Sunday, May 16, 2021

Writing as an excuse for not 'Writing'


While I'm very lucky to have been employed through the past year, the additional writing and editing assignments for my day job have somewhat overtaken my fiction writing. But here's why that's okay.

While following a lot of author blogs and advice posts on social media, I've had to come to terms with the timing of my seventh novel Finding Tulsa being released during a pandemic and the most contention presidential election in twenty years. The mild critical acclaim and lack of sales were predictable. People have been distracted by the pandemic and it's understandable. 

Like many authors I adjusted and did online chats and readings all of which you can find on my YouTube channel. The views, subscriptions and likes are always appreciated.

But it's also disappointing to have completed and published one of my better works so far and have it be either ignored or just get the occasional virtual pat on the back on social media posts promoting it. 


The important thing is that, like me, many of us have endured. Perhaps we've written about our situation amid the pandemic or even taken a dive into escapist forms of not writing about it.

Fortunately for me, the obligation of editing and writing many stories a week for my day job –yes, while mostly working from home– has kept my creative juices flowing. It's also improved my skills, not just writing, but editing for our website; deciding on photos and videos to use, and promoting hundreds of LGBTQ artists in visual media, film, comedy, theater and nightlife.

Possibly the most momentous aspect this year is the 50th anniversary of the Bay Area Reporter. I got to assign almost a dozen lengthy feature articles in different media in the arts and nightlife in the B.A.R.'s history that recounted the decades of journalistic accomplishments in the newspaper I've worked with on and off for 30 years. I even created a short video promoting the anniversary, and will produce monthly video chats with our writers, photographers and special guests, all viewable on the B.A.R.'s new YouTube channel.

My own personal essay is excerpted here, and you can read the full version on www.ebar.com. I talk about my early employment and changes in my duties from an assistant editor to a freelance sports columnist and, in the past year, due to some unfortunate staff cuts, being promoted to the Arts Editor as well as doing nightlife coverage.


It's been an amazing three decades, particularly when I think about that career day in junior high school where I said I wanted to be a writer (meaning books) and my misinformed English teacher said there were no novelists in my small town. So I ended up following a photojournalist that day and learned that it was a good entryway into learning how to write. That's proven to be a good recipe; having daily and weekly deadlines improves one's writing and is highly recommended. 

So here's an excerpt from my essay honoring the 50th anniversary of the Bay Area Reporter. Read more on the website, along with the many other anniversary features I assigned, plus News history articles.

Go West: How the B.A.R. brought me to California and halfway around the world, twice

With more than 900 articles penned for the Bay Area Reporter, I feel a strong connection as the newspaper celebrates its 50th anniversary this week. I've written columns, listings and reviews since 1992. Having assigned and edited the expansive features in this section, I thought to share some behind the scenes tales as well.

My career in journalism started in 1989 in New York City with OutWeek, the revolutionary weekly publication that emerged from ACT UP, Queer Nation, but didn't last long.

After a 1990 visit for the OutWrite literary festival, my second working visit to San Francisco was in early 1992, on a freelance assignment for Frontiers magazine to cover Ggreg Taylor's Lavender Tortoise bus trip to Reno. I got to witness the 'marriage' of 'Elvis Herselvis' Leigh Crow and Justin (not then Vivian) Bond.


Along my immersion course on wheels into the Bay Area's cleverest nightlife folks, I'd also brought a few resumes. While a Guardian editor offered me an internship (as if!), the B.A.R.'s publisher Bob Ross offered me a trial run to replace Mike Yamashita, who was compiling event listings and had a month's vacation planned. While my start as a San Francisco resident and B.A.R. reporter was initially tentative, my residence and the fill-in job became a permanent one.

From 1992 to 1994, along with assembling events with multi-colored fliers from Josie's Juice Joint and Theatre Rhino, I also typed up the BARtalk personals ads, a duty that revealed the varied desires of multiple anonymous San Francisco men. I revamped the listings to be more visual, assisting production guys Robert Dietz and Robert Hold in the drafty downstairs back room that sometimes smelled of Photostat chemicals and the burning waxer machine, still used for assembling printed-out 'boards' of the newspaper's pages. I'd also retrieve computer floppy discs and print-outs from visiting freelancers like Michael Botkin and Kate Bornstein.

I also had the more serious task of writing up handwritten obituaries, some of them of men I knew who had died of AIDS. I'd often have to call back surviving partners who'd omitted their own names.

