This post originally appeared Sept. 19, 2011 on 4-Letter Words.
Over the past decade, I’ve attended a dozen or so writers’ conferences. But the Erotic Authors Association’s (EAA) Inaugural Conference, held September 9-10, 2011 at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, was more of a reunion than a conference.
Don’t get me wrong. The event included all those things that make a writers’ conference wonderful: great workshops, fabulous networking opportunities, panels with editors and publishers talking about what they would like to see (and not see) from writers and the opportunity to spend a weekend with kindred spirits.
Of course, this event had many features not usually found at writers’ conferences, including many of the workshop subjects (Queer Erotica, Taboos, Your Sex Life as Story Fodder, and Hands on Kink to name a few). Also spicing things up were One Very Steamy Las Vegas Evening at the Erotic Heritage Museum Event, readings of erotica that could keep you wet/hard throughout each day, a rope bondage demonstration at the closing cocktail party, a cupcake orgy, and more swear words than most non-erotica writers hear in a year.
But for me, and many of the more than 80 other participants, what made the conference so special was the opportunity to meet in person for the first time colleagues we have known for years. We were constantly checking out each other’s name badges with exclamations of delight and exuberant hugs erupting when we encountered someone with whom we had a special relationship. I met authors/editors/publishers who have purchased my stories, appeared with me in anthologies, shared radio air time, reviewed my books, published my blog posts, etc.
Although the conference started on Friday, folks arrived as early as Wednesday and many informal get-togethers occurred before registration opened. I finally got to meet D.L. King., author, anthologist, Erotica Revealed editor, and one of the conference organizers, Thursday morning when I dropped off my and Mahalia Levey’s (who was touring Hoover Dam with my submissive and her husband) contributions to the goodie bags.
Jean Roberta teaches Sexy Grammar.
Then, I had the opportunity to enjoy scrumptious chocolate delicacies (we mostly skipped lunch and went straight for dessert) with the amazing Cecilia Tan at Max Brenner. Cecilia and I have known each other for years and consider each other friends, but had never met. Sitting across the table from her, dipping our spoons into deep fudge chocolate cake and profiteroles fondue, we talked about everything from the intersection of speculative fiction and kink to our personal relationships.
That evening my submissive, Patrick, and I shared TexMex with the fascinating D.M. Atkins, omni-sexual, gender-queer, polyamorus, kinky writer, graphic designer, editor, and publisher with whom I’d only recently corresponded regarding the launch of Forbidden Fiction. We had a great time discovering how much she and I (and my submissive and her husbands) have in common.
Way too early the next morning (apparently there was a run on weddings for 9/10/11 which pushed back room availability), we lined up to collect our goodie bags along with purple-ribboned name badges, programs, etc. Joining D.L. King behind the table was the brilliant Kathleen Bradean who came up with the idea for the conference after being disparaged for writing erotica by a presenter at another conference. When she took over as director of EAA last year, she immediately started work to make it a reality.
Jolie du Pre reading.
Kathleen burst into almost hysterical laughter when someone told her the conference was one of the best-organized she’d ever attended. Having spent many hours on Kathleen’s side of the table for one of the largest writing conferences in the country, I assured her that the fact that those in attendance didn’t know about all the problems behind the scenes only proved what an amazing job she and the other organizers were doing.
At breakfast, I found myself sitting next to Hazel Cushion who started Xcite Books (now one of the UK’s largest erotic publishers). Two of my stories have found a home in Xcite e-book collections and it’s one of the outlets where I publish my own short story collections. Hazel Cushion also was one of the publishers who appeared on the first panel of the day along with M. Christian representing Renaissance E Books, Brenda Knight of Cleis Press, Lori Perkins of Ravenous Romance, and Cecilia Tan of Circlet Press .
Author and editor M. Christian.
As I mentioned, I’ve attended many writers conferences and they often start the day with panels from editors, agents, and/or publishers. But, I’ve never sat in the room for one of those panels where each and every participant is someone I’ve submitted work to (and in all but one case, although I can hope that will change, had acceptances from).
