A-Camp Recap Day #3: We’ve Got Talent

Welcome to the third of four fantastic recaps of our entire experience at the First-Ever A-Camp, which took place two hours outside of Los Angeles at Alpine Meadows in Angelus Oaks, California, from April 26th-29th.

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The idea was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions while simultaneously creating an affordable option for queer ladies for whom other lesbian events (such as Dinah Shore) aren’t a good fit. So, 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.

These epically long monster-posts will do their best to explain and extrapolate upon the camp experience, from shitstorms to emotional revelations to glory/triumph.

Two days ago, we got stranded on the side of the road, yesterday we detailed the first full day of camp, and today we will dive in, muffs first, to the last full day of camp — Saturday April 28th, 2012.


Saturday, April 28th, 2012

I. Rising, Shining

early morning bed repair

Carmen: I woke up with a huge headache that required immediate caffeination and a significant distance between me and the gravy in order to heal. I walked over to Joanna and to be honest, she probably showed me pictures of her girlfriend while I showed her pictures of my dog. We did this a lot.

Laneia: Lots of the crew was a little hungover Saturday morning, so breakfast was quiet. I spent some time trying to make Megan feel better about her fucked up SUV, while she spent some time trying to make me feel better about things like my dumb hair and how to talk about ‘zines without sounding like a total jackass.

Alex, Brittani and Jess S at breakfast (photo by Jess R)

Crystal: I tried biscuits and gravy for the first time and, given that I was a tiny bit hung over, that was a big mistake. Stef and I spent the next hour or so designing our music trivia props, which was serious business.

Riese:  The thing about Saturday is that it’s just one little day before Sunday — a.k.a, the day for which I have lost three planned-upon Roadrunner Shuttles due to RR’s overwhelming suckage (as detailed in the Day One recap) as well as full usage of one of the vans (tire blowout) and Megan’s SUV (power steering blowout). I hadn’t had a minute to fashion a new plan for this, so for me, Saturday’s first post-breakfast item of the day was to assemble the team in an outdoor area and select tributes to drive vans the next day — most crucially, those 6:30AM and 7:30 AM shuttles we’d had to cancel due to aforementioned suckage/price-hike.

may the odds be ever in your favor (photo by jess r)

Riese: The nice thing about the tribute system (A tip of the hat to you, The Capitol!) is that by offering everybody the chance to volunteer as tributes in place of the selected names, whether or not somebody has to drive is not really my fault, it’s everybody else’s fault for not volunteering in their stead. However, Bren volunteered, because she’s nicer and better than everybody else. I’m serious, she is.

Laneia: Somehow Saturday’s schedule had all of my favorite and most number one feelings! So I was really fucking amped for everything.


Saturday Block A:

Crossfit w/Joanna

Yoga w/Lizz

Zine-Making w/Laneia & Rachel & Riese

Read a F*cking Book Club w/Lizz, Carolyn & Jamie

Photography Crit #2/Shootout w/Robin & Sara Medd


Saturday Block B:

Queer Women of Color Panel w/Carmen, Brittani, Gabby, Katrina & Whitney

Friendship Bracelets w/Laura

Hiking w/Sarah Croce

Circus Acrobatics for Everyone w/Tara

Soccer w/Crystal


II. Let The Games/Crafts/Panels Begin

Sara M: Joanna led us in an example of a Crossfit exercise which sounded easy, but when executed properly can really kick your ass. I decided to make everyone feel better about their physical fitness by demonstrating the lowest level of commitment to the activity. I blamed it on the altitude, but the truth is that someone has to finish last, right? Joanna is an encouraging trainer though, and didn’t make me feel bad about my fitness inabilities.

joanna is crossfit

Robin: This time at the Photography Crit Workshop, instead of shooting, we talked and I answered questions. It was great to be able to review a few portfolios while I was at camp as well. I would have loved someone in my position now to look at my work a decade ago, so I was happy to offer whatever advice/tips that came to me.

Laneia: For ‘zine-making, we decided to bring all of our supplies, pass out all the ‘zines we had, talk about ‘zines, and ask everybody to make their own ‘zine page, which we’ll put together into a special A-Camp ‘zine.

photos by ashley reed and haviland stillwell

Rachel: I have a lot of feelings about zines, but not as many articulate thoughts? So we brought a bunch of ‘zine materials and just sort of let everyone go for it, and they did such an awesome job! We have so many beautiful individual ‘zine pages from campers, and someday you’re going to get to see all of them in a really beautiful zine and it will be the best thing.


