Out and Off the Margins LGBT Authors Making History
Koret Auditorium • San Francisco Public Library • 100 Larkin Street Tuesday, June 1, 2010 • 6 PM
This year’s kick-off event to San Francisco Pride showcases five Cleis Press authors, and co-publisher Felice Newman in a panel discussing how LGBT writers understand their roles as a part of history. This panel, aptly taking place on San Francisco Pride’s 40th anniversary and Cleis Press’s 30th anniversary, gives the authors a chance to look back at how LGBT writing has changed as the margins of sexual identity have widened and shifted. Authors Ann Bannon (Beebo Brinker, Odd Girl Out); Jon Ginoli (Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division); Rob Rosen (Divas Las Vegas); Rachel Pepper (The Transgender Child, The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians); Carol Queen (PoMoSexuals, Real Live Nude Girl); and Felice Newman (The Whole Lesbian Sex Book) address their participation in the explosion of LGBT literature in the last several decades. The Bay Area Reporter’s assistant arts editor Jim Provenzano, a popular novelist himself, will moderate the panel. Come celebrate Pride with today’s most famous and influential local LGBT authors, who brought you your favorite erotica, pulp fiction, essays, and novels!
Event Summary Title: Out and Off the Margins: LGBT Authors Making History Location: Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street Time: Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 @ 6 PM Description: Pride kick-off panel of Cleis Press authors Ann Bannon, Jon Ginoli, Rob Rosen, Rachel Pepper, Carol Queen, and Felice Newman. Moderated by Jim Provenzano of the Bay Area Reporter.
Ann Bannon has been called “The Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction” for her landmark “Beebo Brinker Chronicles,” a series of five original paperback novels published by Gold Medal Books in the 1950s and 60s. The books tell the stories of young lesbians in the gay Mecca of pre-Stonewall Greenwich Village. When she started writing in 1955, Bannon was a twenty-two year old housewife living in Philadelphia. Odd Girl Out was Bannon’s first published work, and the second bestselling original paperback of 1957. Bannon followed it up with four others: I Am A Woman, Women in the Shadows, Journey to a Woman, and Beebo Brinker, all published between 1957 and 1962.
Jon Ginoli is a guitarist, singer, songwriter, and founding member of Pansy Division, whose albums include Undressed, Deflowered, and Wish I’d Taken Pictures. When not on tour with the band, he lives in San Francisco. His memoir, Deflowered: My Life With Pansy Division has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.
San Francisco writer Rob Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Sparkle: The Queerest Book You'll Ever Love and Divas Las Vegas, which was the winner of the 2010 TLA Gaybies for Best Gay Fiction. He has had short stories published in over 100 anthologies and wrote erotica for MEN and Freshmen magazines for 5+ years. Please visit him at www.therobrosen.com
Rachel Pepper is the co-author of The Transgender Child, The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians, and The Gay and Lesbian Guide to College Life. An award-winning journalist and editor for many publications, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dr. Carol Queen is a writer and cultural sexologist with a doctorate of education in human sexuality. Her essay collection, Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, was published in 1997. Her essays have also appeared in many publications, including Male Lust and The Erotic Impulse. Her erotic stories can be found in Best Women's Erotica, the Herotica anthologies, Libido, and Best American Erotica 1993, 1994, and 2000, and in many other anthologies; her erotic novel, The Leather Daddy and the Femme, was published in 1998 and won a Firecracker Alternative Book Award the following year. She is co-editor of the anthologies Best Bisexual Erotica, Sex Spoken Here, Switch Hitters, and PoMoSexuals; the latter won a Lambda Literary Award in 1998. Queen currently works as staff sexologist at Good Vibrations and runs the Center for Sex and Culture with Dr. Robert Lawrence. For more information see her website: www.carolqueen.com.
Felice Newman is a sex educator and Somatic Coach certified by the Strozzi Institute. She is the author of The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us, and is a founding co-publisher of Cleis Press. Felice has appeared on Dr. Drew's Love Line, Derek & Romaine Show, and other radio programs, and has spoken to audiences on sexuality in cities across the country. She is the resident sex coach on ClassicDykes.com and has offered online sex advice on About.com, and LesbiaNation.com. Her Whole Lesbian Sex column appears in newspapers across the U.S. She is a member of The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT).
