Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Make Good Art"

"The rules, the how-tos, the supposed-to-do-nexts are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen." - Neil Giaman, bestselling author, whose commencement speech (video below) should inspire anyone who wants to create.

In my case, it's writing. I get occasional requests from would-be writers who beg for advise on "how to succeed" like I have. I sometimes have to laugh, because my "success" is purely based on failure.

Gaiman's writing included a typo of the name Caroline which led to his innovative story Coroline. He mentions this in his speech about rejection. My first book, PINS, thankfully, was rejected by 56 editors and agents. I was forced to publish it myself, and because of that, I started a small business, learned so much about publishing. The secrets were revealed, and I made a hundred times more on it than if I had received the usual advance in those days.

My latest book, Every Time I Think of You, was a dare to myself, an impulse based on a series of dreams. I didn't follow the standard advise, "write what you know." I wrote what I didn't know at all. I made stuff up. I did real research, of course. But I let the story tell me where to go.

And here I am, two weeks away from taking a cross-country trip to research the book's sequel in Philadelphia, do a reading at the historic Giovanni's Room, and attend an awards ceremony in New York City, because these adorable boys, Reid and Everett, want to continue their journey.

And while it may sound insincere to say that I don't care if I win that award (I'd love to, actually!), I know I've already won. I wrote a book purely on impulse, purely out of the love of telling a story, not second-guessing the market or double-thinking an industry.

"The old rules are crumbling," says Gaiman.

One wonderful example is ceramic artist Dewey Arsee. I doubt anyone told him it was a good idea to make erotic coffee mugs and plates with guys humping and smooching. But he went ahead and made some of the most original, witty and sexy ceramic works I've seen in a long time.

I own one of those mugs, a gift from a friend. It shows two young men in tuxedos having a wank. In a perfectly naughty world, that might be the cover of my second novel, Monkey Suits.

That's a novel a bunch of other editors said wasn't good enough. It wasn't better than PINS. But I didn't care. I wrote it before PINS, and it shows. But I had written it, I wanted to share it, and did.

Have I made good art? Certainly not on the scale of Gaiman, but enough to pay some bills, get some nice reviews, and feel, as I longed to do before I knew how, become a part of the world of literature.

So, the only advice to offer repeats Gaiman's statement. Don't fret about agents and PR and ebooks and all that, until you have made good art.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lambda Literary Award Reading: Bay Area Finalists

Listening to one's own voice can be a bit odd, but this is a good recording of my participation at the April 24, 2012 group reading by Bay Area finalists for this year's Lambda Literary Awards at the San Francisco Public Library. Thirteen authors read short excerpts of their works, ranging from fiction to poetry and scholarly works. It was quite a fascinating variety. Lambda Lit's Executive director Tony Valenzuela hosted.

We each had five minutes. I chose a 4.5-minute excerpt from Chapter Two of Every Time I Think of You.

Fortunately, my slightly silly comment about requesting finalist gold stickers was edited out. I didn't mean to be flip. I recall 23 years ago when I visited (the sadly now gone) Oscar Wilde Bookstore on Christopher Street and saw a row of books with the little gold stickers on their covers. They resembled Willy Wonka chocolate bars.

And with another reference that also parallels Johnny Depp (whose recent film characters include Wonka and Barnabas Collins), my excerpt's reference to the TV show Dark Shadows seems well-timed, what with his film version having just opened in cinemas.

Here are videos of the other Bay Area finalists.

Enjoy more literary readings at LitSeen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


“Over the course of several years, as I talked to friends and family and neighbors. When I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I about those soldiers or airmen or Marines, sailors, who are out their fighting on my behalf yet feel constrained, even now that don’t ask don’t tell is gone, because they’re not able to commit themselves in a marriage; At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

- President Barack Obama

ABC News

source: Huffington Post