I used to be of the "those who can't do, teach" mindset, at least, regarding myself: who was I to teach erotica when I hadn't written a novel like almost everyone else in the field? But I realized recently that I've been teaching erotica for quite a while now, and have done it everywhere from the 92Y Tribeca to colleges like University of Pennsylvania and Northwest and SUNY Purchase to conferences like CatalystCon. Plus, I've managed to teach at sex toy stores I ardently support such as Babeland, Early to Bed, Nomia, Secret Pleasures, Self Serve, The Tool Shed and others (with one coming up October 15th at Eve's Garden in New York, where I bought my first vibrator, my third at Nomia in Portland, Maine October 21st and one November 8 at the brand new Lotus Blooms in Washington, DC). When I have a whole month to teach at LitReactor (next one is November 3-December 3), we can really dig into the topic and I get to research students' questions, which has led me to find agents seeking erotica, analyze threesome scenes and much more.
It was really teaching two three-hour workshops in one day at CatalystCon, which I did twice in 2014 and twice this year, and will again on April 1 in Chicago, that showed me, Yes, you know what you're doing. You're good at this. You can't lead people for six hours if you're talking out of your ass, so to speak.
Conversely, even when given a short amount of time, to know that I've moved people, that I've inspired them, that I've gotten them writing and encouraged them to think about doing more writing and maybe sending their work out into the world, means so much to me. It's also made me realize that teaching is a different skill set entirely. I've had to go back through my own writing, writing I've published and writing I've enjoyed reading and break down exactly what makes it work in order to explain it to students. I truly enjoy knowing what students want to know and doing my best to help them with answers. I would say the vast majority of what I do is encourage; it's not a step by step, you type this and write this and voila, you have erotica. It's more about unlocking their minds to the possibilities of what they can conceptualize, what they can use as fodder, where their stories can go, and then coaxing them through the process.
On Sunday at Sexual Health Expo (aka, SHE), I only had half an hour to teach, which is much shorter than I'd normally talk for, but I was thrilled and impressed with the way students dove right in at 11 a.m., asked questions, and told me they found it useful. While I still would prefer a longer time slot, knowing I could make an impact and impart information that got people writing made me so thrilled. During one writing exercise, I whispered to my friend F. Leonora Solomon, asking if I could mention her by name as the editor of two upcoming Riverdale Avenue Books anthologies on femdom erotica (January 31 deadline) and Victorian era erotica. She said yes, and I did, and then she asked a question I was so happy I could answer. And look what happened:
So yes, it's part of my business and how I earn a living, but alongside that, teaching has given me new insights into how erotica and sex writing work, and why I do them and want to encourage others to.