NEWS ABOUT "THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS," 8/00 - 6/01

06/01/01      I'm still finding this hard to believe, but it has in fact come to pass: THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS received the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Fiction 2000! The awards ceremony was held in Chicago on May 31 during Book Expo America, the big industry trade show. The banquet was hosted by comedian Bob Smith and spoken word performer Alix Olson, who were both hilarious and kept the evening moving along at a pretty quick pace---which was important because I had to wait until the very last category to find out whether or not I'd won. Except for the butterflies churning at warp speed in my stomach, I really enjoyed the night. It was great to meet so many other writers who are working hard at creating the next wave of gay and lesbian literature. Congrats also to fellow San Franciscans Michelle Tea, whose book VALENCIA won the Lesbian Fiction award, and to Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja, whose IT'S NEVER ABOUT WHAT IT'S ABOUT won in the category of Spirituality/Religion.

02/16/01     InsightOut Books, an online gay and lesbian book club, has been giving me the royal treatment. They've nominated me for their Violet Quill Award, given to first-time gay and lesbian fiction writers; they're running a lengthy (and quite interesting, if I do say so myself) interview conducted by writer Jim Gladstone; and I'm also sitting at the very top of their bestseller list.

02/01/01     Big news! I've been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in the category of gay fiction. The other nominees are Edmund White, Christopher Bram, Bernard Cooper and Erasmo Guerra--humbling company, indeed. The awards ceremony will be held on May 31st in Chicago, timed with the big national booksellers' convention, Book Expo America. The Lammies are sponsored by the Lambda Literary Foundation, publishers of the Lambda Book Report and the James White Review (which was the first journal to publish one of my short stories, all the way back in 1993).

02/01/01     A chatty interview I did with Oasis Magazine, an on-line magazine for gay and lesbian youth is currently running. Jeff Walsh, who started Oasis back in the pre-web days of the Internet, is a fellow San Franciscan who came to my very first reading last September at A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books.

01/26/01     I received a response from Merrill Cole today on how his students responded to THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS (see 1/17, below): "To put it tersely, they really liked it. One lesbian said that she appreciated how it allowed her insight into what it's like for queer boys. I know already that one of my gay boys intends to write his midterm essay on it. In class, a major topic of discussion was how different Robin's experience might be from that of the younger generation. Beyond changes in cultural icons--none of them knew who Patti Smith is--students felt Robin's story very contemporary." Now I wonder if I'll get to see that midterm essay. . .

01/17/01     The Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library of the San Francisco Public Library invited me for a reading--my first at a library. It was a very different experience than reading in a bookstore. People there to use the library kept popping their heads around the stacks, trying to figure out what was going on. I think it had something to do with the fact that the excerpt I read--in which Todd takes Robin to his first high school party--was thick with curse words, stoner-speak and descriptions of drunken teenagers making out with each other.

01/17/01     Doing a little ego-surfing on the web, I came across a great surprise: THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS is being taught in a queer literature course at the University of Washington in Seattle. I found the curriculum on line; I'm right up there with Jeanette Winterson, Holly Hughes, Randall Kenan and David Wojnarowicz. Afterwards, I sent an email to the professor, Merrill Cole, who wrote back right away: "I'm tickled pink that an author would contact me. I can't imagine Jeanette Winterson or Holly Hughes dropping me a line. I chose your book on the recommendation of the bookseller at Beyond the Closet; I wanted a quality boy's coming-out novel, and I thought something really new would be excellent." I can't wait to hear what his students have to say.

01/04/01     THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS was named Best Fiction of 2000 by Nightcharm, my favorite destination on the web for dirty pictures and smart commentary. A big thanks to webmaster David K., whose support of the book has been unwavering since he was sent a copy last fall by my boyfriend, Kevin. The three of us had a great chat over pasta and wine when Kevin and I traveled to Seattle in October, and we've been staying in touch ever since. Ain't the Internet great?

12/31/00     My whirlwind year came to an exciting end with a good review from The New York Times Book Review. Since I was in New York for the holidays, I was able to get an advance look at it---and immediately got on the phone to a friend to find out exactly what "astringent" means.

12/01/00     Amazon.com included THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS on their year-end list of the ten best gay novels of 2000.

12/01/00     The New York Blade, and its sister paper, The Washington Blade, listed THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS at number 5 on their bestseller lists. This was especially nice since their reviewer was pretty lackluster about the book a couple weeks ago.

11/30/00     Kensington Books has announced that they're going to do a second printing of THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS. This means that bookstores can replenish their shelves with the hardcover edition--which I'm told has been a little difficult to find lately--just in time for the holiday season (Attention Xmas shoppers!). The paperback, for those of you looking ahead to next year, is scheduled for August, 2001.

