I submitted a story to a well known lit mag, where I knew a few of the editors personally. I’d been to parties associated with the magazine, and supported their workshop in its first year by writing about it at length in the local paper. It was a magazine where I was, to some extent, known, as a writer and a person. One of the editors encouraged me to submit.
It was a magazine with literary weight.
To appear in its pages would be a career boost and, like all writers, I could use the boost. But I wasn’t an unknown. I’d published in other venues, including writing an entire issue of the Stranger, up in Seattle, and gained recognition for that piece in independent media news. I’d been in other literary magazines. My first novel was kicking ass. I was optimistic.
Optimism is crucial. Rejection is part of the process. One is always trying, putting work out there, taking risks and being vulnerable, in all high hopes. That’s necessary. I sent a story that I cared about. I sent one that was, in my estimation, sexy, funny, a little rude at times, and smart throughout, exactly the way I like things. It was human and also grotesque, made me laugh, and hopefully upended a tiny corner of the world, for a moment.
One way of containing women in the larger cultural picture is to imagine that their female sexiness needs to be pretty. My work generally pushes back on that consumer-driven expectation to break out of limited narratives. Literature is a path to rebuilding the world, finding a deeper level of truth, and the truth is not in gendered cliches. Sexy can be anyway we want to do it, show it, enjoy it.
So I don’t do sexy straight-on. There’s power in rethinking, and asking the question, what should a sex scene do? What can a sex scene accomplish, convey or challenge? There’s humanity in the awkward, unexpected and strange.
The story I submitted was about love, in the way everything is ultimately about love. Even more, it was about the struggle of being sentient, self-aware creatures on the edge of the anthropocene. The question was, how to have sex, perhaps even risk the creation of new people, darling babies, when the world is already heavily…