More information about books Jen has edited or written, along with excerpts from each:
- Sex Still Spoken Here (anthology)
- Fierce Hunger: Writing from the intersection of trauma and desire (anthology)
- notorious (chapbook)
- what they didn’t teach us (chapbook)
- pink and devastating (chapbook)
- unconsummated (chapbook)
And now, without further ado, The Books:
Sex Still Spoken Here: An Erotic Reading Circle Anthology, Carol Queen, Amy Butcher, and Jen Cross, eds. San Francisco, CA: CSC Press, 2014.
Sex Still Spoken Here contains 27 hot stories, a how-to guide to help start your own erotic reading circle, and essays on why it matters to read aloud in community.
Co-editor Amy Butcher says: “Sex Still Spoken Here is not just a steamy, eclectic mix of hot stories, it’s also an inspiring call to action, staking another fierce claim on importance of voicing the erotic. The Erotic Reading Circle—held monthly since 2006 at San Francisco’s Center for Sex & Culture—is a community where writers put words to our complex desires and longings, and in which our erotic stories are celebrated and honored, not dismissed. This collection is culled from that Circle, representing the many writers who’ve dared to wrestle with the erotic muse.”
Excerpt from the editors’ conversation, “My community for writing is the Circle”:
Amy Butcher: I remember coming to a Circle once where, um, you know usually there’s somewhere between 5 and 15 people in the circle. And I came to one Circle and it was just the two of you and me. And this is early on in my coming to the Circle. And I read a piece that was one of the more vulnerable ones—it was a harsher piece than I usually write, there was no humor in it, there was nothing to protect me in that piece. And I read it to the two of you. And I was shaking afterwards, after hearing it, having those words come out of my body. But that was such an important experience for me and one of the things it taught me is that that shaking is when I know I’ve written something true. And so I actually look for that now. And I wouldn’t have discovered that had I not had a chance to read aloud to the two of you and to larger groups afterwards.
Jen Cross: Feels like there’s a somatic process happening right there. I would love to find the language for that. This is something we were talking about before, that there’re these different pieces around engaging with a new piece of writing: there’s the actual finding language for something, writing it down, putting it on the page, which is an extraordinary step for many people. And then there’s that next piece of bringing it up off the page, like we have to embody the words in writing them down in the first place, whether we’re writing by hand or whether we’re typing it in, it’s still moving through our bodies, moving through our physical experience. Whether we’ve done it before or not, I’m thinking how would that feel, and I’m calling on my own physical experience. And so it’s this embodying process, or can be, to generate the work and then to sit in this space and move it up through the page, up through our bodies so we can hold it in our throat, to hold the words in our mouths, and to move them through us in that way—and then we’re also getting to say these things out loud that we’re never supposed to say, that we’re rarely encouraged to speak, even . . . it can still be so uncomfortable, even in private, even in sort of an intimate sexual experience.
Carol Queen: Even to a lover, yeah.
JC: Yes. Right. And so you were talking about that a little bit before, about the power of that reading aloud.
CQ: Well, one of the things that I think is extraordinary about the Erotic Reading Circle, especially for people who read their own work, although what you just described of the embodiment and voicing of the forbidden, that would be true of anybody who walked through the door and took any book off the shelf here at the Center for Sex and Culture and started to read the sex words out of it. So that would be true, regardless. But the person who has written their own fantasy, experience, piece of work that they hope is art, whatever—to speak it, to read it aloud is a big deal…
Sex Still Spoken Here is available in paperback or ebook format. You can order from your local bookstore or online
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Fierce Hunger: Writing from the intersection of trauma and desire, a collection of writings by Writing Ourselves Whole participants. Produced for Writing Ourselves Whole’s tenth anniversary, March, 2013.
Fierce Hunger contains 45 pieces from ten years’ worth of Writing Ourselves Whole writers – poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction exploring Writing Ourselves Whole’s raison d’être: what it means to inhabit the intersection of trauma and desire.
Excerpt from Jen’s introduction:
…hunger can be frightening if shame is the place we know best and are most comfortable. But when we learn to articulate our desires, we begin to effect change in our lives. We unmake the lesson that said we weren’t even supposed to tell ourselves what we want, that said hunger leads to violence and violation. For those of us who survived by believing we deserved nothing, acknowledgement of our hunger is a radical, healing act. When we take the risk to speak or share our
longings with others, something shifts itself into a listening stance in the beingness all around us.
