomness of both cats plastered everywhere, had me rolling and snorting and crying, at the kink workshop of all places. Awesome. I like imagining Cee scouring the Internet in search of the perfect cat to be juxtaposed with the Grumpy Cat that we all know and love. YES!

(via Donna)

(via Donna)


Carly: I had the honor of being on The Gender Panel again and this time we had a panel comprised almost entirely of newbs, which led to a revived discussion, different topics and a really great panel. To my fellow panelists & our incredible audience: it was an honor.


Yvonne: I helped Liz Castle setup for her DIYke Hardware Jewlery workshop and learned how to make one badass bracelet. Who knew hex nuts could be this cool? I’ve been wearing it everyday since camp.

(via Yvonne)

(via Yvonne)

Kaylah, Rockford Peaches Counselor & Moderator: The concept of the Twerkshop was developed after Gigler and I twerked our way through Camp 3.0 in the Bombshells cabin. The white board drawings and some of the awesome outfits I saw made it clear that the Twerkshop was going to be something out of this world. The conversation we had about the history of twerk and cultural appropriation was the icing on top of the ass-cake.

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Emily: Kaylah rocked all the booties that came to our twerkshop, and I had a blast bringing the beats and throwing in a few of my vogue moves. Kai added her cheer energy and natural leadership to the mix!

Carmen, Holograms Counselor & Contributing Editor: I attended the Twerkshop hoping to learn what all the kids were doing nowadays, but instead found that I’ve been twerking for just about my entire life. And thus, I left – after recruiting Kaylah, Emily Gigler, and Kai for the Twerk Team and enlisting them to start that night.

Twerkshop Basics (via Stef)

Twerkshop Basics (via Stef)

Sophia: Carmen and I had agreed earlier that we absolutely had to go to Twerkshop because this was an Important Thing. We lost track of time but once we arrived in Wolf and saw everyone dancing we tried to hide but it never works out that way, at least not for Carmen. Kaylah and Gigler and Kai were super duper teachers bringing people out of their shells to dance and join in with them.

Emily: It really set the tone for all the ass shaking that mountain could handle. Twerkshop, Klub Deer, A-Camp-alooza, Prom, people just turnt the fuck out this camp.

Kaylah: Everyone was great and we had a blast twerking til we were out of breath and I almost shed a tear after our group huddle at the end. Who knew twerking on a mountain with a bunch of weirdos would be so special? Allison, Casey and Lisa continued to give me life every time I saw you dancing at camp. “Twerk Betch!”


(photo by bree)


Next: Live from Angelus Oaks, it’s Thursday Night!

The Reading

Featuring: Riese, Carmen, Laneia, Rachel, Crystal, Lizz R., Hansen, Ali, Cara, Somer & Vanessa

Rachel: Even though I had been shown a schedule before I had even shown up at camp, for some reason I was totally unprepared for the Staff Reading when it happened, which was maybe for the best, because it gave me less time to freak out. In the end, the reading became one of my favorite parts of camp just because I got to sit and listen to so many amazing things — I’m constantly in awe of my coworkers and their talents, and I’m so glad I get a time and place to just sit and marvel at them, and also obviously cry like a child.

Riese: I’d set aside a few hours each day the week before camp to work on a piece for the reading — not anticipating a series of last-minute camp-related emergencies that gobbled up those hours with alarming consistency, leaving me totally unprepared for the one activity that I should’ve been completely prepared for!

(photo by ariel)

(photo by ariel)

Carmen: All I know about the reading is that going first is terrifying. I can never gauge how it’s going, but the audience’s simultaneous cooing and laughing and sniffling told me it was going well. I read excerpts about Geneva, perfect human and my person, at the reading – and even though I thought they were sickeningly self-indulgent positive rays of sunshine, people seemed to really like them! The peak of this year’s reading was twofold: there was a moment right after where Brittani indicated I’d “made her tear up,” and then Stef fell on a piano. Both symbolize how my heart felt up there.

Riese: I got to learn so much about everybody’s relationships this time! Seriously, it was awesome.


