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I feel a little bit like an air traveler whose plane has reached the destination city area and now the plane is circling round and round in a holding pattern, waiting for their turn to use the runway. I had a little bit of a suggestion from the editor about the types of changes that would be requested, so back in July I did some preliminary edits, but I've pretty much taken that as far as I can until the editor actually gets to my book.

The one thing that's available for me to focus on (and obsess about, to be honest) is the publicity effort. I don't want to look back on this a few years from now and think "I could have reached a far wider audience if I'd contacted these people or advertised it and promoted it over there". Well, I probably will anyway, but I'm at least inclined to put a fair amount of effort into trying to think of such things NOW, when I can act on them, and do what I can (or what I can afford to do).

• I have a database I've been compiling all year, with over 10,000 institutions and 1-8 contacts for each institution. These are organizations or resources who might be interested in selling, stocking or reviewing my book when the time comes. Some of them are academic: women's studies or gender studies programs, and campus-based LGBTQIA centers. Some are public or scholastic libraries. Some are independent bookstores. Some are independent community-based LGBTQIA centers. A few are reviewers, including the new phenomenon, "booktubers", people who post YouTube videos in which they review interesting books.

• My publicist -- same guy who got me bookings to address women's studies classes and LGBT groups last spring -- will continue to get me speaking engagements and is going to focus on getting me hooked up with established reviewers. Our first focus will be reviewers who review books that have not been released yet. (But until the editor and I reach a finalized manuscript, there's no advance reader copy, i.e., ARC, available, so even this is stuck in a holding pattern at the moment). He is also working with me to craft emails to the receipients in my database.

• We're discussing where to place ads. Is a more expensive higher-profile ad likely to attract the attention of a reviewer? Would a barrage of lower-priced electronic ads that accompany people's Facebook or Twitter viewing experiences give me more bang for the buck? The ads themselves have to be designed. I don't feel like I have the gift for formulating ad copy, for recognizing the ideal catchy descriptive phrases that will make someone think "Hey, that sounds like something I should read" or "Hmm, that's different and provocative, I wonder what that's about?" Here, too, we're still waiting on a chosen book cover and the prospects for quotable reviewer's statement excerpts. To an extent, ads can be designed with an "insert cover art here" placeholder.

Eventually, there comes a time for saying "I did what I could and it's out of my hands now".


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PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT A:

Somebody I'm friends with on Facebook posts this on an LGBT message board: "I made my decision not to go on hormones, and that was a personal choice".

One of the first replies posted was: "Honey I'm sorry... actually I'm not.. if you are not taking the steps to become a woman.. you are not trans.. you are simply a feminine gay man... stop confusing people and making it harder for real Trans people."


PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT B:

On a different message board, I am replying to someone who has referred to me dismissively as "a cisgendered straight guy who really wants to be a sexual minority so he can be part of a movement".

I reply tersely: "No". He quotes that and replies "Yes".

I write: "Being a straight male — being heterosexual — isn't just 'you have boy parts and your sexual attraction is for people who have girl parts'. (If you disagree with that you aren't leaving any room for a transgender lesbian, who, prior to surgery, has "boy parts". Maybe you and your friends consider transgender lesbians to be "straight males" up until they transition, I don't know)"

And to THAT he replies: "I would consider Trans people as the Gender they feel they are, whether they've had surgery or not.

That isn't at all relelvant to your case because YOU AREN'T TRANS! Transgendered people try to live as their preferred gender to the best their social and financial circumstances permit. If they can, they will fully transition, though sadly that isn't possible for a lot of people. You aren't doing that."



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT C:


On a Facebook-based chat, I have this exchange with yet another person:

Other Person: Your [sic] Gay...A man to have female tendency is a GAY Man how hard is that???....my gawed!!!!!


Allan Hunter: Not hard at all, not for male-bodied people. Which is why I don't identify as GAY, I'm a male-bodied girl who is attracted to female-bodied people. If I identified as gay, people would assume it meant I was attracted to MALE-bodied people, now wouldn't they?

Other Person: Well you can't be Lesbian...

Other Person: Your straight and you like women

Allan Hunter: I don't identify as lesbian because I am male, and lesbians in general do not consider male-bodied people to share that identity with them.

I don't identify as a straight man because I am a girl, or a sissy or a feminine person if you prefer, and straight males have made it loudly and specifically apparent that they don't consider people like me to be men, nor do I wish to be seen as one of them. Also, "straight" means more than "people with female equipment and people with male equipment getting it on". Heterosexuality is gendered, with specific and polarized expectations of the male and the female person -- a "man" role and a "woman" role. I'm a woman or girl and both my identity and the relationships and partners available to me are quite different.

Of course it may be your intention to call "bullshit" on this and say "we don't want your kind and do not consider that you belong". I'm kind of used to that. Rather than just putting my fingers in my ears and saying "no ur wrong", I'd rather go into this with you if you're so inclined. Why is my identity invalid and yours valid? Couldn't I just as easily say "You're a woman like any other, there are no 'gay people', you're just a woman, that's all there are is women and men, and you're making a big deal out of irrelevant things that don't matter"?? {edited: changed gender references}


Other Person: I just said you can't be Lesbian!!!!!

Allan Hunter: Other Person: I agree. I can't be lesbian. I can't be gay. I can't be a straight man. I'm not bi. And transgender doesn't fit either. It's something else.

Allan Hunter: The female people I'm attracted to tend to be butch. Some identify as guys / bois / men. If anyone is going to be the top it isn't going to be me. It's different from being a straight guy, trust me.

Other Person: Then that's your problem....since you strongly believe your A women...Then you need to get a sex change...let's see if that makes you happy.



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT D:


Back in January, I sent my standard query letter to a publisher that publishes LGBT titles. My cover letter explains that THE STORY of Q is specifically a genderqueer coming-out story. In fact, it was roughly the same cover letter that I posted here back in Sept 2014.

