Archive for August, 2012

The Amazon Trail

 

Butch Pockets

Is it just me, or do all butches, soft or otherwise, carry alotta stuff in their pockets? My sweetheart has chronically empty pockets. I don’t understand how anyone can live that way. I guess I’m one of many dykes who took our Girl Scout motto to heart: I’m always prepared.

Here’s today’s (and every day’s) inventory. In my right front pocket: a Sante Fe Stoneworks pen knife with a superb Camillus blade. My sweetheart gave it to me to replace a similar lost knife. Next: a Fisher Space pen that opens to full size. It’s my everyday pen. My sweetheart gave me the same pen, in rainbow colors, for book signings. Next: spare keys. When I was single, I always carried an extra car and house key in case the Handy Dyke or the Pianist weren’t nearby when I locked myself out. Now that I’m married, they come in handy to rescue the femme of the house. On the key ring: a Cruiser flash drive for my works-in-progress and an intense, teensy flashlight. But most important is the handful of treats to reward our pup and make friends with every other dog I’m introduced to.

In this butch’s left front pocket: a blue pillbox for headaches, allergy attacks, and the

agita I get when I’m missing any piece of my pocket arsenal. Also: a melon-flavored organic, vegan, GMO-free, cruelty-free lip balm for braving the elements. And last: my pocket rock, a blue agate from a west coast beach. Carrying it is my guarantee I will always get back home, but it’s slow-acting—we’ve been stuck in Florida for four years now.

Back right pocket: a smart phone for e-mails at long traffic lights, finding the next iced tea stop, and texting with my cool young niece. Left back pocket: bandana; black paisley today. Color is of no significance whatsoever, so don’t try to make me out a hippie necrophiliac or something.

As a young dyke, I wouldn’t be caught without a cigarette lighter. Women, not all of them lesbians, tended to be completely wowed when that handy lighter proved I was at their service. If there were two or more of us little butches around, there would always be an unspoken contest to see who offered her lighter fastest. Now the penknife has replaced the lighter. If a woman needs a cutting edge, there’s a communal butch rush to provide one: penknife, jackknife, multi-tool. When I was in retail food, I went everywhere with a box cutter in my back pocket. Air travel prohibits this now, so I keep an inexpensive penknife in my checked luggage. Though the travel knife pales next to my prized Camillus, I’d feel sissified without something.

Aging is not kind to pocket-geeks. Middle-aged spread makes me bulky enough without bulging pockets. I used to carry my wallet where my thin phone is now, but that threw my back out. We had lunch with a friend last weekend and she took out her phone. It had an extended battery like a little hunch on its back. I was wild with envy, but how would I carry it? My suavely slim phone slides in and out of a back pocket easily, but a more powerful battery would make for unpleasant sitting.  Our friend didn’t have that problem. Proudly femme, she carries a purse.

So for these kinds of conundrums I have a pocket annex. It’s an “Uncle Milty’s Travel Vest” and it came with 17 pockets. It’s kind of hot for wearing in Florida, but the pocket rock will get us home soon. Besides, nobody, except one British firm, thebutchclothingcompany.co.uk, designs clothing or accessories for butches. Yes, rainbow t-shirts and key fobs are readily available, but they’re uni-gender and uni-style and, while I’m proud of their message, they don’t solve any problems exclusive to butches. We get hand-me-down styles from men. Or tailored looks rejected by high femmes.

It’s such a narrow line we butches walk. I do not in any way shape or form want to pass as a man. But if I want to wear a full tuxedo, I’ll be wearing one made for guys. When I wear Uncle Milty’s vest, passersby question my gender with their disapproving eyes. If I want to carry an adjunct pocket over my shoulder, I can choose between a ladies’ purse or one of those heavy, oversized carryalls with the unattractive name of man bags. As a matter of fact, I just looked for bandanas on Amazon because I want to get a few as a gift for a friend. What did I find? Bandanas modeled as hair scarves for women. And on Etsy, women, little girls and dogs are the models.

But my pockets? I claim pockets as butch territory.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2012

8/12

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.

