Tag Archives: erotic reading circle

results that aren’t results

This morning it’s late again when I sit down here at the keyboard and I remember that my body is always heavier, sleepier, more tired when she’s sleeping. We’re supposed to pretend like the blood doesn’t affect us, like everything’s normal. Well, everything is normal — this body is working extra hard during these days. Be unsurprised, ego-self, that the animal body has her seasons and cycles, has her rhythms and climbs, has her furrows, her sweet spots, has the moments when all she can do is lie down. Come and lie down with us. Bring a book. Now is the fallow time.

Last night was the Erotic Reading Circle at the Center for Sex and Culture, the monthly reading event I get to co-facilitate with the most-delicious Carol Queen. I am never disappointed at the ERC: last night we had stories about public-alley sex and masturbation and memoir about sex in SF in the mid-70s; we had the next installment of a fantasy piece, a story that taught me about the layers of exhibitionism possible at a nude beach, and D/s stories from both the D perspective and the s. The folks who come to the circle, both the regulars and the newbies, are without fail attentive listeners who are engaged with each piece being shared into the room — people pay close attention, give strong feedback, want to hear more. What a gift, to have a space where one’s erotic work is taken seriously. We meet again November 28 — maybe you’ll be able to join us one of these months.

Here’s what I want to tell you — the tissue around my microcalcifications came back benign. And today I go meet with a surgeon in the family practice department who will feel around where my primary care doctor originally felt around (and felt worried), and tell me if there’s anything going on that the mammogram didn’t pick up.

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Winter 2012 Workshops — Here’s what’s coming up!

The new year is the time for a new dedication to your writing practice — and we’ve got a whole host of offerings, beginning in January and February, one of which might be just right for you or someone you love!

Please pass the word, and let me know if you’d like to join us! I’m looking forward to writing with you –

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Write Whole: Survivors Write

SF-based 8-week workshop for women who are survivors of sexual trauma or sexual violence

Winter ’12 Workshop begins Monday, January 16

Meets 8 Monday evenings, 6:00-8:30pm.

This workshop is open to all women survivors of sexual trauma.

Gather with other women survivors of sexual trauma in this workshop, and write in response to exercises chosen to elicit deep-heart writing, and deal with such subjects as: body image, family/community, sexuality, dreams, love, faith, and more. You’ll be encouraged to trust the flow of your own writing, and receive immediate feedback about the power of your words!

8-week workshop fees: The fee for an 8-week session is $350. (I can generally work out payment plans; please contact me if you have question or concerns about payment.) There is a reduced-rate early bird fee of $315 if you register by  December 20. The regular registration fee will be in effect through January 1, 2012. The late registration fee is $385; last day to register is January 9. Please register early!

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Bayview Writers

A new and supportive writing workshop for Marin.

Tuesday mornings in Tiburon beginning 1/31: 10am-1pm (women’s group);

Wednesday evenings in San Rafael beginning 2/1: 6-9pm  (open to all writers)

Make a commitment to your writing in 2012!

New writing group forming: Bayview Writers is open to all writers seeking a fun, generous and supportive atmosphere in which to create powerful new writing. Using the Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method, we write together in response to exercises designed to spark your creative imagination. Whether you’re in the middle of a larger project, beginning something new, or going through a time of ‘writer’s block,’ this workshop is for anyone looking to connect with their writing, regardless of experience level. Connect with other local writers and release the words that you’ve been longing to write.

The fee for an 9-week session is $425. There is a reduced-rate early bird fee of $380 if you register by  November 23. The regular registration fee will be in effect through January 1, 2012. The late registration fee is $465; last day to register is January 6. Please register early!

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Dive Deep
An advanced, project/manuscript-centered working group

Inaugural group meets January 5, 2o12!

This workgroup is designed for those who have delved into  (or are ready to commit to) the deep dive of a large* writing project:

  • a novel;
  • poetry, story or essay collection;
  • play or screenplay;
  • daily blogging;
  • preparing work for publication;
  • or any other long-term writing project.

Though writing is a solitary pursuit, no writer has ever completed a long work alone!

