Saturday, October 25, 2008


Can't wait til he's Pres! Now, I'm really taking the break I keep claiming I'm going to. See ya'll November 4!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Like freaks and geeks?

If you liked Paul Fieg and Judd Apatow's short-lived but critically acclaimed series Freaks and Geeks, then chances are you will enjoy Kate Evans's new novel, For the May Queen. Peppered with nostalgic homages to the late seventies and early eighties, this debut novel follows lost but liberated Norma Rogers through her freshman year at Sacramento State.

Norma comes from a loving home, not unlike the Brady Bunch's quirky suburban enclave (sans four siblings and a maid), yet her sense of self is fragile at best. Fresh from reading her mother's copy of Fear of Flying, Norma shows up at her freshman dorms ready to put her sexual liberation into practice. She quickly falls into a rabbit hole of recreational drugs and bed-hopping, leaving little time to actually attend classes.

At times, I wanted to reach into the pages of Evans's book and stop Norma from climbing on top of yet another nearly anonymous partner. When Norma finally finds "somebody to love," (Queen lyric reference intentional), he remains painfully elusive and Norma must confront the question at the center of the novel: If no one loves me, then who am I?

I might have hated Norma if I didn't identify so much with her college-years angst, teenaged lack of self esteem, misplaced belief in empowerment through sexuality, and her desire to be defined by someone, anyone.

But Evans brings Norma's growing sense of self along nicely, giving the reader the satisfying feeling that Norma just might make it after all, while never giving in to the temptation to give her heroine the happy ending you might expect from a first time novelist. Instead, the happy enough ending Evans gives us satisfies even more.

And though the themes in the book are deceptively dark, Evans keeps the tone of the novel light, weaving in pop culture references that are spot on reminders of times gone by--some we remember fondly, and some that we'd rather forget.

--Anne J. Paris

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A little break in the break

Yes, I'm on a bit of a blogging break, but I had to slip in for a few reasons:

1. I heard about a tee-shirt that reads: Barack "Who's Sane" Obama. Perfect, yes?

2. I'm going to hear Kay Ryan, the Poet Laureate live tonight! It'll be interesting to see if she says anything about politics.

3. A new interview with me about the writing process was just published over at Editeyes.

Until soon,

Monday, October 20, 2008

See ya on the flip side

Atlanta rocked. What a festival. For more about it, check out Collin's blog. I full-on agree with him about what he says about Kate Bornstein. She's incredible. The memoir she's working on (she read a few pages from it) is going to be amazing. She writes about her 16 years as a Scientologist (when she was a man) and whee, what a trip. Now Kate doesn't identify as a man or a woman, per se. Her most recent book, which I read on the plane on the way home, is amazing. It should be required reading for all 15 year olds.

I'm taking a little break from blogging, facebooking, myspacing, etc. etc. so I can focus on my writing. I'll be back in a few weeks to celebrate the election of President Obama.

In the meantime, in the words of Elvis, don't be cruel. Follow Kate Bornstein's one rule: don't be mean. I like that. Try to be kind to one another, even when you feel like ripping someone's head off. I'll try to follow my own advice. I want to be anti-war not only in my politics but in my heart.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Day 3 of AQLF

Here's a picture of the fabulous Dustin Brookshire and me the first night of AQLF. Today's the third day of the festival. Collin just took me out to lunch during his lunch break. It's raining today so I'm laying low this afternoon until tonight's events.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

For the May Queen video


Another day at AQLF in Atlanta ... I went to Emory University with Mark Doty and Franklin Abbot.  Gorgeous campus.  Mark did a great workshop that got me thinking about some aspects of my childhood in new ways.  He reminded me that memory is so mine-able there's no end to its riches.

Tonight was a fabulous reading at a great queer bookstore downtown, Outwrite Books, featuring Sister So Am I (one of the founding members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; wow, what a moving blast of history), the YA writer Alex Sanchez, marvelous poet and all-around great guy Dan Vera, and Paul Lisicky, who read a piece about his mother's dementia that moved me deeply.