Life Happens

by Jove Belle

I’m 41 years old and I’m pretty sure I’m having a mid-life crisis. And because I don’t do anything by halves, it’s been two years in the making.  Two years ago, life was moving along exactly as planned. I had a fabulous job, my fourth book was in  the middle of edits, and my family was picture perfect. Then my mom got sick.

I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone when I say that my mom was incredibly important to me. She taught me the values that define who I am as an adult. She was the strongest person I’ve ever known. She believed with a conviction that I’ve never seen in another, and she was so confident, so comfortable with her definition of who she was, that she never felt the need to force her ideals on another person.

She and I lived very different lives. She devoted herself to God, to the service of others. I believe god was created by men, not the other way around. She believed that being gay is truly a sin. I am a lesbian. These are some pretty polar fundamental beliefs. And we talked about them. She never once said, “I can’t condone your life.” or “I won’t talk to you or see you until you change.” Never. She loved. That’s all she knew to do and I benefited from it.

So, she got sick. Really sick. In six months I made four trips home to see her, to take care of her. I made that trip for the last time the week before Christmas 2010. I’ve yet to find the right words to describe how it felt to sit in a room and watch my mother die. The grief of loss, combined with knowing I should (and would eventually) feel grateful that she faced both her life and her death on her terms. To say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever faced is a drastic understatement.

I tried so hard to focus on what she needed and not on the fact that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t talk, couldn’t communicate her thoughts. A stroke will do that to a person. I tried to focus on reading to her when she was awake (she really enjoyed Corinthians and John), and not on the fact that I wasn’t sure I’d have a job to go back to since my company was refusing to grant leave (and I was refusing to go back anyway). I tried to focus on making sure she was comfortable, and not on the fact that my sisters three kids would be making the move to Washington to live with Tara and I (my mom had custody of them and my sister…well, she’ll never be able to take care of them).

January 9th, 2011 marks a clear division of my life. My life before my mom died, and my life since. Her death was the springboard for many changes (most happening at breakneck speed). We moved my nieces and nephew in with us, sold my mom’s house, remodeled our house (6 bedrooms, plus an office and a family room), Tara quit working to take care of the family. We settled into a bit of a routine after the remodel was done. But a seed had been planted in my head. I couldn’t quite get my heart back into work. Initially, the ever present question of “what’s the point?” hung over everything I did. It was impossible to find any enthusiasm when all I wanted to do was curl up and cry most of the time. I never fully recovered to my previous level at work.

Then Tara and I started talking about what she would do when Lily starts kindergarten this fall. Our neighborhood school has an all day/every day program. Tara was over the moon with excitement. For the first time in years she would have some time to herself. Then she was adrift. What in the world would she do with all the time? As a solution, we looked at coffee stands. Tara didn’t want to work for anyone else, and a coffee stand is something she could do alone, and easily be done in time to pick the kids up after school.

That conversation expanded to food carts. If you live anywhere other than Portland, the concept is probably foreign to you. But in Portland, it is the cool thing. Totally trendy. There are full city blocks that host ‘pods’ of food carts. It’s a thriving industry that defines the city. And it was something we could do together.

Before I could talk myself out of it, we purchased a food cart downtown Portland, and I gave notice at work. I still have moments of “Oh my god! What did I do?” Especially when I think about money. There’s no way I’ll make this year what I made last year. But that is secondary to the fact that I’m happy. I’m no longer trying to support an agenda that I just don’t understand and that gives me enormous peace of mind.

When we bought the food cart, Tara and I also bought something that we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else: freedom to define our own schedule. We open at 8am, and stay as late as we want after lunch. Sometimes I leave at 2, sometimes I stay until 6pm. Because only one person needs to be there, Tara and I alternate schedules. She works a week, then I work a week.

The big bonus item of my midlife crisis is that I have time to write again! For the first time in two years, I’m able to think about character development, story arcs, plot threads, etc. Not that I couldn’t think about it before, I just couldn’t do anything about it.

If you’re in the Portland area, come by and see me at work. We’re on SW 9th between Washington and Alder. Oh, and we call the place Ding Dong Daddios. If you’re hanging out online, look for me at my blog (Women & Words), or on facebook. Or you can check the Bold Strokes website since a writer with time will inevitably write books.

My point? I’m back! And I’m glad to be here.

