Bywater BLUE
We love good books, just like you do
June 2011
Welcome to Bywater Books

Dear Readers,

Since our last newsletter, we've been receiving honours, awards, and great reviews. To find out more see Bywater News below.

Joan Opyr has just published her third novel, Shaken and Stirred. It's already picked up rave reviews. For more details, see Author Profile, Hot off the Press, and Bywater News below.

Our Blog Tour continues — see Blog Tour below.

To find out why independent bookstores are so important for LGBT literature, visit the Common Language Bookstore, below.

As always, we at Bywater strive to bring you the finest in lesbian romance, mystery, and literary fiction.

Till next time!

Kelly Smith
Marianne K. Martin
Val McDermid

Author Profile
Joan Opyr

Joan Opyr was at grad school, on her way to a life of academia, when it struck her: "Writers write what they know, and I didn't want to write novels about college professors." Her solution? She quit, and moved to Idaho.

"Compared to the East Coast," she says, "it's so empty! Small population, very big state . . . Miles and miles of wheat fields, not a lot of people . . . I said, 'Man! You could hide a body out here and no one would ever find it.'" From that thought came her first novel, Idaho Code.

Readers were quick to welcome Joan's easy flair for comedy. Ask her about this, and she says simply, ". . . that's the way I roll. I see the humor in most situations. Human frailty, fallibility — all of that, for me, is part of the comic undertow. I grew up in a family that liked to laugh, and believed that you might as well laugh as cry. What my family valued was being able to make others laugh." This fan of the Brontë sisters goes on to admit, "I've tried writing tragedy; it always comes out as comedy."

Bear that in mind when I tell you the setup for her new novel Shaken and Stirred: Poppy K, recovering from a hysterectomy, must return to Raleigh, NC, to pull the plug on her dying, alcoholic grandfather. It's not an obviously comic storyline, but here's what Kate Clinton had to say: "What a great read! Character, story, dialogue — it's a trifecta of a page turner."

It's also the first time that Joan's writing has taken her away from Idaho and back to the South. She welcomed this because as time passes she becomes increasingly aware that she's not an Idahoan: "I'm a North Carolinian. My memories of the past shape my present. Everything I do in the here and now passes through the filter of my formative years." Poppy also grapples with this idea, and the story switches back and forth between her childhood and the present-day. That was, Joan admits, a challenge to write; Shaken and Stirred is her third novel and she got the basic storyline for it down in two weeks, then spent "about the next five years" editing it.

On the plus side, she did get to go back to North Carolina for a spot of research: "I had to fly home to Raleigh a couple of times to get the setting just right . . . Raleigh has changed a lot since I left — it's not the same sleepy city I knew. It's now a booming metropolis like Atlanta, and the native accent is becoming rare." Just like her own, which has faded over time, "but it comes back to me when I'm home. Or when I'm tired. Or a little tipsy."

Joan is now working on her fourth novel, and at the same time pursuing a degree in nursing from Lewis-Clark State College and working as a CNA on an Alzheimer's and dementia unit. Together with her wife Melynda (they married just before the passage of Proposition 8), she's raising a family of two children, two dogs, and a guinea pig.

by Caroline Curtis

Hot Off The Press
Shaken and Stirred
Shaken and Stirred

by Joan Opyr

"Sometimes, I think my story is about addiction and adultery. Other times, I think it's about bad luck with the Avon lady. And not just one-one I could chalk up to chance. Two rotten Avon ladies feel more like a curse."

So begins the story of Poppy Koslowski. She's trying to recover from a hysterectomy, but her family has other ideas. She's the one with the responsibility to pull the plug on her alcoholic grandfather in North Carolina. So she's dragged back across the country from her rebuilt life into the bosom of a family who barely notice the old man's imminent death.

Poppy understands why her grandfather is dying alone. She remembers how his drinking terrorized his family. But she also remembers the man who made her feel worthwhile and wanted after her parents' marriage collapsed, a time when she felt like she was dying alone.

Plunged into a crazy kaleidoscope of consulting doctors, catching fire with an old flame, and negotiating lunch venues with her mother and grandmother, Poppy still manages to fall in love. Because nothing in the Koslowski family is ever straightforward. Not even dying.


