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Saturday morning, at the very moment when I was most tense about the reading that day (I always get tense before a reading, but this felt like unfamiliar territory, and made me even more edgy), I got a great email out of the blue from Phil, who is part of the inspiration for the fictional bus driver, Tucker, in my last novel, Venus of Chalk. With his permission, here it is. It's true, he always waves to me as his bus goes by, which makes me feel like a Northampton sidewalk celebrity.

It also totally makes me grin and blush that Phil thinks I'm such a stylish fat lady. And don't miss the links he provides to discussion of designer Gaultier's use of a fat model in the blog of the amazing blues singer, Candye Kane. )


Jun. 19th, 2006 10:56 am
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This is a story I emailed to some friends this morning, but I thought you, dear lj, might be interested, too.

This weekend, I was at a small conference about historical New England diaries, doing research for the novel I'm working on now. It was very wonderful in a lot of ways, including the passion (sometimes complete with blushing) in people's faces as they talked about the long-dead people whose diaries they were devoted to. As I came out of one session, I saw a small group of women clustered together, then noticed that one of them was very carefully holding something on a bed of white tissue paper. It turned out to be an ivory colored linen baby's shirt from 1799, and at least some of the women were textile historians, flipping up the lace collar and admiring the fine stitching.

I loved this, and it made me think of Carline from Venus of Chalk. So did the woman with very passionate opinions about the invention of pantyhose who is writing a history of clothes in the 1950s, and the one whose friend's mother had collected thousands of home economics pamphlets... The combination of experiencing that moment, and reading some Tennessee Williams reminded me that one of the things I drew on in writing the scene in Venus of Chalk in which Mel unfolds his bundle of cloth to show it to Carline in the shed was a similiar moment -- in a boat, yes? -- in Night of the Iguana. Tennessee Williams again.

Other influences on that moment include Thomas Hardy, who had a character very devoted to his beloved's glove, and John Ford, an artist I met in Missouri when my painter brother, Don Stinson, was very generously driving me over part of the route of the road trip in the novel, taking photos. John unwrapped a bundle of a very old -- again, ivory-colored -- corset that he had found wrapped around a glass kind of photo negative with the people's eyes blacked out that he had found in an attic in Ireland. And, you know, old white nylon slips. (My brother did a drawing once of me in one of my mother's. One version is on the cover of Belly Songs.) And all.
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I'm writing about this. If you'd like to answer, I'm interested:

Why do fat girls need fiction?

Why does anybody?

If you read fiction, how do you do that?

Where, when, how did you start?

Size Queen

Aug. 2nd, 2005 07:22 pm
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The new zine came today, it's exquisite. There is such a feeling of courage and tenderness about it, from the beautiful, glossy paper and visual excitement to the amazingly dense, varied and -- what? -- full content, there's so much to this zine, so much in it, it's a gorgeous, rare and precious thing.

I'm about to order four more copies. Money is tight around here, but gifts like this don't come along everyday, and I've been watering the tomato plants that my lover gave me for my porch every day because I want those ripe tomatoes falling off into my hands. Same principle applies here. Plus, I keep thinking of people who I need to have read it so I can talk to them about it.

I haven't read the whole zine yet -- no way I could have! So much abundance! -- but here are a few of the things I already love:
Read more... )
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Venus of Chalk is a finalist in the gay/lesbian category. Yay!

  • This is an award to "recognize excellence in independent publishing": a small press award.

  • Judy Frank's book Crybaby Butch is nominated, too, so Fireband Books are two out of the three finalists. The other one is a book published by the American Bar Associaton.

  • There's an award ceremony on June 1 at a Marriot in NYC and the Lambda awards are on June 2. Ceremonial city.

  • My first novel, Fat Girl Dances with Rocks, was a finalist in this category, too. My second novel, Martha Moody, won in the fiction category. There were silver stickers for finalist that my publisher put on FGDWR, and gold stickers for Martha Moody, but I was shy about them, and asked the publisher to stop putting them on my books, so, while you may see copies of FGDWR with the silver sticker, you won't see any of Martha Moody with the gold.

  • I'm not shy quite like that any more.

  • Books published by Readers' Digest have nominations in various categories.
  • Longtime readers here may remember my childhood devotion to Readers' Digest Condensed Books, but do they really count as "excellence in independent publishing?" There's a sprinkling of audio books from the BBC and Penguin, and a Random House finalist, but eight from Readers' Digest?
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So, I just learned that Venus of Chalk was reviewed on this week's edition of the lgbt radio show, This Way Out. But even though I have RealPlayer and Windows Media Player, both, I can't figure out how to listen to it to hear what it says. Can anybody hear it and tell me what it says and who's doing the review?

