Speaker Spotlight: Emerald

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Mar 082013
 

Emerald is presenting How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer. Check out Emerald’s bio here.

 

EmeraldHow 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.

Speaker Spotlight: Carol Queen

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Feb 272013
 

Carol Queen is presenting How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, Slut Shaming in Sex-Positive CommunitiesThe Fifty Shades Phenomenon and Its Effect on Our Social Sexual Behavior and the CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence. Check out Carol’s bio here.

 

Carol QueenHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I’m really fortunate to have a platform (or several) for discussing issues of sexual diversity, acceptance, sex-positivity, and all the other things I’m known for as a commentator and activist. I work with Good Vibrations, the Center for Sex & Culture, Robert, and solo, writing, speaking, and interfacing with the media, to try to give more complex and nuanced information about sexuality to anyone (consenting) I can get my hands on. I think that by both modeling lived sexual difference/diversity and also addressing these things in academic and lay terms, I can help catalyze others’ understanding of their erotic and relational choices as well as their abilities to act on those choices.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Becoming sexual as a teenager, with very little access to any kind of resources that would make that process easier, AND coming out as queer were the two huge issues that catalyzed me when I was young; just a little later, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and my move to San Francisco were huge influences on me. Finally, meeting Betty Dodson and Joani Blank, getting involved with Robert, and attending the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality majorly shaped my work, my perspectives, and my adult experience.

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

I want to call out four things to answer this, though in reality I think this is a huge and important question with possible answers that go beyond what I’m going to address.

One: I think the world/field of sexuality is in the crosshairs of conservative politicians and others, and I believe a new battle in the so-called “culture wars” has begun; it’s especially obvious in the attention being given to porn, prostitution/trafficking, and “sex addiction.” Look at all the outrageous things being said about women’s sexuality, LGBT issues, etc. by right-wing politicians in the last political season and you’ll see that we are far from comfortable with sexuality in the US. It’s not impossible to imagine a really significant backlash, and I think we should all have our eyes on that as a possible challenge over the next few years.

Two: WAY more people are now interested in making a living doing sex education of some sort than there are jobs to held them. So we have to develop them, and people have to develop entrepreneurial skills. Obviously the health of the economy will make a difference in how easy this is to do, as will the “culture war” questions I mentioned.

Three: I don’t think we always do as well as we could about diversity issues within our community–things like race, class and culture, and in some cases more philosophical things. (See below.) I especially think this is an issue of access to the ideas and opportunities associated with sex-positive education; not everyone gets access to this information and these ideas. (This issue could certainly dovetail with my #2 issue, as well.)

Finally, I think there’s currently a really interesting generation gap in our community as younger activists come into their own and begin to establish some ownership and/or altered perspective over the issues we all work with. Most notable to me about this is the backlash against the term “sex-positive.” I find this really fascinating and also possibly a source of discord that could sidetrack us, as well as affect younger activists’ access to (and interest in) the history of our community/ies and movement/s.

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?

I really love the discourse that happened about slut-shaming, LGBT issues, and rape/consent after the pack of right-wing politicians and commentators went off on their entertaining and scary tangents last year. The calling-out of those awful perspectives didn’t just come from us — lots of people in the culture were part of it, which is great. If our ideas *don’t* find their way into the mainstream on some levels, it marginalizes us in ways that may make our community/ies feel special, but also limits our ability to affect change. I also LOVE the new Feminist Porn Book and think it’s going to make a great splash. And though I’m not pro-marriage, I *am* pro-marriage equality, and this has been a pretty amazing year for that issue.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, Slut Shaming in Sex-Positive Communities, to CatalystCon East?

Even without Rush Limbaugh and the guy who talked about women holding aspirin between their knees, the slut (or, more precisely, slut-shaming) has been part of the political discourse recently, and the SlutWalks have really made an impression. But when slut-shaming happens among us, it’s really a vital issue to talk about, and talking about it unpacks one of the core elements of sex-positivity: each person’s right to their own sexuality (that isn’t necessarily the same as others’ either in specific practices, frequency, or context).

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, to CatalystCon East?

Getting one’s work published is such an important part of establishing a voice about sexuality, whether it’s erotic work or other kinds of writing like essays, how-to, etc. Especially on the heels of 50 Shades of Grey, I think many people dream of hitting the big time as erotic writers, and getting more information about this field will be a great inspiration AND reality check! (And people who attend this should also come to the Saturday night reading that Rachel Kramer Bussel is organizing: In the Flesh.)