“I was kind of iffy about going to Zine Making, but my cabin talked me into it and I ended up LOVING it.”


Riese: Basically, what I did was scoop my heart out of my chest, cut it open, empty it onto the floor and told the squirrels to make it into art! Like all my shit: my stickers, assorted pictures ripped out of magazines, postcards and photos, stacks of old magazines, even personal shit I’d pulled out and pieces of ‘zines from the mid-’90s. It was cathartic in a weird way, but also these humans are the only ones I would’ve trusted to do justice to my crafty collection. I would’ve made another page too but unfortunately I was, you know, making that stupid driving schedule.

Ashley makes a 'zine page (photo by Haviland Stillwell)


“My favorite activity was probably Zine Making. Collages are cathartic.”


Laneia: I even remembered to bring my copy of Riese’s zine from 2008, Auto-Insomnia, which is full of insomnia poetry that she wrote while she was on ambien, I believe. It has a shiny gold cover and I was really excited to share it with everyone.

Riese: Also — SO — Laneia, Rachel and I made a ‘zine in the winter. Like we each made pages of it and were gonna put it together and sell it but you know, duh, it’s us, so even though we finished our pages in Janaury, the completed pages didn’t land in Rachel’s arms ’til a month or so ago. We decided we MUST have it for camp, so Rachel — an innocent to the oppressive costs of full-color printing at Kinkos — printed a billion on her way into camp. We passed that around, but you should definitely buy it when Alex puts it in the store. It’s a collector’s item AND Laneia wrote something in it that made me cry real tears, but also most of it is just funny behind-the -scenes stuff. It’s called “Behind-the-Scenes ‘Zine.”

Carolyn: I felt pretty nervous about Read a F*cking Book Club after actually reading My Miserable Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy, because it was terrible and I worried that no one would really want to talk about it. Instead, everyone wanted to insult it, so things worked out well! And then everyone talked about their favourite authors and books.

(photo by jamie hagen)

Lizz: We seriously digressed on to our love for The Baby-Sitters Club books.

Carolyn: Which, confession, I have not read.

Lizz: It was really relieving to know that I wasn’t the only person who grew up with a crush on Stacy McGill.

Jamie: It really made my day when Lizz started geeking out about Harry Potter and realized she was wearing the actual cardigan (“They only make 100 a year!”) she got at The World of Hogwarts.

Crystal: The last time I played Soccer was in the nineties and so I couldn’t remember any of the rules. Thankfully we were at queer camp and so a handful of athletic ladies showed up in sportswear and took over my leadership duties. I can’t remember which team won; honestly we were all winners for signing up to play sport at a lung-crushing 7,500 ft altitude. Julia was definitely a winner for playing in denim.

photo by haviland or ashely

Carmen: I reviewed my notes for the Women of Color panel while applying SPF 45 at the Alternative Lifestlye Barbershop. I wrote notes signed, alternatively, Lil C and Drake to my campers and also received a message in my own pigeonhole that read “Hey Girl, You’re really good at making other people cry.” Also, I received a drawing of myself as a stick figure with a huge afro.

katrina cuts fitzi's hair at the alternative lifestyle barbershop

Brittani: The Queer Women of Color Panel was a challenge for me, because I would rather make fun of things that bother me than actually talk about them like an adult. I’m pretty sure I only signed up because if I was sitting in the audience during the panel, it would have looked really weird.

Carmen: I legitimately told my life story at this panel, all while passing Brittani water because we were kind of sure she was about to die. The quote that sticks out to me is “Where are you from from?”

Katrina: This was the first time I participated in a long, deliberate and structured conversation about race. I don’t know, this was incredible.

Whitney: I felt so proud to be on this panel alongside four other amazing, intelligent, articulate women of color.

Gabby: I said all of the things I’ve always wanted to say about race in this panel. Like that it’s not my job to help people through their white-guilt and that intersectionality is like the best brain sex ever.

Carmen: I can still envision the image of a white person crying on Gaby’s shoulders.

Whitney: I talked a bit about my family and how they have rejected me because I am gay. Afterward, I talked to some campers who were going through the same thing — listening to their stories broke my heart and then put it back together again and then broke my heart again.

Gabby: The strength in Whitney Pow moved me from the moment she started to speak. That woman is a powerhouse and I’m honored to know her.

L to R: Katrina, Gabby, Whitney, Brittan, Carmen (photo by taylor)

Katrina: After Whitney spoke, I honestly thought I was just going to cry on stage for two hours, but I didn’t!

Riese: I didn’t know until Whitney said so in this panel that AS is the first opportunity she’s had to write actively about race. She’s been so good at it since the beginning and tackled so many important issues for us. I feel like I almost cried a few times, I believe Gabby said something that made me almost cry, too.


“The Queer Women of Color Panel was my favorite, it brought up some feelings and beliefs I hadn’t had the words to express before.”


Brittani: Everyone was really great and nice afterward, and I think people laughed a few times during the panel, which is all I really want in the world. If anyone feels like they learned something or are more ok with being a queer person of color in this crazy crazy world, that’s just an added bonus.

Katrina: I loved being a part of it. It was completely empowering and validating AND informative. Just like, fucking great.

Gabby: There’s a lot I didn’t say because I probably would have cried in front of everyone. Instead, I cried in the woods and was thankful to be alive and share my words with everyone.

Whitney: This is why I came to A-Camp — to share, to listen, and to be understood in a safe space. This experience will matter the most to me always.

whitney (photo by gabby)

Jess S.: A total of one person (hi, Lauren!) showed up to me and Lizz’s Ultimate Frisbee Activity, so the three of us sat on the bleachers and shared our life stories for an hour.

Lizz: In a lot of ways, I think those sort of moments were even more rewarding than the activities. Just being with other women talking about our shared and different experiences. Sometimes I don’t remember how lucky I’ve been until I’m telling someone else about it.

Sara M: I had the opportunity to meet individually with several of our lovely lady campers in styling consultations throughout Saturday. This ended up being my favorite part of camp because I got to sit down and get to know some of you better than I would have been able to otherwise. And I think there will be a few more stylish lesbians in the world as a result!

Taylor & Beth Kelly (photo by taylor)

Brandy: Julie and I slept through breakfast (again). We had been woken up at 4am by a loud, scary bear that was down with the swirl [Editor’s Note: a.k.a sexual actvity], so we were kind of out of it when we got into the lunch room. It was business as usual as we collected our iceberg and tuna, but when we sat down- I suddenly felt like Snookie after her first night in the Shore house. I wasn’t quite sure what I’d done wrong, and I wasn’t sure who exactly was mad about it- but I definitely wasn’t as popular as I was the night before. I decided to do what Snookie would do- drink.

eating a meal (photo by taylor)


Next: More thrilling, death-defying activities!

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  1. This has been said a million times before and deserves being said a million times again: Whitney, you (and your story) are amazing and I am so grateful that you shared it with all of us. Really the only thing I regret from camp is being too awkward to talk to you beyond saying hi maybe so now I am using the INTERNET to tell you that I think you are so very brave.

    “This is why I came to A-Camp — to share, to listen, and to be understood in a safe space. This experience will matter the most to me always.”


    • I’m really late to the commenting party! Thank you for being at the panel. It means so so so so so so so so much to me that you were there.

      And hello to you on the internet! I really want to give you a hug. Let’s do a virtual one now, and if you’re at A-Camp in September or if our paths cross in the future I’ll totally give you a real one.


  2. some feelings:
    i missed the dance thanks to the macking on girls workshop, THANKS KATRINA AND GABBY.
    i have a crush on every troubletone.

    so i missed a kind of important family thing to come to a camp and i def told a very glossed over version of what i was doing “oh, i’m helping my friend riese run a bunch of seminars and workshops…” and didn’t so much explain that i was going to be drunk in the woods with a bunch of babes.

    yesterday at mothers’ day i finally sat down with my mom, explained what autostraddle is, my involvement in it from the beginning up til now, how fulfilling it was to meet everyone, how inspiring all my friends are/were, how amazing it was to be a part of it, how excited i am to be a part of the next one, how proud i am of riese and the rest of the team, and then i showed her the uke video. she was super excited about it, although she promised me she didn’t understand a word of katrina’s rap (suuure).

    guys, even my mom is kinda into hot laura.

  3. 1) “It was like The Devil Wears Prada except I was wearing American Eagle and not a bitch.” I love you, Riese.
    2) Crystal, it was Coyote Shivers.
    3) Carmen, can Gabby and I also get signed to Pretty Money Records? Our hit single “Lizz in Charge” is going to change the world.
    5) The photo where Alex is dancing to Bad Romance makes my heart happy.
    6) Brandy, give us a call anytime…
    7) Staged dramatic reading of the oral history at next A-Camp?

  4. So, I just want you guys to know that despite the fact that I was a huuuge theater-fag growing up and performed in tons of plays and musicals, I somehow developed massive stage fright around age 14-15. As a result, the Don’t Stop Believing song was the first thing I’ve performed in front of an audience in about 10 years, and the weird thing is, I wasn’t even that scared because I was so fucking excited to share our ridiculous little labor of love with everyone at camp. Also, I love all of you.

  5. does anyone who went to the ropes course remember when we were signing our waivers and the instructor said “Marni told me that you all are already familiar with harnesses”? I knew it was going to be fun after that. also super scary, but fun.

  6. “The only thing gayer than a bunch of lesbians in the woods playing guitar around a campfire is a bunch of lesbians in the woods singing “Call It Off” by Tegan and Sara. I mean really, it was almost more gay than gay sex”

    Omg I need to go to there. When is the next camp??

  7. 1) It was really exciting how many feelings the Book Club had about the Babysitter’s Club.

    2) I’m really upset that I didn’t attend Music Trivia and thus answer the question I WAS BORN TO ANSWER (Coyote Shivers was totally Liv Tyler’s step-dad at the time ISN’T THAT AWFUL AND PERFECT?!).

    3) When we all started singing “Call It Off,” Grace rolled her eyes and muttered good-naturedly, “This is disgusting…” before joining in and I laughed so hard I almost couldn’t sing and it was perfect.

  8. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhmygodmyfaceiseverywhere.

    Saturday was definitely the best day of my life. Seriously. I don’t even know if I can add in any more feelings to this. I might have to process and return back with something more meaningful than the fact that MY FACE IS EVERYWHERE OMIGOD.

  9. “Also, making campers (I see you Shilpa and Tough Guy Beth) perform skits/roleplaying the Do’s and Don’t’s of Macking, was effing priceless.”

    … not a tough guy, secret softy – Shh!

  10. I feel as though I have greatly missed out. And I feel as though I hope greatly I can go this fall. Because I have all the feelings right now and it almost feels like i was there but i wasn’t and. . .

    Also, does anyone else think a panel on faith and queeriosity would be awesome? Cause I do. I think it would be very awesome.

      • YUS! I’m a great big queer who has a lot of feelings about faith and queeriness. raised southern baptist, kicked out of church after i came out, and now planning to go to seminary fall of 2013. . . there are bad feelings positive feelings neutral feelings, just feelings!

    • This is an excellent theme and I really hope that it can still happen in a few years when I’m free from uni and finally have enough money to fly over and go to Camp. Do you guys have many ideas yet about how different activity slots are going to change over time, or if they might be repeated? (I’m guessing there may be elements of this). Even though I would come for the people no matter WHAT the activities were, I feel that I would have really really liked to attend the Queer Women of Colour session in particular and I’m sad that I couldn’t be there :(

  11. Crystal, I’m really glad you were as moved by our routine as I threatened you would be. I have a really specific memory of saying “YOURE GONNA CRY” and then being like “shit, man, what if no one likes us?”

    In other news I’m really amused to see that I’m holding a pbr in every picture here.

  12. So Riese, do you get paid in unicorns to make sure that at some point in my day I’m misty eyed?

    The things you women say to/about me are just too beautiful sometimes.

    I guess the only way to express my feelings is through song. ::puts diva on::


    Looking out on the morning rain (awhoo)
    I used to feel so uninspired
    And when I knew I had to face another day (awhoo)
    Lawd it made me feel so tired
    Before the day I met you,
    Life was so unkind
    You’re the key to my peace of mind
    Because you make me feel
    You make me feel
    You make me feel like a natural Lesbo (Lesboo)


  13. The dance party was probably literally the best night out of my life. I love dancing so much you guys but I never go out because I don’t want to get skeeved on by gross boys. The one gay club here is all male go-go dancers all the time, no thank you.

    So thanks for having a safe space for boogie-ing that wasn’t pervy, with amazing music and awesome people!

  14. Three feelings re: this recap.

    1. I know who performed Sugar High in Empire Records without even having to think about it NO BIG DEAL.
    2. There are multiple photos of my friends in all 3 recaps so far and so I’m eating some pizza to contain my extreme jealousy.
    3. My best friend writes the LSATs October 6th and “will probably not be able to come to camp” because apparently she will be studying all September or something. Can someone please come up with a master plan to help me convince her to come to camp instead of studying (needs to be more convincing than “I’ll help you study on the plane! No I won’t get airplane drunk! Really!” because I tried this today) AND/OR volunteer to be my new best friend when I have to come to camp alone? Okay thanks in advance.

    • I’m an awesome best friend and I’m definitely going to next A-CAMP. Plus I also live in Canada! I think I remember you saying you’re in Canada…

      We can study girls on the plane and get airplane drunk!

    • little rascals are my favorite
      this probs has something to do with my inappropriate love for younger ladies
      but really they are so darn cute
      (especially when they happen to host a camp-wide t&s sing-a-long)

  15. Like Brittani, I felt like I was going to die during the Queer Women of Color panel. Total Exhaustion finally set in about halfway through and I’m pretty sure I was visibly deflating.

    Another thing: that morning I realized I had lost my sunglasses and asked Robin/Beth if anyone had found them and by lunchtime I had them in my hands. I mean it’s just sunglasses, but I thought it was great that, for example, my cabinmates could leave their macbooks out in plain sight with no fear of it getting stolen.

    • I LEFT MY LAPTOP AT THE DANCE — like i brought it to the talent show (’cause i was still carrying it b/c i was doing the driving schedule) and then forgot it there (which NEVER happens at home, i’ve never accidentally left my laptop ANYWHERE, i’m like obsessively hyper-aware of its locale at all times as if it was a living breathing thing) and realized hours later and returned to the place and the dance was in full-force and my laptop was there, still, just waiting for me

      • That’s too bad – I guess you can add razors and nail polish to the short list of things worth taking (along with alcohol).

        That just reminded me – someone in my cabin left their ring by the sink for days and it was still sitting there after we moved out the last day. One of the cleaners came by Wolf Lodge with it but I didn’t know whose it was or if it meant anything to anyone.

  16. i think saturday was my favorite day. it’s so hard to pick favorites but i think if i HAD to, this day would win.

    some feelings:

    omg i can’t believe riese mentioned my name in this post!
    (sidenote: pretty much every day since camp i’ve woken up and thought “omg i can’t believe riese knows who i am”)

    seeing my photos in the recaps is SO exciting, and the final photo of jackie with the hula hoop and the sunset in the background is my FAVORITE a-camp shot, so it is extra exciting to see it included.

    also exciting that i am IN one of the (zine) photos–i thought i accidentally avoided the camera all weekend, so it’s fun to see proof that i actually was at camp!

    speaking of, the zine workshop was FANTASTIC
    i felt so calm and serene and happy, like i was where i was supposed to be
    and i talked to haviland a bit near the end and she said the whole scene reminded her of riese’s bedroom “back in the day” and how her floor always looked how the lodge looked and then my heart felt really large and i just had an intense rush of emotion toward riese, love, i think, because she let us all in to her bedroom floor and that’s so intimate and private and she let us in

    the talent show was fucking incredible
    seriously one of the most enjoyable & impressive things i’ve ever attended
    and laneia i totally know what you mean, the audience vibe was practically the best part of the show
    so loving, so accepting

    i love beth so much

    top 2 regrets:
    1. should’ve taken more photos
    2. should’ve gone to the queer woc panel…that is the #1 thing i am sorry to have missed. i know others have already asked but i would LOVE if there were a transcript or accessible video available for this panel.

    …will i be back in september?! i sure as hell hope so…

  17. I really don’t know if my comment just posted (damn technology) but it was along the lines of Alex – you are my new dance hero. Please can you teach a dance class (for Bad Romance) at the next camp? I might be the only attendee but there will be worship in my eyes. And I’ll teach you the running man in return if you can’t do it already.

  18. it is so sad that i took a disco nap that turned into “falling asleep with all my clothes on” and missed WE ARE YOUNG, when the whole car ride to camp i was preparing myself for the WE ARE YOUNG moment

  19. This week some one smashed my car and this a-camp recap has been the only thing that has successfully cheered me up since.

    So thank you for this recap and thank you (so so fucking much) for the beautiful weekend that was A-camp.

  20. Yay! The queer women of color panel was SO good! I could have listened to you guys talk for hours/days. The talent show was ridiculously amazing, probably my favorite thing at camp.

    I seem to remember stumbling upon a 20 or 30 person game of spin the bottle in one of the lodges after the dance. I was maybe a *little* drunk but did this really happen or am I making it up????

  21. I keep reading the A-Camp recaps about all the fun stuff, the panels, the people, the feelings, the pictures and all I can think about is:


    • Yeah, and she’s amazing! Day one, she walked up and introduced herself to me and she was just so real, and chill and genuine that I was truly impressed with her. I had this instant “Damn Laneia! You’ve got crazy great taste!” thought in my head. Two amazing people like that belong together.

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