Archive for the 'LGBTQ Publishing' Category

A Chat with Jeffrey Ricker and ‘Nathan Burgoine

BY JESS FARADAY

I’m always saying that I’ve never met a BSB person I didn’t like. From everyone I’ve dealt with on the business end, to my various editors, and the authors that I’ve met at conferences and online, y’all are pretty darn terrific. And there are some really excellent writers among us as well—go figure!

 

Recently I had the pleasure of reading two fabulous new books—Light by ‘Nathan Burgoine and The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker. On the surface, they don’t sound very much alike —

 

 

LightLight  300 DPI

Kieran Quinn is a bit telepathic, a little psychokinetic, and very gay—three things that have gotten him through life perfectly well so far—but when self-styled prophet Wyatt Jackson arrives during Pride Week, things take a violent turn. It’s not long before Kieran is struggling to maintain his own anonymity while battling wits with a handsome cop, getting some flirting in with a hunky leather man, saving some drag queens, and escaping the worst blind date in history. One thing’s for sure: saving the day has never been so fabulous.

 

The UnwantedThe Unwanted 300 DPI

Jamie Thomas has enough trouble on his hands trying to get through junior year of high school without being pulverized by Billy Stratton, his bully and tormentor. But the mother he was always told was dead is actually alive—and she’s an Amazon! Sixteen years after she left him on his father’s doorstep, she’s back, and needs Jamie’s help. Putting his life on the line, Jamie must find the courage to confront the wrath of an angry god to save a society that rejected him.

 

 

But after reading them, I couldn’t help noticing a few similarities—and not just the fact that they were really, really enjoyable.

 

So I thought I’d ask the authors about it =)

 

 

 

 

JF:  ‘Nathan, Rainbow Man (sorry… Prism =) is a fabulous superhero—and at the same time, charmingly flawed and human. Tell us about your inspiration in creating this character.

 

NB: Somewhere between my geek childhood love of the X-Men and my own wish that there were more gay superheroes out there, Kieran sprang to mind almost fully formed. When I was younger, there were none. It’s gotten better, but I wanted a story rooted in the LGBT culture. I didn’t know what sort of power I wanted to give him at first, but I was having a conversation with my mother-in-law in her kitchen and there was a suncatcher in her window and I bumped it and rainbows scattered and something clicked. Making it a side-effect of telekinesis came later, but I always wanted him to be “somewhat underwhelming” in the power department. If Jeffrey will forgive me, I always preferred Marvel to DC because the Marvel characters weren’t invulnerable powerhouses – the mutants often had one good power (or two) but took their lumps a lot more often. They came across as more human to me.

 

JF: Jeffrey, your book gives an interesting take on a common YA theme–the discovery that one has royal/magical/otherworldly origins and/or powers. Your main character is the rejected offspring of an all-female group that now need his help. Tell me about that particular plot twist. Why Amazons?

 

JR: Jamie doesn’t think he’s special. I didn’t want to make him too “chosen-one” gee-whiz spectacular. He’s just a kid trying to get through school without getting pulverized. What makes him remarkable, I think, isn’t his Amazon bloodline or any powers that derive from that. It’s that he keeps going even when he’s deathly afraid. 

 

Why Amazons? I guess it all goes back to Wonder Woman. I’ve been captivated by the Amazons ever since I first read one of the comic books and then saw Lynda Carter on the TV screen. She was like magic to my little gay mind. I was always drawn to Diana in a way that Superman and Batman couldn’t equal. I think, being a gay kid, I identified in particular with the idea of a secret identity, that who you were on the outside hid something remarkable within. Yes, all of the big three had secret identities, but hers resonated. I can’t explain why, but I know it was more than just the bracelets and the lasso and the power. 

 

Of course, that has little to do with the real Amazons of antiquity. And I was surprised at how little I could find when I started researching for this book. I found one or two volumes, mostly thin on information, and then just passages here and there in the epics. Why was there so little?

 

The more I though about it, the more it made sense. All those old stories were written by men, and they focused on the men. No wonder the Amazons got short shrift. I wouldn’t be immune from that criticism either: I may be gay, but I’m also a white guy in the western world, which translates to a lot of privilege. Even here, who do I end up focusing on? Jamie, one of their sons. But I hope I do that in the context of the powerful women around him, not all of whom are Amazons—his friend Sarah in particular; she’s such a hero and she has no magical origin to base that on—and not all of whom are human. But I don’t want to give too much away there, either.

 

JF: ‘Nathan, Light addresses some pretty serious themes, puts the main character in nail-biting peril, and sees him take his lumps. Yet the story is suffused with wonderful humor and a lovely romance. The combination of excitement and lightheartedness is irresistible. How do you do that?