Or maybe tell me what to do to hear it? Thanks!

Here's a list of stations in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and elsewhere that carry the program, and when it airs.

Here's the description of the show:

About This Way Out

On the air since 1988, This Way Out is the award-winning internationally distributed gay and lesbian radio program, currently airing on over 125 local stations around the world and on short wave station Radio For Peace International. Produced in Los Angeles, the weekly half-hour "radio magazine" is distributed via satellite to stations around North America, across Europe and in Australia, on tape to other stations overseas, and on the Internet exclusively on PlanetOut Radio.
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I just got the latest issue of Lambda Book Report. (It's Vol. 13.04-05). The cover story is "Critical Mass: A New Generation of Gay Poets."

And on the upper left cover, there's a little picture that my friend James took of me in front of the radiator in his old apartment. The issue includes an article I wrote about fat, queer women writers: "No Longer Vigilant: Fat and the Word." The phrase "no longer vigilant" comes from a moving and powerful essay that [ profile] amarama wrote as an lj entry, which is also quoted in the piece. Lots of other writers and artists with ljs are mentioned: [ profile] technodyke, [ profile] charlottecooper, [ profile] misia, [ profile] fattest, and there are photos of me, [ profile] amarama (sticking doll arms into cake! credit: [ profile] gordonzola), [ profile] charlottecooper, and [ profile] fattest too. There's also a bit of discussion of lj as a phenom.

The article opens with a description of reading at last year's Nolose and the way I experienced the reading that followed at Giovanni's Room in Philadelphia. (waves at [ profile] ericaceous, [ profile] plasticsturgeon and [ profile] kayisgay.)

There's a copy of "Drink," a short story I wrote. I experimented with gender a little in the process of this piece, but ended up here with "she," which is how I originally wrote it. It's dedicated for everyone of every gender who has ever gotten even a little wet at a Nolose conference.

Then, on page 35, there's "Mortal Softness," which I love as a title for a very warm review of Venus of Chalk by Elisabeth Flynn, whose bio says she lives and writes in Philadelphia.

And on the next page, there's a review I wrote of the wonderful Life Mask, by Emma Donoghue, which is also a finalist for a Lambda Literary award.

There's a review of [ profile] final_girl's most recent book of poetry in there, too.

Again, wow. If ever I should start complaining about having my work ignored by the queer press, would somebody please remind me of this? And wow!! A whole range of fat writers are a bit more visible on the queer literary landscape. And I got a chance to say publicly that Charlotte Cooper's site includes "some of the most witty, observant and passionate travel writing I've seen." Yay.

Check it out!
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OOOOOOOOOOOOO! I'm so excited!!!

They've just posted the list on the Lambda Literary Award site, and Venus of Chalk is a FINALIST!!! in the lesbian fiction category!!!!!

This is just so fabulous!! YAY!!

Crybaby Butch by Judy Frank and Dish It Up Baby by Kristie Helms are nominated under Lesbian Debut Fiction!!

Up All Night, which Stacy Bias co-edited, is nominated under Erotica, too!!!

And Name All The Animals by Alison Smith!!!!!! Oh, I'm going to have a good time at the awards dinner. It's June 2 in New York City -- that's when the winners are announced!!!

Thanks everybody who suggested the book!!

Here's the list of finalists!
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Oh, I'm so excited! I'm so excited!!!!!

I just got an email that the Publishing Triangle has released lists of the Notable Lesbian Books of 2004, and Venus of Chalk is on the list of the top ten!!! Yayyyyyy!!!

Here it is, here it is!

Alison Smith's book Name All The Animals is on there, too, which is so great because she's a friend!!! And Crybaby Butch by Judy Frank made the lists, too!! Oh, and a bunch of other really fabulous writers -- Emma Donoghue's Life Mask is there (I wrote a review of it for Lambda Book Report which hasn't appeared yet), and Rent Girl by Michelle Tea, and a biography of Audre Lorde by Alexis De Veaux and another of Alice Walker by Evelyn C. White and poems by Mary Oliver and novels by Katherine V. Forrest and Stacy D'Erasmo, also Luna, which was nominated for a national book award in children's literature! Adrienne Rich is on there. Oh, go read the lists, please!!! I am SO happy and SO excited!!

Book Marks

Dec. 23rd, 2004 02:15 pm
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Here's a link to the Book Marks syndicated column by the wonderful Richard Labonte with my book listed among the Top Ten Fiction Books, along with Life Mask, a book I loved by Emma Donoghue (I love a lot of her work). The column is posted here in a magazine in South Africa.