Divers will meet three times per month for writing exercises, project check-in and accountability, manuscript feedback, coaching and peer support. This group can help you meet your writing goal, and provide community and encouragement as you go deep into a writing project. This is necessary work you’re doing: give yourself all the tools and support you need.

Workshop fees: This is an ongoing group; the fee is $200/month, with a three-month initial commitment required; the group will remain closed for three-month cycles, then will open at the end of those cycles for the possible addition of new members. Dive Deep is limited to 6 members at a time. Please contact me to register!

* “large” is relative — whatever your writing project is, if you want support and accountability and regular connection around that work, we would love to have you!

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Declaring Our Erotic

A monthly erotic writing retreat open to all

I’ve reformatted this workshop from an 8-week series to 10 Saturday writing retreats! Each month, come together with a fun, powerful, and supportive group of writers to dive into some sexy and surprising new writing! We will work with a theme every month, and you will be invited to write into the ideas that theme inspires in you, or you are welcome to use the workshop retreat time to do whatever writing is most pressing for you.

In DOE writing groups, we write in response to exercises that bring up different aspects of our erotic, sexual and sensual selves, in a safe and confidential group of peers. This workshop is designed to leave you more confident with sexual language, erotic expression, and your own writing practice. You’ll receive immediate and concrete feedback about what’s already working (and hot!) in your writing, and will leave with several new pieces of work.

Previous participants have found the group to be transformative, feeling that the work they’ve done has opened up and changed not only their relationship with their erotic selves, but with many other aspects of their lives as well.

Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month, 10am-5:00pm. Light lunch provided. Limited to 12. Fee for Declaring Our Erotic Saturday retreat is $100 (with a sliding scale). Please contact me to register!

Early 2012 retreat dates — mark your calendars!:

Saturday, February 5, 2012: New Beginnings
Saturday, March 3, 2012: Writing the Body (and Jen’s 40th birthday!)
Saturday, April 7, 2012:  Edging into Fantasy

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Writing the Flood

Every third Saturday, 1-4:30pm
(unless otherwise noted)

The first Writing the Flood of 2012 meets on 1/21

Writing The Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long.  This is a time to work on a larger project, get started on new work, play on the page, or write yourself through a block and back into your writing voice.
Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $50 (with a sliding scale) Limited to 12. Please contact me to register.

Early 2012 Writing the Flood dates — mark your calendars now!

  • Saturday, January 21, 2012
  • Saturday, February 18, 2012
  • Saturday, March 17

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The Erotic Reading Circle

Every fourth Wednesday at the Center for Sex and Culture, 7:30-9:30pm

suggested donation: $5+

Since 2006, we’ve been meeting on the fourth Wednesday of the month to share and celebrate the breadth of erotic artistry in the Bay Area! The next Erotic Reading Circle meets on September 28, 7:30-9:30 at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street, San Francisco (cross streets 9th and 10th). $5+ donation requested (no one turned away); donations support the Center for Sex and Culture. This month’s circle will be a collaborative effort with the Sex Worker’s Arts Festival events at the CSC!

Bring whatever you’re working on, or whatever you’d like to be working on.

Come join readers and share your erotic writing! Bring something to read or just be part of the appreciative circle of listeners. This is a great place to try out new work (ask for comments if you like), or get more comfortable reading for other people. Longtime writers will bring their latest… newly inspired writers, bring that vignette you scrawled on BART while daydreaming on your way to work. Carol Queen and Jen Cross host/facilitate this space dedicated to erotic writers and readers. No registration necessary — just drop in!

Upcoming dates for the ERC:

  • Wednesday, December 28, 2011
  • Wednesday, January 25
  • Wednesday, February 22

See you at the Circle!

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what we attend to shapes us

Labyrinth Habitat mural by Johanna Poehig;  I wake up from layered and complicated dreams. There are things I want to tell you about, but it’s not time for them yet. The alarm goes off at 4, and I think, I could just snooze for a little bit, and then I forget to press snooze, and now it’s after 5.

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The Fall writing workshop series begins next week — Write Whole: Survivors Write starts on Monday, and we do still have a couple of spaces left! Friday is the last day to register — if you have been thinking about joining us and giving yourself and your stories a regular, weekly writing time, please do contact me.