 

NB: I wholeheartedly believe that if we stop laughing, we lose. In the face of what can seem like relentless pressures from all sides for the queer community to cave in, give up, or go away, the times we spend laughing and celebrating how far we’ve made it are the things that keep me going. I wanted to show that balance, and could think of nothing better than setting the story during Pride Week for exactly that purpose. You don’t have to look far to see how much further we have to go – Kansas, Russia, Uganda – it’s not hard to find the bad news and the fights still ahead to be won. Those fights are still there, and just as serious and important no matter what you do. I just know I fight better when I’ve recharged myself with the company of good people and that kind of dark humour that serves us well.

 

I also listened to my editors. I feel like I should repeat that again: I listened to my editors. If parts felt too dark or too action-focused, they helped me find a way to break it up a bit and use the romance or the humour to diffuse the tension for the reader. Did I mention you should seriously listen to your editors?

 

JF: Jeffrey, in The Unwanted, you turn the theme of bullying on its head by binding Jamie to his bully early on in the story, and forcing both characters to grow and change. It’s a fresh take and an interesting choice. Can you tell us how you came to make that choice?

 

JR: Thanks. I was really worried about that, to be honest. Billy has treated Jamie like crap before and at the beginning of the events in the book. I didn’t want to give Billy a free pass or let him off easy, but I also wanted to show that even the people you expect it of the least can change for the better. Without giving too much away, I wanted to illustrate that real connection and understanding can overcome fear. 

 

JF:  ‘Nathan, your short fiction is prolific and well known, but this is your first novel. How different was it working in this longer format?

 

NB: This should come as no surprise to anyone with a brain, but it turned out that having some sort of outline or plan was way more important for a novel than I’ve found it to be in a short story. What that says about my brain I’ll leave up to you. Also, with a short story, the turnaround time for some sort of feedback is so quick. With a novel, I worked on it for over a year before I had enough to hand to someone and get criticism. I’ve had rare moments where a short story has gelled in the space of hours, and had feedback on the first draft within a day of finishing that draft. Writing a novel felt a lot more isolated and required a lot more patience and self-confidence, and I’m sure not overstocked in either.

 

JF: Jeffrey, you’re currently studying for your MFA in creative writing. What, from your education, have you applied to your writing?

 

JR: This is a really good question. You hear a lot of criticism of MFA programs as encouraging a sameness in students’ voices and subject matter. (At least, I have.) That may be the case in some places, but I haven’t experienced that here. At the moment, I’m knee deep in revising my thesis, which is a speculative fiction novel, so this is probably not the best perspective from which to figure out how my own writing has been changed by it. I feel like I’m taking more chances in my writing, trying things that I might not have done in the past, and diving deeper when possible. All that being said, spending two years in an environment where I’m surrounded almost daily by other writers who are this generous with their time and feedback and encouragement is probably the nicest thing about it. That, and Vancouver is really a beautiful place to live.

 

JF: I loved both of your books and would love to see Jamie and Prism again. Any plans for future adventures for these guys?

 

NB: I have a short story idea for Kieran wherein Detective Stone drops by for some help on a case he thinks might be similar to the events of Pride Week, but the timing is bad: Sebastien is away at a leather competition, which means Kieran is left wrangling Pilot. Which, as you can imagine, wouldn’t go smoothly. I also have the barest of bare ideas in outline for a sequel, but I don’t think I want to write a novel back-to-back with the same characters. I will say that – for the first time ever – I have a title from step one: Flame.

 

JR: I kind of love them too. When I wrote the ending, I didn’t see how I could possibly continue the story after what I do to them. But, I do have an idea that I’ve been working on sporadically. We’ll see.

 

JF: OK, fellas, last question. If there’s one thing you’d like readers to take away from your book, what would it be?

 

NB: You’re not alone, and there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – wrong with asking for help.

 

JR: I didn’t really have an idea or a message in mind as a takeaway for readers when I wrote this. I think there’s this sort of magic that happens between the reader and the book that is sort of outside the writer’s influence—and that’s how it should be, I think. I just wanted to write something I thought the teenage version of me would have wanted to read, since there weren’t any books that I found at that age that featured gay characters that were suitable for teen reading. I later found wonderful books like Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming Pool Library, and E.M. Forster’s Maurice. By then I was eighteen and my reaction was like, “We do exist.” 

 

I just hope readers enjoy The Unwanted and consider it time well spent.

