The Golden Crown Literary Society's 11th annual literary awards in New Orleans brought together lesbian fiction pioneers Rita Mae Brown, Lee Lynch, and Dorothy Allison, all sharing a stage for the first time.
Founded in 2004, Golden Crown is dedicated to education, promotion, and recognition of lesbian literature. The group holds an annual conference, offers writing scholarships and mentorships, and gives out awards in more than a dozen literary categories including erotica, romantic suspense, young adult, poetry, paranormal, and creative nonfiction.
Saturday night's event recognized debut authors Makenzi Fisk (Just Intuition), Julie Blair (Never Too Late) and CF Frizzell (Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition Years) along with established fan favorites like Georgia Beers, Lynn Ames, Nene Adams and Carsen Tate.
While many mainstream literary awards don't honor self-published books, this year's Golden Crown seems to have embraced self-published authors including two winners of Best Lesbian Erotica 2014: Rachel Windsor (for Erotica) and Riding the Rainbow by Genta Sebastian in Young Adult.
Although not the first male author to become a Goldie winner that night (Geonn Cannon garnered his second Goldie for Dogs of War), Jacob Anderson-Minshall will go down in Golden Crown history as the first out transgender author to win an award. He shared the award for best creative non-fiction book with The Advocate's editor at large, Diane Anderson-Minshall; the two penned the memoir, Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders, which tells of their now 25-year relationship that survived a transition from lesbian couple to husband and wife.
Among the more moving acceptance speeches came from Marie Castle, whose book The Devil You Know won in the best paranormal/horror category. Castle, who is legally blind, talked about being sent by her heavily religious parents to a Christian camp for the blind, which focused more on prayer than mental health care to tackle her increasing blindness. Still, it was there, when she led a line of other blind children linked hand-in-hand, the path to a nearby McDonald's, that she learned the imapact one person can have on the next.
Last month's Supreme Court decision on marriage equality factored in heavily at the GCLS 2015. Numerous honorees and award winners -- including keynote speaker Dorothy Allison -- talked about now being legally married. Each time someone said something along the lines of "my legal wife," the crowd roared with applause.
This year was also the first time the GCLS acknowledged the work of designers whose book covers draw readers inside. “The award honors cover designs that create a beautiful representation of the story and put a professional face on the lesbian genre,” noted the organization. Ann McMan received the inaugural Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design award for her work on the book, Everything. McMan was her own stiffest competition: her designs – for three separate publishing houses – represented five out of the eight finalists.
Lee Lynch won a Goldie award for An American Queer, a collection of her famed Amazon Trail columns. Dorothy Allison (Trash, Bastard Out of Carolina) gave a riotous and inspiring keynote address, talking about the need lesbian writers and readers have to see people like themselves reflected on the page and back at them, why even best-selling authors like herself make no money, and how non-LGBT readers who hear our stories still get surprised to discover that lesbians "have pussies and they use them."
Allison and Lynch together presented Rita Mae Brown with the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award for her seminal lesbian novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, and the best-selling novelist included the weekend's best line in her speech:"Never celebrate your oppression."
The 2015 GCLS Trailblazer Award, offered to an author for a lifetime achievement in the field of lesbian literature, was given to Joan Nestle, who was unable to attend in person, but Karin Kallmaker gave an extensive tribute to as well.
The complete list of winners is below. Note: Most categories have 2-3 winners.
Just Intuition – Makenzi Fisk
Never Too Late – Julie Blair
Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition Years – CF Frizzell
The One – JM Dragon
Sharpshooter – Leslie Murray
Switchblade – Carsen Taite
Undone – EM Hodge
Kissing Keeps us Afloat – Laurie McFayden
The Acquittal – Anne Laughlin
Left Field – Elizabeth Sims
The Consequence of Murder – Nene Adams
Double Exposure – Bridget Birdsall
Riding the Rainbow – Genta Sebastian
Just Girls – Rachel Gold
Anthology/Collection (Creative Non-Fiction):
Queerly Beloved A Love Story Across Genders – Diane Anderson-Minshall Jacob Anderson-Minshall
An American Queer – Lee Lynch
The Magic Hunt – LL Rand
The Devil You Know – Marie Castle
Dogs of War – Geonn Cannon
Heart’s Surrender – Emma Weimann
Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 – Rachel Windsor
Escapades – MJ Williamz
The War Within – Yolanda Wallace
Loved and Lost – Stephanie Kusiak
Everything – Carole Wolf
Wicked Things – Jae and Astrid Ohletz
Unwrap These Presents – Astrid Ohletz and R.G. Emanuelle
Tangled Roots – Marianne K. Martin
Waiting for the Violins – Justine Saracen
The Bright Lights of Summer – Lynn Ames
Traditional Contemporary Romance:
Kiss the Girl – Melissa Brayden
Nightingale – Andrea Bramhall
The Midnight Moon – Gerri Hill
FutureDyke – Lea Daley
Return of an Impetuous Pilot – Kate McLachlan
Rabbits of the Apocalypse – Benny Lawrence
Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design:
Everything – Ann McMan designer
Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award:
Olive Oil and White Bread – Georgia Beers
Lee Lynch Classic Book Award:
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
GCLS Directors Volunteer Award: Watty Boss