Monday, October 31, 2005

November Publishing Notes

The buzz: Charles Flowers has been appointed the new Executive Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation. Brendan Lemon stepped down as the editor-in-chief of the gay monthly Out. Euan Morton, who starred as Boy George in the musical Taboo, will play the lead in Brundibar and Comedy on the Bridge, two new operas by Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak. CNN reporter Anderson Cooper has officially landed a book contract with HarperCollins. The not-yet-written memoir was bought for $1 million by HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham, who will be editing the book himself. The book will deal with the last year of Cooper’s life as a journalist and human being in Sri Lanka, Africa, Iraq, and Louisiana/Mississippi. Most of the proceeds will go to charity. The recent success of the film Capote has sparked an interest in the author’s books. USA Today reported that Vintage is now in its third printing of the movie tie-in edition of In Cold Blood. Gerald Clarke’s Capote, A Biography, the basis for the recent movie, has also seen a surge in sales.

Kudos: Houston resident Greg Chapman was selected from among 6,000 entrants to read his essay about putting aside the teachings of childhood and embracing his homosexuality on “This I Believe,” a series of weekly essays featured on National Public Radio. James Purdy received the Clifton Fadiman Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the Mercantile Library of New York for his controversial gay novel Eustace Chisholm and the Works, published in 1967, two years before the Stonewall Riots. The award carries a $5,000 cash prize from Bookspan. The novel was selected by Jonathan Frazen as the most memorable book published at least a decade ago. Julie Marie Wade of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania won the Fourth Annual Oscar Wilde Award sponsored by Gival Press for her poem entitled “The Lunar Plexus.” An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Women Studies, edited by Robert L. Giron and Dr. Brianne Friel, won the 2005 DIY Book Award for Compilations/Anthologies. The book includes essays by lesbian writers Teresa Bevin and Rita Kranidis. PressPassQ reported that the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association has established a Hall of Fame. Initial inductees include NLGJA founder, the late Leroy Aarons (who in retirement sat on the board of the LGBT publication We The People); partners Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, co-editors of the The Ladder, considered America's first publication (1956) for lesbian readers; the late Sarah Pettit, co-founder and editor of Out magazine (1992); the late Randy Shilts, whose career included a stint at The Advocate; and the late Don Slater, founder and editor of the crusading gay publication, ONE, whose five-year battle against antigay U.S. postal rules ended in a 1958 U.S. Supreme Court victory for all gay media. Among the titles which made Time magazine’s Best All-Time Novels were The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Deliverence by James Dickey, Falconer by John Cheever, Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin, The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, I, Claudius by Robert Graves, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Open calls: Amie M. Evans is accepting submissions for an anthology titled Drag Kings: Short Story Erotica involving drag kings on or off the stage. Deadline is April 1, 2006. For more information write Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, is seeking essays up to 6,000 words for an anthology titled Realness Is Overrated: Rejecting the Requirement to Pass. Essays should explore and critique the various systems of power seen (or not seen) in the act of passing. Deadline is January 31, 2006. For more details and submission guidelines, e-mail

The Lone Star State of Mind: Members of the American Veterans in Domestic Defense staged protests at six local libraries in Montgomery Country. The group cut up 70 books they considered “perverted” and containing pornographic pictures or promoting homosexuality. Some of the titles include It’s Perfectly Normal, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Plastic Man. St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a private school in Austin, declined a $3 million donation rather than cut a gay-themed short story from the English curriculum. English teacher Kimberly Horne has included the short story “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx, a love story of two gay cowboys, as optional reading in her high school class for several years. The Austin American Statesman reported that parents Cary and Kate McNair met with other parents and school authorities and objected to the short story and the school’s participation in Day of Silence, an annual event that seeks to address antigay discrimination on school campuses. McNair is the son of oil magnate Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans pro football team. After the school refused to remove “Brokeback Mountain” from the assignment list, the McNairs pulled a $3 million pledge.

