Three LGBTQ Authors Appearing In Seattle

Seattle has three opportunities to mix with local authors, and to meet a legend. John Treat and Patricia Grayhall both live in the Seattle area. They are celebrating releases of their new works. In the case of Ms. Grayhall, her debut. The impresario Felice Picano will be giving a presentation as well as a reading. Interview with all three of the authors follows.

Felice Picano

Felice Picano

Felice Picano

Friday, September 23
6:30pm – 8:30pm
Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum,
93 Pike St #307, Seattle
$15 registration required (click here to register and get more info)

Felice Picano (https://www.felicepicano.net) is the “Godfather of Gay Literature” and one of the original members of the now infamous Violet Quill. He’s been writing since the 1970’s and continues to the present day having authored over 45 books, plays, collections, short story anthologies as well several memoirs and essays. His genre seems to have no limits as he has proven his worth in science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, essays, interviews, auto-biographical, and horror with equal ease. He is the author of the epic literary “gay Gone with the Wind” (quote Edmund White), “Like People in History”, as well as the acclaimed: Nights at Rizzoli, Justify My Sins, Slashed to Ribbons (In Defense of Love), and The Lure among others. He is the Co-Author of The New Joy of Gay Sex along with Dr. Charles Silverstein.

Felice will be offering a presentation on Friday night, September 23 at Folio. Titled “Writers/Directors of Hollywood: 1930’s – 2000”, Felice will explain the history, trends, and responsibilities of many of the writers and directors that helped form Hollywood.

Eric Andrews-Katz: What was the first thing of yours published?
Picano: I’ve kept a catalogue of my work since 1972 and I was surprised to discover that the first thing published was my novel, Smart as the Devil, March 1975. Simultaneously that month, a short film with a screenplay I wrote for a Rizzoli Bookstore colleague, Giovanni Rabadi, was screened at NYU where he was a film student. It was Titled “A Taper Will Do” –title based on a line by Sam. Beckett. The film starred two other NYU Film students who went on to be stars-Richard Gere and in Italy, Maria Consagra.

Andrews-Katz: Do you have a favorite book? If so, who wrote it and what makes it your favorite?
Picano: My most recent favorite book is Salka Vietel’s 1964 autobiography titled The Kindness of Strangers. Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, she was part of the 1930’s German émigré rush to Hollywood. After acting in a film with Greta Garbo — she became Garbo’s confidant and scriptwriter, penning all of those classic movies. Her Santa Monica Canyon home became a talent center for Europeans and young writers and actors. One son married actress Virginia Rey, the other married Deborah Kerr.

Andrews-Katz: Justify My Sins is a fictional romp through LGBT+ Hollywood. How gay was gay Hollywood really?
Picano: The west side of L.A. was openly gay enough but Film-Hollywood was gay-quiet in 1977 when I arrived at Cary Grant’s Brut Productions. I soon met folks who’d left films, moved to Europe, or to TV because the tabloids threatened to destroy their careers: Tab Hunter, Farley Granger, etc. Others were typecast into a dead-end role, like Anthony Perkins. I was openly gay with everyone but no one cared about screenwriter’s sex life. Until. . . one night I returned to the Beverly Hills Hotel at 2 a.m. on a leather-man’s Harley—he was shirtless and had a black eyepatch. The next day all of the BHH staff suddenly knew my name. In later years, I’d meet straight and gay folks who’d say “We heard all about you!”

Andrews-Katz: Do you think LGBT Hollywood has an obligation to Come Out? Are they required to be role models for the next generation?
Picano: So many have come out I don’t think anyone really cares. I personally enjoy seeing people push the fashion envelope like Billy Porter and Little Nas. They’ve got Brad Pitt wearing skirts. Because it’s causing more good trouble in politics, that’s where being LGBT is needed more. For every Pete Buttigieg or Maura Healey, there’s a closeted Evil-Queen in congress. You know who I mean!

Slashed to Ribbons - Felice Picano

Slashed to Ribbons – Felice Picano

Andrews-Katz: You’ve written about encounters with Hollywood celebrities in previous memoir collections. Is there anyone celebrity that was an absolute Pain-In-Your-Axx? And has there ever been a celebrity that you were star struck in meeting?
Picano: A few actors I worked were with were so neurotic, I’d be asked to “talk her down!” Otherwise, folks were and still are pretty casual here. Some years ago, I was in Palm Springs and got a call from actress Gloria Stuart, asking if I’d drive a friend into L.A. Waiting for me on her porch was Loretta Young. Still beautiful. Another time, I was visiting friends in the Malibu hills when their neighbor Mark Hamill stopped by, concerned because he’d seen rats nesting in another neighbor’s overgrown bougainvillea and children played nearby. We hung out an hour. My writing workshops had several wives of actors, directors, and producers who came to our end of the term readings.

