“Iâ€™m currently living in a small town in central Illinois, finishing up the second year of a visiting teaching gig at a small liberal arts college. I moved here from Chicago, where I had everyday access to queer community. Things are much different now.”
â€śThe Banal and the Profaneâ€ť is a monthlyÂ Lambda LiteraryÂ column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life andÂ the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
This monthâ€™s â€śBanal and Profaneâ€ť column comes to usÂ from writer Megan Milks.
MeganÂ MilksÂ is the author of the collectionÂ Â Kill Marguerite and Other StoriesÂ (Emergency Press, 2014) and co-editor ofÂ Asexualities: Feminist and Queer PerspectivesÂ (Routledge, 2014). Her fiction has been published in three anthologies of short fiction as well as many journals. She is currently editingÂ The &NOW Awards, Volume 3: The Best Innovative Writing, 2011-2013. (more…)
“In reality the duty of the writer–the revolutionary duty if you will–is that of writing well.” So said Colombian novelist, screenwriter and journalist Gabriel “Gabo” GarcĂa MĂˇrquez, who died April 17 at his home in Mexico City. He was 87. Considered to be the father of magical realism, GarcĂa MĂˇrquezâ€™s work was as readable as it was critically acclaimed. He was roundly considered to be the most important Spanish-speaking writer since Cervantes. News of his death brought immediate Twitter responses from heads of state, other writers and celebrities, as well as his millions of readers. (more…)
Get ready to return to Litchfield prison. The trailer for the second season of the series Orange is the New BlackÂ was released this week, and things are looking particularly severe for the inmates this season.
Based on the bestselling memoir byÂ Piper Kerman, the entire season will be released June 6 on Netflix.
La JohnJoseph is a bona fide art star, having performed all over the world as a pop singer, theatrical actor, and cabaret icon. Throughout her career on stage, sheâ€™s also been writing criticism, plays, and short stories for a number of outlets. This month, however, sees the publication of La JohnJosephâ€™s debut novel, Everything Must Go, edited by Bruce Benderson and published by ITNA Press, the new imprint founded by author Christopher Stoddard. In full disclosure: Iâ€™ve been a devoted fan and personal friend of JohnJoseph for many years now, and my over-eager expectations were totally blown away by her book. A post-apocalyptic coming-of-age adventure, centering around the high-femme heroine Dianaâ€™s mission to both save herself and destroy the world, the story introduces what feels like an entirely new literary voice. JohnJosephâ€™s writing careens from the conversational stage banter of a vaudevillian comedian to the gnomic proclamations of a spiritual guru. The context in her novel is in constant flux. The narrative hints at its own undoing, yet lurches forward without hesitation. The language is both brutal and beautiful, nuanced and crafted, and yet at times cunningly overwhelming. The novelâ€™s heroine is tasked with ending existence as we know it, and through her reckoning with her awesome responsibility, La JohnJoseph depicts an unquenchable thirst for life at the end of the world. It was my great honor to get to interview La JohnJosephÂ about her book. (more…)
Have you checked out GlitterwolfÂ MagazineÂ yet? If not, you should. Glitterwolf Magazine is a new well-curated, well-designed, UK-based literary and arts magazine that “publishes poetry, fiction, art and photography by contributors identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
Glitterwolf editor Matt Cresswell took some time to talk with Lambda about starting the magazine, aesthetics, and what constitutes queer writing.
What was the impetus for startingÂ Glitterwolf?
Pure nostalgia. I’d been out in the real world wage-slaving for a few years, and the sense of writer’s community I’d experienced while studying Creative Writing at university seemed a very long way away. So three months into a global recession, I thought, â€śA-ha! Small press literary magazine is a great business model!â€ť
As for why an LGBT magazine: partly because that was my little corner of fiction; I’d read and written in that area, and I knew other people writing in that area, and there was a wealth of great but largely ignored stuff. No one really standing up and shouting about itâ€”especially in the UK, where Chroma had just closed its doors.