Tonight’s the Erotic Reading Circle at the Center for Sex and Culture; a good time for me to go through recent notebooks and find a story that I want to work more with. Have you seen the  call for submissions for Sex Still Spoken Here, the Erotic Reading Circle anthology? If you’ve participated in this latest round of the erotic reading circle (since about 2006), we want your stories and poems!

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We’ve started leaving the door to the puppy’s kennel open at night, so she can get up and come out when she’s ready in the morning. So far, she seems to stay in there all night, only getting out after I’ve been up and at the computer working for awhile. Right now she’s here with me in the office, digging behind the office door for something. All I hear is snuffling and claws scraping carpet, not hard, but persistent. I say her name, and she stops. She’s ready to go outside, but it’s still dark out. When she first came home with us, it was light at 4 or 4:30, and we could go out then. The earth’s rotation is thwarting our early morning walk.

There’s something about putting the work we believe in the most at a centered place in our day. How does that work for you? For me, it means writing first — whether that’s journaling, morning pages, blogging, freewriting on a story. Not editing, but generating new words, first thing in my day.

A message I heard this weekend talked about this idea that what we pay attention to, what we attend to, reveals what we love, and shapes who we’re about to be:

Attention is a tangible measure of love. Whatever receives our time and attention becomes the center of gravity, the focus of our life. This is what we do with what we love: We allow it to become our center.

What is the center of your life? Carefully examine where you spend your attention, your time. Look at your appointment book, your daily schedule. These things – these meetings, errands, responsibilities – this is where you dedicate your precious days, hours, and moments. This is what receives your care and attention – and, by definition, your love.

We become what we love. Whatever you are giving your time and attention to, day after day, this is the kind of person you will eventually become. Is this what you want?

— Wayne Muller

When I was listening to this message, I was thinking about how I shoved what I loved most to the far edges of my life, for years, in order to protect those things: writing, femininity, deep connection with other people. What I actually paid attention to was my stepfather’s desires, how he wanted me to be in the world, the work he expected me to do. That, plus I paid attention to his moods and emotions — I did these things, attended to these things, for my own survival. So, what did this reveal about what I loved? That I loved him more than writing? That I loved his moods more than my mother’s or my sister’s? I certainly gave his more attention –

I understand the core of this message, this idea: what we focus on shapes our days, shapes what will come for us. If I spend three hours writing today, I have that writing to work with tomorrow, and I am closer to having something to submit to an anthology next week. If I spend five minutes today attending to the state of my own body, I may be beginning a pattern that will let my body know that its states of being matter to me — what does that mean? I mean, if I pay attention to my body today, by next week, I might be sitting or moving differently because I paid attention to what my body needed. Every small action toward or in service of what we love builds up that place in us. Think about a ball of rubber bands: begin with one tiny band, add one more and one more, do this over a period of months, and you end up with a baseball-sized collection. Small actions, small attentions, add up to big ones.

Let this be a write for today: what aren’t you or your character attending to that you want to be? Take 10 minutes for that part of yourself today, and write about it. Or write about how you make space for what you love by attending to it. Just turn your attention to a part of yourself (or apart of your character) that you want to grow, and let the writing flow from there. (This could be a good morning for a love letter to the body, if it’s the body that needs some attention.)

Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. And be easy with you, ok? One small step, every day, that’s all. That’s powerful beginning.

Thank you for your attentiveness, your witness, your awareness, your tender ferocity. Thank you for your words!

femme shame

graffiti-esque image of a big girl in strapless top dancing, wrists blossoming with pink ribbons...

(Isn't this hot?! Click on the image for more of LibDescent's photostream!)

Being back from tour requires a kind of re-entry –it’s, yes, a bumpy ride. I can’t wait to tell you all about these last 10 days on the road in the Southeast with Body Heat!

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A gorgeous ERC last night! There was cuckolding & an orgy & the truth about strapping on in the stories that folks read, plus so much more. Hot hot stories, tender stories, revelations, wantings, loss, fear, ache, plaster. Honest. We meet every fourth Wednesday of the month at the Center for Sex and Culture for the Erotic Reading Circle, and I’d love to see you out sometime soon!