In due course, the editor wrote back: "I finished this yesterday, and after discussing it with the publisher, we're going to have to take a pass on this. It's not a transgender book and definitely not a gay book, so finding a large enough readership to make this economically viable would be tough."

I send this reply, cc'ing my publicist, John Sherman, whom I've been working with: "That is correct. I thought you knew that. It's something else."

My publicist replies to me, responding to my cc: "Yes, it’s something else. Could the subtitle perhaps have been the first clue? Jeez."




** ahem ** [clears throat]

Let's get one thing str... I mean, let's NOT get one thing straight, but let's at least get one thing established, dammit.

I'm not trying to "join" an existing sexual or gender identity club. I am not submitting an application to be approved and welcomed as if this were the Rainbow Homeowner's Association and Community Watch Board or something. When I say "this is my identity" I mean "this is who I am", and you can accept it or you can reject it; you can care, or you can NOT care, but you don't really get a vote on it.


In second grade I was a person. I was a person who perceived myself to be like the girls. I was a person who was perceived by the other kids as being like the girls. I was a person who was proud to be like the girls despite the expectation of the boys (in particular) and the teachers (sometimes) that I would be embarrassed and ashamed of that. I won't say I didn't need and did not seek anyone's approval -- I wanted the girls to accept me and let me play with them. Some did. I was out to prove I was worthy of their acceptance and approval despite being a boy. I won't claim that, in 2nd grade, I had an understanding of sex and gender as two different things -- I didn't, not like that. But I understood that I was LIKE the girls and I wanted to be PERCEIVED that way; I understood that I was NOT like the (other) boys and I did what I could to distinguish myself from them because I did not like being treated as if I were one of them. Who I was had more to do with being "like the girls" than with the fact that I "was a boy". I was between 6 and 7 years old when I was in second grade, and that was how I understood matters at the time.

What that means -- ONE of the things that that means -- is that in third grade and thereafter I was a person WHO HAD THAT HISTORY, a person who already thought of myself in those terms. Hence it was very much a part of my IDENTITY.

So all of my experiences from then on were the experiences of a person WITH THAT IDENTITY.

I didn't invent it as an adult upon reading about being modern gender identities and LGBTQIA people. Do you get that? I'm not just flinging an angry retort in your direction when I say "you don't get a vote on my identity", although yes, encountering people who attempt to negate my identity does make me angry; I'm not in the process of trying on this identity to see if it fits and to see how other people will or won't accept it.

Instead, this identity is who I have been to myself for over half a century. There's no original or "normal" or prior identity I can revert back to were someone to (hypothetically) convince me that I am not really as I describe. My lifetime experiences have been shaped by my perception of myself, just as yours have shaped your experiences.

My adaptive coping mechanisms are the adaptive coping mechanisms of a girl who behaves as a girl who has been through a bunch of specific experiences that people who aren't male girls seldom go through. Those adaptive coping mechanisms reflect the priorities and sensibilities of a girl whose context of operation include

• being in a male body

• being in a social environment where people expect male-bodied people to be masculine and boyish

• being in a social environment that, to the extent it understands and recognizes the possibility of male people being girlish at all, is hostile and contemptuous towards male girls

Those developed coping mechanisms channeled my subsequent experiences: some possible things that could have happened ended up NOT being among my experiences because of how I handled things, and some possible things ended up happening precisely because of how I handled stuff. And of course I was further shaped by those experiences.


Thank you. I'll climb off this soapbox now. This rant has been simmering in the background for awhile now.


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It's been almost exactly a year since I made that announcement the first time around after receiving a letter from Ellora's Cave informing me that they'd like to offer me a contract.

Ellora's Cave went out of business last fall , and I was back where I started from.

This time the offer letter comes from NineStar Press, a fairly new publisher that focuses on LGBTQIA titles. My book fits in better with their lineup than it did with Ellora's Cave's array of steamy erotic romances, and they don't appear to have any skeletons in their closet the way EC did with their public and rancorous dispute with their authors.

I'm relieved; I feel more or less the way I do after a really long hike when I finally stumble into the train station to catch the ride back home. I'm tired of pitching and querying. I wasn't close to giving up or anything but I am happy to stop. I just went to the Rainbow Book Fair at John Jay College last weekend, trundling along a box of 3-page handouts and business cards, hoping to meet some new LGBTQIA publishers, and did, but most of the tables were authors selling their books and most of the publishers were fiction-centric or poetry-centric or were otherwise not interested in a memoir. It's so hard not to become jaded and I worry that I broadcast it, that they'll be able to read between the lines and sense that I don't expect them to want to publish me, you know? So good riddance to that portion of the endeavor, it's nice to put it aside for now (and hopefully for a long while to come, at least until the next book).

Speaking of next book, NineStar included an inquiry about anything else I may have, so (assuming of course that this all pans out) I'll be giving them first crack at That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class when I finally get it ready for the light of day.

I also feel excited, of course, but it's a cautious excited. I've been in this position before and I have no published books sitting on my bookshelf to show for it. In addition to the prospect of NineStar going belly-up after the fashion of Ellora's Cave, unlikely as that may be, it might transpire that NineStar's editors and I reach some kind of irreconcilable impasse or that something in the contractual specifics turns out to be a dealbreaker for me. Or I get a follow-up letter "Oops, we had a board meeting and unfortunately we are rescinding our offer of a contract to all authors not born under water signs". None of this is at all likely but I am wary, twice-burned already (back in 1982 an interested 'publisher' turned out to be an opportunistic vanity press that had somehow learned I was querying), and uninclined to fully count my unhatched chickens.

What else? Impatience for sure. I'm craving the beginning of the editing process and getting all the preliminaries and learning when my book will be coming out. And then gearing up for the promotional activities and trying to obtain book reviews. I wanna get this show on the road.


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Traditionally, the approach of a new year is a time to make resolutions. In a similar vein, I tend to do self-assessments and self-reevaluations this time of year, not only because of the change of calendar year but also because my birthday rolls around quite close to it.

