A week ago the news broke that I had been selected as a winner of the Lambda Literary 2013 Emerging Writer Award. I am first and foremost a queer writer. It is important to me that my work be linked to queerness, that I write the queer worlds I know and love without concern for their palatability to straight audiences, it’s part of why for me recognition from an LGBT literary body means more than just about other recognition could. Last week after the news broke I think I repeated the word “shock” or “I’m in shock” over and over again. It’s not very cute for someone who just received the biggest writing award they could get at this point in their career to be utterly without words – but that’s where I was, and, reality? I’m still there. Every morning since I got the news I’ve woken up and felt the need to pinch myself, I can’t believe this is happening, I can’t believe they liked my stories, that they believe I represent the future of queer literature.
For me this award represents so much, it’s an intense manifestation of so so so much: how hard I have worked, how lucky I’ve been, how generous the community both readers and authors who I consider my colleagues and mentors, the reach of my three books – especially Kicked Out and Roving Pack. I am primarily a self-taught and community created writer. I got my start as a punk zinester, and I don’t have any formal writing training. I just know how to write stories. Roving Pack came out from my own imprint, Roving Pack is a book that publishers were nervous about, it’s a book that they didn’t want, but the community did, and rallied together to support me in releasing it. Not a week has gone by since its release last fall that I haven’t gotten a letter or tweet or facebook message from a queer reader telling me what Roving Pack has meant to them, how they keep re-reading it because finally they see themselves, their friends/lovers/community/worlds represented on the page. We’ve come a long way that me and that little novel. I can’t believe that part of our story together is this kind of recognition from Lambda Literary.
It definitely hasn’t fully sunk in that I got this award, that it’s really happening. I think it probably won’t sink in until I walk across the stage at the Lammy’s on June 3rd to receive it. I’m pretty sure I’ll be in tears. Truly, I never thought I would get an award like this, that this kind of award would be given to someone who looks like me, writes like me, and comes from the literary background of typewriters, copy machines and no MFA’s.
There is a lot wrapped up for me in having been chosen as winner of Berzon Emerging Writer Award, but ultimately, it is far bigger than myself, bigger than the books I have written, or will write (I have a whole separate post I should write about how inspiring this has been as I work on my next novel). I hope to use this moment as an opportunity and platform as another outlet to continue to encourage others to tell their stories – especially those of us who have struggled to find a place in a traditional academic writing setting, those who have been silenced, those of us who have been told that we are not good writers, that our stories are messy, wrong, dirty, too complicated. Everyone has a story to tell, and the telling of those stories is essential in the creation of social change.