Archive for November, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Below are memories, thoughts, and wishes from some of your favorite BSB authors.

KI Thompson begins by telling us a little about the history of Thanksgiving.

“The traditional Thanksgiving story begins with the Mayflower’s arrival near the tip of Cape Cod in November of 1620. Although not the intended destination – it was supposed to be the mouth of the Hudson River – the passengers nevertheless made their way across Massachusetts Bay and established the village of Plymouth.

 Since then, modern research has brought to light evidence that predates the Pilgrims by as much as 50 years. A full year before the Pilgrims, English settlers at a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of the James River in Virginia gave thanks for their safe arrival by saying “the day of our ships arrival…shall be yearly and perpetually kept as a day of thanksgiving.” And a ceremony giving thanks was recorded in 1565 in St Augustine, Florida, when Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the Timucua tribe to dinner.

 Eventually, days of fasting and thanksgiving became an annual or occasional occurrence in New England. In 1789, George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation not only for the successful conclusion of the war of independence, but also for the ratification of the US Constitution. In 1817, New York became the first state to officially recognize an annual Thanksgiving holiday followed by several other states though not on the same day. And ten years later, the author of the nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” – Sara Josepha Hale – began her campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years she sent letters and published editorials until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln finally granted the request. He established the final Thursday in November as the official national day of Thanksgiving, despite being in the midst of a Civil War.

 Of course Native Americans will take issue with the entire concept of “Thanksgiving,” pointing out the subsequent massacres that took place once the true intent of the European settlers was ascertained. Since then, beginning in 1970, protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving on Cole’s Hill which overlooks Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning.”

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“Thanksgiving to me means time to spend with family. I live far away from my own family, and rarely see them on holidays anymore. My partner’s family has accepted me though, and we spend most holidays, including Thanksgiving, with them.”

 “It’s also a time of remembrance for me, because my father died 2 weeks before Thanksgiving in 2001 after a long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was supposed to be with them for the holiday that year, but instead spent the week before with my mother, trying to help her get through everything she had to deal with. Not a Thanksgiving goes by without thoughts of my father, and of all the happy Thanksgivings we had while I was growing up.”

 PJ

PJ Trebelhorn

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“I have two favorite Thanksgiving memories, and being the person I am, they’re not sentimental.  They’re more…absurd.

 The first one happened when I was about seven.  I’ve always been a total smart ass, the family clown, the proverbial boy crying wolf.  

So, at the Thanksgiving dinner table with my family, I choked on a turkey bone, and everyone thought I was joking.  I mean, I was full-on choking, with the crossed hands at the throat, fully blocked airway, the whole nine yards.  All I can remember is thinking that I was going to die while my whole family laughed and pointed…”Oh, look.  Isn’t she so funny?”  They only realized I was actually choking when my lips turned blue and I fell to the ground.  True story.  I don’t know who gave me the Heimlich, but I’m happy to be alive to tell the tale.  🙂

Second favorite Thanksgiving memory happened about twenty years later. 

  My mom didn’t feel like cooking (can’t blame her!), so we went to this super-pricey Thanksgiving buffet at a great restaurant.  I’m a notorious potato fan, and their mashed potatoes were legendary.  So despite the excessive price per plate and a crazy array of great dishes, my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a gigantic volcano mound of garlic mashed potatoes.  Most expensive plate of smashies I’ve ever eaten!  I think my mom half wanted to kill me.

 What I’m thankful for?  That my family loves me for my weirdness.”

 Lea Santos

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“In a nutshell. Thanksgiving is a time for me to quit my whining and check out how much I have to be grateful for. I make a point to get out into nature and appreciate this glorious Earth trip, tell some people I love them, and share delicious flavors with friends.”

Clifford Henderson

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“It has been many years since Thanksgiving was important to me. When I was a child, late November brought the beginning of the snow. We would go to my aunt’s house in the Adirondack mountains. By then, they had enough snow to go sledding at the hill not far from her house. We played with our cousins, ate until our stomach’s hurt, then feel asleep in the car while my dad made the hour and half drive home.

 Thanksgiving doesn’t bring the snow anymore. The climate has changed and now it’s well into December sometimes before snow blankets my hometown. And I have been long gone from there, anyway. Here in Tennessee, there is little snow and the corresponding traffic panic hardly makes it worth it.

