The Sandra Moran Book Club – Year Two

The Sandra Moran Alphabet Soup Radio Book Club is on The Tenth Voice every second Saturday, 1-2 p.m. Central time. This LGBT public affairs show has been on the air since 1989 on KKFI 90.1 FM, Kansas City’s 100,000-watt community radio station. On this Radio Book Club show we discuss the entire spectrum of LGBTQ books with a variety of authors, books, genres, and panelists. The show features new panelists every month. To keep up to date, you can “like” the show page at www.facebook.com/SandraMoranBookClub/.

Here is the schedule for 2017  (as of now) with audio links for shows that have aired:

PAST SHOWS

  • Jan. 14, 2017. Marianne K. Martin’s The Liberators of Willow Run with panelists Johnda Boyce, Marianne, and Carol Rosenfeld. This fascinating historical novel is the story of the women who built the bombers that helped win World War II.
    Audio for show: The Liberators of Willow Run
  • Jan. 21, 2017: Isabella Svendsen of Sapphire Books spoke about ebook pricing and about what goes into the writing and production of a book, whether self-published or through a publisher. Well-written books require months and even years of talent, creativity, and hardwork by authors, editors, designers, and others. Audio here: Isabella Svendsen of Sapphire Books
  •  Feb. 11, 2017: Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Early last year I asked for author suggestions, and half a dozen people mentioned Audre Lorde, who called herself a “black feminist lesbian mother poet.” Panelists Annette Billings, D. Rashaan Gilmore, and Mercedes Lewis talk about this classic and revered biomythography. Audio here: Audre Lorde’s Zami
  • March 11, 2017: Paula Martinac’s The Ada Decades with panelists Kris Bryant, Nancy Heredia, and Paula Martinac. In the novel, one woman reaches her own form of Southern womanhood, a compassionate, resilient, principled lesbian over the course of seven decades. You can listen to the podcast here: The Ada Decades
  • April 8, 2017: Bonnie Morris’s The Disappearing L with panelists Dr. Bonnie Morris, Philip Hooser, and Michelle Pond. Bonnie’s article in Slate Magazine on this topic went viral in December, and the book club is thrilled to discuss this vital and timely book. You can hear the podcast:  The Disappearing L
  • April, 29, 2017: This is a bonus episode of the Sandra Moran Radio Book Club. Una and Fiona Nowling interview local fantasy author, Tessa Gratton, author of many short stories, the Blood Journals and the United States of Asgard series. You can listen to the podcast: Tessa Gratton
  • May 13, 2017: Charles M. Blow’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones with Kent Cozad, D. Rashaan Gilmore, and Eric Peterson. Blow is a journalist, commentator, the current visual op-ed columnist for The New York Times, and an avid tweeter. His memoir was the 2015 Lambda Literary Award Winner for Bisexual Nonfiction. Podcast is here: Fire Shut Up
  • June 10, 2017: The Old Deep and Dark: A Jane Lawless Mystery by Ellen Hart, who has been named 2017 Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America. Ellen has won five Lambda Literary Awards, including one for this book. Ellen, Beth Burnett, Lora Ceperley,  and Linda Wilson are the panelists. Show podcast: Ellen Hart
  • July 8, 2107: The host for this show was the ineffable Philip blue owl Hooser, my fellow host on The Tenth Voice. Joining in are actress and harpist Peggy Friesen, KKFI host and AIDS activist Mark Manning, and Kent Cozad, director in New York City. “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes” is a play in two parts by Tony Kushner, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.
  • July 29, 2017:  Stefani Deoul, Fay Jacobs, RJ Samuel, and Jessica L. Webb are featured on a special bonus show. They were all interviewed at the Golden Crown Literary Society in Chicago in early July. Stefani’s stunning YA novel, “On a Larp,” is a steampunk thriller from the perspective of a 17-year-old girl genius. RJ’s novel “An Outsider Inside” about an Irish-Indian lesbian activist is full of unexpected twists and turns. Jessica Webb received a Lambda Literary Award for her medical thriller “Pathogen” and a Goldie for her novel “Trigger.” Philip “blue owl” Hooser hosts. Podcast: Bonus Book Club
  • Aug. 12, 2017: Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. Panelists were Una Nowling, Samantha Kay Ruggles, and Anne Terpstra. Podcast: Janet Mock
  • Sept. 9, 2017: For Hispanic Heritage Month we talk about Richard Blanco’s The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood. Sandra Moran selected this memoir. It is a poignant, hilarious, and inspiring memoir from the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet (2013), which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities. Panelists are Miguel Morales, Carol Rosenfeld, and Monique Salazar. Show podcast: Richard Blanco
  • Sept. 30, 2017: Another Bonus Book Club! Ann McMan joins us to discuss Goldenrod, five years in the writing and the latest in her Jericho series. Also on the show are Laura Nastro and Michelle Pond. Show podcast: Goldenrod
  • Oct. 14, 2017: For LGBT History Month we are talking about Lee Lynch’s An American Queer: The Amazon Trail with panelists Lee Lynch, author Jane Fletcher, Johnda Boyce, and Linda Wilson. Show podcast: Lee Lynch and Jane Fletcher
  • Nov. 11, 2017: Last year we featured Sandra Moran’s Letters Never Sent, and this year we will discuss State of Grace, set in a town remarkably similar to  her hometown of Dover, Kansas. State of Grace was actually Sandra’s first novel, but the last of four to be published. It was awarded an Independent Publishers gold medal in the Midwest Region. Panelists are Anne Waugh Moore, Lauri Moran, and Cheryl Pletcher.
  • Dec. 2, 2017: Marianne K. Martin, Lisa Marie Evans, and Cheryl Pletcher talked with host Elizabeth Andersen about the Legacies of Lesbian Literature project. It was a conversation on the origins of the project (Marianne and Sandra Moran were keynote speakers at the National Women’s Music Festival in 2014); the roles of the team members; the interviews already filmed; and future plans. Show podcast: Legacies of Lesbian Literature
  • Dec. 9, 2017: Worried about overdosing on heartwarming holiday stories, as wonderful as they are? Here’s a refreshing change of pace. Author Ann Aptaker joins us to discuss her award-winning Cantor Gold crime series: Criminal Gold, Tarnished Gold, and Genuine Gold. Panelists are authors Ann Aptaker and Stefani Deoul. Show podcast: Cantor Gold

