A small gathering of the literary community provided a powerful evening at the first Words Project for AIDS awards dinner.
The 8-month-old organization gave awards to writers for their outstanding works on the subject of AIDS and raised money for the human-service programs of AIDS Project Los Angeles.
About 100 people turned out for the event Monday night at the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel, including Words Project co-founders Eric Latzky and Mallory Tarcher Dougherty, who were also co-chairs.
“We believe that literary people, the people who read and write, might be the one group with the greatest singular power to instruct and to teach,” said Latzky, a fiction writer. “The message we want to send out is that people in the publishing industry have gotten involved with this, and everyone can do what they do best. This is an industry that has an effect on the population. There’s even a very simple message that a literature of AIDS exists.”
Latzky and Dougherty, a publicist, met at a women’s literary club, and both shared a desire to do something to get the literary community involved with AIDS awareness.
The awards, which grew out of an early plan to give a reading, were presented in fiction/poetry and nonfiction categories. A special recognition category cited scholarly works and social commentary, children’s AIDS literature and AIDS care-givers’ literature.
“Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog” by Paul Monette, published by Stonewall Inn Editions of St. Martin’s Press, won for best fiction/poetry, and “AIDS: The Women,” edited by Ines Rieder and Patricia Ruppelt and published by Cleis Press, received the nonfiction award.
“The elegies are very raw, very angry and hard,” Monette said about his book, written after the death of his lover, Roger Horwitz. “I tried to reflect the pain and grief; there was no distance from it at all.”
Monette had written poetry in his 20s, only to give it up for fiction and screenplays. “When the real pain of Roger hit me,” he said, “I went back to poetry. I feel so glad it’s down, but sometimes I’m embarrassed by the intensity and the emotion of it. It’s ironic to be in black tie accepting a prize for a book that is so full of pain. But life is full of ironies. And I want people to be touched.”
Rieder and Ruppelt were not able to make it to the awards because of a book tour, but co-publisher Frederique Delacoste had driven from San Francisco that day to attend the dinner.
“We wanted the book to be a forum not only for women afflicted with AIDS,” she said, “but women who are care-givers as well. It’s important to give a face to these women.”
Among the guests were WPA advisory board member Michael Dougherty, publisher Jeremy P. Tarcher, Michael Cart of library and community services of Beverly Hills, BettyClare Moffatt of IBS Press and Mothers of AIDS Persons, Robert Welsch and Liz Williams of J. P. Tarcher Inc., Amy Scholder of City Lights Publishers in San Francisco, attorneys Stephen Kramer and Jeffrey Pugh, Ira Silverberg of Grove Press, Miriam Bass of Crown Books, Joan Singleton of Lone Eagle Productions, Elena Irving who designed the awards (glass sculptures) and David Wexler, chairman of APLA. Shari Lewis served as emcee.
Also on hand were members of the awards selection committee: Jack Miles, book editor of the Los Angeles Times; Gregory Kolovakos of the New York State Council on the Arts; Silverberg; Scholder and Sasha Alyson of Alyson Publications.