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Interview of Marianne K. Martin and Fay Jacobs by Stefani Deoul

Happy holidays, everybody! Novelist Stefani Deoul (The Carousel) of A&M Books decided to ask her publisher, Fay Jacobs and one of her favorite authors,(and publishers) Marianne K. Martin of Bywater Books some leading questions – after all the publishers are always promoting the authors, but who’s promoting the publishers?????
Read all about it!

SD: I’m delighted to get the chance to communicate with both of you. It’s not often we can have two independent publishers on hand, Marianne K. Martin from Bywater Books and Fay Jacobs from A&M Books to ask about their businesses. So, Marianne and Fay, how did you get to be publishers in the first place?

MKM: Well, becoming a publisher was totally unplanned and unexpected. I was busy trying to finish building our house, and writing, and learning how to better use the internet when I had a pivotal conversation with Kelly Smith. Unlike me, Kelly had a real desire to be a publisher. She had interned for a year under Barbara Grier at Naiad Press, and when Barbara and Donna retired, Kelly founded Bella Books. She had a strong vision of what she wanted to do in lesbian fiction, and when her business partners did not share the same vision, she left Bella after four years.

The more we talked, the more we both realized that we wanted the same thing for our literature, and before I knew it I was taking small business seminars and going into partnership to establish Bywater Books.

FJ: It’s ironic that there’s a Naiad Press connection here too. Anyda Marchant and Muriel Crawford, who were founders of Naiad Press with Barbara Grier had retired to Rehoboth Beach to start A&M Books. I met them when they were in their late 80s and early 90s. Anyda, who wrote under the pen name Sarah Aldridge, became my mentor and published my first book. I then became the managing editor of the press.
Anyda and Muriel had been together 57 years, when, in 2005, they passed away within four months of each other and left me A&M Books. I call myself the accidental publisher.

SD: What’s your favorite part of the job?

MKM: Without a doubt, for me the best part of being a publisher is being instrumental in adding new, gifted voices to the world of lesbian fiction. A close second would be bringing back books by talented authors whose work has been out of print and unavailable to readers who will be discovering them for the first time. We are in a position (at Bywater) now to bring many of those voices back very soon.

FJ: I love working directly with the authors, editing, promoting and giving them the opportunities Anyda and Muriel gave me. Of course, a writer and editor working together is like a marriage – it’s hard work, involves lots of compromise and can get very vocal at times! But it really is the part I enjoy most.

SD: How do you stay focused on your own writing when there is so much to do with a publishing company? And what is your favorite time and place to write?

MKM: For me, this is the most difficult part of being both an author and a publisher. What happens is that Bywater responsibilities always take precedent over my own writing, which means that not much writing gets done on any given day. I try to carve out as much time as possible on the least busy days, and find a place where I’m not looking at other tasks that need to be done. Many times I end up writing in a restaurant, where strangers and white noise are much less of a distraction than looming tasks. In the summer, I’ve found that writing in the pool really helps my concentration. Unfortunately, Michigan weather only allows about four or five months of pool weather, so then it’s back to the restaurant.

FJ: Making time for the writing is tricky, as there are always more chores for A&M Books than time to do them. In a way, I’m lucky, because as an essayist, when a topic falls in my lap – something infuriating I’ve read, or an incident worth telling, I usually drop everything to get the story down. Of course, then I’m up at 1 a.m. doing press releases, ads or facebooking.
And I write either in my home office, at the computer desk, with two snoozing Schnauzers at my feet or in my RV camped some place fun with those same snoozers on hand.

SD: What are you writing right now?

MKM: Currently, I am writing the story of the early life of one of my favorite characters, Nessie Tinker from under the Witness Tree. It begins when she is ten and has me doing a ton of research about life in the early 1900’s. It was a time when Southern gentility and manners covered the dirty reality that born free did not mean born equal, and it presents a perfect setting to challenge the friendship and love between a young black woman and her white best friend.

FJ: I’m actually working on putting my stories into a 90-minute reading to perform. Somebody suggested calling it “Funnier After Two Drinks…” Oh, I think that was you, Stef! I’m working on that, plus my next Letters from CAMP Rehoboth column, about surviving holiday excess. If I survive it. Pass the mashed potatoes.

