Last year, during KT’s first Lesbian Appreciation Week, my novel, Story of L was a mere nominee in a respectable field of erotic lesbian works looking to win a Lambda Literary Award. Of anything I’ve written, this book had chops and I knew it had as good a chance to become a finalist.
But when it did indeed become a finalist, I became subdued, my expectations quiet. It wasn’t because of any loss of confident or faith. It wasn’t because I grew suddenly scared and timid in the face of the competition. No; I simply felt the weight of reverence to be included in this narrowed field of highly qualified works.
I downplayed L’s chances for months leading up to the awards ceremony -- the Lammies, as the LGBT world calls it. And my reverence deepened when I learned that long-time author Armistead Maupin would accept a Lambda Pioneer Award at the ceremony. My late mother loved Maupin’s Tales from the City novels. In the years before a prior instance of cancer returned fully metastasized, we watched its television mini-series, part of our annual tradition of watching Bravo back it had LGBT programming during Pride month. And when her cancer did return, we’d often talk about Michael and Mary Anne and mother’s much loved character, Anna Madrigal.
My mother never blanched when I talked about my erotic writing. Writing was something that united us, even though we wrote in different realms. She enjoyed poetry and was a late-in-life college student, fulfilling a lifetime dream of earning a college degree. I was her semi-renegade daughter, long-established as a working writer, now agitating against prudery in word and deed. And Maupin’s Tales united us as well--and left me with memories of my mother that I treasure. In fact, the summer four years after her death, I read the entire Tales series of novels to honor her.
Then June 4th 2012 finally arrived, the same month my mother and I would have our Bravo marathons years ago. Still much subdued, I realized that I had finally internalized one piece of my mother’s pressing advice from my childhood: Don’t get your hopes up too high. I hadn’t-- and wouldn’t--largely because losing meant a win for a respected colleague.
The trouble with stuffing your hopes away, however, is that when you hear your name called and your book’s cover appears on the big screen behind the presenters and the room erupts in applause, those feelings explode into the open.
By the time I reached the podium, my throat was tight and my eyes brimming with tears. Mind you, I cry at easily at any spectacle: the joy of a wedding, the beauty of a church hymn -- hell, I’ve cried when the circus parade entered an arena! But this time, the tears were every bit as much for what I was about to say as it was for the win.
I dedicated much of my thanks to editor, Lori Perkins. Not only did Lori insist I was the person to write this book, but she let me write it as authentically as possible. She could’ve insisted I write a far more commercial work, one that would appeal far more to men and bi-curious women than to lesbians. She could’ve insisted I write fast and dirty for the sake of a buck and not for posterity and accolades. But she didn’t. As far as I was concerned, the Lammie was as much hers as mine.
I gave shout-outs to friends and colleagues Cecilia Tan, Laura Antoniou, and Sacchi Green, women who always supported my efforts and embraced me as a fellow writer during the journey that led lead me to the podium that evening. And I thanked the Lambda Literary organization for honoring the erotic word and its place in the LGBT community and history.
Then, I pointed the final portion of my speech to Armistead Maupin, telling him how my mother treasured his novels and the memories I have of her enthusiasm. Later, Mr. Maupin would seek me out before the evening’s crowd dispersed and thanked me for my words, a gesture I include in the circle of these memories.
And before I left the podium, I posed a question to the audience. “To earn this award during the same ceremony that Mr. Maupin accepts the Pioneer Award?”
I looked out across the audience, then towards heaven, and rejoiced, “Mom! Look what happened!”
The event photographer caught me mid-Mom moment. And wouldn’t you know it? In that instant, I looked just her.
In the months since then, I secured agency representation and became a contributing author to a groundbreaking new erotica line, Entwined. In each Entwined volume, the first chapter launches a woman protagonist on an erotic journey of love and discovery. But then the narrative fractures into four wildly different pathways, each written by a different award-winning erotica author in her own genre. I’m pleased to say I’m writing the lesbian pathways for some of these volumes. My first novella, Hers, is part of Entwined’s debut volume, Unbound. In it, a sudden twist of fate takes Charity makes a sudden and entirely different choice-and ends up in arousing girl/girl BDSM adventure.
And perhaps the real progress here isn’t reaching an apex in my writing career. Or that bisexual author can win a major award in a lesbian category. Or even that those successes were born of a mother/daughter history both personal poignant.
Perhaps the real progress is that in creating and configuring a new line of women’s erotica, the lesbian voice was integral to that design. Perhaps the real progress is one of inclusion, complete and as celebrated as its fellow voices. I can hear my mother’s voice, answering me at last. And it’s all smiles.
Debra Hyde is an award-winning erotica author and editor, and co-curates Between the Covers, a monthly NYC erotic reading series. Since her Lambda win, she written two more lesbian novels, both for Coliloquy.com’s groundbreaking Entwined series, providing the lesbian pathways in its . Her first novella, Hers, is part of its debut volume, Unbound -- with more novellas to come.
Socialize with Debra at https://twitter.com/#!/debrahyde and http://www.facebook.com/debra.hyde or visit her at her website.