Let’s just all agree that 2016 uniquely sucked. Not only did it bring the violent massacre of our brothers and sisters in Orlando, it gleefully shoved that vile hatred and bigotry in our faces. I personally will feel the rage of this year’s elections for the rest of my years, no matter what the future brings.
I seriously considered skipping this tradition for the first time in 12 years, or pausing instead to pay tribute to what might have been. As I looked back on some of my earlier end-of-year inventories, however, I realized that I’d always been able to find highlights, even in recent years as I’ve dealt with an unrelenting stream of health issues and the slow, lingering deaths of both my parents. It’s always therapeutic to focus on the bright spots, to remember what is good.
So here we go — in spite of myself — my TOP 10 HIGHLIGHTS OF 2016:
10. I kicked off the year last spring at AWP in Los Angeles. That stands for Association for Writing Professionals, where I sat on a panel on the history of lesbian presses with Katherine Forrest, Karin Kallmaker, Rita Mae Reese and Brandy Wilson. It gave me a chance to talk about how Xena: Warrior Princess fanfiction launched a wave of lesbian storytellers.
9. I stepped back from writing a bit this year and tried my hand at editing. Got a wonderful submission to Bella Books from Caitlyn Drake, who proved a quick study with a great grasp of her characters. Her debut book, One in the Hand, had the misfortune of being released the week after the election when a lot of readers were too shellshocked to read. So grab it now! And while we’re talking about editing, here’s another: My Jenny tried it too, taking a couple of passes at Joanne Passet’s fascinating biography of Barbara Grier, Indomitable.
8. I love it when a book club chooses one of my titles to discuss. I’m sure I speak for others when I say nothing puffs up a writer like sharing with interested readers the inside workings of a book. I did two book clubs this year — Women With Pride in Dallas (Trial by Fury) and Western Women Writers of New Mexico (Mulligan). Thanks to both groups for their enthusiasm and hospitality.
7. How about that Autumn Road Show with Karin Kallmaker! We hit Malaprop’s in Asheville, and the LGBT Center in Raleigh, where we were joined by D. Jackson Leigh, VK Powell and Rebecca Swartz. Great turnout in both places.
6. If you made it to the GCLS conference in Alexandria, VA, you already know it was outstanding this year! Tons of old friends, plenty of new ones. I had a full dance card while I was there, moderating three panels and sitting in on two others. Plus an Author’s Spotlight, where I read from Trial by Fury.
5. I served another year as president of the Board of Trustees for Lambda Literary. While I’m quite at home in the lesbian writing community, I especially enjoy the diversity of the LGBTQ literary circle. A woman I deeply admire once said, “There’s more that unites us than divides us.” We had an exciting night in New York for the 28th Lammy Awards, where we honored Hilton Als and lesbian poet Eileen Myles. Our Writers in the Schools program got a terrific boost with a generous grant from the NYC public schools. And I had the chance to sit in on a couple of board management seminars in LA & Boston, thanks to Bloomberg Philanthropies and the DeVos Institute for Arts and Innovation Management.
4. I was very proud to pick up a Goldie Award for T-Minus Two in the Romantic Adventure category. I’ve wanted to write an astronaut story for years, and a trip to visit a friend of mine who works at the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea provided just the right inspiration. Thanks to all who helped make this book a success.
3. You guys leave me gobsmacked every year with your support for my various charities and causes. Such generous souls you are, inspiring me to be my best too. Together, we raised almost $17,000 this year for LGBT organizations — Lambda Literary, GCLS, Equality NC and the Trevor Project.
2. They say the economy hasn’t recovered yet, but my doctors sure got rich this year. Another back surgery, a knee surgery, and I’m still hobbling. It’s been tougher than usual to stay focused long enough to write, so much that I had to cut back from two books to one. Looks like that’s going to be the new normal. Still, I celebrate getting Trial By Fury out, and also a short story called “Sin City Spin” in Bella’s romance anthology, Happily Ever After. And earlier this month, I finished the first draft of next year’s release, called Moment of Weakness.
1. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and in the devastating fallout from a bitter defeat, I’ve been fortified by the rise of a Sisterhood I haven’t glimpsed since the US Senate brushed off Anita Hill in 1991. Yes, it feels as if I’m tending wounds that won’t ever heal. Still, I remain in awe of your passion and resolve. Let’s make it count.