Passions and Provocations

Alive and Thinking in Cyberspace: Pam's take on just about everything

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Pam as Molly — Or is it the other way around?

It’s been delicious to get such lovely recent recognition, and from a host of venues:

From Philadelphia, where the nice folks at the Kink Shoppe are promising their clients the opportunity to trade their copies of Fifty Shades of Grey for something rather better-written, which is to say Carrie’s Story…

 to Britain, where yesterday a covey of brilliant sex writers and activists included me in World Erotic Book Day, and listed Carrie’s Story high up on their Recommended Reading List of 100 Modern Erotic Classics That You’ve Never Heard Of, nicely describing it as “Modern Story of O, with added wit” (If you want a copy of the list, email me.)

Starting back last January in Berkeley, with my own San Francisco Bay Area Romance Writers of America Chapter, where I participated in a lively discussion of erotic writing

…home to San Francisco, where tomorrow night, I’ll be reading as part of the Leather, Lace, & Lust series. And where I’ll try to bring it all together by reading, not from my Molly books, but from the first romance novel I ever wrote.

The Bookseller’s Daughter takes place during one of the great ages of erotic writing, 18th century France; is graced by the offstage presence of the Marquis de Sade; and ends up in another cradle of liberty, Philadelphia in the early years of the American republic. It’s the romance novel I imagine Carrie writing — or perhaps you can say it was written by Molly Weatherfield as Pam Rosenthal.

Hope to see you there!

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Erotic World Book Day: Have a Good One, whatever your time zone

Brought to you by a brilliant bunch of British erotic writers and activists: a time to read something hot, and then to generate some heat and light, if not some friction of your own. Join the party (starting March 5, 7pm GMT, which would be 11 am today, California time)…

at www.facebook.com/events/880543642004967/

There will be amazing prizes and giveaways, including stuff by me as Molly Weatherfield.

Learn more at eroticworldbookday.co.uk.

 

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Philadelphia Stories

Is this a hoot or what?

I just found out via Twitter that The Kink Shoppe (an upscale adult toy and fetish boutique in Old Town, Philadelphia) is staging a Fifty Shades of Grey Book Exchange. According to Philadelphia Magazine, the store is “urging those interested in incorporating BDSM into their sex lives to bring in their copies of Fifty Shades of Grey for, as store owner Fred Hovermann puts it, ‘a more credible and well-respected book of similar subject matter.'”

And the “more credible and well-respected books” in question?

“While supplies last,” the article continues, “customers who bring in their copies of Fifty Shades will receive one of two books: Carrie’s Story: An Erotic S/M Novel by Molly Weatherfield [aka Pam Rosenthal], or Tristan Taormino’s 50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM.” (And if you fancy a soupçon of snark with that — just sayin’ — feel free to read the Philadelphia Magazine article to the end.)

And meanwhile, as for some other Philadelphia stories: well, the first romance novel I ever wrote (and second that I published), The Bookseller’s Daughter, ends happily (natch) in 1789 Philadelphia, a couple of years after the death of our hero and heroine’s benefactor, bookseller extraordinaire Benjamin Franklin. And as a postscript to that story: a few years ago I learned that The Bookseller’s Daughter was the first erotic novel to make it to the august shelves of the Free Library of (wait for it!) Philadelphia.

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Sexuality: Endangered Resources and National Treasures

Chapter President Theresa Rogers, Alice Gaines, Me, and Jasmine Haynes
Chapter President Theresa Rogers, Alice Gaines, Me, and Jasmine Haynes

Last Saturday, Jan 10, I participated in a lively panel discussion about erotic writing. Thanks so much to my local Romance Writers’ outgoing events coordinator, Jane George, for putting it together, Chapter President Theresa Rogers for facilitating, and to Jackie Yau for the photos.

And thanks especially to my smart, talented co-panelists, Alice Gaines (who discussed the erotic premise in romance and erotic fiction — and much more) and Jasmine Haynes (who contributed a wealth of experience and savvy about actually getting your stuff sold and read — jeez do I ever need that! — as well as a fine appreciation of research).There was a lot of over-lapping, more discussion than I would have expected about BDSM, and great contributions from the floor.

Pam Rosenthal, the rhetoric of erotica
Me, putting a fine point on it

While as for my contributions: they fell into two main categories.

