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Two Women and Their Amazing Dreams Interview

By Gena Hymowech

Gena Hymoweche (GH): Can you tell me more about the things Amazing Dreams does and what kind of company it is?

Tracey Stevens (TS): Amazing Dreams Publishing started out as lesbian book publishing company, but has grown into a huge networking and support system for women worldwide. Our website receives over 2 million accesses from over 100,000 different visitors each month.

Our company took off in an unexpected way when a woman emailed me about our book: "How To Be A Happy Lesbian: A Coming Out Guide." She said she was married and coming out in a small town in the Midwest, and even though she loved the Coming Out Guide, she wanted to know more about how she could come out of her marriage.

Kathy and I didn’t have a chapter specifically on married lesbians. We were primarily writing the book for younger women who are coming out. When this woman emailed me, we decided to open an online support group for all women who are coming to terms with their sexuality--whether they are lesbian, bi, or questioning.

Now the Support For Lesbians Coming Out group has over 600 members! Our support group has members from all over the world, including countries where being a lesbian can get you executed. We have had many women email us that our group has actually saved their lives! I never thought the company would evolve in this way, but I do believe that this work is the most important thing I've done in my life to date.

Cathy Wonder (KW): I think the most important thing that Amazing Dreams does is offer a place for lesbian women to come that is totally accepting of them; a place of love, caring, and understanding. I'm thinking mainly of the support group in this. The company is about self-acceptance and acknowledging the power we have as women. People tend to forget that when they are struggling with an issue, or several issues. For many, the website and support and networking groups are places that are safe. The groups provide support from women who have, or are, going through similar experiences. The other services offered on the website are resources that help women to acknowledge the self-power and the beauty of the female spirit.

GH: What impact do you hope the company makes on lesbians?

TS: Our company is for all women worldwide, but our primary focus is to provide a safe space for lesbian and bisexual women online, especially those who are coming to terms with their sexual orientations. The impact we hope to make is for women, and the people who love them--lesbian, BI, straight, transgendered--to have more fulfilling and happy lives. Our Coming Out Guide and our Support For Lesbians Coming Out group concentrate on how to accept yourself as a lesbian or bisexual woman. Our Sex Tips Guide is written with inclusive language, for anyone, female or male, who loves women.

Basically, we hope to have a place where all lesbians and bisexual women can feel at home--like they've found a safe place that is specifically for them. We get emails all the time that say things like "Finally! A place for us!" These emails are what helps us to keep going. We've set up nine pages of comments from people who have emailed us here:

Anytime I get caught up in the drama of the Internet--and believe me, there are days when I wonder why the heck I am doing this--I just go to the Comment Pages and start reading how Kathy and I are helping people worldwide. That totally puts the hard times in perspective.

KW: The impact I hope that Amazing Dreams makes on lesbians and bisexual women is that each person is unique as they are, and that accepting this part of themselves can only make them stronger. Hopefully, if enough of us can make this shift, then there will be a change in society at large. We must accept ourselves first in order to stand in the truth of who we are. Be that lesbian or bisexual, single, coupled, or parent. If we conform to what friends, family, and society want, then we loose ourselves and become someone else's construct. We reflect their thoughts, hopes and dreams, and we then have no identity other than the one we allow others to fit us into.

GH: What inspired you to write "How to Be A Happy Lesbian" and "Lesbian Sex Tips?" Do you consider yourselves sex experts? If so, why?

TS: I had written several novels, and I had tried to include helpful information about being lesbian in a fictional way, but then my mentor, Patricia Nell Warren, said, "Why don't you write a nonfiction book to get your message out?"

I'd been the director of the Writers' Guild of Western North Carolina for two terms, and two of our members had done workshops on how much easier it is to sell nonfiction, so when Patricia suggested writing a book on being lesbian, it really clicked for me.