(Author Note: This is a cross-post from my blog at Women & Words.)

Are coming of age stories and coming out stories still relevant today?

by Martin Delacroix

I’m Martin Delacroix. I write erotic, male/male fiction for adults of all ages. My short fiction appears in over twenty erotic anthologies. I’ve had three single-author anthologies published: Boys Who Love Men, Flawed Boys, and Becoming Men. I’ve had five novels published: Love Quest, Maui, Trick and Treat, Adrian’s Scar, and Convict Ass.

Many stories I’ve written deal with coming out issues for young gay men. Young gay men seem to like reading about the whole experience of revealing one’s sexual orientation to family and friends. Older gay readers seem to enjoy reliving their personal coming out experiences, through the lives of my characters.

I have a website: http://www.martindelacroix.com/ Through it, I frequently hear from young gay men who have come out, or are considering it. Many of these young men are athletes: surfers, wrestlers, skateboarders, triathletes, hockey enthusiasts, volleyball players, and BMXers. In fact, you might say my website is an unofficial sounding board for young, gay athletes. And based upon what I hear from these young men, coming out is not much easier than it was twenty years ago.

In these days of Ellen DeGeneres and the “It Gets Better” campaign, I think we sometimes want to believe being queer has become cool and acceptable in youth culture. But it’s not the case. The young men I hear from often feel lonely and scared, particularly those who live in rural areas of our country. They long for a loving relationship with another male, but are frightened of the consequences, should they come out.

I think it’s important to write coming out stories. I believe they offer hope and encouragement to young gay men. I’m happy my stories have pleased so many. I’ve received dozens of e-mails and comments via my website, thanking me for such stories, and I intend to keep writing them.

Here’s what one young man from Canada, said about his experience in coming out t his parents:

“For anyone who still has yet to come out, you don’t need me to tell you it gets better after. But the closet does things to you that people aren’t meant to go through. The constant introspection and over analyzing and the fear, it stops. It goes away and it doesn’t come back.  Remember that telling people isn’t so much a clarification for them but a fight for you and your life. No matter how much it feels like your environment is dictating to you, remember you can give it the finger and change it however you like.”

I find his statement inspiring.

Don’t you?

Are you Ready for This…?

by Clara Nipper

Good morning, children, today we are going to talk about the birds and the bees. When two adults are in love, they hug in a special way and that is sex.

So now it’s the writer’s job to capture that mind-blowing, earth-shattering hug of love somehow and communicate all the tension, passion, lust, urgency, juice, satisfaction, release and repeat on paper.

Usually, I’m not a “method” writer. I don’t believe I have to be miserable to write of misery. Same goes for joy or fear or any other human experience. I think, as writers, this is where we draw on our skills and imaginations, so we can be free of the limitations of our own possibly small, sheltered lives. We can sit in safety and comfort while we put our characters through the rigors of hell without having to go through all that too, thank goodness.

The exception is sex. In my experience, sex and creativity are profoundly and inextricably linked. I know, this is not a fresh insight. Probably when the earth was cooling, one amoeba complained to another of feeling stale and stuck while writing her memoir and that when she was having great binary fission, the writing just flowed. So we’ve all heard it before, but there’s a difference between knowing and knowing. When I’m not feeling that erotic, the sex scenes are dull and I know readers are checking their watches and hoping for that root canal. Or even worse, laughing hysterically. Unfortunately, I have had some of my most belly aching, rib-cracking, pee in my pants, snorting, gasping for air, begging for mercy laugh sessions while reading samples of erotic fiction that was clearly written by a Republican or by someone else who never had an orgasm. Just the phrase ‘throbbing member’ will set me off.

But when my wet-ware is engaged, I can tell the difference and the writing is more likely to seduce. The words will sizzle. That is not to mean that I have done everything I’ve erotically written about literally as I’ve written it; or that if you want to write about hot pony play, before you write it, you must get a bridle, a butt plug tail and pony shoes (thought it surely couldn’t hurt, ha, ha), it just means that when your sex is fed, you’re nourished and inspired and the erotic scenes will ‘come’ as naturally as all those delicious orgasms.

Therefore, let me just urge you, as one who knows: got block? Have sex, even if it’s by yourself. You’ll hug me later.


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