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From the Comfort of their Favorite Armchair
  July 13, 2001

Today's Featured Author - Dawn DeWinter

by: Kelly Ann Rogers    

There are now many hundreds of writers who have tried their hands at TG fiction, but only a fraction of those can write a truly literate piece, perhaps a couple of dozen of that group have demonstrated the ability to put together a long, coherent story, and hardly any TG writers even dare to try humor. Dawn DeWinter (no relation to Brandy) is unique because she does all three well. Her only complete story, "Anything for a Moped" is a long, carefully woven farce put together from a rather large number of mostly well crafted characters, a delightfully twisted collection of misunderstandings, lies, and mixed motives, and a neatly interlaced plot.

At the heart of all this is Kyle, who agrees to wear girl's clothing for a month to win a moped in a bet with his mother. Kyle, who quickly acquires the femme name of Demi, is endearing and reckless at the same time. Along with the complex, but carefully constructed plot, Kyle/Demi is one of Moped's real achievements. It is not that Kyle/Demi is a full, rich character, brought alive with nuance and insight, it is instead that she is totally vacuous. Demi is an artfully constructed, but empty vessel. She exists only to be filled with the perceptions, needs, and wants of the story's many characters, who take turns using her for their own ends. Britney has contributed a few drawings of Demi to this story, and these capture Demi’s sweet, innocent emptiness nicely.

Despite his lack of substance, Kyle is a sort of misdirected genius. When faced with a problem, he is a tactician who is too clever by a half, has no insight into others, no ability to see the big picture, and way more testosterone than he can handle. With all this going for him, it’s not surprising that he somehow always chooses the solution that will make it least likely that he will ever get out of girl’s clothes. Instead, he is like a drunken spider, whose each step turns into a misstep, entangling him ever more completely in his own web of lies, evasions, and bad choices. By the time all the threads of this story are brought together, Kyle has pretty much wrapped himself up. Only Demi is left with any control.

Kyle/Demi’s adventures are played out over the course of a whimsical and slightly cockeyed plot that is strewn with humorous asides, allusions, and distortions. Although her jokes don't always work, when she’s at her best, Dawn distorts things just enough to make them oddly silly when you first realize you've stumbled onto them, and then sometimes downright funny upon reflection. But Dawn gives us mostly subtle stuff, designed more to elicit giggles than belly laughs.

Dawn writes in a unique voice that is light-hearted, ironic, and shaded with slightly suspicious wonder. The writing is spare and simple, reflecting, it seems, the thought processes of her main character. This is not always good, however, and tends to set the reader outside the story rather than drawing her in. One result is that when the action flags, the writing itself cannot maintain the momentum of the story, and it flags as well. But Dawn never let's that go on for too long and it generally takes little effort to stay engaged.

Dawn has also posted the beginnings of two other stories about teenagers. "Caught in the Oval Office" is the story of the crossdressing son of the president of the United States. This story promises to be as sweetly goofy as Moped, and like Moped, it shows real empathy for the troubled young hero, who must find ways to express his femme self in the least private of all homes. In "The Boy Who Was Hitchhiking", young Nate flees home and is rescued by Bill, a cross dresser. But danger looms, and the path to safety is paved with little girl’s clothing, so Bill begins to convince tough little Nate, soon to be Cathy, that "in pink you will find freedom." Hitchhiker is tinged with the same warm-hearted but silly view of the world that makes Dawn’s other two stories so much fun, and while it’s not yet clear where Hitchhiker is headed, Dawn did say she will finish it.

But while you wait for Dawn to finish those, you can read all the way through Moped, a delightful diversion, just right for a mild summer evening when you only want to kick off your heels, tear off your too hot pantyhose and bra, and stretch out on a lounge chair with a box of bon bons. Dawn writes to amuse, but her writing is generously warm-hearted, and she doesn’t extract her laughs at the expense of her often stunningly clueless characters, who she treats with empathy and respect. As a result, you feel good when you finish her stories. There aren’t others like her out there, so savor what she offers, and expect to giggle affectionately as you do.

by: Debbie Cybill      

I have a wee confession to make. I don’t really like stories that are posted in many parts. When I come across a multipart story I rarely download it until it is completed. I like to read a story straight through, from beginning to end, not necessarily in one sitting, but over the course of successive evenings. I hate to wait a month or more for the next installment. And so I had never read a word that Dawn DeWinter had written when Heather asked me to write this armchair review.

Starting in January 2000 Dawn has been posting installments of three different stories, but until the end of May none of them was completed. I shall devote most of my review to this one story "Anything for a Moped", but first let me mention "The Boy who was Hitchhiking" and "Caught in the Oval Office". We have only seen a single long episode of the latter, but the convoluted plot is already well-established and full of interest. Despite the title this is no salacious exploitation of the Monica Lewinsky affair, but a wonderful story of the TV son of an American president of the USA. It is as much about race as about the problems that we transvestites meet in everyday life.

Hitchhiking is a road story of a young TV. I had never realized that America’s roads were the prowling ground of quite so many pedophiles, whom the hero escapes with the aid of an older TV who rescues him.

Moped chronicles the gradual feminization of a boy who was already quite used to wearing girl’s clothes. Unlike most stories of feminization by a mother there is no hint of forced feminization. Every step of the way is embraced by Kyle. His girlfriend and his best boyfriend assist in the feminization, as does his high school vice-principle, the mother of his boyfriend, the school counselor, his family doctor and almost everyone else in sight, all for different reasons, each of which seems to be believed to be in the best interest of the boy/girl. This is a marvelously complex story. The hero is a believable character as are all the minor characters; no cardboard characters here. Dawn is to be congratulated on the way she has handled this large cast and made them all into real people.

Charles Dickens taught us how to write serial stories; all his novels were first published in installments in periodicals. His technique has withstood the test of time and is valid today. Each episode of one his stories ended in a cliff-hanger with the hero in some kind of difficulty, so that the reader is avid to discover how he gets out of it. The next episode unravels this problem and the middle of the story advances the plot up to the next crisis, which, once more is left hanging.

Dawn has made a champion effort to follow this style. Most, but not all, of her installments leave the reader eager to know what happens next, wondering how Kyle with cope with this latest predicament. The storyline seems to flow naturally from crisis to crisis and all characters are fully developed, fleshed out and life-like. In the end Kyle wins his moped but we are left wondering if he will choose to return to masculine life or not.

Moped is a well-constructed, enjoyable tale, and I recommend you all to read it. Myself, I am waiting avidly for the next installments of the other two, wondering how these stories will develop. Let’s hope that the demands of RL do not delay Dawn’s writing the rest of these stories.

Editor - Heather Sinclair


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