By Lisabet Sarai
I discovered the Erotica Readers &
Writers Association in the year 2000. Google was barely a gleam in
the eyes of venture capitalists. Social networking meant going to the
local singles bar. The word “blog” had not yet been coined. I was
living in rural New England and accessing the Internet via a 36
kilobaud dial-up line.
I wasn’t looking for a critique forum.
Although I enjoyed reading erotica, I wasn’t seeking a source for
sexy stories or reviews of the same. No, I was searching in clueless
newbie fashion for ways to get the word out about my first novel, Raw
Silk, which Black Lace had published a few months earlier.
Somehow I happened on a page of erotica-related links on the ERWA
website (which at that point had been around for about four years,
and was known as the “Erotica Readers Association”). So I
emailed the webmistress and asked if she’d be willing to include a
link to my brand new venture, www.lisabetsarai.com.
Adrienne sent me a kind reply in which
she explained that ERWA wasn’t really about advertising. However,
they did have email lists for authors and others interested in sexy
stories, including a list for discussing craft (Writers), a list for
sharing stories and critiques (Storytime) and a list for chitchat,
often about sexual topics (Parlor). Isolated in my remote, somewhat
conservative town of 1500 people, half a world away from my British
publisher, I eagerly accepted her invitation to join all three lists.
I canceled my subscription to Parlor in
a matter of days, after being swamped with posts about returning
versus not returning your supermarket cart to the designated areas.
(What was sexy about that?) However, Storytime provide new thrills. I
read more, and more varied, erotic stories in the first month or two
on Storytime than in my whole previous existence – and found some
of them both wildly imaginative and truly arousing. Furthermore, I
was able to apply my excessive education to the useful task of
writing crits and providing comments to some of the authors –
though I read many more stories that I could critique. Participating
in Storytime turned out to be a highly intimate experience, as
writers tended to share pieces that revealed their own desires and
Storytime inspired me. I wrote and
posted my first flashers (only 100 words back then), painfully
cutting out words to get below the limit. Targeting a short story
contest announced on ERA, I wrote my first erotic short story, “Glass
House” and received both warm praise (what we authors all live for)
and useful suggestions for improvement. A few of my stories were
selected for the Gallery. I began to read and respond to the calls
for submissions on the Author Resources page. I wrote the first three
chapters of my second novel, Incognito, and sent a proposal to
Black Lace, only to have it roundly rejected (with the comment that
Miranda wasn’t the sort “kick-ass heroine” they preferred). I
might have given up writing at that point if it had not been for the
support of folks on the Writers list. Instead, I girded my loins and
started looking for a new publisher.
Over time, I became more and more
involved with ERA (which added “Writers” to become ERWA at some
point, as the management recognized how important authors were to its
well-being). I wrote reviews for the Smutter’s Lounge, plus an
occasional article for Authors Resources. In 2004 (God, has it
really been that long?), Adrienne convinced me to take on the role of
writing the monthly Erotic Lure newsletter. In 2006 I edited and
arranged the publication of Cream: The Best of The Erotica Readersand Writers Association, which
is still (in my humble opinion) one of the most satisfying and
diverse erotic anthologies around (and which incidentally includes a
great forward by Adrienne, covering the early history of ERWA). Last
year I produced a year-long series of articles (“Naughty Bits”)
covering various technology topics relevant to authors. Controlling
and bossy as I am (yes, I know that’s kind of odd for a submissive),
I also agreed to serve as ERWA blog coordinator.
back now, after thirteen years, I’m astonished at how much this place
means to me. I’ve come to know individuals here whom I’d place in the
circle of my dearest friends – even though in some cases, we’ve
never met in person. When I have had the chance for face-to-face time
with folks I first encountered at ERWA, it often feels as though
we’ve known one another forever. In the real world, there are very
few people to whom I can reveal my identity as an author of erotica.
At ERWA I’m free to be myself.
me, ERWA is a community of spirit. Someone who just learned about the
place might think that the biggest draw was the ability to speak and
write frankly about sexual matters, in an environment where such
topics are welcome rather than taboo. Sure, that’s a great feature,
but today there are many adult-oriented on-line communities. ERWA is
special because of its literary focus. The people who end up on the
Writers list, at least, are passionate about reading and writing –
and not just in the erotica genre. They care deeply about words. They
recognize that storytelling is a definitively human activity. And
many have a profound understanding of both the mystery and the craft
involved in spinning an effective tale.
tend to whine about how hard it is to succeed as an author these
days. In fact, I’ve watched many of my colleagues here move from
amateurs to professionals with dozens of books to their credit. Pick
up any recently published erotica anthology and you’ll see familiar
names from the Gallery and Writers. Search Amazon and our members
come up as editors of award-winning collections. Several members have
even gone on to establish their own independent publishing ventures.
As far as I know E.L. James has never been a member of ERWA, but
considering the difficulties involved in getting anyone to take
erotica seriously, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.
course, ERWA has been instrumental in my own career, such as it is.
I’m an old-timer now, but when I first joined, I knew nothing about
publishing or marketing. I barely knew that the genre of erotica
existed, and I’d never read an erotic romance. I had lots of arousing
fantasies, but my dialogue was wooden and my convoluted sentence
structure like something from the nineteenth century. Now I have a
back list that’s pages long – I’ve stopped counting since it’s hard
to know exactly what criteria to apply, but certainly nobody could claim I was a one-book wonder.
suspect that without ERWA, I’d never have gotten this far. Without
the support (moral and immoral) of my fellow authors, I might not
have wanted to.
you’ve been around this community for anywhere near as long as I
have, I think you know what I am talking about. If you’re new – if
you’ve been trying to get your erotic visions out of your head and
into a manuscript, if you feel ostracized because of your fascination
with things sexual, if you’ve always loved to read and write but
haven’t dared to think about publication – all I can say is welcome.
You probably belong here.