Emerald is presenting How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer. Check out Emerald's bio here. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change? This is probably a two-pronged answer. One of the literal ways I aspire to be is by writing sexually-themed work in a way that invites collective and individual recognitions, appreciation, and relaxation around sexuality, particularly in a culture that seems so reticent and sometimes resistant in that area. The second way seems a little more esoteric and difficult to articulate: I see the increase of self-awareness, the continual examining and exploring of ourselves and our motivations, as the most relevant catalyst for change and growth there is. For this reason, everyone has the potential to be a catalyst for change, and it is something I’m doing (or aiming to do) all the time. Who or what was a catalyst for you? Almost any time I see someone doing sincere work to further the authenticity of human sexuality, it inspires me. (Obviously that’s going to include a lot of people who will attend and/or present at CatalystCon!) Some I have experienced as influential to my own process mostly or solely from afar, such as Annie Sprinkle, Nina Hartley, Veronica Monet, Charlie Glickman, Heather Corinna, Carol Queen, Megan Andelloux...others I have been fortunate enough to be in more frequent personal contact, some even personally supporting me in my writing (including by setting an example). A few of these include Dr. Richard Wagner, Donna George Storey, Ashley Lister, Monica Day, Alison Tyler, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Jeremy Edwards, Robin Sampson, Kristina Wright, Jolie du Pre, Violet Blue, Alana Noel Voth.... There are tons more, but I would fill up a page before I named them all! The support of all of them has been profound in my journey of writing and publishing erotic fiction, and the level of gratitude I feel is hard to describe. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now? To harken back to the latter part of my answer to number one, I feel that our issues around sexuality (which indeed seem plentiful) as a culture are formed from the ignorance and unconsciousness we display as individuals. I do not use “ignorance” there in an antagonizing or insulting way. I mean that we are, in large part, unaware of our unconscious patterns and motivations, and these are, to what most of us would find a disturbing degree, what run us. The more we are unaware of these things and out of touch with our deeper selves, the less I feel our actions and perceptions are grounded in truth and reality. Since I feel it is virtually impossible to grow up in our society and not experience the indoctrination of the sexual neurosis it exhibits (as well as many other less-than-ideal phenomena), as I see it, our biggest challenge is lack of self-awareness. Sexuality is a realm around which this culture has experienced great repression and oppression, and thus the more unconsciously we are living in relation to our own self-awareness around sexuality, the more we may feel compelled to strike out and attack it in self and others. Unconscious inertia is simply a part of the human condition at this point in our evolution, but it can be consciously addressed—by our becoming aware of it, first of all. Some people reading this may feel they are not the culprits in that they are not the ones doing the striking out. I don’t disagree! But to repeat myself once again, I feel the more we become aware of ourselves and our own unconscious, the more it supports the momentum for others—all others—to do the same. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year? This isn’t a very flashy answer, but it relates directly to my immediately previous response: I feel a lot of them are unseen. I won’t personally know of them. Every time someone wakes up to whatever degree that person does, opens from sexual repression, gets in touch with his/her/their deeper self, it shifts the world in favor of awareness and out of unconsciousness. It has the potential to happen all the time, and it does. Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, to CatalystCon East? Fiction, as a form of art, has the potential to shift both individual and collective landscapes, as all art does. One of the reasons I write erotic fiction is to invite awarness of sexual patterns, desires, or understanding in others. When I first started writing in the genre, there was a funny reticence or inhibition there—as though I needed “permission” to talk about these things or express them explicitly. If any others feel this way or just want to know more or connect with people who have done this due to their own desire to express themselves this way, I am delighted to do whatever I can to help. It is an honor to be on the erotic writing panel with the revered authors with whom I will be sharing company. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself. I was a Police Explorer for four and a half years in my youth and spent a number of years thinking I would be a cop after I graduated from college. Learn more about all our amazing speakers here. Register for CatalystCon East here.