FUTURE SHOWS

Jan. 13, 2018: Karin Kallmaker! We are talking about her novels Touchwood and Watermark, as well as lesbian literature and lesbian book clubs, to launch the third year of the Sandra Moran Radio Book Club. Karin Kallmaker will be joined by avid reader Sandy Thornton.

February 10, 2018: Penny Mickelbury will be on the show to talk about her novel Belle City with author Renee Bess and D. Rashaan Gilmore.

 ORIGINS OF THE RADIO BOOK CLUB

 When Sandra Moran was invited in September 2015 to be a radio host on KKFI every second Saturday of The Tenth Voice,  she said she wanted to do a book club on the radio.  She could have hosted a vocabulary segment on LGBT foreign words and people would have listened. After her cancer diagnosis, she asked me to host the show and said she’d left a template because she had already chosen seven books and panels. Her intention was to feature panelists engaging in lively discussions of LGBTQ books. Sandra told me she had three (because there are always three) goals for the show: 1) to showcase well-written LGBTQ books; 2) to elevate the discussion of our community’s literature; and 3) to bring attention to The Tenth Voice and KKFI. My goal is to honor literary legacy, both hers and that of the entire LGBTQ community. I hope you’ll listen.

 

Related:

Reflections on Year 1 of the show

Sandra Moran on The Tenth Voice-KKFI (with audio)

Schedule and podcasts for Year 1 of the book club

About the host: Elizabeth Andersen considers it a great triumph that, despite two degrees in English literature, she has been able to live by, for, and with words her entire career. She has taught English composition at three universities. She was an editor at Andrews McMeel Publishing on the newspaper syndicate side from 1984 to 2001 and until recently was a full-time editor for magazine, radio, and daily news at a trucking association.  Currently, she is an editor for Bywater Books. She is also on the production team for Kansas City’s LGBT Film Festival “Out Here Now” and is on crew for music festivals, including the National Women’s Music Festival. She hosts the Sandra Moran Radio Book Club every second Saturday of The Tenth Voice on KKFI 90.1 FM.

 

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Year 1: Sandra Moran Radio Book Club

The 12th show of the Sandra Moran Radio Book Club is over, and I marvel at how the panel for Sandra’s novel Letters Never Sent kept the discussion moving right along. We covered many aspects of her book without giving spoilers away and didn’t run out of topics or linger too long on any one, which is not always easy in an hourlong show.

In hosting a dozen book clubs on air, I have learned that the book choice is essential, but so is the makeup of the panel. Almost every month I’ve introduced strangers to each other in the green room right before we go into the studio as new friends.

Here are three lessons (three because, well, you know)  I’ve learned from the panelists:

1) People who are nervous beforehand often elicit the biggest “aha” moments (Mercedes Lewis and Cheryl Pletcher and Jeff Vincent, I’m thinking of you). I’ve seen a guest looking thoughtful but unsure, asked his or her opinion, and been blown away by a character analysis, or plot point, or thematic explication that I never thought of.

2) The trust in one another as we talk openly about our feelings and thoughts on the radio is complete. We have a sense that we’re all in this together. Even though we occasionally disagree, the respect for one another’s opinion is evident. It’s been a lesson in how books and reading can bring people together. Today, Salem West and Rebecca Maury were on the show by telephone and not only never stepped on anyone else’s lines, but segued beautifully from another panelist’s remark into a new point.

3) I’ve invited people I have never met or messaged or texted with onto the show, and I have been happily surprised every single time. Today’s Mystery Guest was Matt Hamblin, a young man who drove in from Manhattan, Kan. I invited him this past May because it had been evident from what he wrote a year ago that he knew Sandra and loved her teaching, her writing, and her.

As Sandra herself said when she handed me the show, “you’ll meet people!” She loved meeting new friends, and I’m discovering through her show how wonderful it is to talk about our LGBT literature with different, diverse panelists each month. She would have been enthralled, and now I know why.

Each time, we all leave the studio feeling that we’ve participated in a real, honest-to-goodness book club. And apparently that is true for listeners. I’ve had straight allies tell me that they listen every month, and that means our community’s literature is finding new readers.

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Monica Soto, David Seymour, Miguel Morales, and Elizabeth Andersen after the September show on Daisy Hernandez’s A Cup of Water Under My Bed.

As we head into a second year, I hope you’ll keep listening. Next year we will explore some different genres, including short stories (Paula Martinac’s The Ada Decades) and a mystery (chosen by Linda Wilson, our show’s producer, who is an avid reader). Stay tuned. Podcasts for each show, with descriptions, are here.

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I’m Who I Am Today Because I Knew You

Those “For Good” lyrics from “Wicked” are very much on my mind. I heard Kristin Chenoweth sing this song here in Kansas City a year ago, and the words are deeply meaningful.