I do a lot of my best self-assessment and sortings of feelings during the course of long walks. In December I set out early on a particularly long one, from the Herricks / Williston Park edge of New Hyde Park where I live to the MetroNorth station in Greenwich CT, 45 miles. Plenty long enough for contrary or hidden thoughts and feelings to come forth from the back of my head.

People on Facebook and LiveJournal were already talking about how their year has been or what they were anticipating would go on during family-centric holiday visits, and I was going to be visiting my family down in Georgia with A1, one of my partners. While a person's identity within their nuclear family is not the only important cradle of Self, it's obviously a central one for most of us. My parents are still alive and cognizant in their early 80s and there are still conversations I imagine having with them, and the timeframe in which those conversations is still possible is shrinking.

Mostly those are specific subsets of conversations I want to have with the world at large, and I still haven't had those conversations to my satisfaction.

36 years ago I figured out that who I was, "how" I was, was like one of the girls or women, not like other guys; that being sexually ATTRACTED to female people didn't change that (despite giving me that one distinct reference-point in common with the majority of male-bodied people); that there was nothing wrong with my body, either, I was a male girl or a male woman, and that goddammit that wasn't going to be MY problem any more, I was totally cool with that, and if the rest of the world wanted to take issue with it I was prepared to have that conversation.

The rest of the world was not prepared for it.

Here I am 36 years later and although there is a word "genderqueer" that is helpful and appropriate, it isn't specific to my situation and identity and there still isn't a term that is. Or not one that the world at large recognizes and understands.

36 years is a long time. Long enough to wonder and worry that I may have squandered the resource known as "my lifespan", trying to do something social-political, trying to start this conversation, trying to put my gender identity on the map.

So I was out doing one of those periodic self-exams to assess how I'm doing with all this, how I feel about it. It was a complicated year, with presentations to Baltimore Playhouse and to EPIC and then a publisher indicating that they wanted to publish my book, but then the publisher went out of business which was a major emotional setback for me. I had been thinking I was on the cusp of a success in a venture I'd started pursuing in 1980 and then had to adjust to having this rug yanked out from under me. I seemed to be coping and I appeared to be continuing on the same course, but it had left me shocked and numb, where I was unusually unsure how I FELT.

In fact, for that matter, I hadn't really come to terms with how I felt about finally getting published, THAT was still not a fully processed set of feelings, so I had a backlog of self-awareness and passion to which I was still somewhat closed off.

Verdict, 45 miles and 19 hours later? I'm reasonably satisfied. Still pissed off. I still have it all to do and have accomplished damn little of it, but setting out to grab the world by its collective lapels and have this discussion was a rational and admirable response to my situation in 1980, and it is a rational and admirable response today, too, and because I am the stubbornest sissy male girlish person to ever walk the surface of this planet I am going to continue with what I started.

I wrote a damn book. It's a GOOD book if I don't mind saying so myself. It's not the only possible mechanism for communication but it's an excellent tool and a good centerpiece to continue to organize my overall efforts around. And I will be speaking again to groups and audiences in 2017, including a rebroadcast on Off the Cuffs in February and a presentation to the Women and Gender Studies program at Castleton University in Vermont in April.

My parents have mostly avoided and tuned out my attempts to explain my gender identity and why it's important and why I want to talk about such personal things to strangers and risk driving away friends and acquaintances and associates. I don't really feel a need to force that door open with them; I do understand that they grew up in an era where much of the subject matter itself was rude lewd and inappropriate, and I've outgrown the urge to shock them.

But I wish I could find a path to discuss just enough of what I'm doing these days to be able to say to them that home was safe for me growing up, a refuge. That I knew people (relatives, school teachers, neighborhood adults, others) signalled to them that they should worry that I wasn't exactly normal, but they dismissed that and never made me feel that who I was was of questionable nature in their eyes. Instead, they stressed that one cannot excel without departing from the typical-normal, and that life was not about being like everyone else.


I'm going to find another publisher. My book will be in print. People will read it. I will tell my story to the world.

I'm only 58 and I ain't packing it in anytime soon. I'm going to live to 110 if only to spite all the people who queer-bashed me in junior high school.

Continue on course.

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...at least not by Ellora's Cave and hence probably NOT out sometime early in 2017 as previously claimed.

I am making this a friends-only post and I am not posting links to it all over Facebook as I usually do, at least not until I have cleared it with my publicist and the person who may or may not continue to be my literary agent. (More on that in a minute). But time to let the cat at least partway out of the bag, I guess.



On September 18, I informed my editor at Ellora's Cave, Susan Edwards, that I had finished my edits and that all that remained on my end was tying up the loose ends with getting authorization to quote the Pink Floyd lyric.

On September 19, I received this in reply:

Allan, I have some very bad news for you. The company is in financial trouble and is cancelling contracts with authors whose work has not yet been published. You will receive official notification from our publisher or CEO soon.

I am so very sorry. I was so excited about publishing your book! I will be laid off at the end of the month, but if I land with another publisher and can offer you a contract there, I will be happy to do that.



Oddly, when I have Googled Ellora's Cave to read breaking news about them, all I find is some happy authors who were in contention with Ellora's Cave who are rejoicing that their rights have finally been reverted back to them. Example.



Ellora's Cave's own website would seem to indicate that they are still up and running and "now accepting new genres" but apparently that is not the case.


Where it leaves me is uncertain. I contacted my literary agent *after* receiving the initial offer letter from Ellora's Cave. And I paid her for awhile for direct services, as opposed to payment being acquired as a portion of advances on royalties. I wanted someone to represent me and my interests during contract negotiations with the publisher, both in the sense of doing that negotiating and in the sense of telling me when the publisher was being unreasonable and when it was I, myself, who had unreasonable wishes or expectations.

What that means is that my lit agent, Sheree Bykofsky Associates, did not become my literary agent as a direct consequence of reading my pitch letter or reading my book and deciding it was a good book and that they could place it with an appropriate publisher.

And now that Ellora's Cave has pulled the rug out from under me, they have to decide whether or not they feel they can represent my book in that capacity, that they can retain me as a client and find me a publisher.

