No, this is not a post about religion. It is, however, about a pilgrimage.
I love Saints & Sinners because it's a big part of the reason my first novel came out last year. (You already have a copy, right? Right?) The first time I attended was in 2004, I think—to my surprise, I didn't write down anything about it in my journal; at least, not the one I keep on my computer.
I should back up. The Saints & Sinners Literary Festival is held every year in New Orleans in May. It's put on to support the NO/AIDS Task Force as well as to celebrate LGBT literature—a genre that is close to my heart, what with being gay and a writer and all. That first year I went, I took a workshop presented by (the hilarious, adorable, and kind) Bob Smith on including humor in your writing, something I wanted to do more of since I didn't think I was all that funny. (Funny ha ha, I mean, not funny peculiar. Hush.) I also met lots of wonderful people who were encouraging and passionate about writing and reading.
I bought a lot of books.
It was my first time in New Orleans, and if you've never been, go. I cannot stand warm weather, so for me to say that New Orleans is in my top 5 favorite U.S. cities is really saying something. (I could tell you what the other four are, but they change constantly. New Orleans, though, is always there.)
It's hard for me to believe that it wasn't until 2009 that I returned. I had just had my first piece of short fiction published (in an anthology called Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction, edited by two of the most wonderful people I've ever met, Tim and Becky), and I actually read from my story in public at that year's festival.
Other people reading their stories from that anthology included my friend Rob, whom I'd never met before that but who had forwarded a call for submissions that led to my first published piece of creative writing (an essay about my dog, as it happens); 'Nathan, whom I'd never met before that weekend either but who, along with his husband, Dan, is one of the most charming and gentle people I've ever met; David, who is even more hilarious in person than his writing—a feat I would not have thought possible; and Greg, whom I had met that first year I attended Saints & Sinners but who probably didn't remember me and who, quite frankly, intimidated the hell out of me.
I also made a lot more friends that year, including Lindsey and Rhonda, Tim and Becky's friends from Houston; and the wonderful Marika, whose novel Phone Kitten is hilarious and, if you haven't read it, just go get it now.
The following year, Greg asked me about "this novel I keep talking about." He was editing for Bold Strokes Books, and had already accepted a story of mine for an anthology he was working on. He'd earlier wanted to publish one of my stories in a science-fiction anthology (before the publisher, sadly, went under), so he was already familiar with my writing, and he'd liked what he'd read so far.
As it turned out, he liked the novel too. So, I have Greg to thank (more than I ever possibly could) for my novel getting published, and I have Saints & Sinners to thank for putting us in the same room.
I brought Michael with me that year, and every year since. We're going back again next month. I'll be taking a workshop on point of view with Radclyffe, who also happens to be president of my publisher. I also hope to have the first draft of my second novel completed to talk about with my editor.
I never would have imagined, back in 2004, that I would have a second novel to talk about to an editor.
And I'll probably buy a lot of books again this year too.