Posts tagged ‘literary awards’

Men in the dressing room

The Rainbow Awards are a new lgbt literary award established a few months ago.  SS reminded me that the results were published recently, but to our disbelief, the second finalist in the Lesbian Novel category was a predominantly gay-male anthology that included three lesbian stories.  Suffice to say, I posted a response to the awards organiser and it wasn’t well received.  Hopefully, the discussion won’t overshadow the other winners in the same category.

Have your say here or better yet, on the organiser’s blog.

December 18, 2009 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

Re: Re: #LLFfail

Clarification of Lambda Literary Foundation Policy Guidelines of Nominations, 2009 Lambda Literary Awards, from Katherine V. Forrest, Interim President, Board of Trustees

September 25, 2009 – The Board of Lambda Literary Foundation, under the leadership of Christopher Rice, spent much of last year discussing how our literature has evolved, and the actual mission of the Foundation given the perilous place we find ourselves in with our drastically changed market conditions. We also took into consideration the despair of our own writers when a heterosexual writer, who has written a fine book about us, wins a Lambda Award, when one or more of our own LGBT writers may have as a Finalist a book that may be the only chance in a career at a Lambda Literary Award.

We discussed two essential questions: who we are, what we are here to accomplish. We discussed every single word of this, our Mission statement: The Lambda Literary Foundation is dedicated to raising the status of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

Lambda Literary Foundation is a service organization for our writers. Our LGBT family of writers. We celebrate those who support our writers, those in all the allied areas of our literature: our readers, publishers, booksellers, publicists, agents, etc. We celebrate straight allies of every kind and always have throughout our history, with the Bridge Builder Award, Small Press Award, Publishers Service Award, Editor’s Choice Award, among other awards and acknowledgments, and we’ll continue to do so.

Today we continue to be excluded in heterosexual society as we have been historically. Our books are taken from the shelves of libraries all over the country and even from the website of Amazon.com this year. It is more difficult to be an LGBT writer now than it has been in many decades, more difficult to make any income from our written words, much less a living. Publishers have closed, stores have closed, the markets seem to be shrinking with each passing day. It seems more urgent than ever that LLF be as active and supportive a service organization as we possibly can be for our own writers, and that’s what we’re working on, with a Board that could not be more passionate in our commitment. We will soon have a new, far more comprehensive website connecting all segments of our publishing world, and we’re determined to restore our Writers Retreat for emerging writers, the single most important initiative we’ve undertaken next to the Lambda Literary Awards.

As to what defines LGBT? That is not up to anyone at Lambda Literary Foundation to decide. The writers and publishers are the ones who will be doing the self-identifying. Sexuality today is fluid and we welcome and cherish this freedom. We take the nomination of any book at face value: if the book is nominated as LGBT, then the author is self-identifying as part of our LGBT family of writers, and that is all that is required. There are many permutations of LGBT and they’re all welcome as that LGBT term we’ve all adopted makes clear.

We hope this will clarify our policy and answer some of your questions and concerns. We welcome your comments.

I’m sorry, it doesn’t, and I’ll explain why I think so. I’m going to discuss this statement and I’m going to sound angry along the way, but I hope I make sense.

I wish I didn’t have to tear LLF apart, I really don’t. The LLF, over the years, became a flagship for LGBT literature where none existed before (there are others now) and therefore, as an organisation “dedicated to raising the status of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives” it became the word on quality queer literature.

Except when you look into its history, you’ll see it’s an organisation established to be self-rewarding even after the early years, slow to accept change, to be non-inclusive of all LGBT lit, unaccountable to its members, and still struggling with internal biases. I’m not going to discuss any of that. There’s already plenty of bitching about the LLF because y’know, politics. Instead, I want to focus on the issues that I see coming out of the new awards guidelines and LLF’s continuing blindness to its US-centric focus and to changes in the publishing landscape.

We’ve seen where LLF is coming from so I think it’s fair to show where I’m coming from in relation to queer lit;

I’m a lesbian writer and e-publisher not based in US or Canada.

Is the LLF applicable to me, bearing in mind:

  • Its mission statement (changed from “celebrate LGBT literature and provide resources for writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, and librarians – the whole literary community.”); and
  • Its awards’ eligibility guidelines (no ebooks and nominees must have been published and printed in the US (English language books only) in the nomination year)

I have big beef with the LLF purporting to be supportive of LGBT writers yet excludes international writers/publishers and electronic LGBT books while it asks for and accepts funds from the global community so that they can award US/Ca publications (previous longer post here). I don’t know who is dafter, them or the global community who give them money. It comes down to the misleading impression that the LLF promotes LGBT lit but really, only if the literature fits within a narrow definition, which is not declared in its mission statement but is operative.

