Archive for September, 2012

Write the book you want to write …


Lady Trojan with Flip Flops and Blue Purse (Photo credit- Jef Blocker)

I am still buzzed from the readings of my peers.  Not buzzed in the drunk sort of way, or maybe I am. Drunk on sensory details and rhymes and dialogue and sharp edges and jolly rancher flavors and gun shots and smiles and dead horses and poisonous rings and mustaches and glances and empty beds and empty wombs and liars and flirts and sadness and first kisses. What an honor to be included in this cohort of writers.

In this picture next to these words I’m writing, I am pretending that I am a subject of the great Herb Ritts.  Oh mylanta, this guy…he’s OBSESSED with naked bodies.  But it’s more than that- a thousand times more than that. He takes a photo and transforms them using light and darkness and shadows and color.  I was transfixed as I looked at his work and leaned in closer to follow the lines of muscle and flesh.  I kept on thinking, we, us humans, are so beautiful. All of us in our bodies that somehow carry us through each day, enduring bruises and cancer and workouts and birth and broken bones and everything else- we are all beautiful.  And this place they call The Getty?  I could have just walked around the grounds all day, never even looked at “art”, and I would have been satisfied.  I felt like I was in a different land.  I will post more pics when I get home, so you get the idea. But then, there was art! Amazing pieces- everywhere!!! I mean, to wander from the ancient Greek vessels and marble statues in one hall, to the modern day gods in Herb Ritts’ photos was totally a trip.


We also had Arthur Levine stop by our little retreat to share some thoughts on writing YA, and writing in general.  It was lively speech, full of wonderful things that I didn’t record.  But here’s the summary in one sentence: Write the book you want to write and write it well.  So, there you go- the secret to getting your book published.  You are welcome.

I’ve never, ever, in all my years of attending writing conferences, felt this comfortable, welcomed, honored, and impressed.  The sentiments expressed tonight tells me I’m not alone. “I’m getting so sad about it coming to an end. It’s like the last night of camp,” one of my new friends said.  She’s so right.  I feel compelled to get addresses and take pictures tomorrow and make promises of reunions and visits to see my new friends.

Here’s to our last day.  I hope they serve something extra good in the cafeteria and I hope I get a spot at the cool table again.


You will not get rich as a writer…


“Don’t waste your time blogging,” say the experts.  ”Sleep with as many of your local librarians and booksellers as you can!”

The industry panel was quite informative, I must say.  It was a motley, helpful, AND professional crew of panelist that certainly did not hold back.  In addition to the above advice, here’s what else I learned (the abbreviated version, anyway…after all, I don’t have time for this blogging crap.)

1. I can’t afford a publicist and I never will be able to afford one.

2. Being well-spoken and charismatic are good qualities to have if you plan on trying to sell your books to people who are not in your immediate family.

3. You should be nice to the people who are in charge of selling your book.  (Pies are a nice touch)

4. Know what you want to say about your book.  Be prepared and act excited about it, like you haven’t read it 101 times and are sick as hell about talking about it.

5. You will not get rich as a writer, so figure out why else you are doing it and keep on doing it if it involves not getting rich…or something along those lines. I stopped listening after, “You will not get rich…”

The good news is that I know why I write and it’s not to get rich or have fame.  I write these stories so that my adorable lesbian students, and all adorable teen lesbians around the globe, can have something funny and sweet and exciting to read.  I’ll keep my day job as a teacher- I mean, that’s where the big money is, after all.  I mean…I’m so hella rich. Ha ha. Sarcasm.

My YA group is a fascinatingly talented crew, and they all have so much to offer.  I have learned buckets and buckets of new things. I really admire their work and continue to feel like the luckiest little/big lesbian for being selected by THE ALEX SANCHEZ to be here this week.  He is such a kind, patient, and smart writer and person. I want to be like him when I grow up.

I got off campus twice today.  The first time, Jacks, Bridget, and I took a lovely drive (not) down Muholland Highway.  We arrived at a lovely urban forest (not) and took an invigorating hike through the trees (I wish.) We also shared our coming out stories while simultaneously being honked at by as!%@$# trying to let us know that they were in a really big hurry, just like the other hundred or so people stuck in traffic (true). They (Bridget and Jacks- not the asses honking) made the trip worth while, though, and their stories were much better than mine. I need to make up a better coming out story.  Email suggestions to me.

Then, AJ, Alysia, Kenny, Nina and I all piled into AJ’s surprisingly clean car and headed for, you know it, FRO YO!  I advocated for Yogurtland, so with the help of a smartphone and my SUPERB backseat driving skills, we arrived and chowed down on the first thing this week that had no potential of giving me heartburn.  It was like spooning heaven into my mouth, if heaven was made out of Salted Carmel yogurt sprinkled with bits of Reese’s, toffee, and strawberries, which I think it is. Then, I bought toothpaste.  Oh, and Ricky Martin showed up. It was a five star event.

