Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Past Deadlines: Journalism and/or Fiction

Mark Segal, Jim Provenzano at NLGJA 2015
Don't quit your day job, the general advice goes for aspiring authors. And I've mostly taken that to heart. Because I've found that having regular deadlines for work writing helps with personal deadlines for your book writing. But since I've been more than a month in finishing this blog post, I'll err on the side on inconsistency. I've been busy doing a lot more writing!

The back story: a month ago, I moderated a panel at the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association's LGBT Media Summit. the organization holds annual conferences, and celebrated 25 years over Labor Day Weekend. 

While my membership and attendance have been spotty (I mostly have attended when it was local, or nearby), I did attend the first convention, held in San Francisco. Those were different times, journalistically speaking. 

From the now antiquated technical issues of sending stories (floppy discs, faxes!) to the expansion, and now reduction of LGBT media, I was lucky enough to have a variety of freelance jobs, and an evolving job with the Bay Area Reporter since I moved to San Francisco 25 years ago.

At the same time, I wrote novels, or tried to. PINS wasn't published until 1999, but the eight years it took to finish it included a lot of research on such topics as wrestling, the juvenile justice system (particularly in New Jersey, which led to the title) and even the terrain and names of businesses and towns where the novel is set. 

So, in the same way that a well-written news or arts feature needs research, my fiction often does the same.

My latest novel, Message of Love, had a similar pattern, but it felt easier this time. Researching the vast array of topics –Philadelphia in the 1980s, disability facts, geography and a lot more– was exciting and pleasurable to discover a world, and events that worked (or didn't) with my story.

Randy Alfred honored at NLGJA 2015
When the latest NLGJA convention came back to San Francisco this year, it was great to head downtown for a few days to the elegant Westin St. Francis Hotel to attend panels, luncheons, and a swanky closing party with a great panoramic view.

I got to get signed copies of books by a few colleagues, including Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal's memoir, And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality,  Tim Teeman's In Bed With Gore Vidal, and earlier that week, Tracy Baim's Barbara Gittings: Gay Pioneer

Along with participating in the authors reading series, I moderated a panel. I asked a few journalists (and an artist and instructor) who had also written very different kinds of books, to discuss their process between work as different kinds of writers, on the panel Page to Pages:

Author-Journalist panel members
Diane Anderson-Minshall, editor-at-large of The Advocate and editor-in-chief of HIV Plus Magazine. Her 2014 memoir Queerly Beloved, covers her relationship with her husband Jacob Anderson-Minshall through his gender transition.

Katie Gilmartin, a printmaker and art instructor whose Queer Ancestors Project includes a recent exhibit of artworks commemorating historic LGBT people. Gilmartin's mystery novel Blackmail, My Love, won a Lambda Literary Award this year.

David Swatling's debut novel Calvin's Head (a Lammy finalist) is set in Amsterdam, where he lived for several years. David also did radio programs and discussed whether that work aided his writing.

Prolific photojournalist and author Michael Luongo rounded out the panel, and shared tales of his world travels and how he differentiates between a more expansive feature and a news article.

But anyway, why don't I let them speak for themselves? Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim (who has also published several books; see link) kindly got a video of our panel (in two parts) posted on YouTube.

For more coverage of NLGJA, read the posts on Press Pass Q (also here).

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