  • The meat (as it were) of my presentation was an all-too-brief discussion of how to make it sexy on a sentence-by-sentence basis, using what I’d call the rhetoric of eroticism. The notion that you can embody sensation and desire in language is a source of ceaseless wonder and fascination to me, and eventually I want to write down the hows and whys of it all.
  • Secondly, I wanted to accord due respect and gratitude to certain influences and mentors who came from outside the sphere of romance writing — from my early  reading of the Marquis de Sade, to my enthusiastic discovery of “pro-sex feminism” in the 80s, to my encounters with the brave, brilliant minds of the San Francisco’s outlaw sex communities all the way along.

Because while romance has played, and continues to play, a crucial role in the female discussion of sexuality, the ongoing conversation between romance readers and writers can only be enriched by contributions from other spheres. And I’m still trying to understand how my encounters with these individuals and institutions have helped bring me closer to romance and the romance-writing community.

Of course, there’s also a lot of history I’m skipping over here, which I hope to write about later. But for now, here are some resources still going strong. As I look it over, I’m thrilled by the force-of-nature energy and prodigious originality I see and have benefited from. I’m less thrilled, though, about the shrinkage of space for countercultural organizations, as San Francisco rents make creativity harder and more expensive. (More about that back-to-the-future stuff sometime later, as well as a discussion of a book about geek sex subcultures.) Still, what’s still here is terrific. If you have any interest in writing erotica or erotic romance, there’s something here for you.

  • Center for Sex and Culture: I can’t believe that I haven’t been trumpeting the virtues of this resource and research center to my romance-writing sisters for like ever. My bad, CSC good. Make an honest woman of me by checking out their monthly events at http://www.sexandculture.org for a taste of what they offer. Dr. Carol Queen is one of the smartest, most energetic, and most generally warm and fun advocates of truth in sexuality you’ll ever meet — and I want to give a special shoutout to her Very Educational video, “Bend Over Boyfriend” — which is about,  yes, exactly what you guessed it would be about — and someday I’m gonna put what I learned from it into a novel. As for the Center, go there NOW, because whenever I’m on that block of Mission Street I get this scary feeling that soon its funky little corner building will be swallowed up by yet another gazillion-dollar techie condo. 1349 Mission Street between 9th and 10th, San Francisco
  • Author and impresario (impresaria?) Charlie Jane Anders organizes and curates San Francisco’s Writers With Drinks reading series, (http://www.writerswithdrinks.com), and writes lots — memoir, science fiction, gender politics. She also gives the most deliciously cracked and brilliant introductions anywhere (I’m happy to say I was so honored). Here’s some Charlie, for starters: “Variety is more that just the name of Prince’s favorite girl-singer sidekick. It’s more than just having sex dressed as Alien Greenspan every once in a while. It’s also a Literary Imperative!” And here’s some more Charlie (which is so good I’m afraid if I print it I might not have anything to say when I try to write my own stuff on sexy writing. Oh what the hell, READ IT — at http://io9.com/how-to-write-about-sex-without-being-boring-1605514153
  • Tristan Taormino: “My mission,” Tristan says on her website, http://tristantaormino.com, “is to educate, empower, and entertain people of all genders and sexual orientations through my writing, lectures, workshops, books, and films.” I met her like a million years ago at an open reading at Good Vibrations, when she was just out of college and going places. And she’s never stopped. Susie Bright has called her something like a workaholic pretending to be a sex maniac (though I’ve probably gotten that a little screwy, so don’t quote without disclaimers). In any case, Tristan is scarily, wonderfully productive, and offers a wealth of good, solid information on kink, all things anal, relationships, pretty much whatever…
  • And speaking of productive, let me introduce you to “the moderately acclaimed and ridiculously prolific writer and editor,” as M. Christian describes himself on his website, http://www.mchristian.com, with “more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and in fact too many anthologies, magazines, and sites to name.” Chris, as he’s known, is also an editor, publisher, educator. He gives workshops throughout the Bay Area, on everything from online dating to flogging. And he’s the force majeure behind the reading series I’m currently part of, Leather, Lace, and Lust (also featuring RWA member Sue Swift/Suze de Mello) at the Center for Sex and Culture. Stay tuned to my events page for the 2015 schedule.
  • I honestly don’t know that much about the The Erotica Readers & Writers Association, but I do subscribe, and if I were even a bit more prolific, I’d really appreciate their wide-ranging calls for submissions and their publishing advice. Their web page, at http://www.erotica-readers.com, says that they’ve been “online since 1996, …an international community of men and women interested in the provocative world of erotica and sensual pleasures. This website features original erotic fiction, current calls for submissions, and publishing advice for authors, sex toy and adult movie recommendations, and a forum focused on adult issues, activities and relationships.”
  • Cleis Press: When the first publisher of my Molly Weatherfield/Carrie BDSM books tanked, my bookseller husband and a close bookseller friend urged me to send the mss to Cleis. “But aren’t they a gay and lesbian press?” I asked (because the Carrie books, although they have lots of equal-opportunity sex, definitely have a female het sensibility). Anyway, “Yes, they’re a gay and lesbian press,” my two informants told me, “but they’re smart and open.” And yes, they did want to print it, and they’ve done a lovely job with it for more than a decade. So check out their website at http://www.cleispress.com/index.php. And tho in 2002 they thought I was crazy to be writing romance, they publish it now, in many genders and flavors. at http://www.cleispress.com/gosearch.php?textfield=romance&search_type=TITLE
  • And when smart gay people is the subject du jour, who ya gonna call but Dan Savage? His Savage Love sex advice columns are funny, sane, and majorly helpful whether you’re straight or gay; and I weep with joy and awe every time I see a video from the It Gets Better Project at https://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject. But what’s important for our purposes here is his take on what gay people can teach straight people about sex at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr8aSXNdb2Y. And in general, running through a golden thread through his later work, how you reconcile your precious urges to rebelliousness with your just-as-precious need to have a life. Which, after all, is yet another thing that romance is all about.
  • While as for Susie Bright, who used to be affectionately described as a cheerleader for sex, but who ought to be recognized as a major player: I’m honored to have had her help and advice over the years — telling me where to send my first erotic novel, and many years later producing the award-winning Audible.com spoken word version. Susie spoke truth to feminism when some parts of the feminist movement didn’t want to hear it, by teaching and encouraging women to write their own erotica back in the 80s. But mostly I want to send you to her spectacularly good, clear, smart, witty writing. Cast your eye over her huge CV at her web page, http://susiebright.blogs.com/susie_brights_journal_/. Pick a book or an essay: there are so many to choose from; they’re all smart and dare I say penetrating. Perhaps most germane to our purposes is her How to Write a Dirty Story (although be warned: when she wrote this early ebook she thought erotic romance began and ended with Robin Shone; trust me, she knows better now.)

