Thursday, April 26, 2012

Isn't It Romantic?

I'm swooning. It's only days after the illustrious Bay Area Lambda Literary Finalists reading at the San Francisco Public Library, with a freshly-opened Harry Hay exhibit (curated by Joey Cain) across the hall. Each reader had a brief few minutes to share their work, and it was a fascinating variety of categories and styles.

And today, Lambda Lit contributor Dick Smart included Every Time I Think of You in an April roundup review of books by Felice Picano, Elliot Mackle and Marshall Thornton.

Here's an excerpt: "Provenzano’s sweet humor throughout the book is what makes it such a moving and satisfying read. While he certainly brings the reader to a deeper understanding of being differently-abled, he never resorts to preaching his message. These boys are too real for that."

Plus, I've finally saved up enough to be able to go to the Lambda Literary Awards in New York City! Among the celebs will be Armistead Maupin, Kate Millet, Olympia Dukakis and Charles Busch. It'll also be fun to see iconic drag divas Lady Bunny and Lypsinka, who will be among the stellar entertainers at the awards and after-party.

It may sound insincere coming from red carpet celebrities, but just being a finalist is a great honor. This is all the fruit of more than a year of staying in most nights and weekend days to pound away at the computer as my fictional "boys" Reid and Everett unspooled their odd little romance from my mind and through my fingers.

So what the heck does Lady Bunny have to do with gay literature? You'd be surprised. One of my favorite stories is the day Bun stopped by the offices of OutWeek back in 1990 or so. The radical gay weekly (where I worked as an assistant, then a writer, then an editor) was a sponsor of Wigstock, and as a thank you, one day Bunny dropped off a big bag of wigs! Imagine Michelangelo Signorile, Sarah Pettit, Dale Peck, Andrew Miller, Gabriel Rotello and a bunch of other staffers like me -who all went on the other accomplishments- each of us trying on wigs!

The NYC visit will be nostalgic, but probably more shocking to see the changes. It's separate from my Kickstarter campaign to fund research for the sequel to Every Time I Think of You. I'm more than 60% towards getting that project funded. Since I'm working on some deals with the expenses, I can hopefully forward the funds to production and publicity efforts for the sequel, something I sort of scrimped on with the first book.

But even if the Kickstarter effort doesn't work out, I'm determined to go ahead with the project. I've also booked a reading June 1 at my favorite (still existing) bookstore, Giovanni's Room.

The historic store will also feature in the sequel, since it existed in the early 1980s. Back when I did an East Coast reading tour for PINS, my reading there was met with a nice group of fans, many from the local wrestling team, and it was my birthday, a sweet review in The Advocate had just been published (penned by author John Weir, no less), and it snowed!

This time around, I hope to meet with people who lived in Philly during the early 1980s, as well as visit archives, libraries, and points of interest. The prolific Felice Picano will be reading at Giovanni's Room the next night, so we'll get to hang out again.

Along with being one of the pioneers of modern gay publishing, Felice was the first author to blurb me! He wrote the first blurb for PINS more than a decade ago.

So, it's all coming around full circle, in a way. But at the same time, it's all new.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Words' Worth

What is a writer worth? Apparently, to some, not much.

On the same day that gay readers heard about the shuttering of Out magazine, and possibly its until-now tandem older publication, The Advocate, San Franciscans were shocked to hear of a deal made to sell the SF Bay Guardian to The Examiner, which itself is owned by Canadian investors.

What will be the fate of The Guardian's writers and staff? More important, what will become of its progressive editorial focus when it's owned by the Hearst Corporation, a business mired in decades of dubious editorial policies? (see Citizen Kane).

Imagine the befuddlement of an editor (possibly Steven Buel, according to SFist) who moved from one publication to another, only to discover that it's been sold to yet another?

But what of the value of writing for LGBT media? According to Queerty, "Out‘s parent company, Here Media (a subsidiary of Regent Entertainment), has faced financial hardships in the past, with freelancers claiming invoices had gone unpaid and a fraud lawsuit against Regent still outstanding."

Here Media spokesman Mark Umbach told Capitol Media in an email: "The company continues to make great strides in paying down its contributors and liabilities. As a common business practice we do not comment on any pending litigation."

Those hired for editor Aaron Hicklin's next project, the preposterously titled Grand, will enjoy "flexible hours and the opportunity to work on other projects in the Grand stable, but not full-time salaries or benefits."

So, selling off the boat while you still owe the crew seems to be the only option in a historically mismanaged takeover that sank one or two of the largest gay publications in the English language. And now, maybe, just maybe, some of the staff will be re-hired elsewhere on a contract (i.e no benefits or salary security) basis. Congrats!

Having worked for a free newspaper for nearly twenty years, I've often felt that my work is taken for granted, but not at all by my employers. In the older days of The Advocate, however, I worked hard to get several feature assignments and got paid well. Unlike most other LGBT publications, The Bay Area Reporter always pays its writers, and the checks don't bounce.

The same cannot be said of others, specifically another local publication, The San Francisco Bay Times. I've gotten into a pleasant groove of editing and writing up the listings for the BAR's new monthly nightlife mini-magazine, BARtab SF. Of the hundreds of events' press releases sent to me, I carefully decide on which events to include, and endeavor to provide succinct and accurate listings. The end goal is to make having fun and participating in local culture easy and fun.

