The nation's only lesbian literary organization—the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS)—announced winners of the 14th annual literary awards at a ceremony in Las Vegas early this month.
The mission of the GCLS is "education and the promotion and recognition of lesbian literature." The award ceremony took place on the final evening of the organization's week-long lesbian literary conference. Pam Stewart, Chair of GLAAD’s Board of Directors, emceed the ceremony at Bally’s Hotel Las Vegas, where over 350 attendees and sponsors celebrated lesbian literature across all genres.
Author R.J. Samuel received the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award for An Outsider Inside. Ann Bannon is the author of a series of five lesbian pulp novels known as “The Beebo Brinker Chronicles.” Written from 1957 to 1962, the books were bestsellers when they were first released, and have had remarkable longevity, especially for genre fiction. They have been published in five different editions and in several languages and are often taught in women’s studies and LGBT studies courses. Ann was the winner of the first GCLS Trailblazer Award in 2005.
Ann McMan for An Outsider Inside received the Tee Corine Award for Outstanding Cover Design, which sets a professional bar for the look of lesbian books. The award provides recognition for artistic work that contributes to the promotion of a quality product, and honors cover designs that create a beautiful representation of the story and put a professional face on the lesbian genre. Tee Corinne was a photographer, author, and editor notable for the portrayal of sexuality in her artwork. This award is named after her to honor a trailblazer for lesbian visibility and give the award prestige with those who recognize how daring she was in her art and quest to make lesbians visible to the world.
Judy Comella was honored with the Directors’ Award. The GCLS Directors’ Award is presented to a single GCLS member in recognition of contributions made to the Golden Crown Literary Society during the past year and/or to the ongoing mission of the organization over a longer period of time. Comella has volunteered with GCLS since 2014, working as the organization’s conference manager. Mary Phillips, executive director of GCLS said of Comella, “She works tirelessly as the Conference Manager, keeping all wheels in motion, and spends endless hours all year long working behind the scenes.”
Elana Dykewomon received the Lee Lynch Classic Award for Riverfinger Women, presented by Lee Lynch. The Award specifically recognizes books that convey meaningful lesbian experiences with influential historical value to the lesbian community, recognizing that individual perceptions of classics will differ. Lee Lynch started writing lesbian fiction and non-fiction in the 1960s when she was a frequent contributor to The Ladder, the only lesbian publication at the time. Since then she has published novels and essays, her stories have appeared in a number of anthologies, and she has written reviews and feature articles for The Lambda Book Report and many other publications. Lee’s syndicated column, "The Amazon Trail," has been running in papers across the country since 1986. Lee's book, The Swashbuckler, was the first winner of this award in 2012, and the award is named after her.
Lynch said of Dykewomon, “Elena’s characters travel the world. She encouraged us to live our true stories. She’s practically a myth herself now. Riverfinger Women is utterly lesbian. The books language is wall to wall poetry. This powerhouse of a writer wrote lesbian truths.”
In her acceptance, Dykewomon said, “it’s an honored indeed to be valued by your peers. I have always been a lesbian since I fell in love with my nursery school bus driver. At twenty-one, I decided to write a lesbian novel with a happy ending. It’s not novel, but it was at the time.”
Dorothy Allison received the GCLS Trailblazer Award, presented by author Karin Kallmaker. Kallmaker said of Allison, “She is for me the original firebrand. She didn’t write for approval, she wrote to survive. She is a firebrand, truthteller, and trailblazer.”
Allison describes herself as a feminist and working class storyteller who writes to change the world. She’s a National Book Award Finalist, bestselling author with many awards. The Trailblazer Award is granted for a lifetime achievement and is presented each year to a single author in recognition of the contributions made to the field of lesbian literature. The author must have published a significant body of work over a period of at least 20 years and written lesbian-themed works that have had a positive impact upon the growth and visibility of the field of lesbian literature.
Allison said in her remarks, “I regret that I will not live long enough to bring this country to account. I am what you get when you educate the working class. I am what you get when you model justice but do not deliver it. Let yourself accept being appreciated. It’s very hard for someone like me. I’m a nasty piece of work.”
The GCLS Literary Awards focus solely on lesbian content. Content in all categories must include significant lesbian characters and/or themes and meet one of the following criteria: (1) the main character identifies as a lesbian; (2) the main character is or ends up in a lesbian relationship; or (3) the theme or plot deals with lesbian issues or lesbian life.
“Did you know that the GCLS Literary Awards Program,” said executive director Mary Phillips, “is the only awards program in the nation that recognizes the best in lesbian literature? We are truly a community of like-minded women who come together every year to discuss books about women loving women. I’m deeply grateful to work with a team of dedicated and talented volunteer Board and committee members who are helping to grow GCLS and share our mission with more and more women every year.”
Sponsors for the 14th Annual GCLS Conference included: Lynne Pierce, LesFic Unbound, Bywater Books, Bella Books, Sandy Thornton, Georgia Beers, Melissa Brayden, A.L. Brooks, Bold Strokes Books, Badger Bliss Books, Cheryl Pletcher and Lynn Ames, Sapphire Books, Rosa Moran, and Regal Crest.
14th Annual Golden Crown Literary Society Award Winners
Debut Author Awards:
Bend by Nancy J. Hedin,
Frame by Frame by C.J. Murphy,
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu, and
The Road to Wings by Julie Tizard
Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars By S. Renée Bess and Lee Lynch (Story Collectors)
Grief Map by Sarah Hahn Campbell
Contemporary Romance Short:
Bait and Switch by Blythe H. Warren,
Echo Point by Virginia Hale, and
Unexpected by Jenny Frame
Contemporary Romance Mid-Length:
Night Voice by C.F. Frizzell,
Right Here, Right Now by Georgia Beers,
Sidebar by Carsen Taite, and
The Butterfly Whisperer by Lisa Moreau
Contemporary Romance Long:
Perfect Rhythm by Jae,
Vacationland by Susan X. Meagher, and
Who’d Have Thought by G. Benson
Her Best Friend’s Sister by Meghan O'Brien
Goldenrod by Ann McMan
The Price of Cash by Ashley Bartlett
The Sniper’s Kiss by Justine Saracen
Genuine Gold by Ann Aptaker,
Lethal Care by Claire McNab with Katherine V. Forrest
Little Dip - Garoul Series Book V by Gill McKnight
The Girls with Stone Faces by Arleen Paré
A More Perfect Union by Carsen Taite
Into Thin Air by Jeannie Levig,
Lucy’s Chance by Jackie D.
Erased by Robbi McCoy,
Shattered by Lee Winter,
Spark by Catherine Friend
Girls Like Me by Nina Packebush
About the Golden Crown Literary Society:
The GCLS was founded in February 2004 to bring authors, readers, and publishers together for the betterment of lesbian literature. The first annual conference was held in 2005 and has continued every year. Since its inception, the GCLS has grown tremendously, added many programs and services, and become a registered 501(c)3 corporation whose mission is education and the promotion and recognition of lesbian literature.
Photo credit: Laura Pena