 But this year, Thanksgiving feels good again. This year, I will prepare dinner for my visiting family in the home that I share with the love of my life. The home that we have slowly added pieces of ourselves to over the past year. I’m excited to host my family and spend time with the woman I love.”

 Happy Holidays!

 Erin Dutton

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“For the past nine years, I haven’t been able to share Thanksgiving with my family. I’ve gone to my parents’ home at times, or I’ve cooked a turkey with my significant other. But I’ve never been able to see those two worlds merge, and for a while, I thought they were mutually exclusive. Fortunately, this is an “it gets better” story, and I’m happy to announce that on Thursday, Trin and I–along with our son and puppy–will make the trip to my parents’ home for Turkey Day. I’m so thankful that this year, I get to spend the holiday surrounded by all of my immediate family.

And I remain more thankful than ever for the family of choice that I’ve found through the LGBT publishing world. Fellow authors, fellow readers, editors, and invaluable staff members: thank you for your continued support, encouragement, and inspiration.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Nell Stark

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“Sadly, I lost my grandmother, Dorothy Helen Nickle, on Thanksgiving in 1997. She had a tremendous influence on my life and knew I was going to be a writer even before I did. Every year on the holiday, I celebrate her life by listening to Mack the Knife, watching a Claudette Colbert film, and eating an Eskimo Pie.”

 Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

 All Best,

David-Matthew

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“My partner loves to do ethnic cooking. Since she is Australian and they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, for her that means turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, yep, the whole traditional American feast. Christmas we deviate; I can sneak in oyster dressing then. But Thanksgiving is always full on because, she claims, that she can’t mess with other people’s traditions. So, Thanksgiving for me is a time to hang out in the kitchen, be together (do dishes), have cats on my lap (like right now–keep your paws off the keyboard) totally home cooked meals (yes, even the mashed potatoes) great leftovers (more dishes). And remembering to be thankful for the being able to put the food on the table, travel to be with loved ones and a pause in the passing time.”

Hope you and yours have a great holiday!

 JM Redmann

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“I’d like to share my gratitude for being a Bold Strokes author. Happy Thanksgiving to BSBers
around the world.”

Lee
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“Besides the huge meal (or couple of huge meals), I consider Thanksgiving the perfect time to reflect on my good fortune: a terrific wife, good health, awesome friends and family. Top all that off the opportunity to live my dream as a published author, and I am a lucky soul indeed. A special thanks to all the folks at Bold Strokes and all the readers out there who have helped me realize my dream.”

 Carsen

The Amazon Trail

The Nice Lesbian Neighbors

          I do get cranky sometimes when the doorbell rings. It’s a learned response to solicitors. Got religion? I have my own beliefs thank-you-very-much. Buy chocolate bars? I’d love to, but the budget’s too tight. Vote for WHO? Are you out of your freakin’ tree? And yes, you can come in our yard to retrieve your whiffle ball, Frisbee, SpongeBob kite, little brother and pet snake. Once a year, Halloween makes me a complete curmudgeon.

          My sweetheart is a nice person. She likes to support the local elementary school’s baseball team. She’ll buy those chocolate bars and give them away at work. She gives neighbor kids blanket permission to retrieve their whiffle balls, Frisbees, SpongeBob kites, little brothers and pet snakes. She enjoys giving out candy to excited, costumed munchkins.

          And she’s right. It’s good to be pleasant to the neighbors. Good for them, good for the neighborhood, good for the soul. It’s especially important for us, because we want to be the nice lesbian neighbors. I can sign every on line petition for ENDA, DADT,  and NO ON NOMA  that comes my way, but if I scowl at little kids congregating in our driveway or turn off the lights and don’t answer the door at Halloween, I’m not only condemning myself to everlasting Grinchhood, I’m teaching non-gays, who outnumber us in our development hundreds to two, that lesbians are unhappy grouches too different to be trusted or tolerated.

          So I’m getting with the program, though in so many ways I don’t know how. Take the tomboy across the street. Just because she acts like a daredevil on her bicycle, rides a skateboard with élan, has her own basketball hoop in her driveway and walks like a seasoned butch, doesn’t mean she’s going to breeze into holy dykedom at puberty. She’s only about a half a step away from puberty now. Any day she’s going to wake up and see her future living across the street from her.  

