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Topher Payne: Discovering a gift from my Mama, two decades later

Playwright and writer Topher PayneJesus and I celebrate our birthdays 12 days apart, which bugged the heck out of me as a child. My sister’s birthday hit in September, unfettered by other distractions. Me, not so much.

I got presents wrapped in Christmas paper. There’d be a card attached that read, “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday,” which would have been fine if it was a car or something, but a Magic 8 Ball simply cannot be called two gifts. And then, around age 10, my mother got the bright idea to combine my birthday party with my friend Alex, because his birthday was at the beginning of the month, and “everyone gets so busy around the holidays.”

It was hard enough being the opening act for Jesus. Now I’d been demoted to playing on a double-bill. I felt like an aging cabaret star, slowly losing all the choice timeslots. I hadn’t even hit puberty, and I was already turning into a late-career Ann Jillian. “Who’s Ann Jillian?” you ask, proving my point.

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Outwrite woes part of national trend for LGBT bookstores

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While popular with authors and LGBT Atlantans, Outwrite has publicly struggled financially. This morning, the gay bookstore announced it would close at its current location at the corner of 10th and Piedmont and try to relocate. The store's financial problems echo a trend for bookstores around the nation.

A press release from Outwrite owner Philip Rafshoon said he is looking for a new location and noted that the current space, which anchors the corner that is often referred to as the epicenter of gay Atlanta, was just too expensive.

"Our landlord has been extremely cooperative and has worked with us longer than expected. Our departure is amicable," he wrote. "The bottom line is simply we can no longer afford to rent this desirable space regardless of what business model we try to engage."

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Topher Payne: The story of our settlement and first Thanksgiving

Playwright and writer Topher PayneFour years ago this week, Preppy and I closed on our house. Two days later, someone broke in, trashed the place, and made off with a good portion of our electronics.

At the time, we blamed hooligans, but seeing as we never had trouble with the criminal element in the years that followed, I have decided that the real culprit was probably our 60 year-old schizophrenic neighbor, Crazypants. She was just trying to scare us off, like an old coot on Scooby Doo trying to make everybody think the amusement park is haunted.

We were still a little shaken from the experience the following week, so I decided we needed an event on which to focus that would give us happy home memories as quickly as possible. I announced we would be hosting an Old Fashioned Thanksgiving.

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Memoir takes humorous look at women’s sexual fluidity

Elena Azzoni is a lesbian who finds herself sexually attracted to men

It’s hard to believe that such a funny book would stir up any controversy, but author Elena Azzoni has managed it with her new memoir, “A Year Straight: Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Lesbian Beauty Queen.”

Penned by a “Miss Lez” pageant winner who then got the hots for her male yoga teacher, the book is full of humor, observations about dating both genders, poetic moments and a conclusion that any reader will know isn’t really going to be the end of the story. The Georgia Voice spoke with Azzoni about her book, the controversy and sexual fluidity.

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Meredith Baxter on coming out

Actress and author Meredith Baxter

Even though actress Meredith Baxter has spent much of her professional career in the spotlight, she has never been one to want to share her entire life in public. After coming out as a lesbian, however, she realized it was time to open up and tell her story. She reads from her new memoir, “Untied,” Oct. 28 at Outwrite.

For much of the ’70s and ‘80s, Baxter was known as a TV mom in popular television series such as “Family” and “Family Ties.” What viewers didn’t realize was that behind the sunny façade she was dealing with secrets – an abusive relationship with husband David Birney, alcoholism, breast cancer, and the realization late in life that she was attracted to women.

Although Baxter had gone to the Dinah, the lesbian event in California, she was barely recognized there. Yet when she boarded the Sweet Caribbean Cruise – a lesbian cruise – with her partner a few years ago to film a series, it was a different situation. Baxter got recognized, a lot. She had the feeling her appearance on the cruise would make news and knew she had to do something proactive, although it was not something she was planning on doing.

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Collin Kelley: ‘I’m a writer who happens to be gay’

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley is a writer. He writes for his job as editor of Atlanta INtown newspaper, he writes poems, he’s a prolific Tweeter, he helps organize the annual Atlanta Queer Literary Festival and, well, he’s also written two novels. This guy loves words.

His new novel “Remain in Light,” was released in October and is the second in a trilogy (the first, “Conquering Venus,” was published in 2009) that takes readers on a suspenseful murder mystery through Paris and America.

Kelley, 42, was born in Atlanta, raised in Fayetteville and now lives in the Old Fourth Ward.

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‘Spoon Fed’ details lesbian writer’s hunger for meaning in food and life

Kim Severson set out to simply write about female cookbook authors. But the result was her memoir “Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Changed My Life,” the compelling tale of how lessons learned at the table helped her cope with alcohol addiction, drug use, coming out, and more.

Released in April 2010, “Spoon Fed” drew instant praise for Severson, who has worked as a journalist and food writer for newspapers in Alaska and California, and finally for the New York Times.

In November, Severson became the Atlanta bureau chief for the New York Times, and now lives in Decatur with her partner and their daughter. She reads from “Spoon Fed” Aug. 25 at Atlanta’s feminist bookstore, Charis Books & More.

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Sapphire and ‘The Kid’ visit Atlanta

Sapphire reads from

Sapphire, author of "Push," read from her new novel, "The Kid," at St. Mark United Methodist Church on July 26, 2011. The novel, written 15 years after "Push," which was made into the Academy-award winning film "Precious," picks up on the day of Precious Jones' funeral.

Sapphire explained that "The Kid" is not a sequel to "Precious" in the traditional sense by continuing to follow the life of Precious Jones, but it is a sequel in that it continues to explore the "socioeconomic and cultural addictions that created the life and of, course the death, of Precious Jones."

This journey is told through the eyes of Precious Jones' son, Abdul, and "The Kid" opens on the day of his mother's funeral.