If they do, I am in no way kicked back to the starting line with no prospects. That would be wonderful. And I probably have a better chance with them as a consequence of having worked with them and talked with them over the phone and so on. (I think I made a decently good impression). And the book is in good shape, firstly because of work I did on it during the spring and secondly because of the excellent editing work of Ellora's Cave's Susan Edwards. Who is, I guess, no longer Ellora's Cave's Susan Edwards.

Sheree Bykofsky and her team may decide that for one reason or another they don't really feel they can keep me on as a client. That will be rough news if it goes down that way. In many ways that DOES kick me back to the starting line.

Not entirely. I have a publicist. Originally hired and contracted in order to publicize my forthcoming book, John Sherman may instead be helping me draw attention to myself in various ways so as to increase my stature, or "platform", and hence make it more likely that I can find a lit agent (or publisher). I was actually thinking occasionally that I should hire a publicist back in the months before the Ellora's Cave offer.

Whether Sheree Bykofsky Associates does or does not consent to retain me as a client, I will be asking John Sherman to book me as a speaker / presenter as often as possible in as many venues as possible. If any of YOU know of a venue where a presenter or guest speaker doing a talk on "Gender Inversion, Being Genderqueer, and Living in a World of Gender Assumptions" or similar appropriate subject matter would be welcomed, by all means let me know. I've presented to a book club at Boston College, LIFE in Nassau, Baltimore Playhouse, and the EPIC Lifestyle Conference. I want to take my show on the road. Have lecture notes and storyboards, will travel.


Oh, and to state the compellingly obvious, yes, this sucks.

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ahunter3: (Default)
Hi! Sorry I haven't blogged lately. Things have been simultaneously hectic and non-newsworthy for the most part in the land of STORY OF Q. That's a situation that just changed today, but I'm not quite prepared to write about today's developments (I think the relevant phrase is "waiting for the dust to settle"). Watch this space for more activity in days to come.

I will, however, take this opportunity to introduce my team. Yay, I have a team!!! I do!!!


First off, meet my literary agent, Sheree Bykofsky, of Sheree Bykofsky Associates. She now lists The Story of Q: A GenderQueer Tale, by Allan Hunter, as one of the books her agency represents.

I first interacted with Sheree Bykofsky and her agency in October of 2013. Hers was the first agency to indicate a serious interest in the book, and they asked me to submit a formal book proposal. I did not have one. I was given some examples and general instructions on how to assemble a formal nonfiction book proposal, and that proposal, with occasional minor modifications, was the proposal I sent out a total of 163 times.

Sheree Bykofsky Associates ultimately decided not to represent my book in 2013, probably for legitimate reasons (it was still pretty rough around the edges—something that's easier for me to see in hindsight after it's been revamped and polished a few times).

I did not, in fact, ever succeed in luring any literary agent into representing my book until after I had secured a publishing offer from EC Books through a direct query. That, also, is probably for legitimate reasons. My book is a narrowly tailored book, a niche book for the most part, although there could not be a better time to be coming out with a book about an additional and different gender identity. It's at least momentarily a trendy social topic. Even so, it's not a mainstream book of the sort you'd pick up at the Penn Station bookstore while waiting for your train.

The reason I wanted a literary agent ANYWAY was that I'm a total newbie and I wanted someone who could tell me when I was being reasonable and when I was not, and when my publisher was establishing normal industry-standard contract terms and when they were going pretty far afield of that. And how to express my wishes and concerns in such a way that I'd be most likely to get the concessions I wanted without making the publisher regret having decided to have anything to do with such a prima donna.

Sheree Bykofsky has been wonderfully supportive, available to me as someone I can write back and forth to informally and openly, and who will then don her professional persona and craft business letters, negotiating on my behalf, protecting my interests.



Then I sought out and found a publicist. I'd been warned away from doing so by many authors, including the opinionated crew at Absolute Write Water Cooler as well as several bloggers, warning me that they often don't do much that an author could not do on their own to publicize a book, and that some of them aren't very ethical and just run off with the author's money. Yeah yeah, I appreciated the warnings, but I know where my talents lie and where they do not. The publicizing of my book could not possibly be in worse hands than my own. I could go up to a randomly chosen homeless person on the sidewalks of New York and hire them and the project would be better off than with me relying on my own skills.

What I did was research the matter and found a web site of biographers (close enough to memoirists for my purposes) that maintained a list (Boswell's List) of professionals that several of them had had good experiences with.

I went with John Sherman, who was praised for the excellent work he did for the author of a biography about an industrialist that no one had heard of. The author was similarly an unknown person. So I contacted him and we had a good conversation on the phone. He was quick to embrace the project, to see the book as an important book that SHOULD be out there, that SHOULD be read, and he will be helping me to market it, firstly to academics—to women's studies and gender studies professors teaching courses for which it would be relevant text.

I'm already making him a busy person. He has a good sense for what info and other preparations we need for marketing endeavors down the road in ways that I am ignorant of. For example he says we need to target book reviewers who have a policy of not reviewing a book once it is already out, but who will only feature books in their reviews that are forthcoming.

This is all very exciting. I think I've been dreaming about this since, oh, 1980 or thereabouts. It's gonna happen. I get to tell my story at last.

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On July 29, I received my manuscript back from my editor at Ellora's Cave, Susan Edwards, containing her modifications and comments. As I indicated previously, I had a good feeling from a phone conversation and a handful of email exchanges with her, so I wasn't anticipating anything really horrible. Still, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would she want me to get rid of entire subplots she thought were superfluous, or insert a half-dozen scenes to develop some character more fully?

But no, she has a light but thorough touch, diving in to every single paragraph with superficial edits that make it easier to read, but without leaving me feeling like my "voice" has been altered and definitely not like even the smallest thread of the story-line has been affected.

Have you ever worked with an editor using Microsoft Word? Like many word processors, it has a built-in "track changes" feature. In Word, this takes the form of colored balloons in the margin identifying who made what changes where, and if anything is deleted it diplays the deleted text.