The morning proceeded with the need to make difficult choices between panel discussions, workshops, erotic readings and networking. Patrick, who was staffing the table where I had books for sale, researched less expensive lunch options and found one right next store. After the morning sessions, I headed over to the Victorian Café with the exquisite Jolie du Pre and the entertaining Jim and Zetta Brown from Scotland and Logical-Lust Publications. We grabbed the biggest table in the restaurant and I collected K.D. Grace, Sharazade, and Katie Salidas of Rising Sign Books who were sitting by themselves. Then, Patrick sent along Jean Roberta and her wife, Mirtha Rivera Mazuela, to join us, making us a party of nine at a table for eight. We lucked into an amazing waitress, who treated us all as her long-lost best friends while providing nearly perfect service. The conversation ranged from how-we-met tales to discussions of ways to increase book sales and maximize social media.
I made it back to the Flamingo just in time to catch K.D.Grace’s reading of a sizzling hot excerpt from her novel, The Initiation of Ms. Holly that involved sex on a Harley flying across the A-3. I doubt if there were any dry panties in the room.
K.D. Grace reading.
After the last workshop, Cecilia Tan invited everyone to a Circlet Press party. We crowded into her room for wine, cheese, chocolate and great company. A few passer-bys who tried to crash the party were both taken aback and impressed to find a room full of (mostly) women who write wank-off stories.
The evening culminated with a trip to the Erotic Heritage Museum for the Erotic Literary Salon on tour. Surrounded by penis sculptures taller than we, interrupted twice by a boisterous performance from the Sin City Dolls burlesque dancers, Susana Mayer, Ph.D. moderated hot and steamy five-minute readings from about 20 writers. Stories ranged the gambit of sexual combinations including male/male, female/female, female/male, male/male/female, female/hot wax, and male/ballet slipper. One of the most impressive performances was given by Laura Antoniou reading an extract of “That’s Harsh.”
Many raved exuberantly online about the evening, but my favorite quote came from Charlotte Gatto who tweeted “I discovered that it’s possible to be turned on by things that don’t turn me on.”
The next morning I finally got to meet Remittance Girl who’d ventured al the way from Southeast Asia to attend the conference. Our conversation, which included Cecilia Tan and D.M. Atkins lasted well into the first session of the morning. The second session, a panel on taboos moderated by author Kate Dominic, included Remittance Girl, Cecilia Tan, Blake C. Aarens, and Andrea Dale. One of the most interesting things to come out of the panel was a discussion about the fact that it’s more acceptable to show a young woman being raped than enjoying sex. According to D.M. Atkins, “The right to say “No’ should also include the right to say ‘Yes.’” The panelists also talked about, as Remittance Girl said: “why offending your readers might be a good thing.”
Another point made was that the stigma against erotica writers doesn’t extend to, say mystery writers. No one believes an author of murder mysteries has accumulated a collection of dead bodies or is facilitating murder. But, erotica writers are accused of encouraging everything from promiscuity to rape.
The conference ended with a cocktail party that included Graydancer tying up the lovely Sharazade in a full-body rope harness, a submission call from Essemoh Teepee for Vegas Windows Audiobook Anthology, and a cupcake orgy courtesy of Retro Bakery who sent a dozen delectable cupcakes to Rachel Kramer Bussel. She photographed, sampled, and shared. I must admit, until that moment, I had never understood why she goes crazy over cupcakes. Now, I do.
Unwilling to let the conference come to an end so early in the evening, Aisling Weaver and Wyeth Bailey hosted an after party in their suite at the Cosmopolitan where they had chosen to stay after seeing a commercial called “Just The Right Amount of Wrong.”
I left this fabulous reunion/conference with an envelope full of business cards for new-found friends/colleagues, wonderful memories, and requests for more work than I’ll be able to produce. Despite the passage of a week since the conference, I’m still overwhelmed by all the conversations, connections, and acquired information. On Twitter writers who were there raved about what they learned and who they got to spend time with. Follow up e-mails continue the conversations.
Thanks again to Kathleen Braden, D.L. King, Nan Andrews, Kate Dominic, and Jolie du Pre for the incredible vision and hard work required to produce such an amazing conference. I’m looking forward to next year’s event.
*Thanks to D.L. King for the use of her photos.