Author Claims Mormon-Affiliated Publishing Company Sweetwater Press Dropped Him Because of His Sexuality

Author Michael Jensen is alleging that publishing company Sweetwater Press has dropped his upcoming title because he's gay. Hello, 2013. Jensen's book, Woven, is a young adult fantasy novel that was set to be released in October — until the publisher objected to a line in co-author Jensen’s biography, which states that he “lives with his boyfriend and four dogs.” Although to some people this might seem like the most innocent of all statements to make, publishers at Sweetwater Press deleted the info.

When Jensen objected, the relationship between publisher and author deteriorated. He offered to change the line to “partner” instead of “boyfriend,” but Sweetwater didn’t go for the compromise. Jensen appealed to the owner, Lyle Mortimer, and the situation went from bad to worse. As the conversation soured, Mortimer reportedly ranted about Jensen’s “agenda” and told him that God gave him a penis for a reason.

What makes the Utah-based publishing company’s ultimate decision to drop Woven even more tragic is the fact that not only was the book highly anticipated, but also that Sweetwater has taken a chance on books with gay characters in the past, and that Jensen reports that the company actually knew he was gay when he signed the book deal in January. Apparently they just didn’t want anyone else to know.

Sweetwater Press’s parent company, the Arizona-based Cedar Fort Press, owns several other books imprints, including some that have an overt LDS focus. Their website claims they believe “books should inspire readers to be better people, and [they] strive to always publish books that are in harmony with that spirit.” It seems like there might be a contradiction in here somewhere…

And as it turns out, 41 Mormon authors agree, and have signed a letter asking publishers to base their decisions about which books to publish on, well, the books themselves. Although it probably won’t reverse the Sweetwater decision, it hopefully will send a message to publishers in the future.

Jensen and his co-author David Powers King say that though they are “disappointed” by the way things ended with Sweetwater, they still hope to find another publisher for Woven. King adds, “We’d much rather be signed by a publisher who fully supports us — both of us.”

Here’s hoping they do — and when they do, Woven will definitely be on my reading list.