Trailer park confessions: A Florida author exposes gay campiness

Trailer park confessions: A Florida author exposes gay campiness

Sawmill Campground meets the Parliament House in William Sievert’s new mystery novel, Sawdust Confessions. When he and his partner were first forced to live in a dilapidated trailer 10 years ago, Sievert knew there was excellent fodder for a story.

“I began envisioning a story about two urbane guys accustomed to gourmet restaurants, lavish travel and a gracious lifestyle, who act on their impulse to leave the city behind for the simplicity of rural trailer life,” Sievert says. “Sort of a gay Green Acres.”

After many trips to Dade City’s Sawmill Campground, he explains that living campground life was yet another source of inspiration for story-telling.

“Gay campgrounds are wonderful places to unwind—even though in my farcical tale everyone gets wound up pretty tight,” Sievert says.

Sievert_639298332.jpgSawdust Confessions explores the lives of the residents of a bucolic campground-like trailer park in Florida. The zany occupants include Phillip and Franklin, the innocent newcomer couple; Rusty Rhodes, a drag queen cabaret singer who is in the midst of gender reassignment; Diana DeLight, the social director who lured Rusty to the campground in order to manipulate her many talents; and Father Jack Hoff, the unofficial campground chaplain who hears late-night confessions in his patio tool shed.

At a time when imaginative, humorous and credible stories about LGBT people are few and far between, this breezy, conversation-driven novel delivers—for all kinds of readers. When resident drag queen Dusty disappears in the middle of a special performance, suspicion quickly falls upon the trailer-dwelling residents of Grape Court. Among the usual suspects are camp director Diana, whom Dusty has had grievances with; Mary Angelique, a former nun; and Philip and Franklin.

The secrecy and hilarity ensue when everyone at the camp does not want the cops to come investigate. The members of Grape Court (aka the Sour Grapes) hide information from the deputy sheriff, aided by a group of make-believe policemen who arrive and begin to worship each other. Learning to go beyond suspicion and to respect one another’s differences is the more serious message at the heart of the Sievert’s story.

Since publishing in February, Sawdust Confessions has received multiple rave reviews, Including one from the T-Cops Dispatch, a national online publication for the Transgender Community of Police and Sheriffs. The group appreciated his portrayal of police officers and major transgender characters.

Sievert’s characters and setting spark familiarity with quite a few of his readers.  However, to the disappointment of some of his friends who hoped they would be portrayed, the characters are purely imaginary.

“They’re larger-than-life archetypes of people we’ve all known,” Seivert says. “I wanted them to be representative of the diversity you’ll find in many of our LGBT campgrounds as well as in our community as a whole—from skinny boy clones to uniform-worshipping bears, from strong-willed women to determined transgender folks.”

In regard to the uncanny similarity of the book title to a certain campground here in Florida, Sievert replies, “there is an affectionate tip of the hat to Sawmill, but none of the experiences or events in the book took place anywhere outside of my head.”

The Florida-based writer/journalist has referenced his Louisville Ky. grassroots background throughout most of his writing career. For more than a decade, he has contributed a continuing column on gay issues and humorous topics, including his trailer experiences, called “CAMPtalk,” to the magazine Letters from CAMP Rehoboth in Delaware. He also worked with that LGBT community-service group as director of its state-funded AIDS education and awareness project, CAMPsafe, in the late 1990s.

Before that, Sievert was the publicity director of the hit play Trailer Trash Tabloid, which had a long run at Parliament House starring Michael Wanzie and Doug Ba’aser.

Sievert has reported extensively on LGBT-related news and culture for four decades, including coverage of pivotal events of the post-Stonewall gay liberation era for Rolling Stone, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Mother Jones. His articles have appeared in numerous newspapers, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Louisville Courier-Journal.

Sievert’s first book, All for the Cause: Campaign Buttons for Social Change, made Lambda Rising’s bestseller list. The book is a historical account of how the progressive social movements of the 1960s-1980s, from the causes of civil rights and peace to women’s and gay rights, enhanced one another. The book is lavishly illustrated with historical buttons from the era. He also co-invented and co-wrote the popular game “Gay Trivia” for Whitehall Games in the 1980s.

In recent years, Sievert has written on LGBT subject matter for magazines including Orlando Arts and Orlando Weekly. He was also Editor-in-Chief of the national Sunshine Artist Magazine and co-founder/editor of PULSE, a local arts and cultural magazine in Lake County.

Now residing in Mt. Dora with his spouse of 37 years, John Theis, Sievert is working on his next novel, Someday People, which is a politically angry young man’s coming-out story. It was intended to be his first novel, but Sievert says, “it still needs some work.”

His in-depth interview with Harvey Milk, originally published by The Advocate during Milk’s successful campaign for San Francisco Supervisor back in 1977, will be included in the forthcoming book and DVD package, The Harvey Milk Interviews: In His Own Words, to be released early this fall.

Fans will get a chance to meet the writer at the upcoming Gay Days Expo, June 3–5. Just look for the giant airstream mural.

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