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I don’t have a lot of time to blog this morning because I’ve been notebooking (well, journaling into the computer, which has gotten easier over time, with practice, more like handwriting into my spiral-bound notebook) about shame. Femme shame, in particular. Internalized femme shame, somehow distinct from internalized misogyny, the stuff inside that calls me stupid, ridiculous, craven, painted, slutty (and more, and worse, though all that is really bad enough) for wanting to be a visible girl, a feminine woman, someone with curves, shape, adornment, someone desirable. Particularly desirable, in my case, to butches (and yes, babe, to  a particular butch), from whom I am so very different in presentation. Do you know what I mean? I mean the stuff that says, when my feet ache after 6 hours on a plane because I’m wearing tight tall peep-toe heels instead of flip flops or sneakers, What in the hell is the matter with you? You’re breaking yourself just because you want hir to find you sexy? Because my answer is yes. And because I want the girls to find me sexy, too.

At the end of my writing this morning, I thought, I need to spend more time with, create more time for, my femme friends at home. On tour, we get to admire one another 24-7, we get to make admiring comments about one another’s just about everything. And we get to talk honestly, ask honest questions about Do you really think this looks good? How can I make this piece of clothing work? What do you mean I can wear skinny jeans? We did that with each other this tour, got so honest with it, got to offer up to one another the particular cadences of our own places of shame (well, let me not name that for others — at least, I know this is true for me), and here these women who I so admire and can get jealous of for their confidence, their style, their power, they met these tender places with care, a kind of cradling,

And that’s one of the reasons I love Tour, and why I crash when it’s over. Yesterday I wore a short skirt, tall boots, flowy shirt, to work, and not one person exclaimed. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but the fact is that, on tour, we get to be one another’s cheering sections, we get to be the people who go gaga for one another, we get to gush with a particularly (I’ll say it) femme desire, pushing one another up and up as we admire and adore one another. And when it’s over, I miss it — not from a vanity place, no, but from a connection place; it’s not a safe thing we’re doing in the world, being visible girls/feminine women, and it’s necessary to surround ourselves with the voices of those who adore us, and whom, too, we can adore right back, who tell us that yes, we are right to want to claim our beauty, our gorgeousness, our ferocity. So yes, I miss it when tour is over and I move back into silence, back onto the concrete streets where women are trained not to make eye contact with one another, where the butches slide their eyes away from me, where the eye contact I can make is with men who just want to offer something lewd — moving back from open roads, thick green encampments surrounding us, daring conversation, owning my own artistry to these silent grey carpeted cubes, the hum of fluorescent lights, the tick of keys beneath my fingers pus(h)ing out dry database requests instead of conversations about desire, something stickier, something wet.

There’s more to say about all this, but I need to get ready for work. Still, here’s a call to my local femme friends: let’s get together soon, ok? I need you.

And yes, a write, a possible write: what’s the name of the shame you or your character are wrangling with right now? Want to take a few minutes, 10 or 15, and let yourself find some words for its shape? Do you see it connected to other shames, or as the flipside to some other feeling/desire?

Your words are so important, and I’m so grateful for them, for you, for you, for you.

interweaving (&) metaphor

street art of a nude woman, folded into a tight crouch, looking up and holding an umbrella above herWhew — be safe out there today, Bay Area-ers. That wind is crazy, fickle like dice, snapping back in your face just when you thought you had the umbrella situated right and held tight, flipping the metal framing inside out, leaving your safety shield as a cup for the moon and wet.

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We had a lovely Erotic Reading Circle last night, the first one at the Center for Sex and Culture‘s new space at 1349 Mission St! (Will you join with me here in a moment of good wishes that the CSC has found a good and solid home for awhile? Hooray!)

There were stories and blog posts, and fantasy worlds galore (some of our world, some of parallel universes or future times: fantastic) — and once again, as happens every time, I felt such gratitude for these readers, these folks willing to bring their words out into the world in front of strangers (who maybe don’t feel like strangers for long), folks willing to be present and engaged with others’ writing, folks willing to discuss erotic writing like it matters — because it does matter.

