Just one moment? Out of all the uncountable moments that have piled up through my life? I can’t choose, even among the ones I remember, and most of those have not been happy ones. It’s not that my life hasn’t had, and still has, at least my fair share of happiness, but somehow the startling ones that stick in my mind are the ones connected with grief, or sorrow, or, at the least, intimations of mortality.
Some of them were really quite foolish. I remember, when I was about twenty-five, hearing or reading in the news that the population of the USA had just crossed the line where half of the people were under twenty-five. That meant that I had been dragged kicking and screaming “over the hill.” There must have been other factors involved in the depression I felt, such as being a relatively new mother far from most of my family and in unfamiliar territory both geographically and emotionally, but I’d begun to adjust to all that until the “under twenty-five” news came along. Now, of course, we’re well on the way to half the population being over fifty or maybe sixty—I ‘m just punting here instead of researching the numbers, but that’s the general trend. And now I have real rather than imaginary cause to feel over the hill, and I look back on who and where I was at twenty-five with nostalgia, but not very often, because I’m too busy keeping on with the things I still hope to get done.
So that particular moment turns out to be largely irrelevant. Let’s switch to moments in my writing life, since writing is what binds our group here together. My moment, or maybe it was more a flurry of moments, came when I first noticed that somehow the age of fifty-two had crept up on me while I wasn’t looking, and the “someday” when I intended to write had better get started pronto. Oh, there’d been one story in a romance magazine years before, and a poetry prize in college, and a bit of fanfiction before there was anything actually called fanfiction, but nothing like what I’d once thought I’d be doing by then. So I wrote a science fictionish story for a competition connected with an sf/f convention, won second prize (just an award document in fancy script,) sent out the story to a major magazine, got a nice rejection, sold it to a new and very minor magazine, and went on from there. Just that little bit of success made me think that I could actually do more science fiction and fantasy, so I did. Not ever on the scale I’d once hoped for, but with enough positive reinforcement to keep me at it and give me comfort during some rather hard times in “real life.”
But what about writing erotica? There must have been an “aha!” moment there, but I don’t remember it. Or maybe I do! I only just remembered that my best friend in college and I decided we’d try writing for the “men’s” magazines of the times. We figured we needed to check out the mags first, so we took the bus to the nearby small city and braved the gauntlet of old guys (old to us, at least) in a hole-in-the-wall tobacco and news store, and picked out a few of the tackiest-looking publications. Yes, we got odd looks, and my friend couldn’t keep from blurting out that we were just doing research for writing, and somebody, maybe the store’s clerk, started in about often wondering just what went on at that all-girls college, anyway. We fled, but not without our “research” material. (She never got up the nerve to send off a story. I did, and it was, of course, rejected, with the comment that the male protagonist seemed like too much of an insensitive brute, which I’d thought was just what they’d want, but apparently not. Who knew.)
Actually, even when I was writing my G-rated sf/f stories, in my mind there were undercurrents of erotica in them. And some fantasy markets would take more overt sexuality. But the real moment of discovery came after I saw guidelines for, I think, the fourth issue of the Best Lesbian Erotica series from Cleis Press. I say “after” because it wasn’t until I had an idea, a setting, a pair of characters, and got well into the swing of things that I had The Moment, the one that says yes, you CAN do this, the words will come, the images will work, the sex can be explicit and intense and fit seamlessly into a real story. (Okay, there may have been a few special moments of another kind, too. It seemed to me to be a very sexy story indeed.) And it was accepted! The editor asked for a lot changes, but she also commented on how refreshingly different it was from what she usually saw. Wow! I got that same reaction from other editors a time or two, as well, which convinced me that starting out writing in a tradition with structure like science fiction/fantasy was good training. Things are different these days, with more good venues for erotica and many writers far better than I could ever be bringing creativity and literary excellence to the genre, but experience in other kinds of writing is still valuable.
I don’t know whether I ever had a Moment that led to getting into the editing side of erotica (or, as I occasionally say when I’m being especially obnoxious, wielding the editorial whip.) At a certain point it seemed like the natural thing to try. When I was a kid I hated the way other kids would assume that I’d be a teacher when I grew up, just because I got good grades and wore glasses and was far from being the cheerleader type. I was determined never to be a teacher. Maybe editing satisfies a repressed need to correct term papers after all, as long as they’re sexy term papers.
When I started on this post, I was afraid I had nothing to share but moment after moment of gloom, which of course made me feel all the gloomier. Saved again by writing! I didn’t even have to resort to describing my first orgasm, which took place on top of a dam holding back the waters of a substantial reservoir, way back before fear of terrorism made the barriers to getting out onto dams much more efficient than those we climbed over that night.
So right now, I’m having a moment of intense relief.