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'09 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Digital Publishing & Print
Common Myths of Epublishing
Ebook Formats and Devices


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
Compelling Characters
Point of View, Part I
Point of View, Part II
Learning to Love Conflict
Story Structure
Keep ‘em Guessing
Keep it Simple
Keep Your Writing Real
The Importance of Pacing


Literary Streetwalker
by M. Christian
New World of Publishing
To Blog Or Not To Blog
Meeting & Making Friends
Thinking Beyond Sex
Selling Books
Walking the Line
e-book, e-publisher, e-fun
Still More E-book Fun


Shameless Self-Promotion
by Donna George Storey
Our Journey Begins
Pitches and Bios
Websites, Blogs & Readers
Publicists, Press Kits and...
Viva the Internet
Adventures in Cyberspace
Promoting In the Flesh
Make Your Own Movie
Bigger is Better
Looking Back, Planning Ahead


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Questions to Ask Yourself...
Tough All Over


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Ideas
Practice Makes Prefect
5 Books for Fiction Authors
Poetry In Motions
Six Serving Men
Ashley Lister is Anal
Stealing Ideas
Celebrating Poetry


2009 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Myths
Graduation


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
A Year of Living Shamelessly
Adultery, Exhibitionism ...
John Updike Made Me Do It ...
Story Soup: Forbidden ...
Lessons from Amazon
Naked Lunches ...
Erotic Alchemy
Secrets of Seduction
Are You a “Real” Writer?
Don’t Fondle My Sentence


Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
The Passionate Taphophile
Havens on Earth
A Knight Without Armor
Jail-Baiting
Magic Carpet Rides
Getting Hammered
Keep It Quiet
Hang Around for a Spell


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Worked Up About Why
Worked Up About Why, Part II
All Worked Up About Porn
The Catholic Church
Purity Movement
The National Crisis
The Future
About Homosexuality
Public Indiscretions


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Premature Ejaculation
Auctioning Off What?


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Who's Who Around the Table
Retro-Shame
Ritual Sex
Mixed Legacy
The Spectrum of Consent
Drawing the Line
Marriage without the Hype
The Distracting Smirk
Innocent Guns
Gardens of Earthly Delights


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Anneke Jacob
D L King
Kristina Lloyd
Lisabet Sarai
Mitzi Szereto
Portia Da Costa
Shanna Germain
Sommer Marsden
Susan DiPlacido


Guest Appearances

Marketing a Self-Published Novel
by Jeanne Ainslie

Cooking up a Storey

by Donna George Storey

Are You a “Real” Writer?:
Fiery Maestros, Spicy Thai Tofu, and the Writers’ Country Club

 

Cooking up a Storey by Donna George Storey Trick or treat?  Millions of children will offer you that choice come October 31 and for most of us the answer is easy—drop a fun-size KitKat in the plastic pumpkin and part as friends.  More often in adult life, however, the treats come with built-in tricks.  For erotica writers, tricks can definitely be material, and I’m not just talking prostitution.

What in the name of Macbeth’s witches am I talking about then?

As the leaves turn and the Spirit Stores commandeer your local abandoned storefront, I invite you to pull a chair closer, grab a mug of cider, and listen to my writer’s tale of fire and spice.

First, the treat.

In the past month or two, a surprising number of people have contacted me with praise for my erotic stories accompanied by a modest request that I read their own erotica. 

First let me say, I am immensely flattered and honored by such notes.  I truly believe the world would be a better place if more people wrote their own erotica rather than relying on the mass-produced sexual fantasies of the media.  I know that writing erotica changed my life profoundly.  I pay attention to—and perhaps not coincidentally enjoy—sex more than ever.  The experience of crawling into my characters’ lives has made me more empathetic in my “real” interactions.  I don’t think it’s possible to write without becoming more reflective, without feeling somehow larger in mind and spirit. The knowledge that another person has taken the challenge of exploring the fascinating and usually forbidden terrain of human sexuality in this way is always a true treat for me.

I’m also very happy to read erotica by new writers, who invariably show a passion and excitement for their project that more jaded veterans can only envy.  There is one catch, though, what I meant by the trick in the treat.  These new writers also mention, by the way, that they’d welcome any comments on their work.

An apparently innocent, casual request, but as a writer myself, I sense a subtext layers deep and dark as a witch’s lair.

What in fact are they really asking of me?  What questions are unspoken?  Some might hope for a free editing job, but I suspect it’s more than that.  Most would probably be just as happy if not happier for me to tell them their story was perfect, the best I ever read, I wouldn’t change a comma.

Or perhaps I’m just projecting because this is exactly what I hoped to hear myself way back when I started writing.  In fact, after stroking my chin a bit, I decided there’s a good chance they are asking exactly what I wanted to ask someone way back when.

Am I talented? Do I have what it takes? Am I a “real” writer?

But why ask me, a stranger without even an MFA to give her opinion the stamp of the academy?