The Amazon Trail

 Softball Memories

Lee and her pinkie ring go to PTown

Lee and her pinkie ring go to PTown

We’re glazed in, said a neighbor. Ice, freezing rain, snow, winds. The streets are sheathed in a thin, treacherous layer of ice. In the yard the fat little dog crunches through the ice, then sinks into snow, one paw, two paws, three paws, four. In Sochi, Russia, the Winter Olympics go gayly forward. Heck, they could luge down our hill. “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Olympic Charter I don’t remember sports quite like that. Here’s what The Federation of Gay Games writes on their web site about gays in sports. “The best gay and lesbian athletes in the world already do compete in the Olympics (with a large majority of them in the closet). But the Olympics, and mainstream sport in general, remain a very difficult place for homosexual athletes to compete, and certainly to compete without hiding their sexual identity. There are countless potential champions who under-perform, or simply don’t participate, in mainstream sport because of homophobia.” When I was a kid, girls couldn’t use the gym very often. Our P.E. teachers taught us demure dances in a classroom, while the boys shouted in the gym, feet and basketballs pounding the wooden floors. I remember once playing baseball in the junior high playground, but never got to bat. Girls who played tennis walked over a mile to courts at a public park and used our own rackets. The gay teachers were, of course, closeted. The straight girls made fun of them. I hero-worshipped them. We got more space and time to do sports in college. We even had a women’s sports association. Again, the teachers were closeted. They had to be in order to get that space and time for women students. As obvious as some of the phys ed students were, they played straight or they left school. Pretty clever, to get a lesbian department head to weed out any gay girl whose profile wasn’t low enough. The male phys ed chair tried to lure me away from the English department, but the pays ed majors avoided my eyes. I stuck with the avant-garde English majors where I felt safer. Later, in my late twenties, I discovered women’s softball. Not to play, but to be a fan at Raybestos Stadium in Stratford, Connecticut where the greatest women’s softball team was located and where the greatest women’s softball player wowed the crowds. Joanie Joyce played with the Raybestos Brakettes, a legendary fast pitch team that won state, national, and international championships. Look up Joan Joyce on the internet; she’s had an amazing career in golf and basketball as well and few people have ever heard of her. I don’t know how I lucked out to live in the same state as The Brakettes and Joyce, but I got to see her play and win there and during the brief professional women’s softball league days in the 1970s. I’d go to those games with a mix of gay and non-gay women co-workers. The small stadium would be half-filled with blue collar straight couples and wildly crushed out gay women. It amazed me that most of the Brakettes’ followers were straight and considered the games family outings. This was a new world for me. I came to enjoy the relaxed late afternoon games and to admire powerhouse player Joan Joyce enormously. She’s 72 now and coaching at a university in Florida, as competitive as ever. She’s still completely gorgeous, a fitting idol for any young athlete. You knew you were in the presence of greatness when you followed her team off the field. The women’s movement came along and proved, once everyone settled down a bit, to have an interest in sports beyond passing Title IX in 1972. Suddenly, we were watching or playing softball instead of talking and talking in consciousness raising groups. The softball fields of the U.S. proved fertile ground for a meshing of lesbian feminists and bar dykes. I went to those games to be part of something. When the lesbian team in New Haven played the straight girls, the dykes could count on  posse of both head dykes and bed dykes to be raucous fans in the bleachers. Head dykes, back then, came out via their feminist politics. Bed dykes just came out. Softball, so to speak, leveled the playing field. Each side had something to teach the other.

Irish Hat

Irish Hat

Today, it’s astonishing for me to see the “free” world taking up the cause of gay Olympians and gay Russians. We haven’t been free about anything gay for very long. Is this just another way of condemning a Communist country or have we at last melted the ice of repression in America and embraced the Olympian tenet of fair play?

Copyright Lee Lynch 2014

PUBLISHED WRITERS & PROCESS WRITERS

by Guillermo Luna, author of The Odd Fellows

luna Postcard.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

“The Future is not ominous but a promise; surrounding the present as a halo” ― John Dewey from Art as Experience.

This past fall (2013) I took a graduate seminar in contemporary art. In the seminar we focused on “Process Art.” Process Art was first documented in the late 1960s in two separate shows. One was called “When Attitudes Become Form” (Bern, 1969) and the other was titled “Procedures/Materials” (New York, 1969). These shows put forth the idea that the act of making art was more important than the final artwork. For example, some Process Artists use transitory materials like water, ice or wax in their artwork and part of the art, may be, watching the water evaporate or watching the ice or wax melt. One of the concepts behind Process Art is that it’s a reflection on the impermanence of life so the experience of creating art is what’s really important – not the end result. One of the other components of Process Art is to create “non-precious” art; something that can’t be sold for a large sum of money.

I contend that many writers are process artists and they don’t even know it.

I see process writers (that’s what I’m going to call them) as individuals who have a clear vision of what they want to write and are unwilling to compromise. That’s not bad, per se, but the process writer conjures up, in me, a particular scene in the film Sunset Boulevard (1950). In the scene, Joe Gilles, the screenwriter has just been handed part of a screenplay that silent film star Norma Desmond has written for her comeback for her return to the screen. Gilles warily looks at the piles of pages that comprise the script and with a sneer in his voice says “there was enough for ten scripts.” [Screenplays are normally 120 pages and one page equals one minute on the screen.] Over the next couple of hours, while he sits and reads it, Gilles devises a plan. He’ll offer to help Norma get her script in order in exchange for some money ― $500 a week. It’s at this point that Joe Gilles turns to Norma Desmond and says, “It’s a little long. We might have to cut some.” Norma’s response is, “I will not have it butchered!” See, if there’s such a thing as a process writer, Norma Desmond would have been a process writer because she wasn’t interested in commercial viability. Who would want to see a 1200 minute silent film about Salome? (I’d rather watch the Nazimova version and that’s only an hour.) Norma Desmond used the act of writing as a release; a way to put down on paper the creativity that was inside her along with how she felt “in her heart.” She was writing for herself. That’s what I imagine process writers doing. Their enjoyment comes from the process and the satisfaction they get from sticking to their vision. The writing is the reward.

