Notes from the Pageant Circuit:Palm Springs 2013


Being a first time author, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Bold Strokes Books 2013 LGBTQ book festival in Palm Springs. I thought perhaps it would be a pageant-like atmosphere, with one of us being crowned at the end. Because of the glorious desert climate I worried that the writers would be subjected to participation in a swimsuit competition. Wanting to have the best possible shot of winning, I texted my friend Shawn to schedule an appointment for some long overdue pre-trip manscaping. Immediately he texted back:

“Ken, have fun in Palm Springs. Sorry I’m in Mexico, Can’t help U get your smooth on. Better make peace with your inner Bear.”

I almost cancelled my flight.

Thankfully, I did not. Forced to forgo the Boyzilian, I boarded the plane in a far more natural state than was my want.  To my great relief there was no swimsuit completion. We didn’t even compete in evening gowns, which I wish someone had told me in advance because it would have saved me so much room in my carry on bag. There were however four days worth of talent competitions.

Well, no, not talent competitions. It was more like four days worth of talent celebrations.

My chief objective in attending the event (aside from winning Miss Congeniality) was to meet, and spend time, with my fellow writers. I’d been feeling like I needed a reminder that I love to write, and hearing author after author share their dazzling work I absolutely was reminded. I left each day inspired to work—committed to completing another novel.

But something even more wonderful happened. I wasn’t just reminded that I love to write. I was reminded that I love to read.

More specifically, I was reminded why I love to read. Reading takes me places I’ve never been.  It takes me into the lives of people different from myself. Even with every one of my body hairs intact, I will never really be one of Radclyffe’s wolves. But with a book in hand I can howl. Nor will I ever be a lesbian—or a woman of any orientation—but while reading I can pretend to be one.

On Thursday I attended a panel called Kiss and Tell: Scenes of Lesbian Desire. I was present for the session because I wanted to be supportive of my fellow Bold Strokes authors, not because I was particularly interested in the topic. But then something simultaneously wonderful and embarrassing happened. Ashley Bartlett began reading a sex scene from one of her “Dirty” seriesDirty Money 300 DPI of novels. And my interest perked up—considerably. It’s been years since I was in High School, still I found myself reaching for my books and placing them in my lap for camouflage.

What was happening to me?

The answer was Obvi: I was being moved (or in this case turned on) by the power of a well-written story. And over the course of four days my colleagues stories moved me again and again—though only Ash’s words caused that particular type of movement.

Really this shouldn’t be news to someone who loves books, and yet it did come as a revelation to me. Sure, I like to read stories about gay men. But I also want to read books about the lives of lesbians and bisexual people and straight women and straight men. Bring me your transsexuals and your questioning. (Or is it queer? Does anyone really know what the Q stands for?) Honestly, I am totally game for a great asexual hero, too.

All I want—aside from Nell Stark’s tiara—is a great story and an interesting world and smart and pithy dialogue.

Oh, and apparently some hot, dirty lesbian sex.

10 Responses to “Notes from the Pageant Circuit:Palm Springs 2013”

  1. 1 lisasg13 March 9, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    Ken, I am SO glad I got to meet you in PS! You, along with your fellow “fellows” made our BSB family even more complete than it usually is. Hair or not, you will always be welcomed with open arms (and a tiara next time).


  2. 2 Kathleen Knowles March 9, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    with this crowd, ball gowns NO, bathing suits maybe. Sigh its time to get back to the life outside of Palm Springs.


  3. 3 Laurie Bobbie March 9, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Ken, your book, The Marrying Kind, is driving me crazy. My wife is still reading it…. and I’m TRYING to read an Ali Vali (The Dragon Tree Legacy…action packed) but I’m getting to yous next. Except that I can’t get through Ali’s because while my wife and I are reading on the couch, Chris starts laughing at something from your book and then has to read it to me. I agree, extremely funny…. but I’ll never get to it until she lets me finish my book!

    And I think you “enjoyed” Ashley’s read because she has the first lesbian character (that I known of) who “jacked off” in her sex scene… oh yeah, and then washed her hands. That’s butch and fem-gay boy at the same time, yeah?


    • 4 Ken O'Neill March 10, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      A: Tell your wife to hurry up! And B: I hadn’t thought about about the “jacked off” reference, you might be onto something.


  4. 5 Erin Saluta March 9, 2013 at 11:37 PM

    Thank you for sharing your story- especially the Ashley Bartlett reading scene. That made me start laughing pretty hard. Love to read too and love how diverse BSB is in their offerings.


  5. 6 Devlyn March 10, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this blog. I seriously LOL at your happenings.


  6. 7 Ken O'Neill March 10, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    🙂 Glad everyone enjoyed the blog–and Palm Springs. I have another book on my pile ahead of Dirty Sex, which Ashley autographed for me!! Can’t wait to get to it.


  7. 8 J. Wheeler March 10, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    Great blog, Ken!


  8. 9 Kim March 12, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    So glad you enjoyed P.S. and that the authors were welcoming. Sorry I missed the festivities but I’m certain you were deserving of Miss Congeniality.


  9. 10 Connie March 13, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    Ken, it was so great meeting you & yes, you deserved Miss Congeniality. I am truly saddened though that you didn’t covet my fairy wings & magic wand too!!! 🙂


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