Meet ‘Nathan Burgoine

For the next few weeks, as we approach the April 8th release of A Family by Any Other Name, I’d like to introduce you to some of the book’s contributors.

'Nathan Burgoine

‘Nathan Burgoine

‘Nathan Burgoine is an Ottawa-based writer, who was recently nominated for a Lambda Literary award for his novel Light. His essay is called “It Could Happen to You.”

How did you find out about this project?

I believe I found out about this collection from Jeffrey Ricker. I not-so-jokingly refer to him as my anthology-brother, since we’ve been published in so many anthologies together and started roughly at the same time. If one of us finds out about calls and thinks the other would be interested, we often share. He’s better at that than I am — I think he is much more aware of open calls than I tend to be.

Why did you decide to contribute? How did you decide what to write about?

I decided to offer up a piece about my in-laws because they frankly deserve it. I’m incredibly lucky to have found these wonderful people, and any chance I have to show the power of an ally, I try to take it. I get frustrated and tired by the “us-vs-them” mentality that can seep into the fight for equality — it’s too simplified and usually wrong. I wanted to talk about this wonderful family I’d married into and how brilliant they are. Not by virtue of any actions they took, exactly, just in how they have chosen to love.

I also didn’t want to skip over the steps where I was pretty much alone and had chosen families: friends, and later relatives of friends, who would invite me along to their holidays and basically made me feel like kin. There’s a solid dose of the “chosen family” in the LGBT life, in my experience. When we don’t have something, we make our own. It’s not like we’re following many of the rules anyway, so why not break a few more? I say that with the awareness that in getting married, my husband and I did actually follow one of the more basic traditions of society — but it was right for us, and it still took a change of rules to make it possible.

Tell us a bit about yourself, both your life and your writing experience.

I still feel like I’m new to the writing world, but doing the math, I’ve been writing with the end goal of publication since 2007, when my first piece was accepted. Unfortunately, that first story, “Heart,” was accepted just prior to the publisher going under. Fortunately, the editors — R.D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert — championed the anthology they’d created to another publisher, Cleis Press, and eventually the book — Fool for Love — was published. I’m a lover of the short fiction format, so most of what I’ve written has fallen into that range. I think I’ve got 29 pieces out there (or on the way to being out there) at the moment, as well as my first novel, Light, which dropped last October.

Did writing about your own experiences prove challenging in any way?

I’ve done nonfiction four times now, and each time it has challenged me in a different way. For this piece, it wasn’t entirely comfortable to go back and look through my journals (the old-style ones on paper, no less) and track down dates and timelines because I couldn’t help but remember how hard it had been and how hopeless everything had felt on more than one occasion. That said, remembering a key scene for the piece I wrote — my father-in-law’s wedding speech — actually got me teary-eyed again just thinking about it. I suppose I have a habit of trying to leave the sadder or tougher pieces of the past as something I rarely think about. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with that, and tell me I’m repressing, but I don’t think that’s it. I have an excellent memory, and remembering an event brings back a good deal of the emotion tied to the event, so I’d rather not dwell on the stuff that makes me feel bad. It was a challenge to willingly go back to those years where I was very much on my own.

What did you get out of writing an essay for this collection?

It’s not that I didn’t know how different my life is now compared to how it was then, but there’s something really liberating about seeing the distance in the space of a single piece. Perspective is a wonderful thing, and I am so privileged to be where I am now. It was a bit of a shock at times to remember those times I was scraping by — financially, emotionally, physically — and to think that now I am surrounded by loving and supportive people.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like readers to know about?

My first novel, Light, is still the most recent and biggest thing going on. I’m working on a novella right now, but this year I’m not forcing myself to maintain the breakneck pace I’ve had in the last couple of years and focusing more on one thing at a time. I say that, but there are a half-dozen calls sitting in my in-box, and I’m trying to do them all. I’m not sure who I’m kidding.