The Association for Writing Professionals holds its annual conference in LA this year. On the final day, April 2nd, I’ll be taking part in a panel:
Spinsters, Pretty Girls & Bears, Oh My!: Four Decades of Lesbian Writing and Publishing. (Brandy Wilson, Katherine Forrest, KG MacGregor, Karin Kallmaker, Rita Mae Reese) Small lesbian presses were the wellspring of lesbian writing — romance, mystery, erotica, poetry, and literary fiction. How did these presses shape lesbian writers and readers? In the age of digital publishing that allows writers to bypass publishers for greater profits and autonomy, why choose to publish with a small press? How do small presses stay relevant? An editor with over 30 years of experience and a spectrum of writers, representing four presses, discuss the past and future of lesbian publishing.
In sharing my personal perspective on small lesbian presses, I’ll talk about transitioning from the Xena fanfiction movement to Bella Books. The amateur nature of our fanfiction-based books wasn’t limited only to authors — our editors, publishers and booksellers were on the same learning curve. On-demand publishing enabled dilettante publishers to enter the market with little investment, with profits realized from an avid readership that, at least for a while, forgave our many shortcomings.The social aspect of Xena fanfiction had a profound effect on me. There was something magical about being part of the community and appreciating the talents and contributions of various participants — the authors, the artists, the web hosts. Coming face to face with readers at Xena conventions and fan-staged “bard” events provided the best possible evidence that our audience was impacted by our work, a lesson that has stayed with me throughout my writing career. It’s been such a joyous ride.
I still have many stories left to tell. I’m grateful to Bella Books for their professionalism, from editorial help to production to marketing and distribution. They’ve taken me from a raw fanfiction writer to an award-winning author.
I can’t wait for the fanfiction explosion that’s sure to erupt if the Xena reboot makes it back to TV. How many of those fans will serendipitously discover their true bliss in storytelling? Will they too walk away from their work-a-day careers to tell stories of lesbians who meet and fall in love?