A bit more chin stroking—it’s quite smooth and polished now, thank you—and I came up with a fanciful theory of my own.  Our society seems to think that the act of writing in itself doesn’t make you a “real” writer.  To be one of those, you have to be inducted into a sort of exclusive country club-like institution.  Unpublished or barely published folk must wait outside the golden gates, dreaming of the glories within.  Perhaps they can even hear the dulcet sounds of the angels plucking their harps in the club dining room, while the real writers lunch with their agents and editors and look over plans for the new pool in the backyard, all the while desultorily signing photos of themselves to be distributed to adoring fans. 

Perhaps they assume that, like a country club, making a contact with someone who already belongs will help a newcomer take a hop-skip over a barrier or two.  She might know of an editor with a hole in the table of contents for a new anthology?  Maybe he’ll even introduce you to his agent who is always looking for promising talent who might one day write a great book?  After all, “real” writers are born, not made and if your innate worthiness is recognized, surely you will be welcomed into the fold as “one of us.”

Okay, maybe this is my fantasy, not theirs, but over the past 12 years of serious writing, I’ve been loath to let this oddly comforting scene die its natural death.  To some extent I still cherish the hope that at some point I will be admitted to Writer’s Paradise where everyone is beloved and respected, talent prevails over sales, and validation pours from crystal fountains 24/7. 

Yet, nothing at all like this happened with the publication of my first book, but hey, that was a dry academic thing and didn’t really count as writing.  My first paying nonfiction article didn’t grant admission, but surely there was a critical mass of publications I hadn’t reached yet to make those gates swing open.  Winning the alumni fiction contest at my graduate school didn’t do it.  Nor scoring a spot at several respected university-based literary magazines.  My first novel seemed to get me as much disdain as acclaim, but the dream still lingers, albeit enfeebled.  Maybe an agent, a deal with a big New York house, or a collegial chat over candy bars with Steve Almond might do the trick?

I’m sure you get the point.  The more I grasp at the bars of that gate, the farther they recede, like the illusion they are.

I’m not so sure anyone wants a dupe like me to be the judge of talent.

But wait, don’t go yet, I’ll confess I’m being a bit disingenuous.  Battered veteran that I am, I do actually know a very simple, sure fire way to figure out if you have the “talent” it takes to be a “real” writer.

Here, have a second KitKat.  I’m going to tell you another story I’ll call “The Maestro’s Fire”:

There once was a young man who loved playing the violin.  For him practice was not a chore, but a pleasure, always the sign of true musician.  He was also the type of fine young fellow who could charm adults and peers alike, so he had an excellent record selling candy bars and raffle tickets for the school orchestra field trips as well.  But the young man really wanted to be a violinist and he aimed high.  Nothing less than concertmaster at a major symphony would do.

He won himself a spot at Juilliard and continued to pursue his love, but he was also well aware that only a chosen few reached the heights of acclaim for which he yearned.  Early in his first semester, a great maestro was visiting the school, and the young man screwed up his courage to approach the esteemed teacher and ask if he would listen to him play.  The maestro graciously agreed and cocked his head thoughtfully while the young man played the most complex piece of music (classical musicians, please insert name of notoriously difficult violin piece here) that he’d ever studied with all the passion he could muster. 

Afterwards, the young man, sweating and winded, stood before the maestro and asked, “Well, sir?  If you think I have what it takes, I will devote myself body and soul to my music.  But if you don’t, I’ll leave school and become a businessman.”

The maestro stroked his chin and replied, “Hmm, I’m afraid you lack the fire.”

Crestfallen, the young man put away the violin forever and became an entrepreneur.  He was wildly successful by every worldly measure.  Many a time did he thank the maestro in his thoughts, comparing his alternative fate as an impoverished musician teaching kindergarteners the Suzuki method or some such awful scenario with his own life now.  He had everything a man could want—a series of progressively younger and prettier wives, children who had every toy money could buy, multiple luxury cars and houses, and, of course, a world-class collection of violin music by the best musicians for when he was in a nostalgic mood.  He only wished he could thank the great man in person for setting him on the right path.

Fate would have it the two would meet again at, of all places, The French Laundry in Napa Valley.  The young man, now middle-aged, was a regular visitor to the $400-per-person eatery.  The maestro was dining there by mere chance—a wealthy board member of the local symphony had lucked into a spot due to a cancelled reservation.

Accustomed to deference from even world-renowned artists (thanks to his generous contributions to artistic institutions), the former violinist walked boldly up to the famous musician’s table.

“Maestro?  Do you remember me?” he asked.

The great man smiled cordially, but shook his head.

“You listened to me play back at Juilliard, fifteen years ago.  You told me not to pursue a career in music because I lacked the fire.  I took your advice and I’m so glad I did.  I’ve been extremely successful in numerous business ventures.”

Now the maestro laughed merrily.  “Good for you, young man, good for you.  But you know hundreds of young musicians have played for me and asked my opinion of their talents.  I always say the same thing.  ‘You lack the fire.’”