Jim Provenzano is the author of three novels: PINS, Monkey Suits, and Cyclizen. For ten years he was a syndicated Sports Complex columnists, and he has also served as a guest curator at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. He is currently the Assistant Arts Editor for the Bay Area Reporter.
Reviewed by Dan Stone Published by Zumaya Boundless Pages: 303
A New Fan of Love and War
I've never been a fan of war stories, but if I thought more of them were anything like Alan Chin's The Lonely War, I would seriously re-evaluate the basis for my longstanding aversion to the genre. In this heartrending and ultimately affirming World War II tale of enlisted sailor Andrew Waters and the American naval officer he falls in love with, all the presumably crucial elements of a good war story are present: interesting historical detail, horrific human drama and tragic loss, wrenching conflict, raging prejudice, and poignant camaraderie.
In The Lonely War, Andy, an enlisted Chinese-American sailor--and a Buddhist--falls hard and fast for Lieutenant Nathan Mitchell, his executive officer, setting into motion a series of events with far reaching consequences not only for them but for the entire crew of the USS Pilgrim. When the sailors become POWs in Changi, a notoriously brutal Japanese prison camp, Andy is faced with unspeakable challenges and with a dilemma that tests his own inner resources and extraordinary courage, in order to save the life of his beloved.
Any war buff able and willing to reconcile a turbulent World War II scenario with a powerful love story between men will find plenty of gruesome and vividly detailed action, but what's also here is a riveting story of passion and sacrifice in the service of friendship and love. It's a tribute to Alan Chin's talent as an author that he can simultaneously provide so much rich and painstakingly researched detail and never once let it detract from the romance and personal awakening that is at the heart of this remarkable book.
This story made turning off my Kindle at night one of the biggest challenges of my day for several days, and although I may not start reading war stories as a result of having read The Lonely War, I will most certainly be reading much more by Alan Chin.
I recently received one of those spam emails that float around the net. It was sent from an in-law so I viewed the contents. It was originally sent by a woman in Arizona, showed pictures of clothing and backpacks littering a gully in the desert, and was being used to justify Arizona's new laws that allow police to pull over people of color and demand to see their papers. The just of it was: see how illegals litter our national parks, and they have no respect for out laws.
I responded to this email, pointing out that it was a weak attempt to justify the obvious bigotry festering in Arizona. My response was posted on several email lists, and I promptly received numerous emails that were basically personal attacks. I did receive two supportive emails, and I was so moved by one I asked the owner if I could post it here. He agreed. Please enjoy his response:
I've been enlightened by the conversation going back and forth on Arizona and specifically about Mexico and its citizens. Unfortunately, from what I’ve gathered, some exchanges have become personal and hateful. My belief is that when people have to stoop to name-calling and making personal and derogatory remarks, they can’t support or justify their views and positions with valid arguments.
What people are forgetting is the new Arizona law, when and if enacted, does not specifically target Mexican-Americans or Mexican illegal immigrants. The people on your distribution list appear to be majority Asian and Asian-American. We and they are affected by this proposed law. Because asking people with "reasonable" cause for their papers, will not effect Mr. Straight White Conservative Republican. It impacts people who are different and it gives law enforcement, where a good number are racist, homophobic and sexist, carte blanche to stop anyone for "reasonable" cause.
This is discriminatory because we all know that the illegal immigrant from Sweden probably won’t get stopped because of a blown out tail light and will not cause alarm as much as if the driver was Mexican (legal or not), or dare I say, Black or African-American. Whenever laws are passed that only target a certain or specific segment of the population, all minority people should be alarmed. Proposition 8 is another example. Legal and constitutional experts said everyone should be alarmed that the State Constitution was amended to limit the rights of tax-paying and law-abiding citizens by a simple majority of the voters. As the late Dr. Martin Luther King said, if there is injustice to one, there is injustice to all Americans.
I am reminded of the following from Father Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
As an educated, open-minded, and gay Chinese-American with a vast and diverse network of friends and colleagues, I surround myself with people who don't rely on the blogosphere or have the "my way or the highway" attitude. These are people who can think for themselves and don't rely on talking points from radio or television commentators. Everyone I know is against this proposed law because we are singling out people, it does nothing to stem or stop illegal immigration, it doesn't protect our borders, and everyday citizens like you and me can and will be potentially stopped and we have to defend ourselves and our existence. These types of laws create animosity towards those it is targeting and provides justification to a certain mindset that it is okay to hate and possibly take physical action against them.