11/28/00     Popflip.com, the website of stylish S.F. author Alvin Orloff, recently posted a blurb, calling THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS "realism at its best." If you haven't checked out Alvin's novel, "I Married An Earthling," you're missing one of the funniest books I read all year, a smart, campy, sci-fi interspecies love story.

11/18/00     Thanks to Matt of hit-or-miss.org for calling THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS "a winner." Matt's site is a web log (or "blog" for you seasoned websters), which means you get daily links to anything and everything that catches his attention. Beware: you can lose hours of your life once you start following the links. You'll find the entries about my book in his November archives.

11/16/00     Among the websites that have added a link to normalboys.com is About.com, an on-line community with various areas of featured interest. This site has been included on their Gay Words page.

11/2/00     Last stop: Atlanta. The reading at Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse was a late addition to the tour, arranged at the request of the bookstore. I was given a flattering introduction by staffer Kevin (it's encouraging, and too rare, when the person introducing you has actually read the book), but microphone failure and a distracting crowd of chatty coffee-drinkers, positioned just over my shoulder behind a pane of glass, made for a difficult reading. Still, if there's one lesson I've learned over the past two months, you give it your all for the people who are paying attention. The set-up made for an anti-climatic finish to the tour. I finished off the night watching election-eve campaign ads on TV in my hotel room, ready to return home to San Francisco do my civic duty. (As of this writing, over a month later, the outcome of the Presidential election still hasn't been decided.)

11/2/00     Olsson's Books and Music in Washington DC set up a wine-and-cheese reception for me in their Dupont Circle store. It was a great chance to get to talk readers beyond the confines of the usual Q&A session. Despite a lackluster review in a local paper, there were a number people in attendance who showed up as fans--including one guy who'd written a five-star review of THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS on Amazon.com. Also on hand: my sister's girlfriend's family--the Campbell clan from Iowa--in town to celebrate Kim and Kris's upcoming commitment ceremony.

10/30/00     Finished up my time in Philadelphia with a reading at Giovanni's Room, a comfy bookstore with a friendly staff. It was another "all-star cast" in attendance--my sister, Karen, and her husband, Blake (getting a night off from their new baby, Carney); my boyfriend's sister; my boyfriend's college roommate and his wife; my college roommate, Sonia, and her husband, Earl (getting a night off from their new baby); and a handful of their friends. A note I received a few weeks later from the store owner, Ed Hermance, informed me that sales from the night's event sent my novel to number two on their November bestseller list. I hope the irony of a mostly straight crowd helping to create a "gay bestseller" was not lost on him. I know I'm encouraged that all kinds of readers are able to relate to the novel beyond the confines niche marketing.

10/29/00     The Lambda Book Report sponsored a three-day gay and lesbian writers conference entitled, rather perplexingly, Behind Our Masks. It was a compact, friendly and generally subdued affair, without the heated arguments I remembered from the similarly-styled Outwrite conferences of early '90s, which were notorious for name-calling, divisiveness and flared tempers. (Must be a sign of the Clintonization of the gay community; we're all sort of well-fed and content of late.) I spoke on a panel about developing characters in fiction, but as so many of these panels go, the discussion seemed to amble toward almost any writing-related topic, often to the detriment of cohesiveness. All-in-all, the conference was a worthwhile event, a chance to bump into old friends, make a few new ones and sell some books.

10/23/00     A very small but vocal audience showed up for my reading at Beyond The Closet, Seattle's gay and lesbian bookstore. Meanwhile, a very large crowd was lined up at the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, just down the block. Ugh--I got creamed by the competition. Still, the whole reading was worth it for the presence of my friend Selina, who responded to every humorous line in the passage I read with unbridled, infectious laughter--reminding me that no matter the size of the audience, you have to sing out just the same.

10/21/00     Never let it be said that I can't fill an hour talking about my novel. I was slated to be one of two first-time novelists talking on the topic "Boys' Stories: From Suburbia to Sub-Cultures" at the Northwest Bookfest; the other, Kief Hillsbery, author of War Boy, cancelled at the last minute because of a family emergency. So in the end, it was all me. I read a couple of passages from THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS and, with the help of facilitator Mark White, editor of Publishing On-Line, took questions from the audience. Since the Bookfest is a two-day event crammed with exhibitions, panels and public conversations between writers, a lot of people--book lovers of all stripes--dropped in on the discussion. A surprisingly large number of people (surprising to me, anyway) stuck around to hear what I had to say. It was a thorough discussion, ranging from the nuts-and-bolts of writing a first novel to meatier questions about how marketing labels like "coming of age story" and "gay fiction" have gotten attached, for better or worse, to my novel.

