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Friday, December 3, 2010

A story for you

Dear Readers,

Because it's December, I have posted a story at my Web site, free to read. It's my favorite story, "The Fear of God," and was previously available only in the Canadian journal QWERTY (like the keyboard).

Simply visit jeknowles.com and, in the left column, click on "The Fear of God."

I wish you happy reading.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The pleasure of writing

Today, I am grateful for writing and all that it gives me. Of course, I mean all the work that has gone into books I love, as well as my own writing. Anyone who complains about what hard work writing is is missing the point of being a writer, I think.

Losing oneself in a story, becoming excited about a character, coming up with ideas and dialogue seemingly without conscious planning--this is what it is all about. I know how blessed I am to have this pleasure, as it is by no means guaranteed to each of us that we will find it. So many people hate their work, complain about what they do each day, and never seem to experience the purposeful activity that writing is for me.

I consider myself lucky because every job I do is a way of supporting my writing habit; every place I have lived has been a place to pursue writing. I have this constant in my life. For some people, their constant purpose is the job that pays their mortgage, or the hobby that fills their weekends. For me it is writing.

Thank you for sharing it with me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cancer cuts a swath

...of death and destruction through so many of our families. On Sunday, 3 October, I'll be running my first 10K (!) on behalf of Cancer Research UK. Please join me in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, or on my fundraising page--thank you!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meet and greet in London

Author Claire Rooney and I will meet and greet readers in London (England) on Saturday, the 14th of August, starting at 3:00pm at Gay's the Word. When the bookshop gets too crowded (!), we'll head down Marchmont Street to check out a new gay bar, The New Bloomsbury Set.

Gay's the Word
66 Marchmont Street
LondonWC1N 1AB
2 minutes walk from Russell Square Tube Station and 10 minutes from either Euston or King's Cross.
http://freespace.virgin.net/gays.theword/index.htm

The New Bloomsbury Set
76b Marchmont Street
Bloomsbury
LondonWC1N 1AG
(020) 7383 3084
thebar@newbloomsburyset.co.uk
http://www.newbloomsburyset.co.uk/

Monday, July 5, 2010

New story

Please enjoy a free download of Read These Lips, which includes my story "Orange Crush." "See the world unfolding through young eyes":

http://readtheselips.com

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Denouement: In praise of the audience



The Lambda Literary Foundation co-sponsored Bi Lines III the night after the awards ceremony. I was scheduled to read last. This fulfilled the other dream of an American writer: to give a reading in Greenwich Village, in a room resembling a church basement, complete with piano.


(The droll expression indicates the voice of Edith, Arusha's hero.)


My lasting impression of that evening: The audience was absolutely fantastic. They did everything right, thereby overcoming any challenges we may have had, starting with the acoustics. Here are the things these wonderful men and women did, that I try to do and recommend everybody at readings should do:


1. They filled the seats. Granted, this is not something any individual audience member can control. But a room full of people is halfway to a successful reading no matter what else happens.


2. They listened. It wasn't always easy (see above). But the people in this room seemed to be there out of genuine interest. They could have been driving somewhere for the Memorial Day weekend, or in the bar with their friends, but they spent their Friday night at a reading instead. Cool.


3. They applauded every writer, musician, and photographer.


4. If they were there as friends of one performer, they did not leave when their friend's time was up. They stayed to The Bitter End (as one of the old folk clubs in the area was called). In other words, to hear me, who knew almost no one in the room.


5. Afterwards, they talked to us, asked questions, expressed interest in our books. I would not have blamed them if they had been ready to go home!


Audience, and readers everywhere: thank you. Whether or not you are writers also, readers are the reason we write. The folks at Bi Lines III truly impressed me by showing what my old band director always exhorted us to show: class. An old-fashioned concept, I know--like courtesy and reading from the printed page. Thanks a lot.


Signing books with Bobbie Geary (far left), Audrey Beth Stein (third from right), and Herukhuti (far right).

Photography: Efrain Gonzalez

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lambda 4--The Climax

I would say it's an honor just to be nominated. But that's a cliche, and I'm already going to have to explain to Sandi from writing group that I didn't wear denim to the awards ceremony in Manhattan. Can't disappoint her again.