SD: Fay, I have to ask you about that Rainbow Award….how did it feel
to win first place in non-fiction from among hundreds of lesbian books and also, second place overall for lesbian book of the year!

FJ: Amazing. The Rainbow Book Award is an international contest, run by Elisa Reviews web site and blog out of Italy. There were over 300 GLBT books entered. I tied for fist place in non-fiction with one of my heroes, pioneering author Patricia Nell Warren. That took my breath away! I have to say, this ride up from obscurity has been fun…helped, so much by my writer and publisher colleagues. Kelly Smith and Marianne from Bywater stepped up to offer me help and encouragement right from the beginning, in 2004. I love them!!!!

SD: Can you tell me a story about your publishing career than nobody might know?

MKM: Many people have heard the Barbara Grier stories, since I’ve shared many of them at different events in the past. And, I’ve mentioned in a number of interviews that I wrote originally as a form of inexpensive therapy. So, probably the thing that most do not know is the journey of choices that brought me full circle to a career I never contemplated seriously.

It seems like I’ve always written in some fashion, always chose the written over the oral assignment in school, always wrote journals and diaries. And, as a senior in high school one of my favorite teachers, Ms. Pitts, made a comment at the top of my last English paper for her that I have never forgotten. In fact, I still have the paper, which probably should have been an omen. She simply said, “You must write”. And, I did. But, not until I had upset my art instructor by turning down an art scholarship to Michigan State, and majoring in physical education at Eastern, and teaching and coaching for twenty-five years, and finally realizing that, indeed, I needed to write.

FJ: Wow, similar story. My 11th grade English teacher, whose name is lost to time, but whose mustache made him look like a walrus, wrote on the top of one of my papers “Fetching detail.” I couldn’t figure out what that meant. I recently found a school newspaper from that same year where I announced I wanted to be a comic writer. The weird thing is, I did everything BUT write comic stuff after that: newspaper editor, obituary writer, theatre director, PR person. It wasn’t until much later, when I started to freelance for The Washington Blade, that I found out I loved doing the comic essay thing. Life is funny-weird and just plain funny.

SD: So what are your thoughts for 2012?

MKM: My thoughts and wishes are for a year filled with inspiration and good literature. We are so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful writers and colleagues and to be working in a field we love. My hope is for a wonderful, exciting year in lesbian publishing, and to have time to hang out with good friends like Fay Jacobs.

FJ: Yes, Marianne, I hope we can hang out….all of my author colleagues have an invitation to join us in Rehoboth Beach for Women’s FEST 2012, April 12-15…. But for now, Happy New Year to all our writer colleagues and our wonderful readers. The ever-expanding world of lesbian publishing is chocked full of great people and rewarding experiences and I am so thankful to be a part of it. And of course, I hope the Mayans were terrible at math, and 2012 is not the end of the world. But just in case, I intend to eat more chocolate, read more books and go as many miles as I can with my partner and my pups in the RV. Hope to see you along the way!