Cheryl Pletcher, Sandra Moran’s wife, asked friends to remember Sandra on Nov. 7 “by posting one (or more) ways who she was as a person changed us for the better.”

I decided that my final daily blog for this month will be devoted to how I’ve changed because of Sandra. It’s poignantly timely because Oct. 31, 2015, was the last time I saw her on this plane of existence.

This is a difficult blog to write because there are so very many ways I have been changed this year, but I will endeavor to keep it to three. First, a conversation has  stayed with me. Sandra asked me a year ago “How long have we been friends?” I said about 10 months. There was a pause because that is a very short friendship in terms of time. She said, and I will never forget, that maybe we were friends for this reason (the radio book club). We both agreed that that must be the case.

I said truthfully that I’d never had a friend like her. Her answer: “That’s so sad!” I blurted out: “No, it’s not. I didn’t know you existed so how could I miss what I didn’t know was possible.”

And that is No. 1. I now know extraordinary lesbians with brains and humor exist, and in fact are all around the country. For a number of years I have been teased about being a “gay man trapped in a lesbian’s body,” and I was beginning to wonder if there was truth to that.

I’ve been relieved to discover that there are fascinating lesbians all around. In fact, choosing panelists and authors for the radio book club is difficult because there are so many choices, not so few.

Off the top of my head I will name some (but not all!) I have drawn closer to this year, even if mostly on Facebook: Annette, Carol, Ann, Salem, RE and Deb, Johnda, Bev, Beth, Michelle, Nancy, Mercedes. There’s another person that the lyric in the title above applies to as much as it does to Sandra: Cheryl. Friendships can make one want to be a better person, and that is certainly true in this case. I want to be more like Cheryl: kind, positive, strong, funny, intelligent, and competent.

No. 2: I’ve become braver. For whatever reason I was way more communicative with Sandra than I usually am with a new friend. I usually put up walls that I lower with time. It’s a good thing that the process was accelerated given the short time frame of the friendship. I think her honesty and openness about her goals and dreams helped me reciprocate.

In these 31 blogs I’ve revealed more of myself than I ordinarily ever would, even with my closest friends. And I’ve noticed something about myself. Just as “coming out” as gay takes away the fear of “the worst-case scenario”(it did for me, but not for everyone) or being outed, coming out as a vulnerable person who has strengths and weaknesses has made me less afraid. I find myself (in my head, mentally as Sandra would say) saying more often “whatever” and moving along rather than dwelling, assuming, stewing, and reacting. I have a confidence and assurance I didn’t have before.

No. 3. Sandra changed me because she was an extrovert, open to people, smiling and hugging and eager to meet them. I am an introvert, an extroverted introvert, but reticent all the same. I have been much more huggy, “lighter,” and accepting this past year.

As a gauge, a year ago I had about 500 Facebook friends and firm rules for requesting or accepting. I relaxed those guidelines (mostly because of Sandra’s radio book club) and now have more than 1,700 friends. I’ve only had to unfriend a couple of people for inappropriate posts or incoherence or “drama.” That’s an amazing statistic, and I would never have guessed it.

I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s thoughts, adventures, and flights of fancy. I’ve been tickled to find women who are as witty as Sandra (Amanda Kyle Williams for one). They’ve broadened my world. Sandra found people endlessly fascinating, and I’m beginning to see  why now that I’m  not as wary.

Friends have told me that it was my destiny to do the Sandra Moran Radio Book Club. I embraced the challenge once it was clear that I was to host. I was also gratified to discover that my background and experience uniquely positioned me to do the show. Sandra and I shared the vision that this be an LGBT show about well-written books of all genres. This election season seems to be creating and reinforcing differences, and it’s such a refreshing change to be finding commonalities and connections among diverse readers and authors.

Sandra, I believe, would be astonished and grateful for her many legacies: The Legacies of Lesbian Literature project carried on by Cheryl and Marianne K. Martin; her most recent, brilliant novel (published as she wished) State of Grace; her Harvey Girls novel with Ann McMan; a GCLS scholarship; her hometown’s Sandra Moran Memorial 5K; and the radio show.

There is one more change I’ve noticed in myself. She and I were both bad about accepting praise. We decided to encourage each other to graciously acknowledge accolades. If I thanked her and she demurred, I would raise my eyebrows, purse my lips, and tilt my head. She would laugh and say thank you. Of course, she delighted in catching me out, and ever since I’m more accepting and responsive to thanks.

I’m a work in progress, but aren’t we all?

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Opening of Egypt’s Library of Alexandria

For more than 17 years I had a dream job. I was an editor at a top newspaper syndicate and read comic strips, features, op-ed columns, etc. Then the parent publishing company laid off 150 people, closed the distribution and production center, and canceled features after the dot.com bust and as newspapers started a long decline. I was the lone casualty in our editing department as I was a well-paid senior editor.

I took more than three years off to get to know my sons and travel. I had the great good fortune of having 37 weeks’ severance and what remained of my IRA after the stock market collapse. I returned to the job market in 2005 by taking an adjunct teaching job at a local university and by becoming a full-time medical editor. In 2007 I became a copy editor at the trade association where I work now.

In March 2015, Sandra Moran messaged me that she’d been thinking she should do a launch event because All We Lack was about to be published.  She asked me my opinion, whether I thought it was worth her time, and had I ever gone to one?

I thought about my response. I finally decided to write back as follows: “I worked for a publisher (on the syndicate side) for 17 years. Even though the industry has gone through a sea change, I think meeting readers (who have reader friends) is always good. Do you know Vivien Jennings at Rainy Day Books?”

