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Reader Meet Author: Advice on Love, Life, and Living

Reader Meet Author: Advice on Love, Life, and Living

Author: William Johnson

April 2, 2012

Do you have problems with your love life? Don’t get along with your in-laws? Are your co-workers irksome? All life’s problems can be answered through literature —or maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here at The Lambda Literary Review have started our very own advice column called “Reader Meet Author.”  Think of the column as sort of a “Dear Abby” for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send “Reader Meet Author” questions for publication to

Every month readers can submit questions to a chosen LGBTQ author about love, work, and life, and the author will answer them to the best of their ability.

This month’s inaugural column is handled by acclaimed author Bob Smith (Remembrance of Things I Forgot).


Dear Author,

I have an aspiring-author friend who sadly is not a very good writer. She is sweet, kind, funny, and an overall lovely human being, but she is just not a good writer. The stories she asks me to read are terrible. Her writing is based on her own life story, but nothing in her life has justified her writing a memoir. Her book is a standard coming-out story. Does the world need another standard coming-out story – especially since her writing is not that lyrical?

She persistently asks me to critique her work, and I just keep providing her with substandard generalities: “Oh, it’s nice” or “I liked it.” If she does plan on entering into the literary world, I imagine she is going to be getting some brutal assessments of her work. Should those brutal assessments start with me?


Love the Woman, Hate the Work   


Dear Love the Woman, Hate the Work,

My best friend Eddie Sarfaty and I read each other’s essays and stories and have no problem saying to each other, “That stinks!” But we’re anomalies in the world of writing. We’re both published authors and successful stand-up comics, so we know that writing is rewriting, and we’re confident in our abilities to make something better. Most importantly, we also know there is a mutual admiration of each other’s talent.

Your friend may stink, but unless you’re a professional writer, I don’t think it’s your job to tell her she’s bad. (In fact, you sound a little too eager to diss her.) I think you should suggest to your friend that she take a writing class at a local college or join a writer’s group. I taught a comic-essay class at NYU, and my rule was that we always had to say what we liked before we discussed what we didn’t like. Creating art is incredibly difficult, and no one I know nails everything in the first draft. I had some very shaky writers in my classes, but I always emphasized the good before pointing out what wasn’t good. By the end of the semester, every student had written at least one solid essay.

Perhaps your friend will still be a terrible writer after taking a writing class, but at least your friendship won’t stink because you’ve hurt her feelings.


Dear Author,

What’s your advice for finding love after the onset of a disability? Or was your partner already in your life before? 


Lonely At Home


Dear Lonely At Home,

In 2007, I was diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease, one year after I started going out with my current partner Michael. He could easily have dumped me, but thankfully when I told him my news, he said, “That’s okay. We’ll deal with this.” Since then, I’ve lost my voice, but Michael’s courageously stuck it out.

And my disability has made me aware of your situation. We all want to be considered sexually desirable. I’m still glad that guys flirt with me online or in person and don’t ever want that to end. (Although getting old is clearly a disability to everyone’s hotness.) I don’t know what your disability is but—without being saccharine—I do believe there is someone for everyone.

If someone like Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich can have three wives apiece—and I consider them to be severely disabled because they’re heartless—then we can find a partner for you. Investigate what other disabled LGBT folks have to say about dating. Here’s a link to several groups.

Of course, LGBT disabled have special needs.  We may have to teach Seeing Eye dogs to cruise guys and gals or start our own hook-up app for the LGBT disabled. We should call it: Crutchhunt or Love-on-Wheels. (Yes, I can joke about this because I’m disabled.)

To end on a serious note:  friend me on Facebook. If we need to start a page for LGBT disabled singles, I’m all for it.


Dear Author,

For the last year I’ve been dating a man I adore, but we are simply not sexually compatible. We always have a great time together:  laughter, great dinner dates, great conversations, and we have a refreshingly terrific rapport. Everything is perfect until we reach the bedroom. It’s just that I am a bottom and …well… he is a bottom too.  And while I’ve been playing the role of the top, it’s really just not my bag.

I keep thinking all passion fades anyway, so maybe I should just date him for the terrific companionship and seek my “carnal” pleasures elsewhere.  I worry that I should not give up on a good person simply because of the sexual chemistry. I click emotionally with this man (a rarity in my dating life), but I realize that he will never satisfy me sexually. Should I stay with him despite the lack of sexual connection? Ask for an open relationship? Or keep looking for a perfect match?


Bottomed Out


Dear Bottomed Out,

In my relationships, an initial satisfying sexual connection has always seemed paramount, but I’ve also fucked up several relationships because we didn’t discuss our sex life. (I naively believed two orgasms meant everyone was completely satisfied.)

Have you talked about your dissatisfaction with your partner? Yes, I’m suggesting you be the conversational top and tell him your feelings. (When it comes to expressing our feelings other than anger, I feel all men—straight and gay—are total bottoms.) It might be that he’s willing to play the top, and you two will live happily ever after.  If not, remember that successful relationships are about compromise, so I suggest you two discuss it and find a top you can agree on.


Dear Author,

My partner and I have recently broken up after eight years. It was mutual breakup; we had simply grown apart. She is now dating a much, much younger woman—a trophy wife! I find the whole situation ridiculous. My former partner is smart, learned, and cultured, and she is now dating a young woman who, to be honest, isn’t very bright—but she is pretty!

I am shocked and disappointed by my ex’s shallowness. My ex still wants to be friends and I do miss our camaraderie—but I feel I can’t engage in a real friendship with my ex unless I confront her current relationship status head-on. If we are going to continue to be good friends, I can’t just bite my tongue.

Should I bring up my thoughts on my ex’s current relationship, or should I just inexplicably tell my ex that we can’t be friends right now?




Dear Disappointed,

For someone who’s had a “mutual” breakup, you seem a little too bothered by your ex’s new baby dyke.  Would you feel better if she dated someone older? Uglier? Richer? Poorer? Funnier? I suspect not.

Everyone is miserable after a breakup—and before it too—sometimes for decades. But most of the gay men and lesbians I know manage to remain friends with their exes. But, when my ex broke up with me after ten years and almost immediately started a new relationship, I told all our mutual friends that I didn’t want to see him. It made my friends’ social lives more complicated:  Do I invite Bob or him?  So after a year, I decided I was making my friends’ lives unnecessarily difficult, and I should grow up. Now I’m friends with my ex and his partner, and everything’s cool. But once you break up, I think your right to tell your ex what you think of her new partner is as finished as your sex life with her.

This also might be a phase for your ex. During the year after my breakup, I sought my own trophy guys to boost my ego and ease my pain. And let me tell you, hooking up with a blond bodybuilder snowboarder at a gay ski week was restorative for me. His huge muscles couldn’t carry a conversation about Proust, but I have a zillion brainy friends, and sometimes we need a pretty face to stop us from dwelling on our unhappiness.

Your ex and you are now leading separate lives, and you need to grasp that sometimes we need a breath of fresh airhead to start over.


William Johnson photo

About: William Johnson

William Johnson is the former Deputy Director of Lambda Literary.

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