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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Lee Rowan

Collaboration—I Do! and I Do Two

As a woman who's married to another woman, I have a serious personal stake in the issue of marriage equality, and like many other people gay, straight, and everything in between, I was sad and angry to see the forces of prejudice push Proposition 8 into effect in California, and similar fear-and-loathing campaigns succeed in other states. Yes, my wife and I are in Canada, but all things being equal—what a different interpretation the phrase has in this context!—we'd rather have been able to stay in the country where we were born, and enjoy equal protection under the law, as the Constitution promises.

Angry and frustrated, I was surprised when Alex Beecroft suggested, somewhat tentatively, that a fund-raising anthology might be a way to help support the fight for marriage equality. I offered to help in any way possible, and soon found myself working on the project with Alex, Charlie Cochrane, and Erastes—reading submissions sent from all over the place, because it was clear that an awful lot of writers wanted to do something.

It's an interesting experience, being part of a team that's working for something bigger than any one person. The first anthology was inventing the wheel—keeping a log of all stories donated, and then, once it was clear there were more submissions than would possibly fit, selecting not only by quality of writing, but by other factors that would reflect the diversity of the glbt 'rainbow' – we had only a couple of stories with characters of color, and relatively few f/f submissions. We found ourselves in agreement most of the time—surprisingly often, I think, considering that we each have very different writing styles. The writers involved were incredibly selfless; we got some wonderful work and no artistic 'temperament' that I can remember. Everyone wanted to do something to make a difference.

I Do! was a success, in terms of a small-press book. Published by MLR Press, it has raised well over $1000. Reviews were outstanding.

For the second anthology, Erastes bowed out due to time constraints, and we invited a terrific new writer, Sophia Deri-Bowen, to join the selection committee. Sophia was a surprise—not in her writing, I'd seen her earlier work, but her very presence. She contributed a superb story and kept the lineup organized with her amazing spreadsheet-fu, but I think her most significant contribution was her point of view—something we didn't know we needed. Alex, Charlie and I are somewhat older—to put it plainly, I'm old enough to be Sophia's mother. Hearing the opinions and ideas of a member of a new generation made me realize how different things look to someone who did not grow up in a world where the only 'normal' orientation was heterosexual. Any number of surveys show that equality is eventually going to happen because the majority of younger people simply do not see same-sex partnerships as some kind of terrifying threat. It's an eye-opener, and a cause for rejoicing.

And for a second time, we had that same terrific synergy. There were complications, of course—Yahoo mail managed to lose a couple of contributions, and at least half a dozen communications both from us and from writers—but overall, the biggest difficulties came from the tight timeline for getting the book out on Valentine's Day (with MLR's Kris Jacen editing practically down to the wire.)

Speeches always seem to include the old 'honor and privilege' line, but when it comes to this project, I have to say that being a part of this project really has been both. Coming off the Olympics, I'm struck by all the energy expended in fostering competition, and all the hostility on the part of some fans. I'm fed up with competition. I think that there's so much more that can be accomplished with cooperation, and the I Do project is living proof of that.

Thanks, Alex—and everyone else who joined in, and anyone who supports equality by picking up one of these books!

Copyright Lee Rowan, March 2010


booklover0226 said...

I'll buy the book for sure!

Tracey D

Charlie Cochrane said...

Hear hear. I'm all for competition, but 'gentlemanly', if you'll forgive a slightly sexist term.

It's been an honour to be involved with thoe two project.


Alex Beecroft said...

Thank you, Lee! But I think you're hiding your light under a bushel here, as I Do Two was definitely more your project than mine. You certainly did all the heavy lifting on this one, and it's paid off splendidly :)