          While she comes to terms with her own sexuality, will she feel the need to make trouble for us: call us names? Out us to young mischief-makers? Vandalize our home? Or will she come to our door seeking a way into the gay world? What if she flings herself out of her closet and brings attention to us?  It won’t be an easy journey for her as she has a passel of ragtail non-gay relatives. The men drive diesel pickups with oversized tires. The women drive mini vans with church stickers. There’s also a tattle-tale girly little sister and lots of cousins: hard-staring little kids, very unlike the tomboy, who always averts her eyes.

          I keep my distance. The last thing I want is to be the nice lesbian neighbor she decides to hang around. Or for her to swoon at my sweetheart’s feet. I know what I was like when I first came out, crushed out on a teacher, too excited to hide who I was, longing for entry to the gay life, yet too shy and too scared and too outlawed to knock on any doors.

          That was a long time ago. These days, any tomboy can look us up on the internet. At the same time, the ancient taboos have not disappeared. She may ignore her instincts, go to her prom with a guy and add her kids to the passel of relatives. Or she may ring our doorbell. What will she need to know? What can I give her? If she shows up on our doorstep what’s the right thing for a nice lesbian neighbor to do? Invite the kid in for a cup of tea and honest talk? Jolly her along with smirks and winks?

          We keep our lawn green and neat, plant flowers, trim the shrubs, pick up after our dog. Our public displays of affection are minor and only one neighbor knows we’re married. We have no piles of loud dykes at parties. We smile and say hello, go to the community picnics and admire the kids’ accomplishments. We’re the perfect neighbors except we’re – you know – lesbians.

          Maybe this is the best message we can send our tomboy neighbor, that she can expect to live happily ever after any way and anywhere she wants. That we are neither seducers nor threats. But, oh, what if she needs more than that? What if we can save her life?

           What if I don’t answer the door?

Copyright Lee Lynch 2010

November 2010

More Than Ever

by David-Matthew Barnes

            “What author inspired you the most while growing up?” This question was posed to me by a critically-acclaimed writer and professor on my first day of graduate school. I was sitting in an old classroom in an old college in an old Southern town. The other students all responded to the question with very “literary” answers: William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen.

            I answered with, “Judy Blume“.

            In the world of literary fiction, writing for and about teenagers can often result in a steadfast stigma, labeling you forever as “the one who writes the teen stuff”. For some reason, our work is often not taken as serious as our grown-up, elite counterparts. We get grouped in with other categories muttered with similar lowly disdain such as “chick lit”, “beach books”, and “anything written by that Nora Roberts woman”.

            I’m often quick to point out 27 books by Nora Roberts are sold every minute.

            And Judy Blume’s books have been translated into 31 languages and over 80 million copies have been sold…and counting.

            Not bad company to be in, if you ask me.

            Yet, selling a gazillion copies is not my driving force as a young adult author. I write for teenagers simply because I love to.

            I write for teenagers because when I was 13 years old, a woman named Norma Fox Mazer changed my life.

            Just weeks after experiencing my first kiss with a Latin boy named Pedro (after he slipped me a crumpled note that read, “Meet me afterschool because I like your stories”), my eighth grade world was lit on fire when it was announced Norma Fox Mazer – one of my favorite authors – would be making a guest appearance at our school.

            After some serious campaigning to the junior high powers that be, I was one of the few students selected to have lunch with her in the library. I was beyond thrilled, having read every book she’d written. Although I was terribly star struck, I bravely showed her a section of a short story I was working on at the time and told her how much I wanted to be a writer.

            Norma Fox Mazer scanned over the first page and informed me, “You already are.”

            Two years later, I published my first short story. And the rest, as they say, is history.

            But I never would have become a young adult author without first being a young adult reader.

            Norma Fox Mazer was my best friend, without even realizing it. Each step of the way, she was there for me, guiding me through the field of adolescent landmines. She helped me cope with my parent’s divorce with Taking Terri Mueller. She taught about me death and grieving in After the Rain. She let me know that it was okay to not live like the rich kids in Silver. And she answered the questions I was too embarrassed to ask in Up in Seth’s Room.

            Similarly, I learned valuable life lessons in every Judy Blume book I could get my hands on (particularly Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). I devoured every volume in the Nancy Drew series. I hung on every suspenseful word written by Lois Duncan, and later, Christopher Pike.

            Yet, as much as I read and loved each book by these authors, I could never find a true version of myself in them: a young gay boy growing up in the conservative 80s in northern California.

            My first young adult novel, (set in 1986 in Sacramento), has just been published by Bold Strokes Books. While the novel explores a very timely and important topic (the life of a young girl is deeply affected by the murder of her gay older brother), the book is truly a literary tribute to the young adult authors who made me the writer I am today. Without them – and their beautiful words – I never would have sat down and taught myself to type at the age of 13.

