Karelia Stetz-Waters

Tell us about yourself! What do you do for a living? What are your interests? What are your pronouns/ how do you identify?

I teach writing at a community college, and I write women-loving-women romances for a large, mainstream publisher. When I’m not writing or teaching, I love to garden, hike, draw, play with my pug, and spend time with my wife, parents, and friends. I identify as lesbian and use she/her pronouns.  

About how old were you when you came out? How was the climate you grew up in?

I came out at sixteen in a climate of intense anti-gay sentiment. I was living in Oregon at the time. An organization called the Oregon Citizens Alliance had put a measure on the November ballot that demanded homosexuality be classed along with pedophilia and necrophilia. The state was split over the issue. The anti-gay faction vandalized LBGTQ nonprofits and gay-friendly churches, stole lists of volunteers, fire-bombed and killed three queer people in Salem, shot at LBGTQ people’s houses, and beat up countless queer people. You can learn more in a documentary called Ballot Measure 9.

Did you make career choices that allowed you to feel comfortable being open about your sexuality? (Are you out or feel comfortable being out at your workplace?)

I went to college out of state, in part, because I was afraid of anti-gay sentiment in Oregon. Happily, my job in academia allows me to be completely out and completely accepted. I also feel very supported by my publisher. When I started writing women-loving-women romances, there weren’t a lot of women-loving-women romances published by mainstream publishers. For this reason, I had a few books that didn’t sell well. Another publisher might have dropped me, saying I wasn’t profitable enough, but my publisher kept publishing me and my fourth romance made Amazon’s Best List of 2021 in the romance category. 

If you could tell your younger self something about yourself that you are proud of today, what would it be?

I would tell her that I learned to be someone who stood up for herself and spoke her mind. When I was a teenager, a lot of my friends thought of me as a flighty (but lovable) push-over. I would tell myself that even back then I was a lot stronger than I got credit for.

Have you tried to surround yourself with like-minded peers/colleagues? If so, how?

Given my job at a college, it would be hard not to surround myself with like-minded colleagues. But one thing I’ve done to cultivate that group of like-minded colleagues is to be unapologetically out. 

Who were your role models growing up? What tv shows/movies allowed you to feel seen?

There wasn’t a lot of LBGTQ representation in the media when I was growing up, but I remember seeing the movie Claire of the Moon (one of the first really queer-positive films out at that time). I carried the scenes from that movie around in my heart for months. I even started drinking the same kind of tea as one of the characters just so I could feel close to the movie. I also read any books I could find written by queer women. (I skipped the ones where the lesbian dies at the end. Ugh!) The classic Patience and Sarah was one of the first I read which was fitting because it was one of the first lesbian romance books to be passed around the women-loving-women community.

Complete the sentence, if I knew that I would find true love back when I was first figuring myself out, I would tell my younger self to just enjoy being a teenager and not spend so much time worrying about ending up alone.


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