Wednesday, April 12, 2017

“Love in the Trenches” in Dublin

World War I Photo
This month marks the centenary of the entrance of the United States into World War One. I am disappointed – though not surprised – at the paucity of Stateside commemorations of this pivotal moment in our history. It appears 21st-century America is a nation of citizens whose collective memory, unfortunately, is as short as their attention spans.

By contrast, Europe continues to mark The Great War with a series of events that will continue through November 11, 2018, the 100-year anniversary of the final day of that bloody conflict.

International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival Logo
To cite one example, later this month, my spouse, actor-singer Chuck Muckle, will join me as we travel to Ireland to participate in the opening seminar of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. The two-week Festival, now in its 14th year, is the largest theatrical event of its kind in the world. Each year it opens with a seminar on a particular topic. This year’s theme is the First World War, and Chuck and I were deeply honored by the invitation to take part.

Here’s the program’s official description of the event, called “Love in the Trenches”:

“1917, the USA entered World War 1, bringing the European crisis to a global level. This war to end all wars wiped out a generation of young men, and thrust naive young women and men from their sheltered, innocent lives onto the battlefields of Europe. Poets such as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen & Rupert Brooke left us vivid accounts of the horrors of war and the hope that endured. Featuring Flower of Iowa by Lance Ringel, a panel of international speakers will reflect on the impact of this ‘lost generation,’ and the few lesbian & gay love stories that blossomed in the horrors of the trenches that have survived one hundred years on.”
International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival Program

As part of the seminar, Chuck and I will offer a 45-minute dramatized reading from my WW1 novel Flower of Iowa. This presentation, which has been well-received by audiences across the United States and in London, features Chuck reading the role of American soldier Tommy Flowers, and myself narrating while also reading the part of his buddy, British soldier David Pearson. (You can read a short description of the novel here.) It also includes Chuck performing songs that gained international popularity during World War I, such as  “Over There” and “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary.”

Lance Ringel and Chuck Muckle

International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival Cover Photo
Our reading in the Dublin seminar coincides not only with the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into the Great War, but also with the third anniversary of Flower of Iowa’s release. I am delighted – and rather humbled – that the novel is still going so strong. It is available for download here.

“Love in the Trenches” will take place on Sunday, April 30, beginning at 2:30 p.m. Irish time, at The Teachers’ Club, located at 36 Parnell Square West, Dublin. Admission is free.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Flower of Iowa marches on...

As Veterans Day 2016 approaches, I am happy to share some encouraging new developments concerning my historical novel Flower of Iowa.

While two and a half years have passed since my book was first published, interest in this epic tale of World War I has never flagged; I still receive download order requests.

At this time of year, as the holiday once known as Armistice Day draws near, public interest in the war that irrevocably transformed the entire world resurges.

Several recent developments relating to my novel reaffirm that resurgence:

Unexpectedly and without any publicity, Flower of Iowa rebounded back onto the Smashwords best-seller lists this past month. It was briefly perched in the Top 10 on both the Gay Fiction and Historical Fiction lists — and still remains in the Top 20 of both as of this writing. It’s astounding and humbling news for an eBook that was initially released in May of 2014.

On the Air in New England: 
My spouse, actor-singer Chuck Muckle and I appeared on the Northern Berkshire Community Television program “Solutions Rising,” speaking with host Rachel Branch about Flower of Iowa, with the two of us reading selections from the book and Chuck providing appropriate WW1 music. 

The appearance was a direct result of our reading before Rainbow Seniors last year in Williamstown, Mass., which Rachel had attended. The program is currently being broadcast across western Massachusetts and southern Vermont at multiple times on various stations. When it is available for viewing on the web, we will post the link.

2016 Symposium:
This week, I am heading to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend the annual Symposium at The National WWI Museum and Memorial. 

I was there for this event two of the last three years; it was bracing to be part of a group with such a keen interest in The Great War, and to hear from distinguished scholars who offered new perspectives on the conflict. I expect this year’s edition to be equally illuminating.

The Tenth Voice:
While in Kansas City, I have been invited to appear on a local radio show, “The Tenth Voice” (on KKFI 90.1 FM), to discuss the legacy of World War I, the importance of recovering and remembering gay history, and how it took two decades of research to write Flower of Iowa.