It's a sad state when so many assumed the worst about the people who left their backpacks, clothing, etc., in the desert. Think about it these people don't know that they are destroying a National Park. I doubt many of them even know what a National Park is. The National Park Service confirmed, “They are unaware they are crossing a national monument, a place dedicated to preservation for present and future generations.” Do people really think they've lugged a backpack clear across the border which probably contains their only possessions, just to dump it and move on?
The photos of the desert were taken by Lance Altherr, the Tucson Chapter Leader of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. He explained the prevalence of backpacks and clothing as follows:
“The illegals have walked over 25 miles into our country when they get to this spot. At this spot they can see the lights of Ammado (AZ), and they know they are within a few hours of getting picked up by the local vehicle which will take them anywhere in the country. When they come they carry backpacks with clean clothes and food in them; when they get to the layup spot, they change out of their dirty clothes and into clean clothes so that they will blend in better once they get to town. They will cram as many as 20 people into the cab of a pickup truck or 30 people into a van or SUV, so there is no room for any backpacks or extra clothing. We find a lot of brand new clothes and good backpacks which we donate to local schools.”
So, the discarding of backpacks and clothes, probably their only life’s possessions, is not because of a disrespect of our laws, but simply as a means of survival.
I remember hearing the stories told by my father when he arrived in this country of the prejudice and discrimination against him simply because he was different. He was Chinese and spoke very little English. I’m certain a lot of the people on your distribution list suffered these same cruel actions, or their parents, grandparents, etc. The lack of compassion and empathy are disheartening to say the least. History shows that when we as a people who have suffered, overcame obstacles, and become successful, forget about the past. In other words, we think we have arrived and we are one of “them.” That’s fine and dandy but I hope people are ready for a rude awakening, because it will happen. We all can be knocked down so quickly and easily with a “Chinaman,” “Chink,” or “Faggot.”
Lastly, there are reasons why these types of communication are sent and forwarded, especially when incomplete and inaccurate information are given. In this case, it may have been the best of intentions, but It’s typically self-serving and usually because of a personal agenda. It serves no useful purpose, it doesn’t benefit anybody, and It hopes to keep mistruths and lies as real as possible…after all, the more something is repeated, and the more people hear it, the truer it becomes. President Obama being born in Kenya is a good example. It is shameful that others keep this and other “articles” alive, without verifying the accuracy or completeness, and blindly forwarding it to others. Before the advent of the PC and the worldwide web, we always made sure we had our facts before we talked to someone in person, on the phone, or via snail mail. I think we all owe it to family, friends, and colleagues to speak the truth via the internet also.
Reviewed by Alan Chin Published by MLR Press Pages: 348
Detective David Eric Laine has a new partner at work and a string of beautiful, pregnant women who turn up murdered. The partner, Jairo, a sexy young Latino who has a wife and kids, has a crush on David. As the two work together, the case unfolds into a situation that involves prostitution, human trafficking, and illegal arms sales to street gangs. If dealing with these issues weren’t bad enough, Jairo’s heavy flirtations become a constant distraction for David. And David, not as strong as he likes to think, is sorely tempted.
That occupies David’s days while his lover, Christopher Bellamere, does everything possible to make David comfortable at home. Chris and Dave have been together for four years, but can their relationship stand the test of Jairo trying to steal David away? And can David hold his relationship together long enough to solve the crime? David seems to be doing fine until he lets down his guard, and a moment of weakness threatens to blow his whole world away.
This is a tense, complex, well-written tale that focuses as much on the crumbling relationship between David and Chris as it does on solving the crime, which is as it should be. David and Chris are great characters, although I wish Chris could have had more page time to deepen his character another notch or two. The complexity of their relationship drew me into their world, and the fact that they are opposites kept me interested in their interactions. I was rooting for them all the way. Although I must say that there were places where the circumstances in the relationship seemed a bit contrived, but certainly not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story.
The writing is strong, gritty, and the procedural detail is top notch. Brown skillfully weaved together a tapestry of forensics and solid police work to create an interesting story, even as the complexity continued to grow far beyond my expectations. Yet, for all its complexity, there were few dropped threads, and the pace remained even with plenty of action and suspense that kept me turning pages.
This is the third of a series with David and Chris, and unfortunately I have not read the first two, but I was able to easily understand all the nuances of David’s work and home life. This book stands well on its own. My one complaint about this entertaining story is that I felt the resolutions, both for solving the crime and for David and Chris’s relationship, was too hastily wrapped up after such a long drawn out labyrinth of twists and turns. It felt a bit too easy, or perhaps I wanted the story to keep going longer.
Overall this is an engaging read that I highly recommend.
For the past three weeks I’ve been trying to finish everything on my plate so I can focus on a new screenplay that my script-writing partner and I have begun. I’m almost there. And because the script we are writing is a romantic comedy, one of the things I’ve been doing in my spare time is researching what makes romantic comedies different from other types of stories. And although I’m focused on screenwriting, the principles apply to novels and short stories as well.
So far I’ve found six distinguishing elements that separate romantic comedy from the rest of the field. They are:
1) The main character (Hero) must pursue some sexual or romantic interest. This sounds like a no-brainer, but a writer could decide to have the love interest be someone other than the hero. However, as with all successful stories, the most important character is the hero, with whom the reader or audience most strongly identifies with, and in romantic comedies it must be this character who is pursuing (or being pursued by) some compelling romantic desire. That’s what makes it a romantic comedy – the hero must desperately try to win (or win back) the affections of another character.
2) The hero must pursue an additional goal. Simultaneously chasing two or more goals (often goals at odds with each other) adds complexity and originality to the story, and also accelerates the pacing.
3) The characters are desperate to achieve their goals, and fight apposing conflicts with tenacity. They should never think they, or the situation, is funny. It must be deadly serious to them. Strangely enough, the comedy grows out of the hero’s pain and loss. The plots of the most successful comedies deal with cheating spouses, disease, physical abuse, humiliation, unemployment, suicide and death. The humor arises from the way the hero overreacts to these situations.
4) Although most romantic comedies almost never show actual sex, they are sexy. There is always lots of flirting, and the hero must confront his/her sexual desire. If the hero and love interest do slip into bed together, the audience must see everything leading up to that hot embrace before the bedroom door shuts in our face.
5) The plot resolves around a deception. For instance, the hero is pretending to be someone he’s not (Mrs. Doubtfire, Tootsie, The Birdcage), or is lying to his beloved about his feelings or intentions in order to pursue the relationship. Dishonesty is a necessary element to increase the conflict and humor, and also to force the hero to confront his/her inner conflicts and deceptions. Only by facing the truth about themselves are they able to arc into someone better.
6) It must have a happy ending, or if the hero doesn’t get the boy, the reader feels that the resolution is the most appropriate or satisfying ending for the hero.
Reviewed by Alan Chin Published by University of Nebraska Press Pages: 250
Blue Parker, the twenty-three-year-old foreman of a Wyoming ranch, has a secret crush on his ranch hand, Sam. The two cowboys are drawn to each other, and Blue makes plans to place Sam in a high-mountain cow-camp for the summer (ala Brokeback Mountain), thinking he will have Sam to himself in this idyllic getaway setting. But before he can act on his plan, Gilbert, a Native American who fancies himself a Two-Spirits (gay), draws a drunk Sam into a lewd dance at the local honky-tonk. The other cowboys begin to suspect Sam could be queer. The result is that Sam is later beaten to within an inch of his life in the alley behind the bar. Once Sam is released from the hospital, Blue moves Sam into his own cabin to care for the younger cowpoke. This move casts suspicion on Blue as well.
The events that unfold in that drunken night on the dance floor will drive Gilbert across the western states looking for his place in society, while Blue must choose between the home he loves and the man he loves, all the while the three men are bound on a second collision course.
This is very much a novel rooted in a place; it is literature of the modern American West. It deals with man’s relationship to the land, and the loneliness and hardship that land presses on him. But unlike most Western literature, Henderson does not evoke the stereotypical hero. There are no heroes in this story, only lonely men caught up in circumstances that leave them no choices. It boils down to men fighting between their place in society and their desires.