10/18/00     The Lambda Book Report has included a review of THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS in their October issue, just out now. The Lambda Literary Foundation, which publishes LBR, is sponsoring Behind Our Masks, a gay and lesbian writers conference, in Philadelphia later this month. I've been signed up as a last-minute participant in a panel called "Writing A Life," which will focus on creating characters. I'll also be passing out postcards to promote my reading--strategically scheduled for the day after the conference--at Philly's gay bookstore, Giovanni's Room.

10/16/00     Salon Magazine featured an excerpt from THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS at the top of its audiobooks page. After a couple of weeks as one of their front-page features, the passage has been moved into the archives, where visitors can still find it. Using Real Player or another audio player, you can listen to me read a six-minute excerpt from Robin's first day of high school.

10/14/00     Kepler's Bookstore invited me to participate in Local Authors Day, an afternoon panel discussion featuring five Bay Area writers. Heavy construction along the Caltrain line between SF and Menlo Park delayed me by about a half hour, which meant that I had to slip into my seat on the dais while things were already underway. I was one of two novelists; three nonfiction writers--whose subjects ranged from Japanese internment camps to the former prime minister of Iran to The Grateful Dead--were also on the panel. Because the books were so different from each other, the discussion focused on the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing, rather than the content of our individual works. Not that the moderator didn't try; at one point she asked me to talk about "the relationship between desire and abuse" in THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS--a question so complex that I immediately backpedalled and asked her, "Wouldn't you rather know how I got my agent?"

10/06/00     A Different Light in West Hollywood has been going through some upheaval over the past year. I've dealt with three different store managers during the months leading up to my reading. Happily, the newly-hired manager, Alex Hutchison, did a fantastic job prepping the store for the event, though he'd only been hired a week before. He even programmed the cash register to print an advertisement for THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS on every store receipt. Once again, a crowd of familiar faces greeted me, though there was also a handful of Friday night browsers who stuck around to hear what I had to say.

10/04/00     Another enthusiastic hometown crowd packed the store for my last San Francisco reading, at A Different Light. ADL featured the book in their window for several weeks, and local papers listed the event in their calendar sections, but as with many of my other readings, the crowd was largely composed of friends and friends-of-friends. As an avid reading-attendee for years, I have been surprised not to see more unfamiliar faces at my readings--curious strangers who seek out appearances by new authors. But perhaps I'm naive about this. It seems that for first-time novelists the most important publicity is word of mouth, and audiences build slowly outward from personal contacts.

10/02/00     THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS is "stunning," says David K., webmaster of Nightcharm, which, in case you haven't yet discovered, is the only porn site with text worth reading. In addition to the webcam trained on Corky and his giant penis, Nightcharm includes such dead-on features as Lurid Digs, in which a panel of porn experts deconstructs the interior decor in the background of gay amateur porn shoots.

9/29/00     I hadn't been in Tucson since I lived there in 1993, so I was looking forward to returning. Though late in September, it was a blazing 95 degrees when my sweetheart Kevin and I arrived--but, as is oft repeated, it was "a dry heat." My Tucson pals put out the word, and the reading at Antigone Books was crowded enough for Kathy, the event coordinator, to comment that she had to "set up allthe chairs." She also set out a bowl of punch, plus apples and honey in honor of Rosh Hashana. Favorite question of the evening: "So, is your life really good now that you're published?" which allowed me to gush about how happy I was to find myself--after many of years of writing and much rejection from the publishing industry--standing in front of strangers reading from my novel. (I also reflected on the real world of bills-to-pay awaiting me once these 15 minutes end). The party afterwards was graciously hosted by Fenton Johnson. His place was a very cool (in both temperature and design) and very old (by Southwestern standards) adobe structure that once housed the first bakery in Tucson. Party talk included much U of A gossip, writers comparing notes on getting published, and gay boys discussing (hypothetical) sex with Presidential candidates.

9/28/00     My night at The Open Book just about made me want to move to Sacramento. This is the kind of bookstore where people greet you by letting you in on the conversation they're already having, where people in the aisles and at the cafe actually seem to be chatting about books. Larry Bailey, who runs the place with his partner Ron, was among the first booksellers to respond to an advance copy of NORMAL BOYS; their invitation to come to the store and give a reading was the very first I received. Their enthusiasm for my book clearly spilled over to their customers. The mostly-male crowd was attentive, and we had a lengthy, and pretty thorough, Q&A session afterwards, all of us sitting around cafe tables. Many of them had read the book ahead of time, including the four-man reading group, The Eclectic Trash--Michael, Michael, Tim and Leonard, if memory serves me right--that has been meeting every Thursday at the store for four years. Notable guest star: "Cubby Mom" Anne Davis, Sacramento resident and the woman responsible for bringing Cubby Creatures violinist Emily Davis into the world. (For more on Emily and other Cubby personalities, get yourself to the all-new Cubby BioFiles at cubby.net.)