Long story short, we met to talk, and I told her all about my history with book launches and events. I also asked about her writing plans. I approached Vivien, and she gave Sandra her chair on stage on May 20, 2015, for a Rainy Day Books event to interview author George Hodgman about his memoir Bettyville, after which both authors signed their books.

I asked Sandra later why she asked me about a book launch. She said I seemed to know a lot. I told her that working with her was “recalibrating” my brain (a la Nudge) as I shook off the rust and tried to recall how to set such things up.

When we met to talk about her writing plans and how I might possibly be of help, I told her some stories about my previous career. All she knew was that I was a copy editor in a cubicle at a trucking association in rural Missouri, so she was startled to learn some of my history. I had been fortunate to attend and/or host events and travel. I was in awe of her background and experience, especially because she had been in charge of expeditions. Unlike her, I was usually traveling “with” a columnist or writer to be helpful or make arrangements.

One example. In October 2002, I was the guest of the Egyptian Information Ministry for the opening of the great library of Alexandria. The ceremony was originally scheduled for 2001, but because of the terrible events of 9-11 and the security concerns the ceremony was delayed.

passport-egypt

I flew to JFK, met my friend, and then flew to Cairo aboard Egypt Air. In Cairo, I checked into the Sheraton, received my ID and was informed that all my meals, the ministry car, and the hotel stays were paid for. I would have to pay for any alcohol — not a problem because I don’t drink when I travel.

egypt-id

That first night I sat at a restaurant along the Nile, watching the feluccas drift silently by. Later I went upstairs to the hotel patio to experience a hookah with my friend. That night I opened the windows of my hotel to smell the air, and hear the traffic far below, and be mesmerized by the call to prayer from a nearby minaret. I have no words for that evening.

The next day, we went to Giza to see the Sphinx and the pyramids. I decided to ride on horseback and hired a guide who held both my reins and his. He realized partway along the route that I could ride, threw me my reins, and took off at a gallop. To race alongside the pyramids was an unbelievable experience. A security officer stopped us, and then let us go. My guide said he was complimenting me on my riding skills (I had owned a horse as a girl). I did take time to walk around the pyramids to appreciate the architecture and the history.

We were driven the next day to Alexandria, and again I checked into a Sheraton, this time on the Mediterranean.

sheraton

. There were armed guards everywhere, including at the door to the hotel where I had to show my ID each time I entered or left. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was in residence at the Summer Palace across the street.

egypt

My room on the 11th floor seemed palatial to me. On the desk were three gorgeous coffee table books on the Library of Alexandria in English, French, and Arabic (I gave the Arabic one to the Islamic Center in Kansas City).

I quickly learned how to say “Turkish coffee, medium, please” in Arabic. The savory breakfasts and lunches were delicious. I swam in the Mediterranean. The hotel sent a cabana boy with towels to accompany me. I was not the only person swimming, but looked up while I was swimming to see a row of men lining the wall of the road above, which unnerved me. I swam in the hotel pool after that.

For the ceremony, world leaders and former leaders were in Alexandria, including France’s François Mitterand. When our ministry car drove down the main road beside the Mediterranean, we had a police escort in front and in back, and the road was completely closed to local traffic. It was a state event.

For the opening ceremonies at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina the press was in a media center below the plaza where the ceremony was to be held. We sat around a huge table, and there were computer stations everywhere. There was an extremely distinguished man two down from me, and I managed to see his name tag. He was Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature.

A couple of times we ink-stained wretches would make our way upstairs to see what was going on, but it was hard to tell where we were in the program. I was sent to borrow a program. I finally spotted one and asked Sinead O’Connor if I could borrow hers. She said  she had to sing later, but was quite gracious when I said I would copy it and bring it right back.

There was also a ceremony in a partially built huge auditorium near the library that guests could attend. It was packed, and I learned that the harbor was full of boats from Greece as most of the attendees were Greek.

My friend came to get me and said “Come on. I found a way into the library.” I thought that was a very bad idea given the level of security, but we did enter through an open door. The head of the antiquities museum was pleased to see us and gave us a private tour of the treasures that had been pulled out of the Mediterranean, from Greek and Roman to Christian and Byzantine. Again, no words to be the only ones to see these precious artifacts.

The next morning I heard a commotion down below, and stepped out on the balcony. There were tour buses lined up and lots of people in the front of the hotel. I decided to go down and check out what was happening. It was the 70th anniversary of one of the Battles of El Alamein, and there were hundreds of elderly veterans and spouses — American, British, and other nationalities — who were going to a ceremony.

I sat down by one woman. We got to talking, and she said she was staying apart from the others until the buses left because she was German. She said most people have no idea how the ordinary Germans suffered, that she almost starved during the war. It was a moving conversation.

I never had a chance to tell Sandra about that  trip. We liked to one-up each other, and I  would dearly loved to have heard her stories. I thought there would be future conversations when I could discover how and why she hiked the Inka Trail in full pack, why she spent time alone in the burial chamber of Khufu’s pyramid, and when she had dinner on the rooftop of a restaurant while watching lava snake down the sides of Mt. Etna.

The truth is that most of us have compelling stories, and I enjoy reading and hearing them. I plan to retire soon and have new adventures. It’s time.

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Truly Great Mentors

I was fortunate to find two mentors when I least expected to meet them. Through them I have widened my interests and increased my self-confidence.

I had attended the Kansas City LGBT Film Festival in about 2000. Jamie Rich, the director, was often in the Tivoli lobby and seemed approachable although I didn’t know him. I walked up to the table in the lobby and asked if he’d considered showing Patricia Rozema’s I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, a quirky Canadian film.

