I go way back as a lesbian author, to the mid-1970s when I started writing articles about lesbian history. My first lesbian book publication was LESBIAN FEMINISM IN TURN-OF –THE-CENTURY GERMANY, co-authored with Brigitte Eriksson and published by Naiad Press in 1980—one of the very few non-genre books that Naiad published. I’d also been working simultaneously on my book SURPASSING THE LOVE OF MEN, and that came out in 1981. I was very lucky, because the decades of the 1980s and ‘90s were an incredibly fortunate time to be writing lesbian books.
During those years, there were over 140 women’s bookstores—which were, of course, mostly lesbian—and they were all over the country: Just about every big city had one, and some cities had two or three. So many “women’s” bookstores had opened because suddenly there were so many lesbian publishing houses. They’d started at the height of lesbian-feminism, in the 1970s and ‘80s—publishers such as Diana press, Daughters, Naiad, Firebrand, Persephone, Kitchen Table….Those wonderful lesbian publishers encouraged more and more lesbians to be writers, because they helped create a good market for lesbian readers. It was a fantastic, heady experience when lesbian writers would be sent by their publishers on book tours to meet lesbian readers face-to-face in women’s bookstores all over America, and to get to talk to them and sign books for them.
In fact, the market for lesbian books was so good that mainstream publishers soon wanted in on it. They began to publish lesbian books in which—unlike most of the pulps of the 1950s and ‘60s—the lesbian characters didn’t end by committing suicide, drowning in a well of loneliness, or converting to heterosexuality. (Even in the wonderful 1952 novel THE PRICE OF SALT, Carol pays for loving Therese by losing her daughter. Such punishments had been the pulp publishers’ idea of “redeeming social value.”)The shift in the lesbian image and what could be said in books would NOT have come about if it hadn’t been for the lesbian-feminist movement and the lesbian publishers and bookstores.
But because the market for positive lesbian literature had gotten so good and many mainstream publishers were now publishing positive lesbian literature, mainstream stores and big chains such as Borders and Barnes and Noble started carrying those books: which of course drove the lesbian bookstores and a lot of the lesbian publishers out of business.
That was a disaster for most lesbian writers. In the women’s bookstores just about the entire store would be devoted to lesbian writing; but in stores such as Borders and Barnes and Noble maybe several shelves were devoted to books by lesbians—and then the shelves got fewer and fewer, and then lesbian writing got lost in the writing of other sexual minorities, and then most of those bricks and mortar stores were driven out of business by Amazon.
So it seemed for a while that lesbian literature was in big trouble. The trouble seemed to be compounded when “lesbian” began to vanish in an alphabet soup of LGBTQQIAAPP+.
But lesbians are nothing if not inventive and enterprising.
Soon a new crop of lesbian publishers such as Bella Books, Bywater Books, Bold Strokes, Headmistress Press….dozens of them, emerged to reinvent the business, this time using new approaches such as eBooks or capitalizing on mail order, which doesn’t require bricks-and-mortar stores.
AND then, in 2004, the Golden Crown Literary Society emerged to encourage lesbian writing and publishing and reading. To me, it is truly wonderful and even miraculous to have an organization such as Golden Crown in this day and age--where lesbian writers and lesbian readers are encouraged, where novice lesbian writers can get training in their craft, and where the emphasis is on keeping the L alive and not submerging it or making it 10% or less of a long line of sexual identities.
So thank you Golden Crown Literary Society for existing. I am truly honored to be the recipient of this year’s Trailblazer Award.
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, Published by In Other Words Publishing
Thank you so much. This is a dream moment: to have an award named for one of my heroes—Lee Lynch-- handed to me by one of my heroes—Lillian Faderman-- in front of another one of my heroes—Jewelle Gomez--is just simply incredible. I am astonished, proud, and above all grateful.
Heather, Heather, Heather, what a long strange trip it’s been.
There are so many people that were part of Heather’s journey, so many people I share this award with, so many people to thank.
I will start with a dyke named Clover, who stopped me on the street one day in Northampton, aka Lesbianville USA and said to me, “You know, I don’t have a book I can read to my daughter that shows a family like ours. Somebody should write one.” And of course that somebody was me. Thank you Clover. Without you, Heather would never have come into being.