Andrews-Katz: You are definitely one of those ‘characters’ in life where odd circumstances are practically the norm. What LGBT+ Hollywood person have you met in the oddest of ways?
Picano: I was late for the Huntington Museum’s 100th birthday celebration of Christopher Isherwood whose collection of papers they had obtained. I was rushed to my seat in the speaker’s row in front. A minute later, my neighbor tapped my shoulder and asked where the john was. I told him. A beat then he said “I just had Lasix, could you take me?” I said sure –but I’m not going in with you! It was Mickey Rooney.

Andrews-Katz: Who are the LGBT+ writers that the community should read?
Picano: I don’t care about who, I do care that they read some LGBT writers—period! I know lesbians who’ve read all of Sandra Scoppetone’s books but none by Val MacDiarmid or J.R. Redmond. There are gay SF and horror readers who look astonished when I show them Queer Sci Fi and gay novels and horror story collections. You read on your phone, guyz. Download a gay book and read that too. It won’t kill you!

Andrews-Katz: If you could have written any book (fiction or nonfiction) what would it be and why?
Picano: The late Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire. It was historically excellent, well written, had unusual yet credible characters and settings, and it virtually revived the genre for the next four decades.

John Treat

John Treat equality365

John Treat

Saturday, September 24 at 1pm
HUGO HOUSE
1634 11th Ave., Seattle (click here to register and get more info)

John Treat (https://www.johnwhittiertreat.com) is a Professor Emeritus of East Asian Languages, and taught Japanese Literature at Yale University. He is the author of several books on Japanese culture including “Great Mirrors Shattered: Homosexuality, Orientalism, and Japan”. “First Consonants” is his third novel of fiction.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a writer?
John Treat: I got my first real boyfriend when I was 21, and he was, and still is, a novelist and playwright. He was close to thirty himself, and he mentored me in many ways. I can’t say his writing influenced me all that much, but his example as a person dedicated to storytelling did.

Andrews-Katz: What was it about their style that influenced you?
Treat: I taught Japanese literature for over thirty years. If anything influenced my style, it was that. People who criticize me for writing slow, plotless stories should take a look at modern Japanese literary fiction. I’ve got that beat. But, yes, I don’t write page-turners.

Andrews-Katz: Do you recall the first thing you wrote that was published? What was it?
Treat: When I was in elementary school, I entered a statewide poetry contest for children. I won, and the poem was published in THE HARTFORD COURANT. And I kid you not, that poem was about Auschwitz. Where THAT came from is anyone’s guess.\

Andrews-Katz: Do you have a favorite book? If so, who wrote it and what makes it your favorite?
Treat: I read Woolf’s TO THE LIGHTHOUSE over and over again. It’s not just the language, the punctuation, the pace. It’s how, in short middle section, she handles World War One. I am a student of history, and particularly its wars. Read Woolf on what that particular war did to a family.

Andrews-Katz: You’ve written two previous books that deal with Japan. What started your fascination with the country?
Treat: As a kid, I wanted to get away from home as far and fast as I could. China was closed to Americans, so it had to be Japan. I lived there for years and might again. It is the other side of the world in more ways than one.

Andrews-Katz: You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. Do you prefer one over the other or is does it strictly depend on subject matter?
Treat: I have one nonfiction book still in the works, but everything else from here on out will be fiction, if all of it inspired by things I have lived through. I have some stories to tell best told through characters not exactly, or even remotely, myself.

First Consonants - John Treat

First Consonants – John Treat

Andrews-Katz: Do you have a different way of writing for fiction than you do for nonfiction?
Treat: I outline no fiction carefully, but I’ve learned a novel has to be constructed out of scenes that go their own way, and which may or may not survive when linked together. In that sense, fiction is both harder and riskier, if you’re worried about how much time you have left in life.

Andrews-Katz: Your latest book is a fictitious novel called ‘First Consonants”. Can you tell us a little bit about the book.
Treat: It is about a family of stutterers. I am a stutterer, and have long felt we’ve always gotten a raw deal in literature. We’re either clowns or idiots, and sometimes both. I write in FIRST CONSONANTS about stutterers who are neither. But that does not mean they are heroes. We are, in fact, disability aside, very much like everyone else.