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, the CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, to CatalystCon East?

I am really excited to share this discussion with Robert and tell attendees more about our history of activism — and the sex-positive community in San Francisco, which is such a substantial influence on both of us. We’ve had amazing adventures that people will, I think, love hearing about. And we both have a great interest in the way this community is developing and how we move forward, and it’s a privilege to have this forum to share some of these thoughts. Plus, Robert doesn’t have as much verbiage in print as I do — and there will be people at Catalyst who haven’t met him or his thoughts before. They’re in for a treat.

Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.

I was once going to study historic preservationist architecture, which explains my dream of owning a chain of tattoo studios specializing in images of notable architectural detail from the city where the studio is based. But who has the time?!

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here. Register for CatalystCon East here.

Speaker Spotlight: Kristina Wright

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Feb 072013
 

Kristina Wright is presenting How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer. Check out Kristina’s bio here.

 

Kristina WrightHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

That’s an ambitious descriptor! If anything, I suppose I like to think of myself as setting a good example and, as an anthology editor, opening doors to new writers. I think people who don’t read erotica have a misconception of what erotica is– as well as who reads it and writes it. Then they meet me– a very average middle-class suburban Navy wife and mother with a couple of college degrees who writes and talks about sex– and maybe a lightbulb goes off and they realize that the world of erotica is something they can enjoy reading– or writing.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

There have been a number of catalysts for my life and work, but my erotica writing career came about when I was discovering personal blogs and ezines with a very sex-positive message at a time when I was at a crossroads in my writing. Reading the blogs of Jane Duvall (founder of Jane’s ‘Net Sex Guide); Mary Anne Mohanraj (founder of Clean Sheets and one of the first internet bloggers); Heather Corinna (founder of the now-defunct Scarlet Letters and the well-known Scarleteen), to name a few, was the lightbulb over my head. I had been writing about sex since my senior year of high school when I wrote a paper for my AP Psychology class titled Behind Closed Doors: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. I think the only reason it took me so long to realize that I could, in fact, write about sex professionally was because I didn’t know where to start. It took that incredible door opener– the internet– and a few inspiring voices to show me a new direction for my writing with a subject I was already very interested in and passionate about– women’s sexuality. Then I discovered Adrienne Benedick’s fantastic resource, the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, and the rest is history.

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

I live in the southern most part of Virginia– a fairly conservative area in the very conservative south. Virginia is known for things like trying to pass legislation requiring transvaginal ultrasounds prior to allowing a woman to obtain an abortion. I was told by a publicist trying to schedule book events for me that Virginia isn’t sex-friendly. While my experience on a one-on-one level is that people are generally open minded and of the live-and-let-live mindset (which I’m sure has something to do with my non-threatening maternal friendliness!), I know there is a larger force at work, a group mentality that sex, and all it encompasses from birth control to polyamory to homosexuality, is bad. That anything that strays from the socially accepted norm is wrong. Changing that mindset isn’t just about preventing restrictive legislation (though that’s certainly part of it), it’s about closing the gap between “us” and “them.” I straddle a line between two worlds– one, a very traditional view of a military family; the other, the community of erotica writers and other sexuality professionals. To be honest, I never feel completely comfortable in either world, but here I am, using the same name, face and identity in both. This is my attempt to close the gap. I am one of us– and I am one of them.

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?

I think E.L. James and the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has created a public dialogue about sex– specifically women’s sexuality and BDSM– that has done more for the topic of sex-positivity than a lot of people want to admit. Regardless of how the books are perceived (and there aren’t nearly as many detractors as there are fans), this crazy unpredictable phenomenon has created a ripple effect not just in the writing community but in our culture. I’ve personally seen the Fifty Shades Effect. My public library– which I worked for five years– has never carried my erotica anthologies until now. They have not only ordered copies of not only my new release, but several of my backlist, they’ve also asked me to moderate a book discussion of Fifty Shades of Grey. While that might not be a big deal in some of the bigger cities or more liberal/progressive areas of the country, for this particular area it is a phenomenal change in attitude and policy. All because of one author and one book. Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t representative of all erotica, but it is the book that made erotica mainstream. The dialogue has been started and it needs to continue and I hope we will all put aside the disparaging comments and the “real” vs. “fictional” concepts of BDSM and embrace the possiblities.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, to CatalystCon East?