What about process writers and the impermanence of life? If we go under the assumption that process writers don’t get published because they’re more interested in remaining true to their artistry (or dream or concept) as opposed to publishing a book ― then the impermanence of life can be linked to their writing being lost due to the fact that there is no published record of their work.

The concepts of transitory materials and non-precious art should be obvious. All writers use transitory materials when they use hand written words on paper or, worse, 1s and 0s in a computer. The idea of non-precious art comes into play when a novel is not validated by failing to be put into the commercial marketplace.

Am I process writer? No, because I definitely had my eyes set on what could be commercial. I kept telling myself the story needed to move fast and it had to be funny ― for the readers’ sake. I wanted the story in my book, The Odd Fellows, to be inhibited by characters that were likeable, attractive and sexy but not too sexy. It’s not that kind of a book. I didn’t want to write a talky book. I wanted to write a book where the images remained in the readers mind not necessarily what the characters’ said. My goal was to write a visual book. Also, I wasn’t interested in creating new ways of writing. Gertrude Stein and James Joyce may be great writers but they’re not the writers most readers select from their bookshelves first.

I try to remind myself of the quote at the beginning of this blog post whenever negative thoughts pass through my brain concerning the future. Recently, I was reading another Bold Strokes Books writer’s blog and she expressed all my fears and apprehensions when she stated she was “stressing” (out) about her “good news” (finally getting published). I too need to accept the happiness that comes with publication and my good fortune. The future will unfold over time and I want to believe “the promise” I have for it will come true. Yet all writers should remember that while getting published is important ― the process of writing is equally as important. As writers we simply have to determine whether we want to be published writers or process writers. It’s a conscious decision writers make every time they are offered constructive advice concerning their writing and either accept it or reject it.

The Odd Fellows 300 DPI

The Amazon Trail

BY LEE LYNCH

“We Always Found Ourselves”

I read the novel Spring Fire as a 15 year old, and the title came to represent, for me, the whole concept of lesbian love. The words of the title itself could have been from a poem by Sappho or H.D. And they certainly summed up Spring Fires tale.

Before I even started reading, the author’s androgynous name, Vin Packer, told me what I needed to hear, and the protagonist of Spring Fire, a woman named Mitch, told the rest.

I would have been crushed if I’d found out Vin Packer was a guy, but we young lesbian readers knew, somehow, she wasn’t. The author understood us too well: our fears, our vulnerabilities and, most of all, our passions. Vin Packer was one of us. And she was a writer. In my book, it didn’t get any better. When I grew up, I wanted to be Vin Packer. I wanted to write Spring Fire.

The cover was not very different in style from others of its time, except for the absence of a robust male. I just about memorized it, eager for clues about gay people and our lives, but these women didn’t look like any dykes I’d ever seen. As Vin Packer wrote in her prologue to the 2004 reissue of Spring Fire, “Lesbian readers were able to look past the cover: to find themselves between the pages. We always found ourselves.”

That was exactly what I experienced as a gay kid, that I’d found myself between the pages of Spring Fire.

I wasn’t alone. No lesbian of my generation forgets her first lesbian books. Last month I asked my first girlfriend, Sue, if she remembered finding Vin Packer’s books, including Spring Fire. Sue e-mailed back, “Those were the first books I laid my hands on from the little bookstore near the 5th Av. Library, when I was riding the subway to and from work in NY.  I couldn’t believe there were books about ‘US!’ I had to hide them from my parents but I / had / those / books!!!!” She added, “Thank Vin Packer for being so daring in those days.”

Not insignificant to a baby dyke, the mildly erotic scenes she wrote were, to say the least, inspiring. How I wished there were more books like this! I sought them out when I was in college and found Valerie Taylor, Ann Bannon and more Vin Packer books, under the name Ann Aldrich, at a newspaper store downtown. It’s not an exaggeration to say these brave and talented women may have saved my life. Reading their books was stepping into an alternate reality where right there, in black and white, women felt as I did.  Just her existence gave the hope and resolve I needed to become a lesbian writer myself.

Under her real name of Marijane Meaker, she writes a little history in the foreword to Cleis Press’s 2004 re-issue of Spring Fire. The original publisher, Gold Medal Books, pre-censored the book. It was 1952 and the editor directed Meaker to give the book an unhappy ending.  He told her the postal service would refuse to handle the book if a lesbian relationship was portrayed positively.

