trifles requested that I write up the notes I made for my presentation on last Friday night. I didn't end up using all of the notes, as the audience was more interested in asking questions and listening to a reading, but I'll write up the whole thing anyway.
For me, the whole thing started back in college, when a bunch of us wrote shared universe stories. When I was a senior, I introduced an original character, who had a romance. It barely approached smut, but was emotionally intense, and a friend told me she was absolutely riveted and it was the hottest thing she'd ever read, or something to that effect. I may be remembering her comments as more effusive than they actually were. Anyway, I wrote fanfiction as well during college and after, since I couldn't afford to buy zines, and eventually I decided to write some adult fanfiction. I did that for a while, trying out different methods and styles of writing erotica, and different ways of framing the stories. The last major story was written for a mailing list, in parts. The feedback was fast, and there was a lot of it, and I got a big rush out of the whole thing, knowing that people were breathless for the next part of the story.
There were three sex scenes in that story (it was pretty long) featuring the same two characters. The first scene garnered particularly impressive comments. I decided to try and shave off the serial numbers and make it into a "real" story and try to sell it.
[I was going to skip over how I did that, but I think I will record it here. Why not?]
The scene involved a man fisting a woman. The other important element was that the woman had a nifty alien physiology thing on her back. I turned the physiology thing into a tattoo, and since I'd seen a body modification museum exhibit with fabulous full-back Japanese tattoos, the woman became Japanese. The man, I turned into a woman, because a) why not? and b) it filed off serial numbers very effectively. The characterization of the original story involved the man being previously traumatized; I changed that to a woman who was just rather tough and distant, and unsure in the situation. I kep the power differential the same by making the now-Japanese woman into her martial arts instructor.
I sent the story off to an anthology edited by Mary Anne Mohanraj called Aqua Erotica. Alas, it did not sell. Later, when I saw the anthology, I realized why; my story was considerably smuttier and less literary than what was chosen.
So, first rejection in hand, I went to Cecilia Tan (whom I knew already through a friend who'd sold to her) and asked her where I should send it. Cecilia suggested Best Lesbian Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormino. I can't remember when I mailed the submission, but it was probably the winter of 1999, as I think I spoke to Cecilia at Philcon. I could look it up in my files, but it doesn't matter. On June 30, 2000, I received this email, which astonished the hell out of me:
TO: Elspeth Potter
FROM: Tristan Taormino
RE: Water Music
Thank you so much for your wonderful submission to BEST LESBIAN EROTICA 2001. I AM EXTREMELY PLEASED TO TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE A FINALIST IN THE SELECTION PROCESS...So, what does this mean? It means that you have made the final cut; approximately 50% of the pieces from this group will end up in the book.
Then, on September 11, 2000:
CONGRATULATIONS!! You've been selected as a contributor to BEST LESBIAN EROTICA 2001.
Next, I got serious.
Stay tuned to this LJ for the next exciting installment of The Tale of an Erotica Writer.