David Powers King is a friend I've known since middle school. My heart ached to learn that his long-anticipated novel, "Woven," had been pulled by its publisher. And why was it pulled? Because of a single word denoting homosexuality in his co-author's bio.
He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs.
That last line of co-author Michael Jensen's bio was the catalyst for being abruptly dropped from their publishing deal with Cedar Fort. The small publisher, operating out of Utah, was to release the young adult fantasy novel under their national market imprint, Sweetwater Books. It was due for release this October.
But just days before print, Michael was reviewing a proof of the cover art and noticed the final sentence of his bio had been omitted. Thinking it may have been a mistake, he contacted Cedar Fort's acquisitions editor, who explained that they would not allow it to be printed in his bio that he lives with a man. Michael proposed the more gender-neutral word "partner" instead. Cedar Fort claimed that either word would get the book censored by their affiliate sellers, Deseret Book and Seagull Book, which are both owned by the LDS church.
David's bio made reference to his wife and children, so Michael thought it sensible to include similar details in his own. Yet Cedar Fort insisted that if they were to publish the book, that line would have to be omitted. The authors agreed to stand by their principles and refused to back down. Even though the publisher had known Michael was gay from the beginning, and even though "Woven" revolves around a heterosexual romance, Cedar Fort chose to renege. David and Michael were shocked.
"It came down to being true to myself, I just couldn't lie because they wanted me to lie, and I couldn't omit certain truths just because it made them feel comfortable," Michael told KUTV local news. "If they didn't want to print the bio of an author who happened to be gay, then they shouldn't have signed an author who happened to be gay."
Though a member of the LDS church himself, David has been in full support of his co-author and feels this incident is an erroneous representation of the Mormon community. "I know plenty of people in the Mormon community who do not agree with the decision that Cedar Fort has made," said David.
Adding insult to injury, the publisher threatened to retain all rights to the book, saying it would cost the authors thousands of dollars to buy back ownership. At one point, they even threatened to publish Woven without the authors attached at all. However, in the end, they were forced to return all manuscript rights to Michael and David.
It's tragic that even in the arts, we see biases, judgments, and inequalities. "A lot of aspirations, a lot of energy, years of work have gone into this, and for it to be shot down for just one word, it's a shame," said Michael. But in the uprising of angry blog posts, forum responses, and even cable news coverage, "Woven" is certain to find a new home before long. New York Times bestselling author Larry Correia blogged his outrage, and Fox 13 also aired a segment on the controversy. Many are saying Michael and David should go forward via independent publishing to rake in more royalties. And all agree that this debacle has already brought them a massive media boost, ensuring that the book will sell far better than it would have with their small (and small-minded) publisher.
As a final note, let's all submit our manuscripts to Cedar Fort, making sure that our spouses, better halves, and significant others are listed only as "partner."