What challenges did you face when starting the journal? How did you meet those challenges?
Starting up, the biggest challenge was simply having to feel blindly around to produce this grand idea. I’d worked as an editor and a graphic designer before, and I’ve read countless literary magazines, so I had deliriously expected that I had the full necessary skillset, but as with anything, there’s a lot of learning along the way.
After that, there was just simply being heardâ€”especially before anything was published, and we were seeking the first round of submissions. I had this terror of having to compile an issue from two short stories, a couple of poems and a stick drawing.
Of course, once we had been heard, I found myself tangled up in complaints from lots of people online about the editorial policy of ‘LGBT contributors only’â€”lots of claims of discrimination, generally from, to be honest, straight white males. I can see the logic of their arguments, but at that point the whole enterprise felt in danger of wobbling and collapsing in the face of it. I had to remind myself that there was a reason I was championing LGBT writers and artists, and stick to my guns.
Did you have an audience or readership in mind when you decided to pull it all together?
Noâ€”all I had in my head was to make the magazine into a stage for talented creatives, I hadn’t considered who’d actually come through to doors to sit down and watch. I didn’t want it to be explicitly for a gay audience, I wanted to feature things that could appeal universally. Of course, we would still be a good home for fiction, poetry or art with gay characters or themes, but not every LGBT person is just queer, and so I didn’t want the magazine to be either.
In terms of aesthetics and craft, what kind of work were you looking to be included in Glitterwolf?
I look for two things in anything that’s submitted. Heart and feeling, and self-awareness. I get so, so many stories that are the same thing every time: horny man in a dingy, depressing gay bar. Meaningless hook-up. Probably some drugs involved. It’ll all be very hollow.
And when I read them I think, I bet the writer thinks he’s making a statement about gay life. So many writers seem to be wanting to suck out the spark in order to be considered ‘meaningful’â€”it’s starting to feel a bit like writing for the literary establishment. I will nearly always steer clear of that. Don’t get me wrong: stories can be serious, stories can be literary, but that doesn’t mean that all heart and emotion has to be pulled out, and I look for anything that flies in the face of that, because storiesâ€”and poetry, and artâ€”can be magical, and emotional, and shocking, and sad, and they can do all of them at once, and the same can be said of gay life.
I sense a little bit of well-crafted irreverence–a sly mixing of sincerity and irony. Would you say that this is the kind of work that speaks to you.
Absolutely. I like nothing more than literature gives you a bit of a nod and a wink. That’s what that feeling of ‘self-awareness’ in a story comes down to actuallyâ€”that idea that whoever has crafted this knows what game they’re playing, knows you probably know it too, and so can tip the balance. The first three issues of Glitterwolf featured the poet Chris Black, who I think pretty much sums this aesthetic up. He can tip you from a cock joke to Shakespearean lyricism in a few lines, or he can use a cock joke to be incredibly sentimental and bring you to tears. I think that sort of thing appeals to me because, mostly, that’s actually what life is like, and a lot of literature seems concerned with bundling the experience into one narrow genre or style at once.
You are based in the United Kingdom and I am sure you get a lot of international submissions. What are some of the commonalities and differences you found in the global queer writing community? How is the work similar or different depending on the locale of the writer (i.e. London-based writers versus say Portland-based writers).
It’s fascinating, actually, because I so rarely pay attention to their origin as I’m writing, and it so rarely makes itself noticed. I think it probably says a lot about the “queer experience” that there is that much commonality. There’s a lot of the themes I think you’d expect, being felt and told as stories everywhere. The outsider. The links between “queer weird” and actual “fantastical weird.” Â What I am starting to see turning up a lot is stories addressing the building of families, slotting together LGBT family units as things like gay marriage and family become more integral to our lives, and having to negotiate new versions of traditional ideas. But between the UK and US? Well… we seem to be a lot more scared of writing sex scenes in the UK, but that’s about it!
There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of years about what constitutes â€śqueerâ€ť writing. Is it style? Is it content? I wanted to know your thoughts on what constitutes queer writing and how does that personal philosophy inform the work you publish in Glitterwolf?