Andrews-Katz: What inspired you to have the main character stutter?
Treat: My own life. Little research was required. Only empathy coupled with experience.

Andrews-Katz: In your book, the main character Brian dislikes his stammer but later comes to accept it. How does his journey go?
Treat: What choice does he, or any stutterer, have? There is no cure. You either accept that you will stumble in speaking your whole life, or you choose to remain silent. Like most stutterers, Brian and I have chosen both at times in our lives, his imagined and mine real.

Andrews-Katz: How are you similar and different from your main character?
Treat: We are both stutterers, as well as male, white and average Americans. There the resemblance stops.

Andrews-Katz: Is Brian a hero or antihero?
Treat: Can I hope that, despite the terrible things he does to other people, readers will at least understand him if they can’t admire him?

Andrews-Katz: How does someone that has never stuttered identify with your protagonist?
Treat: We all dwell on our imperfections, whatever they may be.

Andrews-Katz: Do you have any writer’s superstitions or traditions that you follow?
Treat: Here I am being interviewed, but in fact, I don’t much like talking about my writing. My superstition is that if I say it, I won’t write it.

Andrews-Katz: Do you write every day? What is your process like?
Treat: Coffee, the newspaper, then writing. I’m done by 9 am. Less indulgent things take us the rest of the day for me.

Andrews-Katz: If you could have written any book (fiction or nonfiction) what would it be and why?
Treat: Have you read Douglas Stuart’s SHUGGIE BAIN? What planet did this man and his book come from?

Patricia Grayhall

Patricia GrayHall equality365

Patricia GrayHall

Tuesday, October 11 at 7pm
Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE, #A101
Lake Forest Park, WA (click here to register and get more info)

Patricia Grayhall (www.PatriciaGrayhall.com) grew up in Arizona in the 1960’s. She moved to San Francisco at age 19 to live her life as a lesbian. She pursued her dream of becoming a physician only to end up in medical school in the very conservative area of Salt Lake City.

Defying expectations of a woman growing up in Arizona in the 1960s, Patricia Grayhall fled Phoenix at nineteen for the vibrant streets of San Francisco, determined to finally come out as a lesbian after years of trying to be a “normal” girl. Her dream of becoming a physician drew her back to college, and then on to medical school in conservative Salt Lake City. Her graduate medical training in Boston had its emotional demands, long hours, lack of sleep, and social isolation, compounded by the free-wheeling sexual revolution of the 1970s. Armed with wit and determination, Patricia battled on against sexism in her male-dominated profession. She fought against discrimination in a still largely homophobic nation and lived a life that was never boring and certainly never without passion.

Making the Rounds is a well-paced and deeply humanizing memoir of what it means to seek belonging and love—and to find them, in the most surprising ways.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a writer?
Patricia Grayhall: I have always loved true stories about people’s lived experience and early on read all of May Sarton’s semi-autobiographical works. Since I also wanted to write memoir, I read those of Cheryl Strayed, Frank McCourt, Mary Karr, Dani Shapiro. Arial Levy, and Adrienne Brodeur, among others.

Andrews-Katz: What was it about their style that influenced you?
Grayhall: Though their styles are different, reading their works, I learned that memoir is not autobiography, but a slice of life with an arc of transition through which the author derives some universal truths that will be relevant to the reader. Reading other’s works also help me in the art of scene building, dialogue and the bodily expression of emotion.

Andrews-Katz: Do you recall the first thing you wrote that was published? What was it?
Grayhall: I have published many medical articles and book chapters but did not write personal essay and memoir until 2019. One of the first articles I published was in Queer Forty about a relationship I had with a much older woman. Eileen Grace Brooks was somewhat of an icon in the Seattle area with a colorful, larger-than-life personality that immediately drew me in despite the age difference. I wanted to honor her memory with this article.

Andrews-Katz: Do you have a favorite book? If so, who wrote it and what makes it your favorite?
Grayhall: I have several favorites. Among them are: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because I identified with Scout and wished I had a father like Atticus. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown for being the first lesbian book I ever read that also made me laugh so hard I almost fell off my chair. And more recently, Abandon Me by Melissa Febos because her lyrical style of memoir in describing her story of obsessive love was inspiring.