Apparently, Einstein’s Theory of Relatively is all relative. Scientists are claiming they have clocked neutrinos – tiny particles smaller than atoms – travelling slightly faster than the speed of light.
I don’t know what neutrinos are but they sound like a healthy snack food.
According to Scientific American (which I am surely not), a Sept. 23 physics collaboration clocked elementary particles called neutrinos making the underground journey from a lab in Switzerland to one in Italy. The neutrinos made the trip 60 nanoseconds faster than they would have traveling at the speed of light.
Now this is causing scientists to have a cow since Einstein said that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, and a neutrino traveling faster would blow Einstein’s whole theory – meaning that all that babble, from black holes to the big bang, everything we know today as physics would have to be rethought. Which is fine by me because I never understood it anyway.
The only thing I do know about physics is that an 80 pound 9 year old on a zip line travels slower than a fat dyke with more body mass. I proved this theory on vacation this summer when I agreed to a zip line canopy tour. What was I thinking? When the topic came up I should have said “no” in a nanosecond.
But back to neutrinos, which sound like curiously scientific breath mints.
Scientists are skeptical. Even a little pissed. One professor of physics at Surrey University in England said: “The scientists are right to be extremely cautious about interpreting these findings. If the experiment proves to be correct and neutrinos have broken the speed of light, I will eat my boxer shorts on live TV.”
Omigod. Like daily life with Snookie isn’t reality enough?
But here’s what I want to know. If the neutrinos traveled faster than the speed of light, who the heck saw them? Clark Kent? Nobody could, so how do we know this is true?
Obviously, my limited understanding of physics was the reason Bonnie managed to convince me to go on that ridiculous zip line ride in the first place. And as I read about scientists all over the world accusing the neutrino experiment scientists of making an “embarrassing gaffe” in claiming to have recorded particles breaking the speed of light, what I do understand is the meaning of “embarrassing gaffe.”
Picture this writer dressed in a mountain climbing harness and helmet, trying to get into the van to take me up the mountain. The adventurers in front of me (including that 9 year old) just took a big step and hopped up into the back door of the van. You think I could take one giant step for mankind? No. I had to sit my butt on the van floor, swivel around and crawl into the bus on my hands and knees. Clue that zipping wasn’t an AARP activity? I did wonder why there was no senior discount, or an old-lady step stool to get me into the bus.
Have you ever zipped? Of course not, it’s insane. A 20-year old guide who looks like Big Foot attaches you to a canvas harness on a block and tackle pulley system, stretched on a cable between teeny tiny platforms on trees.
“If you feel yourself spinning right or left, simply turn into the spin, like a car turning into a skid in the snow,” counseled the guide. Crap. Physics again. I never understood that concept.
“I can’t do this,” I said to nobody in particular.
“You have to,” said Sasquatch. There’s no other way down.”
I hit the air, the harness locked to the cable and I was off, swifter than a speeding neutrino, screaming, arms in the air, hanging by my thighs and crotch. What part of the word zip didn’t you understand, you moron? God, don’t let me pee!
I started to spin, helpless to right myself, zipping backwards toward the tree platform. “Incoming! Incoming!” I howled, sure I’d wipe out the unfortunate mountain man poised to snag me.
What beautiful tree canopy??? With my eyes shut I could have been zipping over chicken coops in Gumboro. Zooming into the next outpost, hands in a death grip at the harness holds, praying I wouldn’t kill anybody, I wound up suspended in mid air, swinging like a fresh side of beef.
So you see, theories of physics elude me. And as I read more about this neutrino controversy (Neutrinos, good or bad?) I wanted to text Dr. Stephen Hawking and ask WFT?
One scientist wrote “Any physicist worth even a fraction of their weight in neutrinos will be shaking their head, knowing intuitively that the result is simply wrong.”
If I’d been able to calculate my weight in neutrinos I might have reconsidered that whole zip line thing. Was I proud I survived it? Yes. Would I do it again? No way. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.
So here’s my connection to the neutrino caper. If this discovery means the end to the most famous equation of all time, and E actually does not equal MC squared, it means that time travel might be possible.
Holy Michael J.Fox. Time travel. And if so, I’d go right back to the awful day in August, when Bonnie asked me to go on the zip line with her and I’d say “Have a great time, kiddo, I’ll be waiting for you here at the snack bar, having me some supernovas and harmonic convergence.
Evading the zip experience = Me Completely Square, but it would have been worth my weight in honey nut neutrinos.