“The Tenth Voice” is "the Kansas City area’s only weekly broadcast created by and for LGBTQIA people in our community." I look forward to my interview with host Philip Hooser, scheduled live for 1:00 PM CDT on Saturday, November 5, before I head back home.

PLEASE NOTE: When the interview segment has been posted to the KKFI website, I will post the link here. Be sure to revisit this page within the next week!

SAGEVets Reading:
To round out what promises to be an emotional Veterans Day observation, Chuck and I will be offering our dramatized reading of Flower of Iowa for a very special group on Thursday, November 15, in New York City.

Our hosts will be SAGEVets.

SAGEVets has an important mandate: It is a partnership between SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and the Veterans Justice/LGBT Projects of Legal Services NYC to help older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are military service veterans improve their access to VA benefits and their overall health and wellness.

The reading, which is free and open to the public, will take place at SAGE Center Midtown, located at 305 Seventh Avenue (between 27th and 28th Streets), on the 15th floor, on Thursday, November 15, from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m.

My deepest thanks to everyone who has been inspired by Flower of Iowa and to those who keep the book selling. If you still have yet to read it and would like get to know some memorable characters (so says Kirkus Reviews, not just me!), here’s one final sales pitch: You can easily download Flower of Iowa from Smashwords to your Kindle by clicking here. To download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer, click here. For Nook users, please click here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Lance and Chuck's Veterans Day Events

On Saturday, November 14, Lance and Chuck gave their reading with music of Flower of Iowa to an attentive and enthusiastic audience from the Silver Connections LGBT seniors group at The Loft in White Plains, New York. 

The Loft had held a very successful fundraiser the night before, and one of the items at the lunch that accompanied the Silver Connections meeting was a bag of limited-edition Rainbow Doritos that had fetched $200 at silent auction.

Western Massachusetts became the latest setting for a reading (with music) from Flower of Iowa on Tuesday, November 17, as Lance and Chuck traveled to Williamstown for a presentation to the Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County. 

The event, in conjunction with Veterans Day, featured a highly responsive audience from the new and fast-growing group, one of several such gatherings springing up in the scenic and lively Berkshires region.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Seldom-Told Stories: The Great War

The first place I started research on Flower of Iowa, back in the 1990s, was the huge public library on Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, New York, where I was then living. When I went to the card catalogue (younger readers may have to look up that term), to my surprise, all entries for “World War I” were redirected to “European War, 1914-1918.” 

In someone’s considered estimation, the seminal conflict of the 20th century was a localized European affair.

National World War I Museum and Memorial That jarring thought came back to me this past weekend, when I attended the 2015 Symposium at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.  Two days before this year’s Symposium, the museum had welcomed its second-largest one-day crowd since its 2006 reopening, thanks to its strategic location during the hometown Royals’ World Series victory celebration.

Presenter at the 2015 Symposium at the National World War I Museum and Memorial2015 Symposium at the National World War I Museum and MemorialThe Symposium presentations underscored how thoroughly the Great War was, in fact, a World War. Compelling presenters, focusing on 1915, offered all-too-seldom-told stories: of the Eastern Front, where far more territory exchanged hands in a year than on the Western Front in four – with one result being the mass migration of some 5 million civilian refugees (sound familiar?); of Japan’s involvement in the war, arguably the original “pivot to Asia”; of the impact of the little-known fighting in German East Africa (today’s Tanzania).

The Eastern Front WWI

The Eastern Front WWI

The Eastern Front WWI

Particular attention was given to the war in the Middle East in this, the centennial year of Gallipoli – a military fiasco that Flower of Iowa’s Aussie sergeant Jamie Colbeck gives a harrowing account of surviving. Chuck and I visited Gallipoli four years ago; I can still remember standing on the beach, looking up at the cliffs and marveling, “What were they thinking, landing troops here?”
WWI monument at Gallipoli

Gallipoli today is notable for a monument that bears the amazing words attributed to Mustafa Kemal, who led the Ottoman troops in repelling the Australian/New Zealander/British invasion in 1915 and, as Atatürk, president of Turkey, is quoted as saying nearly 20 years later:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.  Therefore rest in peace.  There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.  After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
We rightly honor all American veterans on this day. But it is right, too, to remember Atatürk’s incredibly generous and eloquent words, which by extension pay tribute to those on all sides who died in the conflict that did, indeed, engulf the world. We pause to commemorate the official end of that war, on November 11, 1918 — 97 years ago today.