At first, I couldn't find it. I scanned the shelf and saw Best this and Best that, but not Best Erotic Romance. The self-service computer station said there were three copies on the anthology shelf of this large chain bookstore in New York City. I was with friends, and we'd stopped in on a chilly December day to grab some coffee, use the restrooms, and warm up while wandering the aisles. I figured I'd look for this anthology even though it had not been officially released yet. I had a story in this book and I was anxious to see it.
As I tilted my neck at an odd angle to read the titles, I felt disappointment. The all-knowing computer had lied to me. But then I noticed something. The anthologies were alphabetized by editor's name. It just so happened that several of the "Bests" had early-in-the-alphabet editors, so I hadn't looked much further. So I scanned down each shelf, lower and lower, till there on the bottom shelf, where I never would have looked for a B, was three copies! Edited by Kristina Wright.
I pulled it off the shelf and turned to the table of contents. There on page 179 was "Till the Storm Breaks" by Erobintica. Me! I literally bounced over to my friends and waved the book in their faces. Jumping up and down and squealing like a little kid, it's hard to describe the elation I felt. I bought a copy and posed while a friend took a picture of me with the book. When I got home I posted it on Facebook, not caring that my friends list spans well beyond my "erotica blog friends" because it was a proud moment for me.
Best Erotic Romance was not my first erotica publication. I've been published in a couple of e-book anthos as well as on my blog and other blogs (including many "flashers" that were entered in Alison Tyler's button contests a few years back). It was not my first print publication. I've had numerous poems in print journals and anthologies. I've had an essay included in a book about poem revision that I understand is used in teaching, though I've never seen it in a bookstore. It was not the first time I've been paid for writing. But it was the first time I had an erotica story accepted and published in print, in a real-life book–with a cover and pages you can fan–and it was sitting on the shelf just like so many other books I've purchased in my life. That I got paid for it was just icing. I actually had the thought "I AM a writer."
Well, duh. But as I'm sure many writers do, I go through periods of time when I question that. Assume it's just dumb luck that a certain piece gets accepted. That I'll never write something like that again. But luckily, I don't think that way all the time. I've spent enough time, face-to-face time, with many other writers, and I know I am of that breed.
Another way I know is that now, I have been…
Reviewed! My story in BER got a "C" grade. It was through Facebook that I became aware of this review. I actually am not obsessive in the least about them, actually forget to even look for them. Oh yeah, I have a story in a book that might get a review. But I don't go searching them out. Not because I'm afraid, but because for me, once a story or poem is out there in the world, there's nothing I can do about it. People are going to like it, hate it, or just feel so-so about it.
When I commented on Facebook about my "C" grade, saying something along the lines of "I've always been a C student," many friends rushed to reassure me. That was nice, but unnecessary. I found my reaction to this particular review interesting. There was the initial disappointment, but then I started to view it as a challenge. Well, duh, of course I can write something better. Not that "Till the Storm Breaks" isn't a good story. Kristina wouldn't have chosen it if it wasn't. But I hope there's always a better story to be written.
I have a great deal of respect for editors. I know what's involved. My husband is an editor. I'm co-editing a poetry anthology. I've many friends who are editors. As a result, I've never felt any anger at an editor for rejecting my work. I know there is a reason, maybe it's just not a good fit, or there's other similar pieces already accepted, or it is just not as good as it could be. I learned early on, if a poem is rejected over and over again, that means it's time to revisit it and figure out why. Sometimes, even when I figure out why, I don't want to change it yet. That's my prerogative as a writer. So I have a humongous amount of not-quite-finished work.
Also, I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and don't like to send stuff out that isn't as good as I can make it. Sometimes little things get through that only I realize were mistakes. But like with cooking, if you make a mistake and it still turns out great, you don't tell anyone! I fear I'm bragging, but I've not noticed many edits to the pieces that have been accepted. That may be because I've gone over it myself many times, often have had my editor husband read through it, as well as other friends (both published erotica authors and not). I print out and read out loud before sending. But that doesn't guarantee perfection. Hehe.
Sometimes a short edit takes me by surprise. Alessia Brio accepted the first piece of erotica I sent out for Coming Together: Al Fresco. When I got my digital copy and read my story–because of course I read my own first–I noticed there was a slight change in the ending. The edit was small, but it changed the tone of the ending. At first I was taken aback. Mainly because I'd mostly published poetry up till then, and most editors don't tend to mess with a poet's lines on their own. So this was a new experience. But I could see why the change was made. With the edit, the story ended on an upbeat note rather than a downer. I'd written the story close to 18 years previously and needless to say, was in a different place. I'm glad she made the change. It was an instructive moment for me.
My piece in Best Erotic Romance has sort of been a game-changer for me. Up until I held that book in my hand, I really was wondering if I was cut out for this. What drove me to start writing erotica has shifted. In other words, I've gone through menopause, and I'm looking at my erotic imagination in another light. I'm listening to what my editors, readers, and yeah, even reviewers are saying about my work (I've had several more acceptances since BER) so that I can find this new voice, one that reflects the life I've lived. And I look forward to many more firsts.
Erobintica is poet, writer, and blogger Robin Elizabeth Sampson. She sent off her first piece of erotica for publication as she turned 50 years old. That was published in Coming Together: Al Fresco edited by Alessia Brio. Her erotica's been included in Best Erotic Romance edited by Kristina Wright and upcoming in Suite Encounters: Hotel Sex Stories edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and Still Naked: Erotica for Seniors edited by Joan Price. Her blog is http://erobintica.blogspot.com/. Two of her poems were finalists at the 2010 Seattle Erotic Art Festival and she's featured at Philadelphia's The Erotic Literary Salon.