This is a story of love and hate, but also of finding your place. On the one hand, Blue and Sam’s love for their rugged western lifestyle, for the grandeur of the mountains, and for each other are both special and touching. But when they become ensnared in the politics and prejudices of an isolated ranching town, they become the target of blind hate. They must ultimately sacrifice one love for another.
In many ways I adored this book. The characters are richly drawn and deliciously complicated, and often I found the prose as beautiful as the settings being described. Henderson has an amazing talent for painting pictures and expressing feelings with words.
However, there in lies the rub. This book is not an easy read, mainly because the rich description is often too detailed. It slows the pacing to a crawl, going into minuscule detail about things that have little or no effect on the storyline. The other problem I had was that it wanders, which sometimes made it confusing. It’s mostly written in 1st person from Blue’s perspective, but it occasionally switches to 3rd person, other times in 1st person for other characters, and it slips into numerous back flashes that the narrator couldn’t possibly know about. Several times it bounced from a character’s past to imagined future, to present. If you’re looking for an easy, straight-foreword read, keep looking.
However, if you don’t care about switching narrators, want to read a damned good story and love to wallow in beautiful prose, then I can highly recommend Native.
For more information about this book and the author, press here. .
As most of you know, June is Pride Month. As many of you may NOT know, Untreed Reads Publishing has a special short story line entitled "Diversity" which showcases the best in short story writing from all minority groups whether it be LGBT, African-American, Latino, Native American, etc..
In honor of Pride Month, Untreed Reads' goal is to publish 30 brand-new LGBT short stories to the "Diversity" line, one each day. Submissions can cover any topic except erotica. We prefer short stories that have romantic elements to them, rather than stories that would be categorized specifically as romance. Mysteries, sci-fi, literature and horror are especially welcome.
All titles are subject to our regular submission and royalty guidelines, which can be found at http://www.untreedreads.com/?page_id=1039. All titles will be available for sale through the Untreed Reads website, Smashwords, AllRomance/OmniLit, Scribd.com, 1Romance (for those titles with romantic elements to them), Amazon and will be submitted to Sony, B&N and Apple. All will be heavily promoted as well. Short story titles must be 5,000 words or less. Flash fiction is also accepted. Also, just because we fill up all 30 days of spots does NOT mean we will automatically reject other stories. We may choose to publish them later in the line.
When submitting, please indicate "Diversity Submission" in your subject line. Deadline for submissions is June 10th.
As a gay man running an independent publishing house, I look forward to helping to shine a spotlight on all of the great writers out there!
I recently read a delightful book from Dan Stone called The Rest of Our Lives. I was so impressed by this author’s first novel that I contacted him to express my gratitude, and he agreed to let me interview him. The following is a result of that interview.
Q: When did you start writing?
I don’t remember exactly when my writing life began. My mother has poems saved from as early as second grade, but I was a skinny, high school bookworm trying to hide a southern accent and a spiritual and sexual identity crisis when writing became a way of life. Like so many who feel forced into hiding for one reason or another, writing became a way to be the me I was often too afraid to be except on the page.
Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?
I used to hear my minister father talk about his feeling that he had been ‘called’ to preach. He passed along to me a desire to find a place and a work in this world that was uniquely mine. It was presented as both a gift and a challenge to be called, to hear and to respond to any inner stirrings nudging me in a particular direction and toward a particular purpose. There was also a freshman (high school) English teacher who used to write comments/feedback in the journals she had us keep each week. It was the first really positive ‘objective’ feedback from a credible (non family) source and it really lit a fire under me.
Q: Who are the authors who most influence you?
This is a surprisingly difficult question. It depends on which ‘me’ (poet, novelist, essayist, etc.).we’re talking about and whether by “influence” you also mean “inspire”. If so, the list would include Emily Dickinson, Stephen Crane, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Edmund White, Mark Doty, Mary Oliver, Julia Cameron, Mercedes Lackey. I could go on and on . . .
Q: What’s the strangest source of inspiration you’ve found for a story?
Probably the cover of an International Male catalog.
Q: Your debut novel, The Rest Of Our Lives had two wonderful characters. What was the inspiration behind Colm and Aidan?