After I wrote the book, I sent it out to about 50 publishers, none of which would touch it. One day, my friend Tzivia Gover, who was the lesbian mom of a one-year-old at the time and I were hanging out, and one of us said, “Let’s do it ourselves.” Never underestimate the power of two Jewish femmes! Thank you, Tzivia, for being my co-publisher and putting Heather out under the auspices of In Other Words Publishing. Without Tzivia, the book would never have come into being.
Of course Tzivia and I had no money to put out the book. So we did our own version of a Kickstarter campaign, way before Kickstarter. We stuffed envelopes! We licked stamps! We raised $4,000 mostly in $10 donations. This was back in 1988 – 1989. I thank every single person who donated to the cause. Without you the book would never have come into being.
And of course I must thank Diana Souza, whom we found through the lesbian grapevine for her wonderful illustrations. Without her fine work, Heather, Mama Jane, Mama Kate, Midnight, Gingersnap, Heather’s teacher and Heather’s classmates would never have come into being.
In December 1989, Heather came out. Nothing much happened except lesbian moms who had ordered the book were thrilled to have it to read to their kids. And some feminist bookstores—remember those?—heard about the book and began to carry it. Thank you feminist bookstores. I miss you dearly. I especially thank New Words in Cambridge, MA who had the book on their shelves when a man named Sasha Alyson came in to browse. He was the publisher of Alyson Books and just published Daddy’s Roommate and wrote to me and said, “Let’s join forces.” I wrote back and said, “Would you like to be Heather’s publisher? Tzivia and I want to get back to our lives.” And so Heather became an Alyson title. Thank you Sasha Alyson for taking Heather on and distributing it nationally.
Heather began being seen as controversial shortly after it became an Alyson Books title. I will not thank the many people who stole it from libraries, burned it, and defecated on it. I will not thank the people who called me a pervert, a devil, or the anti-Christ. I will thank every librarian, teacher, school administrator,parent, politician, journalist, religious leader, and lesbian avenger who spoke out in support of the book. I will thank every person who bought the book, borrowed the book, checked the book out of the library, gave the book as a present, brought the book into their child’s classroom.
And I thank Candlewick Press for putting out a brand new edition with new illustrations in 2015 so Heather could be enjoyed by a new generation.
And last and most, I thank my beloved, Mary Grace Newman Vazquez for staying by my side through it all. I couldn’t do it without my beautiful butch who has been by my said for 29 years and counting.
If Heather was real, she would be in her early thirties, perhaps with a Heather of her own. Her moms would be in menopause. The world has changed in many ways. And in many ways it has not. It is still difficult, though not impossible to get a book like Heather published. We need more, many more books that show lesbians with their kids. I am proud that Heather led the way, I thank you for this award which means so much to me, and I hope I can live up to this honor by continuing to write more books that reflect the reality of our lesbian lives. Thank you.
Rainbow Gap by Lee Lynch, Published by Bold Strokes Books
This is a grand and happy surprise. Thank you, readers, for the great honor of reading Rainbow Gap, and for presenting the book with the Ann Bannon Award. Thank you to Mary Phillips, Watty, Michelle, and all of the GCLS volunteers. Golden Crown provides us with a rare opportunity to honor one another. The devotion of our volunteers humbles me and encourages me to keep writing. I apologize for not joining all of you this year. It was intended to be my year of rest.
I treasure my relationship with Bold Strokes Books and with its President, Radclyffe; Rainbow Gap’s editor Ruth Sternglanz; Senior Editor Sandy Lowe, editors Cindy Cresap and Stacia Seaman, and all of the BSB team.
Thank you to my ever-strong supporters and friends: Ann McMann, Lori Lake, Shelley Thrasher, Connie Ward, Mercedes Lewis, KG McGregor, Sue Hardesty, Nel Ward, Jane Cothron, MJ Lowe, Nell Stark, and Rachel Spangler, and so many others.
And always, thank you to my beloved wife, Lainie Lynch.
