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Lusty Lady

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Monday, December 21, 2015

How journalism helps me teach my erotica writing classes

I have to admit that when I first started teaching erotica writing classes about 6 or 7 years ago (I wish I knew when I taught my first one!), I didn't know what I was doing. I had a bit of impostor syndrome going on because I felt outclassed, yet simultaneously compelled to do this thing that felt new and risky and uncertain. Part of it was a natural outgrowth of my belief in forming community around writing.

Ever since my very first short story, "Monica and Me," was published in the anthology Best Lesbian Erotica 2001 and I organized a reading at Bluestockings Bookstore in Manhattan, and later went on to organize numerous others as well as run a five-year erotic reading series, community has been vital to my spirit and to my sense of what erotica writing is all about.

I started out writing erotica on a whim, at the tail end of law school, not knowing what I was doing but wanting to try it anyway. That first story led to writing more stories, which led to co-editing an anthology, which led to today, when I've got my 61st anthology, Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 coming out. Just as I learned by doing both how to write erotica, how to organize readings, how to make book trailers, and all the attendant work of crafting erotica and putting out anthologies, so too have I learned how to teach my writing classes.

One skill that's helped me is my journalism background. No, not the journalism school I didn't go to, but the school of real life, where I've been freelance writing since around 2000, when I had various full-time jobs, and through the last four years of working for myself full-time. I've had to learn how to call up strangers, how to investigate online and off (though mainly online).

What I didn't expect was my journalism background to aid me in teaching erotica writing. I considered them two different types of writing: journalism was nonfiction and serious, erotica was fiction and less serious. But what I've found is that teaching erotica writing is an interesting hybrid of all my skills. Especially when I teach online at LitReactor for my 4-week Between the Sheets erotica writing class, I have time to dig deep into the topics I'm covering, and research answers to students' questions. That's been wonderfully educational for me, because it's broadened the scope of the class. Because a student early on asked a question about literary agents, I now have a list of literary agents who accept erotica and erotic romance, complete with details on what they are and aren't looking for, to provide to my students, and I'm constantly on the lookout to add to that list.

Same with topics like self-publishing, author branding, social media, taglines, incorporating multiple partners, and so on. Having the freedom to have that time to investigate, and having the confidence that comes with asking questions on behalf of my students, has meant that my original vision for my LitReactor class has been dwarfed by what it's become. It means that it's a constantly evolving project that changes each time I teach it, because different students have different questions.

I don't tend to think of the world as "right brain" and "left brain," but it's undeniable that I have a very artistic, creative, freeform side, and a more diligent, detailed, research-oriented side. Both of those converge perfectly for me when I teach, and are, I believe, part of what my students appreciate. It's not that I know the answer to every single question they may ask, but that I'm able to find out answers and provide resources to the questions I can't answer from personal experience. It's made me fearless in contacting major players in the erotic publishing world, and to my delight, almost all of them have responded to my queries and passed on valuable information.

So if you want to pick my brain for a month about erotica (and actually, longer than that, because all students get invited to my private online group of alumni to continue the discussions, questions and camaraderie), I recommend my LitReactor class, ideally if you have at least five hours a week to devote to it. That's what I consider the minimum input to get the most out of the class. With my February 11-March 10 class, LitReactor is offering an early bird price if you register by December 31st. The price will go up by $25 on January 1st. In the meantime, I'm contacting more publishers, editors, literary agents and authors to interview for this class to enhance it even further.

Questions about the class? Email me at rachelkb at gmail dot com with "LitReactor" in the subject line.


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