Well, who’s the time waster now, huh?  I may have wasted time writing a blog, but you, my friend, read it!  Ha ha!  Take that! I’m just kidding. I take that back.  I love you, now please buy my book (Available at Bold Stroke Books).  Is that how this works??

Peace, love, and Tylenol PM,


..brought to you by broccoli


Today’s blog is brought to you by broccoli – the vegetable that keeps on giving long after you have eaten it at lunch AND dinner.  Thank you, broccoli.

After today’s critique of my manuscript, I think I better understand how people with really creative and vocal multiple personalities must feel.  I mean, there you are, thinking your decision to take the bus downtown to wander the aisles of your favorite library seems like a good plan for a Sunday.  It’s what you, the real you, likes to do on Sunday.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s a good start to your day.  But then they chime in.  All these voices, offering ideas and changes and what ifs and maybe you coulds.   “What if you instead went to the zoo and fell into a vat of poisonous snakes? That would change your day up.”  ”Maybe you miss the bus and walk into a robbery at 7 11.” “I think you should still go to the library, but I am confused about why you like it there?  What’s at stake for you at the library? Go deeper.”  Sigh.  I just like library. Can’t that be enough?  It can in life, but not in a book.

A book is different, I know.  Every word and page has to move your character forward, reveal truths, introduce tension, intrigue readers to turn the page.  I get that, and the worst part is, I thought I did that.  So close, yet so far.  Great voice, great dialogue, great pacing, action packed, but…

I’m not worried yet.  Like I do when I drive around in San Fran, I shall overcome this seemingly frightening and impossible task.

Last night was the faculty reading event. At first, I sat down on the inner aisle, mid way back, eager for the event to start  Then, it was like Les Mis all over again….a tall-y sat right in front of me. Being a tall-y myself, I know that she did not mean to block my way, but I wasn’t going to spend another exciting event craning my already injured neck to see the stars of the show.  So, I went for the ultimate in viewing pleasure- I moved myself to the front row, right smack in line with the podium.  I’ll admit, I did have a fear that the other fellows were calling me a goodie two shoes or kiss ass, but as the readers presented I heard every word and I felt like the luckiest girl in the room.  I could see their faces clearly and feel the boom of anger and the ripple of fear, the softness of defeat, the swirls of confusion.  I was in the cool black water with Alex Sanchez, feeling a mass of something unknown bump my leg. I was on the phone with Cris Beam , shouting, “I’ll take her,” before really knowing what I had said, but knowing that it had to be done. I was on a trolley car with Jewelle Gomez as it rambled through town, mesmerized, too, by the survivor’s numbers, wanting so badly to look at her face but knowing that I had to be polite and not stare.  Finally, I was behind that white counter with Dorothy Alison.  The fluorescent lights trying to tell the world that I was under attack, that silver and black gun knocking against my forehead, and he’s shouting at us, “I could kill you!” I am with her and I feel that shift in my body, in my blood, and we are not leaving that goddamn store- no we are not.

Hands down- best seat in the house.

Conclusions from Day 2 of my retreat:

  • Broccoli is not invited to Day 3
  • Feedback is great.
  • It’s front row for me from now on.

Ok, time to go work out, review my manuscripts, and meet up with my posse of YA writers.  Here’s to another amazing day surrounded by amazing people.


I’m in gay heaven…


Holy Queer Writers, Batman! I’m in gay heaven.

First I was met by a posse of awesomeness at the airport!  We all piled into a cab, grabbed some grub, then arrived at the American Jewish University in “the valley” of Bel Air.  Like the Fresh Prince, I feel like I have arrived, but I did not tell the cabby, “Yo Holmes, smell you later.” That would have been uncouth.

I checked into my room and took a nice little nap on my little twin bed.  I never stayed in dorms in college, and can’t imagine having to share this small of space with one other person, let alone two or three.  How do you kids do it?? Impressive.  After my nap and a couple of Tylenol, I headed down to mingle with folks.  Mingling with folks is not one of my favorite things to do, but everyone here made it very easy.  The other participants are so lovely; I felt right at home.  You would not believe how far some have come: NC, TX, FL, CT, WI, NY, KS, and even England and Vancouver.  Wowzahs.

Then we had dinner, a kosher dinner.  It was lovely. I didn’t have to worry about all the veggie food being gone before I got there because they said, “If you ain’t veggie, don’t take the veggie!”  What a relief.  I hate having to worry about whether or not the veggie options will still be there by the time I get to it.  I felt very well cared for. But, this is the boring part of the day, and I am sorry for wasting your precious time writing about it.  Here’s the good stuff.

