Archive for October, 2011

The Amazon Trail

Scared Little Dyke Writer

by Lee Lynch

Now that I’ve been around for a while, new writers sometimes tell me how terrified they are of reading in public. All I have to offer them is enormous, sincere sympathy and the story of how I started my public life as a writer.

No one warns us that we can’t hermit in our garrets and only leave to buy more Amy’s frozen dinners. No one tells us that writers don’t merely write, we also must market. No one tells us in college speech classes that it’s not over with the semester – we’ll have to keep speaking to rooms and auditoriums filled with people for the rest of our shy lives.

It’s another trick, like the one where they lead us on to think we can earn enough in royalties to be able to write full time when in reality we’ll be working at jobs full time and squeezing in a paragraph here and there when the boss isn’t looking.

The first time I read to a group I was so scared I cried. The story was about a couple of schoolteachers in the closet and the glimpse they had of freedom. I hadn’t realized the depth of my sadness about their situation, but, in my fear at reading aloud, especially in Tee Corinne’s living room, especially to a large group of mostly back-to-the land pilgrims to the rural northwest, especially as I’m an urban Yankee –  I got all emotional about the story and cried in front of them.

I thought, humiliated and relieved, that was the end. No one would ever want me to read my work again. But the audience loved it. Crying made me real to them, a dyke who wrote their stories. They enveloped me in their warmth.

This experience should have made my next reading less daunting. My publishers had laughed and told me I’d better get used to it. Again, I was in a living room, this time back east. I was so scared I was practically comatose. The fact that I knew these women made the experience more, not less, frightening. I started to read, stumbled, got more anxious and then the cat who lived there jumped on my lap. In front, as cats are wont to do, of my reading material.

There could have been no better ice breaker. The audience laughed. I felt visited by my totem animal. It was as if a caring hand had come and lifted enough of my fear that I could give something to the audience rather than steel myself against them.

My fear made me inaccessible. I wanted them to disappear, I wanted a spaceship to land in the middle of the living room and take the focus off me. I also wanted to share something with these people I was writing for. Reading aloud was for them, not for me, and I needed to change my focus away from my fear and toward these readers with their expectant faces.

Did I learn my lesson? Of course not. The third time I was on a conference panel. I was teamed up with some very accomplished women, including Jewelle Gomez and two filmmakers. My publishers were in the audience. Was this a moment I had dreamed of all my life? A pinnacle? The opportunity of a lifetime?

I spent most of the 24 hours before the panel on the toilet, or with my head in the toilet. I missed a meeting to prepare – my mind was frozen. This was not something I had the courage to do and it wasn’t something I could get out of doing. The room was gargantuan. The faces dissolved in the tears I tried not to shed. I was weak and dizzy from hunger. My hands shook, but not as badly as one of the other panelist’s hands. I remember reassuring her, this veteran of two appearances. That’s all I remember. I was a block of wood, or ice. Or a scared little dyke writer.

I was like today’s new writers who quail when it’s their turn to read.

Here’s what I did. I learned to speak with my higher power: goddess, universe, my own highest spirit, it doesn’t matter. I began to take a few minutes to ask for help in giving the audience what they needed. I breathe slowly and deeply. I envision a personification of that higher power holding my hand. I even take a small dose of a tranquillizer to dissolve the fear chemicals in me. My wife hugs or holds me, whichever I need. We both hang out with the audience, introducing ourselves, exchanging a few words, breaking down artificial walls. So many readers and writers are as shy as I am.

Does the stage fright ever go away? Not entirely for me, but with exposure, time, practicing the steps that calm me, I usually don’t embarrass myself. Last month at In Other Words in Portland, Oregon, there were seven of us reading. I remember assuring one scared little dyke that, for the most part, readers would rather like us than not. When I let myself like them back, instead of fearing them, and remember that I’m there for the readers, not me, reading in public becomes a kind of holy lesbian ritual that enhances us all.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2011

October 2011

The University of Lesfic

Authors Nell Stark, Trinity Tam, Rachel Spangler, PJ Trebelhorn and I will be reading and signing at a multi-school event at Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA). Meet our host, Anita Kelly, Director of Counseling and campus GLBTQ Coordinator.

