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Book Buzz March 2009

Book Buzz March 2009

Author: John Morgan Wilson

March 1, 2009

Congratulations to author and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who became an instant gay icon with his moving acceptance speech after winning the Oscar for best original screenplay for Milk. The award makes his two books from Newmarket Press — Milk: The Shooting Script and Milk: A Pictorial History of Harvey Milk (with a foreword by Armistead Maupin) — even more relevant.

Later this spring, when A&M Books publishes the 35th anniversary edition of The Latecomer by Sarah Aldridge, the publisher will also launch the Latecomer Legacy Project, collecting stories from readers about the authors and books that helped them come out.  The new edition includes the original novel, plus reflections from noted writers, musicians and activists about this first book from the legendary Naiad Press.
Queer Mojo, the new imprint of Rebel Satori Press, hits the ground running with an updated edition of Christ Like, Emanuel Xavier’s celebrated first novel, to mark its tenth anniversary. QM also has various works in the pipeline from Trebor Healey, Stephen Beachy, and Kevin Killian, and three grand-prize winners of Project:QueerLit 2008 – Rakelle ValenciaSheri Johnson and L.A. Fields.
Lucy Jane Bledsoe has taken first prize in the International Arts Movement juried fiction competition with her short story, “Enough,” which can be seen on her Red Room page.
To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Felice Picano’s first gay novel, The Lure, Bold Strokes Books will reissue the thriller that got significant crossover attention when it was first published in 1979.  Felice has written an introduction for this new edition, which appears next month.
Jack Fritscher has made the entire text of his Gay San Francisco available for reading in a series of free pdfs. The book’s subtitle says it all: Eyewitness Drummer – A Memoir of the Sex, Art, Salon, Pop Culture War and Gay History of Drummer Magazine from the Titanic 1970s to 1999.
Coinciding with PRIDE month, Scribner has chosen April 14 to publish The Other Side of Paradise, a memoir by poet/artist/performer Staceyann Chin.
Andrew Sean Greer’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli (Picador) is getting new attention, with comparisons to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (see a recent Newsweek piece). Meanwhile, Greer’s The Story of a Marriage is due out in paperback next month.
Pam Harrison is the recipient of Prism Comics’ fourth annual Queer Press Grant for House of Muses: The Latter Days of Sappho of Lesbos, her series based on the writings of Sappho and Alkaios.
The rights to Eduardo Santiago’s Tomorrow They Will Kiss, an Edmund White Award nominee, have been optioned by Hemisphere Entertainment.  The novel is set in the turbulent years following the Cuban revolution of 1959.
Time Out New York has christened D. A. Powell “the best poet of his generation – and arguably the most important poet under fifty.”  Powell’s latest collection, Chronic, is just out from Graywolf Press.
Memoirs have been heavily scrutinized for accuracy lately, but Linda Morganstein has sidestepped that issue.  She’s calling My Life With Stella Kane, her story of a lesbian star in ‘50s, a “fictional memoir&rdquo.
Julie Abraham’s Metropolitan Lovers: The Homosexuality of Cities (University of Minnesota Press) has been described as “sweeping…from the destruction of Sodom…to the The L Word…”  To see just how sweeping, you can peruse the table of contents.
Duke University Press ventures east into gay territory with two titles that sound enticing:  Chocolate and Other Writings on Male Eroticism, by Pandey Bechan Sharma, and James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile, by Magdalena J. Zaborowska.
Kenny Fries has received a 2009 Creative Capital grant for Innovative Literature to develop his new book, Genkan: Entries into Japan, a non-fiction work that uses his experience as a physically disabled gay foreigner to look at the way Japan views and adapts to otherness.
Reminder: The Third Annual Palm Springs Lesbian Book Festival, sponsored by Bold Strokes Books and Casitas Laquita Resort, takes place March 5-8.  It’s free and no pre-registration is required.
Sadly, the West Hollywood branch of A Different Light Books has closed, leaving only the San Francisco store from the original four that opened in the 1970s (in N.Y., S.F, and L.A.).  Last year, I used WeHo’s historic LGBT bookstore as a setting in my novel, Spider Season, noting that ADL was struggling to survive.  Now, my scene has become an homage and sad farewell to one of our cultural landmarks.
And now, the Book Buzz Interview, with Kathleen Warnock:
Editor, playwright and fiction writer Kathleen Warnock is the new editor of the Lesbian Erotica Series at Cleis Press. Her erotica has appeared in the "Best Lesbian Erotica" anthologies, as well as "Friction 7" and "A Woman’s Touch." Her plays, which are widely published, have been seen in New York, London, Dublin (Ireland and Georgia), and regionally. A resident of New York City, she curates the monthly "Drunken! Careening! Writers!" series at KGB Bar the third Thursday of every month, as well as the Robert Chesley/Jane Chambers Playwrights Project for TOSOS Theater. Just to keep busy, she is also playwrights company manager for Emerging Artists Theatre and a member of the Publishing Triangle and the Dramatists Guild.
JMW: Before we get to the Lesbian Erotica Series, tell us about Cleis Press in general.  What and how much is it publishing these days?
KW: Cleis Press is the largest independent queer publishing company in the United States. Felice Newman and Frédérique Delacoste founded Cleis Press in 1980, and have worked together as co-publishers ever since. If you take a look at the Cleis website, you’ll see that they offer many flavors of erotica, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. To quote Frederique: “We are a queer press, and I enjoy that point of view—living/thinking outside of the box. Our core audience was and possibly still is lesbians, but we have a large gay audience and a lot of queer or straight people read us and feel reflected in the work we do.” You can find reprints of classic lesbian pulp novels by Ann Bannon at Cleis; books about human rights; gender studies; graphic novels; biography and memoir.
