Tag Archives: writing

Bywords.ca – I’m In It!

Garlic scapes, dill, cilantro, and rainbow chard from my summer garden a few years ago.

Garlic scapes, dill, cilantro, and rainbow chard from my summer garden a few years ago.

Delighted to announce that my piece, “Seasonal”, has been published by Bywords.ca.
I wrote this poem years ago, as part of an on-going project exploring queer non-monogamy and lateral family-building through the lens of local, seasonal food.
I only recently started submitting it places, and I’m glad Bywords – being local to me, itself – chose to take it.
You can check it out here.


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Augur Magazine – I’m Not In It (Yet)

Augur Buzzard in Flight - Matt Edmonds - Via Wikimedia Commons

Augur Buzzard in Flight
Matt Edmonds
Via Wikimedia Commons

So. As-you-know-bob, I’ve been submitting to a bunch of journals and periodicals and magazines. My goal, which so-far I’ve mostly been meeting-or-exceeding, is to submit to three places per month.
A while back, I submitted five poems to Augur Magazine which, as a paid market with a huge slush pile, is kind of more at the long-shot end of my particular submissions spectrum.
Unsurprisingly, none of my pieces made it through the final cut BUT! One of my pieces DID make it onto their long list, which I am pretty damn chuffed about in and of itself.
I’m taking this long-listing of my work as an encouraging sign, and I’m looking forward to submitting to them again in the future.
Gotta admit, though. Getting the news that a different publication has accepted one of my submissions – a poem that is part of my in-progress chapbook manuscript – on the same day that I got Augur’s rejection letter? It softened the blow a little bit. 😉
More on that when the piece goes live.

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Rag Queen Periodical – I’m In It!

Blue Topaz - Translucent blue polished gem, rough-cut, on a black surface with a black backdrop - Photo Didier Descouens - Courtesy of Wiki Media Commons

Blue Topaz – Translucent blue polished gem, rough-cut, on a black surface with a black backdrop – Photo Didier Descouens – Courtesy of Wiki Media Commons

Hey, all!
I am massively excited to announce that my poem, “My Body Is A Spell”, has been published in Issue Two of Rag Queen Periodical! 😀
You can read it here.

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My (Small Press) Writing Day

So. rob mclennan has a series going called “my (small press) writing day”. The idea being to showcase what a writer’s professional day looks like when they are “emerging”, published through small presses, and similar.
rob emailed me like, five months ago, asking if I’d be interested in contributing a piece.
It took me five months to figure out how to write down what my writing day actually looks like.
Which, to the surprise of nobody, is not at all what the writing days of those big-publisher-supported authors who contribute pieces to The Guardian. 😉
No inspiring views of moving water here, unless we’re talking about the rinse cycle in an industrial washer.
You can read about the particulars of my “writing day” here.

One of the places where I write. Image is a bank of laundromat washing machines with my spiral-bound notebook, and a couple of colourful pens, in the foreground.

One of the places where I write.
Image is a bank of laundromat washing machines with my spiral-bound notebook, and a couple of colourful pens, in the foreground.

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Femme Dykes Write Glosas (Apparently)

So, apparently, when you’re a femme-dyke poet, you write Glosas. (Thanks, Amber Dawn. 😉 )
Dorothy Chan has a poem featured at Matrix Magazine, written from the (theoretical) perspective of a Playboy Centrefold.
I find poems like this Interesting because, while there is a tonne of overlap between women who do sexwork and women who write poetry, as a professional naked person who has done plenty of this kind of modeling (albeit definitely not for those kind of excellent rates), I find myself wondering if Dorothy Chan has worked in this particular industry.
Maybe not.
(I admit to a suspicion of Not, but I’ve been wrong before, so hey).
So I decided to write a glosa using the last four lines of her featured poem.
I’d originally thought it would be one for “We Are All Jezebel” (a manuscript that I work on intermittently which looks at the intersection of femme, slut, and ho – as per Kathryn Payne’s essay in Brazen Femme) and talk about my own experience as a model doing glam nudes and boudoir shoots.
But that’s not how it worked out at all.
I actually wound up talking about hunger – hunger for food, hunger for sex, how food and sex and bound up together in my head andmy body in a way that has nothing to do with whipped cream and chocolate body paint and everything to do with being nurtured and fed on an emotional/heart level – about asexuality and eating disorders and needing to relearn “healthy eating habits” in my skin.
So it’s going to end up in “How to Cook a Heart” – the manuscript I work on much more frequently that explores queer polyamourous love & desire and the building of chosen family through the lens of local-seasonal food (growing it, cooking it, preserving it, sharing it, you name it…).
Here’s a sample of what I wrote today:

can almost taste her
the edge of memory burns
my tongue on her hip bone I sob
at a kiss
I’m allowed to crave
or am I? This sheath shows every flaw
I want to shrug off
let you have me like this
straps falling down, breasts out, bending my body over,

