SHELFIES: The 2018 Bisexual Book Awards!

See full issue for 2018 06-25

And Now, Something Completely Different...

As you know, every once in a while I like to step out of the the usual and break away from interviewing indie publishers. Last year, I visited The Bisexual Book Award Presentation Ceremony and I interviewed Sheela Lambert, director of the Bi Writers Association who presents this annual event.

This year, I returned. I took up my former position of water bearer and wine jockey as if I'd been doing it all my life. Sheela remained her strong, energetic self but there were a lot of new faces at the event this time around. It was held the Friday before the Lammy Awards, so a lot of international bisexual authors were in attendance that would not normally have been able to make the trip. It is not as large as the Lambda Literary Event, but I prefer it. It is a small intimate event (smaller this year, I think, because construction on the Westbeth Center cut off entrances on three of the four entrances -- last year, we had a dozen last minute walk-ins). You can get the chance to meet every nominee and talk -- and when you are bisexual -- you do not always get the chance to meet out bisexual creatives.

In publishing, just like in the real world, Bisexuals are usually labeled as Gay, Lesbian, or even Straight depending on who you are with at that moment in time or what you write or what you've written. It's a bit of friction that every Bisexual knows about. After-all, if you are in a committed long term relationship, why rock the boat? Why raise your voice? Why spend the energy explaining to your friends? Why give your enemies ammo?

Well, the long answer is probably a column for a different very different website.

The short answer is suitable for print here. The Truth is The Truth and We All Need To Claim Our Truths.

What follows below are interviews with three nominees who are familiar with this friction, although each of their stories are unique.

Mary-Anne McAllum

Mary-Anne McAllum, author of Young Bisexual Women’s Experiences in Secondary Schools. Nominated for Best Non-Fiction.

Who are you and how do you liked to be addressed?

My name is Mary-Anne McAllum. I am usually addressed as Dr McAllum but am happy to be known as Mary-Anne. I generally write papers for academic journals and book chapters, in the fields of sexualities and education.

Where are you from and what is the literary scene like in your circle?

I live in New Zealand. There is a strong academic literary scene within the universities here which links with international writing but my particular field, bisexuality in education, is still marginalised with little research happening. Our B is still being subsumed by the L, the G, the Q with the T these days being the 'new G&L'. Sadly the B continues to be invisibilised in academia.

What is the LGBT+ culture like where you are?

When I lived in Auckland and worked at Auckland University, there was a strong sense of Pride. I was part of the Rainbow Staff group which won a university award for our extra-curricular work in raising awareness of LGBTQ issues within the university. I was proud to be an activist and to represent the bi people in our community, even if it meant having to raise my voice louder than the Gs, Ls, Ts and Qs because of some of the misrecognition of bisexuality in that very community. Yes, it was clearly there and I experienced it.

Did you feel you were risking anything with getting published? If so, what were the repercussions if any?

I was thrilled when Routledge accepted my proposal and published. There were no repercussions. By then I had left the university and moved to a small rural town where my publications are of little consequence to the locals. My book is not likely to be found in the local library. I don't even feel safe coming out as bi in this community. There are a lot of people here who think Donald Trump is wonderful. Need I say more, except I am slowly wilting and losing my enthusiasm for many things.

Are you published by a publisher or are you self published?

Routledge published my book and Taylor and Francis own many of the academic publications I write for.

What's your personal relationship with your bookshelf(shelves)?

My book shelf reflects who I am as a person. It contains a section for academic books, many by bisexual authors. Then there is a travel section, travel being my passion. Some shelves are full with writings of the Beat authors (I wanted to write my thesis in the Beat style a la Kerouac but sadly that idea went down like a lead balloon and I had to concede defeat and write in 12 point Times New Roman boring academia style). Finally there is a large bookshelf crammed with books on paganism, witchcraft, reiki, crystals, the Goddess in all her apsects, based on my personal philosophy 'an' it harm ye none'.

Julene T Weaver, author of Truth Be Bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS by Julene Tripp Weaver, Winner of the Best Bi Poetry Book of 2017.

Julene Tripp Weaver

Who are you and how do you liked to be addressed? (Title/personal pronouns/etc) And what do you generally write?

My full name is Julene Tripp Weaver, Tripp Weaver is metaphorical for my ability to weave trips for myself and others. I use this as my writing name and changed my full name in 1996. I use she/her for my gender and identify as bisexual and queer. I am in a long term relationship with a man. I write mostly poetry and some prose, which includes creative non fiction or memoir, sometimes essays.

Where are you from and what is the literary scene like in your circle?

I am originally from New York, I grew up in the Catskills, moved to Queens and eventually lived in Manhattan for 15 years before moving to Seattle, Washington in 1989. While living in NYC I studied Creative Writing for my undergraduate degree at Hunter College in the CUNY program which I chose so I could study with Audre Lorde.

Once I moved to Seattle, I went back to school for a masters in counseling at Leadership Institute of Seattle. My poetry connections in Seattle have been very supportive and helped me grow. Seattle has the Richard Hugo House which is a literary center for writers, they hosted my celebration and reading for truth be bold. Also, we have Open Books, one of three poetry only bookstores in our country. This store is such a gift. When my second book, No Father Can Save Her, came out they hosted my book celebration reading. This year I set up a reading at Open Books with the poet Tara Hardy, who started BENT a center for queer writers. Her recent book on illness won the Washington State Book Award.

What is the LGBT+ culture like where you are?

