The Amazon Trail
“Oddly Hungry For More”
A woman who has devoted her life to writing our stories, Karen Kallmaker has inspired waves of writers while gathering, like a femme pied piper, whole throngs of readers who await each of her books with anticipation of ever more delight. This year, author Karen Kallmaker was honored with the 2011 Golden Crown Literary Society’s (GCLS) Trailblazer Award. She is as beloved as her books.
This is a woman who, as a child, wanted to be Mary Poppins. Later, her super hero was Batgirl. She discovered, very young, that she couldn’t fly, and broke her arm trying. She still takes this approach to life and jumps into challenges. This style is clearly genetic, as she is a descendent of Lady Godiva. Fortunately for us, Batgirl grew up and discovered lesbian fiction in a library catalog after seeing the film “Desert Hearts” in 1986. She has not turned back since.
She was born in Sacramento, California in 1960. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, has worked in non-profit financial management and the vagaries of California law have led her to thrice marry her lucky partner of over three decades. They have two children.
Karin Kallmaker is a serious writer. Writing is who she is. She’s acutely aware that she writes not for a publisher, not for a royalty check, not for celebrity, but for her readers. Early on, Kallmaker made lesbian lives more bearable; she continues to enhance our lives by depicting us as we are. It’s not that her characters don't have issues, but that lesbians deserve happy endings.
Says friend M.J. Lowe, “Karin is honestly one of the most gracious and kind women I know. All things being equal, she genuinely does the nicer, more generous thing rather than not. It's not just diplomatic.”
I couldn't agree more. At a GCLS conference, during the dance, I emerged, dripping with sweat, into the lobby. Kallmaker didn’t say a word, but went to a table of ice and water and brought me some. Then, with breathtaking femme grace, she stepped away, giving me respectful space to be my sodden butch self. I’ve been secretly in her thrall from that moment. Another time, at the gay beach in Provincetown, a jumble of chilly lesbians huddled around a bonfire. Karin appeared out of the darkness with, what else, chocolate! And thawed the frozen lesbians with goodies and kindness.
The first day I met my sweetheart, the first meal we shared, we were with Karin and M.J. Lowe. Truly, Karin is the Queen of Lesbian Romance (as she was dubbed by “The Journal of Lesbian Studies”) in real life as well as her stories.
Karin’s first book, In Every Port, came out in 1990. She has 37 novels, collections and anthologies in print. These include her much-loved Touchwood; Goldie winners: 18th and Castro, Just Like That, and Sugar; an Ann Bannon Popular Choice winner: The Kiss That Counted; Lammy winners: In Deep Waters 2: Cruising the Strip (with Radclyffe); The Kiss That Counted, and the classic title Maybe Next Time. This year she was honored with the GCLS Trailblazer Award. She’s a four-time winner of the Lesbian Fiction Readers Choice Award. She writes romance, lesbian erotica, essays, general fiction and, under the name Laura Adams, lesbian science-fiction fantasy. Her books have been award finalists too many times to count. Karin’s work has been translated into four languages and she has dozens of short stories in various anthologies.
Karin on writing: “I really think it boils down to whether you feel you're being asked to be inauthentic to your vision - and whether you will be able to live with it later.”
“[Patricia] Cornwall, unlike others, has at least never claimed or used the lesbian community that I know of. There are others that do, and expect the adulation and kudos and community support etc., while doing nothing overt to bring our existence into a realistic mainstream setting. With some writers I fear I have a ‘yes, but what have you done for us lately’ attitude - I basically feel that if you want someone's support, you need to consistently court it. Since I write exclusively for myself and lesbian readers, I take the responsibility very seriously. My plots may not be reality, but they are (I sincerely hope) reflective of a reality any lesbian would enjoy.”
On lesbians: “I've long been of the opinion that lesbians do just about everything better. Can't help myself on that one. It's why other folks sometimes try to co-opt our community events and others get just plain envious of the support network, for example the way we've learned to create families we can't *wait* to spend Thanksgiving with. In difficult situations there are times when I *really* want to say, ‘Whatever, fool. I'm having better sex than you are.’"
“My partner and I found each other very young, and had to make it all up for ourselves, being the only two girls ever in the history of the world to fall in love, you know.”
“I think I heard the word ‘lesbian’ only once before I was having sex with one, and I didn't connect what I was doing with that word at all.”
On readers: “…my feeling is my books are to be enjoyed in whatever way the reader will most enjoy them... my goal is to leave her happy, exhausted, pleased, satisfied and yet oddly hungry for more. How she gets into that condition is her business; I'm quite pleased to be in the room when it happens.”
Can you fall (platonically) in love with a woman while writing about her? Lesbian readers everywhere have made room in our hearts for this talented trailblazer. What a poorer place our world would be without Karin Kallmaker,
Copyright Lee Lynch 2011