As far as being a Sex Expert, I wouldn't say I'm an expert at it, but I'm darned good! I had a background of sexual abuse and I'd been struggling with issues surrounding sex for years because of it. When I was younger I read everything I could get my hands on about sexuality to try to understand what happened to me. In the process, I learned a lot about technique. If you go to an incest group you'll find out that a lot of these women are "good at sex." We've been driven to know more about it to try to make sense out of what happened to us.

I wanted to help women come to grips with their own sexuality, and also help them to deal with problems I'd worked through. The Coming Out Guide started out as a "how to make love to a woman" handbook. But then, as I started doing research for the book, I realized there was so much more information I could share with readers, so the book grew. For example, I have a section on famous gay and BI women, because everyone needs good role models. I had no idea until I got into the research how many famous people are, or were gay, or lesbian. I thought it would empower people to know about them; it empowered me.

KW: Tracey pretty much sums it up with her answer. When she had the idea to do these guides, I felt that a counseling perspective could really play a key role for people. None of us learn how to communicate effectively, argue effectively, or know what to expect when we need a therapist or how to choose one. We especially have no clue about domestic violence. Oh, there is more awareness of these things in society now, but for some reason, a lot of women in the process of coming out think that communication will be easier, and that there is no violence of woman on woman. These were messages we felt needed to be out there.

GH: Are you both partners or spouses? What is your relationship to one another? Can you tell me a little about how you met if you are partners or spouses?

TS: I would say we are both partners and spouses. We write the books together, and I run the publishing company while Kathy works as a Licensed Professional Therapist.

We've been together for 16 years, and during that time I've grown and learned a lot! I came up in abuse, and had been in therapy for years, but I will say that living with a therapist, I don't have a chance to get away with anything. The biggest issues Kathy has helped me with is my communication skills and fear issues. I was writing for several years before I met her, but I really think that if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have had the ovaries to start my own company and sell our books. For me, it took a tremendous amount of courage to come out to the entire world, and Kathy was there to support me in this decision all the way. She also put her career on the line, and has actually been turned down for work because of us being so out with the books and all. It's just sad that in this day and age there are still so many homophobic people around.

As far as how we met, it happened in a Post Office, and it was meant to be. I had a novel I was mailing to a publisher, and I knew I had to get to the Post Office and mail this book at exactly 10:13 AM. Thirteen is a magic number for me, the number of the Goddess, so I figured that's why this was in my brain that I had to be there at that exact moment. I wasn't even supposed to leave work, but I did anyway, and I drug my coworker with me who was also lesbian.

When we walked into the Post Office, I saw Kathy talking to a guy. My gaydar went off, but she was touching him while talking. I'm not a real touchy person, so I was thinking "Gay--Straight?? Gay--Straight??? Is she GAY OR STRAIGHT????" About that time, my lesbian coworker went over and started talking to them both, so I went to the counter and mailed the manuscript. When I came back down the hallway, Kathy and I were introduced.

KW: We are definitely partners. We don't use the term spouse and won't until we can legally get married. For us, it is a matter of principle. As Tracey said, we've been together for thirteen years. This year will be our fourteenth. We did meet in a post-office. I tease Tracey on this story since the guy I was talking to was old enough to be my grandfather. That was our initial meeting. The second meeting was at an apartment of a mutual friend. We hit it off immediately, checking out women in swimming suits around the pool, from the window at the apartment. We stayed casual for about a month with our "dates" and then had to acknowledge the all around attraction for each other.

I may have helped her with issues but she helped me as well. I had been in therapy in my early 20s and thought I had a grip on my own issues. Funny thing about therapy; you can work on issues in theory (when you are single), but being in a relationship really challenges you to look at issues you didn't know you had, or thought you had resolved. It reminds me of the Indigo Girls song "Power of Two." Working together we have dispelled many of the monsters beneath our beds.

GH: How did the company get started?