 

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Erotic Romance — Learn All About It from SFA-RWA and a Lovely Little Movie

If you’re in the SF Bay Area, you should come to my Romance Writers Chapter at 10:00 tomorrow morning to hear an Erotica Panel featuring me, Alice Gaines, and Jasmine Haynes.

But if not (or even if so) you should stream a charming little indie movie called Happy Christmas, to hear Anna Kendrick, Lena Dunham, and Melanie Lynskey talk about writing an erotic romance — like what do you call, uh, various parts, and when is it too rapey, and how does she get out of that medieval thing she’s wearing. Not much happens in this wonderful movie except some sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, all-time best scenes of a toddler on film, and the above-mentioned discussions, which made me happy for days when I really needed to be. Check out the trailer here.

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UnderCover Reads

Here’s the lineup this Saturday night. See my events page for time and place.

Tales from Outriders, OutWriters, and Outliers

brought to you by Cleis Press, presenting “some of the smartest and dirtiest minds of our generation”

Adrian Brooks (moderator) is an American writer and activist who’s been the vanguard of progressive political, spiritual and social movements since the 1960s. An international traveler, poet, performer, playwright, painter and designer, he is, also, a novelist and nonfiction writer. In 1968, he volunteered for Martin Luther King in Washington, DC, and he organized what may have been the first public gay poetry reading in 1974. Brooks is the author of Flights of Angels: My Life with the Angels of Light, and is currently working on an anthology about LGBT activism, American Queer, that will be published by Cleis in May of next year.