(photo by ariel)

Riese: For Autostraddle, Hansen is usually telling you how to make things or listen to things, but rarely do I get to hear her read about her own self, so that was awesome, especially ’cause she read about going to doctors who couldn’t fix things or explain things, a feeling I can totally relate to.

Hansen: I was really happy that my piece was pre-butt plug twin stories because I definitely couldn’t get over how funny they were.


(photo by ariel)

Ali, Wildcats Counselor & Geekery Editor: The flow at this reading was impeccable. Everything was just so well-balanced, we all magically selected pieces that complimented other pieces and they magically wound up in an order that was perfect. Well, not entirely magically. Lizz and I told Riese to put us one after the other due to the remarkably similar subject matter we’d chosen to present. I read a selection from a larger piece of fiction and – well – you know what Lizz read. Lizz did Lizz. And it may have been the hardest I’ve ever laughed.

Laneia: I can’t believe we had more than one hilarious butt plug story! Talk about an embarrassment of riches you guys.

Carly: The staff reading gave us Anal Rubin, and for that we are forever grateful.

Riese: I’ll never forget Lizz saying “if you’re the type of person who gets turned on just thinking about the fact that you have an asshole…”

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Stef: The first few pieces talked a lot about butt plugs and we had a lot of laughs, but then things got very serious.

Donna: I thought the readings would be light-hearted and fun, but oh it was so much more. Every reading was perfect. Perfect length, perfect sentiment, perfect picture painted in our imaginations, perfect ordering. I definitely enjoyed seeing my wife, Somer, stagger onstage to ghost-read some of Cee’s haikus.

(photo by ariel)

(photo by ariel)

Somer, Nighthawks Counselor/The Talent: The highlight for me – surprisingly – wasn’t my drunken rendition of Cee’s haikus, which I fortunately/unfortunately read after playing the “Butt Plug” drinking game. It was Crystal Silvester’s piece about The Cheesecake Factory. It was perfect.

Riese: In typical self-deprecating Crystal fashion, a few weeks before camp Crystal showed me her draft for the reading and was like, “please please please be real with me on whether this is just really weird and i’m gonna totally embarrass myself, don’t worry about hurting my feelings, i will appreciate your honesty.” Obvs it was kickass! As an editor, I love hearing things at the readings that I’ve seen an earlier draft of, like Vanessa’s last time and Crystal’s this time, it fills me with so much pride and happiness.

Stef: If you know Crystal, you must know that she is fascinated by some very strange aspects of American culture, namely Hot Topic and the Cheesecake Factory. When she told me she was going to read a piece about her experiences at the Cheesecake Factory, I expected it to be a wry, amusing account of her visits to America. Instead, the entire room ended up weeping… I know she was really nervous to get up there and read, but I was so proud of her. Girl, you brought the house down… The lodge? You brought the lodge down.

Bren, Bangles Counselor & Editorial Assistant: When you’re around the Autostraddle world a while you hear things…bits of information hinting at a deeper meaning of things that have happened, of the history that Riese has shared with so many of the Autostraddle Staff. For example you hear “Crystal” and “The Cheesecake Factory” mentioned together a few times and you know that there is more to the story. Then somewhere along the line someone, possibly Laneia, says that Crystal has lots of feelings about The Cheesecake Factory and you’re curious what those feelings are. Then Crystal goes up at the Staff Reading and reads those feelings and they are all the feelings ever and there isn’t a dry eye in the house and your heart can’t take it anymore and you just want to give Crystal, this sweet perfect amazing Australian, the longest, most sincere hug that ever happened.

Somer: It embodied everything great about A-Camp through tears and joy and the relationships we cherish.

Vanessa: Crystal absolutely destroyed me.

Laneia: Sobbing. I could’ve taken about 20 minutes just to sit in that cry, it was so much.

Donna: She had the whole room of 250 queers crying what seemed to be a virtual endless river of tears. Her story, ahk, I can’t even finish typing this…. I’m crying again. Sigh, mount feelings.

The stuff of legend (via Ariel R)

The stuff of legend (via Ariel R)

Hansen: She punched us all in the feels with her gorgeous, gorgeous reading. I cried a lot. I think we all cried a lot during her piece. Universal camp bonding moment.