 I wouldn’t be able to recognize how much weight our words as writers carry, especially when read by young people.

            Teenagers need us now, more than ever. They want us to be their best friend, their older brother or sister, their confidant. They want our experiences: the choices we made or didn’t, the decisions we’ve never second-guessed, the regrets we’ll always have. It is imperative that we share our lives with young people – not just through our words, but also by example.

            After hearing Norma Fox Mazer had passed away last October, I reached out to her daughter, Anne, who is a successful writer. In a letter, I recalled my eighth grade memory of her mother in my junior high library, and of the tremendous influence she’d had on my career since.

In her response, Anne shared with me, “I was touched to hear the story about how you met my mother. She would have been so happy to hear from you again and to learn about your novel.”

In my heart, I will always carry Anne’s words, right beside her mother’s. Right next to Judy Blume’s, and Lois Duncan’s and Christopher Pike’s. Next to the characters and the stories that helped to shape my youth.

In my lifetime, I only hope my own words will one day resonate with a 13-year-old who has yet to be told, “You already are.”

Writing a Book I Wanted to Read Instead of the One I Thought I Should Write

By Robin Summers

I used to have what I termed “Chapter Two Syndrome,” a terrible affliction that prevented me from ever writing more than two chapters of anything.  I could write poems, songs, and even short stories, but novels were completely out of the question.  It was not for lack of trying, or even for lack of interest.  If anything, my inability to write anything longer than a snack wrapper was due to too much interest—as soon as I settled into writing one thing, five new ideas would pop into my head and hold hostage my ability to focus.  Indeed, buried in a brown accordion file in the highest, darkest corner of my hall closet are a hundred-plus “novels” without a Chapter Three.  Like those jeans that have not fit me since 1998, I just can’t bear to throw them out.

Around ten years ago, I overcame my self-inflicted disorder.  What prompted this transformation, you ask?  A combination of coming out, a lot of coffee, and a little television show called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  I was in my second year of law school, and I had just rediscovered BtVS after a couple of years’ absence.  Thus, I had missed the whole “Willow’s gay now and has a girlfriend named Tara” storyline, but was quickly sucked in.  I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I had always identified with the character of Willow, and my fascination with her being gay was really about acknowledging that same part of myself which had been buried for way too long.  But I digress…

So once I discovered the magical gayness of Willow and Tara, I spent an inordinate amount of time combing the internet to try and figure out what I had missed, and along the way discovered a previously unknown world within the web: fan fiction.  Some of the writing was amazingly good, while some was, well… not the greatest.  Yet even as I critiqued the poorer writing, I had to give the writers an A for effort.  These people had not only completed (in many cases) novel-length stories—something I had never been able to do—but they had put their work out there for the whole world to see and to judge, something that takes incredible courage.  After months of lurking, I finally decided to suck it up and add my own contribution.  What started out as a three-chapter short story (I was determined to get past Chapter Two) evolved into a 200-plus page opus, complete with a beginning, middle, end, and even an epilogue.

What was different than the 100-plus other attempts I had made to write long-form fiction?  For the first time, I could see past the idea for the story and imagine how the characters would act within it.  The characters were alive in my head in a way they had never been with anything lengthy I had ever tried to write, and that spurred me to keep writing even when I got stuck with a certain paragraph or chapter.  I wanted, even needed, to tell their story.

Several pieces of fan fiction and a law degree later, I decided I wanted to write a novel, with my own characters in my own, original world.  Actually, I decided I wanted to write the next Great American Novel, a grand narrative full of depth and meaning that would inspire generations.  So I started writing, and stopped.  I tried another idea, and stopped again.  Chapter Two Syndrome was back in full effect, as if I had learned nothing from all those pieces I had written about Willow and Tara and the rest of the Scooby Gang.

It finally occurred to me that the problem was that I was not invested in my characters, or their story.  I was trying too hard to write something grand instead of something I was actually interested in writing.  I realized that if I was going to actually finish a novel, one that was wholly original from protagonist to “The End,” it needed to be the kind of book I would want to read.  That being settled, I still needed an idea—like most good ideas, it finally hit me when I was not trying to think of it.  I was driving the 900 miles to my best friend’s wedding in Iowa when an image formed.  I imagined a woman walking alone beside an empty road, struggling to get home after some horrible disaster.  I could see this woman, this strong yet broken woman, who was surviving but not truly living.  Then I wondered what would happen if she finally found something—or someone—worth living for.

