Finding The Lost Stories- A Gay Ol’ (Once Upon A) Time

A Gay Ol' Time is an animated book that uses short poetry and animated portraits to tell the untold histories of LGBTQIA+ people of note from the 19th century. It's amazing.

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A Gay Ol' (Once Upon A) Time - Kickstarter, crowdink, crowdink.com.au, crowdink, crowd ink, kickstarter
A Gay Ol' (Once Upon A) Time - An Interview with CrowdInk

CrowdInk (virtually) sat down with Kiernan Sjursen-Lien, an animator and writer from California to talk about Kiernan’s new project, the amazing book “A Gay Ol’ Time” that has been gaining an awful lot of traction on Kickstarter in the past few months.

Kiernan was kind enough to tell us a little bit more about the origins of the project and where the project and future projects will be heading in the future.

Check out the Kickstarter video below:

CrowdInk: What was the inspiration for A Gay Ol’ Time?
Kiernan: I am a major history buff, and particularly adore 19th century and turn-of-the-century American history.

I grew up in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, which are filled with old ghost towns and mines. I got into the history of this country as a result of this upbringing, essentially wondering things like what were those fearful, gaping pits into the unknown that I was not supposed to throw rocks into (answer: mine shafts! Or canary graves, depending on your point of view).

However, I quickly found, as with all history, that the stories of this era that are popularly told are those written by those in power. This buries so many other historical figures that were minorities, from notable people of color, to early members of the LGBTQIA+ community, to, of course, the history of the various Native American peoples who were essentially horrifically exterminated.

Those in power were not kind to these people at the time, and thus, history became unkind to them as well. In making A Gay Old Time, I just wanted to see how many little histories I could uncover and bring to light (in regards to the LGBTQIA+ community in particular, which I am a member of).

CrowdInk: Since surpassing your Kickstarter goal, what new features have you added to A Gay Ol’ Time, if any?
Kiernan: Well, I really want to add more people, but the sad fact is that, because I am requiring a lot of research and confirmation of at the very least speculation to their sexual, gender, or romantic orientation, there aren’t that many documents that have survived.
So I am trying to add more people and actively continue my research to try and bump up the count of stories included within A Gay Ol’ Time. 

Aside from that, though, I am printing more books with the extra money.

I’m hoping to get about $6,500-$7,000 pledged, which would allow me to print 1000 books instead of the 500 I currently could (which is already way over the initial 150!) I am also donating as many books as I feasibly can to libraries and LGBTQIA+ groups both locally and worldwide (if they contact me especially!)

CrowdInk: What has been the biggest obstacle in the development and distribution of A Gay Ol’ Time?
Kiernan: The research has been trickiest. As I previously noted, history is not kind to minority groups of any kind. Thus, I have been having to use quite the mixture of research tactics in my approach of this book. There are a few helpful books that I’ve read that were written in the past 50 years or so like Katz’ Gay American History, and there’s plenty of groups like Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society with helpful websites, so I’ve mostly been using books like that to point me in the right direction.

After I get a name or a direction to go from secondhand sources, I do whatever I can to dig up either time period secondhand accounts (as in the case of Murray Hall, a transman whose existence as such is documented in the New York Times, albeit of course rudely), or firsthand accounts (like the diaries and unpublished works of Angelina Weld Grimke).
Since even all this is still often heavily based in speculations, albeit scholarly speculation, I write about every person using poetic quatrains. This way, every person is documented in as simplistic a way as possible so as to avoid mislabeling and just focus on the facts.

CrowdInk: Where do you see your company (your professional self?) in 3-5 years? What can we look forward to from the creator of A Gay Ol’ Time next?
Kiernan: I am actually an animation artist before I am a writer, haha! I expect I’ll professionally be doing a lot more work in the animation industry in the future. I do have a couple ideas up my sleeve for animated projects that I may want to create, either by traditionally pitching to a studio, or creating myself (likely again through crowdfunding).
However, I adore writing, and certainly intend to create more books in the future as well. I am starting to write a comic right now based on a short animation I’m working on, which will run about four issues and follow the story of a little orphan child meandering their way through turn-of-the-century California.

I also have plans for a historical fiction book based on all the little interesting stories I couldn’t use from my research for A Gay Ol’ Time (my particular favorite being an article from the E. Hampton Star of the era entitled ‘WOMAN HATES MEN AND DOGS’, or something of that nature).

I’d love to write a whole bunch of short, quirky time period pieces based on all the little things we never hear about in popular history and historical fiction works. 

So things are in the works, both on the writing and art end over here! One step at a time, I suppose!

To support the Kickstarter and learn more about the book, click here.


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Sam Ferrante is a poet, editor, facilitator, and writer born on Long Island, college-fed in Western New York and Paris, and then poetically raised in Buffalo, NY; Ireland; and Australia. A former member of the Pure Ink Poetry team in Buffalo and a regular competitor in Dublin's Slam Sunday, Sam was a Co-Creative Producer at Melbourne-based Slamalamadingdong in addition to serving on the Melbourne Spoken Word Committee. Sam has been published in Ghost City Press, Blowing Raspberries, and The Dirty Thirty Anthology and has been featured at The Owl & Cat Session, La Mama Poetica, Girls on Key, and White Night 2016 among others. Her debut book of poetry, Pick Me Up, got rave reviews from her Mom. She is currently the Editor of CrowdInk.