Ali: I am SO HAPPY she read, especially since I have reason to believe she was very nervous.

Crystal: Reading words out loud to a room full of people was a completely terrifying experience for me, my entire body was shaking and so was the podium, and that made me admire the writers who do this at every camp all the more.

Riese: Laneia and I held hands for most of it and cried. When she got to the part about that time she was in New York with Laneia, Palmer, Stef, Alex and I, and we skipped our planned outing to The Cheesecake Factory because the premiere of Twilight: Moonscape was apparently more important, we transitioned from hand-holding to hand-squeezing and near-weeping.

Carly: The staff reading always reduces me to tears. This time it was Crystal and Laneia who totally destroyed me.

Vanessa: Laneia’s journal (read in her perfect voice that I could listen to for days) made me emotional.

Laneia: I somehow convinced myself that reading excerpts from my actual journal would be a good idea — like that it wouldn’t feel like turning my naked body inside out? Yeah I don’t know where I got that from. So I read some pieces about Slade, which basically never happens because I’m overprotective and weird and never really talk about him, and it was easily the most personal thing I’ve ever shared with a roomful of people. Camp!

Ali: Duh, whenever Laneia talks about her children, I die of Happy.

(photo by ariel)

(photo by ariel)

Laneia: I love how Cara’s brain works! Her poem was brilliant and I wish I had it on a piece of paper to read later/over and over.


(photo by ariel)

Riese: Vanessa was nervous that nobody would care about her angst about living in suburbia with her parents but guess who cared – EVERYBODY. Her piece was funny and full of feelings, just like Vanessa herself.


(photo by ariel)

Vanessa: This should go without saying. I’m constantly floored that I get to work with such incredible humans. Like, how did I even find a place on this staff?! It was so fun to hear Rachel read some personal creative non-fiction.

Riese: Rachel writes about her own self approximately once every billion years? So it’s a supernova every time.


(photo by ariel)

Riese: Last camp, I’d asked Vanessa what I should read and she said to read Everything You Need To Know About My Sexual Orientation But Were Afraid To Ask, but I didn’t. So this camp, I did! Of course I decided that I hated it, though, and ended up sort of smashing together a thing in three parts: the story of my mom coming out, the story of the first girl I kissed, and then a slimmed-down version of aforementioned post. I had Lizz print it out but I gave her the wrong draft, so I ended up stumbling over typos and also improv’ing some sentences here and there. I’m sorry everybody. IT KEPT ME ON MY TOES.

Vanessa: I felt extra excited by Riese’s contribution because she read it for me! It’s one of my favorite things she’s ever written, and when she asked me what she should read I requested it, and then she read it! And when I told her how pleased I was afterwards, she replied, “I know, I read it for you! You asked me to!” And guys, I just love Riese so much.

Ali: Of course, Riese. Riese, the reason we’re all here, Riese the award-winning essayist and editor, knocked it out of the park as usual.


(photo by ariel)

Sophia: The Staff Reading was such a good balance of humour and deeply heartfelt.

Ali: Of course I love every piece that was presented that night – I wish I could give you a complete blow-by-blow. It was phenomenal and I was SO HAPPY to be a part of it. I often can’t believe I get to share space/air with these amazingly talented writers and I’m so grateful that they let me stand up there with them.

Crystal: The staff reading is always my favourite thing at A-Camp. I am forever in awe of all the amazing and brave writers that we have on staff and hearing them share their work live never fails to make my heart burst, and so I felt super honoured to be sitting among them this time.

Lizz: I loved this camp’s reading! Well, I always love the staff reading. I have all these people who I email with every day — we’re so close. But hearing everyone’s readings really gets you deeper. A lot of us read things that had never been published on the website. In a lot of ways we’re moving past reading our “best” piece and towards reading journals and works in progress. It was funny, this camp’s reading was very body-focused. It seemed like everyone wanted to talk about the mind-body connection. It seems we’re all having a lot of anxiety about our bodies/health. I can’t really talk about what I read because I’d like to have a job someday, but I promise it was funny. Just believe me, okay?

Somer: The entire staff reading is always amazing, and Donna turned to me after laughing, crying, and laugh-crying, and I could tell we would come back to A-Camp every chance we would get.