JMW: Describe your new role at Cleis, and why you took it on.
KW: I’ve known Tristan Taormino, the founding editor of the series, for a long time.  We both took classes at The Writer’s Voice at the West Side YMCA, and I ran into her at events like Fragglerock (the downtown queer rock night that was so much fun in the mid-90s). I followed her work as she founded the ‘zine “Pucker Up” (which is still the name of her website), and then launched Best Lesbian Erotica. I sent stuff of my own in, and had several stories chosen for the series. Last year, when Tristan decided to move on, she asked me if I’d be interested in taking over as series editor, and I was honored to say yes. (In my day job, I’m also an editor, though on a completely different topic.) So now I work with Cleis on choosing the guest editor, and screening the submissions to finalists, preparing the manuscript, and doing what I can to promote it.
JMW: Have the parameters of lesbian erotica changed over the years?  If so, how?
KW: I went back and read some of the earlier editions, when lesbian erotica anthologies were first beginning to come on the market; early on there are segments from novels (with a brief synopsis), and there often seemed to be a more serious tone to the volumes, as though something couldn’t be funny and sexy or it had to prove its literary worth by being very serious. Over the years, I think writers have become more comfortable and versatile within the form, and are working in it enough to develop individual voices. There are many more writers working in erotica, and practicing online with blogs and writers’ groups, and websites which offer resources to erotica writers. I also think there are people coming out of the “slash” (fan fiction) world and developing into writers of original prose.
JMW: Why is it important or valuable to publish lesbian erotica?
KW: Well one important reason is that I think we are coming out of an extremely sex-negative and queer-negative time in our country. I think it’s become more acceptable in the last eight years for narrow-minded, bigoted people to openly declare their prejudices and homophobia and be proud of it; to claim to be morally superior because they fuck the “right” person. For that reason, it’s important to make sure that there’s excellent queer and sex-positive work available for people to read and enjoy, right out there in the bookstores and online booksellers. We’re not going anywhere, and we’re not going to hide.
JMW: Are there limits or standards about what Cleis Press will or will not publish?
KW: Well, they let me shape the call for submissions, which is based on Tristan’s (if it ain’t broke…) and my limits are: no sex with children; no sex with animals; no non-consensual sex. That leaves a lot of room for a plethora of scenarios, including sex between teenagers (the high school crush that turns physical is a time-honored, and often well-done story); I’ve read stories where people pretend to be animals; and there is certainly a huge spectrum of dominant/submissive and role-playing scenarios to be explored. In the past, there have been stories selected that involved threesomes, males, stories set in various time periods past, present and future, written in the first, second and third person, and between females of different species (sci-fi erotica).
JMW: As an editor, what advice would you give to writers about writing erotica?  What are some of the common weaknesses or problems you encounter?
KW: A thought I’ve had while going through submissions is: just because you’ve had lesbian sex doesn’t mean you can write about it. (The cover letters often say: this really happened to me!) Be a writer first, then write well about erotic experiences. Write stories that make YOU hot. If it’s good enough to get you aroused, it will probably reach out to another reader. It can be a fragment of fucking, or a complete short story, but make the characters people we want to know more about (I didn’t say LIKE), and make them follow a real logic, make them live in the world you’ve created. Make us see what they want, and what they’ll give for it. And please follow the guidelines for submission (link below).
JMW: What should we look for from the Lesbian Erotica Series in the year ahead?
KW: Well, the submissions are coming in from all over the world.  I’ve also beaten the bushes (HA!) to make sure that the call for submissions went to writers I know who might not have thought of writing erotica, but whose voices and style I like. So I hope we’ll see a lot of new names in the anthology, as well as some of my favorite ones. I think I’ll have a lot of good work to pass along to the guest judge (each series has a guest judge who makes the final decisions and writes an introduction to the volume).
JMW: If a writer wants to submit to you, how should she go about it?
KW: First of all, I also accept submissions from men.  There are women who write excellent male POV erotica (and I have published gay male erotica), so I know there are men who can write lesbian erotica. However, that is not license to email me to talk dirty to a lesbian (and yes, this has happened). Specific submission guidelines can be found online and on various erotica sites around the ‘net. People can also email me questions (but not submissions) at

That’s all the Book Buzz for now.  So, go read a book!

John Morgan Wilson photo

About: John Morgan Wilson

John Morgan Wilson’s most recent short fiction appears in Saints & Sinners 2011: New Fiction from the Festival (Queer Mojo) and two forthcoming anthologies: Art from Art(Modernist Press) and Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books). Bold Strokes has also reissued John’s early Benjamin Justice mysteries, including his 1996 Edgar winner, Simple Justice. The series has also won three Lambda Literary Awards for Best Gay Men’s Mystery.

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