One of the assignments I give students when I teach erotic writing workshops is to write about something that really happened, but give it a twist. I like to tell them to take a sexual experience that wasn’t so great and turn it into something that, in fiction, is everything you had hoped it would be. That is the beauty of fiction, or erotica, to me, anyway. Some people prefer completely fictional stories, to get way outside themselves, and at times, I’m like that too. In the aftermath of my breakup I had to write about a gay couple and I lent that story an outrageousness I didn’t feel in my personal life.
So anyway, I took my own advice and wrote a story called “Espionage” that I am beyond honored to have published in the December anthology Best Women’s Erotica 2011 edited by Violet Blue (Cleis Press). I’m proud in part because I know Violet receives hundreds of submissions every year and only chooses the cream of the crop, but I’m also proud because it’s a somewhat dark story. I wrote it in the second person because for me, to have written it in the first person wouldn’t have been cathartic; it would’ve destroyed me. I find it challenging when writing in the first person about something that is at least partly autobiographical to not gloss over details; I was there, I know what I looked like or was thinking, but the reader has no clue. So in order to go outside of myself, which is kindof what I felt like in that situation, I used second person. Through that lens, it was much easier to have compassion on myself, or rather, the me-like character in my story.
This wasn’t a story I’d ever say I “wanted” to write, but one that clawed at me, that I needed to write to put that experience behind me. The event the fictional story commemorates is the culmination of a relationship and that shows. What I love about that process is that through writing it, I worked through a lot of things. All those emotions that are maybe “too mean” or that make me feel uncomfortable, I could throw into the guise of fiction and turn them into a blender until I barely know what’s true and what’s not, and furthermore, that doesn’t matter. There is no such thing as “truth,” anyway, not really, not when it comes to emotions and relationships. There are experiences and feelings but I would never presume to say my take on any one relationship is “true” or not. Anyone involved could write or create art out of any human interaction and that, to me, is the biggest, most telling lesson of all. I sometimes get so mired in “my version” that I forget that a whole other world exists outside, in this case, the pain of it. I could be angry at myself for indulging my worst emotions, for letting myself get caught up in something I never should have, or I could just make peace with it.
I’m proud that it works as a story, as something that, in those several thousands words, takes my tale of being an “Anaïs Nin emissary” and makes it into something that others can appreciate and enjoy. The “you” in the story is no longer me, if it ever was. It’s “you,” some fictional girl. I can’t share more right now, but I will leave you with this teaser from the first paragraph that I hope will make you rush right out and order it (or put it on your wishlist):
“You tuck your new pink and black coat, the one purchased earlier in the day just for this special evening, around your body, pull it tight like it’s cold out, except you’re indoors and the fire is roaring. You are cold, but it’s the kind of cold that can’t be heated by rubbing two sticks together or turning up the thermostat, the kind of cold that can only be vanquished once your heart catches up. Your heart is cautiously icy, watching and waiting; it isn’t safe to let it melt just yet.”
I think I’ll read it at the very last In The Flesh on December 16th. You can read it in Best Women’s Erotica 2011, out in early December, available now for pre-order.