Afterward, I went with a group  of these guys to a great pub.  It was 8 gay guys and me, my kind of night.  I love being the token lesbian mascot.
I wore my "OBAMA:  This Time I Want a Smart President" tee-shirt today, and Mark wore his that said "Polar Bears for OBAMA."  

It's great to be here but I miss Annie.  Wish she were here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Howdy from Atlanta

Collin picked me up at the aiport last night and promptly took me to a very cool 50-something-year-old diner for delicious greasy food. We stayed up late talking about high school sex and reading to each other some of our recent writing.

Now I'm at a computer in the common area of Collin's huge apartment complex. It's a lot like living in a huge hotel.

Today Collin had to go to work, so I walked all around Mid-town Atlanta. Went to the Carter Center and Presidential Library. It was phenomenal. So many exhibits, lots of videos, etc. It was inspiring to be in the midst of the life work of a President whose main interest was in promoting peace and human rights. What a striking and distressing contrast to what we have now.

I also walked around an area called Little Five Point, a neighborhood that has lots of funky stores, tye-dye, art, health food ... my kind of place. I had a great berry smoothie. It was warm with a bit of a breeze, probably low 80s.

Now I'm going to take a nap then shower and dress. Tonight's my speech. Afterward Collin and I will come back to his place and watch the debate, which he's recording. Should be fun to watch it with him since he's so funny. Maybe we'll riff on some jokes together that will appear on his blog.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Trying to unbake the cake

McCain's calling his hateful constituents on their ignorant, vengeful, racist comments about Obama is like someone trying to unbake a cake. And he and Palin are the chefs.

It's extremely disconcerting to see how much hate is out there and how easy it is to whip up a furor, or Fuhrer. And it's notable how McCain didn't refute the notion that being an Arab is a horrible thing. Instead he said Obama's a decent man--implying no Arab could be.

The only light in this dark situation is that the hate seems to be backfiring. Recent polls show Obama with a double-digit lead in some areas and with a 4 point lead nationwide.

Funny how shit runs downhill ... now a bi-partisan panel has found that Palin broke the law, abusing her power as governor. That's what you get when you don't vett a maverick. I wonder if this means that SNL will uninvite her to their October 25 show?

In the face of all the political brouhaha I almost didn't see this amazing development: same sex marriage has been ruled legal in Connecticut! Three states down, 47 to go.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Interview with Patricia Harrelson, author of Between Two Women

I met Patricia Harrelson four years ago at the East of Eden Conference. We immediately hit it off but didn't stay in touch much until our paths crossed again recently.

Since then, I've read her new book, Between Two Women: Conversations about Love & Relationship. It's a lyrical, haunting memoir structured, in great part, as a conversation between two lesbians who've led very different lives.

The memoir tells the story of 51-year-old Patricia falling in love with a woman for the first time. The book also illuminnates some very important history of lesbian life in the mid-20th century by exploring the memories of Carol, a lesbian in her 70s. The weaving together of these two stories makes for rich and captivating reading. It's an important book in many ways. And it asks a question of the human condition: what happens to us and those around us when we change?

I asked Patricia a few questions about the book and her life.

Why did you decide to write BETWEEN TWO WOMEN with the focus on "Conversations"? Was this a structure you discovered as you were writing, or did you decide on it in advance?
I definitely discovered the structure as I was writing. I started the work as a long personal essay describing my initial encounter with Carol and an audiotape that she gave me to transcribe. The tape was such an abbreviated account of her life that I asked if we could meet so I could interview her to delve more deeply into the rich story lines. Each time we met, I record our conversations then went home and transcribed the tapes.

Why did you decide to juxtapose your coming-out story with Carol's life story?
When I was transcribing the tapes, I found that my own story kept getting tangled with hers. I began to realize the degree to which I was trying to make sense of the monumental change in my life by exploring the story of her life. In a way, the memoir arose from trying to transcribe her oral history.