Let’s face it, vacations are rejuvenating. But not when you’re away from home during THE historic trifecta of environmental events. Rehoboth gets an earthquake, tornado and hurricane and this writer is out of town, out of touch and missing the action.
Luckily, there was not that much action. The earthquake was but a tremble, the hurricane, thankfully, a no-show, and the tornado, while scaring many, mercifully produced no injuries and only property damage. All in all, not bad.
At word of the earthquake I was in a campground in Ogunquit, ME. We felt nary a shiver. Had I been home, I’m sure I would have run out into the street like Jeannette McDonald in San Francisco, shrieking and singing (although in her case, they were one and the same) “Nearer My God to Thee.”
When we got news of impending Hurricane Irene, though, Bonnie decided we should head home a few days early to batten our hatches. When I whined, she suggested I batten my hatch and think about the six foot dolphin on our stoop that could become airborne. Not to mention the gnomes in our kitsch garden.
So the traveling circus, me and Bon, the pups, the RV and the Jeep in tow, lumbered home down I-95 just in time to hear that Reho was being evacuated. Great. With thousands of cars pouring outbound on Route One, this was no time for us to be driving the Hindenburg head-on into the mess.
Quandry. Is there an insane pal along the route willing to harbor us, our dogs and our rolling house for a four-day minimum? Luckily, there was a brave and generous soul in New Jersey. So we headed off road, pulling our convoy into the driveway and descending, like refugees, with two weeks of laundry, two freaked-out dogs and two women fearing for the Reho homefront.
Just like Who Wants to be a Millioniare, I phoned a friend, and she offered to stash my dolphin in the garage and batten whatever other hatches seemed appropriate.
Then, our quartet spent the first day of our double date engaged in grocery store hand-to-hand combat. Too late for toilet paper, bottled water and “D” batteries, we stocked up on critical supplies like wine and chocolate pudding. Then, not homebound yet, we went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’d always wondered how the Tea Party got started.
Over the next three days we stayed glued to the gusting weathercasters. One hapless Jersey anchor reported a Code Gray situation. That seemed a bit, well, bland to us. What’s a Tsunami, Code Beige? Dive! Dive! Dive! It’s Code Taupe!
The reporters did a masterful job of reporting absolutely nothing new for three days running. Wind was coming, water was coming. Code Gray!!!!!
Frankly, I tried to avoid Code Yellow. I know how my dogs hate wind and rain, and feared they would befoul the carpets so I put them in Huggies. Moxie has such a biscuit belly that the Velcro tabs sprung and he looked like he was wearing a tutu. Code Gray Schnauzer plays Black Swan. Imagine his humiliation.

On the Thursday and Friday night before H-Day, my family huddled at home in the RV on the driveway. But by Saturday morning, with ominous tornado warnings afoot, we fled to the brick and mortar house. Our first clue to the severity of the situation was that none of the piercing warning sirens coming from the TV offered the statement “This is not a test.” Tornadoes were spotted all over Delaware, Jersey and points north and they would continue overnight Saturday.
Heeding advice, we ruled out second floor sleeping and pitched base camp in the windowless side of the living room. A sofa and loveseat would do for me and Bon, and we’d bring a blow-up mattress downstairs for our hostesses. Rise of the Planet of the Idiots. Laurel & Hardy should have deflated the inflatable first.
We wrestled the awkward queen size balloon onto its end, coming within millimeters of slicing it in half with the ceiling fan. Lunging to get it out of the way, we nearly put the mattress through the window. By this time we were gasping for air and crying from laugher, sure there’d be a flood, and not from the hurricane.
When we finally slid the amoeba down the staircase and situated it in our make-shift refugee camp it was time to hunker down and say Goodnight, Irene. That’s when we learned that even if you mute the TV, the warning siren does not mute. Tornado be damned, we turned off the television and it was lights out at girl scout camp.
Come dawn, a clown in the group woke us to strains of “There’s Got to Be a Morning After.” Very funny. All was quiet on the western front, as the storm missed us entirely and headed for the unlikely target state of Vermont. The Posiedon was still in place on the driveway and we were all above water.
That’s when the comedy show began. Those poor on-air bastards had been broadcasting live for days and now they were left to report that pretty much nothing at all had happened. News anchors stood in half an inch of water, hairdos akimbo, as gawkers stood off left on perfectly dry land. Talking heads begged people to send photos or video of any storm damage. We had reports of twigs down and umbrellas ruined. Reporters groped for any kind of news.
“Hey, let’s go outside and knock over a tree, we’ll be on the news,” Bonnie said.
Such was the dearth of reportable information.
But that was a good thing. And the fact that the hurricane missed us and Rehoboth was grand news – although several people did call me to report my missing dolphin.
I am not one of the folks who complained about overkill regarding the evacuation, the dire warnings and the calls for preparedness. It’s great to know that city and town governments, all up and down the East Coast, were ready, locked and loaded, to provide bailouts, and this time it was the literal kind.
And ya know, if the BIG ONE, an earthquake, hurricane or tornado had hit, those hypocritical Tea Party Poopers would have been right there in line with us, grubby hands out, waiting for the government to rescue them and provide services.
So I hope it’s bye bye hurricane season real soon. I’m glad Rehoboth was spared and sorry for the devastation up in Vermont.
But the good news is that following the earthquake, hurricane and tornado, I got home just in time for the ensuing pestilence of Labor Day traffic.
This is Fay J. reporting live from the beach. Code Tan.