Lesbian Fiction 312 pages ISBN 978-1-932859-79-9

At fine stores everywhere

or order directly from Bywater Books.

Bywater Trivia

To win the Bywater title of your choice, answer this month's question:

What town is the setting for Idaho Code by Joan Opyr?

E-mail us at or by post to the address in the column below — see To Order Books.

Blog Tour
Bywater's Virtual Book Tour continues. Seven of our authors are making connections one blog at a time. Guest blogging on each other's blogs for the next four months, they're posting from the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes region, New England, the South, England, and Australia.

In July, Sally Bellerose will finish off the tour. She'll visit Marianne K. Martin on July 6; Lindy Cameron on July 8; Bett Norris on July 11; Georgia Beers on July 17; Jill Malone on July 15; and Lindy Cameron on July 18.

This probably goes without saying, but click on the authors' names above to link straight through to their blogs.

Common Language

The Common Language Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI is now in its twentieth year. It lies at the heart of the LGBT community, one of several businesses housed in a complex of buildings that the poet and author Michelle Tea calls "the homoplex"; local students prefer "the Queer Quad."

Here, in houses built between 1915 and 1918 and now converted, you'll find not just Common Language but also the \aut\ bar, the SH\aut\ performance space, and WRAP (the Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project). All are run by Keith Orr and Martin Contreras, who are proud to contribute to the neighborhood's strong LGBT identity.

Yet Common Language, like many LGBT bookstores today, faces an uncertain future. And that's something which threatens LGBT literature itself. As Mr. Orr explains, our literature is made up of four elements: bookstores, authors, publishers, and readers. All four must work together if all are to thrive. And if just one element fails, it's possible the rest will fail too.

Come to Common Language, and you'll find staff who have read the books, who know their customers, and who can recommend accordingly. That type of service explains why many LGBT authors owe their careers to the support of independent bookstores. E. Lynn Harris is one such example: he self-published his first work, asked independent bookstores to take a look, they did, they loved it, they recommended it — and Harris went on to have ten books on the New York Times Best Seller list. Similarly, many LGBT publishers admit that they depend on LGBT bookstores to sell their titles, knowing that chain stores won't deliver the sales they need to survive.

And here's where the LGBT reader comes in. Buy a book from an LGBT bookstore, and you're offering direct support to the LGBT community — buy from a chain bookstore or online, and you're not.

There's something else to remember: if you want to meet LGBT authors and personalities, Bywater authors included, you'll find them at your local LGBT bookstore. In the past couple of months alone, Common Language has played host to Judy Shepard, Milt Ford, and Kage Alan. Later this month, it will play host to Marianne K. Martin (see Bywater Events below). It also runs two book clubs that meet each month — LezRead and the Ann Arbor Rainbow Book Club. For more details, click here.

So next time you're in Ann Arbor, visit the gayborhood of Kerrytown and check out the "homoplex" in Braun Court. Have a meal, take in a show — and make your way from room to room, browsing the shelves of the Common Language Bookstore. It's there for you.

News from Bywater

Congratulations to Kelly Smith, Michèle Karlsberg, and Val McDermid!

Publisher Kelly and publicist Michèle both attended this year's Saints and Sinners Literary Festival and were delighted to discover that they have been inducted into the Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame. It's an honor that recognizes their "dedication to GLBT literature. They have shown a passion for our literary community through various avenues. Through their work, they have helped to ensure that the written work from the GLBT community will have an outlet, and that people will have access to books that will help dispel stereotypes, alleviate isolation, and provide resources for personal wellness."

At this year's Lambda Literary Awards, Val was also honored, receiving a Pioneer Award in recognition for her contribution to LGBT literature. Accepting her award, she told the audience, "I grew up in a small town in Scotland. There were no lesbians anywhere. They were a bit like mermaids — you knew they were out there, but they were kind of mythical."
She went on to add: "I write so we don't have generation of wee lassies growing up in small Scottish towns asking, 'what's a lesbian?'"

The same evening, Val also won the Lesbian Mystery category, for Fever of the Bone (published by HarperCollins). Her fellow finalists included Stella Duffy for Parallel Lies (published by Bywater Books).