The Rest of Our Lives was born from my own lifelong love affair with romance and magic. In ways, I'm a typical Pisces dreamer, and the dream of an extraordinary, magical, enduring love is one I've been dreaming for as long as I can remember. As a gay man, I’m hungry for stories of love between men, particularly when they capture elements of my own experiences and dreams.
Q: The Rest of Our Lives, has garnered several excellent reviews and is a Lambda Literary Awards finalist. Can you tell us about the story?
The basic premise is that two male ‘elemental’ witches (each able to command/control the element of fire or water/ice, respectively, meet and fall in love only to discover that their relationship has been reincarnating for centuries, each time with a rather unhappy ending or outcome. The question is, what happens to them this time around? On one level it’s just a lighthearted, sweet love story about opposites attracting—one that I’ve carried around in my dreams for a long long time. It’s also about the intersection between magic and the ‘real’ world and about how we all struggle on some level with seeing ourselves as we really are and figuring out how we fit into a world that often doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Q: So, if you don’t mind sharing, would you tell us about your latest work in progress?
I have a children’s book I’m shopping around to publishers, a collection of poetry and short fiction scheduled for publication in the next year or so—and I’m working on a sequel to The Rest Of Our Lives.
Q: I’ve heard you’re a poet. Which do you prefer writing, poetry or prose?
I honestly hope no one ever makes me choose.
Q: Name a book or movie written by someone else that you wish you had written, and why that one?
Another hard question because there are so many. One would be Brokeback Mountain . . . (book and film) for its passion and intensity and tenderness—and heartbreak. Although I would’ve tried to find a way to get them together in the end ☺.
Q: You novel is hilarious. What’s the secret of writing good comedy?
Not trying to be funny, I think. Being real and honest. Know your characters inside and out. If they’re funny, you don’t have to do anything but let them be who they are.
Q: If you could offer one tidbit of advice for new writers, what would it be?
“Get out of your own way.” I somehow learned along the way that writing works best for me when I’m not trying so hard to make something happen. It’s a process of receiving and allowing as much or more than anything else for me. I trust that ideas will come and if I stop struggling with them, and let myself enjoy the process, I’ll almost always like what—or who—shows up.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I cherish time with family and friends. Love movies and music. Beaches. Good food. Tennis when weather permits. Sleep.
Q: Had you not become an accomplished writer, what other occupation would you have most liked to tackle?
I do other things (teach, coach, etc.) but I do also fantasize about being a singer/dancer/actor—or a pro tennis player. Or a wealthy philanthropist . . . Or maybe a gay male Ghost Whisperer . . .
Q: Do you enjoy writing, I mean, do you find it fun?
I do now. I used to think of it very differently—as hard work that was never really finished. But my perspective has shifted dramatically. One of the best things that ever happened to me was learning that my best work is the work that feels most like play to me. I’ve loved what I do ever since.
Q: On your website, I came across something called The Shower Channel. What is that all about?
It’s about something I lightheartedly call ‘Danelling’ . . . a play on the word channeling, obviously. I truly believe we all have access to pretty infinite sources of wisdom via our “higher selves” or “inner being” or connection to Source or Spirit or God, etc. If we ask questions—about anything—answers are available if we just get quiet enough and really listen. It’s the same Source that I think what we call ‘inspiration’ flows through in all its incredibly diverse expressions. The Shower Channel is the name of my blog where I share responses from that connection to Source to some of my questions or questions others bring to me. As I say on my web site, it’s just me channeling “ME” . . . but it’s an elevated, more guided Me whose mind is clear, whose heart is open, whose eye is always on the wide horizon, and whose tongue is always slightly in his cheek.”
Q: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?
Not much. I dislike arrogance and narrow mindedness and cruelty but rage isn’t something I experience often. I joke that one of the reasons I never get seriously depressed or angry is that I’m too easily distracted. But I also just don’t embrace or feed those kinds of emotions if I can help it. It doesn’t serve me well. When I feel angry about something I notice it, try to understand what it’s about and what’s it teaching me and then release it as quickly as possible so I can get on with the joy that I really believe is the point of our journey here. That’s not to say I can’t be a real bitch at times or that I never get pissed off. I just try not to hang on to those feelings.
Q: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?
I don’t think I’ve really found it yet—either that or I just tend to take it with me wherever I go.
