by Helen E. H. Madden
I'm in the hinterlands of Arkansas this week, enjoying some time off with my family. I could use a break. Work has been picking up around here lately, and I've had more than a few offers come in from people to work with them on various projects. I think one of the sure signs your career as a writer is taking off is when people invite you to participate in their anthologies, or ask you to come speak at their events. Sometimes this is great, sometimes not so much.
I recently had a not-so-great offer come up. A friend who knows I'm a podcaster recommended me to a science group he belongs to. Apparently his group is interested in learning about podcasting. Being a geek girl who has run her own podcast for a year and a half now, he figured I was qualified to speak on the subject. Having taught some workshops at EPICon 2009 and other conventions this year, I thought I was qualified too.
And I am qualified to discuss the subject, not just because I am a podcaster, but also because I have two degrees in communications (which makes podcasting right up my alley), and I've had a LOT of experience teaching and training people on a variety of technical topics. I'm so good at teaching classes, you can give me the topic a day in advance and I'll present a whiz bang course the very next day. I'm used to being asked to teach on pat.
So when my friend's group contacted me about teaching a class on podcasting, I said sure! I like podcasting and I like teaching, and it's nice to be invited to come do things as a professional. Plus, it was an opportunity for this stay-at-home mom to get the heck out of the house for a day without the kids and act like a grown-up.
There was just one problem. I thought this was a small club I'd be speaking to, a bunch of science guys who wanted to learn the ins and outs of podcasting. It turned out to be a rather serious professional association. And my friend had failed to inform them that not only am I a podcaster, I'm also an erotica writer.
I didn't realize this gap in information until after I had already accepted the engagement. It just sort of dawned on me when the very nice lady I'd been e-mailing mentioned that her organization would like to have a copy of my professional bio with a list of professional publishing credits to put in their newsletter, and maybe do an interview as well.
"I can certainly pass on my bio," I e-mailed her back, "but just so there aren't any surprises, did Joe mention to you that I'm an erotica writer, and that my podcast is an erotic fiction podcast, and that all my professional publishing credits are also erotic fiction? E-mail me if you have any questions."
E-mail me if you have any questions is code for I'm being very honest and polite here, and I'll understand if you would rather have a non-erotica writer come speak about podcasting. The nice lady understood exactly what I meant and politely replied with Given your professional experience, I think it would be very hard to promote this event...
It sucks, but it doesn't. It's one thing for me, Helen E. H. Madden, speculative fiction erotica author and podcaster, to speak to a small informal club about podcasting, or to go to a science fiction convention and do workshops there. Those are my forums, my kind of people. They aren't bothered by the word erotica, and nine times out of ten, I got invited to speak because I'm an erotica author. But for a professional group in a corporate setting, where the members probably aren't even allowed to say the word erotica, let alone be associated with an erotica author? Let's be real, folks. This was not the venue for me.
And I don't mind. I don't mind that I lost the job because of the stigma associated with writing about sex. I don't mind that these people don't dare put me in front of their organization because someone might get offended by my insistence on exercising my freedom of speech but writing about sex. I don't mind being labeled as undesirable by the corporate world. And you know why? It's because that stigma, that "Oh my god, she's got a filthy mind!" gasp that comes out of people whenever I tell them what I do, that avoidance of eye contact, that cold shoulder, that's what I enjoy about being what I am. Let's face it, if writing erotica wasn't dirty and forbidden, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun. I like being the perverted outcast. I enjoy being shunned, and I wear my scarlet A (for author) with pride.
And besides, it wasn't a paying job anyway. };)