I’ll be working the CCLaP desk. Have an event invite: http://www.emptybottle.com/show/3472824/
When I first struck out on my own to become a writer, part of me prepared for my projects to fail. Or for my projects to be a nice vacation that would eventually end with me getting another respectable white-collar job. Which is why publication, the great reader responses I’ve gotten, and the LLA nomination last year came as such a shock. I couldn’t believe that I’d, in a sense, become a writer — through my own hard work, perseverance, and good luck. Another future opened up in front of me: one where I could actually make this “being a writer” thing happen.
So when I came home from New York, I thought hard about what I wanted to do with my life, and how I wanted to get there. One thing I felt I’d lacked all throughout my twenties was a sense of structure and direction as a writer, the opportunity for real challenges, and a community of readers and co-writers.
Which is why, starting at the end of this summer, I’ll be attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign’s MFA program. It’s a three-year, full-funding program in which I’ll be working closely with bad-ass writers like Alex Shakar, LeAnne Howe and Philip Graham. When I publish my next work, I plan to bring it harder, faster, and better than you’ve ever seen before.
I’ll probably visit Chicago often during the next three years (because Champaign-Urbana is, how do I put this politely, a great place to write distraction-free). But in the meantime, all you Chicago people should come out and have a last drink with me! I’m putting together a spring and early summer schedule to say goodbye to my home city in legendary fashion…
I’m working on putting together a small collection of my four older published short stories, and a fifth one that hasn’t yet been published. I’m planning on compiling them into an ebook and offering it through Amazon.com, and a print-on-demand paperback through CreateSpace. Pricing will start at $2.99 for the ebook and $4.99 for the paperback.
Do you like THINGS THAT ARE AWESOME? If so, you’ll love what I’ve got today:
Thank you for your interest in supporting Topside Press and our first book, THE COLLECTION: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard. Two years in the making, THE COLLECTION features the work of 28 authors from all corners of North America. Until now we’ve been completely self-funded, and we’re excited to be able to finally be able to offer you the very first product of this new venture into the landscape of queer publishing.
Pre-ordering this title helps us lower the initial cost of printing the book and will also enable Topside Press to plan additional release events to promote the book and support the authors. It will also help us pay our author royalties sooner, which we’re sure they will appreciate. Finally, pre-sales of this book will help us get started publishing our next great titles, including Imogen Binnie’s NEVADA, due out in March 2013.
Bonus Immortality: In addition to getting a copy of the book the week of its released, we’ll also immortalize each one of our early supporters by thanking each one of you in print in the book itself.
I have a short story in The Collection, and from what I’ve seen of the advance copy, there’s a lot of really excellent writing in it. Though they seem to hold that a transgender vanguard exists (and, more distressingly, that I’M in it. :) )If you’re interested in great writing and voices that go unheard, pre-order a copy. Topside Press has also received a donation to send copies to queer and trans people who are incarcerated, and the press has the potential to become a major force in queer writing. So go support them!
Now, on to some less happy news.
When I sent my story to Topside Press for consideration, I worried about being pigeonholed as a trans writer. Well, I’d love to be pigeonholed, because I just opened a contributor copy of the other publication (Confrontation magazine) that accepted one of my stories this year, and discovered that someone had changed all of the pronouns in my bio to “she” and “her.”
And I’m angry, and frustrated, but not at all surprised.
I’ve been out as a non-binary trans person for several years now, and I understand and accept that I will be explaining my identity and my choices to people for the rest of my life. Even when I want to shut the door to my office and say “Jesus, people, all I ever wanted to do with my life was write awesome books.”
(I’d like to remind everyone that I don’t use gender-neutral pronouns to be confusing, or to make an abstract point about gender – I use them to be able to connect with people on an authentic and genuine level.)
And I’m angry that I’m thinking of the justifications I’ll have to offer to those who protest that gender-neutral pronouns are unfamiliar to most people. Like that it’s terrible and unethical editorial practice to make a change to an author’s BIO without querying the author. When the real problem is that someone decided I was really a woman, and then chose to present me as a woman to the world.
But right now, I’m not interested in losing another day to crafting another angry yet diplomatic email, or in receiveing another lukewarm apology and profession of ignorance. It’s draining, it doesn’t un-print the words, and it’s just too inefficient a way to go about creating large-scale cultural change.
So let’s do this instead:
If this story makes you angry, I want you to channel your energy into an action that makes the world easier for trans and gender-nonconforming people. I don’t necessarily mean buy a book (although Sassafras Lowrey is also dropping an important one in October). Support or propose an anti-discrimination bill or health care initiative in your area. Practice asking people what their name and pronoun is. Change the bathrooms policy at your job. Or do some self-education and spend time reading blogs (I like WeHappyTrans as a starting point).
Be awesome to each other.
