But I did get to be a finalist!
A few months ago, I entered my novella The Secret of Obedience in the Virginia Romance Writers Hold Medallion Award contest. I’m not much for contests, and I didn’t know how my novella would be received. While the Holt is open to all romance writers, Secret is a story about a gay college boy and his Vietnamese boyfriend.
Well, the don’t start out as boyfriends, but it *is* a romance…
Even though I didn’t win, acknowledging this award has me thinking lots of thinking thoughts.
And chief among those thoughts?
Somebody out there liked my story, liked it enough to put it in the top five entries in the contest. For me, there’s an extra layer of goodness knowing that the Virginia Romance Writers treated an m/m romance the same as any other.
I can’t speak for every writer out there, but I think most m/m or queer or lgbt writers want their stories on the same bookshelves as any other stories. They don’t want to be set off to the side in their own little section, where readers have to take that extra step to find them. That’s why when Publishers Weekly says Alexis Hall’s For Real is one of the best romances of 2015, or when Heidi Cullinan and Amy Lane (and Alexis, too!) are nominated for RITA awards, it’s a big deal.
And that’s not to put my story on the same level as theirs. Secret is a good story, and I love the characters, but I worry that my take on a queer Vietnamese young man doesn’t do justice to the lived experience of someone who is in the same position. It works, as far as it goes, but I wonder if I’d done a bit more research, could I have made it better. I’d hate thinking one of my characters brings someone else down, you know?
But for today, I’m going to twirl like Stevie, happy to know there’s one more organization out there willing to judge a story by the romance, not the characters’ gender. I hope if the judges hadn’t read m/m before, that they seek out more, because there are some fantastic writers exploring all different aspects of what it means to be gay and lesbian and queer and bisexual and trans and ACE and all the variations in between.
I’m going to leave you with an teaser from Secret…
Ronnie Durand is a country boy who transfers to the University of Washington after two years at Central. He’ll have to give up playing football, though finishing his education at a major university in Seattle – and being out and proud without having to look over his shoulder – makes the sacrifice worthwhile.
But finding friends at a huge school is tough, especially when the hottest guy Ronnie meets makes him doubt his own sanity.
Sang’s been on his own a long time. He’s only a couple steps away from living on the street, and he’s got dreams so big they don’t leave space for a steady boyfriend. Then he meets Ronnie, who just might be strong enough to break through his barriers….as long as Sang lets him in on one big secret.