Category: Writing

Pluto makes Top 20 at Glad Day

This week I learned that Pluto made the Top 20 “Modern Classics” list for 2016 at Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop.

It just slipped in at number 20, and I don’t know what that means in terms of copies sold, but I’m thrilled. Not bad for a book that was released almost three years ago.

This, of course, is all due to the hard work of the people at Glad Day. Most queer writers wouldn’t be selling enough copies to make any list if it weren’t for them. They provide a prominent place on their shelves for our books, and they talk them up to their customers. You don’t have to know what you’re looking for when you walk in. Like all great booksellers, they’ll recommend something they think you might like.

This makes me nostalgic for L’Androgyne, Montreal’s LGBT bookstore that closed in 2002. I learned so much about books and life here. It’s where I first got involved in my community, where I made life-long friends. I also learned what I liked to read. France, David and Johanne were always happy to share their recommendations, and it was through them that I discovered some of my favourite books: How Long Has This Been Going On, Rat Bohemia, Fingersmith, My Blue Heaven, Mysterious Skin.

At last month’s Violet Hour I took a page from the past and invited everyone to wear name tags with the name of one of their favourite books on them. I also asked each reader to recommend a book before they read. The hope was to get people talking and sharing (and maybe even flirting) afterwards. To me there is nothing sexier than talking about your favourite books with another guy.

I now realize that I started the Violet Hour to create a space similar to the one lost when L’Androgyne closed. Today, there is a dearth of places in Montreal where queers can come to connect. I never run into anyone anymore, except online. Here’s hoping that – for at least an hour every two months – we can create space for meaningful social interaction.

I hope those in Toronto realize how lucky they are to have Glad Day. The oldest surviving LGBT bookstore in North America is going through a renaissance right now. It recently moved from its old address on Yonge to a storefront on Church. I visited it last fall during the Naked Heart Festival. The place now has a bar and a kitchen and it hosts readings, dance parties and screenings. It’s another gathering point (along with the 519 and Buddies in Bad Times) that makes Toronto a true leader in queer cultural programming.

If you haven’t checked out the new Glad Day, do so.

The Violet Hour

For the past two years now, I’ve been organizing queer readings in Montreal. It’s been sporadic. The events have had different names, different locations, different themes. But now, after putting on close to a dozen, I thought it was time to turn it into a singular series.

The Violet Hour is Montreal’s queer reading series. It takes place every two months or so in the off hours of Stock Bar, a gay male strip club in the Village.

I got the idea to host a series of readings after my book first came out. I felt there was a lack of venues for queer writers to read at. Most of us are with small, independent publishers and we often don’t get invitations to literary festivals, nor are we included in most other mainstream series.

I’ve been involved in Montreal’s writing community for over a decade now and looking around I saw tons of queer writers who were publishing new work or working on material. I also had writer friends from out of town who were looking for opportunities to read in Montreal, but there were none.

Conversely, I also had book-loving friends looking for new reads. These friends knew little of the queer writers in their own city working to tell our stories.

The solution seemed obvious.

I’m happy that there seems to be a growing interest in the event. I’ve counted between 40-60 people at each Violet Hour, which is significant for a literary event.

The next event is planned for Tuesday, February 14, and it’s a fundraiser for Head and Hands. But even though it’s Valentine’s Day, don’t expect warm and fuzzy stories. I’ve asked my readers to bring stories of love, lust and loss – a whole gamut of literary emotions.

If you want to find out about future events, follow The Violet Hour on Facebook.

Reading lessons

neptune-triton-lorri-07-10-14_1

 

Yesterday, the New Horizons space probe crossed Neptune’s orbit. About a month ago it snapped this distant shot of the gas giant (and its moon, Triton) from a distance of 2.45 billion miles. This is the last major crossing the vessel will have until it gets to Pluto on July 14, 2015.

So I assume things will be quiet for New Horizons for a while.

Things are quieting down for me too. The Geography of Pluto has been out for four months and things are beginning to slow down. I couldn’t be happier with the press I’ve received, with the emails I’ve been getting from people who’ve read the book. But I have to find new ways to keep the novel alive, to keep the solar winds in its sails.

But one thing I am going to take a break from – for the moment – is public readings. I’ve done seven of them in the last four months and am exhausted.

I have learned many things about readings so far. I’ve learned that it’s important not to rush through your passage, no matter how quickly you want it to be over. I’ve learned to breathe between the words. I’ve learned that not all excerpts, not even your favourites, are appropriate to real aloud. I’ve learned that dialogue is particularly hard to read, as the audience doesn’t always know who is speaking. I’ve learned that I get uncomfortable reading sex scenes in public. I’ve learned that short and sweet is really the best, and that funny passages work better than anything else.

I have also learned that you can’t predict how things will turn out, and that not every promotional idea works. When I first launched the book I came up with a “support your local bookseller” initiative. In order to encourage people to shop locally, I offered an added incentive to those who bought Pluto from a brick-and-mortar store: a personalized postcard or video message from me. So far only one person took me up on it. Not sure why. Perhaps word never got out. Or perhaps the offer was not that appealing. Still, I’m glad I tried something.

Over the next few months I’m going to test out some new promotional ideas to propel Pluto a little further on its voyage. So it’s not just floating in empty space.

Image Credit:
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Reinventing Montreal

This is one of the first interviews I did for the book. I’ve known Dimitri Nasrallah for many years now. We first met in 2005 when I was the QWF’s publicist and he won a literary award for his book Blackbodying. He’s always been such a great supporter of Quebec literature. Currently he is the fiction editor at Véhicule Press and the host of a new books-related TV show called Between The Pages. I was thrilled to be asked to join him and other Montrealers Heather O’Neill and Gregory McCormick for a discussion of the literary mythology of our city and how we are adding our voices to that rich cultural legacy.

Front page

Gazette culture

I don’t know how this happened, but last Saturday my mug graced the front page of the Montreal Gazette’s culture section. It was nuts.

I knew the interview was coming. I had met with Gazette reporter Ian McGillis at my apartment on Monday evening. On Wednesday night, photographer Allen McInnis came over to take a picture and shoot the video. But I had no idea I’d be waking up to two #$@&%*! pages.

Ian did a great job with the article. At this point it’s important for me to get the book into the hands of people who don’t know me. This Gazette article will help do that. All over the city – from suburban homes in the West Island to packed coffee shops in the Mile End – people were reading the profile and discovering the book. I was thrilled.

I hope this means that more Montreal bookstores will carry copies of the book. Last Tuesday I stopped by Indigo downtown to see if my book was on the shelf. It wasn’t. So I looked it up on their self-serve computers. It said there were two copies in the store.

I suppose I looked puzzled because a very nice older woman who worked there stopped me and asked if I needed any help. I pointed to the screen. “I wrote that book,” I told her.

“Really?” she beamed. “Would you like to sign some copies?”

“Yes, I would,” I said. “Except, I can’t seem to find it.”

The woman went to the terminal and clicked around. “Oh,” she said. “It just came in. It’s probably in the back. Do you want me to go check?” She took off for a while and came back several minutes later apologetic. Apparently the books were on a pallet somewhere waiting to be unpacked. I thanked her and told her I would come by later.

But only two copies?

Montreal is my hometown. It’s prevalent in my book. I don’t need a display or anything, but I’d like to think that stores would carry more than just two books by one of their city’s writers. Hopefully this Gazette article will change that.