The Best Advice I Ever Received: Dennis Hensley

Dennis Hensley is an L.A.-based writer and performer who has written for Hollywood Life, In Style, Us Weekly, TV Guide, Total Film, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Gotham, Hampton’s, Out, The Advocate and The Face. As a travel writer, Dennis has written about such destinations as Thailand, New Zealand, Zurich, Montreal, Toronto, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Dubai, Peru, Brazil and Phoenix, AZ. His widely read Detour Magazine column, Misadventures in the (213), became a bestselling book. He’s also a singer/songwriter, has written for the Independent Spirit Awards and numerous TV shows and was one of the “main gays” on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List. He released his second book, Screening Party, in 2002 and from 2010 to 2013, worked as a staff writer on the hit E! comedy show Fashion Police.

In today’s “Writing Issues,” we asked him if there’s any advice he got from somebody about his writing career that he actually used.

It wasn’t really advice, he said, but something that I learned from watching somebody’s work and getting to know him and — and it was reaffirmed. I remember watching the British version of Queer as Folk and my mind was blown because up until then as a gay writer I thought you had to have a gimmick. I was really inspired and then I got to know Russell Davies and how he approached his work and tried to sort of emulate it.

I thought as a gay writer trying to make my way, I had to sort of channel all of my feelings into this teenage witch or sneak it in somehow. And then I saw Queer as Folk and thought, ‘Oh wow we can just tell the truth. You can do that.’ It felt like a novel concept to me. He was really honest about these people’s lives and what parts were good, what parts were bad, what parts were fucked up. Up until that point, I thought you couldn’t air dirty laundry about the gay community or not necessarily dirty laundry, but the characters were really complicated. And I think at that time everyone was trying to put a good face on everything and be presentable and not threaten anybody or be too sexy. This guy was having an affair with somebody who was underage and here were all these sort of taboos that they broke away from and were really honest in the way they did it. And that felt revolutionary to me.

So when I would write, I would try to just tell the truth and be honest even when it was sort of uncomfortable.

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