I detest working in Word, generally speaking; I've rarely hated a piece of software as thoroughly as I hate Word, and it's at its worst in a huge document such as my book, roughly 97,000 words and 175 single-spaced pages. You click in a paragraph to place your cursor and nothing happens for anywhere between 20 seconds and 2 minutes, then it puts the damn blinking bar in the wrong place; you type to add two words and nothing happens for 40 seconds, then when it does it omitted the first two characters that you typed, or you find that you made typos which you could not see at the time because it wasn't keeping up with your typing. You'd think a word processor running on an 8-core CPU with 16 gigs of RAM would do better than that, and you'd be right if it were any other word processor, but Word is just awful. (I'm not even going to describe its tendency to think it knows better than you do what you want to do; the performance issue is just the tip of the iceberg)

I composed the original 900,000-word autobiography in a plain text editor (all in one document, with no resultant sluggishness) and only moved it to Word when I had excised the part of my story that I wanted to turn into this book, and even then I often did my edits outside of Word and then pasted them back in after changes.

Anyway, be all that as it may, the change-tracking feature works pretty nicely.
In addition to breaking up my run-on sentences and catching my typos, Susan Edwards inserts comments asking me to clarify and reword, or points out reasons that a passage may be confusing to my readers, and so I have homework. The change-tracking highlights my own changes in blue so she can see what I've modified when I sent it back to her.

The final authority on the changes belongs to me; she emphasized that I am free to accept or reject her changes, and in some cases I look at what she modified and decide to go at it in a different way.

In her email containing the manuscript with her edits, this is what she wrote:

I really enjoyed working on your book. You’ve had a fascinating journey and you capture the pain, pathos, pride, confusion, and triumph of that journey with intelligence, thoughtfulness, an open heart and mind, and a wonderful wry sense of humor. Well done!

You write well and have a distinctive, intelligent and wry voice, but your sentences tend to be overly long and difficult to navigate with lots of run-ons and too many clauses. This makes them hard to read and frustrating for the reader. I’ve broken up a lot of them to show you the best and simplest way to do it. I’ve also indicated other sentences that you need to break up, but I suggest you go through and identify still more and smooth them out.

I’ve also broken up your paragraphs, which also tend to be too long. Large blocks of text are disinviting to the reader. You need to give your reader plenty of spots to rest, jump in and out of the narrative. Also, dialog always needs to start on a new paragraph when the speaker changes.

Speaking of dialog, your dialog is mostly good, if occasionally a bit stiff and formal (for lack of contractions), and it is consistently mispunctuated. I’m attaching a tutorial on how to punctuate dialog. I think I’ve found and fixed most of the errors, and our final line editor will also check, but it’s good for you to know how to do it and to check for errors too.

Other than those niggling details, I think the book needs very little work. So what we’re looking at is really more of a nice polish to make it shine. I like the way you’ve broken it up into sections and chapters, and I like the titles. I added chapter numbers. I also like the flow and the way you tell your story, foreshadowing certain things to come when appropriate. I’ve noted in the manuscript just a couple of times you need to set the scene a bit better and clarify things.



I have a few more passes to make on my end before I sent the document with MY edits back to her, and then we move on to having it scheduled internally for production!

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It's been a nerve-wracking 7 weeks since the offer letter but the proverbial ink (mostly digital ink) is now on the contract. The Story of Q: A GenderQueer Tale, a 97,000 word genderqueer coming-out and coming-of-age memoir, shall be published by Ellora's Cave.



It will be available in digital format first, on Ellora's Cave's own website, on Amazon, theoretically on ARe*, and on Kobo Books, and Barnes & Noble, and Apple.

http://www.arebooks.com/
http://www.amazon.com
https://store.kobobooks.com/
http://www.barnesandnoble.com
https://itunes.apple.com/us/genre/books

* ARe is a web site devoted to erotica titles, which makes sense for Ellora's Cave's traditional oeuvre, but less so for THE STORY OF Q. But if they want to carry it who am I to quarrel?


The book will also be available in physical form as a paperback book, something fundamentally important and viscerally appealing to my 20th-century experiences.

Ellora's Cave is a publisher focused until recently on steamy erotic romances. However, as their front page explicitly states, they are "now accepting new genres". I'm not 100% certain but I *think* my book will be printed under their new imprint "EC For Real", insofar as that is the one designated for memoirs, although it might also come out under "EC for LGBTQ", depending I suppose on whether that imprint is intended to incorporate LGBTQ nonfiction or will be focused on LGBTQ erotica and romance.

So they're doing new things, and I, as a newbie author, am definitely going to be doing new things, and I'm quite looking forward to the experience.

I have already had a leisurely chatty conversation with the editor, Susan Edwards, who will be working hands-on with me to refine and polish the manuscript; she began our conversation by asking what my preferred pronouns are, and expressed warmth and enthusiasm for the project, stating that this is a wonderful time for a genderqueer memoir to be hitting the market.


Due to the economic challenges of the publishing market, Ellora's Cave isn't directly able to engage the services of a publicity engine to promote their authors' books, so that will be up to me. I have no skills but I have my own personal publicity budget and an inclination to hire a professional publicist with it -- perhaps more than one. (If you have experience with a publicist you think would be a good match for this project, please get in touch with me!).


What I do have is a talk, which I have already been taking on the road, and I will be attempting to get myself booked more often now that I have a book coming out.


At home I have a bottle of 2007 Clovis Point Archeology awaiting decanting :)


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Well, here's a genuine rarity— a genderqueer memoir and coming-out story! Audrey MC, which appears to be the nom de plume of Audrey Michelle Culver, has written about what it means to be genderqueer, what it is like, and how she came to that understanding of herself. And, in doing so, has beaten me to the punch.

Life Songs: A Genderqueer Memoir, Audrey MC (Chicago: Miniminor Media 2014)



Mixed feelings, to be sure. My proposals and pitch letters have often highlighted the utter absence of any such resource:

I'm a girl, that's my gender; I'm male, that's my sex; I'm attracted to females, that's my orientation.

