• Join 540 other followers

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • Most Recent Posts

  • What I’m writing about

  • Archives

Guest Post: The Challenge I Didn’t Expect by Annabeth Leong

Annabeth Leong and I have shared pages, but we’ve only just become friends. Annabeth came up with the brilliant idea that we exchange guest posts–I share my thoughts and  feelings about being a first time editor and share my current submissions call, and Annabeth write a post about her anthology and her evolution as an editor. After reading her post, I’m so thrilled to have Annabeth guest posting here today.

***

Delilah, thanks so much for hosting me here!

At the start of this year, to be honest, I was feeling burned out. After eight years of writing erotica, I wasn’t sure anymore if I had stories to tell that mattered in the world. So I took a step back, sat down with a notebook, and thought about things I’d done that did seem to matter.

 

MakerSex

 

Immediately, the forays I’d taken into editing stood out. The first anthology I edited, MakerSex: Erotic Stories of Hackers, Geeks, and DIY Projects, came out in March, but even though the book wasn’t yet available I already knew how important it felt to have discovered great stories I wanted everyone to read, to have helped the authors polish and improve them, and to have put together a book that was sexy, diverse, and well-written.

 

Between the Shores

 

I also spent a lot of time in late 2014 and early 2015 copy editing for The New Smut Project. Both of the books that project produced—Between the Shores: Erotica with Consent and Heart, Body, Soul: Erotica with Character—are filled with stories that humbled me, stories I felt honored to have touched in any way, stories that changed how I think about erotic connection to this day.

Next, I thought about how proud I’ve been to have contributed to the Coming Together series of charity anthologies. I’ve been in nine of them, including Among the Stars, Arm in Arm in Arm, and Keeping Warm. I don’t make much as an erotica writer, so it means a lot to me to be able to give to charity this way, when I might not be able to otherwise.

Finally, I thought about this question of stories that matter in the world. The stories I’ve written that I’ve loved best came from my own unique voice. They spoke to experiences I hadn’t read described in quite that way before, and when they resonated with readers, they seemed to do so because they addressed a void, made people feel they weren’t alone in something.

So if I wanted to do a project that I could feel excited about amidst my burnout, it felt like it ought to combine these elements—it should give me a chance to help other writers, it should be for a cause I believed in, and it should speak to an experience in which people too often feel alone.

Some time ago, I realized that I’ve never read a piece of erotica that includes a person who has an STI. If erotica acknowledges that STIs exist at all, it’s only in terms of their prevention. (Whenever I write this, I add that I would love to hear about positive counterexamples. Please feel free to email me!) That was what I learned in school, too—only prevention and warnings. But the truth is that’s not the world. People get STIs all the time, and getting an STI doesn’t forfeit a person’s right to a fun, fulfilling sex life.

I remember being diagnosed with HPV and genital warts—both of which are incredibly common in the U.S.—in my twenties and honestly thinking I could never have sex with anyone again. The shame was overwhelming. I’ve since had lovers who had other STIs, and I’ve seen them in various stages of overcoming shame, too.

 

csph-logo

 

I got into erotica wanting to talk about subjects that had always been taboo, wanting to shine a light into places I’d felt shame, and where I thought others might, too. I came up with the idea for Coming Together: Positively Sexy, an anthology of stories including positive portrayals of characters with STIs, in this spirit. My hope is that the book will do good just by existing—that writing for it and reading it will heal shame. Beyond that, its proceeds will benefit the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, an organization that has helped to free me from so much of my own sexual shame, and that, among other work, educates people about STIs, including prevention, but also including enjoying sex responsibly after a diagnosis.

And since I put out the call for submissions, I’ve heard very, very often from people who want to read this book, who say they need to read it. I haven’t, however, gotten many story submissions.

I got into this project knowing this book would test my editing skills. I want to choose stories representing a wide variety of people and experiences, and to work with writers to help them realize their vision. I have an image of a book that includes a range from stories of people dealing with disclosing an STI to a new lover to people for whom it’s a quick, no-big-deal conversation before the sexy fun begins. I have experts at the CSPH available to consult with if needed, so I can be sure the book treats STIs in a medically accurate, non-shaming way.

What I didn’t realize was that this book is demanding a different kind of editing skill: convincing and encouraging nervous writers to try their hands at stories that feel risky to them. I have had many conversations with writers who say they don’t know anything about STIs and can’t write about them, only to tell me in the next breath that they’ve had or currently have an STI. I’ve had conversations with writers who say they can’t picture how a story could include mention of an STI and still be sexy. I’ve had conversations with writers who say they are far too worried about the possibility of getting something wrong. I’ve talked to writers who say they mostly submit stories they’ve already written, and they’ve never written a story that includes a character with an STI.

To me, this all speaks to the stigma around STIs, the very stigma that I’m hoping this book can question. I want to make a book that opens up a little space inside a dominant culture that often seems intent on shaming people, a book that offers up a vision that an STI doesn’t have to be the end of a person’s sex life, that it doesn’t have to be a big deal at all. I’m hoping to get some stories from writers who already know that because they’ve lived that experience, and I’m also hoping to get some stories from writers who are learning it through the writing they’re doing now.

I will confess that I’m not the greatest at promotion. I worry that I’m not up for the task ahead of me, and that I can’t edit the book I see a need for because I won’t get enough stories. I do want to say, though, that I am doing my best—that’s all a writer or editor can ever do. If you’re reading this, and you’re interested in writing a story, please give it a try. If you have questions, send me an email (positivelybook at outlook dot com). You can see the full call for submissions here, with all the information.

Thanks so much again to Delilah for hosting me, and thanks so much to you for reading.

One Response

  1. Thanks so much for having me! 🙂 I hope Under the Mistletoe goes really well for you (and raises lots of money for Project Linus!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: