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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Denouement: In praise of the audience

The Lambda Literary Foundation co-sponsored Bi Lines III the night after the awards ceremony. I was scheduled to read last. This fulfilled the other dream of an American writer: to give a reading in Greenwich Village, in a room resembling a church basement, complete with piano.

(The droll expression indicates the voice of Edith, Arusha's hero.)

My lasting impression of that evening: The audience was absolutely fantastic. They did everything right, thereby overcoming any challenges we may have had, starting with the acoustics. Here are the things these wonderful men and women did, that I try to do and recommend everybody at readings should do:

1. They filled the seats. Granted, this is not something any individual audience member can control. But a room full of people is halfway to a successful reading no matter what else happens.

2. They listened. It wasn't always easy (see above). But the people in this room seemed to be there out of genuine interest. They could have been driving somewhere for the Memorial Day weekend, or in the bar with their friends, but they spent their Friday night at a reading instead. Cool.

3. They applauded every writer, musician, and photographer.

4. If they were there as friends of one performer, they did not leave when their friend's time was up. They stayed to The Bitter End (as one of the old folk clubs in the area was called). In other words, to hear me, who knew almost no one in the room.

5. Afterwards, they talked to us, asked questions, expressed interest in our books. I would not have blamed them if they had been ready to go home!

Audience, and readers everywhere: thank you. Whether or not you are writers also, readers are the reason we write. The folks at Bi Lines III truly impressed me by showing what my old band director always exhorted us to show: class. An old-fashioned concept, I know--like courtesy and reading from the printed page. Thanks a lot.

Signing books with Bobbie Geary (far left), Audrey Beth Stein (third from right), and Herukhuti (far right).

Photography: Efrain Gonzalez

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lambda 4--The Climax

I would say it's an honor just to be nominated. But that's a cliche, and I'm already going to have to explain to Sandi from writing group that I didn't wear denim to the awards ceremony in Manhattan. Can't disappoint her again.

The Lambda Literary Awards, at the School of Visual Arts Theatre in Chelsea, were a blast. New York City was a blast. In fact America was a blast, which is why I am only now posting more than a week later.

We had the pleasure of meeting writers we know, both nominees and others, before we even walked in the door. In just a few days in New York I ran into more than one person I knew just walking down the street, which is something I never expected to happen in a city I've never before visited. And at least three of us came all the way from the UK--here we are with Dalia Craig.

I finally met, in person, some of the most important people in my novel's life, including the great Katherine Forrest, my editor, and Linda Hill, my publisher. Katherine was doing double duty as Board President of the Lambda Literary Foundation, and Linda had her turn accepting the Lambda on behalf of my fellow Spinsters Ink author, Rhiannon Argo, for her debut novel, The Creamsickle.

Those Gay and Lesbian Debut Fiction Awards are named for the late Betty Berzon, author of nonfiction works including Positively Gay and Permanent Partners: Building Gay and Lesbian Relationships That Last. The awards presentation was by Teresa DeCrescenzo, who was Berzon's life partner and remains a pioneering figure in our community. One of the highlights of the Lambdas, for me, was simply being in the same room with luminaries like DeCrescenzo as well as the Pioneer Award recipients, Larry Kramer and Kate Clinton.

Berzon was a hero of mine from the time when, as an adolescent, I found Permanent Partners in my hometown's public library, and was able to begin shaping a vision of what I (someday) wanted my gay adult life to be like. Clinton makes people laugh as well as think, which is heroic to me. And if anyone has been gay for five minutes in America and somehow missed Larry Kramer's contribution, please look him up. Kramer is a survivor, a voice crying in the wilderness of the early AIDS years, but his award at the Lambdas was for his writing. His 1970s novel, Faggots, is a work of prophetic satire that can justly be (and has been) compared to English literature's greatest of the genre, Jonathan Swift. Yes I'm letting my preferences show, and loudly. Kramer is a hero of mine, too.

For me, the evening concluded with one of the dreams of an American writer: dinner with my publisher in New York. There were four finalists present from Spinsters and Bella Books: the others were Tracey Richardson, KG MacGregor, and Karin Kallmaker.

I'll wrap up in a day or two with news from my reading the night after. Thanks to Cheri and Karin for the pictures.