Nevertheless, Vin Packer stamped the malleable me with Spring Fire, just as she stamped and gave voice to thousands and thousands of lesbians fortunate enough to read her work in the years between the World War that connected and emboldened gay people with the years when we rioted and marched and challenged the courts – and changed the world.

Spring Fire was a powerfully written story that has survived despite the obstacles imposed on it by the time in which Vin Packer so courageously wrote it.  The impact of Spring Fire on the baby dykes who would become fomenters, with their brothers, of gay and women’s liberation, cannot be denied, or applauded enough. For her talent, her courage, and her stories, the Golden Crown Literary Society presented its Trailblazer Award to Marijane Meaker and its Classic Award for her first novel, Spring Fire. Ms. Meaker accepted the honors by video, out and proud at age 84, still giving as, 60 years later, she told stories to a ballroom full of lesbian readers and writers.

Mary Jane Meaker’s books were there for me when I needed to see something about my newfound gay life in print. The experience of reading a Vin Packer or Ann Aldrich title was intensely exciting and left me shaken. I hid her books from my mother and from roommates in college, but nothing could stop me from reading them. Their very existence, the author’s defiant act of writing those stories, promised a literature of our own.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013

The Amazon Trail

Carol Seajay, Lesbian Literary Legend

Dear Carol: It’s been so long! Of all my old friends, you are one I think of most.

I am reminded of you: you will appear at the Lesbian Oral Herstory Project symposium this year, Celebrating Our Lesbian Legacies October 10-13, 2013, in Houston Texas (http://www.olohp.org/). I’ll be on the East Coast those days, officiating, to my amazement, at a gay marriage, visiting family openly with my spouse, doing Provincetown Women’s Week book! events, so I can’t be there, but I’d like to be.

A quiet, thoughtful groundbreaker, you were a Pied Piper we hardly realized was leading us beyond what we could imagine achieving. The unbridled excitement of those early years hid the hard, hard work we all did. I feel it now, the vast exhaustion that threatens to silence me.  I am slow to think, to move, to write. I remind myself of your cat Chia, who always impressed me with her deliberateness of motion.

I have wondered if the burden of your work in pioneering and sustaining the women’s print community has led you to retreat to the shadows in which we all once lived. Or if you are stirring new concepts in your cauldron of women’s words, concepts that will build upon the structures we old dykes can claim with pride.

Many women have raised their voices, their pens, their placards to contribute to these loud and lasting movements of our making: the women’s movement, gay liberation, lesbian literature. Few have had your impact. You are best known as a founder of Old Wives Tales in San Francisco, one of the first women’s bookstores; of “Feminist Bookstore News” (FBN), the house publication for women’s bookstores around the world; and “Books to Watch Out For” (BTWOF) a later publication that  continued to spread the word of books by, for and about women.

What most women are not aware of is how incredibly hard you worked and the way you lived to accomplish your life’s work. I remember when you took a job as a FedEx driver with that fledgling company and stuck with it for years in order to support yourself and FBN. I remember your small apartment in San Francisco which served as both publishing empire and your home for many years; papers and books, computers, periodicals, flyers and a view of a storefront church across the street. Your apartment and neighboring buildings became the setting for my book, Sue Slate, Private Eye, and I have many photographs of your neighborhood that I took in preparation.

I remember how influenced you were by The First Women In Print Conference in 1977. I believe that’s where you met Barbara Grier and so many other women who created our lesbian publishing industry. I knew nothing of all this, voiceless since “The Ladder” folded. Yet there you were, in the midst of our print revolution, organizing so women like me could be published. Thank you for making that long journey to the conference in one of your small used cars –  was it the Subaru named Jane?

You had a story published in “Common Lives/Lesbian Lives” some years later, when I also was publishing there. I loved your story and wrote you a fan letter. You answered! Where did we first meet? San Francisco? Provincetown? New Haven? You stayed with my then partner and me at our condo. You and I were both so shy. I think I blushed every time we exchanged words. You were so accomplished and so fervent and knew everyone in the lesbian writing world and you liked my work too. I was so glad and proud to have you as a friend always.

I can’t imagine how you made it financially. You had to buy food and housing and fund the bookstore and your publications. At the height of the popularity of women’s bookstores you were actually able to hire a part-time helper – or was she an unpaid intern? But you were the reporter, researcher, reviewer, distributor and writer for FBN all those years. It’s a wonder you didn’t get sick or burnt out.

But I think you came from hardy Midwest stock, though they no longer wanted you, their lesbian daughter. I remember listening to your story of leaving home on a little motorcycle and setting out for San Francisco. On the way you broke down or had an accident. Ever the exceedingly competent femme, you got yourself to the city of your dreams anyway and helped put on our revolution. Your work was so important. I hope you know that.