Between the Lines: If my recollections are right, I heard of Sam D’Allesandro in several ways. First, there was “Nothing Ever Just Disappears,” his short story that was included in the anthology Men on Men, edited by George Stambolian and published in 1986 by Plume. Before the deluge of gay-themed fiction and erotica anthologies of this century, twentysomething years ago in the last one there was just Men on Men and a few gay bookstores where this particular anthology could be found, and for those of us trying to imagine ourselves as a new breed of writer — a gay writer writing about gay life — being included in Men on Men meant that Sam was already some kind of god-like talent. A few years later I learned of The Zombie Pit, Sam’s collection of short stories which arrived in 1989, because I knew of Crossing Press, having had a correspondence with editor John Gill over a potential collection of my own short stories (and which didn’t come to pass). At the time I was living in exile in New Hope, Pennsylvania, after a decade of struggling in New York City, quietly having a breakdown after the death of a friend, disassembling all the pieces of my psyche, repairing and polishing them, and reassembling them into what I was hoping would be a new and improved model of the cheerful young man I had once been. I’m not exactly sure where I picked up my copy of The Zombie Pit — it must have been at either the Oscar Wilde Bookshop or A Different Light during a weekend jaunt back into New York City — or maybe even at Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, but wherever I purchased it, when I sat down to read it, I was struck by lighting when I came to the second story titled “Electrical Type of Thing.” “Electrical Type of Thing” is the story of a young man obsessed with another man who, as the story progresses, becomes obsessed with another young man. Also, as this simply written episodic tale unfolds, the first young man finds another man who becomes obsessed with him. In other words, guy likes guy likes another guy in a sort of series of overlapping triangles. Before I read this short story I had always dreamed of taking the best parts and traits of one boyfriend and graphing them onto another imperfect boyfriend, in hopes of creating the ideal kind of boyfriend — or at least the sort of perfect one that I could set out and search for. Having that sort of romantic quest, I was usually unfulfilled in matters of both love and sex. Somehow, it had never dawned on me that I might be a different person with different people as Sam so vividly explains in that story and my psychological awakening of that notion was a truly inspired moment — the kind of thing whereby a reader turns to fiction in order to better understand his own life, to find his world illuminated and explained in a way he might not be able to grasp himself, and zing-zap-crash-boom! — it actually happens, only it is something different than what he thought he would find. Mind it, that year I was still a neophyte in affairs with men and grieving over just about everything that had come to pass thus far in my life. And the truth of the matter was I discovered “Electrical Type of Thing” at the same time I was discovering a lot of other first-rate writers — at the time I was also slowly making my way through Echo Press’s thirteen volumes of the Collected Short Stories of Anton Chekhov. But my psychological awakening of what to expect from sexual relationships also incorporated an awareness that Sam D’Allesandro was a very talented writer and that the bitter truth was his bright light had already been diminished. In the back pages of The Zombie Pit was a chronological time line of Sam’s life, with the startling fact that he had died February 3, 1988, at the age of thirty-one, a year or so before I had ever picked up this book. For years I’ve held onto my copy of The Zombie Pit and used “Electrical Type of Thing” as one of those occasional touchstones a writer often refers back to, turning to it for inspiration when an idea strikes me and I begin to work my way into writing a new story or to revisit to see if a final version of a story is working as well as I hope it does — and I can trace Sam’s influence on a string of stories I’ve written over the years — particularly those triangular ones where matters of the heart often intersect with the realities of sex. So it’s heartwarming to discover that good gay writing lasts because it’s good gay writing. Suspect Thoughts Press has recently issued a new collection of Sam’s writings titled The Wild Creatures. Delightfully included is “Electrical Type of Thing,” a story I hope many other would-be gay writers will discover, enjoy, and find inspiring.

Passages: Theodore ‘Tobias’ Schneebaum, artist, author, and anthropologist, died September 20 2005 in Great Neck, NY, from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was in his mid-80s and a longtime resident of Greenwich Village. In 2000, Mr. Schneebaum was the subject of the documentary, Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale, which follows his return to the Amazon and to Indonesian New Guinea, where he also lived. Mr. Schneebaum came to prominence in 1969 with the publication of his memoir, also titled Keep the River on Your Right, which was published by Grove Press. The book, a cult classic, described how a mild-mannered gay New York artist wound up living among, and ardently loving, the Arakmbut, an indigenous cannibalistic people in the rain forest of Peru. In 1955, Mr. Schneebaum, then a painter, had won a Fulbright fellowship to study art in Peru. There, he vanished into the jungle and was presumed dead. Seven months later, he emerged, naked and covered in body paint. After his return to New York, Schneebaum travelled widely, often visiting isolated people, and settled in New Guinea in 1973, where he spent 10 years studying the art of the Asmat head-hunters in Irian Jaya and serving as assistant curator of an art museum. He also took a married tribesman lover, named Aipit. His other published works include Wild Man, Where the Spirits Dwell, and Secret Places: My life in New York and New Guinea.