TS: I had been writing novels for ten years, but couldn't get anyone to accept my work that featured mostly lesbian characters. I did get very positive feedback from several of the women's publishing companies, but they were just scared to take the risk of a new writer for financial reasons. Most of the big houses, the "big boys," were just saying "no way." I had two professional editors, so I knew the writing was OK. One of my editors had worked for one of the largest publishers in NYC. She even hooked me up with publishing house she'd worked at, but it was the same old thing.

I went through those years of rejections feeling really defeated, but I didn't want to give up. Then when I came into contact with Patricia Nell Warren, she encouraged me to start my own publishing company. She had bought back the rights to her books from the big publisher she was with originally, and she started Wildcat Press, her own company. She said, "Tracey, publish your own books. You have no control over your own work when someone else is handling it."

I was working as the graphic design manager for a book distributor at that time, so I'd seen that part of the publishing industry. I started doing research on a then new technology--Print On Demand or POD. I'd seen how books and money are wasted going through the standard publishing channels, so POD sounded like a great way to start out my company with very little money.

I contacted Booksurge, a small Southern POD company at the time. I worked with some really wonderful people there who believed in our vision of getting the work out to people worldwide. These folks are great and have always treated me and Kathy with total respect! Really refreshing, especially in the South where prejudice still reigns. The wonderful thing is that Booksurge has grown into a worldwide company, and last year it was purchased by! Our books were already on Amazon, but after Booksurge merged with them, our sales have skyrocketed worldwide.

KW: What Tracey didn't say is that the company website was born on 9/11; that fateful day we all remember so well. The book distributor where she was working closed down for the day, and she was sent home. I worked community mental health, and the agency I worked at stayed open to help the community deal with the emotional effects. When I got home, Tracey was sitting on the couch designing the website on her laptop. She told me, after what happened, that she wanted to really make a difference in the world. She said she wasn’t sure if the whole country was going to be bombed, but she decided if it happened that way, at least she would die doing what she was meant to do. I believe the company was really born from the compilation of events: 9/11, her mentor’s comments, and our desire to make a difference in the world for women coming to terms with their sexual identity. Those three things came together around the same time, and if not for them, in my eyes, this adventure might never have begun.

GH: "How to Be A Happy Lesbian: A Coming Out Guide" has been downloaded over 2,000 times from women all over the world. Why do you think it is so popular?

TS: Part of the reason the Ebook is so popular is ease of access. All of our books are available as both Ebooks and soft-cover editions. We have the Ebooks available directly from our website, so that women who are still closeted can get the information without having to go into a bookstore and publicly out themselves.

I also think people really like the Coming Out Guide because it was written from the heart with important information that many books do not include. Both Kathy and I were very passionate about this book, and it shows in the way it was written.

Before "How to Be A Happy Lesbian" was released, we sent it to Patricia Nell Warren to read, and she told us it was like a "Lesbian Encyclopedia!" She said the only thing she'd add to it, was a section on domestic partner abuse.

Kathy and I had not even thought of that, so we literally stopped the presses, researched and added the new section on domestic partner abuse, and released the book a month late. This totally screwed up the marketing plan, but we felt the information was important enough to warrant this happening.

Even though I'd been out for 25 years, when I started researching information for the book, some of the information I found was surprising to me--like the lesbian and bisexual role models throughout history. We aren't taught about these folks in school, and it made me feel great to learn of all the influential women throughout history who were also lesbian or BI It really made me laugh to find out that "America the Beautiful" was written by a woman for her lesbian lover of 25 years while traveling cross-country in a Conestoga wagon!

Other things that I learned that really fueled my fire on LGBT Marriage issues was all the rights we don't have as tax paying citizens of the US. I'm still disturbed over what I learned, and we now have the list of over 1,000 rights we don't have as lesbians on the website here:

KW: I agree with Tracey, that the ease of getting the book is instrumental in people's downloading. I also think that the information it covers is very broad. The Coming Out Guide gives a more rounded sense of our community's history, and issues that are important to consider when dealing with a relationship, what to consider if you want a therapist, domestic violence, whatever. Strangely enough, I worked doing emergency services, and did a lot of counseling with women in domestic violence situations, but just didn't think about applying that to lesbians. It was great of Patricia Nell Warren to make that suggestion. Most women just don't consider that there could be woman-on-woman violence, but, unfortunately, it does rear its ugly head in the GLBT communities as well as in the heterosexual ones.