You drove all over the country in the early 1980s, women’s bookstore to women’s bookstore, sleeping on couches or in your little car. You amazed me and I want to thank you for inspiring me, gently patting me on the back, housing me, accepting my lovers, introducing me to yours, selling my books, promoting our literature and our culture and just plain being instrumental in the flowering of lesbian literature.

And, Carol, I don’t know if it will reach you, but I am sending this photograph* of us, decades old, because, you know the movie line: We’ll always have Provincetown.

Love,

Lee

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013 

Carol Seajay and Lee Lynch in Provincetown

*Photo credit to D. Pascale

1st Annual Women’s Writer Retreat

Malaga, Spain

 

Bambu Resort, May 10th- 17th, 2014

 

Do the one thing you’ve always wanted to: write under the Spanish sun for an entire week!

Join a small group of writers at Bambu Resort in Malaga, Spain for a week of writing and constructive feedback. Get your work under way, or work through that novel you’ve been stuck on.

The retreat will be run by Victoria Oldham, editor and writing consultant. Joining her will be Radclyffe publisher at Bold Strokes Books and author of more than forty books. Receive constructive feedback at writing sessions throughout the week, with plenty of time to do your own writing and enjoy the laid back lifestyle under the Spanish sun.

The package includes your accommodation, breakfast and a light lunch every day, plus your writing workshops and feedback. Bambu is a gorgeous resort set against a backdrop of mountains and avocado groves, with the beach only fifteen minutes away, just outside the city of Malaga. Share your room with a fellow writer and receive a reduced price, or bring a partner for a small supplement, and she can enjoy the sun and sand while you write. Tavernas and shops are a short walk away, making it a great place for couples who may want to do different things.

Seven days of writing and feedback from professionals, in a private resort under the Spanish sun. Make your writing dreams come true, and book early!

For more information, go to:

http://www.bambu-resort.com / reservations@bambu-resort.com

www.globalwords.co.uk

globalwords1@gmail.com

Paying it Forward

BY RACHEL SPANGLER

My wife, Susie, gave me my first lesbian fiction novel when I was nineteen years old.  It was Rita Mae Brown’s Venus Envy.  I thought it was pretty interesting, and I wished there were a lot more people taking a crack at lesbian love stories, but our local bookstore had no section for such novels.  I never saw them in grocery stores or on course syllabi in any of the English classes. None of my college friends had ever read any of them either. As a child of the Internet age, it probably seems odd to say I never looked there, but I didn’t think to search for something I didn’t know existed.

Then, my junior year in college I got involved in the PRIDE group at Illinois State University. Part of my job was to make sure our office was staffed five hours a week, which involved me sitting on a folding chair in a tiny cubicle in the basement of the Student Services Building. No one stopped by because virtually no one knew the space existed, and aside from some old posters and out-of-date textbooks, we didn’t have anything to offer them. We didn’t even have room for them to sit down. Most of the time I did homework or stared at the walls. Then one day I arrived to find a box of books on the floor. The student in the cubicle next to ours said, “Two women dropped those off. They don’t have room for them anymore.”

I dragged the book into the office thinking that we didn’t really have room for them either. They looked old and musty, probably more textbooks from days when we were called “sexual inverts.” I picked one up and scanned the back cover to realize I couldn’t have been more wrong.  They were novels, novels by women I’d never heard of, women with names like Vin Packer and Ann Bannon. Some of them had comic-book style covers and comical titles labeling their subjects as “stranger” or “of the shadows.”  I had been an English minor and a Women’s Studies minor for years, but I had no idea what I was looking at.  I had no idea lesbian pulp fiction had ever existed. I sat on the floor and dug deeper into the box until I came across some mellower titles.  I read the backs of each of them until I found one about a cabby who fell for an Ivy-league college student. The book apparently told their story across the backdrop of the budding women’s movement.

I began reading Lee Lynch’s Toothpick House right there on the floor, and that’s how I finished it.  I felt like she’d written it for me, right now, instead of the year I was born. I couldn’t believe stories like that had been around my whole life and no one had told me about them. I went through the entire box.  Week by week I taught myself the classics, or at least the ones I had access to.  I also began to write about them. I wrote reflections on them in my English classes; I wrote analyses of them for my Women’s Studies classes; I even wrote a term paper for a political science course on their role in raising public awareness. As I did my research, I found more books, newer ones, ones being published right then. I read everything I could get my hands on. I bought as many as I could afford until I was literally paying for them with dimes and nickels. Then when I ran out of books to read, I started to write my own. I wrote during my free time; I wrote during my office hours; I during my classes. I haven’t stopped writing since.

Years later I ended up back at Illinois State University with Lee Lynch. I sat in one of my old classrooms listening to one of my heroes talk to a group of women at the National Women’s Music Festival, and I realized I’d come full circle. I’d signed a contract with Bold Strokes Books to publish that book I’d written in these classrooms.  I was sitting alongside the author who’d introduced me to a genre I’d come to consider my own.  As I listened while she graciously answered questions and offered advice to budding writers, I wondered how I could ever repay her or those women who’d shared her books with me.