Dr. Carol Queen is a writer, speaker, educator and activist with a doctorate in sexology. First as an organizer in the lesbian/gay community, where she helped found one of the first gay youth groups in the United States, and later in the emerging international bisexual community, as a sex worker and a practitioner of alternative sexualities, she typically teaches and writes from her own experience and that of her communities. Her books from Cleis Press include Pomosexuals, Real Live Nude Girl, and Switch Hitters. She lives in San Francisco, where she is the Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist. Find her online at carolqueen.com

Katie Gilmartin received a Ph.D. in cultural studies from Yale, with an emphasis in queer history. After teaching the history of sexuality and queer studies for a decade at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the University of California, Berkeley, and The New College, she became a printmaker. Her prior publications are academic essays based on interviews she conducted with lesbians about their lives in the 1940s and 1950s. Blackmail My Love: A Murder Mystery, out now with Cleis Press, is her first work of fiction. Gilmartin lives in San Francisco.

Pam Rosenthal penned the erotic classics Carrie’s Story and Safe Word as her alter ego and evil twin, Molly Weatherfield. The novels follow a highly literate bike messenger named Carrie and a moody, gorgeous control freak named Jonathan. Combining kinky, graphic sexuality with smartass introspection, the books have picked up a cult following since the mid-90s. A prolific romance and erotica writer, Pam has penned many sexy, literate, historical novels. She is a native New Yorker—born in Brooklyn and proud of it—and now lives in San Francisco.

Rose Caraway is a native Northern California Writer, Editor, Narrator, and Podcaster on the hit shows “The Kiss Me Quick’s” (thekissmequicks.com) Erotica Podcast and “The Sexy Librarian Blog-cast”, (rosecarawaythesexylibrarian.blogspot.com). The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica is her first ever Cleis Press collection, and is available in stores now. Although her specialty is erotic fiction, she also has a passion for writing suspense, horror, fantasy, and romance works. In addition to writing, Rose’s other passions revolve around keeping an active lifestyle, and a deep love of music and its many incarnations. If you would like to get in touch with her, just search Rose Caraway in Facebook, Twitter and most other social media sites.

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And the Winners…

There were three of you who knew which book a Textbook Committee in Alabama once wanted to remove from the schools for being (wait for it) a ‘real downer.’

Yup, Anne Frank’s Diary. Which has also been challenged by reason of its teenage author’s clear and candid (and wonderfully written) observations of her changing body and sexuality, for her supposed disrespect for “authority,” and as a “hoax” by Holocaust deniers.

All infuriating, but it’s the word “downer” that gets me every time. Something about its lazy banality makes me want to celebrate the book and its author — angrily, out loud and passionately.

But what passage to read at the El Cerrito Library Banned-Book-a-Thon? Because although I could remember every character, and in some detail, the fact is that I hadn’t actually read the book since I was about Anne’s age. Which was okay. I’ve been wanting to check it out again since I read what Philip Roth’s literary alter-ego, Nathan Zuckerman, says about the young author (in The Ghost Writer):

She was something for thirteen. It’s like watching an accelerated film of a fetus sprouting a face, watching her mastering things…. Suddenly she’s discovering reflection, suddenly there’s portraiture, character sketches, suddenly there’s a long intricate eventful happening so beautifully recounted it seems to have gone through a dozen drafts.

Actually, Anne Frank did put her diary through at least two drafts. As more of her papers are published,  we see the evidence of hard, focused working and reworking, over time, as the author’s powers of observation and understanding mature.

Which is why the material I chose included a passage Anne wanted to develop into a short story, which brilliantly shows (and never tells!) how different residents of the “Secret Annex” express and don’t express their fears and emotions, while employing their own personal potato peeling techniques. And how I discovered why, more than half a century after my first reading, I could still name everyone in the Diary.

And although, last Tuesday night at the El Cerrito Library, it might have seemed odd for a writer of feelthy books to choose to read what’s come to seem like a middle school standby, I hope I gave the lie to that.

A “downer” that such a richness of writerly talent existed and even flourished in such hateful circumstances? Hey, I wouldn’t even use the word in reference to the author’s horrible, lonely death at Bergen-Belson. This is why we have language — to try (and never quite manage) to understand and account for the wonderful and the awful and the everyday — not to dismiss them with a shrug and an sneer.

And why you have to read the Diary if you haven’t (hopefully in one of the later editions that include the additional passes), and even to check it out again if it’s been a while. And also to read Francine Prose’s excellent summary of the book and its fortunes, Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife.

