Kirk Read Wins 1st Open Door Contest


By Neal Comment

kirk-read-headshot.jpgBack in October, we told you about the Open Door Project, a literary contest for gay male writers launched by former Avalon Publishing Group editor Don Weise and other editors who had pioneered the mainstreaming of gay literature in the late ’80s and ’90s. More than 250 gay men (none of whom had ever published a book of fiction before) submitted entries, and the winner—announced yesterday—was Kirk Read (right), a San Francisco-based performance artist and HIV counselor who is also the author of the memoir How I Learned to Snap. (Jurors for the prize included Christopher Bram, Alexander Chee, Samuel R. Delany, Dennis Cooper, Robert Gluck, E. Lynn Harris, Scott Heim, Andrew Holleran, David Leavitt, Stephen McCauley, Dale Peck, and John Weir.)

“From the first few sentences of his story it’s clear that Kirk is a writer with a voice all his own,” Weise commented. “The judging committee as a group agreed, consistently singling out the originality of Kirk’s voice but also his deft handling of humor, dialogue, character development, as well as his explicit yet intelligent use of sex as an integral part of the story. I’m thrilled to have such a fresh and uninhibited talent as the first recipient of the Open Door award.” Read will collect his prize—a trip to New York City where he’ll meet with editors and agents, plus a public reading and a private reception—next January, and Weise hopes the contest will become an annual event: “Enough complaining about how hard the business is, especially for marginalized groups like gay writers. I hear all about that a lot but seldom do I ever hear anything about people being proactive and actually doing something constructive to correct the problem. That’s our mission at the moment.”