This installment of the Successful Lesbian Businesswomen’s Interview Series finds us in conversation with Tracey Stevens and Katherine Wunder of Amazing Dreams Publishing. The sheer number of pursuits these two are up to are too numerous for me to do justice to, so I’ll let them do the talking…
1) What was your inspiration to start Amazing Dreams Publishing?
Tracey Stevens: I was inspired by my mentor, Patricia Nell Warren. My work had been rejected by mainstream NYC publishers for many years. I was searching for lesbian publishers and came upon Wildcat Press. It turned out that Patricia Nell Warren owned Wildcat Press, and Patricia’s novel “The Beauty Queen” was the first gay-themed book I’d ever read when I was 15 years old. I contacted Patricia about reviewing one of my novels. I always write about issues that most other writers won’t touch, like women becoming successful after experiencing hard circumstances, such as child abuse. Patricia was not accepting outside manuscripts at that time, but she read some of my work. She suggested I write some non-fiction books about how you can be a success even though you may have gone through hard times in the past. This is how the book “How To Be A Happy Lesbian: A Coming Out Guide” was born. Patricia also encouraged me to take back the control of my own work and open my own company–the rest is herstory.
Katherine Wunder: The publishing company is all Tracey’s idea and her baby. She has done an incredible job of building the company into something to be proud of. It is more than a publishing company, it is a lesbian community resource with many facets. There are free e-cards, a coming out support group, networking groups, LGBT links, horoscopes, etc. Again, these are all Tracey’s conceptualizations of what she would have liked to have had available to her in her coming out process.
2) What is/was your background prior to starting this endeavor?
TS: I had studied art and writing my whole life, but everyone kept telling me that I would never make any money at it. I settled for a degree in Mechanical Engineering/Technical Illustration. The technical illustration end took care of my need to create art, but I found so much prejudice from men in my field, that I became a graphic/web designer instead. I’ve always written stories since I was a little kid, and won several awards in school, so writing and art are the things I love most–that and working with animals–especially horses.
KW: Professionally, I’ve worked in the same field for almost 16 years. I’ve worked in-patient psychiatric, outpatient case management and therapy, emergency mental health services in community mental health settings, outpatient private practice and treatment of people charged with DWI’s and possession charges. I’ve done individual and group therapy as part of these settings. Prior to that I spent years as a college student, getting both a BA and an MA doing work ranging from landscaping, to Burger King, to student assistant, to secretary.
3) Have you experienced any challenges in your professional life because you are a lesbian?
TS: Yes! Many times I’ve been fired from jobs and harassed into quitting because of my sexual orientation. I had one boss hire a private detective to follow me on my time off. He fired me when it was determined that I am lesbian. I also had a co-worker look right at me and say “We don’t believe in you!” meaning he and his church. I told him when he started paying my bills I might possibly care what he believed in, but it would be really doubtful.
KW: For the most part, my experiences have been very supportive and accepting from co-workers and administrations. I have been released from two jobs due to my coming out though. In one instance I worked in-patient and another was working in a private practice setting. Ironically, the technique usually is just stop scheduling me for shifts, in the in-patient case, and in the case of the out-patient private practice they just stopped scheduling new clients for me. The last time something like this happened was not a job, in and of itself, but part of my job. The agency I worked at assigned me to the local religious based homeless mission. They also used the, “We don’t have anyone for you to screen”, same old excuse. I found out from a friend at another agency, that the mission had called them asking for someone to come do what I had done. The mission had, just a few months before that, offered me a full-time position doing that job when they got the funding. The mission told my friend that one of the staff had gone out on the net and looked me up and found out about my sexual orientation. She was told that they just couldn’t have me there under the circumstances.
4) What keeps you going on the tough days?
TS: The work I do in the Support For Lesbians Coming Out online group is really important to me–that and the emails I receive from women worldwide. We posted all the comments on the Amazing Dreams Website, and whenever I feel as if the Internet World is pushing me over the edge, I go online and read those comments. It totally puts what we are doing back into perspective for me.
KW: What keeps me going is knowing that a difference is being made in women’s lives, whether we see it or not. Yes, it’s nice and a great experience to be able to witness someone’s “Ah-Ha” moment but, it is also knowing that work you do is planting seeds and you may not be around to see them grow and bloom but knowing that they will is just as rewarding.
5) What are your top three measures of success?