I don’t remember what we talked about clearly, but I remember we talked films and ideas, and I thought that was one of the most interesting conversations I’d had recently. We became friends.

Here is the kind of guy Jamie is. He saw me sitting glumly in the hallway of the old LGBT Community Center on Westport Road in early 2002 and asked why I wasn’t participating in the social event for lesbians. I admitted that I  didn’t want to be in there because they were telling “tawdry” (I remember using that word) sex jokes and not being witty or funny about it. He asked what kind of event I’d prefer. I said I missed the lesbian book club that I had started and facilitated from 1998 to 2001. He nodded and walked on.

The next center newsletter came out, and one item caught my eye. Elizabeth Andersen was starting a lesbian literary group at the center, and she could be reached at the following Juno email. I read this blurb several times and couldn’t decide whether to be annoyed or pleased. I finally decided “What the hell” and set up the first meeting of Literary Lesbians at the center for May 2002.

The book club ran for almost 10 years, and we read a wide range of lesbian and women-centric novels. The best-attended discussion was for “Fried Green Tomatoes” when we had 25 women present. It was excellent preparation for a radio book club  show that I didn’t know I was going to host years later.

jamie-rich

Jamie Rich

And, of course, Jamie being the persuasively congenial person that he is acquired me for the film festival. I sold tickets, screened films, welcomed filmgoers, and met many new friends. If I had to choose adjectives to describe Jamie, I would say inclusive, humble, warm, intelligent, funny, encouraging, and caring. My life would be different if I hadn’t walked up to that table in the lobby.

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Son Grant Andersen with me, volunteering at Out Here Now in 2013.

 

It was another chance meeting, this time at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, that also transformed the course of my non-work life. In November 2007, I was walking into the hall for another Willow Music concert produced by Linda Wilson. I’d probably been to more than 30 Willow concerts since 1993, from Suede to Kate Clinton to the Neon Girls to Holly Near.

I was there by myself on that November evening to see singer-songwriter Tret Fure. I was walking in when Linda Wilson swung over and said hello. She said I could be her emcee. I remember it wasn’t a question or a demand, but an offer. I was taken aback and said, “Excuse me?” She said she didn’t have an emcee that evening, and she knew I’d taught and could do it. I inquired what emceeing would entail, and she said first I would meet Tret and ask how she’d like to be introduced.

My first concert was at the Granada Theater in Kansas City, Kansas, with Tret Fure and Cris Williamson in the early ’90s when I was first coming out. I had seen Tret perform several times, and meeting her was a definite selling point so I said OK.

Linda in her own way is every bit as persuasive as Jamie. She suggested that I guest-host her show WomanSong on KKFI and join  the LGBGT public affairs show, The Tenth Voice, once a month. I said no, that I had never been on the radio and that I couldn’t do it.

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Linda Wilson has hosted WomanSong-KKFI for almost 20 years.

Somehow I ended up on both shows within weeks. It wasn’t long before she was mentioning the National Women’s Music  Festival and how much I would enjoy attending it or being on crew. I had a new job and very little vacation so I didn’t make it to the festival until 2010, but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed being house manager of the day stage and was hooked.

If I had to describe Linda, I would say that she is  a doer, extremely hard-working, a team player, smart, a leader, incredibly competent, and — like Jamie — an encourager.

Jamie and Linda are both givers, not takers. In my volunteering I am inspired by them, have learned from them, and try to emulate them. They create community, and they are thrilled by others’ accomplishments and triumphs. They have each made my life better. Thank you, dear friends.

 

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It Takes a Village

I don’t think of myself as particularly superstitious, but I do believe in paying it forward. Sometimes, I wonder if good deeds or bad deeds lead to repercussions — favorable or not so much.

On Aug. 26 of this year the Kansas City area was warned of a flash flooding emergency situation, and residents were warned not to be out and about on a Friday night, especially around 9 p.m. According to The Kansas City Star, “The interstate loop around downtown Kansas City was snarled and flooded in many places. Police closed down roads across the city. Brush Creek pushed over its banks. Much of Westport and the Country Club Plaza were reported to be flooded, with some cars nearly submerged in water.”

I had planned to go to a concert, but stayed home and listened to the storm rage outside. The next morning my son received a call from a co-worker whom we have known for three years and whom we like a lot. He had closed their retail establishment at 9:15 p.m. the night before and had tried to drive less than a mile to  his adult daughter’s house. His little convertible was caught in the rising waters, and he was pushed to safety by some neighborhood kids up a hill. He asked whether we’d drive him to his car and then to work.

He lives about half an hour away out south, so we collected him and then drove him to his car. When he opened the door, water poured out. Needless to say, it didn’t start and wasn’t going to. He’s a single dad of a young son, and as with so many doesn’t have extra money lying around to buy a new car. He had liability only on the car.

He was distraught and was worried about losing his job. We took him to work and gave him some cash for Uber rides. After talking it over, my sons and I agreed that I would give him rides to and from work for a week. After all, I have a long daily commute, so what’s a few extra miles to help a friend out.

He is Native American, born to Shoshone and Navajo parents. They agreed to come from New Mexico for the long Labor Day weekend to help him buy a new car.

In the meantime, he received rides from his boss, his daughter, and mostly me. We had some great conversations in rush-hour traffic on the way to his apartment, talking about Tony Hillerman, Sherman Alexie (he had had a workshop from him), films, books. He’s a talented artist so we talked art too.