It’s a work in progress, as they say. 😉

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Nuts, Bolts, & Decisions: An Interview on #Writing #Erotica with #ShowYourselfToMe Author Xan West

Hi, folks!
So, today, I’m taking part in a blog tour (over at Syrens, but reposting my part of it in full, here, because: relevant) promoting a new erotica anthology – Show Yourself to Me – from author Xan West (You can find the whole tour at this link, yesterday’s stop can be found here, and tomorrows – which involves a time-difference – can be found here. The tour itself includes a number of reviews, but you can also find – and add – reviews at Good Reads and Amazon). I jumped at the chance to read a slew of stories from an author I respect and admire, as well as the opportunity to ask some writerly questions about the nuts, bolts, and decisions involved in writing an anthology like this.

Show Yourself To Me - Cover Art Close-up of a hand, holding a chain-leash, thumb brushing the lips of the person on the other end of the leash.

Show Yourself To Me – Cover Art
Close-up of a hand, holding a chain-leash, thumb brushing the lips of the person on the other end of the leash.

Before we get to the interview, here’s the blurb about the book itself:

In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.
Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.
Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.
Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.
This is
Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.


And now, on with the interview! 😀
1) Show Yourself to Me opens with a story that, fundamentally, is about belonging. Can you talk to me about that, and why you chose to open your anthology with this piece?
“Missing Daddy” sets the mood of the book in so many ways, and belonging is absolutely one of them. For me, as a queer writer who centers my fantasies and desires in my work, belonging is such a central aspect of that, of my queerness, of my kink, of my politic. Being connected, not just in the context of a romantic couple apart from the world, but being in the world, belonging to community and family, belonging to self, as well as being claimed and claiming in the context of D/s. They balance and match each other, all those belongings. Especially for a story that begins by speaking openly about abuse in the context of kink, and the legacy of that in kink life and community, it is so important to center this story of longing and nostalgia in a deep memory of belonging and care in the context of BDSM. This story wants the reader to hold all of that reality in queer kink life: abuse of power and also care with power, legacies of abuse that last long beyond abusive relationships, and legacies of leather that feel whole and beautiful that also come with us, belonging to self, giving self to a partner, belonging in community and family.
2) Pieces like “My Pretty Boy”, “The Tender, Sweet, Young Thing”, and “How He Likes It” touch on how it can be easier to accept cruelty than gentleness. Can you talk about that for a bit?
I’ve had a lifetime of experiencing sensory input in ways that didn’t match how people thought I should be experiencing it, how it was “supposed” to feel. It took me a long time to come to terms with and accept that reality, which has shaped so much of my daily life, especially play and sex. The simple truth is that people are different, and they experience sensations differently. Something that is intolerable for me might be pleasurable or neutral for you. Kink really helped me hold that reality, because although there were cultural expectations about how people would experience sensations, I kept finding, as a top, that the folks I played with would experience them so very differently from each other.
This theme in my work, of light touch and gentleness feeling close to or actually intolerable, where sharp, firm or intense touch, and pain in particular, feel welcome and desired, is my attempt to center and validate an experience that is so rarely acknowledged, even in kink life. It is an experience that often resonates for stone-identified folks, and that is definitely part of my motivation as well, to write stories where stone folks can see themselves reflected without judgment or pathologization, as those stories are incredibly rare.
It’s also a layered thing, one that gives opportunities for internal struggle within a scene, and pathways for sadism. In “My Pretty Boy,” they consensually play with the fact that Rickie hates gentleness. This created a wonderful way to shift perspective on what cruelty and sadism can look like, and illustrate that sometimes gentleness can be very cruel indeed.
3) This is a collection of your erotic writing, some of-which is forthcoming (I think… like the excerpt from Shocking Violet), and some of-which has been published elsewhere. A lot of them run to what I think of, accurately or not, as “standard anthology length”, but some are longer and some are much, much shorter (“This Boy”). I’m wondering how many of these pieces were written for specific calls (“Facing the Dark” seems like a likely example), how many just turned up in your head demanding to be written down, how many were born out of personal explorations or writing practice? (Yes, this is essentially a “where do you get your ideas” question).
You got it right, close to half of these stories were written for specific calls (including some of the shorter ones, for flash fiction collections). For a number of years, writing to a specific market was part of what drove my writing process. “Facing the Dark” was written because an editor asked me to write something for a gay fireman anthology. “Missing Daddy” was for a bear call, “Ready” for a gay motorcycle collection, “Falling for Essex” for a college boys call, “My Will” for a gay time travel anthology. “Please” was written as an exercise in writing to a tight editorial preference—for Violet Blue’s Best Women’s Erotica series. “The Tale of Jan and Tam” was written for a fairy tale retellings call.
When I’m contemplating writing for a call, or am solicited by an editor for a specific kind of story, I sit with it for a while, do some research if needed, see what wants to stick. I often go through a few ideas before I land on one that works for the call and feels doable to me. I’m especially looking for a spark, a beginning, a strong voice, or a moment in the story that I find so compelling I feel like I need to write it. My notebooks are filled with potential ideas like this, and there are some I will bring out years later, and try to write them.