Women of the Year by Karen Richard, Published by Bedazzled Ink Publishing, LLC
I would like to thank my wife Pam Shaff for her support and my Mom, Barbara who was able to attend the conference with me. And thanks to the writers group on Facebook that really got me thinking about becoming a published author, particularly Jody Klaire, Gena Ratcliff and Dani Dixon-Bradshaw. I also want to thank the Writer’s Academy, both my classmates and the instructors who gave so much of their time to us. Also, thanks for the great ramp from the stage so I could totally stomp down in my Doc Marten pride boots. And finally GusGus Press for believing in my stories. Thanks y’all.
Pictured is me with fellow winner and Writer’s Academy alum Chris Convissor who won for The Urn Carrier.
Indominatable by Joanne Passet, Published by Bella Books
Barbara Grier never doubted the power books have to improve our lives. Rejecting the lesbian invisibility and negativity of her youth, she set out to ensure that any lesbian, anywhere, could walk into a bookshop and find herself portrayed in print. It was a challenging task, but she refused to take no for an answer, and we are the beneficiaries.
Thank you to the Golden Crown Literary Association for this honor. I couldn’t have written Indomitable without the information, documents, photographs, and memories shared with me by the many women who knew Barbara Grier. In particular, I would like to thank Donna McBride for sharing countless documents and photographs and for tolerating my many questions.
I also am indebted to dozens of librarians and archivists who facilitated my access to important archival and manuscript collections. Tim Wilson, of the San Francisco Public Library, proved especially helpful because of his knowledge of the Grier-McBride Papers.
A number of people, among them Robin Cohen, Danielle DeMuth, Julie Enszer, Katherine V. Forrest, Carol McCafferty, and Maida Tilchen read portions of the manuscript and provided invaluable feedback. Additionally, I owe a debt of gratitude to Don Weise and Virginia Dodge Fielder for their editorial advice, and to Bella Books for publishing Indomitable. Last, but not least, I wish to thank my partner, Deb Wehman, for keeping me grounded as I immersed myself in this project.
The Urn Carrierby Chris Convissor, Published by Bedazzled Ink Publishing, LLC
Wow. I don’t know what to say. Thank you to the Golden Crown Literary Society for their hard work. This is hard putting on all of this. I really appreciate it. I want to thank all the workers, volunteers, and the judges. Thank you to the first ever Golden Crown Society Academy and my great class mates and mentors and teachers, not the least of whom are Lee Lynch, Sandra Moran, Ann McMan, Karelia Stetz-Waters and many more that I am very grateful to.
I want to thank Bedazzled Ink for taking a chance on me. Claudia and Casey’s hard work polishing Urn, and Lynn Starner Cover Artist.
This category holds so many great and illustrious authors. To be among them is a great honour.
I have a few really good friends here and they are all over: I’d like to thank Linda Kay Silva for mentoring, Beth Burnett for getting me started, Chris and Schileen for being kind and taking me in my very first year of trying to do any of this.
And of course I couldn’t have done any of it without Carolyn Schwab who surprised me by coming in last night and is here. It just keeps getting better.
I met some really great people this week and one of them gave me the phrase, “Out of many, We are one (E Pluribus Unum)” We really need to remember that, especially in these times.
We are all one and I really feel you guys. Thank you.
Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, volume 1edited by D.L. King, Published by Cleis Press
Thank you, GCLS, for this honor; I am truly overwhelmed. And while I am thrilled to have this very substantial award, I must thank the authors, whose wonderful work was entrusted to me for this edition of Best Lesbian Erotica. So, thank you Tamsin Flowers, Deb Jannerson, Annabeth Leong, Samantha Luce, Camille Duvall, Radclyffe, Evey Brett, Taylor C. Dunne, Vanessa De Sade, Valerie Alexander, Megan McFerren, Sacchi Green, J. Belle Lamb, Roxy Katt, Elna Holst, Geonn Cannon, V. Florian, and P. A. Nox.
Give Me Thornsby Elizabeth Andre, Published by Tulabella Ruby Press
I was at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in 1990 when the leatherdykes were banned from the land. Thank you to the Golden Crown Literary Society for recognizing that BDSM--bondage, domination, submission and masochism--can be full of love, romance, and, yes, good sex.