Vanessa: Jane, my amazing beautiful Runagayheart camper, who approached me after the reading and hugged me and told me I remind her of a freaking DISNEY PRINCESS. Then we cried together. I’m serious. Camp is a magical place, Disney-Princess-Style (but cooler and less damsel-in-distress-like, obviously).

Riese: A camper came up to me afterwards and didn’t say anything, just hugged me, and I think we hugged for like a solid five minutes. Only at A-Camp.


Strip Spelling Bee


(photo by robin roemer)

Stef: Just before the Strip Spelling Bee, I leaned over to the sound booth and blew gently in Intern Grace’s ear. She recoiled so severely that I think I saw her soul actually leave her body.

Bren: DeAnne hosted the Strip Spelling Bee, which is exactly what you’re thinking it is. Each color team had a representative Tribute in the spelling bee and if the tribute got the word right applause all around, but if they got it wrong they had to strip. This entire scenario was demonstrated by Marni before things started. She successfully spelled “Autostraddle” and received applause. But then she misspelled the next word and was forced to strip, which she did. And each discarded item of clothing revealed more and more of…Vocabulary Bear. That’s right Marni was in a bear suit under her clothes!

Ali: I screamed myself hoarse when Marni stripped and she was wearing that bear costume. I feel like I understand Bieber Fever having seen Marni strip into a bear costume. That’s how excited I was about it.

Marni, A-Camp Co-Director & AS Contributor: A few months before camp I realized that it was really important that we get a bear costume. Finding the perfect bear costume was challenging, as bear costumes tend to cost either $50 or $500, but there isn’t too much in between. I think the one we settled on was perfect (Robin especially liked the ‘beak’ element, very bear-like). I soon discovered that putting on a bear suit is perhaps one of the most liberating acts that a person can perform. It was bigger than me, the bear was. The bear was all of us.

Bren: This is just the best part of the strip spelling bee, that people only needed to strip to their comfort level, whether that be their birthday suit or a bear suit. You do you. That’s what A-Camp is all about.

Marni: Aside from the initial ‘example strip’ in which I debuted the bear suit, my job was to provide the correct spellings of words missed by contestants and generally riff off of DeAnne (which is tough because bears can’t spell). Naturally this translated to me dancing like a lunatic bear in solidarity with the contestants each time they missed a word.

Riese: We promised no photos of the contestants, otherwise y’all could be witnessing some epic nerdy stripping action right this minute in this recamp.

Rachel: What if there were hot queers stripping in front of you, but ALSO DeAnne Smith was making jokes, and ALSO there was a dancing bear, and ALSO you learned vocabulary words? Ok, yes, that’s what I thought. On a more personal level, as the person who usually has to edit Lizz’s articles, I was deeply moved that she participated, and frankly totally floored that she spelled a word right. I’m sorry for not believing in you, Lizz.

Lizz: Normally I would never ever ever spell in public, but it was retribution to Rachel, Laneia and Riese for having to edit my terrible phonetic spelling constantly. Being able to correctly spell Chlamydial on stage was one of the best moments of my life.

Riese:  I think after Lizz spelled “chlamydial” correctly I screamed “ask her to spell ‘THERE'”!!


Carly: OMG this was the most fun ever. Grace and I got to make up context sentences and we had no idea what any of the words meant. It was a complete shitshow. I really hope we do this again next time.

Robin:  Contestants stripped to their comfort level while fellow campers cheered them on. I’m terrible at spelling so I was impressed by all of them!

Laneia: God the strip spelling bee gave me so many feelings in quick succession! I just kept checking in with myself: “Is this really happening? Can the world really be this grand on every level?” Yes, yes it can.

Liz C., Firestarters Counselor & AS Contributor: Sure there were boobs, but my favorite part was when Jeanie NAILED that silent G.

Sophia: It was so good and fantastic and hilarious. Especially when (the yellow team??) solidarity stripped in the back.

