Tag Archives: Best Sex Writing 2012

On Writing An Unfortunate Discharge Early in My Naval Career

I got my copy of Best Sex Writing 2012 earlier this year and was very pleased to have my work featured alongside so many great writers. Like they used to say in the old Penthouse Forum letters, “I never thought it would happen to me!

For my part in the Best Sex Writing Virtual Blog Tour, I wanted to talk about how I came to write my submission, An Unfortunate Discharge Early in My Naval Career.

This was a difficult story for me to write. As nonfiction, I have long thought the story would work better if I had been gay. Consider the synopsis: caught having casual sex with a shipmate, a troubled teen collides with an out-of-control and powerful homophobic authority. This, in turn, makes our intrepid young protagonist confront his own homophobic fears, which allows him to realize that he is… STRAIGHT?

Humm. I hear you. You probably want to say something like: Your synopsis doesn’t seem quite right, my friend.

That’s exactly what I said. For years. Too many years. But then I read a brilliant craft essay by Kerry Cohen, a former Best Sex Writer herself, and discovered that the story really is mine, even if it doesn’t map cleanly to what a reader might expect. I can own it. I don’t have to tell it the way it would be told if it were in a Hollywood movie or a cheap novel. If I can overcome my own personal shame long enough to see the truth, I can make the story mine.

With that revelation, the only thing left to overcome was the social stigma.

As the author of a memoir about my recovery from heroin addiction, I know a little something about social stigmas, how damaging and infuriating they can be. In one of the first pieces I ever published, I refused to acknowledge I was an addict because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I published the piece—a great story about my relationship with my oldest son—without mentioning my addiction. But I started to think seriously about how much of my life I wanted to share in my stories. What does it mean to write nonfiction? What impact comes from openly sharing true stories about socially stigmatizing issues? Nonfiction gives our stories a little extra something that fiction can’t manage. That’s not meant as a ding against fiction writers, but as encouragement to writers of nonfiction: Our work matters in ways we can’t always know or understand. As Kerry Cohen points out, we have to be brave enough to “locate the truth,” to own our own stories.

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The Newest Best Sex Writer of Them All

bestsex12

I’m proud to announce that my story, An Unfortunate Discharge Early in My Naval Career, has been selected for Best Sex Writing 2012!

I’m so pleased. The Best Sex Writing series is from Cleis Press and has been around for a few years. Rachel Kramer Bussel edits. I went to see her at Elliott Bay when she was promoting Best Sex Writing 2010 with Kerry Cohen and the amazing Janet Hardy.

Rachel is incredible.

As I remember it, she was feeling sick, but had showed up in the most amazing slinky black dress with these incredible red platform shoes and she slowly walked from the back of Elliott Bay to the lectern in those fabulous shoes – clipping, clopping – and we were all watching and she was just so poised and graceful and you could tell it was a hard night for her, but she was there, daintily dabbing her nose with a tissue, and looking so good, and so professional, and I thought: I must work with this woman. She is just amazing. If you try to friend her on Facebook, you get a little note from Facebook that says, Rachel Kramer Bussel has too many friends already. Fuckin’ A, baby. How awesome is that?

This year Susie Bright selected the stories. I’m so proud. I wonder if Rachel will organize a reading tour for this one, as she did with Kerry and Janet. Now that I realize how difficult it is to get the book stores to let you give a reading, I have new found respect for authors and editors who somehow find a way past the gate. I’ve been turned down by a few of the big stores already. Maybe working with Rachel I will finally get my heart’s desire.

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