The Clubby A.L. Brooks, Published by Ylva Publishing
Thank you so much for this award – it’s astonishing and wonderful all rolled into one. My biggest thanks must go to Ylva Publishing, and in particular to Astrid and Daniela, who do an incredible job of running this great publishing house. It really is an amazing company to be a part of. Being ‘discovered’ by Ylva has completely turned my life around, and only in good ways. I’d also like to thank all the friends, old and new, who’ve supported me wholeheartedly in this escapade. And a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to my partner, Tanja, who, as my number one fan (as she often tells me), combines all the best qualities of an awesome girlfriend alongside being an author’s sounding board, support crew, and cheerleading team.
Requiem for Immortals by Lee Winter, Published by Ylva Publishing
I’m profoundly grateful to everyone who took a chance on reading about a killer with a conscience. So in honor of my Goldie win, I thought I’d ask one of my protagonists to give her thanks. Please note that Requiem, an underworld killer and a professional cellist, does not have the best people skills.
Thank you for this...award. It is a good size, shape, and weight to be exceedingly useful in a fight. I assume that it is not comprised of shatterproof glass. That would be most…unsatisfactory. I don’t suppose you have anything pointier? If not, never mind.
I am unsurprised to see myself in the spotlight once more. The question is which of my skills did you appreciate the most? The raw musicality of a dying man’s cries as he realizes the patheticness of a life wasted? Or the quivering groans of my cello as it reduces an audience to trembles? Both are thrilling in their own way. Both are my gifts.
To that strange Australian scribbler, Lee Winter, who has corralled my stories into this book, I thank her for listening as I murmured my thoughts into her brain late at night. She called me a “madness she tried to rid herself on page”. I wish her well with that. We formed a bond over four, intense months that can never be forgotten. I wonder if she hears my whispers still? I think maybe she does.
To the people reading this: I know that you are all soft, weak, and disturbingly human. But I understand now that you can’t help what you are. Neither can I. We are exactly who and what the people, or the monsters, in our lives made us to be. Doesn’t that make things interesting?
1140 Rue Royale by Karen D. Badger, Published by Badger Bliss Books
This is an amazing honor...and a first for Badger Bliss Books.
I first want to congratulate all the nominees,I am thrilled to be in your company.
Thank you to all the judges and to the GCLS organization for everything you to do promote lesbian literature.
Thank you to the most awesome beta readers... Pennie Hancock, Carol Poynor (aka, Chief Master Sergeant Eagle Eye), Chris Parsons, Mercedes Lewis, Donna Brown and especially to my Mom, Ellie Atherton, who is my number one fan.You guys rock.Thank you for making this a better book.
Thank you to my editor, Nann Dunne.What can I say about Nann that you all don’t already know.She is the best.I love you, my friend.
Thank you to Darci Deo and Pennie Hancock who braved 98 degree heat and wilting humidity to do extensive research for me on the property at 1140 Royal Street in New Orleans during the 2015 GCLS conference. The material you brought back was invaluable.
Many thanks to all the readers who make lesbian literature...and literature of all kinds, possible.We wouldn’t be here without you.
Last, but not least, thank you to my wife Barb, who most of you know as Bliss.She has become an expert at unscrewing me from the ceiling when the edits come in, and she is the most amazing plot doctor a writer could have.I thank the gods for bringing you into my life at the 2007 GCLS conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I love you with all my heart.
I dedicate this award to more than 500,000 people of color who, during the infancy of this country, were taken forcefully from their homes and made to toil on the plantations of wealthy land owners, or who, like the brave souls who are the focus of this story, were forced into servitude as house servants for the elite.
This book was difficult to write.I can’t tell you how many tears I shed while researching the lives of the people who lived at 1140 Royal Street in New Orleans in the 1830’s.These people were often subjected to starvation, hard labor, brutal violence, degradation, unspeakable acts of cruelty and torture, separation from family, and loss of dignity, simply because they were a darker shade of human.
The struggle for freedom and equal rights is never-ending, whether it concerns people of color, women, religious intolerance, gender bias, discrimination based on sexual orientation, physical disabilities, or social and economic disparities.The list is painfully long.
The very fact that there is a list, makes my heart hurt.
I dedicate this award to all of you.May history never forget your sacrifices.