The other times, I often find a spark in something else. “The Tender Sweet Young Thing” was sparked by a conversation I had at a regular queer gathering I go to. “Compersion” was sparked partly by a class I went to on the subject, that felt like it completely left out so much of my own experiences of compersion. “Nervous Boy” was written in response to a craigslist ad I saw, and answered, though I never got a response. I’ve also written fantasies and dreams that kept returning demanding to be told. I’ve written pieces for lovers, and potential lovers. I’ve written stories in response to scenes I’ve watched.
Often, it’s a mesh of things that drive my writing; the spark or the voice or the lines that come into my mind are just the beginning. There are often experiences and ideas I want to capture, and things I want to talk about in my stories. I’m fairly unabashed about having certain agendas in my work.
4) I know you make a point of showcase a lot of different bodies in your erotica – your characters don’t default to “able-bodied and thin”, for example, and you make sure your readers know it. With that in mind, when a character ends up being white or fat, fem/me or cis or disabled (or whatever cluster of identities a given character may have), how much of those intersecting privileges and oppressions are just “how the character showed up in my head” versus how much of it is an active decision on your part as an author about the kind of story you want to tell?
Much of the time, not defaulting takes conscious work. Sometimes I catch myself not having defined some aspects of a character’s identity and there I am, stuck in my usual defaults. I usually am stuck by the things I haven’t defined, a little ways in, not knowing where to go. Conscious work gets me unstuck, and a lot of the time that is at least partly about establishing specificities of identity.
Some aspects of a character’s identity will come to me with the character’s voice or the situation or the conflict I’m imagining at the beginning of the process. Sometimes those choices are driven by the way I puzzle out what I can bring to a specific call, how I can imagine bringing these people together.
One of the things that has become very clear to me is how much the specificities of identity of my characters are often shaped by my own identities and needs. When I think about the specifics of the queer genders that appear in this collection, it is clear that I’ve mostly been writing stories about my own gender experiences, or about genders that I have fantasized about being. Over the past 15 years of writing erotica, the body of work from which I drew the stories for this collection does not include the diversity of genders of the people in my life and my communities. Instead, my deep hunger for putting myself into a genre where I have mostly been erased or misrepresented has driven many of my choices about the genders of my characters. As a whole collection, those choices contribute to a deep erasure that mirrors the ways trans misogyny and misogyny often operate in queer communities. For me, this recognition is even more reason to work more on consciously considering the identities of my characters.
When I was pulling stories together for the collection, from the body of my existing work, one of the things I worked on was more clearly marking the identities of the characters, so that they weren’t just clear to me, but were clear to the reader. So the reader also was less likely to go to defaults while reading. I needed to do this much more with my earlier work than with my later work.
A few years ago I began a project of deliberately centering disabled characters in my work, one that coincided with my decision to live more deeply into my own disabilities. I wanted my creative work to hold the same intentions as my personal work, so they could feed each other. I have found writing these stories to be so powerful in my own life. Many of them are included in this collection; they are the ones written in the third person.
5) On a related note, you tell stories from a lot of different perspectives – both from story to story and sometimes within a single piece. Can you talk about the factors that determine whose PoV you’re writing from, which stories are going to involve “head hopping” versus which ones stay with a single narrator? I’m thinking, in particular, of stories like “My Precious Whore” where you’re dealing with some fairly heavy edges (for the characters but also for, um, me as a reader…) but also of “The Tender, Sweet, Young Thing” where the narration is bouncing between half a dozen heads. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Most of my early work was in the first person, though I played with that some by having POV characters sometimes imagine that they knew the perspective of other people (like in “Nervous Boy”). My recent work has been in third person. It was a conscious choice to shift that way, because I found it unblocked me. Until I tried third person, I kept hitting up against a wall, couldn’t figure out how to more clearly mark characters as disabled.
When I chose to shift my work, I embraced head hopping, something that is often frowned upon in erotica circles. I wanted to explore multiple interior experiences, see where that got me. In “The Tender Sweet Young Thing”, I wanted to stick with three perspectives—to stay inside the heads of the three queers that were central to plotting the fantasy scene, because they each were deeply invested in creating this scene from a different place. Dax, from a fantasy ze had held since childhood, Mikey partly as a gift of love and recognition for Dax, and partly for her own self, and Téo, who recognized a gender he wanted to play with. The story shifts from one to the other as the dynamics shift between the characters, that’s how it flowed out, so by the time you get to the actual scene, you hopefully have a stake in each of them getting what they need from it, and from each other.
With first person, often a voice comes to me as a story sparks. Point of view is one of the first things that solidifies in the story. In “My Precious Whore”, I was working on a few things in that story:
1. I was working to illuminate the edges inherent in playing with misogyny and whorephobia, to take the reader deep enough to really be able to see how deeply dangerous this kind of play is.
2. I was trying to illustrate how a structure of D/s and consciously chosen power play can create a container for this sort of intense and risky psychological edge play, make it possible to do it.
3. I wanted to capture something specific about orgasm control, how it can work in humiliation play scenes, how helplessness from forced orgasms can be particularly intense and beautiful.
4. I wanted to write a story that explored possessive top desire that wasn’t feral (which I’d mostly been writing), but went to colder places, wielded power differently, grappled with the edges of misogyny and deep psychological play.
5. I was attempting to illuminate the ways being the top in a scene centered on humiliation, objectification, and play with oppression can be incredibly edgy for the top and how the top can need support from the bottom.
Some of those things would be a good match for the bottom’s point of view, especially #3. (I want to write another story from a bottom’s point of view that can get me there more deeply.) #1 and #2 could work from either point of view. But for #4 and #5 I needed the top’s perspective to get me there.
I put that story in a drawer for a while after I wrote it. It felt too volatile to put out into the world, and too personally edgy. That’s how it has often worked for me with the stories that go deep into play with misogyny. (“Strong” is another example.) I was concerned about the damage they might do in the world, and worried about the ways they could be misinterpreted. This version of “My Precious Whore” illuminates top vulnerability much more than earlier versions, and it showcases the support of the bottom. Telling it from the top’s perspective really helps it get there, helps the reader touch those things.
6) In “The Ballad of Tam and Jan” (and I love that Carter Hall turns up in more than one story, by the way), you talk about transformative experiences for tops. In it, and also stories like “My Pretty Boy”, you talk about tops needing to remember and honour their own needs. There’s this pervasive (or maybe it’s just me?) thing where sadistic, and even just toppy, desires are framed as not okay – like it’s totally fine to want to be anonymously skull-fucked by a truck-load of random people, but wanting to turn someone into “just a hole” (to pick a theme that ran through a lot of your stories), to dehumanize them, is less okay. Wanting to beat someone to a pulp because it feels good to hit defenseless people is, well, monstrous. I find in a lot of Kink 101 stuff, the top is framed as facilitating the bottom’s experience, with the bottom being “really in charge” and the top being a provider in a lot of ways. Can you talk about that stuff in the context of the needs and vulnerabilities of tops?
The fear of top desires and needs that you describe is one of the most frustrating aspects of kink culture for me. I’ve written several essays about it. It’s a big problem, and can make navigating play so much harder for everyone, so much less likely to be mutual. This image of the top as facilitating the bottom’s experience and having no needs of their own is a huge contributing factor to ableism in kink communities. It’s been a challenge for me, personally, to find play partners that are up for considering and honoring my needs as a top, especially my needs for support around pushing my own edges.
My work, and in particular the stories in this book, are invested in creating different images of tops, different narratives about what tops need and desire, what bottoms do to support tops, what play that is mutual and honors the needs and desires of all parties can be like. Stories help create culture, and this book is one of the ways I’m trying to shift the way we think about top desires, top needs, and top vulnerabilities.
These stories openly celebrate sadistic and dominant desire, and that aspect of them alone is likely to make people uncomfortable. I’ve had stories rejected (with rather intense judgmental language) for openly describing sadistic desire. Once I had an editor suggest that I edit the story so that the dominant was not so clearly getting off on making the submissive cry during sex, because that felt inherently non-consensual. The editor suggested that I change the story so that the dominant was doing it to facilitate the experience the submissive needed.
In these stories, I am attempting to carve out room for the beauty and heat of unapologetically sadistic desire, and it is partly to meet my own needs. I need a kink culture that honors sadists who have their own desires, that supports tops to be vulnerable, that asks bottoms to support tops in play, that honors that everyone has needs. Not just because I’m human, but particularly as a disabled top.
7) Tell me something you love about this collection and want everybody to know.
I’ve talked about writing stories that center disabled and sick characters, how that was my project over the last few years. These stories often include disabled and chronically ill fat trans and genderqueer characters playing with each other, in community with each other, creating accessible spaces together. I’ve never read stories like that before, which is one of the reasons I needed to write them.
What I haven’t talked about is how impossible it has been to place these stories in anthologies. I’ve been aching to share these stories with the world, but have had no luck getting them published. I finally decided that I had to try to sell them as a group with my other work, in a collection like this, in order to get them printed.
Before I could seriously tackle that project, Go Deeper Press approached me to request a manuscript. They love these stories in particular, which makes me incredibly glad. And now these stories are out in the world, and I am so thrilled that people get to read them! I love that my first collection shows some of my oldest work, next to the new directions I’ve been going in as a writer.
Thank you, Xan. 🙂
You can pick up a copy of Show Yourself to Me from Go Deeper Press (print or digital), or as a e-book from Amazon.
You can find Xan’s thoughts about the praxis of sex, kink, queerness, power, and writing at xanwest.wordpress.com.