Friday, October 07, 2005

More on the City We Can’t Forget About

Big Easy Glimpses from Suspect Thoughts: The talented, generous, and big-hearted duo of Ian Philips and Greg Wharton offered more updates on Big Easy writers in their recent Suspect Thoughts newsletter. On poet Martin Pousson: Greg and Ian note he went to stay at his parents home in Lafayette to ride out Hurricane Katrina only to have to evacuate Lafayette to avoid Hurricane Rita -- and ended up in a dry county on the Louisiana/Arkansas border (a cruel fate for any child of the Big Easy). But the good news is he's back in Lafayette now and gearing up for a return to New Orleans to rebuild his beloved city. On Jamie Joy Gatto: To say Jamie Joy Gatto and her fiance Ben have been through hell since Katrina is to sugarcoat the concept of hell. What they and thousands of others experienced in New Orleans (and her posts at her Yahoo group tell the horrors, at the hands of those entrusted to serve and protect, they endured at the Convention Center), no one should have. And you can go here and tell Jamie Joy yourself and see how you can help. Sage Vivant and M. Christian were able to raise $1100 for Jamie Joy and Ben. If you want to tell Sage she's one righteous writer (and she is), send her an email through her Web site Custom Erotica Source. On Elyn Selu: Greg and I mentioned in last month's newsletter that Elyn Selu's house was underwater after the flooding. We got this email from her and Brad to send along to everyone in SuspectThoughtsLand. (If you don't know Elyn, she's one of the coolest and kindest people I've met. She's continually warming up the flames of pagan abandon on a planet that desperately needs it.) "Brad and I are staying with my family in Charlotte. He'll be returning to New Orleans this week to help others get wired up. Our house is slowly being drained, but we don't know when they'll let us into our neighbor hood. Anyone who wants to contact me can through: -- or read about my meltdowns and water phobias on secretpink at P.S. if anyone out there has an online screenplay workshop they know of, please drop me a line. I've got one that needs critiquing and I need something to write about besides dark brown water and bushisms." On C. Bard Cole and Dimitri Apessos: Author D. Travers Scott wrote to say that C. Bard Cole (Briefly Told Lives) had moved to New Orleans after receiving his graduate degree in Alabama this spring. But he and fellow author Dimitri Apessos made it out of New Orleans safely to Nashville. You can learn more from Bard's blog. On Claude Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth: Patricia Nell Warren wrote to say that Saints & Sinners panel facilitator Claude Summers and his partner Ted-Larry Pebworth were safe and with friends in Baton Rouge. Also Timm Holt, owner of Cowpokes, a bar that has hosted several S&S events over the years, is okay and with his sister in Illinois. And that Gary Taylor, a reviewer from Biloxi, MS, who has written about many gay titles on and attended last year's Saints & Sinners, is safe with his partner, R.J., with friends in Florida. On Travis Montez: Brilliant poet and lawyer (yes, it can happen) Travis Montez wrote to say that all his family in his home state of Mississippi are fine, but they experienced a great deal of property damage. You can read more on his blog. More on Rip and Marsha Naquin-Delain: Rip and Marsha, the forces behind New Orleans's Ambush magazine as well as the hosts of the fabulous Friday night welcome party for Saints & Sinners, rode out Katrina in their home in the French Quarter, but had to leave later when the looting began. We hope they are back in New Orleans now and look forward to toasting New Orleans's and their good health next may. You can read their story at Ambush's Katrina Web page. On author Marty Hyatt: The author of the forthcoming A Scarecrow's Bible says the he and all his family are safe, though most are displaced. From Robbie Daw: Instinct magazine's managing editor about his aunt and cousin: "My aunt and cousin made it safely out of New Orleans to Beaumont, TX, but, like most people in their situation, have no money, no food, etc. They can't even get anyone to tell them where they should go or who to talk to for any kind of relief." From O'Neil De Noux: "We escaped. Our home in Jefferson Parish was hit pretty hard with three trees through the roof, hurricane force wind damage inside and water damage, although our house didn't float away. We are presently jobless but have been taken in by some good people here in Lake Charles, LA and have a roof over our heads." On Patrick Ryan: The founder and editor-in-chief of Lodestar Quarterly, and truly one of the kindest laborers in the fields of queer lit, sent us this much more somber note: "Lots of updates. Not all of it good, though. My mom, at least, is safe out here with me. She's going to relocate permanently in San Francisco. She's afraid to go back, at her age, and face the possibility of another killer storm. My brothers all evacuated, too, but they're hoping to go back and be part of the rebuilding process. The worst of the news is that my sister-in-law's cousin, and that cousin's husband and two kids, were killed in Waveland. I hadn't met them before, since I've been out here in San Francisco for awhile, but it's so tragic, in any case. My lesbian cousin, Michelle, her brother, Michael, and their mother, each owned a fairly new home, and all three homes were completely destroyed. Quite a few other cousins lost their homes, too, and one, a close cousin of mine, evacuated to Jackson, Miss, found out he’d lost his house, and then was robbed of all the money he'd taken with him to Jackson, $1,600. My uncle who is down-syndrome and paralyzed was indeed evacuated and is in a new home in Lafayette, so that's good news that he is safe. My mom had cared for him for many years, but when he became paralyzed a few years ago, he had to go into a home. I suppose my mother's story is the happiest of the stories, and the people of San Francisco have been so incredibly generous. The government, on the other hand, has done nothing but impede the solutions. I've run around with FEMA for weeks and have gotten nothing from them. The people in Chalmette, my cousin included, were completely ignored by the government. Canadian forces actually reached them first." You can read Patrick’s mother's story here on Lodestar Quarterly . On Lisa C. Moore: Punk goddess and author Anna Joy Springer forwarded us this email from Tisa Bryant about Lisa C. Moore, founder of the way cool RedBone Press. And many of us will also remember Lisa for all she did to help queer lit while she worked with the Lambda Literary Foundation. (Thank you, Lisa!) Well, now it's time for us to help her. "Dear All, Just sharing this message from my friend, Lisa C. Moore, founder of RedBone Press, which is dedicated to the creativity of queer African-Americans. She was born and raised in New Orleans; all the roots that fortify her life are there. (RedBone Press, P.O. Box 15571, Washington, DC 20003, 202-667-0392 phone, 301-559-5239 fax.) Fortunately, her entire family physically survived the hurricane and flooding, but lost everything, had to leave, as did the key funders for printing her next book. She's searching for a new printer for her next title, Spirited, a collection of writings on faith by Af-Am GLBT folks, so if you know anyone who might be willing donate services or otherwise help her continue her work *affordably*, please contact her at the info listed on her site. She's an amazing human being, and so is her father, musician Deacon John, who is still searching for missing bandmates (his piano player is still missing). Her sister Denise was recently taped for "This American Life," in a segment about her days and nights in the New Orleans Convention Center."

