Tag Archives: Feminism

Writing Your First Sex Scene

So, basically, Delilah S. Dawson’s “25 Humpalicious Steps for Writing Your First Sex Scene” is now one of my new favorite On Writing articles — and I don’t even (usually) write erotica (*cough*thinking of you Tina!*cough*).

One of my great friends from my writing group first discovered this article while we were writing together at Red Emma’s here in Bmore — so we were already (unknowingly) breaking Dawson’s rules #1 & 2; I mean, #1 would come later (that’s what she said (OMG, why aren’t we friends, Dawson?)) — and right away my friend couldn’t keep herself from reading the entire article aloud to me, both of us giggling like grade-schoolers and looking self-consciously over our shoulders. Not only was this article a tremendous thing to share together, but it also sparked some great discussion about the hows/whys of writing sex scenes.

First, who could resist this intro?

I never set out to be a romance writer. When I was asked to turn a black-out scene into steamy hot sex, at first I panicked. Then I followed these 25 easy steps and panicked some more. And then I got a three-book deal for a paranormal romance series with Simon & Schuster, despite being a somewhat prudish Southern girl who’s been married to her college sweetheart since 2002 and has never actually seen a pair of assless chaps. And you can, too! Here’s how.

Dawson! Again: Why aren’t we friends??

But perhaps what I appreciate most about Dawson’s article, aside from her wonderful candor and sense of humor, is just how much of her advice had both my friend and me gushing, Oh my God, yes! Just take rule #7 for example:

7. Consider the lowly Jimmy hat.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a romance book neglects to take into account that most women (and men!) have very strong feelings about whether or not they wish to end up preggers after a sexual encounter. …

AMEN!

Anyway, if you’re still here reading this instead of at Terrible Minds reading Dawson … why are you?

Cease, Cows & The Spyglass

I am so proud that my short story “The Spyglass” has found its home with Cease, Cows. I wrote this short story a long, long time ago and it’s gone through a shocking number of iterations before finally finding its sweet-spot.

Check it out now with Cease, Cows!

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Hungry for a taste? Here’s the teaser:

Mom had once told me that all women had the same parts down there, but Aunt Theo’s were definitely different from mine. Where I was all hairless and smooth and small, she was big and bushy and tangled, like one of the neighbor’s, Mrs. DuPont’s, armpits.

 

Happy Reading and, as always, Happy Writing!

Good News & Great Writers

Plenty of beautiful spring weather here in Baltimore, as well as plenty of great news!

51Q7MRxaY6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_First, let me start by saying that I’m not including myself in the “Great Writers” portion of this post’s title. Rather, I’m referring to some amazing artists who I’ve only just discovered thanks to H.L. Nelson and Joanne Merriam’s anthology Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up to No Goodas well as to the terrific new publication Witch Craft Magazine.

In Nelson and Merriam’s anthology, they’ve got some classic, big league writers like Aimee Bender and Joyce Carol Oates as well as some less-well-known but undoubtedly terrific authors like xTx (here’s her website) and Andrea Kneeland (here’s an interview with her). Definitely worth reading and then rereading!

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In Witch Craft Magazine (issue one; I haven’t yet received my copy of issue two), I was thrilled to find story after story and poem after poem that I simply loved. I fancy myself as a rather picky reader, but the entire first issue struck me as a precious gem. Authors I’m now particularly excited about thanks to this issue are: Chelsea Laine Wells, Nicola Maye Goldberg, and Anna Lea Jancewicz.


Now, on to more of the good news (drum roll, please; thank you–alright, that’s enough! End drum roll already!):

I’m thrilled to announce that my story “The Spyglass” will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Cease, Cows and that my flash fiction story “Shelf Space” has just gone live in the latest issue of Literary Orphans!

Here’s a little teaser of “The Spyglass”:

I always felt empty as a kid, and some nights I feared I might wake up on the ceiling, floating like a hollow barrel on a dark sea. My Aunt Theo often tried cheering me up, but it wasn’t until I happened upon one of her secrets that it finally did any good.

And a little teaser of “Shelf Space”:

And though Rose’s moods and body soon recovered and returned to normal, her newfound connection to the fridge only ever intensified. …

 

Happy Reading & Happy Writing, everyone!

New Publication!