In the book, you refer to many different writers who have influenced you. How important was literature to your coming-out process, and why?
My first inclination when faced with ANY question is to turn to books and that is exactly what I did when I fell in love with Cindy. I think reading writers like Adrienne Rich, Dorothy Allison, Eloise Klein Healy, Audre Lorde and Esther Newton gave me a framework for understanding my experience and the coming out process. I felt both awed by their voices and grateful for the words they'd committed to the page. I'd say literature was a critical component in understanding the magnitude of the step I'd taken and gave me firm ground upon which to stand.

Have you met many other women who have come out at age 50 or beyond? How do you think that experience differs from someone who comes out earlier in life?
Surprisingly, at the same time as I fell in love with Cindy, there were three other women in my community who were over 50 who left marriages to live with women lovers. That's four women in a small rural community which seems significant to me. I was casually acquaintanted with each of these women, two of whom I have since come to know better. In discussing our "coming out," it seems to me that our experiences are more similar to one another than they are to women who came out earlier in life. However, I don't believe I could give a quick, clear, or definitive response regarding how the difference in timing compares though I do attempt to explore those differences in my conversations with Carol.

Do you still see Carol regularly? How is she doing?
Carol, who is now 78, still lives alone. I call her every three or four days and visit her about once a week. Along with advancing age, she is dealing with diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, but she gets a lot of help from three of her former lovers who live nearby and from her huge network of friends. She continues to go to a fitness class twice a week and she enjoys promoting the book and calling me with orders for more copies.

Has your relationship with your ex-husband and children changed in any way since the end of the story in the book?
My ex-husband and I continue to see each other regularly. We parent and grandparent as a unit when the occasion demands and have a yearly coffee date on the anniversary of our separation. He has remarried, and his new wife and I have developed a warm friendship. I also have a terrific relationship with one son and his wife. Two of my kids share a significant ideological (religious) difference regarding my relationship with Cindy. However, we have come to a reasonably comfortable place of interaction. We basically have agreed to disagree and we tiptoe around the issue very carefully. I don't know if those differences will be resolved in my life time, but I wanted my perspective available for my grandkids should they ever want to know, and I think the book accomplishes this.

How did your ex-husband and children react to the book? Did you share parts of it with them as you wrote, or did you spring it on them at the end--and why?
I did not share parts of the book with my family as I wrote it. They knew I was writing a book, but it was not something we talked about. With two of the kids it, the topic was something steered away from in general. I offered the manuscript to my husband when it was completed, but he said he'd wait until it was a book. Since the publication, he and his wife have read the book and our discussions have been nothing short of remarkable—confirming and insightful. My children have NOT read the book, though one of my sons helped finance the publication and came to the book launch. His wife is mentioned in the acknowledgements as one of the readers of a late version of the manuscript.

How did your partner Cindy react to the book? Did you share parts of it with her as you wrote, or did you spring it on her at the end--and why?
Cindy was audience for every single word I wrote. I read sections and chapters aloud to her as I worked and revised. When I felt I had a final draft, I read the whole book to her. She is a very fine critic—encouraging, insightful, and sensitive. I trusted her instincts about many issues I faced during the writing. There were parts of the book that felt scary to her in terms of the degree of self-disclosure. We talked at length about this and she helped me make decisions about what to include and what not to include.

What are you working on now?
When I retired from teaching, I started a freelance writing business which has taken a lot of my writing energy. In addition to writing for several local businesses (newsletters, fundraising letters, web content) and two online educational sites, I write theater reviews for the local newspaper. I just started ghostwriting a non-fiction book on modern women inventors for a woman who did some fantastic research but doesn't have time to pull the book together. And I have another memoir/oral history project in the works, collecting the stories of local family practice doctor who recently retired. He was the doctor who delivered all of my babies and most of my children's babies and attended my parents' death beds. His kind of doctoring is fast fading and I think his is a story that needs telling in the midst of the current health care crisis.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?
I want to thank you Kate for your encouragement and support as a lesbian writer and teacher. You appeared at the perfect moment in my life and I was simply astounded by your generosity of spirit and good will.