My god… this is an answer that could go on and on.
Superficially, there’s your fiction that makes an effort to deal with, or give exposure to, gay characters, gay relationships, gay concerns, and there’s definitely a need for that, and always will be until the time that ‘queer fiction’ is just ‘fiction’, because it’s still often some way left of mainstream. But as I mentioned, Glitterwolf publishes fiction that isn’t superficially gay, and I think there is still a marked difference in those stories that, if you were wise, you could pick out as ‘queer fiction’ without knowing.
I think queer writers make excellent storytellers because we’re so used to observing the mechanics of people and second-guessing their actions and motivations, and you can seeâ€”or feelâ€”that perspective of the outsider even when there isn’t a gay character in sight. And then, we also have speculative fiction stories that seems to gel incredibly well with LGBT characters. It’s the sense of finding something beautiful in what some see as weird and monstrous, I don’t think the monsters in the closet feel like a big step for queer readers.
Overall, though, it nearly always feel like queer writing is for itself, for the actual purpose of just creating something, unlike much ‘mainstream’ writing that can feel like it’s writing for the establishment, for respect, for status.
Glitterwolf looks spectacular. Can you tell me a little bit about what goes into the design of each issue?
Mostly simplicity and deadline panic…! I always just try and stick to ‘keep it simple’ in terms of design. It’s very kind of you to describe it as spectacular, and I think that mostly comes down to the strength of the photography that graces the cover and the interior, which is almost entirely out of my hands. Glitterwolf is lucky to have a talented photographer who lets me bully him, Thom Vollans, who for three issues running now has produced me some excellent cover photography that somehow seems to completely capture whatever I set him as a brief. I don’t know how he does it. The man’s the devil. The third issue (and collected edition) actually features myself, painted up as a skeleton, which despite the sunny look was photographed in the freezing cold. I wonder how many other lit mag editors can say they’ve suffered for their art quite like that?
What advice would you give anyone who is looking to start a literary journal?
- Have a clear image of what kind of magazine you want to create, and stick to it.
- Don’t feel embarrassed to shout about your magazine at every opportunity and in every venue you canâ€”and talk to as many people as you can, especially the wonderful people behind lots of the other literary magazines and small presses that are around.
- Proof-read. That one’s really important.
Photo courtesyÂ of Matt Cresswell
A Sort of Modern Buddha: The Influence of Yogic Philosophies on Gertrude Steinâ€™s Method of Writing
Smitten with Gertrude Stein, like many of her male contemporaries, sculptor Jo Davidson determined to have her serve as one of his subjects. In 1920, over coffee and conversation, Davidson had Stein sit for him, in one of the most memorable, non-Picasso related, artistic renderings of the avant garde, modernist writer to date. (more…)
Back in 2006, I interviewed Tom Spanbauer for The Lambda Literary Review when his book Now is the Hour was published. He is well known nationally as the author of that book and others, including Faraway Places, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon and The City of Shy Hunters. And in Portland, OR where he lives, as a teacher for his Dangerous Writers classes. His publisher, Hawthorne Press, notified me that his latest novel I Loved You More would be published this month, and I was very happy to be able to interview him about his new book, his writing process, and the current state of publishing.Â (more…)
In celebration of National Poetry Month, TheÂ Lambda Literary ReviewÂ is excited to share an excerpt from writer James Baldwin’s recently reprinted poetry collectionÂ Jimmyâ€™s Blues and Other Poems. The updated collection,Â releasedÂ this monthÂ by Beacon Press, explores race, sex, and love filtered through Baldwin’s impassioned lyricism. (more…)
New Month! New books! April is upon us and so are a slew of new and noteworthy LGBT books.
Beloved author Tom Spanbauer’s new bookÂ (his first in seven years),Â I Loved You More, is being released this month by Hawthorne Press. The book maps the emotional minefield of love and friendship between a group of writers.
From The Advocate: (more…)