Eat, Drink and Be Discreet

by | December 26, 2013 | General | 5 comments

by Jean Roberta

During the winter holiday season, when occasions for partying abound, I feel a rant coming on. Lest I sound like a perpetual complainer, I will put my discontent in perspective.

I’m sure I’m more privileged than most people in the world, and probably more than most readers of this blog. Looking over the events of 2013, I’m grateful for my blessings, and relieved that my misfortunes were no worse.

In the summer, I moved years worth of books and papers into my new office in the university English Department where I teach first-year classes. My new home-away-from-home has an incredible amount of shelf space for my books, plus a window to the outside world so I can see the weather before I step out in it.

In September, I taught my first credit course in creative writing. This favour was granted by the head of the English Department, even though it is a second-year class usually taught by scholars with Ph.D.s (something I never managed to get, for various reasons). Teaching a small class of eager young writers was an adventure that helped refuel my enthusiasm for my job. My usual first-year classes are mandatory for most students, and therefore I get many recruits who would rather avoid writing essays about literature.

In 2013, I also saw more of my words in print than in any previous year. On the scholarly front, I co-edited OutSpoken, a collection of articles and creative work based on a series of presentations on queer (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) topics by faculty members. The co-ordinator of the series (also head of the Theatre Department) had been invited by the university press to put a book together, he graciously invited me to co-edit, and I accepted. I also had an article accepted for a book about teaching vampire literature which was edited by Dr. Lisa Nevarez of the English Department of Siena College in New York state. I’ve been told that Teaching the Vampire will be released by McFarland Press at any moment.

My historical erotic novella, The Flight of the Black Swan, appeared early in 2013 from Lethe Press. (The cover art is by Ben Baldwin, who was nominated as best fantasy artist of Britain.) A few months later, my collection of erotic stories, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past, also appeared from Lethe Press. Both books got a few glowing reviews.

However, during two family gatherings in the cozy house I share with my spouse (Christmas Eve for immediate family, Christmas Day for two old and dear friends, their grown children, their spouses, children and their friends), I didn’t mention my publications. It was understood that the non-fiction was too academic to interest anyone I know outside the Ivory Tower, while my fiction is too raunchy to be mentioned in the presence of children. I wonder how many writers, particularly erotic writers, are in this predicament. (In all fairness, I had already shown my new books to those closest to me. They don’t read my books or stories, but they accept my writing hobby as less harmful than most other addictions.)

On both occasions, I was encouraged to show off – guess what? – my new surgical scar. On November 4, the first snowy day in the town where I live, I slipped on the ice and broke my left wrist in several places. Thanks to the Canadian health-care system, I was rushed into surgery within 24 hours, and had my wrist repaired and reinforced with a long metal plate that shows up clearly in X-rays. (I will set off metal detectors in airports for the rest of my life.) During my short stay in the hospital and my longer convalescence, my two stepsons and my spouse were an impressive source of support. Later, when my cast was removed and I was shown X-rays of my damaged and repaired wrist, Spouse took photos of these images her cell-phone, and circulated them among the assembled crowd during our holiday suppers. Everyone commented that my incision has healed well.

On Christmas Day, before the second flock of guests were due to arrive, our furnace stopped working after keeping us toasty-warm during a week of very cold temperatures. Although the outside temperature had risen, we couldn’t welcome our guests into an unheated house, so we had to pay a repairman for his labour and a new furnace motor. He was honest enough to tell us that if we could have waited another two days, the bill would have been $100 less. But such is life. Luckily, we didn’t have to choose between warmth and food.

Medical and home-maintenance issues were not the only topics of conversation, but they seemed to be of general interest. Well, of course. Everyone lives in a body, and most folks (especially in Canada in the winter) have a dwelling-place.

I couldn’t help wondering how many other writers can only discuss their writing with other writers, or with any readers who can be found. And how many erotic writers must go far out of their way to prevent relatives, “friends”, coworkers and bosses from finding out that they write about sex, the stuff of life. (Note my previous comment about the universal human condition of living in a body.) News items about the inconsistent and fluctuating policies of booksellers regarding “obscene” material show that there is not (and never has been) any real consensus about what this is. In the current cultural climate, I’m well aware that I’m probably luckier than most.

My employer is exceptionally tolerant of everything I write, and for that I am truly grateful. My holiday wish is for peace on earth and good will toward all the writers who are brave enough to write about something that really (let’s be honest) interests everyone. The impulse to write anything seems to be a certain kind of craziness, and a desire to write about subjects formerly considered “unspeakable” still requires courage. I’m glad I live in a world where so many have felt the bite of that bug.

May the Deity of our choice bless us, every one.

