Wednesday, November 30, 2005

December Publishing Notes

The buzz: David Rosen, the guiding force behind the successful gay and lesbian Insightout Book Club (and other community book clubs), has left parent company Bookspan to become an editorial director at a soon-to-be-launched Abrams Image imprint. John Scognamiglio, who has edited Kensington’s popular gay and lesbian books, has been promoted to the company’s Editor-in-Chief. Carol Seajay of Books to Watch Out For (which publishes a monthly Lesbian Edition and a Gay Men’s Edition) has launched a new edition: More Books for Women. The core reviews in the publication are written by the staff at Chicago’s Women & Children First bookstore. Dean Parisot will direct The Bill From My Father, a comedy adapted on an upcoming memoir by Bernard Cooper. Del Shores is developing a feature adaptation of his play Southern Baptist Sissies, one of several projects in the works at his production company. Shores made his film directorial debut with the cult smash comedy Sordid Lives, based on another of his plays. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Male Lead) and Capote (Best Feature) have been nominated for Independent Spirit Awards. Also in contention are Brokeback Mountain (Best Feature), Heath Ledger (Best Male Lead), and Ang Lee (Best Director). Gregg Araki was also nominated as Best Director for the film adaptation of Mysterious Skin. The fall issue of the Harvard Review contained a short story by Gore Vidal titled “Clouds and Eclipses.” The story, about a clergyman accused of sexual misconduct with a minor, was based on Vidal’s friend Tennessee Williams’ account of an incident in his grandfather’s past. The story was recently discovered among Vidal’s papers at a Harvard library. The story had been withheld from Vidal’s 1956 short story collection, A Thirsty Evil, because of an agreement with Williams, who though the story might embarrass his family.

A wider orbit: PlanetOut Inc. has acquired LPI Media Inc., the Los Angeles-based publisher of the Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and HIV Plus magazines, for $24 million in cash. The acquisition creates the world’s largest media company serving gay men and lesbians. Privately held LPI, which also publishes books under the Alyson imprint, has 123 employees and about $30 million in annual sales. PlanetOut, with 152 employees, operates the Web sites PlanetOut.com, Gay.com, and Kleptomaniac.com. PlanetOut went public last year and reported third-quarter earnings of $841,000, or 5 cents a share, contrasted with a loss of $29,000, or 25 cents, for the same quarter in 2004. Revenue was $7.6 million, up 20% from $6.3 million. With the acquisition, PlanetOut hopes to double its revenue, which was $25 million last year. Bob Cohen has been named as the interim president of LPI Media.

Kudos: Adrienne Rich won the 74th annual Gold Medal for Poetry from the Commonwealth Club of California for her collection The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004. Andrew Sean Greer of San Francisco won the Gold Medal for Fiction for his novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli. Winners each received $2,000. Alexis DeVeaux’s biography of poet Audre Lord, Warrior Poet, won the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation Legacy Award in Nonfiction given annually to outstanding books by writers of African descent. Winners receive $10,000. Among the gay titles and GLBT authors on the prestigious International Impac Dublin literary award “longlist” are The Line of Beauty by Allan Hollinghurst, The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer, The Master by Colm Tóibin, Now is the Time to Open Your Heart by Alice Walker, and Lighthousekeeping by Jeannette Winterson. The winning author receives Є100,000.

Open calls: Alyson is putting together two new anthologies of “travelrotica” — one geared for gay men, the other towards lesbians. Deadline is January 15, 2006. E-mail erotica@alyson.com for more details. Alyson is also assembling an anthology of queer fetish erotica for both men and women. Deadline is also January 15, 2006. E-mail erotica@alyson.com for more details. Eric Summers is editing an erotica anthology for Starbooks Press titled Men Who Like the Feel of a Real Man. Deadline is February 1, 2006. E-mail eric@starbookspress.com for more details. Shane Allison is editing an anthology for Cleis titled Hot Cops: Gay Erotic Tales. Deadline is March 1, 2006. E-mail hotcopsubmissions@hotmail.com for more details.

Courting Customs: Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium, a Vancouver gay bookstore, has been given the go-ahead to argue in front of the Supreme Court of Canada that the government should fund its legal dispute with Canada Customs. Jim Deva, a co-owner of the bookstore, said fighting Canada Customs in court could cost the store $500,000 to $1 million, which he characterized as an impossibly high figure for a bookstore (or almost anyone else) to come up with. The bookstore has been fighting Canada Customs because the federal agency blocked the importation of several books and magazines at the U.S. border, claiming they were obscene. The seized material included two series of Meatmen comic books and two books that depicted bondage and sadomasochism. In July, 2004, a British Columbia judge ordered the federal government to pay the bookstore’s court costs, because it was an important constitutional case that touched the interests of all book importers, big and small. In February 2005, the B.C. Court of Appeal reversed the lower-court ruling and killed the funding, saying that Little Sisters had assumed the role of “watchdog” over Canada Customs, but that the public had not appointed the bookstore to this role. Now, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal of that ruling, and will likely provide some guidance on what kind of cases are important enough to get “advance funding,” when the litigants can’t afford to carry the costs. Joseph Arvay, a lawyer for Little Sisters, said that if the bookstore had not been granted the chance to take its case to the top court, it would have had to give up the fight. The decision creates a rematch for Little Sisters and Canada Customs at the top court. In 2000, the court criticized the agency for using arbitrary and inconsistent policies when seizing material the store was trying to import. The court did not strike down Canada Customs’ powers to censor material, but said it needed to fix its procedures. But changes implemented by the agency were done without consulting anyone in the book business or people with expertise in gay and lesbian sexuality, worsening the situation, Mr. Deva told The Globe and Mail. The agency adopted specific rules about what was not allowed into Canada, he said, but he questioned the logic behind the guidelines. “Suddenly, out of the blue, the licking of boots was not acceptable,” Devay told a reporter, as an example. “If they had known more about that fantasy, and about that sexual act perhaps they wouldn’t have thought of it as dehumanizing and degrading.”

