Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Memoir passe?

On Woman-Stirred, Patricia Harrelson writes about the ways she struggled to get her memoir, Between Two Women, published. I've received virtually the same responses from agents and editors about my project:

* You are a talented writer [but] memoir has become a difficult genre to place.

* We found your memoir to be quite well done . . . but feel it would be a very tough sell to commercial publishers.

I never received the following comment, although the fact that Harrelson did makes me wonder if this has been a subtext of some of my rejections:

* We’ve just done a rash of lesbian memoirs so have to work on other things.

A RASH of lesbian memoirs? Where is this rash, on someone's face? It's certainly not in the market.

She also writes that she read an article in Writers' Digest about gay and lesbian writing in which an editor said that "[LGBT] Writers have little aptitude to be truly dangerous or daring." Hello? What about Edmund White? Rafael Campo? Dorothy Allison? Mark Doty? Jeanette Winterson? Les Feinberg? Marilyn Hacker? I could go on listing hundreds of these "anomalies."

And you know these are just the people who've been published. What about all the amazing, surprising stories other queer people have to tell? Saying the coming-out story is singular and overdone is like saying no straight love story has been necessary since Romeo and Juliet.

I do understand that sometimes the coming-out story takes a cliche tack. This is due to bad writing, though--not to the ridiculous (and probably homophobic or heterosupremacist) notion that there are too many queer books flooding the market.

Read the rest of Harrelson's entry to see everything she has tried to get her book out there.


Amanda Laughtland said...

Thanks for the link. Wow, what a frustrating story. And part of the problem, too, is that "LGBT" projects often emphasize the work of gay men, which reminds me that I was sad that the Lambda Lit Awards recently collapsed their gay and lesbian poetry categories into a single LGBT poetry category.

Collin Kelley said...

I wonder how Writer's Digest defines "daring and dangerous?" According to a number of presses, I went too far over the line with the relationship between the two young male characters and the school teacher who allows it to happen. I guess there is a fine line but I sure as hell don't know what it is.

winterizing said...

Collin, it was actually Kadushin, a gay man and editor of the Living Out Series at U of Wisconsin Press who said LBGT writers "have little appetite to be truly dangerous and daring." Like you, I wonder how he defines this and how he can know what is "truly" so for each writer or for each reader for that matter. If he had felt my knees shaking the first time I read publicly from my book, he would know that for ME it was TRULY dangerous AND daring, especially in my conservative rural community in which half of the audience was evangelical Christian.