Making the Rounds - Patricia Grayhall

Making the Rounds – Patricia Grayhall

Andrews-Katz: Your first book is a memoir – Making the Rounds. Can you tell us a synopsis of what it is about?
Grayhall: I came out as a lesbian in the late 1960s and trained to become a medical doctor before Title IX in the 1970s- both of which defied social norms of the times. Though I had a very supportive friendship with a gay male colleague, I longed for an equal loving relationship with a woman. My graduate medical training made finding that special relationship difficult. I battled against sexism in a male-dominated profession and against discrimination in a still largely homophobic nation.

Andrews-Katz: The book clearly states that you are writing under a pseudonym, and that some of the names have been changed. Why change them?
Grayhall: My partner’s desire for privacy is but one of the reasons I chose to write under a pen name. As I contacted old lovers from that time and shared with them drafts of what I’d written, I realized I needed to protect their privacy too. Like Cass who subsequently married a man and never told him she once had a lesbian lover. Or Gillian who resisted any possibility that she might have an attraction for a woman. And Dani who tested my limits for free-wheeling non-monogamy.

In this memoir, I’ve written about an era of personal growth that does not show me in the best light. I was a flawed and complicated young woman, shaped by my family and the culture of the times. Who I was then will be fixed in a reader’s mind though now, decades later, I am a very different person.

The pen name allowed me to be very honest about what I felt and experienced coming of age in the seventies when life was very difficult for ambitious lesbians. I felt freer to write about my former self, including one chapter I found cringeworthy. Decades later, I still carried a shame that wasn’t mine. Writing frankly about my journey helped me to let it go.

My pen name is not a cop-out. It is all there in my memoir. It simply allows me to tell my truth without hurting those I love.

Andrews-Katz: What are your earliest memories of a woman in the medical field?
Grayhall: One of my earliest memories was my first day in the anatomy lab. As only one of five women out of 100 in my medical school class in 1971, I could not let anyone see me flinch or cry. Here is what I remember:

Once classes began, our anatomy professor introduced us to the cadavers we’d be dissecting over the next nine months.

The anatomy lab was in the basement and smelled strongly of formaldehyde, which made my sinuses tingle and my stomach roil. Twenty corpses zipped up in white body bags and laid out on steel tables around a large room confronted us. My chest tightened when I realized they’d once been people like us, with lives and loves and families. But there was little time for reflection. The anatomy professor assigned us five to a body and told us we would all unzip the bags at the same time.

My heart pounded. I would see a dead person for the first time.

In my group, one of my male classmates unzipped the bag to reveal the pale, waxy face of a fifty-three-year-old woman. Wiping my sweaty palms on my lab coat, I stared down at her, so dizzy I had to lean against the table. I excused myself, muttering something about getting a drink, and rushed out of the lab.

In the hallway, I thrust my head down to the drinking fountain and pretended to drink until the dizziness cleared.

The voice of the anatomy professor made me jump. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m fine.”

Willing myself to return, I joined my colleagues for the first cut. One of the guys picked up a scalpel and sliced a bloodless line down the front of the woman’s chest, between her breasts, as I took deep, steadying breaths.

I struggled to regard the woman we’d unzipped as an object, not a person, though the mental shift was incomplete. Sometimes, I would look around the room and the corpses would come alive in my imagination. I’d have to shake my head to rid myself of the images. That day, and for months thereafter, my lab coat, anatomy book, and notebook reeked of formaldehyde.

Andrews-Katz: When do you think the first major changes occurred?
Grayhall: I went to medical school in Salt Lake City but did my post-graduate medical training in Boston. Attitudes towards women in medicine and queer people evolved and progressed much more rapidly on the coasts than in the middle of the country. Though I had a brutal internship as the only woman intern at Boston City Hospital in 1976, I began to note changes in attitudes toward women and queer people, at least in Boston, in the summer of 1976. Here is one scene from that time:

Days after our internships ended, David and I traveled by train to New York for the Gay Pride Parade. It had been seven years since Stonewall. The 1969 riot in Greenwich Village erupted after police raided a gay bar in the city and the occupants resisted, jump-starting the gay rights movement.

That day, we waved jauntily to a busload of tourists from Kansas who were hanging out the windows and snapping pictures of us in our rainbow t-shirts and tiaras. The mood was upbeat and joyous, the attire outrageous and colorful. David and I were marching in front of a float full of drag queens in reflective mirrored sequins, huge speakers blaring Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.” We were swept up in the moment, singing along and laughing, gay and proud, our arms around each other’s shoulders. Among the crowd, I saw smiling faces—people of all ages waving rainbow flags and giving us the thumbs-up.