Kai, Wildcats Counselor & Calendar Girl: The Wildcats aka the best cabin ever always yelled our cabin cheer with the commitment of lesbians in a two-week new relationship (read: a lot). Which was the greatest always, but especially at the Strip Spelling Bee when IT WORKED. Wildcats Rep That Blue! With Your Consent, Show Us Your Boobs! Forever and ever, amen.

kai begins to strip

kai begins to strip

Ali: Is it me, or were all our Campers really bad spellers and professional strippers? How was everyone a professional stripper? Can anyone think of a better combination for a Strip Spelling Bee? I submit that no one can. And then when Kai hit that split? Dear Sweet Lesbian Jesus. And then DeAnne?! DeAnne Smith was the perfect balance of actually hosting a spelling bee and totally hilarious.

Dani RDS, Stormtroopers Counselor & Writer: It was an experience like no other. Never had learning new words and proper spelling been this fun. Every camper and staff member on that stage is a hero to me.

Riese: Our rep for the purple team, Vanessa, was fucking perfect. Guess what perfection gets you? A WIN. Yup. We won the fuck out of that Bee. As if I wasn’t already head-over-heels in love with The Runaways by that point.

DeAnne: It killed me. I was completely unprepared for the level of spelling prowess and stripping skill that would be on display. I don’t even have an adjective for how great the contestants were, but it’d be something that incorporates lovely, fantastic, and mind-blowing. I wish Vocabulary Bear could help me out here. I miss Vocabulary Bear.



Opening Night of Klub Deer

[Listen to the playlist here!]

Carmen: The opening night of Klub Deer was the most amazing turnout we’ve ever had (not counting the last two Saturday night events, which are always sold out with lines snaking around the door and not enough bouncers to keep track of everyone. Obviously.) The sheer amount of bodies in that room inspired me to do more – and thus I set off on a camp-long mission to create and expand “The Klub Deer Twerk Team.”

Kaylah: After the Twerkshop I got special recognition by Carmen, the official Klub Deer dancer, and was given stage access.

Kai: The Twerkshop dancers made their debut at Klub Deer, and it was the perfect amount of bootyliciousness. FYI that is now my routine at every club from now until I can’t anymore. Props to everyone that figuratively held a piece of chalk with their butt cheeks and drew circles on the blackboard behind them. Go forth and twerk.

Kaylah: Klub Deer was the wildest I’d ever seen it. I was in a sea of sweaty bodies, roaming hands, tied tongues and swiveling hips with my dancing cabin mates around me for support. I even think there was some clothing lost in Klub Deer that night. Wild.

Stef: It was DJed by a mysterious guest who promoted herself as Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem but turned out to be DJ Carlytron.

Carly: I finally got to guest DJ at Klub Deer! Thank you Cee!

DJ Carlytron (via Stef)

DJ Carlytron (via Stef)

Stef: I wore a blinking headlamp and had a glorious time dancing with all the VIPs. This was the night I discovered Senior Editor Rachel Kincaid’s secret ability to drop it real low. She and Emily Gigler were the undisputed stars of Klub Deer that evening.

Emily: Favorite moments included Carlytron’s first set, go-go dancing with Kaylah & Carmen, the twerkshop twerk team performing our routine, DJ DasGigler’s Klub Deer premier, and everyone generally going batshit buckwild.

Cara: It was the best Klub Deer I had ever been to. Maybe it was Somer giving me a frozen beer and then Donna helping me catch the foam in her hands when it exploded. Maybe it was the Matrix-level Bullet Time my brain slowed down to when DJ Carlytron played No Church in the Wild. Maybe everyone was just celebrating life like there was no tomorrow after Crystal diced and deep-fried all our hearts at the staff reading. Whatever it was, it was magic.

Riese: I didn’t even have to go to Klub Deer to experience Klub Deer because THE MUSIC WAS SO FUCKING LOUD, I slept with my earbuds in like an old lady wedded to a vocabulary bear.

Later that night

Somer: It’s 3am. You’re in a cabin on a mountain top full of queers. It’s cold but you’re huddled up with your wife to share body heat. The last echoes of Club Deer have died down. You’re dreaming of re-enacting tricks from the Kink Panel / Ropes course you attended earlier in the day.

And suddenly:



Is it a bear? Is it a drunk camper? Is it an impending alien abduction?

