Friday, 13 June 2008

Writing Success Story: First Person Queer Wins the 20th Lambda Literary Award

Friend and fellow Madrileño writer Lawrence Schimel has edited dozens of anthologies and won numerous awards. A week ago an anthology he co-edited with Richard Labonté, First Person Queer, won the 20th Lambda Literary Award for Best Anthology. This book is a collection of essays on all aspects of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender life and was published last year by Arsenal Pulp Press. Today Lawrence shares with us how he got to where he is today.

"I began writing primarily for themed anthologies rather than magazines, and pretty quickly gained a little bit of a reputation for writing very short pieces (which are always easier for an editor to find room for) that fit the theme (you'd be surprised how few writers actually do submit work that is relevant). I also got to know many of my fellow contributors, both at conventions and online, so I began pitching ideas for my own anthologies, primarily to publishers who already knew me because they'd published work of mine already in anthologies edited by others.

"I'd published a story under my own name in the anthology Dark Angels: Lesbian Vampire Stories edited by Pam Keesey, and when I met the publishers of Cleis at a convention they remarked that it was the first time they'd read a story written by a man which felt like it had been written by a lesbian. At the time, I'd been editing a number of gay male erotica anthologies under a pseudonym, and many of my most reliable contributors were women who wrote under male pseudonyms, but it was much rarer for men to be writing lesbian material, and I suggested an anthology on the subject, of each side writing from the other point of view, and they liked the idea, and that conversation become Switch Hitters: Lesbians Write Gay Male Erotica and Gay Men Write Lesbian Erotica. I asked Carol Queen, a writer I knew and whose work I admired, to co-edit it and she said yes and since the publisher had been interested in working with her for a while, everyone was happy. Carol and I went on to edit a companion anthology of non-fiction personal essays, PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality, also for Cleis, which also won a Lambda Literary Award back in 1998.

"In the sci-fi field, I had appeared in a few dozen DAW anthologies, starting with my first professional sale to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress series. But many of the anthologies had been co-edited by Martin H. Greenberg, and since we had a working relationship already, I pitched him with a few ideas in the DAW model, and he liked them and pitched them to DAW, and since they were familiar with both Marty's and my work, they accepted Tarot Fantastic and Camelot Fantastic (and we did an extra non-Tarot-specific anthology The Fortune Tellers, too, as a spin-off from Tarot Fantastic).

"Pitching an anthology is always a tricky thing, especially for someone with little or no track record, because you need to get commitments from authors (if not actual pieces) before you can get a commitment from a publisher... But of course, most authors with enough reputation to interest a publisher are busy with confirmed projects, so they can't take the time to write something on spec... So it's a sort of catch-22, you need the one to get the commitment from the other and vice versa.

"In my case, since I am primarily an author, even though I have edited many anthologies and have won awards for my anthologies, I fell into anthologizing through the back door as it were, and I'd already built up a reputation as a writer beforehand through the numerous anthologies my own writing appeared in. I'd sold to 21 anthologies by the time I turned 21 and to 44 anthologies by the time I turned 22... so by the time I sold my first anthology a few years later, I'd already appeared in well over 50 anthologies. I don't write as often for anthologies any longer, since I'm often too busy with my own books, but my work has now appeared in over 200 anthologies."

No comments:

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.