Q: Where can readers find more of your work?
I have links to samples of published writing on my web site: www.firstadream.com.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
Just a heartfelt thanks for this fun opportunity to talk about two of my favorite subjects (me and my work) ☺. It’s been a pleasure!
WED MAY 19, 2010 Smack Dab open mic hosted by Kirk Read and Larry-bob Roberts 8pm, open mic signup starts at 7:30
Danny Thanh Nguyen is the former fiction editor for the Indiana Review and recipient of the Omar S. Castaneda Fellowship in Fiction. His writing has most recently appeared in the magazines Hyphen, Watchword, and the Lambda Literary Award winning anthology The Full Spectrum. Danny received his MFA from Indiana University and teaches creative writing and bookmaking. He is one-third of the performance character DJ Berkley: The Worst (and Most Awesome!) Spoken Word Artist in the World.
All ages, all genders, all the time.
If you'd like to perform at the open mic, please bring five minutes of whatever you want to share. Musicians, one song. Prose writers: that's about two and a half double spaced pages of prose. We’re the friendliest open mic you’ll find but we pay attention to time so that nobody accumulates further open mic-related PTSD.
At Magnet, your neighborhood queer health center, 4122 18th Street between Castro and Collingwood. www.magnetsf.org
I’ve read two books in the last month that managed to capture my interest, get a good pace and story momentum going, and then introduce a number of lengthy flashbacks, which killed all forward movement, stalled momentum and introduced back-story that was not needed. When that happens I want to toss the damned book out the window.
In my humble opinion, the last thing a writer wants to do is stop the story’s momentum in order to introduce back-story. There are good reasons for doing so, but if you’re going to do it, make sure that it is absolutely critical because 1) back-story is seldom as interesting as the current storyline the reader is caught up in so you risk boring the reader, and 2) once you’ve stopped the storyline action to give back-story, it is very difficult to jumpstart that momentum once you come back to it. So the question is, how and when to introduce flashbacks.
Flashbacks are important. Generally, a writer wants to start a story as late in the action as possible. Sometimes s/he may want to start the story long after an event that is crucial to the storyline. So what do you do? You start the story later, but then have a flashback in order to present the needed event or back-story. But understand that you are taking the reader away from the story in order to give him/her background, and background is BORING, or at least not as interesting as the storyline.
So there are a couple of tricks to using flashbacks that help minimize the damage. First, flashbacks in the first half of a story are much less disruptive than the ones that occur late in the story, because at the beginning it is expected that the writer will present information with which to build the story on. As the story progresses, the pacing usually quickens, the momentum builds, and the reader wants to get to the end of the story to find out what happens. So if you halt the momentum near the end, you risk pissing off the reader. So always try to introduce back-story early.
Another tip is to keep the flashbacks as short as possible. Remember, you’re taking the reader away from the storyline, and the reader wants to find out what happens in the storyline. The longer you drag it out, the more you risk having a dissatisfied reader.
So my personal rules of thumb when it comes to flashbacks are: 1) Use them only to introduce information CRITICAL to the story. 2) Avoid using any in the second half of the story. 3) Keep them as short as possible.
Almost two years ago, I signed with a literary agent to find a publisher for my third novel, Match Maker. Over the course of 18 months, she sent the manuscript to ten different publishers, and received a rejection from each one. At the beginning of March she informed me that she was giving up, and that I was on my own.
At the time I was pretty upset with her. Not only for giving up, but that she only sent it to 10 publishers. I decided that, before I began looking for a publisher, I would give the manuscript another round of edit/polishing.
For the last 6 weeks, I’ve been polishing, and I’m amazed at the difference. It’s clear to me now that I was over confident and rushed to get a manuscript to print before it was ready. It’s also clear that I’m a better writer now that I was two years ago. But now, I believe the prose is as good as I’m capable of making it. It feels grand that I’m done with this novel, again, and that it is good work.
So starting tomorrow, I begin the task of finding a publisher.
I am a writer and literary critic. I write novels, short stories and screenplays.
I am the author of six published novels and three unpublished screenplays. You can read about all my pubished works at http://alanchin.net
I live and write half of each year at my home in Southern California, and spend the other half of each year traveling the globe with my husband, Herman Chin.