License to Chat Revoked: University Place (Wash.) school officials have banned Geography Club, a novel about gay teens by Brent Hartinger of Tacoma, from the district’s library shelves following parents’ complaints. In an Associated Press article Superintendent Patti Banks said she was alarmed by the “romanticized” portrayal of a teen meeting a stranger at night in a park after meeting the person — revealed to be a gay classmate — in an Internet chatroom. Banks had the book withdrawn from Curtis Junior High and Curtis Senior High school libraries after a University Place couple with children in both schools filed a written complaint dated Oct. 21, 2005 asking the district to remove the book. They wrote that reading the book could result in a “casual and loose approach to sex,” encourage use of Internet porn, and the physical meeting of people through chatrooms. Banks said her decision to remove the book was not due to the homosexual theme of the novel. “We want to send a strong consistent message to all our students that meeting individuals via the Internet is extremely high-risk behavior,” Banks wrote in a letter dated Nov. 2, 2005 to the parents. “To the extent that this book might contradict that message, I have determined it should not be in our libraries, in spite of other positive aspects (e.g., a strong anti-harassment theme).” Parent Connie Claussen disagreed with Banks’ decision and said she plans to appeal to the district school board. “It is about gay students. However, the most important part of the book is that it’s about bullying, outcasts, about tolerance,” she said. “This is a really good book for any student to read.” Geography Club is one of 10 nominees for the Evergreen Young Adult Book Award 2006. “The reason gay teens are drawn to the Internet is that’s a safe place to explore their identity without being harassed or bullied,” Hartinger said in the AP article. “It’s ironic my book would be pulled for this reason, contributing to this atmosphere of silence and gay intolerance.”

License to Advertise Revoked: When lesbian couple Robin Beck and Patty Henges, co-owners of the year-old Another Book Store in Mishawaka, Ind., decided to start a queer youth support group, they also decided to advertise their bookstore in the local Mishawaka High School student newspaper Alltold. They gave a copy of their business card and a $25 check to a store regular who is on the high school newspaper staff. But Henges received a call from newspaper advisor Jeff Halicki telling her the ad wouldn’t appear in the publication and that officials at school had responded that they did not want to “expose our teens to your type of establishment,” according to the South Bend Tribune. The school’s action could be a violation of the First Amendment, said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va. “They have to present some legal justification,” Goodman told the Tribune. “If the student [or advertiser] could show that this was in fact an attempt to silence this viewpoint, then that may very well be impermissible under the First Amendment.” School newspaper editors may decide not to run an ad based on content, but court decisions suggest that school officials may not be able to censor ads, Goodman said.

Between the Lines: CyLibris, a gay publishing company in France, has just published a French-language edition of a collection of my gay and AIDS-themed short stories titled Les Fantômes (translation The Ghosts) — in cooperation with “sida, Grande Cause Nationale 2005,” a national French AIDS organization. World AIDS Day is this month (Thursday, December 1) and I hope that we can all take a moment and remember those we have lost from AIDS and what we can continue to do to help fight and bring attention to the ongoing epidemic both in the United States and abroad. In case you are a little curious about how this book came about: A little more than a decade ago, Anne-Laure Hubert, a graduate student in Belgium, translated into French my first collection of short stories, Dancing on the Moon, for her masters thesis. Two years ago, Anne-Laure located me on the Internet and e-mailed me to let me know she had translated my stories and asked if I wanted to see her thesis. For me, it was a truly strange experience — to read and rediscover my early stories (and now in a foreign language) and to revisit many of the issues and themes which seemed to have evaporated from gay life — and my own consciousness. Anne-Laure had several unanswered questions regarding her translation — idioms and footnotes and specifics relating to gay life or life in the U.S. — and together we polished a final translation which we submitted to CyLibris — and this edition really owes a lot to her tremendous faith and understanding of these stories, as well as her acceptance of gay life and the historical impact AIDS has had upon it, particularly in the early years of the epidemic and in the United States. Olivier Gainon and the folks at CyLibris have produced a beautiful edition of these short stories — and if you know any French language speakers or citizens, I hope that you will encourage them to support Cylibris and any French, international, or local AIDS organization this holiday season.

Joyeux Noel et Bonne Année!