I don't feel as if I were born in the wrong body.

In 1980 there was no book I could find by anyone like that. Still isn't.



On the other hand, to hold in my hands the story of someone else like me... even now, I experience joy and surprise to find I'm not the only one, and it feels powerful to consider our story, OUT THERE, for people to read.

Like me, the author is malebodied and raised as a boy, identifies from early on as one of the girls instead, and at puberty finds sexual attraction to the (other, female) girls. And is very driven throughout the tale by a hunger for passionate being-in-love "movie moments", romantic intensity and give-your-heart relationships.

In a world where "genderqueer" is a multi-hued grab-bag of alternative gender identities, finding so much similarity made the first chapters so compelling that I had to keep reading. There are so many other forms that genderqueer may take. The author could, of course, have been born female and less than comfortable being cast as a girl or woman; or could identify as a demiboy or demigirl, a genderfluid person, or agender -- http://genderqueeries.tumblr.com/identities

Alas, the experience of strong identification was not destined to last. The author is subject to dysphoria, feeling (as many transgender individuals describe) that the strong sense of being a girl implies or necessitates that this male body is wrong; and following up on this, the author chooses sex reassignment surgery in order to live as a female person, a lesbian.

And that, in turns, makes it unusual that the author is self-described as genderqueer. Most people whose lives follow that trajectory self-identify as transgender or transsexual. What makes Audrey genderqueer is her eventual awareness, post-transition, that she was increasingly uncomfortable with excessive femininity; as female hormones did their work, she found herself choosing increasingly androgynous or masculine modes of hair-styling and dress, presenting as a rather boyish person, eventually embracing an identity "beyond the binary" of being either male or female, woman or man.

Oh, well... the perils of overidentification and the complexities of competition betweenst male girlish folks makes for some strange reactions on my part: how is it possible to feel simultaneously disappointed and relieved to find that Audrey's experience and story isn't so closely parallel to mine?


LIFE SONGS begins with a very good first section, the portion of the story taking up roughly the first third of the book, covering childhood adolescence and early adulthood. There are good hooks, a suspenseful setup: where will this go, what's going to happen to this person in this unusual situation?

The remainder of the book is a sometimes-giddy and sometimes-painful account of romantic obsessions and joyous beginnings as Audrey chases love and finds it and loses it and chases it yet again.

The main weaknesses of the book lie with what it omits. Several sequences of long passionate buildups and the sparking of relationships are followed by short choppy detached summaries of the breakups. This is a book with far more hearts and flowers (and love songs) than storm clouds and soul-baring confrontations. Audrey's relationships with Annie, Renee, daughter Penelope, and Becca come to a close with scarcely any dialog and no more than a modicum of internal monologue. Admittedly, the author is somewhat aware of this tendency to avoid the sturm und drang of the darker side of drama, as evidenced by her description of how she broke up with Annie — deliberately leaving a note from next lover Renee where Annie would find it. Audrey describes Annie's irate arrival and confrontational accusations and crying scenes when she does so, along with Audrey's own avoidance and discomfort.

But that avoidance permeates the book itself, not merely confessing to being afraid of such scenes but glossing over losses and pains. For example, the portion of the book that describes Audrey's relationship with Renee starts on page 92; the first hint that not all is well in that particular paradise occurs on page 119, followed by a superbrief summary of the breakup on page 120, then elaborated on briefly on pages 122-123 —

By late 1995, Renee and I have been together for over five years and married for two, but our union began to crumble. We had nightly talks, navigating the potholes that had developed along our previously smooth road... From the conversations, we knew that we were no longer the team we once were...

As 1997 approached, Renee and I continued to have issues. We moved into our own apartment , trying to start fresh on our own, but we had just as many bad days as we had good.


It's not the only area of omission: I would have appreciated far more about being genderqueer specifically. One does not begin to be genderqueer only at the moment that one first realizes it and embraces the term, of course, but the discussion of gender identity above and beyond being a girl or woman originally born male starts on page 232 of a 246 page book, and again suffers from a detached kind of summary and glossing-over:

Prior to meeting Alice and before my queer enlightenment, I thought of myself simply as a lesbian with a birth defect who had it fixed. But after she entered my life and I became more involved in the queer community, I realized how absurd it was for me to identify as a lesbian, for it was a term that was so limiting in its binary construct. My identification as queer became an expression of my recognition that I completely rejected our society's imposed binary system. Nothing is that black and white. We live in greyscale, ebbing and flowing along an infinite number of points on a spectrum.


There's a likelihood here that I am being unfair to an author I overidentified with and for whom I also feel a sense of rivalry. Yet another aspect of the contradictory feelings elicited in me by that was on display when I checked up on the stature of the publisher and found that Miniminor Media does not appear to have any other titles. I looked for reviews of LIFE SONGS and found four short single-paragraph ones on Amazon, where the book is sold.

I realized I was paying far more attention to reception and reviews and whatnot for this book than I've tended to do when I've reviewed transgender and other LGBTQ books and plays and movies — another byproduct of identifying with Audrey and her book. And what I carry away with me is a somewhat ominous self-warning: I must do whatever I need to do to fend off the possibility that my book will be published but quickly sink out of sight, largely unread and unreviewed and unnoticed.
ahunter3: (Default)
I see another email in my inbox with subject "re: QUERY--From a Differently Gendered Closet: The Story of Q".

I double-click it to see who the rejection is from so I can dutifully record it in my database of queries.

It starts off:


I really like what I've read so far of your manuscript and would like to offer you a publishing contract if it's still available. We are a digital-first publisher, so first publication would be in ebook form. Our terms are quite generous.

Let me know if you're interested.

Pretty much everything in our contract is negotiable...



I blink a lot.




I have a weary and wary and cynical outlook at this point. I was querying publishers back in 1982 and got an offer to publish and only after reading the fine print realized it was what is called a "vanity press".