TS: I would say my biggest measure of success is if I feel in my heart that I am doing what I am meant to do with my short time here on the Earth. This leads to my second measure of success which is happiness in my own life, which leads to my third measure of success which is love for everything around me–especially Kathy and our animals.
KW: I’d say my first is my happiness and knowing I am setting great boundaries for me and sticking to them. If I don’t take care of me, I can’t be there in a significant way for anyone else. The second is allowing others to be in the space of where they are, regardless of their relationship to me; in allowing them their process and knowing that if they want me to be a part of that they will invite me in to help (that holds true for Tracey, family and friends). The third is staying grounded in who I am, being accepting and non-judgmental of myself or others (part of allowing people their process) and feeling the love I have for others, and accepting love from those that I choose to have in my life, be that Tracey, family, friends, and clients.
6) What is the wildest success story you can imagine for Amazing Dreams Publishing’s future?
TS: The wildest success story: hmmm, I guess that would be that our company went so big that it would bring a positive change in every woman’s life worldwide. That means lesbian, bi, straight, trans women, and all the people who love them. I’d love to see our books and website make a huge difference in how happy women are in their lives, which in turn would give them power to be who they truly are: Goddesses incarnate : )
KW: Mine is close to Tracey’s. It would be in knowing that we are helping any woman learn to stand in her own power as a woman, human being, partner, mother, etc. Learning to do that in all the roles that they have in their lives. None of us do that all the time, like the old saying says, “under stress we regress.” The dream is to help women do that most of the time, and to learn to stand in that power even under stress.
7) What are your future plans for your company?
TS: My dream since I first came out as a teenager has been to create a community where women can live together and work together in a safe haven. So my biggest plan is to have a huge tract of land somewhere here in the mountains of North Carolina where Kathy and I can have a conference center that offers all kinds of workshops and seminars, maybe writing conferences, relationship seminars, Kathy can offer counseling services. We are wanting to have cabins and camping areas so that women can come and stay on the land and participate. Another thing: I’m very much into horses; I’ve had horses all my life, and at some point I want to incorporate my knowledge of horses and provide therapeutic programs for people who’ve been abused.
KW: Pretty much what Tracey said above. I’d love to do human potential type seminars, and help people leave behind old patterns they have outgrown and need to release. I’d also like to gear these seminars toward people realizing the strengths they have, and the wondrous parts of themselves that they don’t know are there.
8) What brings you the most joy personally or professionally?
TS: I have a lot of joy in my life. Just sitting around with Kathy and watching our crazy animals do tricks in our house–they bring so much joy and love into our lives. Spending time with my horse would be another highlight of my life. Even though he can be a pesky stallion sometimes, he brings me a lot of joy.
KW: Personally, it isn’t any different a picture than what Tracey paints. We have two big dogs, five cats, and a pigeon in the house. Tracey’s horse is in training elsewhere, and thank goodness he doesn’t live in the house! They do more than enough to keep us entertained. Or is that the other way around? Professionally, it is knowing that I can make a difference in people’s lives by helping them to see things in a different light.
9) Tell us more about Amazing Dreams Publishing and what is most unique about what you offer?
TS: We have over 1,000 free resources on our website. Along with our Support For Lesbians Coming Out group, we also have 4 Regional Networking groups, and several more Networking Groups for women in English speaking countries. The Networking Groups are for friendship and meeting women in local geographic areas. For dating we have online dating tips and links to dating websites that our members have suggested to us. We also have online galleries set up for LGBT and LGBT Friendly artists, that feature over 950 designs as free Ecards; the top 75 lesbian movie reviews; LGBT News Feeds; LGBT Marriage Updates; “Out There” Lesbian Comic Strip; Astroflash Lesbian Horoscopes; an online Flower Shop for lesbians; a coming out section on our website that has over 100 resources; an online bookstore that features our books and books from other publishers; links to lesbian and fantasy women art prints and magnets, lesbian pride gear, and lesbian commitment and wedding rings. We offer a lot on our website, and we are always looking for ways to offer even more.
KW: The uniqueness of our site is that no one else is doing what we are doing. Tracey is the hand on the reins with this. She designs the site. Tracey is a Goddess of graphic design and art–a true Renaissance woman–she designs, does art, and writes. She asks for my input and feedback, but, like I said earlier, if it weren’t for her amazing dreams, none of this would exist.
To learn more and tap into the resources Tracey and Kathy mention, visit the Amazing Dreams Publishing website at http://www.amazingdreamspublishing.com.