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This week the Lambda Literary Foundation announced the two recipients of the Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists’ Prize – the largest monetary prize awarded exclusively to a self-identified LGBT writer. This year the prize recognizes young adult novelist, Alex Sanchez (Rainbow Boys), and novelist, Susan Stinson (Venus of Chalk).
The award, made possible by James Duggins, PhD, consists of two cash prizes of $5000 and is unprecedented in its category as well as its value. To qualify recipients must have published at least three novels or two novels and substantial additional literary work such as poetry, short stories, or essays. The prizes will be handed out next month at the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards in New York City.
“The Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists’ Prize is Lambda’s bullhorn at a rally,” says LLF Executive Director, Tony Valenzuela. “Our call to action is that you read the beautiful, courageous, and important writing by these gifted novelists. If you don’t already know Susan Stinson’s or Alex Sanchez’s work, then it’s time that you do.”
Susan Stinson is a writer that is deeply engaged politically but whose art is never constrained by the polemical. It delves deeply and poetically into stories of the marginalized, and with particular power on issues like body size and body image.
Alex Sanchez’s young adult novels capture the joys but also hardship, with intelligence and authenticity, of being young and gay. In light of the highly publicized spate of suicides by gay young people in recent years, Sanchez’s novels stand out as worlds fully rendered by the vulnerabilities and resolve of our LGBT youth.
“It’s a tremendous honor that leaves me groping to say how much it means to me,” gushes recipient Susan Stinson from her home in Northampton, MA.
Stinson’s most recent novel, Venus of Chalk (Firebrand) was not only a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, it was also named one of the Top 10 lesbian books of the year by The Publishing Triangle and was a finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award, and one of Richard Labonté’s “Book Marks” Top 10 fiction books of the year.
“When Tony Valenzuela called to tell me about it, one of the things he said is that my work is valuable, and that it will last,” she writes.
“The impact of that on me and the beautiful, much-needed practical encouragement of the monetary prize … all of it makes me want to say to other writers, ‘Have courage. Persist. What we do matters.’”
Stinson’s enthusiasm is shared by her co-recipient, Alex Sanchez, who is currently on tour for his new YA novel Boyfriends with Girlfriends (Simon & Schuster).
“Much of the thrill and excitement of receiving an award like the Mid-Career Novelists’ Prize is the sense of recognition — and relief — it gives, the sense of validation that the toil and doubt has been worthwhile, and the encouragement to continue that the award provides,” offers recipient Alex Sanchez from his home in Florida.
A prize like this one gives Sanchez a momentary sigh of relief and a meaningful affirmation for an author who has published eight young adult novels in the past 10 years.
“I’m happy and grateful—to my editors, agent, friends and readers, without whom I never would’ve had the courage to write, and to the Lambda Literary Foundation, which recognizes the importance of recognizing and encouraging novelists to keep on going in spite of our doubts.”
“The social affirmation and honor aside, the monetary benefit of the Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists’ Prize cannot be overlooked,” observes Lambda Literary Foundation Co-Chair, David McConnell.
“I’m just grateful to Jim Duggins who saw the need to support writers in a meaningful way, namely to help them pay the bills so they can stick to their ‘real’ jobs,” he remarks from his office in New York City.
“I’m grateful, moved and inspired to keep writing fiction that is as full of risk, art and integrity as I can make it,” writes Stinson who in a very apt gesture signs off her email with the affirmation,”thrive.”
Previous award recipients include Dorothy Allison, Jim Grimsley, Ann Bannon, Mark Doty, Noël Alumit, Elana Dykewomon, and Jewelle Gomez.
A U.S. Navy Journalist in the Pacific (Korean War), Jim studied with James Michener and Bill Lederer. He graduated from San Francisco State, and received his PhD from UC Berkeley. He taught English and Speech at high school and community college, and retired as a professor from San Francisco State.
He is co-author of Hooked on Books (Berkley Books), compiled Teaching Reading for Human Values (Charles Merrill), and has written many articles for academic journals (The English Journal, The Journal of Reading, Wilson Library Journal,); his memoir “A Rock and a Hard Place” appeared in Love, Castro Street: Reflections of San Francisco (Alyson Press, 2007).
He now writes fiction full time and his love of history has produced the historical novels The Power: A Novel of Voodoo, the forthcoming sequel, Slave Stealer, and he is at work on two more. He divides his time between the desert in southern California and his house in Mexico where he collects Mexican Folk Art and is a regular contributor to museums around the United States.
Susan Stinson’s Photo © Jody Wheat