I didn’t know before June 4th, and I don’t know now. :)
Additionally, the more I see of Topside Press, the more I like them – and not just because they’re publishing me and at least one of my Facebook friends. Since I’m probably the only trans person on earth who isn’t writing a novel with a transgender main character, I’m passing this along for signal-boosting purposes: Topside Press 2012 Novel Manuscript Competition.
I think my favorite part of the guidelines is this bullet point:
[The novel should be] about adults. Trans writers (and writers writing about trans people) seem to want to write about being children a lot. That’s cool, but its not what we’re looking for. First of all, it is very difficult to write well in a child’s voice (notable exceptions aside). Second, we think that this drive to write about trans kids comes more from an impulse to justify trans people by saying we were “born this way” and that’s a tired scene.
Other than this, I haven’t had much news to report.
If you live in Chicago, perhaps you’ve heard the news story about the staffing company that abruptly shut down, stiffing almost 2,000 people out of their last paychecks and leaving only a shady and rude handwritten note in the window of their office? Yeah, I worked for them. They owe me about $300 and I’ve filed a claim against them with the IL Department of Labor.
I’m also working on some new material. It’s an autobiographical story about two queer people working in a corrupt and dying hotel bar. And that’s all I say for now…
We didn’t win. But it was a major honor to make it to the finals!
If I were giving an acceptance speech, I’d thank all of the people who believed in this little book and who helped me reach the stage.
I’m also blessed to have people in my queer family who text me things like “The KGB considers you a valuable asset, and even the TSA thinks your dick is the bomb!”
My own mother doesn’t have a flattering picture of me. And neither does Jason Pettus, but that didn’t stop him from taking over 100 pictures of our New York performances. You can check out the whole set on Flickr.
Last night’s show at the KGB Bar was AWESOME. We were on fire. Definitely one of the best readings I’ve ever been part of, if not the best.
Today I’m hanging around the wifi connection at Cafe Grumpy, updating this blog and waiting for the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony tonight. There’s a Twitter hashtag: #Lammys , and plenty of people will be live-tweeting the ceremony (starting at 7PM Eastern time), so you can follow along at home.
I’ll tell you all a secret. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
A few years ago, before I got so damned sick, I’d have thought nothing of jetting off to New York City, sleeping on a different couch every night, and throwing myself into crowds all day and all night. Now I carry a mini pharmacy with me, I note the exits of every room, and I sprang for a shoebox room at the Y so I would have a 100% private, lockable place to hide and sleep.
I know this might come as a surprise to some of you, especially since I know that a lot of people think of me as a real bad-ass. (You became a full-time writer instead of getting another 9 to 5! You sing karaoke while sober! You’re out as genderqueer in the fucking Midwest!)
Well, yes, but when the same kind of stomach-twisting terror applies to completely innocuous things like riding one’s bike in traffic, it’s hard to imagine that anything is, objectively, all that scary. When everything is a 10 on the scale of 1 to WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE, then why not just do what you want?
My point is that, so far, I have made it through several days of wonderful, awesome, and tremendously high-stress performances, and I have NOT thrown up, freaked out, broken out in hives, or come down with some other bullshit psychosomatic illness. Hooray!
Last night we performed at Vaudeville Park, a great little performance space in Bushwick that appears to be in somebody’s living room, accompanied by live music courtesy of the Brooklyn band Battle of the Camel. The night before that, we all had a great time reading on a double bill with Moonshot Magazine at Book Thug Nation in W-burg. These have been great little performances with awesome high-energy people at some of the best local underground places in Brooklyn, but tonight, we’re migrating back to lower Manhattan for our main event.
TONITE! KGB BAR! NOHO! 7PM! BE THERE OR MISS SOMETHING AWESOME!
Coming at you live from my temporary base of operations, the aptly named Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint, Brooklyn!
I had a fine flight to NYC, despite a nightmarish scenario at airport security in which I narrowly avoided getting strip-searched or arrested. What was I doing? Carrying the packer (link probably NSFW) that I always wear in my carry-on bag. You know, so I wouldn’t look like I was carrying plastic explosives in my underwear when I went through the pornoscanner? My bag got flagged. The agent, sensing that I was agitated, offered me a private screening, but I thought “Oh, great. No witnesses,” and let them whip it out right in the middle of the line.
TSA: Protecting America from my junk since 2002. I’m taking the fucking bus from now on.
So anyway, last night we recorded an excellent show for the CCLaP podcast at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. We got there and hipsters were lined up around the block – but it turned out they were there to see Regina Spektor, who was playing a concert there after our set.
I wish I could say that we opened for Regina Spektor. But as John Reed pointed out, since we were performing in the basement, it’s more like we bottomed for Regina Spektor.
Tonight we’ll be at Book Thug Nation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Oh, and while I’m here, I have another announcement: My short story “Winning the Tiger” has been included in Topside Press‘s collection of fiction by trans and genderqueer writers. I’m planning on reading it tonight for the very first time!
Lori Hettler of The Next Best Book Blog interviewed me as part of the Where Writers Write series. Click on the link to check it out!