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A Room of One’s Own (2004)

A Room of One’s Own (2004)

©2004, 2013 by Eleanor Brown

Source: Brown, Eleanor. (2004, July). A room of one’s own: Can fiction create it’s own space within the pages of the LGBT Press? Press Pass Q: A Newsletter for the Gay and Lesbian Press Professional, V. 6, No. 4.

I was interviewed for this article about fiction in LGBT publications.



A Room of One’s Own

Can Fiction Create its Own Space Within the Pages of the LGBT Press?

By Eleanor Brown


Managing editor Lisa Neff wondered about publishing fiction in her weekly Chicago Free Press when some readers had a hard time distinguishing it from fact. “I’d receive invitations from readers who wanted to date the main character.”

That’s one problem with running fiction in a non-fiction news publication.

The Free Press ran serial fiction from its very first issue, in August 1999, written by humorist Michael Boomer Beaumier and filled with local references. The column ran half a page (between 500 to 800 words), and readers enjoyed it, recalled Neff. It managed to be political without being dull or preachy: It tackled everything, drag, drugs, pride, politics, affairs, sex, romance, body image. . . The column ended eventually, but Neff said she would like to test out the idea again.

The Free Press also publishes excerpts from new novels regularly. But no short stories or poetry.

In fact, finding literary fiction in a general interest LGBT publication is a rarity.

“We’re the only paper in Kansas and mainstream media covers none of our issues really, we like to reserve the space for actual [local] news, said editor Kristi Parker.

The bimonthly Out in Jersey has run poetry— but rarely. The few stanzas were from unpaid staffers who contribute other work. Space is a problem, said general manager Peter Frycki, and there’s no money to pay for it. Plus, he added, the quality of the pieces runs the gamut from very good to complete garbage.

Lavender managing editor Travis Stanton said fiction doesn’t fit in with his biweekly Minneapolis magazine’s mandate (and soon after taking over the job 19 months ago, he stopped running serial fiction) . Marty Davis, publisher and managing editor of Portland, Ore.’s biweekly Just Out, echoes: “It’s just not our format.”

Others have dipped in a toe, then pulled it out quickly. Jeff Balk publishes three magazines that share some content (EXP St. Louis, the mid-Atlantic’s EXP Gayzette, and another serving Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky) . “We tried what one could call erotic fiction without the descriptive sex. Some people were offended by this and even referred to it as pornographic…. We did not want to take any chances as we were fairly new at that point.”

Maybe, Balk added, it was the wrong style of writing. But he said no readers have ever asked for fiction of any kind. They want club scene info and news, entertainment, horoscopes, and gossip.

Yet regardless of the lack of feedback, fiction, and even poetry, are an integral part of the national quarterly glossy Transgender Tapestry Journal.

On the one hand, few magazines get any sort of reaction to their fiction. “I just think fiction doesn’t punch people’s buttons in the same way as, say, an opinion piece that stimulates them to write,” said editor-in-chief Dallas Denny.

But even if they did react, Denny said she’d humor the wants of the readers only so much. “There is a genre of transgender fiction that is primarily wish fulfillment. Such works are about seeing in the mirror a person (crossdressed) who approximates to some extent the internal reality of the individual. I believe many of our readers would just love for us to stuff this sort of thing between the covers, but I won’t do it. I want to expose the readers to good work.”

Denny said fiction rounds out her magazine, and she enjoys supporting authors who produce superior writing (they used to get paid in magazine copies; now they receive a one-year subscription, and retain copyright)

Transgender Tapestry runs one page of poetry in every issue. “Our poetry editor is quite PoMo in her tastes, and we’ve not had a poem that rhymes in years,” said Denny. “Fiction appears at least twice a year: It depends on whether good stuff comes in…. We are able to run all the good fiction we receive.”

For the first time in more than five years, Chicago’s Windy City Times printed a literary supplement this summer, an eight-pager for Pride, instigated by two long-time contributors and fiction writers (Kathie Bergquist and Owen Keehnen)

These specialists, as it were, separated out the best writing, which publisher Tracy Baim felt was a task beyond her time availability and her more nonfiction-based, journalistic abilities. (Actually, Baim has authored her own fact-based novel about gay men and lesbians serving in the military during the Gulf War, but she said that fiction was not a true lifelong passion, as it is for others.)

“I prefer if we have limited space that it mostly be lesser known writers,” added Baim, noting that most of the manuscripts hailed from Chicagoans. “We did not seek out any special ‘name’ folks.”

The fees were comparable to the paper’s other writing payments, and most of the pieces were previously unpublished. Writers retained copyright.

Baim said there was good reaction from readers, and she’s considering doing more such supplements, and perhaps even adding a photo/art category. But there’s money to worry about.

“With very few bookstore and literary-related ads, it makes it hard to dedicate space to a project like this…. In the future, a combination of web-based and print-based lit pieces might be the way we go.”