The businessman felt a cold hand clutch at his heart.  “But…but…” he sputtered, “don’t you worry that you might destroy a promising career?”

The maestro’s eyes twinkled.  “Oh, no, I never worry about that.  Because if they do have the fire, they won’t listen to anything I or anyone else would ever say to deter them.”

And they all lived happily ever after….

I happen to have a notoriously bad memory for jokes and parables and other such rhetorical devices that usually pepper the speeches of teachers and inspirational speakers of all kinds.  But the story of the violin maestro has really stayed with me, and I assume it’s for a good reason.  I will freely admit that I’ve been far too dependent on the opinions of authority figures in my life.  It was relatively easy to do all the things I had to do to come across as a “good girl” to parents, teachers, bosses and so on.  In return for my conformity, I expected praise and validation.  When I got it, it was even easier to continue in the same path. 

But if you want to write, or pursue any art, seriously, you are by definition stepping off Easy Street—and so it was for me.  No matter how readily the pretty sentences flow into your fingertips, at some point you will meet ego-crushing obstacles.  In my opinion, the definition of a “real” writer has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with determination, not to say stubbornness, and years—yes, years—of hard work at your keyboard.

In closing, I’ll share one more little confession about that elusive commodity of writing talent.  In the first five or six years of my attempts to write fiction, a well-meaning reader would occasionally compliment one of my stories by telling me that I was “talented.”  I would smile and thank them, but deep inside I was, in all honesty, insulted.  I felt then that the word “talented” implied my story came from some innate gift that had nothing to do with any effort or will of my own, as if a writer merely had to sit at the typewriter, as Jack Kerouac claimed he did (I read somewhere this was a lie, by the way), and let the talent stream out like mucus on a bad allergy day.  In those days, I would spend months, even years brewing the premise for a story, agonizing over each sentence, editing and re-editing.  It felt more like training for a long race than a minuet with my muse.  And wouldn’t it be odd to compliment the winner of the Boston Marathon by telling him he had “talent”?

These days, I’ve mellowed greatly and will accept any and every precious compliment with much better grace.  It sure beats the insults, and I’ve gotten some interesting examples of those in my collection as well.  I’m also tremendously honored that a new writer would come to me asking for an opinion.  I’m not like the fiery maestro, however.  On the contrary, I tell all who share their work with me that they are good writers and I hope they write more.  However, because they usually ask me for advice on how to get published as well, I make sure to mention that stubbornness and determination are essential.  Talent may be enough to get you published if you add plenty of luck to the recipe, but add in hard work, and, as I look into my crystal ball on this dark and windy October day, I definitely see a byline in your future.

That’s the trick every “real” writer knows.

This month’s tricky treat of a recipe is easy enough to throw together after a long day of writing, but it also has plenty of lively spice to keep your creative fire burning.  Enjoy—and keep writing!


Spicy Thai Tofu for Artists Who Have the Fire
(serves 4)

Spicy Thai Tofu

Mix together in a medium bowl:

2 large red bell peppers, sliced or cubed
2 Tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger (I use a big knob that probably made 1 1/2 Tablespoons and that was plenty)
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

Mix together in another bowl:

1 14-16 oz. package extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Mix together in a small bowl:

3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Place 2 Tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok and heat to high. Add bell pepper mix and sauté about 2 minutes. Add tofu mixture and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the sauce and toss to blend about one minute.

Add:

1 6-oz. bag baby spinach leaves in two or three batches

Toss until wilted about one minute for each addition.

Mix in:

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (I do one bunch Thai basil or maybe 1/3 bunch California basil)

Season with salt and pepper.

Top with:

1/3 cup lightly salted or unsalted roasted peanuts

Serve with rice, preferably brown jasmine rice.  Bon appetit!

Donna George Storey
October 2009


If you have comments or questions about this column, please drop by Donna's blog or send an email to donna@donnageorgestorey.com

Donna is Cooking up a Storey in ERWA 2009 Archive.

______
"Cooking up a Storey" © 2009 Donna George Storey. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written

About the Author:  Donna George Storey taught English in Japan and Japanese in the United States and has finally found the work of her dreams writing erotica. If you're really nice, she'll bake you a batch of her Venetian cookies, with layers of marzipan, jam and chocolate, that take a ridiculous amount of time to make and are (almost) better than sex. Her work has been published in dozens of journals and anthologies including Clean Sheets, Fishnet, Best American Erotica, Best Women's Erotica and Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica.
Her first novel, Amorous Woman-a semi-autobiographical tale of an American woman's love affair with Japan, Japanese food and lots of sexy men and women along the way-was published by Neon/Orion. It's currently available at Amazon and Amazon UK, and from her web site, DonnaGeorgeStorey.com.
For more of her musings on sensual pleasure and creativity stop by her blog:  Sex, Food and Writing. You can also take a quick trip to Japan with Donna's provocative Amorous Woman book trailer at: www.youtube.com



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The Edge of Impropriety
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Exposure
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Free Pass
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The Gift of Shame
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The New Rakes
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