GH: What do you think "How To Be A Happy Lesbian" offers that other coming out books do not?

TS: I'm not sure about other Coming Out books. To tell you the truth, I didn't read any before writing our book. There weren't that many for just women available at that time, and I wanted our book to be from our experiences--not someone else's. Kathy and I included chapters on:

How to accept yourself if you are a lesbian and suggestions on how to cope in the world today; Coming out in a non-supportive environment and where to get help if you need it; The language of being lesbian and what all the symbols mean; What do the labels lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight, and all the in-betweens mean; Where to go to meet others who are lesbian, and the art of knowing who is and who isn't; What is Gaydar; Lesbian anatomy with illustrations to help you learn the spots that please a woman most; Plain talk about safer sex, which contains a list of common sexually transmitted diseases and their symptoms and general treatments; What's considered safe, risky, or unsafe behavior, and handy items for safer sex.; What to consider if you and your partner are considering having a child; Relationship skills and the rules of communication; Advice on romance and how to love not only your partner's body, but also her heart and mind; Pointers on making love, including instructions on how to find some of the spots that please a woman most; How to cope if you or your partner have experienced childhood sexual, physical, or emotional abuse; Domestic partner abuse issues and how to get help if you need it; Facts on counseling and what to expect if you need to see a therapist; Dealing with the outside world including radical, homophobic people; Our "civil rights" in the USA; Lesbian movie reviews from the 1930s until now; Lesbian and gay role models you may not have known about.

GH: Was your coming-out especially difficult? Can you talk about it? Do you wish you had a guidebook to help you through it, at the time?

TS: My coming out was very hard, because I was already living in an abusive situation. I knew I loved women from the time I was in a crib, but I didn't dare tell anyone anything. Of course my relatives had suspicions very early--it was pretty obvious when I painted "I love Kay M.," my gym teacher's name, on my parents’ driveway in big pink letters when I was in the 4th grade! We were also living in Central Florida in the middle of the Anita Bryant anti-gay tirade, which made coming out even harder.

Because of all this, I tried to suppress who I was, but I fell hard for my first girlfriend at 15, and our relationship became more than romantic when we both turned 16. Things went downhill family-wise from there, and I was locked out of the house I grew up in at 17. I lived with my grandmother for a few months, then moved in with my first girlfriend's Southern Baptist parents. These folks did not know that two of their four children are lesbian. My girlfriend and I were in hot, teenaged love, sleeping on a squeaky fold-out couch in the same room with her straight sister! Talk about pent-up sexuality! When my girlfriend and I turned 19, we bought a mobile home in a very scary trailer park--the things you do for love. Those were hard, struggling years, where we were pretty darned poor, but her family taught me what the real meaning of love and what a real family is, and I am so grateful for that.

Of course, back then there was no Internet, and I would have loved to have a guide book for my coming out. All I had were fictional novels. The first gay book I ever read was titled "The Beauty Queen." It was very similar to my Anita Bryant years, so I really related to that book, and guess who wrote it? Patricia Nell Warren, who is now my mentor! Strange how all those years ago a novel helped me come out, and then years later, the person who wrote that novel encouraged me to write my own book on coming out. I guess that's how the universe works.

KW: My coming out wasn't especially difficult. I had a family full of ground-breakers that made it easier for me. My father is gay, and of his three siblings, two are also homosexual. It was hardest on my mother, but she handled it really well; especially considering the hopes and dreams she had for my life didn't include having society looking down on me. She has always been very supportive, and treats Tracey like one of the family. It wasn't difficult for my father or his siblings to accept me as a lesbian. After all, they went through it before I did. It was infinitely harder for them to come out than it was for me though. I'm amazed at the courage it took for all of them to acknowledge their orientations just because of the time periods they did it in.