Oh… it’s just Deanne Smith and her girlfriend.

Yeah, Deanne Smith was at A-Camp, and she made us laugh and she tried to slap our vulvas. But Donna & I got to share a bathroom with Deanne and unfortunately we locked her out in the middle of the night. She tried to wake us up pleasantly, reading sonnets from just outside our window, singing 80s love ballads, and leaving lipstick marks on the chilly panes. When that didn’t work, she just banged our door the FUCK down.

Sorry we locked you out, Deanne. But you are awesome. We less than 3 you all the live long night.

…and she will have her way.

…and she will have her way.

Tune in next time for Friday, THE DAY OF THE GRAND CARNIVAL! What are your favorite memories from Day Two of A-Camp: Epic Version?

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3197 articles for us.


  1. i think this is my favorite of all the recamps we’ve ever published, and i don’t even know how that is possible to quantify because they’re all amazing, but this just feels so cohesive and like i can hear us just sitting around chatting and having a conversation about it? this mimics actual camp 4.0 in that it is sort of smooth and effortless looking, and even though i know SO MUCH WORK went into making it a thing, i’m not frazzled or dying at the end of it, i’m just really happy and having so much fun and it feels like everything is right in the world (in this metaphor we have to pretend that i didn’t come home from camp with the flu that lasted for 2 solid weeks, but we can all pretend for the sake of a metaphor, right?).

    also maybe i am just vain and enjoy how prominently i am featured in this recamp. every time riese talks about me i blush really hard you guys, did you know that? it’s true. now you know.

    ps i am still trulymadlydeeply in love with all of you, ESPECIALLY those of you who attended the queerituality panel and put up with my nervous moderating and ESPECIALLY jane, who let me reiterate, TOLD ME I REMIND HER OF A DISNEY PRINCESS.

    okay that’s all for now. i’ll probably be back later with more feelings, duh.

    good lord, i could not be prouder to be community editor of such a perfect fucking community. <3

    • Vanessa, it’s taken me the better part of an hour to digest this page and barely reach your commentary on the Staff Reading, but I just lost it when I got to what you said and when I skipped down to the comments you’re there too.
      Even my feelings have grown their own feelings right now, and I’ll be back once I’ve processed them. I can’t even begin to express how grateful/loved I feel because I met you and because this site exists.

  2. Maybe I got dehydrated from all the crying I did this day (Queerituality AND Crystal’s reading, are you kidding me?) and thaaaaat’s how I got so drunk on Jen’s honey whiskey. I’m going to go with that.

  3. The Staff Readings were one of favorite parts about camp! Liz was hilarious and Crystal had me sobbing. And Vanessa I definitely identified with your reading about having to go live with your parents in suburbia, because I am in a similar situation!

    Also, strip spelling bee was amazzzzzzing.

  4. As one of the solidarity strippers, I feel like I need to apologize to Crystal for telling her how amazing her reading was when I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

    So, Crystal, your reading was perfect.

  5. (snow camp forever!!!)
    OMG this day was a lot of fun! I woke up after getting about 3 hours of sleep because due to the wild events of the night prior (snow.strugglebus.snow)Klub Deer was cancelled and my cabin started a game of spin the bottle in Deer that would eventually travel to Wolf and Eagle. (seriously I madeout in every lodge)and that lasted until maybe 5am. It was cold, we were bored and drunk, we wish you were there!also STORMCATS!!!
    Dani was on the rescue mission during cabin initiation so we all got to meet them and the remaining members of our love nest at breakfast.
    I have been to camp three times now and never got to make a thing. Getting to sit still in a sewing circle and focus on something pratical for probably the first time all year while giggling about maybe hoarding the scissors and sharing needles was too much fun.
    I missed music trivia for feelings, but I think I came back from camp as less of an asshole. I went to see Kaylah at twerkshop and she confirmed that when I wiggle my ass something does in fact happen back there. I was really excited that Carly came to Klub Deer and if memory serves this was also the night Carmen helped “lanie lohan” back to her cabin before sunrise :) best night ever!!

    • I still love everything about the STMC badge you made me <3

      AND because I slept through breakfast everyday, I didn't know we did a love thing, but it's okay because I feel like I have met you all now.