At one point, he asked me “Why are  you doing this for me?” I said, “Because sometimes the good people need to be helped. It takes a village.” He teared up.

His parents came, he bought a fairly new Prius, and all was right with the world again. I was eating out with friends when I received texts from an unknown number, with attachments of two paintings and one sculpture. I finally figured out it was from my young friend because he asked me to pick one of his works as a thank you.

it-takes-a-village

His text read: “Here’s a ceramic sculpture of people holding hands in a circle. You inspired me to call it “It Takes a Village.” This is what he wrote on the base:
it-takes-a-village-2
I prize that gift. In this  cruel election season, I believe those of us who care for our future all need to look out for each other.
In a postscript, I told my young friend that the fry bread at the Indian Mission fall festival a few weeks ago was not true fry bread because the Boy Scouts had taken the booth over from the Native American family and were using tostada shells. A week later he informed my sons and me that his parents are coming, and his mother will be inviting us over for genuine  fry bread.
The moral of the story: There are good people out there, and we need to find them and recognize them. Sometimes a young Native American single dad is a kindred spirit for an older Caucasian lesbian mother.
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Eleanor Rigby & the Impostor Syndrome

The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby wears a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Some interpret that line to mean that she applies makeup before heading out. I believe that she hides her loneliness and feelings of inadequacy when she goes out or when she answers the door. The  face represents the mask that she presents to the world.

Many women suffer from Impostor Syndrome, and I certainly had a raging case of it until the past decade. Whether I was directing a university tutoring center, or writing government grants, or teaching composition, or editing brilliant minds, I suspected on some level that I would be discovered as a fraud, that I was fooling everyone into thinking I was more competent than I actually was.

I applied for a medical editing position in 2005 and was overwhelmed by the size and scope  of the AMA stylebook. Then I read in one chapter that to become a better editor one should read James J. Kilpatrick’s “The Writer’s Art.” I was one of Kilpatrick’s two editors of his syndicated column, “The Writer’s Art,” for 15 years and had won grammar skirmishes against him. I thought, heck, if I was the cited expert’s editor, I should be at least minimally qualified to read pharmaceutical white papers, articles, pamphlets, and books. I was hired and did that for more than two years.

Nine years ago I was asked to join The Tenth Voice team and host KKFI’s LGBT public affairs show once a month. I was so stressed out by having to program an hourlong show that I spent three weeks and six days of every month dreading the show. I hated my voice, I felt I didn’t know anyone who could be a guest, and I was sure that I sucked (I wasn’t quite that bad).

So after a year I quit, washed my hands of the show, and went back to the written word. Some months later I was asked to please come back. I thought about it, realized that I had a more positive attitude about my abilities, and improved. As a result, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the past eight years.

One way I’ve tamped down anxiety is to make lists of successes and to realize that five years from now, a car crisis will not really matter. Over time I’ve grown (slightly) more fearless.

For example, tonight I attended a Birch Trees Painting Party with my friends Johnda Boyce and Michelle Pond. Joy Baker, our friend and hosting artist, assured us that the purpose was to have fun and release our creativity. For some inexplicable reason having nothing to do with the glass of wine, I went for it. No matter what the next step was, I applied paint with gusto and combined colors I would ordinarily not put together. My goal was to make something that was not pretty or perfect, but that was striking.

ea-with-birches

I brought the painting home and held it up for son Grant to see. “Mom, it looks like a comic. It looks like a Calvin and Hobbes, especially the background.” I was startled because I was one of Bill Watterson’s editors for years. To my surprise I did not say, as is my wont, “Oh no. He’s a true artist.” I said, “Yes, it does.”

One way Sandra has changed me in this past year is that I’ve practiced overcoming anxiety and have become more confident. Sometimes I’m even fearless.

Note: My Christmas gift to myself this past year was the painting below by Joy Baker. Fall is my favorite season, but a year ago fall was a tempus horribilis to paraphrase Queen Elizabeth. I asked Joy to paint the titles of Sandra’s books (including State of Grace), and the beautiful birches hang in my office at work as inspiration. So it was even more appropriate that I dared to be a painter of birches tonight.

“I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.” — Robert Frost

sandras-birches

 

 

 

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Hope Is Her Middle Name (Literally)

Tonight I drove with a friend to Topeka to hear “Poetry First: An Evening With Annette Hope Billings” at First Congregational UCC. I’ve known Annette for almost two years, and she’s become a dear friend. When I tell people how we connected, or more accurately reconnected, they think it far-fetched — and so it is.

Throughout my life I have had what I think of as remarkable coincidences. For instance, when I was in graduate school in Columbia, Mo., I spent the holidays at my parents’ home in Western Massachusetts. I believe it was in 1975 that I was invited to the wedding in Virginia of two fellow graduate students.

I drove and stopped briefly in Washington, D.C., to visit the Hirshhorn Museum, which had opened the year before. While I was there, I was startled to recognize two Stephens College students who had been regular visitors to Rome’s Pizzeria in Columbia, Mo., where I was a waitress. We said hello, and they told me they were on their way to Baltimore.

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I walked outside to the sculpture garden and there was a friend, a photojournalist who was earning his master’s at the University of Missouri in Columbia. He was on his way to Florida and was equally surprised to see me.

What were the odds?

Last year I had yet another “small world” incident. I was the Facebook administrator for the LikeMe Lighthouse and happened to be awake at 3 a.m. I checked the page and saw a message.

“Good evening to you. My name is Annette Hope Billings. I’m a poet living just down the road from you in Topeka. As you look for speakers, I invite you to consider me. Who am I you ask?:-) You need only view videos of me reading some of my work to get a good sense of me. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration!”