Wanting It

Dec. 23rd, 2004 11:20 am
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All three of the novels that Firebrand published this year have been nominated for Lambda Literary Awards.

That's Dish It Up, Baby
Crybaby Butch
(which I read not long ago and got all stirred up about. It's got a lot of toughness and beauty and went deep into butch identity and power and sex and reading and mourning. It's lingering with me.)
and mine, Venus of Chalk.

So, first the novel was suggested to be nominated -- by many of you -- thanks again. And now it's on the list of nominated books. Then they choose five finalists, and then there is a winner, announced in June in New York City at a big dinner awards ceremony. I'm picturing a whole table of [ profile] fatshionistas, rocking the queer literary world. Somebody would teach me how to measure correctly, and I would finally get a strapless bra for the occasion. (A fat girl can dream, can't she?)

You know, I've judged literary awards and prizes. I know that there are lots of variables (including the judges' moods, health and sheer reading fatigue) that influence these choices, and that, even under ideal conditions, they can be pretty arbitrary. Sometimes I think the choices are great and sometimes I've thought that they were biased, bland or insensitive. There's no money that comes with this. But my beloved books have never been among the finalists, and it would make me very deliciously happy if this one were. It would be even more fun to be on these lists with friends. So, knocking on wood, fingers crossed, and don't forget to get your black-eyed peas now to eat for prosperity on New Year's Day. (I've just learned that collard greens are for health and cornbread is for happiness, too.)
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Well, hey! Reviewer Richard Labonte has picked Venus of Chalk as one of the ten best fiction titles of the year. His lists will appear in the December 20 installment of Book Marks, a syndicated column distributed to lgbt media outlets. (I know that the last time the book was mentioned in Book Marks, the review showed up in a paper in South Africa and I've heard that it appears in the local queer paper in Ann Arbor. Anybody see it other places? I'd be interested to know...)

As he writes in his column, best is subjective -- and ten is such an arbitrary number -- but yay!!!
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Unless there's an unexpected revival, December '04 is the last issue of the Women's Review of Books. At some point, I might come up with something thoughtful to say about that -- it's a complicated loss that's part of the crumbling over the past decade and a half of the highly imperfect but vital networks of women's presses, magazines and bookstores which shaped my early vision of what I could imagine saying as a writer.

And there's a review, by Mary Titus in this last issue, of Venus of Chalk along with The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe and Other Stories of Women and Fatness, edited by Susan Koppelman. There are a couple of factual errors. Venus of Chalk, as those of you who have been playing along at home may know, is my third novel, not my first. "Magnetic Force," my story that is in The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe, was originally published in Belly Songs, which came out in 1993, and isn't associated for me at all with Venus of Chalk, although it does draw on swimming pool experiences that I've had at fat feminist conferences over the years, which have also inspired new work. (What can I say, those pools are intense.)

But I love the review, especially that she calls the novel "an able and lovely work of picaresque fiction" and says that the book convinced her "that fat hatred could be completely overcome." And her comparison of Carline, the narrator, to a heroine in a gothic novel is pretty funny, if you happen to be acquainted with Carline.

Hit the link, click on the table of contents, and scroll down past a bunch of great stuff -- including a review by Rebecca Johnson of both a new biography and a collection of conversations with Audre Lorde -- to find the review.

Okay, now I've really, really, really got to pack.
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There's a pretty thorough body image bibliography up now at off our backs, from their September/October body image issue (which I haven't seen). The bibliography lists many books from a fat positive perspective over the past twenty years, including some by [ profile] charlottecooper, [ profile] misia, and other folks on lj that I'm not listing because I'm not sure what their lines are about being identified by name here. It includes all four of my books, which is rare.

I know folks who are thinking about doing academic work related to these themes, and others -- I think it was [ profile] keryx -- were posting recently about starting a zine, so wanted to bring this resource to your attention.
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  1. [ profile] charlottecooper
  2. has posted some really ravishing stuff about her recent trip to the US from London at, "Inside the American Beast." Every short essay is a gem -- really -- fireflies! doo wop architecture! chocolate fondant body wrap at the Hershey's Spa! Nolose! (and what she said about hearing me read there made me cry) -- but my very favorite is "Kill The Car, Robosaurus!" about a monster truck rally. The pictures are great, too. Don't miss this! So so so so good!