I am so proud that my short story “The Slide” has finally found its niche. I wrote this short story while working with The Roving Writings in Pittsburgh, and it’s gone through several major shifts before finding its way home.

Check it out now with Litro Magazine!

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Hungry for a taste? Here’s the teaser:

My left eye was sliding down the side of my face, drooping like an almond in a half-melted candy bar.

First, I reminded myself not to scream.

 

Happy Reading and, as always, Happy Writing!

Advice from Women Writers

 

Don’t romanticize your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

—Zadie Smith


This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.

—Barbara Kingsolver


First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.

—Octavia Butler


Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

—Margaret Atwood


Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.

—Anne Lamott


It’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it…You have to let people see what you wrote.

—Tina Fey


You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.

—Maya Angelou

Tetons & Yellowstone 2014 316

 

Activists Write: Writing for a Reason

Right now, Baltimore is all over the news. Pains and fears that it’s been struggling with for decades are now finally being discussed at the national level. This is in part due to the many protests (peaceful and otherwise) that are currently taking place here, but also because of the many brilliant, activist voices speaking out today.

Inspired by this, I’d like to share here a few of my favorite pieces of modern activist writing:

Nonviolence as Compliance,” Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview. …


In Defense of Looting,” Willie Osterwell, The New Inquiry

For most of America’s history, one of the most righteous anti-white supremacist tactics available was looting.

As protests in Ferguson continued unabated one week after the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., zones of Twitter and the left media predominantly sympathetic to the protesters began angrily criticizing looters. Some claimed that white protesters were the ones doing all of the looting and property destruction, while others worried about the stereotypical and damaging media representation that would emerge. …


$pread: The Best of the Magazine that Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution

Edited by Audacia Ray, Eliyanna Kaiser, and Rachel Aimee

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Like any movement for social change, the sex worker rights movement has gone through many phases and been challenged both internally and externally by people, ideas, and events beyond its control. It has experienced wins and losses, and it has reimagined its goals and values with each successive generation of leaders and activists who have taken up its banner. …


“Defending Darwin,” James Krupa (painting by Alexis Rockman), Orion Magazine

I’m often asked what I do for a living. My answer, that I am a professor at the University of Kentucky, inevitably prompts a second question: “What do you teach?” Responding to such a question should be easy and invite polite conversation, but I usually brace for a negative reaction. At least half the time the person flinches with disapproval when I answer “evolution,” and often the conversation simply terminates once the “e-word” has been spoken. Occasionally, someone will retort: “But there is no evidence for evolution.” Or insist: “It’s just a theory, so why teach it?” …


“On Climate Change: To Save the Future, Live in the Present,” Wendell Berry, Yes! Magazine

So far as I am concerned, the future has no narrative. The future does not exist until it has become the past. To a very limited extent, prediction has worked. The sun, so far, has set and risen as we have expected it to do. And the world, I suppose, will predictably end, but all of its predicted deadlines, so far, have been wrong. …


“The Case for Reparations,” Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

I. “So That’s Just One Of My Losses”

Clyde Ross was born in 1923, the seventh of 13 children, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the blues. Ross’s parents owned and farmed a 40-acre tract of land, flush with cows, hogs, and mules. Ross’s mother would drive to Clarksdale to do her shopping in a horse and buggy, in which she invested all the pride one might place in a Cadillac. The family owned another horse, with a red coat, which they gave to Clyde. The Ross family wanted for little, save that which all black families in the Deep South then desperately desired—the protection of the law. …


“Rewriting the Future: Using Science Fiction to Re-envision Justice,” Walidah Imarisha, bitch

When I tell people I am a prison abolitionist and that I believe in ending all prisons, they often look at me like I rode in on a unicorn sliding down a rainbow. Even people engaged in social movements, people who concede that the current prison system is flawed, voice their critiques but always seem to add, “But it’s all we have.”

For all of our ability to analyze and critique, the left has become rooted in what is. We often forget to envision what could be. We forget to mine the past for solutions that show us how we can exist in other forms in the future.  …


“Nobody Passes: Attached to Machines,” Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, make/shift

Jessica says the worst part is the preparation. The drugs they give you. Diarrhea all day long, and then you get the chills so you’re lying in bed but you never know when you’re going to need to rush to the bathroom–eventually there’s nothing but clear liquid coming out, and that’s when they say you’re ready for the colonoscopy. So you wake up super early the next day, totally wrecked because …

(This is one of my favorite, favorites!)


