'Saving' Trans Author Carter Sickels

Transgender author Carter Sickels is making waves in the literary community with his powerful storytelling that resists the temptation to make precious the hardships in rural Southern America.



You also have a letter to your younger self featured in The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves. If you could offer one important piece of advice to young queer writers looking to hone their craft today, what would it be?
I think for any young writer, it’s important to keep writing, despite the outside voices that might be undermining or censoring or doubting your work. I would also say, write the story that you want to read. Write the story that you haven’t yet read.

And, in terms of honing your craft, you’ll learn by reading. That’s the most important thing you can do if you want to become a better writer. Read everything. 

Do you identify as queer? If so, why does that label feel appropriate to you?
Yeah, I identify as queer. For me personally, as a trans person, it seems impossible not to identify as queer. Queer is the more progressive and inclusive label, and also has a more political angle — to be queer is to not fit in the norms created by a heterosexist, patriarchal culture, and to call into question those norms. Queer is one part of my identity. I also identify as a gay man, and as trans.

The Collection is among the first of its kind, featuring exclusively trans-identified authors. Why do you think it’s important to include trans voices in the the larger literary canon?
It’s absolutely important that trans voices be included in the canon, along with people of color, queers, and women, who are also underrepresented. I feel honored to be in this collection, which is really the first of its kind. Topside Press is doing really important work in publishing narratives that are both trans and literary. There aren’t a lot of  published trans authors or stories about trans characters out there right now – especially in literary fiction.

The complexity and diversity of gender identity and sexuality is something that should be explored and portrayed in literary fiction. These are voices that are all too often marginalized or melded into a single story. There isn’t just one trans experience or narrative, and I think The Collection shows this wide range of diversity.

It’s also important to publish more fiction with trans characters because transgender people want to see some part of their lives and worlds reflected in fiction, and not only that, but good fiction invites others — who are not trans, who live different lives — to share in these experiences, to be moved by them.

Why did you decide to include “Saving” in The Collection? Did you write the story specifically for the book, or was this a story you’d already been drafting?
"Saving" was actually a story I started several years ago, before I had really started identifying as trans. The story went through many drafts and revisions. I wasn’t sure what was next for it, then I read about the call for submissions to Topside Press, so it was fortuitous timing. It’s a great home for the story. 

The Evening Hour is an impressive introductory work, and has deservedly garnered rave reviews. What’s next for you as an author?
Thank you. That’s the million dollar question. I’ve been working on a few different projects. I’ve been writing some short nonfiction pieces about my experience as a gay trans man, and more recently, I’ve been putting my energy into a new novel. Right now, it’s so early in the game that I’m a little superstitious about describing it. But it feels great to be starting something new. 


Carter Sickles is a graduate of the MFA program at Pennsylvania State University, was awarded fellowships to Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the MacDowell Colony, VCCA, and the Djerassi Residency. After spending nearly a decade in New York, Sickles left the city to earn a master's degree in folklore ta the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his partner, Jose. His first book, The Evening Hour, is available through Bloomsbury Publishing

Discover Sickles' way with words, along with 27 other contemporary transgender authors, in The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, edited by Tom Léger and Riley MacLeod and now available through Topside Press.

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