One of the reasons I chose to move to Seattle was the fact they have a strog LGBTQ culture and community. The Wild Rose is still one of the few lesbian bars left in the country. I worked at Northwest AIDS Foundation, which in 2001 merged with Chicken Soup Brigade and became Lifelong AIDS Alliance, for 18 years. It is a richly diverse organization where the employees work from a place of heart.

Did you feel you were risking anything with getting published? If so, what were the repercussions if any?

My current book reveals the fact I am a long term survivor publicly for the first time. This is a big coming out, since I kept it private for many years. My biggest fear was that my book would come out in a Trump presidency and that came to pass. That felt terrifying. Luckily, I am not on his radar and have had much support and learned that many people are unaware of the war we went through in the gay/queer community. One of my goals for my book is that it can be used to educate. In fact, it has already been taught at Long Island University-Brooklyn in a class on, Art Inspired by the AIDS Epidemic. He also taught individual poems in his Western Literature class, he paired my poems with Walt Whitman's work in the field working with soldiers during the war. This has been very gratifying.

Are you published by a publisher or are you self published?

Finishing Line Press, in Kentucky, published my current book, truth be bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS. They also published my first chapbook, Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues. Finishing Line Press started publishing full size books after my chapbook was published in 2007 and Leah Maines, their editor, invited me to submit a full size manuscript three times. I did not think my full body of AIDS poems wouild ever be published, but I put them together and sent them off, and she accepted them. Now it feels timely because there are so many long term survivors and we have a political climate that needs ACT UP energy. This early movement was a result of our governments indifference to AIDS. We lost so many people that would have made a difference in this last election. So I am grateful my book has won the Bisexual Book Award and that poems from it are being taught. I have spent the past year promoting this book because people need to remember. My middle book, No Father Can Save Her, was published by Plain View Press in Texas. This is a very personal book filled with family poems and about my trauma after my father died and how I traversed coming of age during the sexual revolution.

What's your personal relationship with your bookshelf(shelves)?

I have lots of books in my living room, office, and bedroom. I have three large shelves in my living room chaotically ordered. A closed bookcase in the office. Books on top of my dresser in the bedroom and piles of books still to read on small tables and the floor! There is never enough time to read all the books I want to read. Plus, I have an author page on Goodreads, and use this to take notes on books I read. I find it very helpful to track books I want to read.

Kelly Jensen, author of Block and Strike, Nominated for Best Bisexual Romance of 2017

Kelly Jensen

Who are you and how do you like to be addressed? (Title/personal pronouns/etc) And what do you generally write?

I write under my own name – Kelly Jensen. I did consider using a pen name, or using only initials, but when I finished writing Chaos Station (with Jenn Burke)—a departure from my first book in that the heroes were both male and in love with each other—I was so damn proud of what we’d accomplished that I wanted my name on the cover.

As to what I write? Love stories. Some are set in other galaxies, or in the future of this one, and some are set in small towns in Pennsylvania. I’ve put aliens in New York City and I locked two poor fellows in a basement on New Year’s Eve. The common theme is that all my characters find a happy ever after.

Where are you from and what is the literary scene like in your circle?

My closest friends here in Pennsylvania read romance, science fiction, and mystery—which happen to be my favourite genres. We always have a lot to talk about!

We have a great literary culture in the Poconos. I’m a member of the Pocono Liars Club, an organization that welcomes and celebrates writers of all genres. We put together a workshop for beginning writers every year as well as an annual writing conference with guest speakers and manuscript critiques. We’re fortunate to have the support of our library, which also puts on an annual book fair and hosts a number of literary events for local authors.

What is the LGBT+ culture like where you are?

Limited. I’ve been surprised in turns by the open attitude and friendliness displayed toward my LGBT friends, but also by the narrow-minded behavior of others. I would love to see more services for LGBT youth (outside of school-sponsored clubs) and more education.

Kelly Jensen
"This is Kelly's TBR pile... OMG! It's bigger than mine!"


Did you feel you were risking anything with getting published? If so, what were the repercussions if any?

I work at a library, and though I’m proud to have my name on my books and will happily answer the question “What do you write?” with “Romance,” I don’t usually share, right away, that my books are predominantly gay and bisexual romance. This is partly because I truly believe it shouldn’t make a difference. I write love stories and the gender and sexuality of my characters are immaterial. But I write what I do for just that reason: to promote equality.

I am always afraid someone will respond badly if I were to put it all out there at the beginning, though. I’ve had a few people give me quizzical looks, a couple of folks sort of rock back a little, not at all sure what to say, and few reactions of, “But you’re not gay.” Then we either have the bisexual conversation or the what-difference-does-it-make conversation.

Are you published by a publisher or are you self-published?

I am mostly traditionally published. I have books with Entangled Publishing, Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, and Riptide Publishing. I also have a small handful of self-published projects.

What's your personal relationship with your bookshelf(shelves)? (ie: is it just a flat surface to keep your books or is it a curated star of your living-room?) Feel free to send pictures as I'm quite nosy that way.

Kelly Jensen
"Kelly's favorite corner in her library."


My bookshelves and I have a co-dependent relationship. :D

I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always needed to keep my favourite books close by. I probably have too many books and my library needs more shelves and more organization, but I can tell you it’s a room I visit almost daily—to shelve something new, visit something old, or just to gaze at my shelves full of happy memories.

Winners were:

Please see the link below for more pictures of the event.

More photographs and a full list of nominees from the Sixth Annual Bisexual Book Awards

Bill Kieffer

Visit Bill Kieffer‘s website.

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