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Thinking about many things this morning: writing as liberatory practice, grad school, oatmeal with quinoa, Access databases, green tea with mint, rain, relaxation, the ways our muscles and organs hold and store our histories, haircuts, deep breathing, the Real, metaphor as finding language for the unspeakable. None of these things is not like the other. What’s interweaving itself through your thoughts this morning?

An idea for a prompt: Write for 5-7 minutes about umbrellas as objects, as real things. Then write for 5-7 minutes about umbrellas as metaphors (for whatever springs to mind for you as you write). Write for 5-7 minutes about how rain feels falling on your body. Write for 5-7 minutes about rain as a metaphor (for whatever springs to mind for you as you write). Read back through what you’ve written, and circle lines you like, that pop out to you. It could be fun/productive, too, to interweave the ‘real’ and ‘metaphorical’ writing, like in the prompt described in this post.

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Stay as warm as you can today, prefearbly as warm and dry as you want to. And if you want to go walking with your body up against the power of the wind and rain, I hope you have a good warm regathering place to return to, with blankets, hot tea with honey, maybe even a terrible movie that you love way in your bones.

Thank you for your generosity, the ways you have found to describe what they meant to be indescribably, for your words.

Upcoming Workshops and Groups!

Come write with me!

Our writing space -- all ready for you!
Reclaiming our Erotic Story:
the Liberatory Potential of Writing Desire
Sutterwriters Sacramento
January 29, 2011

8:00AM-5:00PM

Can erotic writing liberate more than our libidos? Does greater comfort with sexual expression lead to greater agency in our communities? Many of us assume that the erotic is solely the province of the individual, and not the realm of social change or communal liberation – but what happens when we all have wider access to and more comfort with erotic language and sexual expression? The full breadth of our erotic power can challenge what our society teaches us about our sexuality, which is both damning and provocative when it comes to personal expression and human relationships.

I’ve led erotic writing workshops since 2002, and what I’ve found is that writing our desire, in a safe community of engaged and encouraging peer writers, can allow us the space to challenge the negative messages we’ve internalized about sexuality and about our core desires and even our very being. When we bring our longing into the light and find common ground with others, when we risk exposing that which we’ve been trained to be ashamed of, I find that many of us step into a deeply empowered (and more embodied!) self.

In this workshop, we’ll take try out some explicit writing, and will consider how empowering a creative engagement with sexual identity, desire, and expression, as well as the ability to write out our fantasies and desire, can affect our intimate relationships, our communities and our work in the world.
The cost for this workshop is $100.  A $25 deposit would secure your place with the balance due on the day of the class.

To register, contact

John Crandall
Crandall Writers
P.O. Box 22612
Sacramento, California 95822
916-708-9708

john@fireartsofsacramento.com
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Writing the Flood
Saturday, December

January 15, 1-4:30pm

A half-day, open-topic writing workshop!

Many of you had been asking for a general-topic writing workshop (i.e., not focused on a particular issue), and this space is for you!

Writing The Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long.  This is a time to work on a larger project, get started on new work, play on the page, or write yourself through a block and back into your writing voice.

Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $25-50, sliding scale. Limited to 12. Register or email me with questions: jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org.

February Writing the Flood meets on 2/19/11!
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And last but never least: The Erotic Reading Circle! Since 2006, we’ve been meeting on the fourth Wednesday of the month to share and celebrate the breadth of erotic artistry in the Bay Area!

This month we circle up on December 22, 7:30-9:30 at the Center for Sex and Culture (1519 Mission St., between 11th & So Van Ness, in SF)! $5+ donation requested (no one turned away); donations support the Center for Sex and Culture.

Bring whatever you’re working on, or whatever you’d like to be working on.Come join readers and share your erotic writing! Bring something to read or just be part of the appreciative circle of listeners. This is a great place to try out new work (ask for comments if you like), or get more comfortable reading for other people. Longtime writers will bring their latest… newly inspired writers, bring that vignette you scrawled on BART while daydreaming on your way to work. Carol Queen and Jen Cross host/facilitate this space dedicated to erotic writers and readers.

See you at the Circle!

if a girl doesn’t have her standards, what does she have

graffiti -- white daisy on a brick wallWhat about today? Still cold. The space heaters don’t really make a dent. I need fingerless gloves and am wearing a hat. Today I’m feeling kind of constricted — cold does that. So does imminent vacation. Last night I gave myself comfort foods & comfort time, after my chores were done.