Daily staff lunches were gossipy and fun, particularly with assistant editor Patrick Hochtel, advertising's David McBrayer, and assistant news editor Dennis Conkin. But the shining inspiration to me —for many others at the time, and years later— was the late Mike Salinas, the B.A.R. News Editor from 1992 to 1999.

Mike Salinas had been creator of Theater Week back in New York. He and I shared a love of Stephen Sondheim and other musical theater. His deft ability to create what he called 'the triple-entendre headline' was an inspiration, as was his focus on celebrating the community as well as critiquing it where deserved. He took no prisoners in his sassy responses to Letters to the Editor, a standard response being: "If you are dissatisfied with our publication, you may return it for a full refund."

Read more on www.ebar.com

Monday, April 19, 2021

Little Free Libraries and Giveaways


Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but I've been secretly donating copies of my first novel PINS at little public libraries around town. If you want a copy just let me know. When I shared this elsewhere, I was surprised by the response, and shipped off half a dozen signed copies.

If you want to pay for postage, I'll let you know how to send $3 (U.S.) 

I still have a box or two left from the old pre-print-on-demand days. You can read about the books history in my 20th anniversary blog post.

Of course, you could just buy a used copy online

But the gift is the point. It is fun to peruse the selections at little public libraries. I often donate other books, but wonder who among random browsers might be interested in my own.

Anyway, to get your copy, just follow me and contact me on any of my social media: 

https://www.instagram.com/jimprovenzano/

https://www.facebook.com/JimProvenzanoAuthor/

https://twitter.com/jim_provenzano

Read all the fabulous reviews on www.jimprovenzano.com

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Saints & Sinners Literary Festival online March 11-14; including my panel and reading

 

Literature online is now nothing new, but with an entire literary festival, from readings to panels, all online, the 18th annual Saints & Sinners LGBTQ Literary Festival, usually held in New Orleans, returns with a robust roster on March 11-14, and most events are free to the public. I’ll be participating with a panel on Memoir & Fiction, and as part of the reading line-up.

The virtual SASFest will include literary discussions, writing workshops, readings, and special events, all via Zoom or YouTube. While the convivial gatherings at previous SASfests at New Orleans restaurants and bars will be missed, the online version packs the talent with literary legends and acclaimed new writers. Literary panels and discussion topics include a wide array of genres: mystery, romance, young adult, poetry, memoir vs. fiction, and short fiction.

Since 2003, Saints + Sinners Literary Festival brings together the who’s who of the LGBTQ literary world. The Festival features panel discussions and writing workshops by authors, editors, and publishers for emerging writers and LGBTQ literature fans. 

Among the highlights are a discussion with the Literary Luminaries of the Violet Quill —Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, and Edmund White­–  and a discussion of Jewish Lesbian Literature and Activism with Elana Dykewomon, Judith Katz, Irena Klepfisz, and Michele Karlsberg

The Reading Series includes new voices and literary icons sharing their work including Meredith Doench, Cheryl Head, Michael Lowenthal, Daniel W.K. Lee, David S. Pederson, JD Scott, Tammy Lynne Stoner, and Sassafras Lowrey.

Also reading: the winners from the festival’s first annual poetry contest —Danielle Bero, Ezra Adamo, and Steven Riel and three contributors to the festival’s 12th annual short fiction contest: Colby Byrne, Lisa Hines, and Laura Price Steele. 

(from upper left) Farzana Doctor, Colby Byrne, Dorothy Allison, Bryan Washington (from lower left) Phil Gambone, Regie Cabico and Judy Grahn are just seven of the many authors participating in SASfest 2021.

A new addition to the Festival lineup is a Conversation Series featuring authors interviewing authors. Bryan Washington will discuss his acclaimed first novel Memorial, a New York Times Noteable Book of 2020, with author Matthew Griffin. 

Scholar & Poet Julie R. Enszer will host a talk with literary icon Judy Grahn regarding her new book, Eruptions of Inanna: Justice, Gender and Erotic Power.


Founder of the Son of Baldwin media community, Robert Jones, Jr. discusses his groundbreaking new novel The Prophets, recently featured in the New York Times, with The Reading Life’s Susan Larson.

 

Journalist Merryn Johns will discuss sex and censorship and the modern gay rights movement with author and political activist Naomi Wolf; and Jenn Shapland and Carlos Dews discuss their passion for the work of Carson McCullers.

 

Special Events

SASfest this year will be more than books. Bay Area favorite Fauxnique (Monique Jenkinson) will perform excerpts from her provocative cabaret works and will read passages from her forthcoming drag memoir Faux Queen.

