LLF website photo final

(Tony Valenzuela)

Author, activist and book lover, Chuck Forester, has offered a major challenge grant to the Lambda Literary Foundation—an organization dedicated to nurturing and preserving LGBT literature.

All Donations received by the Lambda Literary Foundation, through November 19th, of $25 or more will be matched dollar-for-dollar for up to $10,000.

Tony Valenzuela, Lambda’s executive director, took some time to talk with Mary about the Chuck Forester Challenge Grant and Lambda’s plans for the future.

Can you give me a little background information on how the Chuck Forester Challenge Grant came about?

Chuck Forester used to be a Board Member of the Lambda Literary Foundation. He’s a longtime supporter of our work and passionate about LGBT literature. He also recently attended LLF’s Writers’ Retreat where, he told me, he had a wonderful experience and saw how powerful and important this program is for emerging writers. It was at this time that he offered LLF the Challenge Grant.

Will the money raised be utilized to start new programming, or will be it used to fund existing programs?

The money raised will be for capacity building, meaning we hope to hire some administrative help in the office as well as to help run our existing programs more smoothly and efficiently.

Other than the Challenge Grant, do you have any other fundraising projects on the horizon?

Fundraising projects are always on the horizon at a nonprofit like LLF! Simply put, without the support of our members there would be no Lambda Literary, no Awards, Writers’ Retreat or website with LGBT book reviews and other exclusive content. One area we’ll be concentrating on in the coming months is new members. Our website has raised our profile considerably. We’d like to draw a lot of these new people in as new members.  We’re also doing more work to build relationships with foundations. A financially strong LLF will mean that we can someday expand beyond our current programming.

Are there any upcoming Lambda events or programming that you are particularly excited about?

Well, one area we’re working on expanding is our advocacy. I believe we’re going to become even more visible and a stronger voice for our publishers, writers, and literature.

Alyson Books is apparently going “digital only” and GLBT bookstores are closing all over the country. Things are obviously changing in the GLBT publishing landscape—most would say for the worst. From your vantage point, as the director of the Lambda Literary Foundation, what is your take on the future of GLBT publishing? What do you see the publishing landscape looking like within the next couple of years?

I’ve moderated a couple of panel discussions on this specific question in the past few months.  What is the future of publishing?  What does the shift to digital books mean to authors and publishers?  How does one reach reading audiences today?  These are all still open questions according to many.  What I’ve found most interesting about these discussions is the opportunity that some of our writers and publishers see in this new landscape.  There are many more ways to reach reading audiences than ever before.

Self-publishing has become legitimate and there are success stories to prove that.  There are many publishing options today that didn’t exist even a short time ago.  A year ago I would have described people’s mood around these questions as sour.  I wonder now if many of us are taking a collective turn toward optimism as more authors and publishers find success in this new era of publishing.

Do the workshops at the emerging writers retreat help new writers understand/navigate the current publishing climate—say the business side of things?

Indeed, we have guest lectures and panels throughout the week of the
Retreat whose aim is to help writers navigate the unfamiliar,
intimidating and incredibly confusing publishing landscape.  We
supplement craft workshops with nuts and bolts instruction on how, for
example, to write a query letter, find an agent, market your own book.
We try to give the fellows as much exposure to the many types of
players in publishing as possible for both instruction and
connections.

I imagine one of the perks of being the director of Lambda is that you often get to meet some of your favorite authors. Are there any authors who you have met since becoming director of the organization that have left you particularly awestruck?

I just interviewed Michael Cunningham in person last week at the Los Angeles Public Library and that was pretty cool.  I’ve been a fan since the 90’s and to be able to be “in conversation” with him about his new book was definitely a high point.

Anyone who you would like to meet but haven’t?

Ever since reading Dancer from the Dance I’ve wanted to meet Andrew Holleran.  I hope to meet him someday soon!

To learn more about the Lambda Foundation’s programs, and to donate to the Chuck Forester Challenge Grant, visit their website at www.lambdaliterary.org

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