What comes next? Being with the notebook pages first means I’m more conscious when I get to the computer page, means I’m more awake, means I’m thinking more about what I’m writing — my being more awake means my internal editors are more awake. This is why I like to write before the sun is up — my editors are not morning people.

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I’m going to be away from the computer for about a week, so I’ll be sharing with you some posts I wrote a couple of years ago after my interview with Britt Bravo and the Arts and Healing network, about the writing workshops and writing as a transformative process.

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Tonight’s the Erotic Reading Circle — have you been yet? It’s a great place to bring any erotic or sexual writing you’re doing, to share it with a generous and fun group of other writers and readers and get whatever sort of feedback you’d like. Bring your short stories, your poems, your scripts, excerpts from your novel, the texts or tweets that you’re working into a prose poem… bring the thing that you just started working on or somomething that you’ve been engaged with and loving for years.

Here’s something I wrote about the ERC a couple of years ago — and I continue to appreciate the powerful sharing and storytelling and support at every month’s Circle.

The Erotic Reading Circle meets at the Center for Sex and Culture, which is at 1519 Mission St, between 11th and So Van Ness, in San Francisco. I won’t be able to be there tonight, but I’ll leave you with something I might have brought tonight — and a prompt, too, so that, if you want to, you can write something to take to the Circle!

First the prompts: Read through the following three fragments and notice which one starts to percolate a sensual or hot or funny or seductive story or scene for you -
- this I whisper into your tender ears
- Stephanie always does as she’s told
- These marks I bear speak volumes

Let yourself be drawn to one (or more than one!), give yourself 10 or 15 minutes, and begin writing — and remember: feel welcome to change the prompts in any way that’s interesting for you (change the pronouns if you’d like, or add a “not” to the phrase…)

Here’s my write from this prompt, which I offered at the Declaring Our Erotic workshop earlier this month (this write is a bit sexually explicit):

Stephanie doesn’t always do as she’s told. Stephanie, in fact, almost never does a she’s told, which is how, in a round about kind of way, Stephanie finds her fine butch self tethered with a pair of thong panties to my kitchen chair while I tend to my business on the living room couch — and by business, of course, I mean my clit, and by tend, girl, well, you know what I mean.

Stephanie had been told that I am not a girl who likes to be kept waiting — it’s  not like that’s not well know around our little mid-city queer community: Althea’s not just prompt, she’s pressed and split a half-minute after you’re supposed to meet her somewhere. That means I don’t wait. You show up early or you don’t show up. I had one butch girlfriend who used to stand outside my door and stare at her wristwatch til just the exact time she was supposed to be picking me up; only then would she rap her three short knocks on my door, knowing full well I was standing exactly 6 inches from her on the other side of that hard wood, wet and shaking in my dinner date duds, and I’d have to walk my heels in place just to make it sound like I hadn’t been — right – waiting for her practiced fist to rattle my cage.

She was long gone, though, and now it’s Stephanie I’ve got to contend with. Stephanie, with the kind of good looks that make you just want to tear your eyes out so you can walk straight. First time we went out, she pulled up in front of my building about the time she was supposed to be escorting me to my car, and I would have left her out there pressing the buzzer for all she was worth but I made the mistake of looking at her in that tailored suit, shoes she’d shined up just for the occasion, a fedora at a perfect angle and carrying a single white daisy she’d ripped from someone’s front lawn — not to mention (how can I not mention?), from my third story window I could see what else she’d brought me by the bulge in her gabardine trousers It didn’t help I hadn’t been fucked in six weeks and then there she was at my front door, smelling like clean and musk and hair oil and I Just had time to say, You’re late. this is the only strike you’ll get - before she quick caught my hand, gave me the flower, slid her other hand along my waist and gave me the kind of kiss that bent my toes and thinned every resolve I’ve ever slid under my skin. Ok. One chance.

That night ended with Yours Truly walking mussed and tawdry and perfect up my stairs after Stephanie urged me away from the entry-way spotlight and instead into the bushes for a sizable good-night kiss, and me promising, yes, she could inch those hard hands up there next time if she showed up for dinner on time. Next time would be dinner at my house, Althea on parade.

