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Beach flip flops

Greetings, Readers, near and far!

Can you believe we're more than halfway through 2023? I can't! Nor can I believe the life Homo Novushas taken on in that time. This time last year, my novel had yet to be published. Now it is my constant companion! 

In March, we kicked things off in New Orleans, Louisiana, for the annual Saints and Sinners Festival. We stayed in the legendary Hotel Monteleone, enjoying local food (oyster po-boys, my favorite!), bar-hopping with my pal Tom Cardamone (at the Corner Pocket, "where the boys are dancin' nightly on the bar!") and meeting fellow authors (Jewelle Gomez, Judith Katz, & Lucy Jane Bledsoe - just to name a few).

Two highlights: I got to meet my publicist Michele Karlsberg in the flesh for the first time! And I also had the honor of introducing Lance Ringel as a new member of the Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame!

Not to mention the panels! I participated in two: "Coming of Age in the Time of HIV & AIDS" and "Writers Read." "Coming of Age," moderated by the always insightful Jonathan Alexander, was a beautiful way to build community among older and younger writers, such as Daniel W.K. Lee, Wes Jamison, Jobert Abueva, and Mark S. King.

My favorite panel to attend as a spectator was Thomas Keith's interview with Andrew Holleran, not only because he is he a legend, but because he was so nice when we chatted afterwards. A close second was the panel on the struggle to protect books in public libraries. Is there a public librarian superhero franchise in the works somewhere? Filmmakers of the world: get on it!

Andrew Holloran

Photo Caption: Andrew Holleran, the man himself!

Next up, April and its showers carried me to my hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, for a reading at The Artist Cafe. My cousin, Lorilee Cabrera Donovan, facilitated our lively conversation about the book. Afterwards, I got to catch up with cousins and old friends such as A.K. Palk, Steven Poulin, Juan Falcon, of Springfield’s Hispanic American Library, and the lovely people at The Artist Cafe. It was a privilege to take Homo Novus home, and I look forward to our next return.

That wasn't all for April. I got to celebrate Earth Day at the Rainbow Book Fair, the first one I've attended since I became an author! It was made even more special because it was the first one held since the pandemic. In person! Rooms at the LGBT+ Center teemed with readers milling about.

Because it was also Earth Day, I thought about the way rain feeds the earth and can create a rainbow. In the same way, the Rainbow Book Fair feeds pride in queer authors and readers. I shared a table with Frances Donovan and Steven Riel of Lily Poetry Review, next to new friends and neighbors Scott Hightower and Paul Wirhun, I and felt the pleasure of community.

I sold quite a few copies of Homo Novus that day, too. The one that stands out most went to a woman I hadn't met before. I didn't get her name, but she had heard me reading from it earlier that morning and wanted a copy. It is this experience - of the words on the page making the connection with another person - that is so remarkable to me and keeps me going!

Rainbow Book Fair with Felice Picano and Steven Riel and Gerard Cabrera

Photo Caption: Rainbow Book Fair with Felice Picano and Steven Riel!

“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.” Did Shakespeare know how windy it was going to be on my trip to the Staten Island Pride Center, on the Staten Island Ferry? With Kate Rounds and Felice Cohen, we met Emanuel Xavier and his husband Brian Berger for dinner at a great Mexican restaurant.

I love Staten Island, what can I say? It's a wonderful part of the city I don't get to see enough. Felice read from her memoir, Half In, Emanuel read from his poetry collection, and I from Homo Novus. Kate, author of Catboat Road, was the evening's MC.

We took the Staten Island Ferry both ways. We sang the theme song from Working Girl on the outdoor deck, headed back to the Manhattan terminal. Please have us back, Staten Island!

Kate Rounds and Felice Cohen and Gerard Cabrera

Photo Caption: Hi from the Staten Island Ferry!

Once June rolled around, Pride Month took off. Busy, busy! It began with the East Midtown Partnership / Publishing Triangle’s OUTspoken Literary Reading series. The opening reception was at the SUNY Global Center. Rob Byrnes played the role of "Host Extraordinaire" at the kickoff. I attended, once again, with Felice Cohen, Kate Rounds, with the addition of Dale Corvino, whose new book is coming out this fall from Rebel Satori Press!

After the introductions, we heard remarks from John B. King, Jr. John is the 15th Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY), the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the United States. Prior to becoming Chancellor, he was a member of President Barack Obama's cabinet as the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education. Before that, he was New York State's first African American and first Puerto Rican Education Commissioner. I was touched that he took time to speak a few friendly words of welcome.