The Lambda Literary Awards, at the School of Visual Arts Theatre in Chelsea, were a blast. New York City was a blast. In fact America was a blast, which is why I am only now posting more than a week later.

We had the pleasure of meeting writers we know, both nominees and others, before we even walked in the door. In just a few days in New York I ran into more than one person I knew just walking down the street, which is something I never expected to happen in a city I've never before visited. And at least three of us came all the way from the UK--here we are with Dalia Craig.

I finally met, in person, some of the most important people in my novel's life, including the great Katherine Forrest, my editor, and Linda Hill, my publisher. Katherine was doing double duty as Board President of the Lambda Literary Foundation, and Linda had her turn accepting the Lambda on behalf of my fellow Spinsters Ink author, Rhiannon Argo, for her debut novel, The Creamsickle.

Those Gay and Lesbian Debut Fiction Awards are named for the late Betty Berzon, author of nonfiction works including Positively Gay and Permanent Partners: Building Gay and Lesbian Relationships That Last. The awards presentation was by Teresa DeCrescenzo, who was Berzon's life partner and remains a pioneering figure in our community. One of the highlights of the Lambdas, for me, was simply being in the same room with luminaries like DeCrescenzo as well as the Pioneer Award recipients, Larry Kramer and Kate Clinton.

Berzon was a hero of mine from the time when, as an adolescent, I found Permanent Partners in my hometown's public library, and was able to begin shaping a vision of what I (someday) wanted my gay adult life to be like. Clinton makes people laugh as well as think, which is heroic to me. And if anyone has been gay for five minutes in America and somehow missed Larry Kramer's contribution, please look him up. Kramer is a survivor, a voice crying in the wilderness of the early AIDS years, but his award at the Lambdas was for his writing. His 1970s novel, Faggots, is a work of prophetic satire that can justly be (and has been) compared to English literature's greatest of the genre, Jonathan Swift. Yes I'm letting my preferences show, and loudly. Kramer is a hero of mine, too.

For me, the evening concluded with one of the dreams of an American writer: dinner with my publisher in New York. There were four finalists present from Spinsters and Bella Books: the others were Tracey Richardson, KG MacGregor, and Karin Kallmaker.

I'll wrap up in a day or two with news from my reading the night after. Thanks to Cheri and Karin for the pictures.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lambda 3--Reading in New York

I'll be reading the night after the Lambda Literary Awards in New York City. If you're in town, please come along for Bi Lines III: A Celebration of Bisexual Writing in Reading, Music & Culture. Arusha is featured as a finalist in the Bisexual Fiction category.

Date and time: Friday, May 28. Program 7:00-9:30pm; doors open 6:30
Location: The LGBT Center, 208 W. 13th Street
Suggested donation: $7 US (to cover the costs of space, art exhibits and music) or FREE for Lambda Awards ceremony attendees

Authors and the books we'll be reading from:
Blake Bailey Cheever: A Life
Audrey Beth Stein Map
J.E. Knowles Arusha
Ann Herendeen Pride/Prejudice
Herukhuti Conjuring Black Funk
Bobbie Geary The Janeid

Music: Meech Morrison, Jade Zabric, Drew
Photography: Efrain Gonzalez, Amanda Morgan


Hosted by the Bi Writers Association. Co-sponsored by BiRequest, Lambda Literary Foundation & Bi Women of All Colors

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lambda 2--Chicago

On the 4th of May, I was in Chicago, visiting some of my favorite people and places. What serendipity that that evening was also the Lambda Finalists Reading at the Gerber/Hart Library! Hosted by Karen Sendziak and Lambda's Judith Markowitz (right), it was a terrific success, meaning that the library had to put out more chairs. Always better than looking out at empty ones.

Some people's first love is a girl or boy, a woman or a man. Not mine. The first time I fell in love it was with the city of Chicago, and that love remains as unreasonable and passionate now as it was when I moved there at the age of seventeen. I have always personified Chicago as a woman, and as with a woman I forgive her all her faults, because I loved her when I was very young.