Here in this book you’ll find stories of desire and resilience and struggle. This is only a sampling of the magnificence and power that find initial articulation in Writing Ourselves Whole’s writing groups. Many of these pieces emerged nearly exactly as is in a workshop setting. Some unfurled onto the page outside of the group, the artist practicing what we do when we write together: follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. In ten years, there’s been enough work to fill a shelf of anthologies with work that would take your breath away – at every workshop meeting, I am left astonished by the work shared, the risks writers are willing to take to find language for what was never meant to be spoken or shared…
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Contains thirteen pieces of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, including “unhinged” (published in the Feb 2014 issue of nin: a literary journal of erotic poetics), “emergence” (forthcoming from Sinister Wisdom in 2016), and excerpts from Jen’s coming home project, undertaken during National Masturbation Month 2012.
excerpt from “A love letter (performed at FemmeCon 2012)”:
We deserve pleasure. This is what we have been healing for.
This is my love letter to a young hungry survivor femme (and by young, of course, I mean all of us: still learning to open, to lean, to reach, to feed ourselves).
It takes everything we have to reoccupy our skin, and it is a revolution every time we reach out for another. It is a revolution when we take our fingers to our own fine and wounded skin and bring forth the pleasure that is sometimes our only birthright. We were built for joy, and no molester’s hands can truly lift that from us, can take away what we actually deserve, that deep intimacy with our fierce and tender selves, the extraordinary capacity of these bodies to meet and recognize and accept and offer pleasure, even after a lifetime of terror and rage and pain…
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Contains ten pieces of fiction & creative nonfiction, including some writing that originated on Jen’s blog, Voz Sutra.
Excerpt from “what they didn’t teach us “:
Let me just start here: My secondary school sex education didn’t teach anything about fisting as an option in sexual pleasure – none of the informational packets in the guidance counselor’s office or the decades-old film reels contained any description of the pleasure a hand could bring when it’s folded like a duck’s beak and slowly, persistently eased, with much lube and lust, into one’s cunt or ass. They did not explain how, at first, it doesn’t even seem remotely possible that this breadth could fit into such a tight space, and then, suddenly, through your rocking and panting and cries you become aware that you have someone else’s hand entirely contained in your body, and that you are flying. Now that would have been some information I could’ve used a few years later.
In fact, in jr high or high school, I don’t remember learning about sexual pleasure at all.
Of course, I do remember the period presentation (you remember the reproductive cycle conversation), when the boys are split up from the girls and who knows what the boys learned during this gendered time-out while our Home Ec teacher described the ovaries and uterus and our monthly sloughing off of blood and then went into great detail about her daughter’s flows, that were so heavy she needed two maxi pads at the same time, and frankly, I thought that was too damn much information.
During this one excursion into anything close to an official conversation about sexuality in school, I didn’t learn anything about sex: nothing good about desire, or gayboys or girls, or safer sex as lifesaving and joyful: only as pregnancy prevention.
In any of the formal or informal sex ed, I didn’t learn about the hungers, I didn’t learn about the way more than just my cunt could keen for sex, the way my mouth could swell with wanting your shoulderblade there, and how each nerve of my hand left unencumbered with the thick clutch of her cunt could stretch with wanting, how my legs could know to ache at the not bending, my belly could long for the pressure of a table, a bed, a anything beneath it.
I didn’t learn about the blasphemous thrill of a finger first finding slick between another woman’s legs, and no one in high school ever explained how dangerous a single moan forced between clenched teeth could be. I didn’t know that cocks could be that slick sweet push and, at the same time, someone’s deep awful vulnerability These were all the things they didn’t teach us. We had to learn each of these lessons alone. They didn’t say we’d worry the bands of normalcy off our arms just for one more taste of someone’s forbidden lips, how we’d mark ourselves outsider, brand ourselves expendable, just to have another of our own kind kneel down in front of us and claim something monosyllabic and urgent between our legs for themselves, and for us, too: not just flesh or wet or hard but yes and now and please…
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Contains eleven stories, poems, and selections of creative nonfiction, including “Coagulations” (which appears in the Summer 2014 issue of Wilde Magazine), “Trixie” (later published in the Cleis anthology Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel), “shame #1,” “pink and devastating,” and “home: again,” (all of which were included in the 2011 Seattle Erotic Art Festival Literary Art Anthology of the 2011 Seattle Erotic Art Festival), as well as “Manicure” (performed on the Women’s Stage at San Francisco Pride 2009).