I sat there in the middle of the night and wrote a “Thanks for thinking of us” reply.

Jan 20, 2015 3:02 a.m.

“Hi, Annette — Our LGBT community center will be celebrating its third anniversary in March. Tomorrow evening is the start of our author showcases when Sandra Moran speaks. We hope to feature more poets, authors, playwrights, film directors (we’ve done director showcases). … We are very interested in having you participate in a future event. Thank you!”

Then I had a bizarre thought and added a surreal postscript:

“P.S. My name is Elizabeth Andersen, and I host the film and author series. I’m going to ask a very odd question. Did you read your poem “Peach” at the Lawrence ECM in 1997 for a Valentine’s event? I was there from Kansas City with my then-girlfriend, and (if I’m remembering correctly that you were there) your poem was the highlight of the evening for us. I visited the ECM twice around then for LGBT events, so it’s not as if I was there a lot. I have two degrees in English literature and have heard many poets, many of whom blur together, but you I remember (I hope I’m right). Please let me know.”

(NOTE: The Ecumenical Campus Ministries was in a city more than 40 miles from my home.)

Annette Billings Jan 20th, 3:34am
“This is giving me chills, Elizabeth. Yes, it was I who read Peach. It was, and remains, a poem I tremendously enjoy sharing. It is also one of the poems on the video to which I provided a link. I had the pleasure of meeting Sandra Moran this past November at and author fair here in Topeka. She is a gem.”

Anyone who knows me well will attest to the fact that my long-term memory is at best erratic. There is no way I should have remembered one single, solitary poem from 18 years before – except that Annette is a memorable person and poet.

Her first time on the radio she co-hosted WomanSong  with Maria Vasquez Boyd and me.

annette-and-maria

Annette Billings, Maria Vasquez Boyd, and Elizabeth Andersen at KKFI.

Since then, she has been a two-time panelist on the Sandra Moran Radio Book Club and has read her poetry on several other shows. Annette will be joining The Tenth Voice team on KKFI every other third Saturday, and I’m thrilled because she will add so much to our LGBT public affairs show. And I’ll get to see my friend more often. It’s a win-win.

P.S. Here is Annette reading “Peach.” 

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Sandra Moran on The Tenth Voice-KKFI

On Jan. 3, 2015, Sandra Moran and I met at the Black Dog Coffeehouse in Lenexa, Kan., to discuss ways she could give back to the lesbian community here in the Kansas City area. I did not know her well, but I realized that besides teaching and other commitments, she spent a lot of time writing and running. Two suggestions I had were for her to join the board of LikeMe Lighthouse, Kansas City’s LGBT community center, and to co-host on The Tenth Voice (Kansas City’s LGBT public affairs radio show) every fifth Saturday, about four times a year. She agreed to both.

She was pleased to join the Lighthouse board and help out the community center by speaking and volunteering, but it was the radio show that really fired her imagination. Although she had been interviewed a number of times and enjoyed the experience, she relished the chance to research, prepare, ask the questions, and elicit interesting answers from others.

Here is what I wrote for the Jan. 31, 2015, show when we interviewed Marianne K. Martin, her friend and colleague on the Legacies of Lesbian Literature project:  “I have teamed this past year on The Tenth Voice with Philip Hooser, who is a consummate interviewer, who inspires me to research all sorts of topics, and who challenges me constantly. I like to be around people who keep me on my toes with their wit, wisdom, and wide-ranging intellect. And now I have another co-host who fits that description: Sandra Moran. She’ll be on The Tenth Voice every fifth Saturday.”

sandra-and-mkmSandra Moran and Marianne K. Martin, keynote speakers at National Women’s Music Festival in Madison, Wis., June 2014

In March my guests for one show were Char Daniels, who is Chely Wright’s aunt and the former director of the LikeMe Lighthouse, as well as poet Annette Billings from Topeka. I also invited Sandra to stop by to be interviewed on All We Lack if she wanted to.  She did, and you can hear what a congenial guest she was here.

Her next co-hosting stint was in May, and she decided to invite her fellow authors and friends Georgia Beers and Melissa Brayden for a radio show on lesbian romance. Even better, they were traveling in a car so we could interview them together. To round out the show, we added an interview with Michelle Ehlen whose film S&M Sally was going to be screened at Kansas City’s LGBT film festival.

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Authors Melissa Brayden and Sandra Moran at the Lone Star LesFic Festival in April 2015.

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Author Georgia Beers.

sm-sally

Elizabeth Andersen, filmmaker Michelle Ehlen, and Sandra Moran at the Out Here Now: Kansas City LGBT Film Festival in June 2015.

Sandra immediately got busy and came up with fabulous questions for all three guests. I noted (not entirely untruthfully) that I felt like a paddock horse in the gate taking off at the starter’s gun while the thoroughbred was already three-quarters of the way around the track.

We had some trouble establishing a phone connection with Melissa and Georgia, so they stopped at the side of the road. In the meantime, Sandra was forced to improvise, and she talked about the Golden Crown Literary Society. She made me promise to edit out her “blather,” so I did even though she made perfect sense and sounded fine. After the phone glitch was solved, the show went extremely well. You can listen to the show here.

Within a few months it was clear that she should be a full-fledged host, and she was offered her own show on second Saturdays of The Tenth Voice. She was intrigued, but unsure of the time commitment because she was teaching, working on two novels, and preparing to move with her wife, Cheryl, to North Carolina.