Anyway, thanks for playing. Kudos to the readers who got it, including award-winning poet Jan Steckel, and an occasional pen-pal I hope to get to talk to at length someday, recent Golden Heart winner, soon to be published by Avon, Lenora Bell.

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Worst Reason Ever to Ban a Book (and a mini-contest)

The more I think about the stupid and evil reasons people demand that this or that book be removed from this or that list or shelf (not to speak of burned), the more steamed I get, and the more convinced that I’ve chosen the right book to read from at the El Cerrito Library’s Banned Book Read-a-Thon (see my events page for details).

And the reason this book was challenged, imo worst reason ever? (Not that there’s ever a good reason to keep people from reading books.) That it’s “a real downer.”

And so I’m having a little contest. What book do you think it was?

DON’T POST ANSWERS AS COMMENTS. Instead, send your guesses to Pam at PamRosenthal dot com (put the word DOWNER in the subject line). And you’ll get any of my books, autographed (well, except the eBook of The Bookseller’s Daughter, which, now that I think of it, happens to take place in the forbidden book trade). And a little chocolate.

So which book do you think it was? Which book did the Alabama Textbook Committee, in 1983, think oughtn’t be in the schools because it was “a real downer?”

Deadline, Tuesday Sept 23, 6 PM PST (since the reading begins at 7)

Let me know.

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Readings Coming Up: Banned Books and More

At the next reading, coming up quite soon, I’ll be part of an interesting and diverse lineup of local and independent authors, publishers, and librarians selling our books and talking a little about them.

But as to what we’ll be reading — that comes from another corpus. Because next week is Banned Books Week, the book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read, when libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.

The 2014 celebration will be held September 21-27. And I’ve been invited to participate in the Banned Books Read-a-Thon at the El Cerrito Library next Tuesday night, September 23rd at 7pm. Brenda Knight and Peg Conley, also from Cleis Press and Viva Editions, will be there, and I’m looking forward to meeting Stephanie McCoy, whom I already know from her deliciously atmospheric novel, Sweet as Cane, as well as the rest of the authors and publishers.

And, of course, I’m looking forward to what everybody’s going to choose to read. We’ve been asked to commit to protecting our First Amendment by reading from a favorite, classic or child’s book that’s been challenged in schools, bookstores, or libraries. Which (happily and also sadly) gives us a long list of terrific stuff to choose from.

I’ve already made my choice. A particularly wonderful and important book that, imo, has been challenged for the single most absurd and dispiriting reason ever.

Curious? Come on out to the El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito, CA, 7PM, Tuesday, Sept 23 (over 18 only).

But wait! There’s more! You can also come and hear me read at the San Francisco Women’s Building, at 6PM October 18. The event’s called UnderCover Reads, Tales from Outriders, OutWriters, and Outliers. It’s part of San Francisco’s giant LitQuake celebration, and you can find out more about it here.

And (after I’ve been so quiet for so long) still more: the Leather, Lace, & Lust event I read at last Aug 30 went so well that we’ve decided to make it a series. Next reading, December 13. Stay tuned for more info.

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More Leather. More Lace. More Lust

Because you can never have enough… here’s a Who’s Who (besides me, as Molly Weatherfield) of those who’ll be reading and/or performing at this fun event this Saturday night in San Francisco.

Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, is a best-selling, award-winning author of seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing.

Mistress Lorelei Powers is a well-known bi poly sadist and Domme. She is the author of several BDSM classics, including On Display, The Mistress Manual, and Charm School for Sissy Maids.

Blake C. Aarens is an author, poet, screenwriter, playwright, and a Black Girl Nerd.

Jean Marie Stine is the author of a number of pioneering works of erotica published in the late 1960 and early 1970s, beginning with Season of the Witch in 1968, which was filmed as the motion picture Synapse. Her erotic short stories and novelettes have been collected as Trans-sexual: Fiction for Gender Queers.

A.M. Davis is a poet, artist and novelist who lives in Oakland, California. Her first novel, You Were Always Waiting For This Moment to Arise, as well as her first poetry collection, Six Lifetimes of Love, will be published in late 2014.

M.Christian is a recognized master of erotica with more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica and many others.

While as for all the other significant W’s:

What: Leather, Lace, and Lust: An Evening of Erotic Storytelling and Sexual Merriment

Where: The Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street, SF 94110

When: Saturday, August 30, doors open 6, event starts 7

and What it’ll cost: $10

 

 

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