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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power


The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense


Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?


Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...


The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?


Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words


The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies


2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy


Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother
Sluts


Editorials

Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin



Selling Smut in Motown



One of the difficulties of being an erotica writer is that it's a bit hard sometimes to mingle.  I'm a bit bolder about it than most, but there are limits to the places where one can say, without fear of repercussions, "I write erotica."  People can react badly, even shun you if their temperament is conservative enough, which makes the whole question of promotion a tricky one. Where on earth do you plug a smutty book?

At a writers conference, if you're lucky, and I was. The Essence of Motown Writers Conference, now in its second year, was happy to let me have a table, and would have done so even if I hadn't been teaching a workshop there. Then again, it tells you something about those involved in the conference that I wasn't teaching the sexy story-writing workshop. That was someone else's job that day.

So who the heck were these people, who welcomed an erotica writer with open arms and didn't tuck her somewhere off in the back where she wouldn't frighten the horses? Motown is Detroit, famous primarily for its crime rate and unemployment, both of which are catastrophically high, and unfortunately less famous for the bloody-minded grit of its inhabitants and its marvelous architecture. We were in the library on Woodward, which is one fantastic building. Still, Detroit is about the last place one would expect to find a writers conference, so what on earth was one doing there?

It was born in Detroit, out of the efforts of Sylvia Hubbard and LaDonna Tutt, two of the most strong-minded, motivated women I have ever met. Both are writers who lean heavily toward the urban if not always the erotica, part of a wave whose crest is writers like Joylynn Jossell, and Vickie Stringer. The urban writers work with the words and worlds they know, and they have no qualms about spicing things up a little. Or a lot, depending on their mood. Thanks in a large part to these two and to those of similar minds, there are some active writers groups in the Detroit Metro area, and of course there is also the conference.

It's not easy for urban writers to get published. Part of the problem is that publishing is largely controlled by people who consider the language they often use to be a substandard form of English, rather than a regional variation. The German spoken by the Amish still gets a certain amount of respect even though few speakers of Hochdeutsch would have any idea what was being said in it. The same is not true of the English spoken in downtown Detroit, or the downtown of any other large city. Instead, it's belittled and made fun of, and those who use it are considered to be of inferior intelligence.

Another problem is that the issues urban writers tackle are extremely difficult. It's one thing for white people to read books that describe downtown from the point of view of the intellectual observer or the accidental tourist. It's another to catch a glimpse of what it's really like to live there. We do not want to admit that we have created a world in which the clearest hope for prosperity for a young, ambitious, intelligent man or woman lies in becoming a criminal. This is not who we, as a society, want to be. We prefer stories like this when they're cautionary tales or moral statements, not when they're something more complicated and human.

Race is a touchy subject for anyone who has ever lived in Detroit, and I have. I'm a white girl. I'm painfully aware that I don't get it and never will. My history and experience are completely different, and no amount of liberal hippie upbringing or even my own minority status as a disabled person will change that. Being African American and being a cripple are two very different things. I like Sylvia and LaDonna very much, but there's part of me that's forever afraid of being tactless and offending, or of falling into the "some of my best friends" error.

I'm trying to make these observations based on culture, more than race, but in this situation, it's difficult to disentangle the two.

So I guess I'm stuck writing from the point of view of the accidental tourist because I ended up being part of these writers groups and this conference by dint of proximity. I live close enough to the city so that travel isn't a major hardship and being an erotica writer isn't a check mark in the icky column for Motown. A number of Detroit writers are venturing into the explicit, with interesting results.

One of them is a flurry of small publishing companies. Unable to get in the door via regular channels, the urban writers have created channels of their own. They write it, have it professionally edited, and then publish it themselves. They've also got guerilla marketing down to an art form, selling books in the most unexpected places. The whole model of agent-to-publisher-to-bookstore gets turned on its head here, which is a good thing. Every industry needs a bit of shaking up from time to time.

Another good thing was that they had me teaching something other than erotica. There was such a class, as I said earlier, but I was in charge of e-publishing instead. Thankfully, nobody in the class seemed to care, not even the woman who was writing Christian young-adult books. We both agreed that teens, with their higher comfort level for reading on screens, might well make an ideal market for e-books.

Best of all when my life and my work are not seen as a contradiction. I am a mother; well, so are most of the rest of them. I am a Christian; big deal. My sex life would make rotten tabloid copy; who cares? The idea of an erotica writer teaching a workshop on something applicable to writers in other genres wasn't particularly radical. The important thing was that I had experience in an aspect of publishing that other people wanted to learn from.

As a culture, we tend to separate sex from the rest of life, which is absurd. Sex, for most of us at least, is how life begins. With a handful of IVF exceptions, every adorable little baby is the result of sex. Sex is the glue that holds us together, the wedge that drives us apart, one of the most complex and problematic aspects of our relationships with each other, whether those relationships are physically intimate or not. Sex is such an integral part of our lives that a decision to do without it is startling and sometimes difficult to defend. How we behave in bed is an equally integral part of who we are, and a tremendous amount of our self-concept is defined by who we sleep with and why.

Writing tends to do this, too. The notion of sex as a plot device or a character-development tool, rather than a cheap means of selling books, is relatively radical but if you think about it, sex is such an important part of our lives that it seems stranger to take it out than to leave it in. Close the bedroom door, and you close off a rich source of material, not to mention cutting the reader off from an important part of the characters' lives. Is sex appropriate in every story? No, but it's not universally inappropriate, either and let's face it. A lot of the most interesting parts of life are lived on the other side of those closed doors.

It's very easy to say that anyone who writes erotica, especially someone is relatively open about it, deserves what they get in terms of weirdness. Still, there's a world of difference between writing in the shadow of Anaïs Nin, and writing in the shadow of Zane. What I liked about Motown was that a mother could write this stuff, could sell it to another mother, and nobody raised an eyebrow, but really, nobody should, not ever. How the heck do they think we got to be mothers in the first place? In Motown, I was a woman first, not whatever somebody thought an erotica writer should be, and it was a blessing beyond price.

The Essence of Motown Writers Conference was small and new, only in its second year, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. I've given writing workshops before, to a roomful of middle-schoolers, but I had to keep my mouth clamped tight shut about exactly what I wrote and I suspect you know exactly why. So do I, and I hate it. Given an option, I much prefer to be honest.

______
© 2005 Ann Regentin. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

About the Author:  Who is Ann Regentin? Read her bio on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.



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