Photo credit: Ryan Leitner.

Robert Fieseler is the winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award, its prize for an LGBTQ writer who has published at least one book but not more than two.

Fieseler’s debut, Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, was published by Liveright in 2018; it won the Edgar Award and the Louisiana Literary Award, was shortlisted for the Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and was a finalist for the Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction. Fieseler won Lambda Literary Foundation’s Judith Markovitz Emerging Writer Award as well. He is currently working on his second queer history book, which received a Silvers Foundation work-in-progress grant. He graduated co-valedictorian from the Columbia Journalism School and lives with his husband in New Orleans.

In accepting the Berzon Award, Fieseler highlighted the role of hand-selling in making his book a success: “Thank you to the three independent bookstores who lovingly hand-sold nearly 15 percent of all first edition hardcover copies of my debut book, which allowed me to continue doing this professionally: Anderson’s Bookshop in my childhood home of Naperville, Illinois; Octavia Books in New Orleans; and East End Books in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Buy your books from them and not from the Evil Empire, folks. I am forever grateful to these stores.”

He also took note of his peers: “Thank you to my fellow emerging writers who know the struggle, who balance that awful financial equation to make the writing work, who wear borrowed tuxes and dresses to national awards ceremonies only to return to the dark apartments where we can’t afford to pay the light bills. The struggle is real. Thank you for all of the sacrifices you make to birth your beautiful books into a world that needs them. Generations of queer voices hear you and cling to your truths.”

The Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award, first presented by the Publishing Triangle in 2017, is sponsored by Berzon’s widow, Teresa DeCrescenzo. Fieseler will receive a prize of $1500 with this award. Watch Fieseler’s full acceptance speech below or on YouTube.