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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The story

I'm an old-fashioned reader. When I pick up a book, a work of fiction, I want a story. The story can be about pretty much anyone, and anything can happen in it. But something has to.

Other writers, at least as articulate as I am, have ranted about writing that isn't really story and that's not my purpose here. What I mean is that when I recommend a book, it's a story that has taken me somewhere, shown me something, whether it's another planet or just the perspective of a character who's different from me. That's what I try for when I write, too.

Here, for example, is a version of my story: I was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1972, grew up in Carter County, and published my first poem in the University of Tennessee Phoenix when I was seventeen. I earned a B.A. from the University of Chicago, where my work appeared in Chicago Poet and the Chicago Literary Review and I was a member of the Grey City Journal Editorial Collective.

In 1992 I went to Oxford and fell in love. I kept going back until the University gave me a Diploma in Jewish Studies.

Returning to Tennessee, I needed to find a way to live in the same country as my British partner, a right not granted to same-sex couples under U.S. law (then or now). The solution we eventually found, almost eight years into the relationship, was to emigrate to Canada. "Long-distance love and its hurdles" appeared in The Globe and Mail on 3 March 2005.

That is why I've lived in Toronto for six years. It has turned out to be a great place to write. I started collecting rejection slips again, as I had in high school, but this time, some of them were personal notes. If you don't already know, a personal note is better than the ordinary kind of rejection. And some of them weren't rejections at all. In 2001, I wrote my first column for Xtra!, the lesbian and gay biweekly, and had a hard time believing someone actually cut me a check for this. I've contributed ever since.

I also joined the Humber School for Writers, a fantastic opportunity to study with published authors. Some of them have sold many books and won all kinds of awards, and others are not dissimilar to you and me. They just get up in the morning and do the work.

As for the fiction, I did finally get a short story published . . . but that's a story for another post.

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