Click here for more information about the event.

I Hear Voices

by AJ Quinn

Sometimes the voices in my head get a little too loud.

Now I know what you’re possibly thinking, and no, I’m not schizophrenic. Nor am I dealing with dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder or split personality disorder or any other disorder for that matter.

What I am is a story-teller.

Let me try to explain. As far back as I can remember I could always keep myself entertained just by visiting the worlds that existed in my head. Worlds populated by people who, much to my surprise, didn’t necessarily do what I wanted or expected them to, but rather, lived independent lives, pursued their own dreams, and danced to a rhythm all their own. I must confess that confused me at first. But gradually I came to understand that my role in their lives wasn’t to dictate or control. I was simply the voice-over narrator.

Of course, I thought it was awesome to discover my path at such a young age. Or at least I thought so until the voice of parental reason dictated otherwise. Too young to veto, I allowed myself to be dissuaded and pushed off track onto a different road. But the worlds and the characters in my head never entirely went away. And in the fall of 2007, I finally circled back.

My initial goal was to complete a manuscript—from start to finish. No thoughts of publishing or even letting anyone else read my words. I just wanted to be able to look myself in the mirror and acknowledge I’d actually done it. So I fired up my laptop and much to my delight, words flowed. They became sentences and the sentences began to tell a story.

Until I hit a wall. With no frame of reference, I didn’t know what to do. And then a funny thing happened. My sister—who shares my passion for the written word—asked if I wanted to go away for a few days. To take a break from work and clients and email and just…write.

Imagine that.

We tossed around different ideas of where we might go. I thought it should be somewhere that would stir and inspire creativity, which for me has always meant being somewhere by the ocean. So we talked about flying to the east coast. Maybe Nova Scotia and a writer’s cottage she’d heard was available near Peggy’s Cove. But then something possessed me and by the time I finished playing travel agent, we were booked into the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle. Different coast. Different country. No idea why, but sometimes things just happen for a reason.

It took three days of staring out at Elliot Bay for me to realize the reason I was stuck was because I was trying to tell the wrong story. In a moment of reckless daring, I hit delete on the thirty thousand words or so I’d already crafted and started all over again. And on a clear and perfect day, I saw Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains for the first time and Hostage Moon was born.

I wish I could tell you the rest was easy. But as a novice writer with an innate dislike of all things list-like, I wrote the manuscript in a helter-skelter fashion, with only a vague idea of where I was going. I started out with what was meant to be chapter three (a chapter that ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor in its entirety), then moved on to chapter ten, and then back to chapter five. You get what I mean.

The opening of the story didn’t actually get written until almost seven months later, on a glorious day in early May when I checked another item off my bucket list. I wrote it sitting in a little outdoor café in the Latin Quarter in Paris, while looking at the River Seine and sharing a bottle of red with my BFF.

As I looked at my reflection in the river, I imagined all the poets and painters, the dreamers and lovers who had been there before me. And then I listened to the voices in my head as Hunter and Sara helped me write down their story.

Always at Home

Seasoned Bold Strokes Books author Rachel Spangler is always at home when it comes to talking about writing romance. Listen in as she talks about her upcoming release, Lovelife.

You Don’t Skate, You Don’t Surf…

Bold Strokes Books author Ashley Bartlett discusses her recent release, Sex and Skateboards. Listen in as she talks about pizza and writing what she doesn’t know.

Seven Book Wonder

Bold Strokes Books author Erin Dutton’s recent release, Reluctant Hope, is her seventh novel, and once again she’s provided us with an excellent, heart-warming story that celebrates the power of love.

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