Then David squeezed my shoulder. “Oh God, Patroosk, they’re filming us for the TV news.”

I flinched, remembering we had to hide our sexual orientation from our employers.

The year of the Stonewall uprising was the same year I came out of the closet as a lesbian in San Francisco. Then I had to hide in the closet in Salt Lake City, and again during my difficult internship. It had been challenging being in the minority as a woman, let alone as a lesbian, in the medical field.

For this one day, our first gay pride parade, we could freely announce to the world who we were, and revel with other gays and lesbians—with pride.

The hell with hiding. I stepped in front of the camera.

Andrews-Katz: What advances have your witnessed for women in the medical field?
Grayhall: I entered medical school in 1971 before Title IX which mandated equal access to education regardless of sex and I was a minority in the extreme–as a non-Mormon, queer, a woman, and younger than everyone else. Now, because of this law, over half of medical students are women. Having female role models and mentors has made a huge difference in how comfortable women now feel pursuing their dreams to become doctors. The presence of more women in medicine has also changed the macho culture of medicine and recent studies have shown that patients of female physicians often have better outcomes of care than their male peers. Despite these positive changes, women are still congregated in the lower paying specialties.

Andrews-Katz: Are women treated equally today at hospitals?
Grayhall: Until there are more women in the surgical specialties and sub-specialties and more women medical directors and deans of medical schools, there will still be incidences of sex discrimination. We still have work to do to achieve true equality.

Andrews-Katz: Memoirs are usually very personal. How will the average person be able to relate to “Making the Rounds”?
Grayhall: Though my personal history is unique, it was shaped by the culture and politics of the era. My story will appeal not only people near my age who may have shared those times, but younger people who have ever lived the burden of being told their passions or ambitions are wrong.

By making my story public in a book, I hope to inspire not only LGBTQ people but also to all those marginalized people female, disabled, of color who are struggling to fulfill dreams that others take for granted.

Finally, the stories in my memoir are human stories. All humans struggle with issues of identity, belonging, love, friendship, relationship, and coming of age. All humans are affected by the culture in which they grow up, the labels attached to them, privilege or discrimination and judgement. My story is for anyone who has ever struggled to belong, to love, and to find their place in the world

Andrews-Katz: Do you have any regrets throughout your medical career?
Grayhall: I have no regrets. My medical career took off after Boston, taking me to Washington State after I was fired in 1984 from a high-level corporate position headquartered in North Carolina for being a lesbian. Nevertheless, I thrived as a physician specialist in Seattle, eventually starting my own medical consulting company. I mostly (though not completely—it’s difficult to give up one’s identity as a doctor) retired after a forty-year medical career. I am grateful for the richness of my working life. A residual desire to help, to understand human strength and frailty—particularly my own—still motivates me. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Andrews-Katz: What do you feel is your greatest contribution by writing” Making the Rounds”?
Grayhall: Young people today take for granted equal access to education, abortion choice, same sex marriage and greater queer acceptance. Yet, these positive changes occurred on the shoulders of women who broke through societal barriers to achieve their dreams and live authentic lives. I hope my book will inspire others to do the same and keep up the fight for equal rights and freedoms for women and queer people today. Recent political events and the overturning of Roe v. Wade remind us that our gains are fragile. We could lose more of our rights and freedoms and return to earlier dark times if we let a culture of misogyny, hate and intolerance for differences prevail.

I also hope that some readers will see themselves in my early coming of age struggles and feel inspired to pursue their dreams and lead authentic lives.

Finally, I hope to enlighten some straight people that LGBTQ people’s desire for love, belonging, and meaningful work is not very different from their own.

Andrews-Katz: In moments of ennui what other careers do you think you’d be suited for?
Grayhall: I love animals and could have been a zoologist and animal advocate. I also wish I had started my writing career earlier. Good writing is hard and there is a lot to learn. Still, I hope to make up for lost time. My partner and I are just finishing the writing of a romance novel with two protagonists of a certain age to add to all those portraying only the young and beautiful.     

Andrews-Katz: If you could have written any book (fiction or nonfiction) what would it be and why?
Grayhall: Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. This novel was about ordinary people living in extraordinary times. Being different is a secret that all humans share told from the point of view of Trudy, a dwarf living in Nazi Germany who comes to understand the power of being different. It is a timeless and unforgettable story with such emotional power that it has stayed with me for years.

These books (and others by these authors) are available at Elliot Bay Books, Amazon and your favorite bookstores. Many are available on ebook or audio.

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

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