So it was particularly special for me to come "home" to Chicago to read. I was further delighted by the quality of all the readings. I am not a reviewer, and folks who know me know that I am not inclined to praise unless I'm truly impressed by something!

First up was Tracey Richardson, a finalist in Lesbian Romance. Tracey read a haunting passage from No Rules of Engagement, about a Canadian military doctor in Afghanistan. The deep issues--equal treatment for gays in the Canadian Forces, the war in which Canada is participating, life and death--show why that novel stands out from ordinary romances. I don't envy the judge of that category: Karin Kallmaker, Colette Moody, KG MacGregor, and Carsen Taite are the other finalists!

Next was Kristin Naca reading from her first book (Lesbian Poetry). Kristin is the kind of poet that makes me want to write poetry (a category in which it is probably safe to say I would never be nominated). Other members of the audience were also impressed with the accessibility of her poems, which reflect a broad range of human experience. She has some real stars in her corner, too: Yusef Komunyakaa, Sandra Cisneros, and Joy Harjo have all praised Bird Eating Bird.

After Arusha was Deborah B. Gould's Moving Politics, in the category of LGBT ("quiltbag") Studies. While I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, coming out in the context of gay-bashing and demonstrations, Debbie was a graduate student and member of ACT UP--the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power. So I was very interested in her history of that provocative alliance between lesbians and gay men. Her closing passage, about what was to be the final meeting of ACT UP Chicago, was a poignant evocation of what it feels like to watch the passing of a movement to which we have been deeply committed. No wonder her book's subtitle is: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight against AIDS.
Mystery writer Rob Byrnes was unable to make it (damn those day jobs!), but Karen wrapped up the evening, appropriately, by reading from Sugarless. James Magruder's book (Gay Debut Fiction) made me laugh, and I brought a copy home.

Let me just say, if all the other finalists are as excellent as these authors with whom I was privileged to share a stage, quiltbag literature is in very good shape indeed.


Photography: Susan Franz

Lambda 1

A reader (oh, how thankful I am for readers) suggested I use this space to share a bit about being a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. Strictly speaking, it is my novel, Arusha, that is the finalist. I have nice gold stickers to put on copies of the book that say so!

Being shortlisted for a Lambda Award is, truly, an honor, something I hoped would happen someday but did not expect for my first book. These awards have been around since the 1980s, and some of our most admired writers have won: Nicola Griffith. Emma Donoghue. Jane Rule. Mark Doty. The list of winners for a single year can read like a Who's Who of writers in our community. And, since this is my rambling post, I would like to borrow an expression from Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge: instead of the cumbersome "LGBT" I am going to use the more pronounceable nickname QLTBG or "quiltbag."

Not everyone, of course, is familiar with the Lambda Awards. Here in Britain, for example, I'm not sure writers understand why the USA has special awards for literature relating to quiltbag people. This might have something to do with the fact that writers in other countries who are quiltbag, or who write about quiltbag characters, are just part of mainstream publishing. And that, in turn, might have something to do with the fact that in a country like Britain, we have achieved more or less full equality. What a different experience from that of an American, whose entire adult life has been shaped by homophobic laws!

So, why the Lambdas? Quiltbag literature is literature, and it is global. The Lambdas are given to US-published books regardless of where the winners live, or are from. Griffith is English and lives in the US. Donoghue is Irish and lives in Canada. Rule was a US-born Canadian, and one of our greats.

So, that's why I'm honored that Arusha is among the finalists for this year's award, the first ever in the category of Bisexual Fiction.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sing it, sister

Jennifer Knapp is a Christian. Jennifer Knapp is a musician. And now, the world knows, Jennifer Knapp is gay.

As a result of this seemingly insurmountable paradox, Knapp was invited on Larry King Live to defend herself against someone called Bob Botsford, a pastor representing the "other side." I'll let this excerpt from the transcript speak for itself, because Sister Knapp does a pretty darn good job:

KNAPP: If I am a sinner and homosexuality is a sin, let’s just go on that premise for a moment. But what separates that particular sin out from the fact that I’m angry or mad at someone or that I cheat or maybe, you know — what separates that out as so grievous to you that we have to sit here and have this type of conversation?

