An author at PrideFest
This Sunday I drove a couple of hours south to Rochester, MN, to join two other M/M authors from that city who’d decided to have a booth at PrideFest 2014. I’ve never gone to any Pride as more than a quiet anonymous wanderer of the venue, so this was new. And a bit intimidating. But the more I work with the YA LGBT group, and teens, the more I want to stand up visibly. So I made a poster and cards for the YA group, took some books to give away, and went.
The booth was the brainchild of M/M authors Tina Blenke and Posy Roberts. They’d bought a prize-wheel for people to spin, and brought some little prizes and candy, and our swag. But the best thing was, they’d brought family. Because imagine this scene…
Three authors set up a table, and prize wheel, and sit to watch people walk by, and walk by… One (yeah, me) gets up and makes a sign pointing to the wheel. “Spin to win prizes –> ” And they sit some more…
Now imagine two wonderful twelve-year-old girls – Tina’s daughter and her friend – dressed in volunteer pink shirts because they’d already spent the morning helping with set-up, standing next to the wheel. The girls smiled and chatted to people, and encouraged them in, and held the wheel low for kids. (Who were not allowed to win books – the first hit on a “Free Book” slot was a little boy about 6 years old. Um, no, not even “Rainbow Briefs.”) So a huge thanks to those two wonderful and energetic kids, who made it work.
It was fun and interesting. Several people said they didn’t know gay romance was a thing. Some paused to check out the books. We had a sheet of paper set up asking “What gay romance plot would you like to see?” People said,
*E.R. Nurse meets and falls in love with the Reaper, but doesn’t know it.
*Something with pirates and hovercraft
*Bisexuals and drag kings
*Two guys crash a hot air balloon in Africa
*Superhero falls for a mortal and they get it on for REAL.
*Pot smoking hippy and a straight edge
*LGBT love in space
*penguin-shifters… Okay, that was mine to start things off.
Lots of great ideas, and it was fun to watch people come up with them.
Some people wanted to tell us their stories. We heard from the two young women who wanted a “Southern Baptist girl falls for another girl” story, because that was their life. We met a transwoman finally making the physical transition in her fifties and loving it at last.
And we met a man about my age who talked about growing up gay in a Minnesota small town in the seventies. Where the only other gay boy he knew was his boyfriend, who committed suicide as a young teen. How isolated he felt, how even inadvertently his family put the expectations of town and church onto him. How he had to make himself an anti-suicide plan not to follow his friend. And how his eighty-year-old dad, even now, has accepted the idea that he has a boyfriend, but wants no PDAs anywhere in sight. He was pleased for the kids growing up with the openness of Pride, and yet worried about the level of animosity from the small segment of virulent homophobes around.
Because we did have two lone protesters, straight white men standing at the end of the street, holding signs about “The wages of sin are death”. Not enough to dampen the party, but a reminder of the work still to do. And that there will probably always be those who hate anyone who is not one of exactly their own kind.
On the other hand, the drag queens were excellent. (The clothes, the style… And how they manage to walk, let alone dance, in those heels I don’t know. Award-worthy performances across the board.) There were a ton of families with children, which was great. We gave a lot of rainbow bracelets out to the under-ten set. There were the Christ United Methodist Church and the People of Hope Lutheran Church and the Peace United Church of Christ with booths draped in rainbows. The Rochester Public Library had a booth, and I was delighted to see copies of “Two Boys Kissing” and “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” and other young adult titles among the books on display.
I gave away seven copies of “Rainbow Briefs” in paperback, and five of my adult titles. Posy sold a couple of books, and handed out a lot of cards, and Tina had people take magnets of the gorgeous vampire cover of her ebook. (One guy commented he’d like to date the cover model.) I got to promo the YA LGBT Books group to a few teens and a couple of teachers and others who work with teens. So over all, it was fun and felt productive. I have a much easier time speaking up for the YA group than my own books, so that part was enjoyable.
There was some talk about maybe trying to do Minneapolis Pride next year. Maybe… And in a bit of serendipity, right before I was asked to this Rochester event, I’d been writing about John and Ryan and their teen kids, at a small-town Pride in York for Rebuilding Year 2, so I was taking mental notes. A fun day all the way around.