Let there be light
Without warning, 7:15 p.m., Monday, Aug. 8, was the day the music died. And everything else electronic. We suffered a blackout.
What the heck? Was this an isolated incident to drive me insane or was this blackout community wide?
Outside, our neighbors wandered about, wondering what had stopped their lives in their tracks too. A car pulled up, with friends reporting that all of Route One, from Lewes to Rehoboth was blacked out, traffic running amok, cars playing chicken at darkened signals, horns honking and people cursing.
As the sun quickly set in the West, I panicked. My daily to-do list stood incomplete as Bonnie and I sat quietly in the living room, no hum from the fridge, no TV, no computer, no A/C, dishwasher and laundry mid-cycle, and of course, damn cell phone battery waning. I thought of Simon & Garfunkle. The Sounds of Silence. I didn’t like it one bit.
Well, at first, it was a relaxing little break. Sitting, talking, laughing, enforced tranquility. I never realized the dog snored that loudly. But then it started getting really, really dark in the house, increasingly warm, a bit spooky and on my very last nerve.
Channeling Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark, I rose from my chair, and feeling the walls along with way, went to the bedroom closet to find the battery operated light/radio. Emergency preparedness error: don’t stash the emergency device in the darkest, most inaccessible dungeon in the house.
Borrowing the Braille method to search for the apparatus, I rummaged through purses last used in 1987, discarded brassieres and a surprising number of errant golf balls plopping off the shelf (ow, ow, ow). Of course, once located, the radio was without batteries. So I used the hand crank, swiveling my rotator cuff to kingdom come to produce five minutes of radio reception. And it was only WGMD. I’d rather be in a news blackout.
Meanwhile, Bonnie felt her way to the kitchen, found matches and lit a candle. It had an aroma like a Creamsicle ice cream pop. Pretty soon the house was hotter, only a flicker lighter and smelled like a Good Humor truck had exploded.
Naturally, I started to get the DTs from electronics withdrawal. Couldn’t check e-mail or Facebook. Couldn’t use my dying smart phone, couldn’t write my column, couldn’t watch The Closer (auuggghhhh!), couldn’t do a damn thing but obsess over what I couldn’t do. It was not my finest hour.
“We could play cards by candle light”, Bonnie said.
“You mean cards in your hand, not on the computer?”
“Or, we could go inside and um, nap.”
“Are you kidding? It’s 96 degrees in here.”
“Okay, well just sit there then.”
So I did, wondering what my Facebook friends were saying, curious if I had e-mail, writing my column in my head. I got pen and paper and scribbled without being able to see, most likely scrawling six sentences atop each other, creating indecipherable hieroglyphics.
Proceeding to the powder room, I tripped over a Schnauzer. Then the Schnauzer tripped over another Schnauzer and a fight ensued. I won. Finally, I pawed my way to kitchen for the phone book (remember those?). Between my senior eyesight and the Creamsicle glow I felt like Mary Todd Lincoln proofing the Gettysburg Address.
So I staggered to the antique hard-wired phone and found a dial tone – no lighted dial, mind you, but at least a dial tone. I thought I knew where the numbers were, but first called an exterminator, then an asphalt company, Finally, I rang up Delmarva Power.
“We estimate service to be restored by 11 p.m. We are evaluating the outage in your area.”
Evaluating? If they’re still evaluating, how do they know when the lights will come on? And what are they evaluating? How long it takes to remove a tractor trailer from a light pole? If Glenn Campbell is still a lineman for the county? How many lesbians it takes to change a light bulb?
My mind wandered. How many lesbians does it take to change a light bulb? One to change the light, two to make organic, free range… Check out my pre-vacation column to see why I needed one…..

For Frying Out Loud by Fay Jacobs
Book: For Frying Out Loud – Rehoboth Beach Diaries
Author: Fay Jacobs
Publisher: A&M Books

Oh, jeez, where do I begin?