excerpt from “hot pants”:
When I think of lust, I think of 4-inch mary jane platforms, in all black patent leather and white piping tracing the edges, being worn by a girl with the longest damn legs you ever saw, calves that curve around, butter-smooth and settled over with a fine layer of gold hair, thighs like the long thunder rolling through a hot July night, and the tightest pair of hot pants you ever did see, cupped like not even second skin but first around her fleshy rump. The kinda girl who her friends say (the sharp skinny ones at least) shouldn’t exactly be wearing hot pants anyway cuz look at how her butt keeps pushing out from under the shimmery material, all sweet and jiggly and needing just and exactly the sort of attention I could be giving to it. Yeah, these cold nights up here in Detroit when the steam heat’s not working right and I can hardly get the damn stove going hot enough to put some heat into my too-tight studio, all I can do is think on Shirleen in those near-carnivorous hot pants, how she let me in ‘em just that one Christmas before I left.
Near the whole time I’d been in Atlanta, Shirleen’s butt had been firmly planted in the stony possession of her butch, Zeke. They’d been together far back as anyone I’d met could remember, and still she’d suddenly gaze at Z, turn those big dark green pools onto Zeke’s tired, swealtery face with the kind of need that you’d expect to see from newlyweds, or really skillful whores, maybe—Zeke’d sling an arm across Shirleen’s soft, broad-shoulders, cop a long, possessive feel, lock eyes with one butch or another, whoever she though maybe had been taking one too many tequila-glazed trips up and down Shirl’s impossibly long gams and more often than not it’d be me Zeke’d be glaring at. Then she’d drain her beer, stand up, reach back for her girl and whisk Shirleen out to her Harley, with sharp crack in the butt and a Well, then, come on, girl—let’s get to it. Shirleen’d grin wide and proud and I’d sometimes think I could smell her ache all the way across the smoky flats of the bar: somethin steamy and pungent and wet and quick as sea spray tracing its long lingering way over beach grass back home.
The night they broke up was epic, the kinda tale that gets told at dyke bars for years, gets passed off as “Lesbian Herstory” when it’s actually just plain pain and sorrow and shame-faced loss. Zeke went away the Sunday before Solstice, no one knew exactly where, leaving Shirleen with a half-emptied railroad flat just a week before we were to celebrate the baby Jesus coming all loud and star-shined and holy into the world. That year, Christmas fell on a Friday, wouldn’t you know it (I mean, could you believe it?), I packed my sweetest cock under my Levis that night with high hopes, an decision that led to the best and the worst night of my short dumb life…
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Contains ten stories, poems, and pieces of creative nonfiction, including “this is not safe sex” (which appeared on Clean Sheets).
Excerpt: “against its own best time”
Can the body ever know itself deeply without all the ways it can press and curve and curl along the slap and dash, the musculature and damp, of another? It doesn’t matter if I love you, though I always do right then, right when you let me pluck you open, turn aside all your nuanced terrain, run my full flat hand along your crimson, rounded belly, then pool and pearl and collect the heat you’ve gathered between your furry legs. I don’t care if you love me, if you want what’s best for me / always or outside this moment/ if you’ll just let me fold myself down, splinter your legs aside, and burrow my face and friction there just there. This isn’t coherent, but sex never is, that’s part of the point, the way I always want to lose my way with words once you put your hands on me, whenever my skin gets all nerve-singed like this, my face flushed the color it flakes to just before I come and how I can imagine you watching me then, listening but wait what was I saying?
Right: it doesn’t matter if you love me. I can feel your smile against the inseam of my palm so what difference does it make if we don’t move our toaster ovens in together tomorrow just this once couldn’t you let me ridge my muscle and bone against all the slick you have to deliver, you’ll let me climb up all your back stairs, dive down here where I no longer have a place? You don’t have to love me. I can’t say how knotty it gets against the backs of my eyes: just this, the all that I’m not saying how much I ache for what I don’t have dripping over my hands. It’s redundant now, I know, and we’re lost in this big bed, with me spread and sprawled and you locking down hard on what never was the stuff meant for me to love anyway, was it?