So I turned out a meal fit for the king she wanted to be and she’d be eating it now, too, if she hadn’t rung my bell three minutes and forty-four seconds past her agreed-upon arrival time. I can’t ignore that this is probably extra prompt for Stephanie — but if a girl doesn’t have her standards, what does she have?

However, I think I mentioned the extreme dry spell I was experiencing — and I decided, as I buzzed the poor butch in, to see if Stephanie can be trained.

Thank you for your presence, your pressures, your love and struggle. Thank you for your words: your words matter.

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.

There’s my imperfect humanness, right there with me

graffiti of two gorgeous pudgy animals dancing -- they look like rhinos to me, but the image tag says they're moominsIt’s freezing in the office this morning — welcome to winter! It’s hard to type when you want to keep your fingers wrapped around the cup of nettle-mint-green tea.

This morning I’m thinking of harm reduction, and how it’s self care. Right now, I have an agreement with myself: I can eat whatever I want, as long as it’s not wheat. That means, yes, I can buy the chocolate or the bag of popcorn that I’m going to eat all of, in exchange for not buying the piece of cake with the slab of frosting that will make me feel like a shaking sugar-wheat mess. I have not made this arrangement about sugar, just wheat, and just for right now. Just for right now. Just for today. Each day I can decide if I want to continue. My body is happier when it doesn’t have as much wheat to process — of course, it’s also happier when it’s not processing all sorts of sugar and not packed in and overfull, as can happen when I decide to feast on popcorn. But harm reduction is about choosing the lesser evil and going with that for awhile, to make it easier to live without the worse evil. And it is making it easier for me to transition away from wheat for a bit — and for that, I’m grateful.

Mostly, I think about harm reduction in the context of drugs and alcohol: let me smoke instead of taking a drink, right? But it’s a constant self-care practice and possibility, especially on the hard days. Let me watch just 3 hours of tv instead of 10. Let me be late for work because I did some stretching rather than beating myself up all day and living with this tension headache (that’s not really harm reduction practice, but it is reducing a harm). For some people, it’s let me give this blow job without a condom if I’m not going to fuck without one. Or, let me fantasize or write about this person it would be very bad for me to have sex with (maybe for emotional reasons, or because there would be other consequences) rather than having sex with them in real life. Sometimes a self-care practice is about incorporating the ‘bad’ decisions, in layers and ribbons, rather than deciding to be all of a sudden completely virtuous and perfect (then failing at that, then beating myself up). We all know that there is no perfect: There’s my imperfect humanness, right there with me every morning as soon as I open my eyes. Sometimes it’s eating the chocolate instead of drinking the four glasses of wine. And then later, maybe the body and mind are more accustomed to moving through the difficult process without the four glasses of wine, because they had a chance to practice. And for some people, the four glasses of wine are going to be the lesser evil compared to something else. For a long time, because I wanted to re-learn to touch myself and be ok with it, I would “let myself” fantasize about things that I felt sort of awful about after masturbating, rather than fantasize about the things that I felt really awful about afterwards — and then, later, my harm reduction was about moving away from things that I felt sort of awful about fantasizing about. Harm reduction is relative and always in flux, I think. It’s about being easy with yourself. Sometimes you can choose a kind of abstinence (I’m not going to do this thing at all, again, ever) and sometimes you can choose a harm reduction strategy.

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Remember that the Body Empathy workshop that I’m co-facilitating with the amazing Alex Cafarelli is coming up in just a few weeks on November 13! This is a day-long writing and gentle body movement workshop for queer/SGL/genderqueer/trans survivors of sexual trauma.  Spaces are starting to fill up, and we’d love to have you there if you’re thinking about it…and if you have questions, feel free to write me a note and we’ll chat!

Also! Tomorrow is the monthly Erotic Reading Circle at the Center for Sex and Culture — we didn’t meet last month because both Carol and I were away, so I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with everyone! We’ll be at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission Street in San Francisco (between 11th and So Van Ness) at 7:30 on Wednesday night — every fourth Wednesday of the month.
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What about a prompt? You might write about the ways that you “imperfect” decisions get you through the night… or make a list of your imperfections, and write about how gorgeous each of them is. Remember this quote from Rabbi Daniel Hillel: ‘I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.’