By the Dark of Her Eyes by Cameron MacElvee, Published by Bold Strokes Books
Being among my fellow nominees, talented writers each (I know because I promptly went out and bought copies of their books and read them!), has been an honor like no other for me, and I owe this award to so many people that I could fill pages and pages with my thanks and gratitude.
I want to start by acknowledging the guidance I received from members of the Bold Strokes family. To begin, Ruth Sternglantz helped me take a rambling, bloated manuscript and hone it down to a fast-paced tale, something I couldn’t have done on my own. So, thank you, Ruth, for your patience, wisdom, and endurance.
Also, as a first-time author, I had a lot of questions and anxiety, but Sandy Lowe supported me through it all. Thanks, Sandy, for never tiring of my questions and concerns.
Further, the mood for this story was set perfectly by Jeanine Henning and the wonderful book cover she designed. Thanks you, Jeanine, for your talented interpretation.
Of course, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to bring this story to print if it hadn’t been for Len Barot providing writers like me an opportunity to tell our stories. Thanks, Rad, you’re an inspiration for all of us.
In addition to all the support I received from Bold Strokes, I must also thank my friends and readers at LesFan who encouraged me throughout the rewrites, revisions, and self-doubt. Jacky Abromitis, in particular, encouraged me to keep writing and provided me an opportunity to reach a worldwide audience including my muse, Lodeerca.
Most important, I want to thank my partner Taime and our daughter Eleanor. You two are my biggest cheerleaders and stood behind me all the way. I couldn’t have done it without you. I love you both, and have so much gratitude in my heart for having the two of you in my life.
I began germinating the idea for this novel over ten years ago, but when I learned my niece had been diagnosed with cancer, the idea took hold of me as I watched my sister being consumed with grief. I realized then losing a child was the worst pain anyone could face, and that realization prompted me to write the initial draft. A month after completing the story, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary occurred. The horror of that tragedy got me thinking about the parents of those murdered children. I couldn’t stop putting myself in their shoes. How does a mother come back from that? How can she not help but replay the last morning she kissed her child, packed her lunch, hugged her, and told her she loved her? From this nightmare, I shaped and forged my manuscript into the story it is today. And this is why By the Dark of Her Eyes is special to me. I wanted to pay tribute to my sister, to all the mothers of Sandy Hook, and to anyone who has lost someone precious and managed to find the strength to live another day.
With that, I want to thank the Golden Crown Literary Society and its judges for seeing the worth in my novel and recognizing that this “ghost story” is something so much more.
Gravity by Juliann Rich, Published by Bold Strokes Books
I'd like to thank a number of people who were integral to GRAVITY'S existence. First, I'd like to thank the amazing Rachel Gold, fellow writer, writer's group member, friend, and official sex consultant. Rachel kept me honest in the scenes where I could easily have wandered into unknown territory. She also kept me laughing and made something I am very uncomfortable with: writing sex scenes, FUN to do!
Secondly, I would like to thank Sarah Hendrickson, Olympic Ski Jumper, for her generous offer to beta-read, proof, and provide advanced praise for GRAVITY. Working with her has been a dream come true.
I would like to thank my agent, Saritza Hernandez and my publishing house, Bold Strokes Books, but those words are not coming to mind and so I will let it be know that what assistance I had in navigating the complex world of publishing, I received from them.
I also would like to thank my husband, Jeffrey with a J, for teaching me that those who love us most are positioned to hurt us the deepest. If my writing has taken on a truer voice, a deeper voice, a voice that resonates with the broken in this world, it is because of the lessons he taught me about love and betrayal and the shadow self that lies within us all.
And lastly, I want to thank whatever quality I have that showed me that I can stand strong even (especially) in the times when I didn't think getting off the floor was possible. Ellie and Kate, co-inhabitants of my spirit for the year of this drafting, you both taught me how to be strong and honest and able to face the truth: that which makes us want to die, leaves us more clear about the lives we wish to live and fills us with the strength to create those lives without giving a damn what anyone thinks of our choices.
So thank you, everyone who influenced my life and this book. For better or for worse, you all influenced the writing of GRAVITY and the creation of this new life I am living where I am like the women of this book: unafraid to fly free.