A Community of Spirit

by | July 21, 2013 | General | 19 comments

By Lisabet Sarai

I discovered the Erotica Readers &
Writers Association in the year 2000. Google was barely a gleam in
the eyes of venture capitalists. Social networking meant going to the
local singles bar. The word “blog” had not yet been coined. I was
living in rural New England and accessing the Internet via a 36
kilobaud dial-up line.

I wasn’t looking for a critique forum.
Although I enjoyed reading erotica, I wasn’t seeking a source for
sexy stories or reviews of the same. No, I was searching in clueless
newbie fashion for ways to get the word out about my first novel, Raw
, which Black Lace had published a few months earlier.
Somehow I happened on a page of erotica-related links on the ERWA
website (which at that point had been around for about four years,
and was known as the “Erotica Readers Association”). So I
emailed the webmistress and asked if she’d be willing to include a
link to my brand new venture, www.lisabetsarai.com.

Adrienne sent me a kind reply in which
she explained that ERWA wasn’t really about advertising. However,
they did have email lists for authors and others interested in sexy
stories, including a list for discussing craft (Writers), a list for
sharing stories and critiques (Storytime) and a list for chitchat,
often about sexual topics (Parlor). Isolated in my remote, somewhat
conservative town of 1500 people, half a world away from my British
publisher, I eagerly accepted her invitation to join all three lists.

I canceled my subscription to Parlor in
a matter of days, after being swamped with posts about returning
versus not returning your supermarket cart to the designated areas.
(What was sexy about that?) However, Storytime provide new thrills. I
read more, and more varied, erotic stories in the first month or two
on Storytime than in my whole previous existence – and found some
of them both wildly imaginative and truly arousing. Furthermore, I
was able to apply my excessive education to the useful task of
writing crits and providing comments to some of the authors –
though I read many more stories that I could critique. Participating
in Storytime turned out to be a highly intimate experience, as
writers tended to share pieces that revealed their own desires and

Storytime inspired me. I wrote and
posted my first flashers (only 100 words back then), painfully
cutting out words to get below the limit. Targeting a short story
contest announced on ERA, I wrote my first erotic short story, “Glass
House” and received both warm praise (what we authors all live for)
and useful suggestions for improvement. A few of my stories were
selected for the Gallery. I began to read and respond to the calls
for submissions on the Author Resources page. I wrote the first three
chapters of my second novel, Incognito, and sent a proposal to
Black Lace, only to have it roundly rejected (with the comment that
Miranda wasn’t the sort “kick-ass heroine” they preferred). I
might have given up writing at that point if it had not been for the
support of folks on the Writers list. Instead, I girded my loins and
started looking for a new publisher.

Over time, I became more and more
involved with ERA (which added “Writers” to become ERWA at some
point, as the management recognized how important authors were to its
well-being). I wrote reviews for the Smutter’s Lounge, plus an
occasional article for Authors Resources. In 2004 (God, has it
really been that long?), Adrienne convinced me to take on the role of
writing the monthly Erotic Lure newsletter. In 2006 I edited and
arranged the publication of Cream: The Best of The Erotica Readersand Writers Association, which
is still (in my humble opinion) one of the most satisfying and
diverse erotic anthologies around (and which incidentally includes a
great forward by Adrienne, covering the early history of ERWA). Last
year I produced a year-long series of articles (“Naughty Bits”)
covering various technology topics relevant to authors. Controlling
and bossy as I am (yes, I know that’s kind of odd for a submissive),
I also agreed to serve as ERWA blog coordinator. 


back now, after thirteen years, I’m astonished at how much this place
means to me. I’ve come to know individuals here whom I’d place in the
circle of my dearest friends – even though in some cases, we’ve
never met in person. When I have had the chance for face-to-face time
with folks I first encountered at ERWA, it often feels as though
we’ve known one another forever. In the real world, there are very
few people to whom I can reveal my identity as an author of erotica.
At ERWA I’m free to be myself.

me, ERWA is a community of spirit. Someone who just learned about the
place might think that the biggest draw was the ability to speak and
write frankly about sexual matters, in an environment where such
topics are welcome rather than taboo. Sure, that’s a great feature,
but today there are many adult-oriented on-line communities. ERWA is
special because of its literary focus. The people who end up on the
Writers list, at least, are passionate about reading and writing –
and not just in the erotica genre. They care deeply about words. They
recognize that storytelling is a definitively human activity. And
many have a profound understanding of both the mystery and the craft
involved in spinning an effective tale.

tend to whine about how hard it is to succeed as an author these
days. In fact, I’ve watched many of my colleagues here move from
amateurs to professionals with dozens of books to their credit. Pick
up any recently published erotica anthology and you’ll see familiar
names from the Gallery and Writers. Search Amazon and our members
come up as editors of award-winning collections. Several members have
even gone on to establish their own independent publishing ventures.
As far as I know E.L. James has never been a member of ERWA, but
considering the difficulties involved in getting anyone to take
erotica seriously, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

And of
course, ERWA has been instrumental in my own career, such as it is.
I’m an old-timer now, but when I first joined, I knew nothing about
publishing or marketing. I barely knew that the genre of erotica
existed, and I’d never read an erotic romance. I had lots of arousing
fantasies, but my dialogue was wooden and my convoluted sentence
structure like something from the nineteenth century. Now I have a
back list that’s pages long – I’ve stopped counting since it’s hard
to know exactly what criteria to apply, but certainly nobody could claim I was a one-book wonder.

suspect that without ERWA, I’d never have gotten this far. Without
the support (moral and immoral) of my fellow authors, I might not
have wanted to.

you’ve been around this community for anywhere near as long as I
have, I think you know what I am talking about. If you’re new – if
you’ve been trying to get your erotic visions out of your head and
into a manuscript, if you feel ostracized because of your fascination
with things sexual, if you’ve always loved to read and write but
haven’t dared to think about publication – all I can say is welcome.
You probably belong here.

Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both. Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point! Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation. For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author. A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. But I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.


  1. Kay Jaybee

    What a great post. I couldn't agree more. If it wasn't for the ERWA I certainly wouldn't be here. They were the only resource to be found for hopeful erotica writers when I began 9 years ago (Blimey! 9 years1!!)- I used the Calls for Subs page on a daily basis for at least the first 5 years of my career- and all of my publications in that time came as a direct result of m/s requests on that site.
    Now, as I've moved onto novels, writing away against the odds, a tiny fish in a pond that still has the occasional 'Slightly Toxic' sign stuck around the outside, I'm proud to work for people who are stalwarts of the ERWA.
    It's a wonderful site and a great resource- thank you.


    • Lisabet Sarai

      Hi, Kay,

      Nothing toxic about your work, hon! I think if everyone who'd ever used ERWA to find a publisher were to comment, we'd break a record for this blog.

      Write on!

    • Rose B. Thorny

      Does it count if the *publisher* found *me*, instead of the other way around? Because I was lucky enough to have my very first published story be one that Maxim Jakubowski picked up out of the Treasure Chest for his MBBNE Volume 7. (I'll tell ya… it's a lot easier when the editor asks if you if he can publish your work, rather than having to submit stories.) Then there was the flasher in "Cream," and then another story in the TC that I submitted for MBBNE Volume 10 and had that accepted. So, ERWA has been good to me and for me, since that's my fiction publishing history. Probably wouldn't have been published at all if I hadn't found ERWA.

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Hey, Rose,

      It certainly "counts". One great thing about ERWA is that it even supports perfectionists like you.

    • Kay Jaybee

      Thanks Lisabet!! And how fab to see so many great responses Kay xx

  2. Annabeth Leong

    Thanks for the post! I can't remember how I first found ERWA — maybe it was somehow linked from RG's blog? Something like that sounds right. My first sales, however, were all thanks to the ERWA calls for subs page, which I still visit regularly. It's how I found Coming Together, too, another great community I'm proud to be part of.

    Even though I've visited the ERWA site regularly for a good 5 years or so, I guess I've never been sure if I really count as part of it. It's important to me, and I read it regularly, but I'm not a huge fan of e-mail lists and never found another way to officially "join." I guess part of me has always worried that I'm missing some place to sign up. (I, for one, would totally pay dues or something — so feel free to hit me up if you ever institute that, or have already and I've missed it).

    That said, I certainly owe ERWA for getting me started writing erotica, and for still providing a way to find out about publishers and other authors. I also hugely appreciate the blog content and other links.

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Annabeth – you're here at the blog, commenting. That means you belong.

      I haven't been on Storytime for years – I just don't have the time – and although I read all the Writers messages, I rarely post.

      If you love to read and write erotica, you are one of us.

    • Annabeth Leong

      Thank you! That's nice to know! 🙂

  3. Garceus

    Hi Lisabet!

    2000? You must have been one of the earliest members. ERWA is a treasure. Not only for the writing forums but for parlor and other places where as you say you find the variety of sexual experience and opinion that exists among people. It's a precious place. And It's where I met you.


    • Lisabet Sarai

      Hi, Garce,

      ERWA had been around for four years before I came on the scene, so I'm certainly not one of the "earliest" members, but I may be one of the longest running at this point. Though there are still folks who were around when I started.

      And when I was talking about dear friends I've met through ERWA, you were definitely one of the people I had in mind!

  4. Renee Rose

    Thank you for the welcome– this post made me feel like I belong! 🙂

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Hi, Renee,

      As I said to Annabeth, anyone who shares a love of erotic literature "belongs"!

  5. vbonnaire

    Lisabet that is really great, all of it! I always imagined you like RG off in an exotic locale, and then how funny where you started, no? xxoo!

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Hi, Valentine,

      Well – I am in an exotic locale now…!

      I remember you from 'way back then. I'm so glad you came back, because I've really been enjoying your contributions to the Gallery.

  6. Donna

    ERWA is where I got my start, and it still keeps me going. Such a generous, wonderful group of writers! It really is a haven in the very calculating, profit-driven publishing business. I wonder if it's because everyone–starting with Adrienne of course–is doing this out of love and respect for writing and eros? And thank you, Lisabet, for all that you've done for ERWA. I appreciate how much time you've taken from your own writing to keep the community strong and entertained!

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Hi, Donna,

      It's much less work to support ERWA than to buckle down to my own stories LOL!

  7. Jean Roberta

    I joined ERA (as it was called then) in December 1998, when there was no division between "Writers" and "Parlor." ("Storytime" always existed, as far as I know.) It's also where I got my start, and I've never found another site like it. I agree with several of the comments about what is distinct about this group: not profit-driven or focused on advertising, and also not focused only on sex but on the art of writing about sex. IMO, the few creepy types who have joined (those who seemed to be trolling for real-life sexual contacts, those who flamed other writers, etc.) never seemed to stay long, which seems miraculous, considering the number of folks who have joined over the years. (I'm sure Adrienne has been instrumental in this.) Thank you for this post, Lisabet.

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Wow, Jean!

      I had no idea you'd been around for such a long time. I'm so glad you're still here.

  8. sentaholland

    I found ERWA in about 2005 and kept looking at the author resources until 2012 when I finally found a publisher for Out of the Shadows – from a link in ERWA resources – what an experience.
    And now I'm also on the author thread where many erudite and passionate writers congregate.
    Thank you to all the dedicated writers who make ERWA possible, and it seems as if it may get even more important yet…

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