I’m grateful for you today, for the ways that you’re human and stunning, for the ways that you stumble and keep dancing, for how you model for others every time you do.


DOE: We want our bodies also to encompass joy

graffiti on broken concrete: make awkward sexual advances, not war

I love this...

Hello Thursday! Turns out I swapped my blog-topic days: Thursday was supposed to be for VozSutra posts, and Wednesday was to be for DOE posts.  (I forgot about the Monday-freewrite agreement I made with myself.)

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Last night was the Erotic Reading Circle: a small group and lots of amazing writing — we had kind of a historical theme last night.  Not planned, but every piece was a recollecting, a remembering, a recounting of something that had happened in the past, whether memoir or book review or fiction. I love that kind of synchronicity!

Here’s what happens at the ERC. Folks bring something they’re working on that they want to share — it can be a piece you’re getting ready to publish, something you’re writing as a gift or a performance. It also doesn’t have to be something you want to share with the wider world, but maybe you’re starting out writing erotic fiction or memoir or sexuality-related essays or anything that has to do with sexuality or erotics, and you want to put it out before some other people.  You want to see if it’s any good.  You want to find out how it resonates with folks, what it feels like to read your own words aloud. The folks in the room will receive your work and they’ll give you whatever sort of feedback you ask for — and just note: we talk a lot about what we like and what was hot about the writing!

It’s also a great place to get inspired, I’ve found — if you’re wanting to get back into writing about erotics or sex, this is a great place for that.  There’s usually at least one person, sometimes more, who just came to listen, not to read: that’s ok, too!

The Erotic Reading Circle meets on the 4th Wednesday of every month, 7:30-9:30, at the Center for Sex and Culture (1519 Mission Street, between 11th and So Van Ness, San Francisco).

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Yesterday, Jianda suggested to me that I might write more about what happens in the erotic writing workshop. Here’s some of why it can be powerful for surivors of sexual trauma to step into these workshops, as a part (just a part) of their work around reclaiming the breadth of their erotics and desire: we want more than to be trapped into the holes that our perpetrators drive us into.  We want more than the body of loss that we become.  We want more than to be that body of loss, want more than for our bodies to be the landscape of our terror.

We want our bodies also to encompass joy — and writing it can be one path to our embodying that joy, before we (or instead of, sometimes) try it on off the page.

You know this already but I want to tell you again what Audre Lorde says about erotics, how it’s more than the carnal (not to knockthe carnal: sexual desire and pleasure is necessary. It’s of us as humans):

The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our work, our lives. (from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1984. 53-59).

(Just a note: I don’t believe that only women inhabit or hold the erotic; and, what’s it like for those with other genders to find themselves in the paragraph above?)

In the workshop, we can experience erotic-as-play.  Sex, off the page, can be struggle. Off the page, maybe, I’m dealing with triggers or the possibility of triggers. But on the page, it can be easier for me to be with sex as play.  It can be fun, even if the character gets triggered — I can think about the way she navigates that. I can watch her allow her desire to rise up again and overpower the points of the past, or I can watch her ask for something different.  I can notice how the character wants and is scared all at the same time.

And, too, I can write characters who aren’t triggered — who aren’t wrangling with that part of sex.  Maybe this character is about to try something I’ve always wanted to do — I can write her through it, and in so doing, I begin to embody the experience: I mean, I begin to take that activity, that kind of sex, into my body.  Let’s not forget that writing is a physical act.

There’s a lot of laughter in the Declaring Our Erotic workshops, when folks are reading aloud what they’ve written: sex gets to be funny and fun. We get to talk about the fucked-up-ed-ness and the delightful power, the bad jokes, what goes wrong, and then what goes very (very) right.

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The next 8-week Declaring Our Erotic workshop, starting October 7, is going to be open to LGBTIQ/Queer sexual trauma survivors of all genders. Please send me a note if you’ve got questions about the workshop, if you want to know more –and you can register here!

Thank you for being out there, for reading and for your writing, for your powerful presence in the world