9/27/00     My second of three SF readings, at Borders on Union Square. Borders announced the reading over the store intercom every fifteen minutes for an hour before it began, which led a few curious shoppers to see what it was all about; a couple of them actually stuck around for the whole thing. (I had to warn one mother and her pre-teen daughter that the passage I'd be reading was "sort of PG-13." They didn't stay.) Happily, a good-sized crowd remained, made up mostly of friends and friends-of-friends.

9/22/00     I taped an interview with host Alan Farley for "Book Talk," a weekly radio show on KALW, Information Radio 91.7 FM. The interview is scheduled to run on Sunday, November 5 at 6:30 pm. I did my best to sound smart.

9/19/00     I am welcomed to Boston with a front-of-the-arts-section rave review in the local gay paper, Bay Windows. The review, with an accompanying interview inside, helps bring a full house to my reading at We Think The World of You. The very affable Paul Rehme, bookstore owner, introduces me by saying that they've sold more copies of THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS than of the new Armistead Maupin novel, "The Night Listener" (though he makes a point of saying that it's a very good read, too). Oh, and once again it's raining and the sky is full of thunder and lightning. Tropical Storm Helene has managed to ground the very plane carrying an extra case of my novel, which doesn't make it to the store for the reading. I return the next day to sign the belated copies.

9/17/00     THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS appeared at #8 on the San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller List. That's higher than one of the Harry Potter books and this month's Oprah selection. Yowzah!

9/14/00     A Different Light/New York hosts my first East Coast reading. The audience is an all-star cast from every corner of my life--high school, college, ACT UP, "extended family" like the entire Vlahides clan, business clients, various West Coasters. I'm so nervous that as I read I feel sure that I'm bombing. Why does the crowd seem so quiet? And then when it's over I'm stunned by wild applause that doesn't seem to stop, the lively Q&A (kickstarted by Gary and Maria and Christine, strategic thinkers all of them), and the long line of people seeking my signature. (I think this is starting to go to my head . . .) Our post-reading celebration at the Half King Cafe ends in a drunken dash through a fierce, hurricane-induced thunderstorm, with several of us wrapped in plastic garbage bags (pilfered from the restaurant's kitchen) fighting off soaked New Yorkers for cabs.

9/8-9/11/00     Back in New Jersey for my Dad's wedding, I scour the bookstores of Bergen County and find copies of THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS in all of them. At the Borders in the Garden State Plaza mall, they've got me on the front table under Staff Favorites. At Shaw's, the indie bookstore in my hometown, THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS sits in the window with a sticker marked "Local Author." Seems like my Dad's been doing a little advance PR work. Thanks, Dad.

9/6/00     Part two of the Bay Area double-header: I read at Black Oak Books in Berkeley. In honor of back-to-school week, I read a passage from Robin's first day as a high school freshman (Chap. 2). The crowd was small but attentive--except for that oldtimer asleep in the back row, who, after the reading, trapped me in a conversation about a physics professor he had forty years ago at Princeton. Hey, mister, just because I'm from New Jersey doesn't mean I know anything about Princeton . . .

9/5/00     The book tour kicked off with a standing-room only reading at A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books in San Francisco. I shared the podium with another first-time novelist from San Francisco, Eric Martin, whose book, Luck, is a beautifully written story set in the tobacco fields of contemporary North Carolina. Eric and I had figured out about a week ago that we have friends in common, and decided at that time that we would introduce each other. The mutual admiration was flowing. Every copy of THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS in the store was sold by the end of the night, and I signed 'em all.

9/1/00     Tonight was the San Francisco book release party, held at Wild Side West, the best darn bar in the whole darn world. Highlights: the delicious "Foods of 1978" buffet (hot dogs, Fluffernutter sandwiches, green-bean bake, ambrosia, Cheez Whiz on Ritz crackers, orange Jell-O mold, and so much mmmmmore); the "Fund The Book Tour Raffle," in which the chance of winning a signed copy of THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS sent the crowd into a competitive frenzy; and some serious booty shaking in the garden to K.C. and the Sunshine Band--until the neighbors complained and sent us back inside.

8/29/00     Two new reviews have come in, from Publishers Weekly and The Advocate.

8/28/00     Today gets a special mention: for the first time in my life I've walked into a bookstore (A Different Light, in SF) and seen a novel with my name on it sitting on the front table. I've waited a long time for this . . .

8/26/00     THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS is now shipping to bookstores. Friends who pre-ordered copies, either on-line or through bookstores, have received their copies. (I received my own box of first editions, too. I'm still taking it all in.) You can click on the purchase link to find out how to order your copy.

8/15/00     The first review came in today, from San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter.

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