GH: What makes your company different from other lesbian-focused companies/publishers?

TS: I would say the difference would be in the range of things we offer. We have over 2,000 free resources on our website, and I don't see a lot of publishers doing this. 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. 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 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.

GH: Do you ever see your books "How To Be A Happy Lesbian" and "Lesbian Sex Tips" being printed by a mainstream publisher? Have mainstream publishers been interested in buying them?

TS: Right now, both of our books are being reviewed by large LGBT publishers in Mexico and Spain. We are totally open to selling the rights to publishers in foreign countries who know about the distribution in those areas.

It would be nice to have our books in larger chain bookstores here in the US, but to tell you the truth, we make way more money selling our own books both online and through our distribution channels. With many of our LGBT bookstores going the way of the dinosaurs, Kathy and I believe that online companies will fill that void, and we are ready for that.

Another reason I wouldn't want to sell our rights here in the US, is because most mainstream publishers do not like the idea of giving away books. Every woman who joins our Support For Lesbians Coming Out Group gets a free Ebook of our Coming Out Guide. Because some of our members are underaged, the free version does not have the more explicit making love chapter, but the rest of the information is included for anyone who needs it.

KW: The other part of staying self-published is we are in control of the books and what happens to them. We don't have to worry about disagreements with the publishers. We have the vision we want, and don't have to compromise it to a publishing company somewhere.

GH: If you are a couple, what are the challenges of working, loving and living together?

TS: It's tough living with someone who works in artistic fields, and is driven to do what I'm doing. To keep Amazing Dreams Publishing and my client's website businesses running smoothly, I usually work 15 hour days at least 5 days a week. I study Search Engine Optimization daily, which keeps all the websites high in the search engines. You get a lot when you work with me, but there's not a lot of downtime, which makes it hard on Kathy. I usually do only emails on the weekends before 12pm, and the rest of the time is for us to be together. Another one of our biggest challenges is our animals. We have 5 cats, 2 dogs, a pigeon, and our company mascot is my Paso Fino Stallion, Angelote de Luna. Simply put, we live in a zoo--although our furry friends do bring us a lot of joy.

KW: It does have its challenges. Strangely enough, we don't have a lot of conflict over much of anything but the laundry. One of the top things that people fight over is money and we've never done that. I do counseling work outside of the house, so that helps us to have some separate time. The challenges are more in line of time logistics than anything else. Finding time for each other and not getting locked into what we feel we need to do. Sometimes it helps to just look at things by asking ourselves, "When I die, am I gonna regret doing, or not doing, this?" Kind of like the old question of being on the deathbed and saying, "Gee, I wish I had worked more!" vs "Gee, I wish I had spent more time with my family!"

GH: What were your career backgrounds prior to establishing this business?

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 inpatient psychiatric, outpatient case management and therapy, emergency mental health services in community mental health settings, and outpatient private practice. I've done individual and group therapy as part of these settings.

GH: What motivated you to work for yourselves?

TS: I was getting very tired of working my butt off for someone else while they made all the money. I was designing catalogs and websites for a book distributor when I started the publishing company. Between the two places, I was putting in around 80 hours a week. When 9/11 happened, sales took a huge dive in the book industry, and a little over a year later the book distributor laid off half the staff. I was part of that layoff, and even though I was terrified out of my mind, I decided I'd never work for anyone else but myself. I started really focusing on Amazing Dreams Publishing and also AD Graphic Design--my graphics/web design company, and I have never looked back.

KW: I had a long history of working in systems. I've worked at universities, hospitals, and for the state mental health in two states. Having to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops got really old and overwhelming. Paperwork became what was more important than clients. It was time to get away from the fact that some systems think that paper is more important than people.

GH: Do you still have day jobs or has this venture become so successful that you don't need them?