Listen to Patricia this Thursday, October 9, on Woman-Stirred Radio.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Atlanta Queer Lit Fest Ready to Make History

From AQLF (Atlanta, GA, 10/01/08)--

"The 2nd Annual Atlanta Queer Literary Festival will be held October 15-18, 2008. The event--one of only two queer-specific literary festivals in the nation, both of which are in the South--will feature readings, workshops, signings and theatre by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning authors, poets, playwrights and related artists. Confirmed participants this year include Kate Bornstein, Mark Doty, Kate Evans, Daphne Gottlieb, Ed Madden, Dan Vera, Blair, and Alex Sanchez. The festival's main venues are Charis Books & More, OutWrite Books, The Atlanta-Fulton County Central Library, the Ponce de Leon Branch Library and EyeDrum.

Also new this year is the festival’s affiliation with the internationally renowned Larry Corse Prize for Playwriting, including a four-night run of the winning comedy, Skin Deep, written by Rich Orloff and directed by Larry Corse. Out of 150 submissions from eleven nations, Orloff won the $1,000 prize for a play about a straight Ohio couple that inherits a clothing-optional resort in Key West from their gay son. A visit by the couple to claim the place turns worlds upside down. The play will be staged at the First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta.

All events are open to the public, and all events are free with the exception of $10 tickets to the play, Skin Deep. Please find the complete schedule up on the festival website, and on the second page of this press release.

There is only one other festival in the U.S. dedicated specifically to advancing the work of queer writers--The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. The festival organizers have learned a lot from that Deep South neighbor and are returning to their own festival preparations with bolder ambitions for this second year, including a broad range of invitations to nationally recognized and award-winning writers with a strong emphasis on the diversity of participants. Atlanta has an opportunity to be the flagship for queer literature in the U.S., and the festival board is proud to serve their community by ushering in a new era in the literary life of the city.

In addition to the venues listed above, festival sponsors include: Emory University, PD Publishing, The Paideia School, The Galloway School, and Southern Voice."

Check out the complete schedule here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It has arrived! And so have my cojones ... I mean ovarios.

I'm holding my new book!!!

Amazing how I can type at the same time, huh?

It is now very real to me that For the May Queen is out in the world. And wow, it looks great! Vanilla Heart Publishing puts out a quality product. The fonts are like buttah, and the book feels great in my hand.

Annie and I were on campus late last night and when we walked in the door, this:

was on the table. Annie had snuck home during the day and bought me a congratulatory bouquet. I felt celebrated and very, very lucky.

Speaking of my sweetie, today I was at the grocery store filling up our water bottles.

A guy approached me and said: "Is it that water that keeps you so beautiful?"

I laughed and said, "Oh, must be."

Him: "I saw you from over there and wondered who that beautiful blonde was."

Me: "Well that's very nice of you. I'll take the compliment."

Him: "Does your husband drink this water too?" (That's right up there as one of the worst pick-up lines of all time.)

Me: "I don't have a husband." Dramatic pause. "I have a wife." (That's the first time I've used that word to a stranger to describe Annie. I usually say "partner" ... or that I'm a "lesbian." I realized there was a certain power to saying "wife." Perhaps it gave him less of a fetish image to feed from than "I'm a lesbian" might.)

Him: "Huh?"

Me: *smile*

Him: "You're kidding me, right?"

Me: "No. Really. We've been together 14 years and we just got legally married."

Him: "When?"

Me: "July."

Him: "Wow. Okay. Well, you just can't tell anymore who's gay."

Me: "So true."

Him: "Well. Ah. Hm. You can't even tell with guys anymore."

Me: "I know!"

Him: "Okay, well, good luck on your marrage."

Me: "Thanks!"