This publisher is not a vanity press, I know that much at least. But that doesn't mean this is a done deal and that there aren't any dealbreaker-type "gotchas". But I'm sipping tequila at the moment, oh yes I am.



If it should turn out that this really and truly is IT and I'm going to be published (in a way that counts, etc) then for the record I just crossed the 800-query mark:


Current Stats:


The Story of Q--Total Queries = 800
Rejections: 735
Outstanding: 65

As NonFiction--total queries = 579
Rejections: 516
Outstanding: 63

As Fiction--total queries = 221
Rejections: 219
Outstanding: 2



The query that landed this response was sent directly to publisher and billed it as fiction (LGBTQ-Feminist), specifically as a coming-out story, "a 97,000-word coming-of-age (and coming-out) story - set in the 1970s but aimed at today's gender-questioning world."

Further info will be forthcoming. I'll keep you informed.


In other news, I will be presenting my talk again at the EPIC lifestyle conference this weekend! I'll post about that too.

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Seal Press will not be publishing my book. I received the rejection letter on 9/8.

I was originally planning on querying Cleis Press next: "Cleis Press publishes provocative, intelligent books across genres. Whether literary fiction, human rights, mystery, romance, erotica, LGBTQ studies, sex guides, pulp fiction, or memoir, you know that if it's outside the ordinary, it's Cleis Press."

But then I read some things other authors have written about them in recent months that made them sound like a bad idea.

I've been contemplating Thorntree, publishers of the polyamory guide More Than Two, and in fact I sat down at my desk tonight to review their submissions policy:


To submit a proposal, please first send an email with the following information:

A one-paragraph biography, including any published works

A one-paragraph summary of the proposed work, including your intended audience

Links to your social media and Web presences

If your submission appears appropriate for our list, we will invite you to submit a complete proposal.

We will accept queries and proposals on a rolling basis.




Whether it's the mood I've been in lately or not, I can't say for sure, but right now their submission process is very discouraging. It comes across to me very much as "we might be interested in your book if you've already got a track record of publication and, in particular, if you've got a strong active platform already; outside of that, just summarize your book and its intended audience in one paragraph and we'll let you know".


I have of course continued to send query letters to literary agents. It seems to me that public attention is more focused on gender issues and gender identity than ever before, so my book is squarely located in the midst of a trendy topic. So I keep telling myself that any day now some agent could decide to represent my book and get it published. Well, here's how that's shaping up at the moment:


Total queries to date: 680
Rejections: 613
Outstanding: 67
Under Consideration: 0

As Nonfiction, specifically, total queries: 467
Rejections: 414
Outstanding: 53

As Fiction, total queries: 213
Rejections: 199
Outstanding: 14



I've been trying to make a public ripple, explain the phenomenon of being a male girl or non-transitioning transgender or heterosexual sissy or gender invert or any of the other things I've attempted to call it over the years. I've been trying to do so because once upon a time, a long long time ago, I promised myself that if I *EVER* found out why people treated me this way, if I *EVER* found out why these things were happening to me, I was going to do something about it. I've been trying to do so because once I did, in fact, figure it out, I promised myself that I'd make it so that anyone like me growing up would not have to figure it all out for themselves. I've been trying to do this as my primary avocation and purpose in life, my mission, since 1980.

You could say I've only seriously set out to do one thing in my life and I've been a pretty pathetic failure at it.

That's not entirely fair, I tell myself. Once I figured this stuff out, I also set out to actually live my life, to not merely preach these ideas but to put them into practice. And to my relief and surprise, that's been the easier part. It took decades but I got better and better at communicating up close and personal, I learned from experience how to find what I was looking for, and I found personal solutions. I get to live my everyday life not at all closeted or isolated but instead loved and understood and cared for and appreciated for who I am, and I in turn get to hold and love and cherish and have togetherness and meaningful connection in my life.

Which is to say that I've got damn little to complain about, and also to acknowledge that it is grossly insulting to people who love me for me to characterize my life as a failure.

I get to be me, and not merely in isolation. (Can anyone be themselves without connection and accepting companionship?) But there is "be" and there is "do". I set out to do something. Nothing else I have ever set out to do has held anything akin to the same kind of importance; every other activity or accomplishment has basically been distraction and entertainment along the way, including artistic accomplishments, job and career, and the acquisition of skills. This one thing is where I've invested all my determination. I am stubborn, intelligent, passionate about my issue, and I'm good with words and skilled at explaining complicated concepts, and I can't believe I've accomplished so damn little in so much time!

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The Library of Congress summary, provided by the publisher, reads: "Grayson, a transgender twelve-year-old, learns to accept her true identity and share it with the world; middle grade fiction".

Gracefully Grayson's title character is a male-bodied person who uses male pronouns throughout (as does the author, unlike the publisher who wrote the summary, and so I will do likewise); but Grayson secretly understands himself to be a girl.

When literature is written for a middle grade audience, there are both constraints and freedoms available that are not present when writing for an adult audience: Grayson twirls in an oversized shirt and imagines it to be a skirt, and this motif, repeated throughout, acts as a stand-in for all of the complexity behind "What does it MEAN to be a girl instead of a boy if you're male?"

That's somewhat necessary, since a book aimed at 10 year olds could be a tough sell on the market if it were to delve excessively or explicitly into questions of genitalia, gendered aspects of sexuality, or musings about sociology and biology and their respective input into behavior and its interpretations.

But it's also freeing. I can state from experience that saying (as an adult) "I'm different, I'm actually a woman inside" means having to face a gauntlet of questions — "Do you dislike your male body?"; "If you just prefer a skirt and like to wear your hair long, how does that make you a woman, Scottish men wear kilts and men at several times throughout history had their hair long?"; "Are you claiming that your brain developed in a female pattern in utero?"; "Will you be getting surgery and, if so, which ones, and how about hormones?"; "How do you know you're 'like a woman', as you say, since you've never been one?" — Grayson's story operates on a simpler and more elegant level; for Grayson and for his classmates and family, his being a girl instead of a boy is forbidden, and hidden in secrecy, and then at a certain point not hidden and on display for people to accept or be shocked at and outraged about, but it isn't deconstructed and thrown back in his face with a demand for more explanation.