BOTSFORD: Well, it’s interesting. There’s — sin is sin. You’re absolutely right. And we all have sin.

KNAPP: So, why are we — why am I — why aren’t you in this seat and I’m in the other seat condemning you on national television?

BOTSFORD: I’m not condemning you. Listen, I’m here because I love you. And I told you that off-air, I’ll say it on air. I’m here because I’m concerned. I’m here as a family member.

KNAPP: You get my phone number.

BOTSFORD: You calling yourself a Christian still as part of the family of God saying, as I said in the blog, Jen, come home. Come back. Come out.

KNAPP: I will say this to you again on air. I have spiritual leadership in my life.

BOTSFORD: Yes.

KNAPP: The pastoral counsel of those who are dear to me, who understand the Scripture as sacred text. You know, also, want to –

BOTSFORD: I’m not sure they do, Jen.

KNAPP: Don’t interrupt me. You are not that man in my life. Speak to your congregation –

BOTSFORD: I agree. I’m not saying that I’m you’re spiritual authority.

KNAPP: You do not know me, and don’t have the right to speak to me in the manner which you have publicly.

BOTSFORD: Well, I do have a role to stand up for truth.

KNAPP: In your congregation and your community.

BOTSFORD: I’m –

KNAPP: But do not — I’m asking you not to do that. I ask you not say that you’re doing that on my behalf.

BOTSFORD: I’m here as a representative of Jesus Christ.

See, here's the thing, Brother Botsford. We are all here as representatives of Jesus Christ. Everyone who dares take on the name of Christian: you, me, and Jennifer Knapp. If "the world" out there is scratching its collective head--can you blame people?

We all need to think long and carefully when we identify as representatives of him who came not into the world to condemn the world...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lambda Literary Award Reading

From Chicago's Gerber/Hart Library:

"The Lambda Literary Foundation and Gerber/Hart Library will host a reading by Chicago and Midwestern Lambda Literary Award finalists on Tuesday, May 4, at 7 pm at Gerber/Hart Library. The authors, their works, and the categories in which they are nominated are:

•Rob Byrnes, for Straight Lies in the Gay Mystery category
•Deborah B. Gould, for Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight Against AIDS in the LGBT Studies category
•J.E. Knowles for Arusha in the Bisexual Fiction category
•Kristin Naca for Bird Eating Bird in the Lesbian Poetry category
•Tracey Richardson for No Rules of Engagement in the Lesbian Romance category
Books will be available for purchase at the event, and refreshments will be served. The 22nd Lambda Literary Awards Awards ceremony will take place on May 27 in New York."

Monday, March 29, 2010

What success looks like

Kim Moritsugu defines success in the field of fiction writing:"I would define success as being published by a reputable publisher, getting positive feedback from reviewers and readers, and selling more books than one has friends and family members."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Take a look at this page: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/datastream/news/03/16/finalists-announced-for-the-22nd-annual-lambda-literary-awards/#more-752

Monday, March 15, 2010

Reading on Blog Talk Radio

Please join me on Saturday, April 10, at 2:00 PM EDT for my first radio interview. I'll be speaking with Lara Zielinsky on Blog Talk Radio.

Lara hosts "Readings in Lesbian and Bisexual Women's Fiction," a highly intelligent and entertaining show. The discussion ranges from poetry to religion; writers read from their work, and the audience can call in with questions! I expect to have a lot of fun, and thank Lara (also a writer) for this opportunity.

To listen to the show, click on the player below at 2:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, April 10, or later if you can't catch it live.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The British invasion

My "new book" is signed and for sale here in England! First to stock it is Gay's the Word, London's first and last bookstore of its kind. You can find it in the historic Bloomsbury neighborhood. Arusha will soon be available at other UK bookstores, including Foyles on Charing Cross Road.

Incidentally, if you walk from Euston Station to Bloomsbury, you pass the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers (NUT). Surely I'm not the only person to find this abbreviation unfortunate.

For the duration of the Winter Olympics, a piece of my heart is back in Canada, the land of winter. Enjoy the Games.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow


A poem for today is "Cat & The Weather" by May Swenson. Look it up--I don't violate copyright. But here's a picture.