$PREAD: Triumphs & Trials of an Indie Magazine

spread logo

Recently, my husband and I went to an event at Red Emma’s (our local radical bookstore), featuring two of the founders of $pread magazine — the first ever magazine written by and for sex workers.

We went for a number of reasons: A) Duh; this sounds fascinating, and B) because I’ve always been eager to learn more about the processes and trials faced by indie magazines. And while the presentation wasn’t as well put-together as I would’ve hoped (it seemed as though a lot of improvisation was happening on stage), I now recognize that this was the same style and attitude with which the magazine itself got started: People need to know about these issues – There are voices here that need and deserve to be heard – Let’s just run with it. 

I’m beginning to realize that too much (don’t ask me when too much is “too much”) preparatory work may also at some point become its own pretext for never actually trying anything new. After all, the more I learn about the difficulties of starting up a radical project like $pread, the warier and more uncertain I become. What’s more, it isn’t as though these women didn’t have useful background information/experience and networking connections already in place when they decided to try their hand at running their own indie mag (the original founders/idea-women “met while organizing a benefit for PONY (Prostitutes of New York)” and some staffers were still or had been sex workers themselves) (Aimee et al., 17).

By diving in head-first, the women of $pread got a good five years worth of issues out to a community greatly in need of venues willing to provide an honest platform for their stories and voices. The lesson, at least to me, was clear: When it comes to matters of social justice, there’s no time to waste. Once you have what you need to get your feet off the ground (even if for only a little while) in regards to research, understanding, respect, and empathy — then get your damn feet off that ground!

As $pread editors Rachel Aimee, Eliyanna Kaiser, and Audacia Ray explain in their new anthology $PREADThe Best of the Magazine that Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution: “Probably the most important reason we succeeded was that we didn’t know what we were getting into” (32).

Though $pread is no longer in circulation, they had a strong and deeply appreciated five years of quarterly mag issues, and have left “a legacy of making space for the voices of people who have been silenced” (Aimee et al., 32-33).

Here are a few of the more interesting points (in my opinion) from their presentation:

  • A primary concern for the editors of $pread was that women’s voices be heard regardless of their perspective or political opinions. This, unsurprisingly, wasn’t always a popular stance (especially within the larger feminist community), as it led to many pieces getting published with extremely controversial perspectives. –But this also gets to the real heartwood of editorial work: When your publication has a set mission (like being an honest platform for voices from a regularly silenced community), you can’t let your own political opinions and unique perspective get in the way. This causes many editors to tread a fine line with their authors (and with deciding who gets to become one of their authors), but it’s a vital line. For all you fellow editors out there, don’t forget to always be on your guard against that insidious prick Prejudice.
  • While $pread had its reasons for choosing to go for a print magazine rather than a digital one, many of its editors now regret this decision given how cumbersome and expensive the print version became.

“We entered the arena of publishing at a moment of epic transition from hardcopy to digital. We had been inspired by lovingly handcrafted, desktop-published, and photocopied sex worker zines like DanzineWhorezine, and PONY XXXpress. We were fans and hoped to be the peers of small independent magazines that had real print runs and distribution, like Bitch, LiP, and Clamor. If we had known from the beginning just how hard everything would be, we almost certainly would have been too intimidated to undertake such a lofty project. But we didn’t. So we did.” (Aimee et al., 19)

(Dig it!)

  • Even though $pread eventually became an Utne award-winning magazine, it never managed to make enough money for any of its staffers to be paid.
  • They raised most of their initial funding through benefit parties.
  • Through reader surveys, the editors of $pread learned that their initial audience was composed mostly of white, college-educated women. To address this, they began distributing copies of each issue directly to outreach organizations that focused on women in the sex industry.
  • Many anti-human trafficking bills are used (at least in some part) as smokescreens to get more anti-prostitution legislation passed.

All in all, it ended up being just as I expected: a fascinating presentation that challenged many of my own preconceived notions and opinions, and that gave me a better look at the work involved in bringing a terrific, radical idea to life. Thank you, $pread! And thank you, Red Emma’s!

Further Reading:

Final Disclaimer