Sweetwater Books, a division of Cedar Fort Publishing & Media, has terminated the highly-anticipated release of the Young Adult novel Woven, allegedly following a dispute over an author's autobiographical blurb that outed him as a gay man.
With the cancellation coming days before the book was slated to go to press, the controversy reportedly began when co-author Michael Jensen received a proof of the novel on Aug. 2 with a notable line missing from his biography: “He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs.”
According to a press release, Jensen then contacted the acquisitions editor of Cedar Fort, Angie Workman, who allegedly informed Jensen that he could not present himself as a gay man living with his boyfriend because the publisher worried that it might mar their relationship with Latter-day Saint (LDS) church–affiliated Deseret Book if they appeared to support a gay writer.
Following an attempt to allow Jensen to change "boyfriend" to "partner," which was also denied, the author was referred to Cedar Fort’s owner Lyle Mortimer. According to Jensen, the conversation quickly devolved.
Lyle started yelling about my "agenda" and how I was trying to destroy families. He even started saying inappropriate things about how God had given me a penis for a reason. It was very uncomfortable. Then he threatened to publish Woven without our names attached or without our bios at all -- rather than print that one sentence. He told me that if he decided not to publish because of this, I‘d have to buy back the rights to our book and reimburse him for his work so far, and that would cost me thousands of dollars.
Jensen has been collaborating on Woven with co-author David Powers King for the past five years. Two weeks following this troubling conversation, Cedar Fort still refused to budge and allegedly cancelled the novel's publication, returning the rights to Jensen and King.
“It’s a word. It’s the word ‘partner,’” Jensen told Fox13. “It’s very non-gender specific, and so yeah for me, for the whole thing to fall apart over one word that I think the majority of people are understanding and are OK with, it feels ridiculous to me, but it ultimately, it just hurts.”
The Huffington Post reached out to Sweetwater Books regarding Jensen's accusations, but did not receive a response. However, Fox 13 talked with Bryce Mortimer, president of Cedar Fort, and inquired as to the reasoning behind the cancellation. “I’ve seen them turn books away for us for less than that, for having beer cans underneath the seat of a truck,” he said. “We wanted to get as many sales as we can with this book, but we just knew if we had that they would censor it and they would have a problem.”
According to Mortimer, the decision to terminate the book deal did not center around Jensen's sexuality. Rather, the company decided that the author was too determined to push the information.
However, co-author David Powers King told reporters that he is actually a member of the LDS church and, according to him, Cedar Fort's decision does not fairly represent the opinion of most members.
The co-authors are currently looking for a new publisher for Woven and interested parties can contact their representative, Nicholas Rupp, at 801-477-6987 for further inquiries.