  6. Guys. I’ve been hitting refresh on the site all day waiting for Installment Two. Now I’m sad that it’s over and hitting refresh again for the 24 hours. Seriously, ACamp is the greatest thing ever. Staff Reading is the greatest-est thing ever. Club Deer / DJ Carlytron / sweaty gyrating queers / exploding beers… I can’t even.

    Reliving it all is fun, too. #YAYCamp

    • Dear Somer and Donna,

      I’m sorry my feelings about not being able to brush my teeth or wear my mouth guard overnight manifested in me attempting to BREAK DOWN YOUR CABIN WITH MY FISTS. In retrospect, maybe I could have journaled about it. I think the lesson here is, don’t fuck with my teeth-related anxiety.


      • Dear DeAnne Smith, Revered Purveyor of Laughs on Queer Mountain,

        My wife and I readily accept part of the blame you so freely attribute to your dental hygiene and / or fists. After all, why did we feel the need to lock the door in the first place?! We share our feelings openly – shouldn’t we be able to share our bathroom time with you as well?

        I propose an Open Bathroom Door Policy for all future ACamps. You know what Mama always said: the cabinmates that pee together, stay together.

        Love and feelings,
        Somer & Donna


    Because Camp found me ANOTHER ALASKAN!!(THIS IS THE SECOND TIME!!) to hang out with, my contribution to the gender panel was a committee affair.

    I am still so in love with how DeAnne had to remind us that we were supposed to all be hoping the campers would misspell words! We obvs still wanted them to strip, but we wanted them to beat the REAL ENGLISH WORDS also!

  8. every camp after the staff reading i’m completely shitfaced from crying out all the fluids in my body that aren’t bourbon and i get the bright idea in my head that i need to congratulate and hug all the humans immediately, and this was finally the year that i tripped over a guitar case and fell onto a piano, splitting my chin open and probably looking very graceful. mahalo.

  9. Yes, the Yellow Team indeed stripped in solidarity, thus winning the Rainbow Wars once again.
    And I seriously loved the readings. Is there a way to listen to them again? So much love! So many tears! Happy tears! All the tears!

  10. Reading this made me feel like I was *almost* right back at camp and so I’m back to thinking everyone around me is queer and just absolutely totally appreciating other people’s awesome

  11. I’m still sooo upset that I missed the majority of the staff readings! Esp Ali, Anal Rubin, and Crystals readings. Besides the butt plug review, will any of the other stories be posted on the site?

    I really loved the introvert panel. My favorite was the game where we had to step forward and backward to go along with our answers. It’s incredible to see so many other people who feel exactly like you do.

    Also, I’m really glad a fellow camper talked me into going to the kink workshop. I was too shy to actually participate in the hands on fun, but I learned a lot and you guys are all so amazing.

    Is it time to go back on the mountain yet?

  12. The Staff Reading was one of the things I was looking forward to the most. Sure, we all read what they write through a computer screen each and every week, but to actually get to see and hear them read/spill their guts was an incredible experience. Thank you!

  13. marni as a bear might be my favorite thing that has ever happened.

    crystal’s reading, too – god, where do i even start? out of all of the magical and amazing things that camp has brought into my life, getting to have crystal be my real life friend might be the best thing of them all. and hearing her open up and read that story just completely gutted me. she’s the best.

  14. I might have been waiting my whole life to go to Nerdcraft. Like ever since Nerdcraft was a thing.

    Also, whichever human decided to put Nerdcraft in the same room that the BDSM workshop was in so that no one would have to move is a very brilliant human.

  15. This was a magical day at camp. I learned so much all of the panels, and just loved hearing everyone’s (campers’ and staff’s) stories.
    The readings were the perfect combination of hilarious and heart-wrenching.
    Strip spelling bee and vocabulary bear, OMG. So much fun. (Also, for anyone in Toronto/Montreal/sometimes other Canadian cities, an events production company thingy called Chat Perdu Productions hosts them monthly and they are quite delightful.)

    Also I would just like to say that the red team was very much also stripping in solidarity!!