So why should I have been surprised, in this pervasive atmosphere of denigrating content makers, when I discovered that for weeks, dozens of my listings were copy-pasted into the Bay Times and falsely represented as their own content?

Yep; blatant plagiarism from a lesser paper with suspect distribution, and one that for years owed many writers money (and possibly does to this day).

Gee, Betty. Why not just put me on your masthead? Maybe I should just send an invoice for services rendered.

And in the world of gay fiction - my little corner of the writing universe - a revolution of cheapness has been growing for years. completely unrelated to my level of writing, but still "worth" mentioning: The Pulitzer committee has decided that there are no novels published in 2011 worth their award. Yes, for the first time in 35, according to Lambda Literary Review, they're just not that into ...anyone. "That the Pulitzer committee did not finish the task they were given is a slap in the face to the three finalists as well as to the other nominees," writes Victoria Brownworth (who's also a BAR contributor).

It seems that this year, even the greatest works are just not worth the judges' time and effort.

A small novel, despite award nominations and critical acclaim, doesn't stand a chance in rankings on against the endless volley of erotica that's dispensed like Pez. Take a look:

Do any of these books resemble literature? No. And yet, because they're so cheap, so obvious in their below-the-belt content, they outsell other books by merit of their sheer volume and lower price.

What effect does all this have overall? It represents the simultaneous denigration and abundance of writing, or to paraphrase a scathingly critical book's title, the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle.

Hundreds of people downloaded the Kindle edition of my new book, and others with Amazon Prime continue to do so. Yet how many of those hundreds bothered to even click a like or a review? Very few.

Some consumers, in their haste to acquire anything and everything, are even snapping up knockoffs of bestsellers, and isn't doing much to stop it.

"Karen Peebles, author of a Girl With The Dragon Tattoo copycat book, told Fortune magazine that she has self-published around 10,000 books through Amazon's CreateSpace tool, some of which are under an alias. "I am a single mother who home schools her children," Peebles said, who added that she sells "thousands and thousands" of books a month. "Self-publishing is a great way for me to make income. I receive a pretty nice royalty every month."

No doubt included in Peebles' "home-school" curriculum is How to Be a Rip-off Artist 101.

Similarly, since the release of the Kindle edition of my books, I've been forced to hunt down potential bootleg copies being offered on websites like stolen porn. And guess what? After I'm dead, and the copyright for my books runs out, they'll all be free.

Fortunately, I'm one of those lucky schlubs who gets paid, usually. But despite this, I have the audacity to request financial support for a book I haven't even finished writing yet.

And for many amazing Kickstarter projects, it's happening; not through a buyout or a corporation, but hopeful supportive individuals who believe in the value of good writing. It's far from perfect. Amazon Payments and Kickstarter each take 5%, adding up to the same as an average agent's fee.

But people subverting the corporate system, or subverting it by getting the best use of it, are getting their chance. And fans are supporting them where it counts, with dollars. Hopefully, you're one of those previous few.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Okay, how about a sequel?

But first, I need to do some research, and this is where you can help!

After seeing several colleagues and artists do this successfully, I decided to create a Kickstarter campaign.

Why? Because I want to make a sequel to Every Time I Think of You that's accurate, informed and -while fictional- recreates a specific time and setting with honesty.

Check out the campaign HERE.

UPDATE: 7 backers have joined in! I'm very psyched about this. Of course, I'm going to do the research trip either way, but helping me out will keep me out of debt! I'm also working on accommodation deals so I can forward Backer funds to production and promotion of the book.

What does that mean? It means I can buy more wholesale advance copies when the book's finished, and send more review copies in 2013, and get more notice for the book.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jim Provenzano - Radio Interview on stonewall Live - April 12

Just a reminder: Listen in to my live (then archived) online interview with host Nate Klarfeld, on Stonewall Live! Thursday, April 12, 9pm Eastern; 6pm Pacific Time.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lambda Lits Out Loud

Tuesday, April 24!

Join Bay Area LGBT authors in a group reception and reading event celebrating finalists in the 24th annual Lambda Literary Awards.

Confirmed readers include:
Ryan Van Meter (If You Knew Then What I Know Now, Gay Memoir/Biography)
Daphne Gottlieb (15 Ways to Stay Alive, Lesbian Poetry)
Justin Chin (98 Wounds, Gay Debut Fiction)
Tirza T. Latimer (Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories, LGBT Nonfiction)
Jan Steckel (The Horizontal Poet, Bisexual Nonfiction)
Malinda Lo (Huntress, LGBT Children’s/Young Adult)
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Love Cake, Lesbian Poetry)
Jim Provenzano (Every Time I Think of You, Gay Romance)
Lara Fergus (My Sister Chaos, Lesbian Debut Fiction)

San Francisco Public Library
Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room A & B
100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, California 94102
5:00 pm Reception - 6:00 pm Reading

Here's the Facebook Event Page for the SF Public Library event. Please do RSVP!

Here are other U.S. (and Canadian) events.

Can't attend? Listen in to my live (then archived) online interview with host Nate Klarfeld, on Stonewall Live! Thursday, April 12, 9pm Eastern; 6pm Pacific Time.

While looking up links for fellow finalists, I found this amazing and deservedly praised book trailer for Ryan Van Meter's memoir. It's not a trailer, it's a short film!

If You Knew Then What I Know Now, essays by Ryan Van Meter from Sarabande Books on Vimeo.

See/listen to more Vimeo videos of more than 70 authors, posted by Lambda Lit.