Top 10 of the Decade: the 2010s in Review

It’s a long tradition that I look back on each year and compile a Top 10 list of highlights. It’s fun to relive those special moments, and especially to push aside the troubles, conflicts and shortcomings. I’ve got to be honest though — I’m going to skip the Top 10 for 2019. I experienced a devastating loss in my family this year, and frankly, it hung over most of my memories. Yeah, #fuckcancer. So instead, I thought I’d look back on the whole decade. Maybe it’ll help me set some goals for the next few years.

So here they are, my Top 10 of the decade:

Getty Images Hulton Archive — because pictures of Xena always get your attention

10. Xena!!! Were it not for Xena fanfiction — and all the encouragement I got from readers in the Xenaverse — I wouldn’t be a writer today. So of course I have to work Xena onto this list. Across the decade, I attended 4 Xena conventions in LA, where I caught up with lifelong friends I’ve made around that “goofy show for smart people.” But the real highlight happened in 2011 when I was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the premiere fanfic site for the Xenaverse, the Royal Academy of Bards.

9. Dozens of promotional events. It’s tough to reach new readers, but luckily I had appearances on the Today Show and Colbert, plus a write-up in the New York Times Book Review, an appearance in Oprah’s Book Club, and … KIDDING!!! What I had was way more fun. A Bella Y-Tour in Ft. Lauderdale in 2010, last year’s Books & Boots conference in Dallas, readings in Palm Springs, Oakland, Raleigh, Asheville. Book clubs in Dallas and Albuquerque. Interviews and online panels. A huge thanks to those who do the heavy lifting to put together these opportunities for authors. We love you!

Rita Mae Brown accepts the Pioneer Award

8. The 2015 Lambda Literary Awards in New York. This event deserves a special mention because it was an exciting and unforgettable night. One of the perks of serving on the LL board was having the chance to meet our guests: Rita Mae Brown, Gloria Steinem, Liz Smith, John Waters, Alison Bechdel.

7. Did I mention that I was on the Lambda Literary Board? Six years in all, including two as board president. To say I was reluctant at first is an understatement, but I couldn’t say no to a request from my dear friend and editor Katherine V. Forrest, who had given so much of herself to an organization so critical to ensuring that queer stories are written, published and read. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing career.

6. The 2011 keynote speech at the GCLS con in Orlando. It was a real honor to be asked to address the GCLS, a community that I love dearly. In that speech, which I titled Walking the Trail, I urged authors to break off the oft-traveled routes, move out of their comfort zone, and take readers with them. I still believe those will be our generational books. Thanks to all who got up early to attend after late-night karaoke … which that year included Jenny and me in a duet of “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”

5. It was a great decade for Goldie Awards. It started with Worth Every Step in 2010, followed in 2011 by Photographs of Claudia. Then Playing With Fuego in 2013, T-Minus Two in 2016, and Trial By Fury in 2017. I saved the best for last, the 2019 Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award for A Proper Cuppa Tea. For all the times I’ve given speeches and presentations, or taken part in panels and live interviews … I still get voice-cracking, hand-shaking, knees-knocking nervous when I step on the stage to accept an award. It’s probably a good idea to take this opportunity now to thank all those people I forgot to mention.

4. Some very special awards. I won’t lie — winning awards is affirming, especially since most of my work is done in utter solitude. It’s nice to be reminded of the audience on the other end of those books. The Ann Bannon award was super special. To state the obvious, all of us dream of writing a book that hits the sweet spot for so many. I already mentioned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Academy of Bards, but there was another that filled me with gratitude — the 2012 Alice B Medal for lifetime achievement. They’re all lined up in a place of honor as inspiration to always write the best book I can.

3. Attended all 10 GCLS cons this decade. And the decade before as well. I plan on saying that again on the eve of 2030. It’s my family reunion.

2. Books!!! Despite 6 back surgeries and a persistent dull, aching pain that starts every time I sit down, I somehow managed to write 14 books. Mother Load, Rhapsody, Photographs of Claudia, Playing With Fuego, Life After Love, West of Nowhere, Touch of a Woman, Moment of Weakness, Trial By Fury, A Proper Cuppa Tea and The Lucky Ones. Plus 3 of my personal favorites: Etched in Shadows, T-Minus Two and Anyone But You. I don’t say this enough: Bella Books is run by some terrific folks. They’ve picked me up, talked me down, and respected my vision of lesbian fiction every step of the way. My wish for all of my author friends is for them to have a publisher who supports them the way Bella has supported me.

Whatever happened here was NOT my fault.

1. Community. What else could be more illustrative of the decade? I’ll never forget the outpouring of compassion in 2010 after the death of my mom, and during my long rehab following back surgery. Throughout the decade, readers have stepped up and made generous donations to the causes I’ve championed, including more than $40 thousand!! we raised together in support of book organizations Lambda Literary and GCLS. That’s a stunning amount. Our sisterhood has drawn especially close since 2015, when the rumblings of a certain deplorable bigot signaled an epic backlash to the progress the LGBTQ community made under Obama. In the next decade, I want to be part of the celebration for repudiating that.

I have many more warm memories of the past decade, and there are LOTS of people I could have named-checked for their friendship and support. I’m so happy to be on this journey with you all.

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