    2. The amazingly supportive Robert, who runs the website at Lambda Rising in DC, has put up a bunch of pictures of me at the recent reading there along with a blurb that calls me "wonderfully spirited," and ends, "Her energy is boundless and her writing is just delightful." Okay, then. I'm particularly happy about that boundless energy thing, because I've been wondering... There's a very sweet picture of me and Robert, and he gives ways to order autographed copies. (Also available locally at Pride and Joy.) Also please note: my beloved friend Lynne gave me the shirt I'm wearing at the reading, and I miss her and can't wait to see her!

    3. I just got an email from the Oxford American, which begins:

    Dear Susan,

    I love your fiction and would love to find a way to get your voice (whether
    via fiction or nonfiction) into The (new) Oxford American, which has just been resurrected down here in Arkansas.

    Can't argue with that! Especially since the description of the upcoming issue goes as follows:

    (Winter 2005) This big double issue stars Kaye Gibbons (debuting in THE OA with a new column), Barry Hannah (on encountering Jesus after a near-death experience), Wendy Brenner (on the trail of a snake fanatic), William Bowers (on movies), Billy Collins (two poems), et al.

    Plus, their last music issue won a Rolling Stone award and they were giving away signed posters of Lucinda Williams, whose music I love.

    Okay, so I haven't quite figured out how to do the list function. Still, things are pretty good.

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With thoughtfulness I very much appreciate, a friend sent me a copy of something that someone who came to my reading at Giovanni's Room posted on a lgbt reading board. It was an appreciative response to Venus of Chalk. She called it a " a funny, touching and sad story about a group of outsiders," called the writing lyrical and wonderful, and said that I was "a poetic and graceful reader, and if anyone ever has a chance to hear her read, I definitely recommend it."

She also called Carline, the narrator, a "woman of size."

When I took a look at the message board, I saw that this phrase had sparked a series of comments about whether or not it was politically correct, whether it was silly and euphemistic or powerful.

There was not one word in response to what she actually said about the book, no interest expressed in the story, in lyricism, in the possibilities for deeper explorations in art. This in a group devoted to reading. This about an identity that defines me at a glance to strangers on the street, but which is a phrase I did not use in my work. Themes related to fat are there, for sure, but it’s a song in in complexity and expands in ripples to wash over many concerns of the flesh. Says me.

I've been thinking a lot about identity and fiction and art. I want to write about it, try to wrestle with it. Maybe quote James Baldwin:

"Love takes off the masks that we feel we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."

For now, though, I need to say that, while honoring and welcoming the praise of the first writer (I emailed her to thank her) and all of the ways I know that my books have been truly received and responded to by so many adventurous, willing people, still, I have to say it: I think this happens a lot. I think that ideas about what my books might be about are so loud in many readers' heads that they never approach to have a direct experience of their own.

This breaks my heart.
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The book has a review up at Altar Magazine, which is dedicated to social change. My favorite line:

"Like her characters, Stinson is 'chronically interested' in every aspect of life and her incredible eye for detail is astonishing and translates movingly into the pages of this wonderful novel."

Yay! If you go to read the whole thing, click reviews, then scroll about 4/5s down the books column on the left, past where the green part in the middle ends. I think this might be the first review in a national publication in this country -- mind you, I don't know if it's web-only. And hey, if you're thinking about buying the book but haven't yet, if you do it by the end of July, it'll show up in my first royalty check. And who doesn't want that?

Here's a call for submissions for Feminist Media Studies: Is Fat Still a Feminist Issue? Gender and the Plus-Size Body )

Home Safe

Jul. 14th, 2004 08:56 am
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Nolose was a song, a gift, a crisis, a confusion and a wild tap dance, filled with mighty work, burlesque, human mistakes and raptures. It was a beautiful thing. It was a swim.

I'm going to post a bit about the trip over the next few days, but can't wait that long to send most tender respect and regards – oh, so many amazing folks there, so many old friends, so many gorgeous others – but especially to the intrepid gang who made it to the Philly reading -- [ profile] ericaceous, [ profile] plasticsturgeon, [ profile] amarama, [ profile] charlottecooper, and [ profile] kayisgay -- I really would have talked with you all night, if the bookstore hadn't been closing!

Well, and [ profile] bounce_n_jiggle for her warm ways, and [ profile] beccawrites for years of beautiful organizing, hard thinking, generous presence, honest feelings and risky, graceful work.

And everybody! [ profile] fattest, [ profile] lovelylikeyeast, [ profile] queentushy, [ profile] beatgoddess --wow, had no idea the car accident was so rough! -- everybody.

I missed seeing [ profile] misia in Baltimore and meeting [ profile] technodyke, whose work with FatGirlSpeaks was much praised.


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May 2009



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