As you may have read, I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. It’s a way cool, way crazy adventure that fills 30 days with insanity. As I was planning the novel, I was also thinking beyond the book into the scope of what I’m doing as a writer, and what I want to be doing. I was sitting at a coffee shop on the 20th, wearing my only purple shirt (I need more purple in my wardrobe!) and smiling at all of the other purple-clad people. But I was also thinking: What am I REALLY doing to help, to turn the tide, to change things? I’m writing, I thought. That’s my way of moving the world.
So, In light of all the things that are happening this year on the LGBT and gender fronts (if you don’t know much about them, check out moveon.org or the “It Gets Better” and the “Make It Better campaigns”), I was thinking about ways to take NaNoWriMo to another level this year, to make more of a difference. And I was thinking that I would offer something cool and unique in exchange for people donating money to their favorite non-profit organizations that support sexual orientation and gender rights.
I’ll get to the specifics of that idea in just a second, but first I want to talk about how the two go together. So: what do sexuality and gender have to do with writing novels?
Well, a whole lot, in my opinion. Most of the books I read growing up were written by white men (and I’m not knocking white male writers — I love a lot of them). There were a few by white women (mostly in my women’s studies classes) or by, as the syllabus often termed it, “Other writers.” (aka: not white, not hetero, not American or European).
Writing and gender/sexuality also takes on a personal slant. I’m a white bisexual female writer who writes poetry, erotica, literary fiction and articles, which puts me squarely on the line of being one of those “other” writers. The gender, sexuality and genetic makeup of my characters are typically all over the board. In my first novel, my pirate water witch loves a fallen angel (mostly female), the god of winter (mostly male) and a siren (female). She doesn’t identify herself as one thing or the other, and sexuality per se isn’t one of the book’s main themes. She just is, and she just loves. And perhaps, in some ways, that is what I would like to see more writing do — show characters who just are themselves. Will my novel get classified as “bisexual fantasy” by the market? Perhaps. But I’d love to see it expand far beyond that (not just for the selfish reasons either), so that people who are reading it are not reading it because it “tackles an important issue,” but because they love the character, regardless of who she loves.
In addition, the steampunk fantasy novel I will be writing for NaNo has a lesbian lead. Two of the characters are gay. There’s a male-to-female transexual, and a few who have no defined genders at all. There are also a handful of characters who are hetero or asexual. The book’s not erotica, so why have such a variety of characters beyond the white, hetero, clearly male or female boundaries? For a number of reasons, not the least of which is because that variety is the truth of the world. And for all the lies that fiction tells, I think its most important job is to tell the big truths, the hard truths, the truths that everyone pretends they can’t see.
Now, with all of that being said, here’s my proposal:
- Donate a minimum of $10 to any organization that supports LGBT or gender rights (this can be money you send directly to them, or something that you purchase from the organization, or, well, pretty much anything. If you want to donate time instead, that’s cool too. I’m easy. I’m also easy on what defines an LGBT- or gender-focused organization).
- Send me proof of your donation any time between Oct. 23-Nov. 30th (this can be a screenshot, a scan of a paper receipt, a forwarded email from an organization, etc.). Send it to me at shanna (dot) germain (at) gmail (dot) com. And if you want to send how much you donated, I’m going to try and keep a list of how much this whole thing raises!
- What do you get in return (besides good karma and warm fuzzies)?
- You get access to my super-secret website where I outline my day-to-day experience of doing NaNoWriMo for a whole month, including the planning, outlining and writing processes (this will have a teaching/learning slant — good for those who want inspiration or tips on writing and planning novels).
- You get first-peek at the novel as I write it. This will include the first chapter, plus an excerpt every day.
- You’ll get to offer suggestions on plot, names, objects, details, places and more.
- You get to be part of a like-minded community of writers, artists, explorers and more!
- Also: If you’re a writer who’s doing NaNo as well, I will put a link to your website in the links bar.
The only thing I will ask of you (beyond your original donation) is that you help spread the word about this cool thing that I’m trying. Let’s see if we can help raise extra money and attention in a time when it’s really needed. Let’s move gender rights and sexuality rights beyond a pretty fiction and into a true story that ends with happily ever after for all.
Update: The website is now up here! Check it out.
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.
PS — Awesomely, some people have already asked for organization suggestions. I know there are a ton out there, but I would suggest looking into The Trevor Project, The GLBT National Help Center, or FCKH8 (I just bought my shirt from there). If you have other suggestions, let me know, and I’ll add them as we go!