Affection for Trailers Spurs Sawdust Confessions
Maybe it’s genetic. When my elder niece and her kids visited last month, we took a boat cruise through a local wilderness area where we excitedly spotted a variety of exotic birds, ducks and turtles. Still, my niece’s most vocal moment of delight came at the sighting of a cluster of vintage waterfront mobile homes, one festooned with a garden of gnomes, another featuring a miniature lighthouse with Hummel figurines ringing its catwalk. Although she’s not particularly fond of statuettes, she gushed, “Ooh, I could be very happy living in a place like this.” And I completely concurred.
John and I have long been attracted to old-school trailers—not contemporary double or triple wide modular models, but tiny Airstreams and the like. On more than one occasion, we have occupied such downwardly mobile dwellings. The first time was a decade ago in Rehoboth Beach when our real house sold too fast and we had to vacate for the new owners. Summer was nearing, and the only affordable accommodation remaining on the rental market was a miniscule, mildewed trailer near the Rehoboth Mall, a dwelling for which the word dump would have been too generous a description.
Still, the experience did not deter us in our desire to purchase a cute—preferably “adorable”—trailer that we could call our own. And (as long-time readers of this column may recall) a few years later we acquired one to use as a getaway at a gay campground in Florida. For two years, we spent as much time there as possible, soaking up the culture as heatedly as the humidity. We even flirted with the possibility of scaling back our possessions and moving into our trailer permanently. Our biggest concern was where we would put all of our art and collectibles. We joked that we’d have to trade our Roseville pottery and our antique windup toys for a collection of painted thimbles.
Ultimately, we decided that thimbles were not our “thing” and we truly enjoyed having a home with multiple bathrooms and a wall wide enough for a wide-screen television. But our trailer experiences did set my sense of fantasy to flight, and I began concocting a story about the surprises that might be in store for two guys who decided to leave the urban rat race to live full-time in a rural, seemingly tranquil queer campground. So, with John’s sardonic contributions (the idea for the drug cart-el was his), the concept for my new comic mystery novel Sawdust Confessions was hatched. And it began something like this:
Franklin and Philip had not intended to play bingo the day they moved into their Airstream. They were exhausted from six hours of unloading the contents of their minivan and a rental truck that had more square feet of space than their trailer.
“Piss-poor planning on our parts,” Franklin whined as he carried another box of kitchen utensils back to the van. “I found a place for the crock pot, but the wok and the Lean Mean Grilling Machine will have to go to storage.”
“Here, take these, too.” Philip tossed a pile of bath towels onto the box. “We’re just going to have to do laundry more often. I can only squeeze six towels into the linen compartment.”
“Are we having fun yet?” asked nosy neighbor Jack, a plastic chalice of wine in his hand.
Franklin grimaced. “I don’t think we have any room for fun.”…
From the outset, I wanted the story to be an irreverently funny send-up of gay typecasts, yet to represent the delicious diversity of people one would likely meet during an extended stay at an LGBT resort. That meant creating a large cast featuring transgender and bisexual characters as well as lesbians and gay men; young singles as well as settled couples; free spirits as well as torturously troubled souls. I also wanted the characters to ring a bell of affectionate familiarity even though you might not approve of all of their behaviors. And I set out to craft a situation—the disappearance of the campground’s beloved resident diva—that would fill each of those characters with apprehension, providing ample opportunity for melodrama (or, as I like to call it, “mellow drama”). Ultimately, the book becomes something of a morality play about the need for tolerance of differences within our own community and forgiveness.
While Sawdust Confessions is one of the rare works of fiction in which every significant character is L, G, B or T, the book (in its early weeks of release) has received positive responses from many non-gay readers as well as its prime affinity groups. The judges of Amazon/Penguin Books’ Breakthrough Novel Award have moved it through to their second round of review. Straight women especially seem to enjoy it, among them a grandmother whose online review describes it as “a fun romp in the woods.” To me, that’s a perfect summary of what I’ve attempted to achieve.
I am very pleased to report that Sawdust Confessions already has cracked amazon.com’s chart of the 100 Best Selling Gay/Lesbian Fiction titles. And I won’t be satisfied until it outsells Glenn Beck.
Also, I am very excited to announce that Sawdust Confessions will have its own booth in the Expo for this year’s Gay Days at the theme parks in Orlando June 3-6. We’re planning to recreate a miniature campground— complete with trailer—inside the booth, so if you’re coming to Gay Days, remember to stop by and play with us.
Please pardon my indulgence in touting my own book in this month’s column but, what the heck, someone has to do it. Besides, some of you have been along for this long ride ever since Letters from CAMP Rehoboth published excerpts from my earliest draft of the novel nearly three years ago. Some of you dear readers were the first to provide me feedback, and I’ll always be grateful for your encouragement.
I truly love the quirky people who populate the Sawdust Pines campground and trailer park, and I’d be thrilled to share their Confessions with you.
In appreciation of Letters readers, if you order a copy of Sawdust Confessions on my website, which is at http://billsievert.blogspot.com, or through amazon.com, I will donate 20 percent of the $14.95 cover price to CAMP Rehoboth. When you place your credit card order on my blog, simply note in the message line that you’re a CAMP Rehoboth fan. If you order on amazon.com, please drop me an email mentioning your order; my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether it’s at one of the nation’s 95 LGBT campgrounds (you can find a directory at www.campgayusa.com) or with CAMP Rehoboth in Delaware, keep on campin’ everyone! The trails and trailers await you. Bill Sievert can be reached on Facebook as William Sievert.