Rachel Kramer Bussel was one of my first erotica editors (and the one I’ve probably sold the most stories to), so when she asked me to be a part of the How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer panel I unhesitatingly said yes. My earliest role models in this field were a handful of outspoken, creative women– and Rachel is one of those who inspired me to do more than dip my toes in this area of writing– which is how I ended up adding anthology editor to my list of titles. I have discovered that the joy of accepting an author’s story for an anthology is (almost) as incredible a feeling as selling a story myself and I want to give back to this community that has given me so much by inspiring and encouraging others to explore their own interests in writing about sex.

Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.

I’m an introvert, so I’m very shy in public situations. So if you see me being a wallflower at CatalystCon, please come up and say hello!

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here. Register for CatalystCon East here.

Speaker Spotlight: Rachel Kramer Bussel

 CCON East 2013, Speaker Spotlight  Comments Off on Speaker Spotlight: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Jan 292013
 

Rachel Kramer Bussel is presenting How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer and The Fifty Shades Phenomenon and Its Effect on Our Social Sexual Behavior. Check out Rachel’s bio here.

 

Rachel Kramer BusselHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I don’t necessarily see myself as a catalyst for change per se, but I do hope that I am encouraging people who are interested in writing erotica to get out a pen or computer and start writing. I truly believe that because there are so many anthologies out there and now, many publishers, of ebooks and print, looking for new voices, it’s an easier field than some others to break in. There’s something, to me, so gratifying about seeing your name in a book, and getting to read the work of other writers, and feel part of a community.

My biggest message about erotica is there’s no one right way to do it. There’s no minimum number of sex scenes or acts, no specific words or settings. There’s no secret code. The heart of a good erotic story is the desire of it, the passion and the emotion and the humanity and the intensity. I believe everyone has something to draw from in that regard, and I hope that my work as an editor and author and event organizer lets people see that. One of the reasons I love editing other people’s work is that I learn that as vast an erotic imagination as I think I have, I’m only ever going to skim the tip of the iceberg, and that’s a good thing! We all have a lot to learn about storytelling, sexuality and perspective from each other’s work. So if you’re reading this and have been contemplating trying your hand at erotica, I encourage you to! Erotica thrives on fresh voices and perspectives. Check out www.erotica-readers.com for a wealth of resources.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Writers like Susie Bright, Lisa Palac, Sallie Tisdale, Carol Queen and Tristan Taormino helped show me the world out there in terms of sex writing. Seeing the call for stoires for Shar Rednour’s anthology Starf*cker in Tristan Taormino’s long-running Double T Newsletter, which I strongly encourage you to sign up for, helped prompt me to write my very first erotica story.

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

It seems like we’re so often one step forward, two steps back when it comes to basic sexual awareness, especially in the U.S. While Fifty Shades of Grey opened a lot of doors regarding BDSM (see my next answer), we are still debating basic things like contraception coverage and sex education. That is very sad to me, though I think we are moving forward in terms of public discussions about sexuality, sexuality orientation, consent and exploration.

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?

I think Fifty Shades of Grey has brought the concepts of erotica and BDSM into the mainstream. It’s no longer considered an oddity to read erotica, and I think people are getting the idea that just because you read or write about something, doesn’t necessarily mean you practice it in the bedroom (or wherever else). It’s been such a breakthrough, and it’s reached so many levels of publishing in terms of expanding the market for erotica. I hope too that it’s shown writers that they have the means to make their dreams come true. That doesn’t mean everyone, or even anyone, is going to be the next E.L. James, but that there are untapped markets out there and unknown possibilities and that you should write the story that speaks the most strongly to you, not just try to follow in someone else’s footsteps.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, to CatalystCon East?

It’s important to see the various ways people approach their erotic writing, what motivates them, how they come up with story ideas, etc. Hopefully our panel will shed some light on the world of erotic writing and publishing for those who are curious about it. Sometimes the things we unlock when we are writing fiction are very different from what we’d ever consciously say or think, but they are just as important, and hearing about how authors reconcile and grapple with putting fictional fantasies on paper, will hopefully give greater insight when you’re reading erotica or writing it.

Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.

I am a little bit addicted to Words with Friends.

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here. Register for CatalystCon East here.

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