I had dinner with Alex Sanchez. Yep, that’s right.  We chatted.  We hung out.  It was cool. You know, in a SUPER RAD AWESOME kind of way.  And then, on my way back from grabbing a delicious kosher brownie, I stopped to say hi to my pal Dorothy Alison.  She’s just like I remember her- funny, kind, sweet, and firery. We talked about our dogs and wives and all that jazz.  You know, just hanging out with my literary idols. No big whoop.

Then we met in our seminar groups.  Our group is ten big and full of experience and stories and funny people.  I can’t wait to hear more about their projects.  I volunteered to have my manuscript read first because I really want to spend the week on it and I’d love to incorporate the feedback I get into my writing.  Alex is going to be a great leader. This is going to be a great week.

I am so tired that I can hardly type.  Thank you to all who helped me get here.  You have no idea what it means to me to be able to finally work with other LGBT writers.  What a gift.

Peace and Love. More to come.


The Story’s The Thing

Elan Barnehama

When I began writing Finding Bluefield, I started with Nicky.  For me, fiction begins with characters so when I write I have to start with a character.  And since I don’t use outlines because I don’t want to get in the way of the story, I rely on my characters to help lead the plot forward.

Next, Barbara showed up and I wanted to know how she and Nicky would make their way through the turbulent 1960’s.  I wanted to chronicle the lives of these two women who, by seeking love and family, found themselves navigating unknown territory during a time when relationships like theirs were mostly hidden and often dangerous.

Nicky and Barbara’s multi-generational tale crossed paths with political and social events of their day, such as JFK’s election, Woodstock, the MLK March on Washington, the moon landing, voter registration, the Sanctuary movement, and others.  But, as their lives unfolded against this backdrop, I wanted to avoid writing a message novel, the kind where the writer relentlessly hits the reader over the head with their message and renders life as simplistic, and situations as black or white. The thing is, very little of life is black or white.  It’s mostly grey. If we’re lucky, some other colors too.

Instead, as I imagined Barbara and Nicky’s journey, I knew I wanted to tell a tale that was at its core personal, not political.  That was about characters, not causes.  That told a story, not sent a message.

Finding Bluefield is foremost the story of Nicky and Barbara creating a life for themselves and Paul.  It is the story of their need to be able to imagine a life that they did not know existed, to imagine a life that they could not see, and for which they had no model.  Because if we can not imagine, then we can not change.

You can contact Elan at

The Partners of (or in) Our Dreams

By Maggie Morton

Couples meet in many, many ways. I met my partner of five years (and then many more, we expect) in a local coffeehouse. I approached him because I decided he was cute, and complimented his t-shirt. We wound up talking for a good hour or two, and then he had to go. But it could have been a concert, or a class, or on the street, or we could have met via a friend.

In Dreaming of Her, Isa meets Lilith in a dream, which isn’t really a typical way for couples to meet in our reality. I do dream about my partner quite often, though. In these dreams, sometimes we are fighting, sometimes we are happy, and sometimes we are…well, I’ll leave that one up to your imaginations. In Dreaming of Her, in my character Isa’s dreams, she and Lilith begin by having sex, but, as these things can often go, it begins to progress to more, and the two women begin to care about more than just when they’ll next get to bed down with each other. But unlike my partner and me, they come from very different worlds, Isa from the world of humans, and Lilith from the world of Dreammakers. Dreammakers are creatures who bring humans – like Isa – their dreams, and just like this reality, said dreams can bring humans like Isa joy or sorrow. Or, sometimes, a bit of each.

Outside of my dreams of my guy, there is much more joy than sorrow – we make each other laugh on a daily basis, we cook and bake, we cuddle. We do almost everything together. But not everyone gets to live in the same reality, sometimes emotionally, or, as in Isa’s case, sometimes physically. Is it enough, then, to just be in someone’s thoughts? And their dreams? For some people in our universe, it definitely is, but Isa and Lilith have much more to contend with than just a long distance relationship. As hot as their shared moments with each other are, those moments are not really enough to hold the two women together. But as their meetings begin to progress to more than just sex, they both must ask themselves – are dreams enough? For me and my partner, there is definitely enough, but we’re able spend as many waking hours together as we so wish, and Isa and Lilith are not as lucky. Each of them will have to make up their mind about whether dreams alone are enough. And would they be enough for me? I can’t really say, but looking at my guy in my dreams is certainly more joy than sorrow, and as I say about him in Dreaming of Hers dedication, sometimes life itself can seem like a dream come true

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