It seems like every year there’s some movie, album, or book that captures the world’s imagination, and suddenly it’s everywhere. Everyone rushes out to watch, listen, read, or recommend it to anyone that even remotely looks like they might care – and more than a few that clearly don’t.

There’s Oscar buzz. There’s Grammy buzz. Ooh, yeah, there’s that coveted spot in Oprah’s Book Club.

I find, more often than not, that when this mass adulation occurs, I should run the other direction as fast as my size 6 1/2s can take me. Why? Three Words: Glengarry. Glen. Ross. Yeah, that’s the “astonishing”, “spectacular” 1992 Oscar nominee that starred Pacino, Lemmon, Baldwin, Arkin, Harris and Altman.

It’s also the cinematic marvel that conscripted more than 100 minutes of my life into the darkest trenches of Hell, and convinced me that I’d rather play patty cake with a methed up badger than sit through one single minute of it again. Ever.

So, imagine the emotional roller coaster ride I went through when Fay Jacobs sent me a truly lovely email saying she’d read the blog, and wondered if I’d consider doing a review of a few items from A&M Books. It went a bit like this:

Fay Jacobs sent me an email (whoot, fist pump)
Oh, God! She wants me to review her book (Munch’s Scream face)
Everyone says it’s great (happy dance, booty shake)
Everyone says it’s great (Glengarry Glen Ross scream face)

It went on like that for another stomach sloshing two and a half minutes, but ultimately I knew I had to read her book and give Ms. Jacobs a fair and honest opinion.

I also knew it probably wouldn’t hurt if I started planning a post book review blogging life . . . maybe something safe, like chicken sexing.

For Frying Out Loud – Rehoboth Beach Diaries by Fay Jacobs is a jaunty little collection of essays and soliloquies that covers her day-to-day life in Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach and the world beyond. No topic or bodily function is sacred, as she takes on politics, intolerance, LGBT history, technology, transportation, rendered meat products, demon dog sitting, simple home repair, NSAIDs, and chilled adult beverages. Each entry, regardless of its subject matter, is approached with refreshing honesty, a healthy dose of self-deprecation, and enough mirth to make your face hurt from smiling by the time it’s done.

I am impressed with Ms. Jacobs’ mastery of colloquial writing. That is to say, her ability to tell each story in a simple, engaging way that makes the reader feel like she’s sitting across the table sharing stories as the margaritas flow faster and faster. The essays are tight, focused, and refreshingly didactic without being judgmental or haughty; and the subject matter is often familiar, because many of us have had the same general experiences, observations, and conversations – we’ve just never managed to do it with the wit, flair, and je ne sais quoi that Ms. Jacobs and her merry band of Rehomos achieve time and again.

So, admittedly, going into this, I was more than a little nervous that For Frying Out Loud was going to be one of those books that didn’t live up to all the hype and hoopla. However, I can assure you, that thinking is completely off base. The book is fun and fabulous, it’s classy and heartwarming, and it manages to remind us that we’re all in this together.

Now, if I can only convince Fay and Bonnie to hire me as their dog walking, Cosmo shaking, GPS translating, Cabana girl . . .

So, everything you’ve heard is true – Fay Jacobs and For Frying Out Loud are a two-for-one American treasure. In my opinion, the madcap Ms. Jacobs deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Mike Roykos and Dave Berrys of the world. For Frying Out Loud gets a lip-smacking 5.4 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale – it’s delightfully bent and bawdy, and chock full of whimsy, but a girl can still learn a lot from it.

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Labels: A and M Books, Fay Jacobs, For Frying Out Loud

I met a fairy today who said she would grant me one wish.
“I want to live forever,” I said.
“Sorry,” said the fairy, “I’m not allowed to grant wishes like that!”
“Fine,” I said, “then I want to die after Congress get their headsout of their asses!”
“You crafty bastard,” said the fairy.

A great review for my friend Bob Smith’s new novel! “Remembrance of Things I Forgot is a beautifully written and well-paced comic sci-fi extravaganza, a true page turner yet pregnant with deep social and human insight.”

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. – Roseanne Barr
Well, I’m takin’ it!

Sometimes you get a wake-up call….

I apologize in advance, because this blog is not funny.