She thought about it for a week or two and then proposed a radio book club in September 2015. I admit to being skeptical, but trusted that any project she took on would be a success. She sent over within days seven full-fledged show descriptions with books/authors, panelists, and notations. She was worried that we hosts and producer (Linda Wilson) would be annoyed that she took the reins and ran with the show. On the contrary, we were absolutely thrilled to  have a host prepare that thoroughly right off the bat. We assured her that her show looked like a winner.

And so the Alphabet Soup Radio Book Club was born.

sandra-on-radio

Sandra at KKFI September 2014 (photo by Joy Baker)
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Parenting Tips: I Did It My Way

I am grateful that I was an older parent, and my sons were born when I was 33 and 35.Their father was in his 40s. We read all the books, went to parenting classes, and then ignored much of the advice we were given. Best of all, we hardly ever disagreed on child-rearing.

Most parents try to be very, very quiet when Baby is sleeping. We noticed that the babies in the hospital nursery were sleeping soundly with lights on, nurses talking, and newborns puling. We therefore would put the baby down and go on about our ordinary business. When friends came over, we flipped a light on and conversed, which shocked the hell out of the visitors but didn’t faze Baby David or Grant in the least. They have been champion sleepers ever since. Here is some advice from someone who has been there, done that:

Parenting tip No. 1: “Time outs” can save a parent’s sanity. We did follow the advice from Parents as Teachers to give time outs for bad behavior and then afterward ask why  the time out was given. In fact, I was so good at it that one time I was at work editing in Kansas City, Mo., when David called from Roeland Park, Kan., to report that Grant had locked himself in the bathroom with a cat and they were fighting. They were 11 and 9, and we three believe that was the last time they argued. Not kidding.

After Grant was out of the bathroom, I told David on  the phone to go to time out on the upper bunk and then had him hand the phone to Grant so I could tell him to do a time out in the lower bunk. I got busy and forgot about them. An hour later I called and asked David how things were. “Not very good,” he said. “Why?” I asked. “You never let us out of time out so we’ve been lying here until you called back,” he complained.

I was legend among my friends: a single mother who could put two boys in time out across the state line for an hour — by phone. In “turn about is fair play,” David gave me a time out when he was about 5 and I was yelling in frustration about his getting dressed. “Mommy, you need a time out.” I admitted that he was right and went and sat down. After a few minutes, David asked “Why did you have a time out?” I said, “Because I lost my temper, and I’m sorry.” We hugged it out. So time outs can be extremely effective.

In fact, when David was 15 and 6 feet tall, I forgot that he was too old to put in time out and said, “Go to time out right now.” He plumped himself down on the stairs, crossed his arms across his chest belligerently, and glared at me. I had to go to the kitchen because I was laughing and didn’t want him to see me.

Tip No. 2: No acting up or whining. In a restaurant, if either son was restless, I put him in the minivan outside (windows down) and sat down beside the car where he couldn’t see me. After the requisite time, I would stand up and ask if he  was ready to be civilized indoors. He invariably was. In a mall, David threw a toddler tantrum, wanting something or other. His father and I looked at each other and said, “We’re done here,” and went home without any of the purchases we  had hoped to make. David never did that again.

As a single parent, I took them to museums, to zoos, to the amusement park, to the arboretum. On one excursion to “Worlds of Fun,” I had my best friends’ kids along. I explained that if anyone whined, we would sit down. Sure enough, one of my friends’ sons started fussing and whining after a bit that he wanted to go over there on that ride, he wanted a snack, and … My sons tried to get him to stop saying “Stop it! Mom meant it.” He didn’t stop. I found a nearby bench, and we all sat there silently, six statues, for five minutes. If one of the other three even made a sound, my sons hushed him or her. Finally, after the five minutes were up, I asked: “Are you having fun?” “NO!” “Then I suggest you not whine anymore, and let’s go have fun!!!” So we all did.

Tip No. 3: Enjoy some of your own family traditions. When the boys were little, we started having teatime. Their child mugs had way more milk than tea, and the treats were divided into small portions. They learned manners and we had bonding time. One day, David, age 6, and his teddy bear were invited to our friends’ house to join five little girls for teatime. They were in their best Sunday dresses, and he was in his tartan vest and pants and bow tie.

He was asked if he would like to show them how to have a proper teatime. “Yes,” he said solemnly. “I’ll be mother and pour. Then I ask if you would like a cookie, and you say ‘Yes, please.’ And you don’t grab it; you say ‘thank you’ and be polite.” And he instructed each little girl how to take one at a time and then offer to the others. I was tickled to hear how well he had done, and the girls loved it.

We have had teatime ever since. Every evening at about 9 or 9:30, David will ask whether I’d like Darjeeling or Earl Grey or a Murchie’s (I bring Murchie’s teas back from Victoria, B.C.). He brews the tea, adds milk and sugar to the mugs, and brings it to me after he puts a cozy on the teapot. And he often brings me a cookie as well. It’s a wonderfully civilized end to the day.

I have other parenting tips garnered from years of experience, but those three are my favorites. When I see children screaming in movies, whining and tugging at pants legs, and grabbing fistfuls of food, I think back to the simple rules that served us well. My sons are incredibly polite and thoughtful and kind. I know because other people say so. I told a friend that I couldn’t imagine anyone finding anything negative to say about her, and I realized that was true of David and Grant. Their dad and I are proud.

Mother’s note: They were both  healthy and calm from the beginning. I realize how fortunate I was that they both took after their dad who is remarkably even-tempered and thoughtful. Not every child is as sensitive to others’ feelings and as ready to learn, which made it much easier to raise young men who are curious, intelligent, and funny.

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