The Glory of Love, Loser’s Edition

I promise this is not a post about Peter Cetera. Or The Karate Kid Part II. It is a little bit about love, though. And glory. And why I write.

I’ve reflected before about why I write romance novels. Of my delight in having readers. Fans, even. I’ve touched on how nice the money is and how much it has meant to me–as a writer and a person–to have found a home in the lesfic community.

But today I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m also in it for the glory.

Perhaps glory is the wrong word. Esteem might be better, with a layer of recognition. But glory is definitely part of it. And I’d already committed to the Peter Cetera reference, so here we are.

Today, the last batch of finalists for the Golden Crown Literary Society Awards (the Goldies) were announced. Built to Last was not on the list. Nor was it on the short list for the Lammys that was posted a month or so ago.

I knew the list was coming, so I pulled up the page on my phone the minute my alarm went off. Names I knew. A few I didn’t. Not mine.

I was disappointed, but I got out of bed and took a shower. I told Andie and she said sweet things to make me feel better. I did my morning writing and came to work. I congratulated my colleagues, I commiserated with friends. I moped a bit, but not too much.

It’s funny because I’m an introvert at heart and don’t actually like being the center of attention. But there’s something about awards, recognition of a job well done. I wasn’t raised to be competitive, but man do I love a pat on the head and a “job well done.” Literary awards are the pinnacle of that–positive reinforcement and an ego boost all rolled into one.

Not getting that recognition can be so…deflating.

I’m an optimist, though, and do my best to shoo away negativity before it gets too comfortable. So here goes…

I get notes from readers–unexpected bursts of joy that make me happy for days. I get royalty checks–quarterly reminders that people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on my stories. I get Facebook likes and retweets and mentions in reading groups. I get more good reviews than bad.

In short, I get plenty of glory. On top of that, it’s the kind of glory I care most about. And I love every minute of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I still aspire to a Goldie and a Lammy and, yes, even a RITA. But, at the end of the day, that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about the stories and the characters and the readers. It’s about love.

So for all you finalists out there, I send you heartfelt congratulations. For my fellow “also ran” friends, I’m with you. It’s okay to mope a little. For the writers still working to get published, don’t give up. And most importantly, for all you readers, thank you. You make it all worthwhile.

We’ll live forever
Knowing together
That we did it all for the glory of love

And just in case it’s not already in your head:

You’re welcome.

Represent (-ed, -ing, et. al.)

One of the many (many) awesome conversations I had at the GCLS con included the ups and downs of joining and participating in Romance Writers of America, a.k.a. the RWA. It can be a bit of a sensitive topic. As vocally supportive as the organization is of LGBTQ romance, many of its members are not. And of those who don’t object to us, many would never consider reading our work. Even on a good day, it can feel like an uphill battle. That can feel even more daunting from the warm cocoon of GCLS, where lesbians and queers and our stories are front and center.

But even then, or perhaps especially then, we need to show up. If we want to be visible in the mainstream arena, we have to be there. We have to climb on and go for a spin, arms in the air, for all the world to see. It might be uncomfortable, but we must. They aren’t going to come looking for us. If we want to be represented, we need to represent.

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Not a week later, I got my copy of the Rochester Review, the alumni magazine of the University of Rochester. My second novel, Built to Last, is included in the “Books and Recordings” section in the back. As an undergraduate and young alum who spent more time daydreaming about writing than actually writing, seeing my name–my book cover!–on those pages was a dream come true.

And yet. And yet, had it not been for a chance conversation with a former colleague who is now one of the magazine editors, I’d never have submitted it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d wanted to. But I was squeamish, a little embarrassed. There were serious books there and mine was just a romance. Just. A. Romance.

For all my carrying on about the importance and legitimacy of romance in literature, and the importance and legitimacy of lesbian stories in romance, I can still be my own worst enemy. I still giggle and break eye contact when I tell someone what I write. I talk about how important it is to represent our lives and our stories and our genre, but I still chicken out.

Sometimes. I’ve gotten much better. But there’s still more to do. Of course, if the people I met at GCLS are any indication, we’re in good shape. Talk about represent. I’m still a little giddy to be in their ranks. And, as we’ve already discussed, far braver than I used to be.

P.S. If you can, but haven’t, send your book covers and blurbs to your alumni magazine. You might be the first, but I’m absolutely certain you’re not the only.

 

And for Once It Might Be Grand

In my tiny Catholic high school, each senior got a full page in the yearbook–our senior photo and a quote of our choosing. Most girls picked something philosophical that made them feel smart, or a line out of a country song. I, in the throes of my Beauty and the Beast obsession, selected a line from Belle’s opening song.

And for once it might be grand
To have someone understand
I want so much more than they’ve got planned.

The choice caused a bit of a stir in my small circle of friends. I was the valedictorian, after all. I’d gotten a scholarship and would be attending a good college (in the North, even). Everyone fully expected me to be successful. And, most likely, to find a nice boy and get married and have babies. For a girl in south Louisiana in the 1990s, that was pretty much what one aspired to. So what could I possibly mean? What else was there?

At the time, I struggled to articulate what the “more” was supposed to be. I wasn’t in the closet. Well, unless you’re referring to the clueless closet. But I knew. I knew there was something that I–even with my healthy imagination–could not yet fathom.

At the GCLS awards on Saturday, as I sat listening to tributes and acceptance speeches and looking around the room at literally hundreds of lesbian (and bi and trans and ally and queer) women, that quote hit me like a giant cartoon anvil to the head.

I’d found it. At seventeen, I didn’t even know it existed. And, oh, but it was grand.

Spending three days surrounded by writers and readers and lovers of lesbian literature filled my heart. Knowing I am a legitimate, published author–a member of the Bold Strokes Books family, no less–made me both happy and proud. Seeing so many smart, talented, wonderful women recognized for their work filled me with joy and gave me something to aspire to.

After the awards, there was a dance. Dressed in my flouncy new dress, I kicked up my heels and had a fabulous time. I did the macarena. I led the conga line. For reals. I also danced with Lee Lynch (you know, to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” like you do.) I joked that my polka-dot dress make me wild. I think the dress helped. The vodka tonics did, too. (Thanks, Maggie and Fiona!)

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Photo credit: Nell Stark

I like to say that life is too short to be self-conscious. I’m better at actually taking that advice sometimes more than others. This was definitely one of those nights. Sprinkled with fairy dust. Magical.

So to everyone who was there–in person or in spirit–thank you. Thank you for being an amazing community and for welcoming me with open arms. Thank you for for helping me become what seventeen year old me could only begin to imagine. It’s so so very much more than I had planned.