The Lammies became narrower this year when, as you’ve seen above, LLF has decided to reward only openly LGBT writers. That’s a basket of angry cats in that statement, and arguments have turned ugly and public. For myself, and I know for many others who had assumed literary merit was the defining standard for a literary award (call us crazy), to be told that our books would now be vetted first on our sexuality was just stunning. All because of a knee-jerk reaction to a straight person winning a Lammie. One award, out of 21. In other worlds, we’d be celebrating this cross-over, we’d be lauding the success of integration, we’d be using the opportunity to push for more mainstream recognition. Instead, the LLF folds inwards and suddenly, our allies and friends are again seen as the other. It was fine as long as they played supporting roles in our lives but how horrible to think that they could actually sit at our table and play with our toys. They must all leave immediately.

This is laughable because of the following :

1. when one or more of our own LGBT writers may have as a Finalist a book that may be the only chance in a career at a Lambda Literary Award.

That’s presuming a lot. Surely all nominees hope to win every year. At that stage I’d like to think they’re hoping their book is better than the other nominees and not whether they had the good fortune to act on a same-sex attraction. Also I’m sorry to break this to the Lammy folks but outside of North America, readers don’t care whether a book won or became a finalist at the Lammies. LGBT bookstores don’t care (I’ve yet to see a book positioned upfront for winning a Lammy. In fact, I’ve asked why and the response I got was, “What’s a Lammy?”), and I suspect many writers who aren’t discriminated by their publishers aren’t all that fussed about it. I’ve yet to see evidence that a Lammy helps sales substantially. What gets bookstore staff and critics excited are books that are well-written, and when they get excited, more readers will be too. We should continue to keep them excited by upholding the beacon of good writing, otherwise the Lammies will become a quaint award only for the wee queer folk.

2. Today we continue to be excluded in heterosexual society as we have been historically. Our books are taken from the shelves of libraries all over the country and even from the website of Amazon.com this year. It is more difficult to be an LGBT writer now than it has been in many decades, more difficult to make any income from our written words, much less a living. Publishers have closed, stores have closed, the markets seem to be shrinking with each passing day.

I think this confuses several issues for an inflammatory effect- that the publishing market is facing tough times is true, but it is faced by the whole industry, not only LGBT publishers and writers. LGBT issues, our mere existence, will always be contentious and we’re always going to be fighting for our right to ‘be’, battling for our literature to be representative and represented is not going to end soon and the best way we can keep our literature alive is to support it from the ground up and keep promoting it by any media and any avenue possible. By taking a closed stance, we risk years of good work and public support.

The snafu at Amazon earlier this year brought the lgbt world out snarling. Although it was explained as an administrative error and rectified, it left a bitter taste in our mouths. We’ve forgotten though that Amazon is a private retailer and as such can do as it pleases. We’ve also forgotten that the LLF issued a statement absolving Amazon of any wrongdoing and sought a dialogue, a move that saw the acceptance of online retailers in the new guidelines when, up till last year, only books available via brick and mortar stores were eligible. More power to Amazon. But as the LLF had decided the snafu was a non-issue then, why dredge it up as an issue now?

As for LGBT writers losing opportunities because of a shrinking market, why not look at other opportunities for LGBT writers to earn a living? I’m referring to ebooks and e-publishers, of course. I’ll bet there isn’t one LGBT publisher who isn’t offering books in e-format or at least seriously considering it. Amazon is going great guns with Kindle, and most publishers already sell multiple format e-books directly from their own sites. Overseas readers buy most of their LGBT books from US publishers – e-books are attractive in both price and access. LLF should be putting resources into exploring this new medium, and if they find it beneficial, add their support to a fledgling market. It has the chance to act to secure the future of diverse and accessible LGBT literature that is potentially, truly global.

3.  As to what defines LGBT? That is not up to anyone at Lambda Literary Foundation to decide. The writers and publishers are the ones who will be doing the self-identifying. Sexuality today is fluid and we welcome and cherish this freedom. We take the nomination of any book at face value: if the book is nominated as LGBT, then the author is self-identifying as part of our LGBT family of writers, and that is all that is required.

This bit of the guidelines undoubtedly caused the bigger backlash. It smells of reverse discrimination and the Pros and Cons are still arguing about it. I don’t think we can ever agree on this issue because the wounds of discrimination are still with us and a hurt animal cannot see beyond its pain. My argument is, if (author’s) sexuality is not an issue, why have it as an eligibility requirement? If LLF are not going to police it, why declare it? Are they being superfluous or are they warning that it will be operative in the judging process? The statement and guidelines are contradictory. I hope they won’t be tested.

4. We celebrate straight allies of every kind and always have throughout our history, with the Bridge Builder Award, Small Press Award, Publishers Service Award, Editor’s Choice Award, among other awards and acknowledgments, and we’ll continue to do so.

These must be rare indeed – there’s barely any information on them on the LLF site.

Whew! That’s my beef this week. Tune in next week when veal may be on the menu.

October 1, 2009 at 12:56 am Leave a comment


Evecho’s newsy bits

News, updates and links from the lesbian and publishing ‘verse that interest me, my current projects, keeping up with authors and sharing musings on middle-class life, gourmet adventures and comparisons between East/West perspectives. My opinions will likely be linearly logical and gayly bent, as they tend to be.