The New Orleans-based band The Slick Skillet Serenaders play a set of their 1920s and ‘30s-era Ragtime, Blues, and Jazz music stylings.

Jewelle Gomez

Members and donors to the festival can also view a partial screening and discussion of the Project Legacies documentary, In Her Words: 20th Century Lesbian Fiction. 

SASFest also offers established and emerging LGBTQ authors, as well as students and readers, an opportunity to network via Padlet, a free community building app, and nurture their craft with a diverse array of artistic and educational offerings.

 

The Writing Workshop Series will feature Dorothy Allison, Michael Nava, Matthew Clark Davison, and Radclyffe. Acclaimed writer Jewelle Gomez will lead a poetry workshop, and also included is an instructional workshop from Kindle Direct Publishing to familiarize authors with their services and self-publishing options. Workshops will have a fee.

 

Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop is the official bookstore of Saints and Sinners. Buy authors’ books from the shop via BookShop and the store will donate a portion of sales back to the Festival. All events are free this year with the exception of the Writing Workshops. Tickets on sale at

www.sasfest.org. (Reprinted from my article in the Bay Area Reporter.)

Monday, January 25, 2021

Cabin Fervor: a new short story about hunky Broadway dancers who escape to the woods

Wild animals in cities, Broadway dancers, OnlyFans and the pandemic might seem like unlikely story ideas, together at least. But these four topics blended together in an inspired writing spell, so I cranked out a fun tale called "Cabin Fervor."

Here's the story line: 

Ernie and Jase, two unemployed Broadway dancer boyfriends, escape pandemic-ridden Manhattan for a friend’s upstate cabin. After a few months of interactions with wild animals and eccentric townsfolk, they impulsively decide to make a series of sexy videos with musical theater themes that become a surprise hit online. Combining humor, current events, and erotic exhibitionism, "Cabin Fervor" captures a strange moment in time with wry wit and affection. 

While there are some serious issues taking place now, some are able to see a hint of, yes, humor in it. The very cute cover art is by illustrator and author David Cantero.

First; the COVID-19 pandemic is not funny. The heinous mismanagement of the pandemic by the inept and corrupt previous administration is obvious. Yet somehow, people have been able to find hope and a bit of dark humor to get through it. And as in the story, I do have some old New York City pals who've decided to temporarily leave the city. Reuters reports that it's effected NYC's economy to more than a billion dollars in losses.

Second; wild animals roaming through cities. Long before the pandemic, I longed to write a story about what I wrongly termed "bioconvergence." 

This PopSci article explores the phenomenon. Animal wildlife's habitats have long been decimated by human populations. What happens when they in turn, invade, or –more accurately– reclaim human spaces? Treehugger explores the days when animals roamed urban streets while humans huddled indoors. 


"Animals are not dramatically rebounding in the absence of humans, but they are timidly pushing their boundaries, with sika deer showing up outside their normal habitat in the park in Nara, Japan, wild turkeys showing up in a park in Oakland, California, and orcas venturing farther up Vancouver's Burrell Inlet than they typically do."

So when a common occurrence we've seen in countless YouTube videos temporarily becomes a 12 Monkeys norm, we take notice. When a fiction idea becomes a greater reality, it's time to get writing.

Alessio Vega & Taylor Collins


Striportunities

But wait (third and fourth); what about Broadway dancers and OnlyFans? Let's just say that I may follow a few hunky Broadway male dancer-actor-singers on social media. Being trained exhibitionists, they're performed a few times in Broadway Bares fundraisers. But under lockdown, they miss work, of course, but also their inner exhibitionism's quite inhibited!

Let's also assume that I may have visited a few gay adult websites that revealed a few racy photos and videos of a few male performers who, facing a complete shutdown of their performing opportunities, chose to 'pivot' into personalized adult entertainment (NSFW!).  Some celebs are using it in less adult ways, too.

"I'm somebody who stresses about a lot of things," says David Pevsner in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter

The actor who has appeared on Silicon Valley and Modern Family. Thanks in large part to OnlyFans, where he's been posting X-rated content for his subscribers since 2018, he says, "Right now money is not stressing me out." 

 

 

Put them all together, and you've got an oddly funny, sometimes sad, very sexy, and very contemporary tale.

Enjoy "Cabin Fervor." You can get it on (the evil, but whaddaya gonna do?) Amazon.

Wear your mask, make your own entertainment, as I did, and stay safe.