Jean Roberta

Jean Roberta once promised her parents not to use their unusual family name for her queer and erotic writing, and thus was born her thin-disguise pen name. She teaches English and Creative Writing in a university on the Canadian prairies, where the vastness of land and sky encourage daydreaming. Jean immigrated to Canada from the United States as a teenager with her family. In her last year of high school, she won a major award in a national student writing contest. In 1988, a one-woman publisher in Montreal published a book of Jean’s lesbian stories, Secrets of the Invisible World. When the publisher went out of business, the book went out of print. In the same year, Jean attended the Third International Feminist Book Fair in Montreal, where she read a call-for-submissions for erotic lesbian stories. She wrote three, sent them off, and got a letter saying that all three were accepted. Then the publisher went out of business. In 1998, Jean and her partner acquired their first computer. Jean looked for writers’ groups and found the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, which was then two years old! She began writing erotica in every flavor she could think of (f/f, m/f, m/m, f/f/m, etc) and in various genres (realistic contemporary, fantasy, historical). Her stories have appeared in anthology series such as Best Lesbian Erotica (2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, Volume 1 in new series, 2016), Best Lesbian Romance (2014), and Best Women's Erotica (2000, 2003, 2005, 2006) from Cleis Press, as well as many others. Her single-author books include Obsession (Renaissance, Sizzler Editions), an erotic story collection, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press), and The Flight of the Black Swan: A Bawdy Novella (Lethe, also in audio). Fantasy stories by Jean include “Lunacy” in Journey to the Center of Desire (erotic stories based on the work of Jules Verne) from Circlet Press 2017, “Green Spectacles and Rosy Cheeks” (steampunk erotica) in Valves & Vixens 3 (House of Erotica, UK, 2016), and “Under the Sign of the Dragon” (story about the conception of King Arthur) in Nights of the Round Table: Arthurian Erotica (Circlet 2015). This story is now available from eXcessica ( Her horror story, “Roots,” first published in Monsters from Torquere Press, is now in the Treasure Gallery of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. With Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman, she coedited Heiresses of Russ 2015 (Lethe), an annual anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. Her realistic erotic novel, Prairie Gothic: A Tale of the Old Millennium, was published by Lethe in September 2021. Jean has written many reviews and blog posts. Her former columns include “Sex Is All Metaphors” (based on a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas) for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, July 2008-November 2010. The 25 column pieces can still be found in the on-site archives and in an e-book from Coming Together, Jean married her long-term partner, Mirtha Rivera, on October 30, 2010. Links:


  1. Kathleen Bradean

    Writers outside erotica generally (not all of them, but most) aren't comfortable talking about the genre. Sneering at it, yes. Genre snobbery runs rampant. But a good discussion? No. But you may have noticed that when erotica writers do get together, we don't talk much about writing!

  2. Jean Roberta

    Oh yes, genre snobbery. When I haven't attended a writers conference for awhile, I tend to forget that not all writers are on speaking terms. And I suspect there are literary scholars in prestigious universities who wouldn't take OutSpoken seriously (too queer & too eclectic) or Teaching the Vampire (too pop, too pedagogical as distinct from theoretical). Well, there was talk about writing at the Erotic Authors conference, but there was also talk about related issues.
    I suppoose it's best not to speak to strangers. 🙁

  3. Lisabet Sarai

    I love this, Jean! "a subject that really (let's be honest) interests everyone"!

    I have very few people with whom I can share my writing. I'm eternally grateful for you and the other members of our crazy little community.

  4. The Moose

    Dear Jean:

    And thank you Lisbet: "I have very few people with whom I can share my writing," or my thoughts and comments,

    I have a lifetime of erotica beginning with Mdme Zaza, and "Duke" the fireman's dog. (The latter purloined by Nancy Friday many years later.)

    Jean, you and I exchanged notes years ago, I still have some. They were more about erotica and the law rather than "erotica."

    You know, sometimes I really prefer "smut" and "dirty", just as I prefer "drunk" to "alcoholic," ( I am one in recovery 29 years)

    ERWA saved my life in many ways years gone by. I think Adrienne is a "saint." For me masturbation has been largely a lone and lonesome avenue to travel. Year ago it was accompanied by a glass of martinis.

    I have found in Kenneth Tytnan's DIRTY MOVIES one reference (pic) to a stag I saw 60 years ago. There is a whole story of how I came to see those stags. Even saw the original SMART ALECK, with Candy Barr, the only time in my life I share three-way viewing only solo masturbation. One now gone friend allowed me that safety net, but she too is no longer in my life.

    alike Lisabet I am here alone.

    I can be found on Amazon as a reviewer both of erotica and white bread, but rarely contacted other than thnx.

    Jean you remind us to remain grateful, and that I am.

    I wish you and all of us "crazies" some peace heath and joy for the coming days and year. (NO pun. But close 🙂

    irwin aka moose and or mooseman01. I can be reached at [email protected]

  5. The Moose

    I forgot: Just finished MIAMI PURITY by Vicki Hendricks. Do you or Lisa or others know her? Fascinating integration of violence and erotica that actually worked for me, i.e. she substitutes twang for what I called throb. Mine is surgically removed, but I felt no arousal even cerebrally. Didn't "like" what I read, but read it and found the writing worked, even though I thought the first half was her attempt in forst person to sound like Mickey Spillane in drag. There seems to be no end to our ingenuity.


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