Saints and Sinners Update: Paul Willis and Greg Herren, the fabulous duo of editors and writers and the life force behind the annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival of Queer Writers in New Orleans, are both safe and at work. Greg is back in Louisiana and posts often to his blog, Queer and Loathing in America . A recent email from Paul Willis, now in Illinois, also arrived with an update on the next Saints and Sinners and I’ve posted it below for any and all who want to attend or contribute funds.
"I'd like to thank everyone for their kind emails, good wishes, and offers of help and support. Greg and I were able to get out of New Orleans on Sunday before Katrina ravaged the city. After a stressful drive along with 100,000 other folks fleeing the city at the time, we made our way to my parents place in Kewanee, Illinois. And as luck would have it, Labor Day weekend happened to be Hog Days. We weren't much in the spirit of celebrating but did make our way to the library book sale and the flea market. I was glad to find a hard cover of Val McDermid's novel A Place of Execution.
As I'm sure you all know from your own communities, it has been amazing to me how far reaching the impact of this tragedy has been. Here in Kewanee alone, a couple from Chalmette, LA have relocated staying with friends they met on the internet eight years ago, a woman and her two kids have also temporarily found shelter here in the Hog Capital. Every store is taking collections, individuals are organizing fundraisers, and as of September 7, Kewanee-area residents have given more than $10,000 to relief efforts.
I've slowly, but surely been able to get organized and set up in my new surroundings. But as you can imagine, I can't wait to get home to New Orleans and get my life back. One of the things that I can do while I'm here is to make efforts so that the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival will still take place as scheduled May 12-14, 2006 in the city of New Orleans. I appreciate the interest people have shown in wanting to make sure that the event will continue. If you'd like to make a donation towards this project, checks should be made out to the NO/AIDS Task Force and can be sent to me at my temporary location:
Paul Willis
P.O. Box 102
Kewanee, IL 61443
If you make a donation and/or would like to correspond, please include your email address, and I'll get you added to the e-newsletter list for the Saints and Sinners newsletter so that you can keep updated on the progress we're able to make. The website for the literary festival is Your support will go a long way to benefit the GLBT literary community, the NO/AIDS Task Force, and the city of New Orleans.
The dynamic array of GLBTQ literary talent for this year's Saints & Sinners program is already coming together with presenters to include: Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters, award-winning writers K.M. Soehnlein and Michelle Tea, authors and poets Martin Pousson and Elena Georgiou, along with master classes facilitated by Steven Saylor and Karla Jay. Literary Sponsors include Bold Strokes Books, Bywater Books, DREAMWalker Group, Gival Press, Harrington Park Press, InSightOut Books, Lodestar Quarterly, Suspect Thoughts Press, and Wildcat Press.
Once again, my thanks to everyone for their generosity and support of the New Orleans community.
I'll keep in touch and hope to get the first e-newsletter out by mid-October.
All the best,
Paul J. Willis"