Since then I’ve written five more books, and I’ve come to consider Lee a very dear friend and mentor, but I still don’t know the names of those women who left the books outside that basement office in the Student Services Building.  I’ve come to realize I’ll never be able to repay those debts I incurred at Illinois State University.  There’s no way to pay someone back for showing you your life’s work, but for the first time in my career I feel like I’m in a position to pay it forward.

Last year, the administration of Illinois State allowed for the creation of an LGBT Center.  It’s a real office, a space where students can gather, filled with bookcases, tables, and plenty of chairs. It’s a place where students and faculty can plan events like the one I attended last fall to share my work with Redbirds old and new.  I choked up when I saw all the books lining the shelves and thought of all the students to come who would finally get to know them for the treasures they are. The only problem is that the center is not currently funded, meaning it has no assigned staff, no programing budget, and very little opportunity for students to access the space. What the point of having an LGBT student center if no one gets to use it? So I’ve stepped into leading a fundraising campaign for the center.

This is my chance to give back, not to Lee Lynch or to the women who shared their books with me, but to every student who’s never had a chance to experience the treasures they shared with me. I would be deeply honored if those of you who love gay and lesbian literature would join me in helping to make sure the books we love are accessible for the next generation of readers by making a donation for any amount here http://lgbtq.illinoisstate.edu/giving.  And if you’ve got suggestions for other ways to reach out to the readers of the future, I’d love to hear about them in the comment sections of this blog.

Behind the Wheeler

Here’s a chance to meet Bold Strokes editor and author, Jerry Wheeler:

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

BY RADCLYFFE

I was tagged by Diana Simmonds (http://dianasimmonds.wordpress.com) to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop this month. It was a real pleasure to get reconnected with one of my favorite authors and to have a chance to contribute to such a fun enterprise. I’ll be talking about my newest release, Crossroads, which came out in November, 2012.

BSB_Crossroads_small

Now onto the questions:

1) What is the working title of your book?

Crossroads.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started writing in the romance subgenre of “medical romances” with Passion’s Bright Fury, first released in 2003. I discovered I enjoy setting romances within the action-packed sphere of emergency/trauma medicine and have written a number of books set in that arena. This time, I decided to move away from trauma, but not all that far, because I find that life and death circumstances, be they medical, environmental, military or otherwise, heighten the characters’ emotional investment and connection, making for a volatile developing romance. Also, I enjoy writing about the hospital community, which is like a large extended neighborhood. As I began to write this story, I found myself returning to the familiar neighborhood I first introduced in Fated Love and wrote about again in Night Call. I’ve found that my readers enjoy returning to familiar settings and catching a glimpse of characters as they move through life following their initial romance.

3) What genre does your book fall under? 

This would be considered a traditional character driven romance in the medical romance subgenre. By traditional, I mean that character interaction, rather than an external plot, such as intrigue, action adventure, thriller etc, primarily drives this story.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

I don’t have the slightest idea. I need help on this one. Maybe you could pick someone :-)

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 

A midwife and a high risk OB are forced to work together despite a rocky past, professional differences, and unexpected attraction.

6) What is the longer synopsis of your book? 

Dr. Hollis Monroe and Nurse-Midwife Annie Colfax first meet under the most frightening circumstances–when Annie turns up in the emergency room alone and in the midst of a precipitous, life-threatening labor. Four years later, they meet again when both are assigned against their will and professional judgment to work together to form a high risk pregnancy clinic with shared care between hospital obstetricians and community-based nurse midwives. While initially at odds, with unresolved anger and distrust simmering between them, they discover their mutual compassion for their patients and passion for one another changes both their lives.

7) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Neither. I am published by Bold Strokes Books, Inc. and am not represented by an agent (which is true of 95% plus of the authors at Bold Strokes Books).

8) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

10 weeks, which is standard for me, although as I revise each chapter before writing the next one, I actually have a second draft by the end of that period of time.

9) What inspired you to write this book? 

I recently read an article in the New York Times about the plight of nurse midwives after the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. Because in some states nurse midwives are required to practice under the “auspices” of physicians, these practitioners were suddenly without legal standing. Nevertheless, they were committed to caring for their patients and their patients were committed to continuing with them. Some of these issues inspired me to place my characters in a similar situation.

10) What else about your book might pique the readers interest?

This book explores community on many levels–the hospital as community, the neighborhood as community, extended friendships as family and community. Annie Colfax, one of the main characters, has a young child and her interactions with her friends and neighbors, including those with other children, help show the impact of falling in love on all the aspects of our life–social, emotional, physical, and spiritual. I hope that this book does what every good romance should do–allow the reader to experience the joy of falling in love on all those levels.