  16. Just a request: next time, could we have more actual trans people on the Gender Panel? I kind of felt like Mey was a token amidst a bunch of cis women and one or two A.F.A.B. genderqueers. The gender panel was actually the only time I felt uncomfortable as a trans woman at camp, when one of the (cis) panelists used the T-word (she later apologized, but it was still triggering to have that happen at the gender panel of all places).

    • Noted! And YES! And I’m sorry you felt that way. Truly.

      We have used mostly Autostraddle staff writers and editors in the past as our A-Camp staff, but we are doing MORE to open up staff positions, special guests positions and camper contributions (which we always encourage) in order to fix problems like this. We want everyone to feel represented and safe. I appreciate you being candid about your experience.

    • Hi, I’m not sure if you meant it this way, but the phrase “actual trans* people” was a bit upsetting to me, especially in reference to those who identify as genderqueer. Many people who identify “genderqueer” also identify with the term trans*, and those trans* identified individuals who choose not to/are unable to/simply don’t identify with or present as either of the two binary genders are often left out of trans* narratives and spaces… And, in general, made to feel like they are not “actually” anything.

      I just wanted to throw that out there. Okay. Sorry. Carry on.

  17. SO MUCH happened in day one. AND OH GOD THE READINGS. I was a puddle of mess by the end. So many feelings in like 90 minutes. I reallllllly miss camp oh my god please can it be may?? I need mount feels again.

    Also,a camp is so perfect. Literally the most perfect thing on the planet.

    I don’t know how to find words other than those. But yeah. If I could fill a jar with my tears…
    But also, watching all of the staff react to the readings. Ali’s snort laugh is actually the cutest.

    PS Recamps are my favourite because I can hear all of your voices as I read them!

  19. Gah, I loved everything about camp, but I think this was my favorite day (I might take that back later when I read more recamps, don’t judge me.) I went to the introvert discussion and it was nice to see so many people who just UNDERSTAND. I was so inspired, I spent the second half of the morning alone in my cabin, eating jelly beans (thanks Andrea!) and playing my guitar.

    Oh, then Queertuality panel! And I got to hug Hansen and then built courage to say words in front of people (gasp!) and shared my feelings. Of course, that meant I missed the kink panel, which caused a bunch of inner turmoil but I lived I guess. (So according to that venn diagram, I am Vanessa? In that case, I love me…I mean you…is that weird? yeah, probably.)

    Staff readings. OMG. I went through phases of laughing, crying, smiling, nodding furiously in agreement, and clapping my hands till they were numb. All those things. And it never felt more natural.

    I did so much screaming at the strip spelling bee, I’m surprised I didn’t lose my voice. I need more strip spelling bees in my life, for the new vocabulary words of course.

  20. This was definitely the most intense (the good kind of intense) day for me, with the introvert meet-up, the mental illness panel, the gender panel, and the staff reading. So this recamp, just… wow. So many refeelings all at once.

  21. Omg, the readings were everything I wanted to get out of camp. I was so affected by everyone’s stories (particularly Crystal and Riese) that I skipped out on the strip spelling bee to process my feelings by the campfire and later to journal in my bunk. But with all the recapping, I feel like I got to experience it anyways, yay recaps! Getting all my feelings out that first night was totally worth it though because after that I was just ready to have some fun and enjoy the rest of camp.

  22. omfg, that silent g.

    But i had to go ahead and ruin it all with the “e” at the end. What was I thinking? Impugne. That’s not even a thing.

    omg. Cheesecake Factory. Crystal. Hansen. Dani. Liz shooting red wine into my mouth. All so good. so so so good.

  23. I know this is supposed to make me happy but I’ve ended up feeling quite sad that I’ve missed out on all the feelings and love.
    Old life goal: make out with Tucky Williams
    New life goal: attend a-camp…with Tucky Williams ;)

  24. Thank you for the Queerituality panel. Vanessa you were a fantastic host. It helped a lot to see so many others’ experience with religion and family. It made me feel understood.

    Thank you Riese. Thank you for everything, for having the vision of camp, for the introvert friendliness, and most of all for the most understanding hug I’ve ever gotten from anyone.

    Just Thank You.

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