reach out and risk, reach out and receive

graffiti of a woman's head, face, with "trick or treat" written next to it...photo taken from behind a wire fence, so the image looks fenced-inHappy Thursday! Today I have a little extra writing time in the morning, and then I’m off to SF for the MedEd writer’s group, a weekly meeting with my friend/colleague Peggy Simmons of Green Windows Writing Groups, and then tonight’s the night for Declaring Our Erotic, too! A full day; thankfully, I got a full-night’s sleep: whew.

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Last night was the Erotic Reading Circle — we’ve been ERC-ing for at least four years. Can it be that long?

Last night there were 6 in the circle, 8 with CQ and myself, and 7 folks read, including your facilitators, and first of all, how can you turn down an opportunity to have a private and intimate reading time with Carol Queen, who’s so widely published, who’s been doing this for such a long time and so very damn well? Last night there were a couple of regulars, several folks who were new to the Circle, and we got to hear such a range of writing, erotic memoir, essay, rant, poetry — we heard writing about writing erotica, we heard stories about new lust and long-term desire and food, we heard stories about family and complicated wanting. Someone said, Everything that was shared here tonight was different, and none of it was what you might expect from an erotic reading!

We have a great time at the ERC — every time I’m nervous and excited (will folks show up?), and then we get such a wonderful gathering, every time, every time. And people risk walking up those stairs and into the room for the first time, risk sitting with strangers and reading their stories about sex. I know I’ve said it before, but that’s the part that can move me to tears (and I’m not even premenstrual anymore): that willingness to reach out and risk, and to receive one another’s risky offerings with generosity and awe. I love that.

Next month we meet on 11/24, just before T-day. If you’ve got stories about something getting stuffed (I just have to make the obvious innuendo sometimes), or erotic writing that has nothing to do with a holiday even, bring it down! At the Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission St (bet. 11th and So Van Ness) in San Francisco

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I’m reading Healing Stories: Women Writers Curing Cultural Disease, by Gay Wilentz. The book is helping me to think about a longer project I’ve been in the middle of for a long time, something I want, am ready, to go back to.

In her study, Wilentz looks at how writing about healing can be a healing, for the writer and for the reader and for a community/culture. She writes about the concept that “cultures themselves can be ill” (1). Wilentz studies 5 texts in this collection: Erna Brodber’s Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home, Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, Keri Hullme’s the bone people, and Jo Sinclari/Ruth Seid’s Wasteland.

I’ve only read two of these, Ceremony and The Salt Eaters, and want to read the other books before I read Wilentz’s analysis of them. I’m always looking for other books that consider the idea that the culture/community has to be healed along with an individual, that wrangle that possibility, that offer us readers a sense of what that might look like. So I’m looking forward to reading these three books, and others, too, that Wilnetz mentions: Plainsong for the Widow, Paule Marshall; House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momday; The Woman Who Owned the Shadows, Paula Gunn Allen; Solar Storms, Linda Hogan; and many more.

I’m also looking to find any works of fiction like these by Irish or eastern European women writers — writers who can hold the old traditions into the modern ailments of depression, isolation, disconnection. Any suggestions out there?

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A prompt for today: Take a few minutes and jot down some signs of cultural illness — what does that mean for you? Try not to think about it too much, just create a list of some examples. Take one or two of those at most interest you in the moment, give yourself 10 or 20 minutes, and dive into those examples, describe them in detail. Show us the illness through what you see/experience — let us experience it, too. (Sometimes we can better understand a thing when we’re given the opportunity to go into it, rather than just having it told to us; you’re giving us the opportunity to more deeply empathize with what you know.)

Thanks for your cultural work today, for the ways you provide a counterexample to all the narratives of fear, for the ways you show up (for others, for yourself), over and over. Thank you for the old healing ways you carry in your body, even without conscious knowledge. Thank you for your words: always for your words.

One response to “reach out and risk, reach out and receive

  1. Hi Jen,

    I’ve been reading your blog every day for a few months. I really enjoy it. I am wondering if you know about any erotic writing/reading circles Washington, DC, and if not, can I talk to you about how to start one?