Two Utah authors say Cedar Fort Publishing's Sweetwater Books canceled publication of their young-adult fantasy novel "Woven" because one of the authors is gay and wanted to reference his partner in his bio.
According to a news release from the authors, Sweetwater signed a deal with David Powers King and Michael Jensen in January, and the two say the final manuscript was scheduled for printing this month. Although Cedar Fort is a predominantly LDS publisher, Jensen says he was told Sweetwater would have more of a national imprint and that the content in "Woven" although "very G-rated" anyway would not have to adhere to Mormon standards.
But when Jensen saw a proof of "Woven's" cover art on Aug. 2, he noticed that the publishing house had stricken a phrase in his bio: "He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs." Jensen pointed out the error.
In an email response to Jensen that was included in the authors' news release, Cedar Fort Acquisitions Editor Angie Workman wrote: "I was concerned about your bio and wondered what effect it would have with our LDS buyers, so I spoke with [Cedar Fort owner] Lyle [Mortimer] about it. He says we can't risk ruining our relationship with them by stating you live with your boyfriend. … We will have much better sales if we can get into Deseret Book and Seagull."
Cedar Fort did not reply to requests for comment.
Jensen says he was surprised there was a problem because he had submitted the biography five months earlier. He and King discussed their options.
"I was speechless," says King, who unlike Jensen is a practicing Mormon. "My first reaction was, 'Is this really happening?' We decided, what good was it … to omit truths and not be honest with ourselves?"
Jensen then replied to Workman: "You do not have permission to remove that. I'm sorry, but you do not get to make those changes." He sent Cedar Fort a bio that he demanded be published in its entirety. In it, he changed "boyfriend" to "partner."
Jensen then called Mortimer, with whom he says he had a casual friendship. Jensen says Mortimer told him, after some shouting, that "God had given me a penis for a reason," and threatened to publish "Woven" without names attached. Jensen was shocked by Mortimer's position, he says, because "I've known Lyle for several years. He knew I was gay."
Jensen says Mortimer gave him a deadline of Aug. 5 at 8 a.m. to buy out the rights to the novel for "thousands of dollars."
In a lengthy email rebuke, Jensen wrote: "Perhaps this situation will become a win-win for us both, as the media attention generated by your refusal to publish a biographical sentence comparable to my co-author's is sure to bring attention to our work. … It will be obvious that the inequality comes from Cedar Fort, and not Deseret Book and other LDS-based bookstores that already carry … works by gay authors."
Jensen says Cedar Fort has since released the authors from their contract without a penalty. The publisher will retain rights to cover art and in-house edits. The authors say they've heard from national publishers, but they want to find an agent to represent them in future dealings. King says the duo hopes "Woven" will spawn a series.