S. Bear Bergman On Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter (And More)
From S. Bear Bergman’s delightful bio: “S. Bear Bergman is a storyteller, a theater artist, an instigator, a gender-jammer, and a good example of what happens when you overeducate a contrarian. He is the author of Butch Is A Noun (reissued with a new foreword by Arsenal Pulp Press 2010), Lambda Literary Award-finalist The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009), Backwards Day (Flamingo Rampant, 2012), Lambda Literary Award-finalist The Adventure of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy (Flamingo Rampant, 2012), and Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2013) as well as the editor (with the inimitable Kate Bornstein) of the multiple-award-winning Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (Seal Press, 2010). Bear is also the creator and performer of three award-winning solo performances and a frequent contributor to anthologies on all manner of topics. Bear can be found many days in an airport lounge, writing stories on his laptop and letters on any piece of paper that can pretend to be stationery.”
Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter spins stories about constellations of intimacies. If your book could give advice, what wisdom would it offer to queers who feel isolated and disconnected?
I’m always a little hesitant to give advice, because what works great for one person sounds completely impossible to someone else. I’ll tell you what worked for me, how about that? First, the easiest and most honest way for me to join any community is through service. I feel much less awkward around new people/situations if I have a task — it gives me a good reason to talk to people, and I like to support initiatives that benefit me and my community(ies). So I offer to hang posters, work security, sell tickets, set up chairs, work on publicity, perform a benefit show — whatever seems like it might be useful. That’s how I’ve made friends and been able to feel more connected.
Even online, this is possible. Moderating communities, maintaining websites, being a penpal or buddy to someone else who is struggling are all ways I have found community. In time, the sense of isolation dissipates and I feel connected and welcomed, which is so relaxing and affirming.
What’s been some of the feedback from trans* and gender-independent kids about Backwards Day and The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy?
They typically really love them. They like the stories, and they often feel relieved to read them and find kids who seem like them in a book — that’s the overwhelming feedback I get from parents. They feel validated, and for their siblings or friends, they’re normalized — which is of course what I wanted in the first place. Especially considering the rate of violence against adult trans people — especially trans women, and of those mostly women of colour. My idea was, by the time people are old enough to be violent, it’s probably too late — but what if we could help children understand trans issues in a friendly, story-driven way?
You are so prolific as an author, theatre artist, storyteller, essayist. The stuck storytellers and struggling scribblers wanna know: what’s your secret?
Panic, mostly. I know people have an idea bout certain kind of writing process — that there’s a way you’re supposed to be doing it. Morning pages, freewriting, journals, noticing walks, the one-inch frame, all sorts of things. And all of those are fine, of course, if they get you where you need to go. I got laid off from my job in 2003 and, after a somewhat stingy period of unemployment benefits, started living only on what I could earn writing, performing, and lecturing. As the saying goes, hunger improves the hunter’s aim. I purposely put myself in a position where my financial survival depends on making work and selling it, so I’m always developing new projects, trying out ideas, and working on various options/opportunities to see what they might yield.
What creative paths/projects are you looking forward to exploring next?
I’m writing a novel, which is turning out to be a lot more fun (and easier!) than I had feared it might be. I’ve never really written very much fiction, and I’d thought I might start with short stories, but my short-story writing friends told me that this was a terrible, terrible idea, that writing short stories was totally different than novel writing and not a beginner form at all. They were very kind about it, but very firm with me. And I realized that, in fact, I did have a novel idea — so I decided to see if I could get it moving. So far, so good — I am a little distracted by some other projects, but mostly doing well.
What else? I’m working on a short film, a little funny one, that I hope to finish by the next round of film festival applications. Film work is super-interesting to me because it’s so accessible — so many people see movies or watch things on YouTube — so many more than would ever read a book.
Aaand, I’m working on a new big project related to children’s books that I’m still incubating — I’ll keep everyone posted on that. You should see my project-management software. It’s…full.
Anything else you wish I’d asked about?
What have I done recently that I feel proud of?
I did a series of four essays for The National Post about writing for their Afterword column, and I was really pleased with how they came out. They’re all a little more complex than that venue usually gets, I’m led to believe, but I really enjoyed witing them and have gotten a lot of great feedback about them. Here are the links:
On the personal and the private
Learn more about S. Bear Bergman at his website or on twitter: @sbearbergman