TS: Amazing Dreams Publishing had its 5th anniversary in October, so from what I've been told, we are just now entering the profit-making era. I'm hoping that eventually I can slack off a bit on the Graphic/Website design end, which I guess would be considered my day job, and start writing again. I've got books in my brain that are demanding to get out, but no time to let them flow.

KW: We are both still working. As Tracey said, the business is starting to take off, but we still need our day jobs to make ends meet. Eventually, we hope that we can create a number of spin-offs of the publishing company that will help women grow and stand more in their own power. To do that we have to nurture the publishing company so that we can expand into different areas.

GH: How do you hope to expand your business in the future? What plans do you have?

TS: My dream since I was very young has been to create a community where women can live and work together in a safe haven. So my biggest goal is to have a large tract of land somewhere here in the mountains of North Carolina where this can happen. Kathy and I also want to have a conference center that offers all kinds of workshops and seminars: writing conferences, relationship seminars; Kathy can offer counseling services. I'm also 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 have been abused. When I was little, the only thing that saved my life was my horse. I was a small person who was able to ride on a very large, powerful animal. He gave me so much strength that I made it through those years of being abused. When I was on him I felt safe. If not for my horse, Shane, I would not be alive today, and I'd like to help others gain back their power through relationships with horses.

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.

GH: What are some of the more recent projects you've begun, as part of Amazing Dreams?

TS: Right now we are working on a new Ebook called "The Lesbian Big O: Over 100 Sensual Illustrations." We are also wanting to include some of these illustrations in new releases of both our Coming Out and Sex Tips Guides. I've been working on the illustrations for several months now--very entertaining to say the least. I've also got two novels almost ready to be released, so 2007 should be a very busy year.

GH: Where did you get the name Amazing Dreams from?

TS: When Kathy and I first decided to move to Asheville, NC, we were going to open a co-op gallery. We had designed the floor plan so that we could utilize a lot of walls to show artists' work in a very small space. When we finished the floor plan, it looked like a maze. The art I had been showing in Florida was primarily from meditation and dreams, so we came up with Amazing Dreams.

GH: What is the theme that links all of your many Amazing Dreams services together?

TS: I would say that if you can visualize or dream it, then you can do it. I want other people worldwide to realize the power that they have when they accept themselves for who they are. There's nothing like loving yourself, and accepting your own personal power. I think that is the theme that's always in my mind.

KW: I agree that it is not only the personal power but also acknowledging each other, forming communities, and tolerance for our differences, not just our similarities.

GH: What are your favorite projects you've done, as part of Amazing Dreams?

TS: We just had our first conference in October. Women from as far away as Australia flew in to spend the weekend in gorgeous Asheville. It was a blast, and I'm hoping that we can do lots more of these really soon!

KW: I agree with that. We timed it to coincide with Asheville's First Annual PrideFest. I'm on the Board for PrideFest and we are planning to have the Second Annual PrideFest in October 2007 as well.

GH: What are some of the signs that your business has taken off in the lesbian community?

TS: When people come knocking at our door for interviews, like this one! We have also been selected as featured writers for the new LesbiaNation Magazine, which we are very happy to be a part of. We have lots of people who email us and tell us how much they love our website. Our books have also been reviewed in several lesbian magazines, and of course the web stats speak for themselves--over 1 million hits a month from over 100,000 visitors! I truly believe we are making a difference in the lives of women worldwide, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Tracey Stevens and Cathy Wonder
Co-authors of "Lesbian Sex Tips: A Guide for Anyone Who
Wants to Bring Pleasure to the Woman She (Or He) Loves"
and "How To Be A Happy Lesbian: A Coming Out Guide"
Their website provides over 1,000 free community services
for lesbian and bisexual women worldwide!

Search Amazing Dreams Publishing:

Amazing Dreams Publishing
International Website For
Lesbians, Bisexual and Questioning Women
PO Box 1811, Asheville, NC 28802





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