Joan Opyr has already picked up a rave review for Shaken and Stirred: "A Laugh a Minute" says Amos Lassen. "It is not often that I am pulled into a book like I was pulled into this — so much so that I read it in one sitting and found myself still laughing after I closed the covers . . . The characters, especially Poppy, are large and real, the dialogues is smart, the plot is wonderful and as a man reviewing a novel by a lesbian about a lesbian, I just feel lucky that I have had the chance to do so." To read the whole review, click here.

We've already told you that Lisa Gitlin won twice over in the Independent Publisher Book Awards: the Gold Medal for the Humor category and Gold Medal for the Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans Fiction category, both for I Came Out for This? What we didn't know then is that it's the first time an author has won gold medals in two categories. Well done, Lisa!

Finally, it's not just independent bookstores that need our support. Please also support The Gay & Lesbian Review / Worldwide. The mission of G&LRis to provide a forum for enlightened discussion of issues and ideas of importance to lesbians and gay men; to advance gay and lesbian culture by providing a quality vehicle for its best writers and thinkers; and to educate a broader public on gay and lesbian topics.

Get Booked!

Calling all Book Groups:

Ever wanted to know what an author thinks about her own book?

Choose a Bywater title to discuss at your Book Group, and we'll arrange for the author to join the conversation — in person, by webcam, or over the phone.

Book Group Leaders, feel free to write us for a complimentary copy of any Bywater book for your review.

E-mail our Publicity Dept at

Bywater Events
Stella Duffy
– will be reading from Theodora at Dulwich Books. Tuesday June 21 at 7:30 p.m.
6 Croxted Road
London SE21 8SW
For more information: (44) 20 8670 1920

Elana Dykewomon
is honored to be taking part in the opening ceremony of the Pacific Northwest Old Lesbians Organizing for Change regional gathering in Tacoma. Thursday, June 28
For more details, click here.

Marianne K. Martin
will be reading from her latest novel, The Indelible Heart, at
· People Called Women on June 21, at 6 p.m.
3153 W Central Avenue
OH 43606-2923
For more information: (419) 535-6455

· Common Language Bookstore on June 23, at 7 p.m.
317 Braun Court
Ann Arbor
MI 48104
For more information: (734) 663-0036

Bett Norris
will be reading from her latest novel, What's Best for Jane, at Inkwood Books on Thursday, June 23, at 7 p.m.
216 South Armenia Avenue
FL 33609
For more information: (813) 253 2638

Joan Opyr
will be reading from her latest novel, Shaken and Stirred, at Seattle Mystery Bookshop on Friday, June 24 at 12 noon.
117 Cherry Street
in Pioneer Square
WA 98104
For more information: (206) 587-5737

The Virtual World

Your favorite authors also write blogs, have their own websites, and can be found on social networking sites.

Joan Opyr
Click for her website.

Mari SanGiovanni
Click for her website.
Find her on
Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter @MariSanGiovanni.

Sally Bellerose
Click for her blog. Find her on Facebook.

Georgia Beers
Click for her website. Click for her blog. Find her on Facebook.

Lindy Cameron
Click for her website, and for news of her press.

Cynn Chadwick
Click for her website.

Stella Duffy
Click for her blog.
Find her onLibraryThing, MySpace, and Twitter @stellduffy.

Elana Dykewomon
Click for her website. Find her on Facebook and Red Room.

Z Egloff
Click for her website. Find her on Facebook and Red Room.

Marcia Finical
Find her on Facebook.

Katherine V. Forrest
Click for her website.

Lisa Gitlin
Find her on Facebook.

Jill Malone
Click for her website. Find her on Facebook and MySpace.

Marianne K. Martin
Find her on Facebook, MySpace, and Red Room.

Val McDermid
Click for her website. Find her on Facebook.

Bett Norris
Click for her blog. Find her on Facebook.

You can also follow Bywater Books on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter @BywaterBooks. And tune in to our YouTube channel. Subscribe to it, and you'll be alerted each time a new video is posted.

Issue: 22
In This Issue
Author Profile
Hot Off The Press
Bywater Trivia
Blog Tour
Common Language Bookstore
News from Bywater
Get Booked!
Bywater Events
The Virtual World
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Ann Arbor MI 48106

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