And because none is demanded, none is given. Is Grayson going to be sexually attracted to males? Certainly some of the other kids think this must be the case, and, from their behavior, so do some of the adults; but if Grayson himself has sexual feelings and inclinations of any form, we aren't brought in on them, and sexual feelings and orientation don't appear to play a part in Grayson's own consideration of his gender. Will Grayson seek a physical transition? The question is never posed to him and in his imagination he doesn't visualize himself with (or, for that matter, without) female bodyparts, just with girlish adornments and garments. At the end of the book, we don't know. We're left with the strong sense that Grayson will seek to be perceived as a girl and accepted as a girl, including (as strongly hinted in a late scene) going into the girls', not the boys' bathroom. But that's as much as he knows and that's as much as we know after reading the final pages.

Interestingly, this makes it one of the few coming-out narratives I could identify with from start to finish. (Although Grayson is described by the publisher as a "transgender" character, I was able to read it as a story about another genderqueer individual like me, a gender invert who is, and would remain, a male-bodied girl).

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I was in Bluestockings (the book store) the other day and a book titled INTERSEX (For Lack of a Better Word) caught my eye.



Since I fancy myself an activist in the gender & sexual prefs rainbow these days, and intersex is (like genderqueer) one of the latter-day additions, I figured it would do me good to read it and get more of a sense of the experiences of intersex people. Because, you know, even though my situation doesn't really overlap theirs very much, it would be useful to have at least a generic familiarity with their concerns in case someone asks me someday while I'm presenting about genderqueer issues and whatnot, right?

OK, OK... so I should be aware, by this point, that I'm likely to recognize myself in descriptions and identities I wasn't previously familiar with. It's not like I don't have a lifetime history of that. I'm not now identifying as an Intersex person, but reading Thea Hillman's exposition left me with the strong urge to write her an email or something, commenting on things we have in common.

Hillman herself had run into the term "intersex" quite some time before deciding that it truly applied to her. She's had Virilizing Adrenal Hyperplasia from early childhood on, but received medical interventions that blunted the impact of her body's unconventional cocktail of hormones. "Intersex", she thought, "means people who have ambiguous genital, and I have normal-looking genitals". It took awhile for her to decide that yes, her experiences with doctors peering and poking at her breasts and vagina and inspecting her clitoris, being prescribed various hormonal medications and taking them as shots down at the nurse's office at school, internalizing a sense of herself as not necessarily OK, yeah, that qualified her to use the label. It took longer than that, and based on her writing seems to be an ongoing process, to be comfortable with the idea that she would at times be the face of intersex, the person showing up at conferences as the designated intersex person. Worrying that she wasn't "intersex enough" and that someone else would challenge her, discredit her.

As I read that, I found myself nodding because I often have that feeling about my own identification as genderqueer. That someone on some message board or in some forum or at some conference is going to say that if I don't ever feel a need to present as female, if I'm not genderfluid or otherwise inclined to want to be seen as a female person at least some of the time, and I'm a male-bodied person who is attracted to female people, then I'm just some cisgender hetero guy who wants to be edgy and is therefore colonizing the experience of legitimately marginalized minorities. Yeah, I know what it's like to worry and wonder that you've stolen someone else's label and that sooner or later someone's going to object.

Then Hillman goes on to describe trying to network, especially with transgender people. And finding that although, yes, they have a lot in common that links them, she often finds the issues of medical transitioning to be divisive. Because for intersex people, being surgically modified to pass as one sex or the other is something so often done TO them without their fully-informed consent, very often as infants or young children. Hillman describes how disconcerting it was to be the lone intersex activist surrounded by transgender activists discussing surgical intervention as a solution, not a problem, and describing it in glowingly positive terms as an choice-affirming and life-affirming resource. To complicate matters, Hillman was informed that she, too, qualifies as transgender: "By taking hormones", she was told, "you transitioned away from being intersex towards something else, towards a more traditional female".

And there again I was struck with the sense of shared experience. I'm not a transitioner and the issues of surgery and other medical intervention make me feel pretty alien and different too. And I, too, of course, have been told many times that the term 'transgender' applies to me, as a male rather than female girl-person, regardless of whether or not I wish to modify my body accordingly.

Sorry if I sound like I think I'm such a Special Snowflake, but always after experimenting with so many of these identity-labels, I've found myself backing away politely: "No, that's not it. It's something else".

When I finished the book, I made a note of the publisher — Manic D Press — and made an entry for it in my query-letter database.

Oh, and yeah: I'm no longer under consideration by the literary agent who requested the full manuscript. And with 640 queries to literary agents and 589 rejections, I've finally crossed the literary Rubicon and sent my first query letter off to a small publisher. It's something I've avoided doing up until now because more than a handful of literary agents have a policy against taking on any new author if any publishers have already seen their book and passed on it. And so up until now I've maintained the ability to say "nope, no publishers have seen it". Except that that isn't 100.00% true. Because when I attended the New York Writers Workshop Nonfiction Pitch Conference back in October 2013, one of the conference events was the opportunity to pitch our books to each of three publishers. Publishers, not literary agents. Well, so if I've actually been deflowered anyway...

Mostly though simply because it was time. The publishers I will be querying will be small publishers, the sort that consider small-volume titles and do not require that only literary agents contact them about books. Publishers that publish niche titles that literary agents tend to pass on because they won't attract a mainstream readership and hence won't appeal to mainstream presses with the larger profit margins that a mainstream book sale can command.

You'll perhaps have noticed that I've never mentioned the specific literary agents I've queried when I've blogged about them. Just a sort of superstitious nervousness on my part. I don't suppose there's any reason to keep it a secret, nor any reason to keep secret the fact that I'm querying any specific publisher. Probably less so, in fact, since I'm only going to query one publisher at a time.

The one I'm starting with is Seal Press.


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