The more I thought about her and her story, the more I realized that I had never read a post-apocalyptic novel that featured a woman as the protagonist, let alone a lesbian.  And that is how my first novel, After the Fall, came to be.  It took three years, a lot of nights and weekends, and a very supportive partner, but I finished the book last year.  And on July 19, 2011, After the Fall will hit store shelves, thanks to the fabulous people at Bold Strokes Books.  Hopefully you will enjoy reading my novel as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And just in case you’re wondering, I have finally kicked that nasty Chapter Two Syndrome, once and for all.

BSB in the UK (July 29th 2010): A Personal Perspective

By Rebecca S. Buck

Hello! I thought I’d venture tentatively into the blogosphere by talking about the recent BSB reading and signing evening in Nottingham, England. This is less an account of the events of the night and more about the feelings it produced in this new writer…

 

BSB in the UK (July 29th 2010): A Personal Perspective.

In July 2009, with a hand shaking with excitement, I signed the contract for the publication of Truths with Bold Strokes, still amazed and honoured anyone wanted to publish my unusual novel. A year later, July 2010, and I’m sitting in a bookstore in Nottingham with five other BSB writers and one editor (Jane Fletcher, Lesley Davis, Gill McKnight, Justine Saracen, I. Beacham, and Victoria Oldham) clutching a copy of Truths, waiting to read from it, and then answer questions from an audience of forty enthusiastic readers. My name is on a card in front of me. I’m a writer.

It’s exciting so many people came to see us. It’s wonderful to finally meet some of my BSB family. It’s a real thrill BSB is making headway in the UK and people who’ve never heard of our books are asking excitedly where they can buy them. To be able to tell them “in all good bookshops” feels like a privilege in itself.

But for me—the newbie writer—it’s more exciting still. In many ways it’s a life changing night. I finally realize what I’m part of. A roomful of so many enthusiastic and friendly people, brought together by the power of books. Books they can relate to, about characters they can feel a connection with. How important BSB is for our community—in Europe as well as the USA—strikes me full force.

There is still—in these modern, fast-paced, digital times—such an enthusiasm for books. Our audience listens keenly to every reading, and have more questions ready for us than I expected. From whether the sex we describe in our books is true to our real lives (politely declined to answer that one!) to what our favorite books are (after a long indecisive pause I finally say The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro). That people are interested in me because I write is both wonderful and surreal to me. I know it’s not that I’m so fascinating myself; it’s that books still carry a touch of magic in their pages. I can feel it in the room.

And there are so many aspiring writers there too. Asking questions about publishing, editing, why we write what we do. Dreams are floating and trembling in the air. I suddenly realize what I have achieved. I’ve been allowed to grasp hold of one of those dreams. I’m not sure I have any business giving advice about getting published, but I do my best, leaving most of the words of wisdom to my more experienced BSB colleagues. But the sheer enthusiasm—the passion for writing—in the room seeps into my blood. I was already buzzing when Truths was published. But my excitement reached new levels in that few hours in the bookstore (and, yes, in the pub afterwards!). In nearly all of the photos from that night I have a hugely stupid grin. I couldn’t stop smiling.

I never did come back down to earth. That one night has fired my passion for books and writing for the rest of my life. I am currently working on my next novel, Ghosts of Winter. I’ll admit I didn’t write the first draft very well. In the process of redrafting it there were times I felt disheartened. It wasn’t going as smoothly as Truths did. Editing can be brutal for a sensitive soul. But if I feel a little bruised and battered by it I remember that night in the bookstore. Instead of brutal, the process of editing—making a book the best it can be—becomes rewarding. I want to be a better writer. I want to be the best I can. I want to deserve this.

Books are so very important. They entertain and amuse. But they can also bring people together, inspire, and change lives. It is an honour like nothing I’ve ever known before to be a writer. To be a real part of this well beloved world of words and dreams.

On July 29th  2010 Bold Strokes Books invaded the UK to great success. Hopefully we’ll do it again soon and it will be bigger and better. But July 29th taught me a lesson too. What I learned that night is this: I appreciate every writer who writes—published or not, whether I like their words or not. I am grateful to every reader, to everyone who loves words, whether they read my novels or not. Publishing is an industry with trends and markets. Writing can be hard work at times. But books are—and have always been—something magical.


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