On Losing, Lammys and Pioneers

The month of May has come and gone, taking with it trips to
New Orleans for Saints and Sinners and to New York City for the Lambda Literary
Awards, which both Bill and I were nominated for. 

And lost.

We were, of course, momentarily disappointed. How lovely it
would have been to hold one of those beautiful Plexiglass books with our names
etched into it, making speeches and having our pictures taken repeatedly. But
at the same time, awards bring pressure—an unnecessary but inevitable adjunct
of success. To get a Lammy for our first book right out of the box might have
stalled or wrecked our careers. Where do you go from there?

Being nominated as a finalist (Bill for A Twist of Grimm
and me for Tented: Gay Erotic Tales from Under the Big Top) was just the
right accolade at the right time. It’s better to have something to look forward
to than to look back on. And we were truly thrilled to have been nominated

However, I was less than thrilled at the remarks of Pioneer
Award recipient Edward Albee. “Any writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must
be able to transcend self,” he stated. “I am not a gay writer—I am a writer who
happens to be gay.” This smacks of shrill and somewhat bitter defensiveness. If
Albee is not a gay writer, why is he accepting a Pioneer award from an
organization that celebrates gay writing? And why is that organization honoring
someone who does not identify as a gay writer?

There were plenty of other gay writers in the audience who
would have been thrilled to have been honored in such a fashion; writers who
have done what Albee has not—use their unique queer viewpoint to illustrate and
illuminate what it means to be gay. We tell the stories of our community so
that others may recognize and celebrate themselves. We tell our stories to add
to the common store of knowledge that everyone—gay and straight—can draw upon
for a larger understanding. And we tell our stories because no one else can. No
one else will—including writers who “happen to be gay.”

Far more affirming was the other Pioneer Award speech given
by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid, who reminisced about growing up in a
small Scottish town where there were no lesbians. “They were a bit like
mermaids,” she said. “You knew they were out there but they were kind of
mythical.” And she ended by saying she writes “so we don’t have a generation of
wee lassies growing up in small Scottish towns asking ‘what’s a lesbian?’” 

Now that’s a pioneer.  

But now May is over. The suits are at the dry cleaners, the
ties are noosed up on the rack, and the pictures have been downloaded. My
favorite memories? God, there are so many—being at the awards ceremony with
Steve Berman and the Lethe Press crowd, hugging handsome David Pratt after his
win for Bob The Book, hanging out in Chelsea with Bill and Mark Jordan
and Ron Suresha, late night drinking with Randy Thomas and his partner Fred,
feeling the ghosts in the Chelsea Hotel and absorbing the beautiful grime of
NYC.

It’s just enough to tide me over until next year.

JW

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