Very soon I’ll be sending around a new call for submissions, but much to my relief, it won’t be like the one I wrote in 2012 for Wild Girls, Wild Nights: True Lesbian Sex Stories. After several years of resistance, I’d finally given in to my publishers’ plea to do an anthology of true stories. The first time they’d ever contacted me for editing, that’s what they’d wanted, but they’d put up with my reluctance through five other books, and this time, I knew, it was true stories or nothing. One of my anthos had tanked, saleswise, and I think they only kept putting up with me because that one hadn’t actually been my idea. I’d done it, with reluctance, as a favor when the boss’s wife had said a lesbian cops theme would be great (and the boss sent me a photo of the them doing a cops scene for Halloween.) It did, in fact, turn out to be a great book, and was even a finalist for a Lambda award, but apparently most folks who wanted to read lesbian cop stories didn’t want to pay for books, and I doubt that they wanted the kind of complex, well-written, non-cartoonish stories my writers provided. (Annabeth’s was truly outstanding.)
But back to Wild Girls, Wild Nights (a title I’d proposed for an adventure-themed book that was turned down) and the true stories. Yes, I keep almost saying “true” stories, but I was determined to do all I could to make the “true” part true, at least for some values of the truth. Here’s how I began my guidelines for ubmissions:
You put something of yourself into everything you write. You know you do. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, go that extra step, and write an erotic story firmly grounded in truth. Real encounters, real emotions, real sensations, real people, drawn from memory and transformed by your art into real stories as gripping as any fiction.
Some degree of poetic license—or erotic license—is all right. Memories are inevitably filtered through time and experience, and telling a story can sometimes reveal the inner truth of feelings and actions better without a precise list of actions or a verbatim account of conversations. In the heat of the moment—and I do want the very hottest moments—certain parts stand out so vividly in your mind that everything before and after blurs and must be imagined. Combining events into a shorter time span can make the overall effect more intense. Pseudonyms are fine, and even if you use your own name, you must use fictional names for any other characters in order to maintain some degree of privacy.
Then I went on to list the kinds of stories I want for any of my anthologies.
The response was wonderful, but the responsibility weighed on me. How could I claim that everything I chose was truly true? Several of the writers were familiar enough to me that I knew something about their lives and backgrounds, enough to know that their stories were, at least, plausible, and a few I knew well and was sure they were telling the truth, or close enough. Some others told me details that were convincing; one writer from Germany wrote two stories, set in different periods of her life, and told me she’d been wanting to share them for a long time but hadn’t felt she could trust anyone before me to do them justice. Okay, I’m a sucker for that sort of flattery. In any case, I was reasonably sure that each story was “grounded in real life.” There was another writer, too, with more than one story worth telling—Giselle might know something about that. In both cases they used pseudonyms for at least one of their pieces;
I was even more sure after the book came out and I organized a “blog tour” for each writer to discuss her story. In fact I was amazed at what came to light. There was a lovely story about a bittersweet romance between a mid-30s-ish woman going back to college to earn a degree in education, and a very young student who pursued her. The author revealed in her blog that she herself had been the younger girl, long ago, and she’d reversed their roles to tell the story from the viewpoint of the older woman, the age she herself is now. True enough for me. And there was the young writer who had trespassed into her older partner’s computer, misunderstood a search item she’d found, and ended up being firmly spanked—and enjoyed it so much that as soon as she could she went online to tell her close friends about it. I believed her. There were other writers who made me realize that their stories were even more true than I had thought they were, and several who had been wanting a way to tell their stories (under pseudonyms,) including one who didn’t want her grown kids to know she’d written it.
The best story-about-the-story, though, concerns a submission that I didn’t accept at first because I really couldn’t believe it. There was a humorous orgy party involved, and animal-ear hats, and it took place in the San Francisco area. I had to drop one story I’d accepted (co-written by a couple who’d met recently, and broke up soon afterward) so the publisher asked if I had something else to fill in with. I explained my doubts about the orgy story, sent it in—and discovered that several of the young staff members in the publisher’s office (in Berkeley) had actually heard about that party, and it was, in fact, pretty much true. How could I have doubted it?
So that’s my true story about wrangling true stories for an anthology (which, in fact, won that year’s Lambda Award for lesbian erotica.) I don’t plan on doing that kind of thing ever again, but one never knows. Meanwhile, I do have a new anthology in the works—Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Volume 2 (actually BLE 2017, but they’ve tweaked the title) with my call for submissions coming up soon, but unless I get some submissions within the next two weeks, I don’t think I can work that into the upcoming What Are You Reading topic. Sad.