Once the speechifying was over, the singing began, and we were treated to the a cappella song stylings of the Tonewalls, a group of singers who are part of the Gay Men’s Chorus. Beautiful!

Now I don't really get to the East Side very often, and in fact don't go much above the 20's, but I am re-evaluating this. Over Pride Month I heard some of my favorite LGBTQ+ writers read their own words, at East Side venues: the Society of Illustrators and Bloom's Tavern, just to name two.

On June 7, I heard Tom Cardamone, poet Wo Chan, memoirist Felice Cohen, Dale Corvino, Ron Goldberg, and poets David Groff & JP Howard. On June 10, I read my short story "Disorder Under Heaven: The Situation is Excellent." This story is about the history of gay liberation through the eyes of a man who is taking care of his disabled lover. It was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2021 by Apricity Press. I updated it to reflect the current state of LGBTQ affairs. To be honest, things aren’t looking as good as they were in 2021.

I was delighted to share that afternoon with Californians Ryka Aoki and Marie Sinclair; New Yorkers Mary Burns, Sue Landers and Catherine Maiorisi; and New Jerseyite Robyn Gigl. I had heard Robyn on a Lavender Law conference panel pre-pandemic and was thrilled to get to know her better.

Bloom's Tavern Book Reading

Photo Caption: Post-Reading at Bloom's Tavern!

But wait there’s more! Thanks to my friend Chris Bull of Queerty, on June 12th I joined my friend Brian Drutman at the Queerty 50 Pride Party at Chelsea Piers! There I got to rub elbows with the likes of Michael Urie, Michael Musto, and this year’s Tony award winner Jerry Mitchell! I felt like a celebrity.

On June 14th, once again I headed uptown to listen to Kathy Anderson read from her novel, Allen Ellenzweig from his biography of Edward Muybridge, pal JP Howard read from her poems, Thomas March read from his, Kate Rounds read from Catboat Road, and Emanuel Xavier knock it out of the park with his poems.

The Pride didn't stop there. On Juneteenth I attended The Lit Revue at Room 31: "a literary series for cultural omnivores showcasing words and music," presented by Digging Press. Caelan Ernest, Tawanda Mulalu, and Gessy Alvarez brought the words; Nellie brought the music. I participated in my own Lit Revue on May 20th, but this one was particularly special due to its coincidence with Juneteenth, and it marking the first anniversary of the series. Congratulations, Gessy and Digging Press!

Two days later, I went to Bay Ridge for dinner with my cousin Karla Salinari, author of Abuela’s Plant Based Kitchen, her husband Joe, and their daughter Carolina. We ate some excellent Italian food at Baci’s. The caponata was the best I’ve had!

I also got to sample some "arroz con pollo sin pollo," one of Karla’s new plant based recipes. It was so flavorful and delicious, I did not miss the chicken. In fact, I liked it better because it was healthier for the planet! Karla - I owe you one empty Tupperware!

On June 23rd, I celebrated at the Drag March: an annual tradition. Every year I go to the home of Pickles and provide moral support to the dragistas as they wrestle, squeeze and slide into their heels, gowns, wigs, and otherwise glamorous get-ups. Then we all got out onto the street and marched to the Stonewall.

I saw Rollerina from behind. She wouldn't recognize me now; I'm no longer the 25-year-old ingenue throwing barbells around Mid-City Gym while she regales me with tales of her Kentucky youth.

Pickles Drag Queen

Photo Caption: Pickles!

I spent June 25th, Pride Day itself, with Brian. We met at Joe Junior for a classic diner breakfast. Whiskey down! After that we walked across town to watch the parade descend Fifth Avenue and when we got tired of that we strolled down to the East Village to hang out again with Pickles! All together a busy month!

July will be a vacation month - no appearances planned - but on August 12 I will be moderating a panel at Outwrite DC with Philip Clark, Reginald Harris, Steven Riel, and Charles Rice-Gonzalez entitled “Writing About, With, and Through AIDS.” It will be on Zoom from 12:30 - 1:30pm, so tune in!

As for my relationship to Homo Novus, it has definitely changed since the release. It has taken on a new and unfamiliar life. It feels new to me through the eyes of others. Hearing people read aloud from it, as several of my friends did, and listening to people comment on it truly is humbling. I am so grateful for feedback - some exchanges have been tense - the subject matter is not easy - but in the end it is an opportunity to learn and raise awareness and build community.

May the second half of this year treat us well,



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