Crossroads is available at the Bold Strokes Books web store in print and digital versions, as well as at retailers online and at your local bookseller.

In It For the Long Haul: How One Writer Forges a Career

by Lesléa Newman

1. QUIT YOUR DAY JOB: If you have something to fall back on, you will fall back on it. If you have to be successful at your writing in order to eat, believe me, you will find a way to make that happen. Barbra Streisand never learned to type, because she figured if she did, she would wind up typing instead of singing. Dump Plan B and stick to Plan A!

2. B.I.C. (Butt In Chair): This is the only cure for writer’s block. You have to put in your time. You never know what’s going to happen when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But you do know what will happen if you don’t put in your time: nothing!

3. SHOW UP: If you are going to live a literary life, live a literary life. Go to readings, workshops, conferences, seminars. Join –or start—a writers group. Become a member of a writers organization (Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, etc.) Create your own network of people who will support your literary career.

4. READ, READ, READ. Read everything and anything you can get your hands on. Every book you read will teach you something, even the terrible ones. Especially the terrible ones. Study how other writers handle dialogue, description, character development, action, setting, plot. Every once in a while, read something you don’t ordinarily read (if you always read fiction, try nonfiction; if you always read poetry, try some prose). Think of all the people who said, “I never read fantasy” and then picked up Harry Potter.

5. BE DIVERSE: Just as you read many different forms (see above) write in many different forms. I started out my literary life as a poet, then wrote my first novel, GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT, then my first collection of short stories A LETTER TO HARVEY MILK, then returned to poetry, SWEET DARK PLACES, and then wrote my first children’s book, HEATHER HAS TWO MOMMIES. Perhaps it’s because I get bored easily, but nevertheless, I learn something from every form in which I write. Writing poetry has helped me add sensory detail to my prose; writing fiction has helped me write poetry with a narrative arc. And being versed in different forms has helped me create something new: my most recent book, OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD explores the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder in a cycle of 68 poems which add up to a historical novel written in verse.

6. REVISE, REVISE, REVISE: Writing is rewriting. Someone famous said, there are two ways to do something, the quick way and the right way. Take your time to get it right, whether that’s writing seven drafts or twenty-seven drafts. Show your work to people you trust and listen to what they have to say. Consider their suggestions and try them. When I do this, very often something else entirely appears on the page that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been willing to at least consider someone else’s suggestions. Don’t get too attached to what you’ve created. I find that the sentence/paragraph/chapter I’m most attached to is usually the one that has to go. I recently wrote a chapter book for young readers which consisted of 10 short chapters (30 pages). My editor thought it would make a better picture book, so I shortened it to 5 pages. Ouch! So much of my brilliant writing landing on the cutting room floor! But in the end, I had to admit that my editor (who ultimately bought the book) was right.

7. KNOW THE MARKET: Writing is a creative act; publishing is a business. Do your homework and research publishing houses to find the best home for your work. Sometimes it’s obvious (sending my novelTHE RELUCTANT DAUGHTER to Bold Strokes Books was a no-brainer). Sometimes it takes a while for a book to find its home. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up.” As a friend of mine likes to say, sometimes the editor who will fall in love with your manuscript hasn’t even been born yet. She was kidding (sort of) but the point is, be persistent. Another friend of mine says, “Never co-habitate with a manuscript.” If you offer (not submit) your manuscript to a publisher and it is declined (not rejected) turn it around and offer it to someone else.

8. SUPPORT OTHER WRITERS: I firmly believe that when one of us succeeds, all of us succeed. Go to readings. Tell friends about books you love. Use your social networks to sing the praises of your writing friends and colleagues. Share their success stories. Plug their books. Cheer them on. This is a tough business. We writers need to stick together!

9. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you. Which isn’t to say that everything you put on paper (or screen) is brilliant. (See #6). It means that you know your work is important and you will make a commitment to give it the time, energy, and effort it deserves. Find others who believe in you, too. And I can’t stress this enough: make sure you choose wisely when it comes to love. Your beloved has to understand how important your writing is to you. If you wind up with someone who doesn’t take you seriously as a writer, there’s going to be trouble.

10. BE KIND TO YOURSELF: This, above all, is the most important gift you can give yourself. Writers seem to be good at beating ourselves up (myself included). My writing isn’t good enough, I don’t do it often enough, I’m not writing in the right form, my work isn’t important, I’m a hack, etc etc. Sound familiar? Try to get the critic in your head to shut up. See if you can find a nurturing voice (the Goddess? your best friend? your mother?) to replace the critic and praise you daily. Write yourself a pep talk, a love letter, a positive review. Tuck it in an envelope and give it to a friend to mail to you at some point in the future as a surprise. Look in the mirror every morning and say, “I am a writer” to your gorgeous reflection. Pat yourself on the back for being brave enough to create something out of nothing. It’s your letter to the world, as Emily Dickinson said. And those of us lucky enough to read your work are all the richer for it.


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