It’s about shock, sadness, some understandable complacency, perhaps a premature victory lap and the specter of a man riding around with a white sheet on his head.
The phone rang several hours ago and a man asked for me by name,
“I’m Fay Jacobs,” I said.

He asked if I was the one who wrote the letter to the editor using the term “traditional family values” being code for anti-gay. It was the letter about the Mayor, he said.

I knew exactly what letter it was. It was one in which I expressed disappointment that in the Washington Blade, Rehoboth’s Mayor Cooper was quoted as wanting to keep “establishments from spoiling Rehoboth’s status and tradition as a family-oriented vacation destination.” I don’t even think the Mayor meant it as anti-gay. I think it was meant to express his concern about loud music and noisy bars. But I did want to make the point that “family-oriented” is often used as code for anti-gay and we should be past having the Mayor use the coded phrase, however inadvertently, when discussing Rehoboth Beach.

I told the caller that I wrote that letter and he began explaining, rather quietly, that I was an enemy of the United States for pushing the homosexual agenda, demeaning the tradition of one man and one woman and how dare I demean family values.

”You are a disgusting person who, along with all the homosexuals in town, ruined Rehoboth Beach. I am going to do everything within my power to protect my children from the likes of you and those disgusting homosexuals in Rehoboth, even the ones who think that they have won their rights and convinced some politicians to put forth the dangerous homosexual agenda.”

I was so stunned I couldn’t even hang up. I quietly asked him his name and, of course, he refused to give it to me, and continued with his scary, quiet conversation that so frightened me I almost threw up.

I asked if he lived here and he intimated that he did. He just kept talking and I don’t remember much of what else he said, because I was numb.

I asked him why, since I was proud to share my views in a public forum like a Letters to the Editor column, he did not answer my letter with his own views, attributed to him, in the newspaper. He told me he just wanted to talk to me personally so I would understand that this will not be tolerated. I told him that calling anonymously was cowardice.

I told him I felt very sad that his gay neighbors frightened him so badly that he had to seek me out on the phone to call me names anonymously and denigrate me and so many, many other Rehoboth residents as well.

He protested that he wasn’t frightened and I shouldn’t think that gay people in Rehoboth have gotten away with anything – that there are people out there that won’t let this town be destroyed by sick homosexuals and that we should all seek therapy and try to change. You are an enemy of the United States, he repeated and you will not win, he was very, very quietly threatening. I said I was sad that he didn’t value and learn from the diversity around him, and hung up.

We couldn’t get a *69 number as he was a “private caller.” Of course he was.

I called Steve Elkins at CAMP Rehoboth and told him what had happened. He was horribly upset as well, counseling that if he called again, it might be considered stalking and the police might be able to trace the call. Steve told me that in all the years he has been a public figure with CAMP, he has never had a phone call like that. Anonymous letters, yes, but not a call.

I’d never received anything like this either, even with my more that 20 years as an openly gay writer and gay rights advocate.

So I called the police and reported the incident. The State Trooper I spoke with was very saddened to hear the story and sympathetic, but of course, we both knew there was nothing to be done. The anonymous call itself was not any kind of a crime….

Further calls might be harassment or stalking and the officer gave me a case number should I hear from the man again. He figured I would not.

Needless to say, the incident set me and Bonnie on edge and ruined the night.

But it told me a few important things.

First, like Klansmen riding around in their hoods, there are people here who have to hide while spreading their vicious hatred;

Second, some of us, myself included, might be a little too complacent about our freedoms here. It reminded me why CAMP Rehoboth was formed in the first place and why it is so important for CAMP to continue sensitivity training programs, outreach to the greater community, and efforts to make friends and stop bullying, hate-speech, hate crimes and plain old bigotry. Dances and art shows are nice, but CAMP is so much more than the fun stuff;

Next, it makes me urge those of you reading this who are not CAMP Rehoboth members, to join up please – or join the GLBT organizatiuons in your town. Your membership dues fund the important work of making it safe and welcoming for us here in this community. You can join online at Do it now if you can.

And finally, this incident, rather than make me cower and hide, makes me more determined than ever to be out, proud and working for equality. There are so many gay people, along with our straight but not narrow allies, who live here, embrace Rehoboth’s diversity and know we are all better for it.