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FIGURES: Impressions of a Professional Naked Girl (chapbook by me)

So, as-you-know-bob, I’m doing a reading with fabulous femme Amber Dawn Writes (home page) and bodaceous butch Kalyani Pandya (Daily Xtra article by Lukayo) this coming Saturday to celebrate the launch of Amber Dawn’s latest book, Where the Words End and My Body Begins. There will be a write-in during the show, and there will of course be merch. I mean, buy Amber’s books, clearly.
But there will also be this:

FIGURES: Inpressions of a Professional Naked Girl

FIGURES: Inpressions of a Professional Naked Girl

I’m rather chuffed about the whole situation.
It’s a limitted run of fifty (except that it’s currently a limitted run of forty-nine because the printshop and the other printshop and I Had A Miscommunication… But I’ll get it sorted out).
Anyway. That’s my wee bit of news. 🙂


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Chapbook – Gone to Print!

So, my chapbook is at the print shop.
There was rigamarole, but it has (fingers crossed) (probably) passed.
As of Wednesday morning I should have a stack of fifty chapbooks with bright red covers (becuase I’m opting for stereotypical, apparently) to call my own and, y’know, hawk at my upcoming show, where it’ll be available for $5 at the Merch Table.
This wee, self-published collection of fifteen poems focuses on my work as a model, and touches on the places where that work overaps and intersects with different areas of the sex industry. It is mostly new work, written in the past year, though a few older pieces are included.
This isn’t my first chapbook, but it’s the first one I’ve made with either a colourful cover OR the sense to make mention of its Limited Edition nature. Here’s hoping that the reading goes well enough that people in attendence will want copies of their own to take home.
Fingers Crossed.

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Prose, Poetry, and Shifting Priorities

So, upon saying Yes to doing a show this coming June, I set The Novel aside (temporarily…) in order to focus on writing the raw material for what will, by the time the show rolls around, be a (hopefully) gorgeously-polished chapbook about my experiences as a Professional Naked Girl.
But I gathered up most of those poems yesterday and I’ve got about the right amount, plus a few extras. They still need to be worked on – some polished, some straight-up finished, some (probably) combined to make new, individual poems – but I’ve got enough stuff pulled together that I feel fairly safe bringing prose back onto the table, in some way at least.
To that end, there is this: WritingChallenge.org
Which comes with this handy little essay on Why 500 Words A Day Works for Me (and Might Work for You), which I’m just going to leave here for people to find and read. Go ahead. It’s handy stuff. 🙂
Tonight is the VERSeFest Volunteers event, so I’ll be hanging about with other Awesome Poetry People this evening.

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Show! (Long Time Coming, Not Here Yet)

A poet I admire asked me if I would like to read with her.
I said yes.
We are going to do a show together in the summer, possibly with a third poet.
We will be making zero money as the door-take will be going to a local non-profit – although she and the potential third poet will have books/chapbooks to sell – but it’s a show. I haven’t done a show in over a year at this point, so I’m quite looking forward to it.
And, hey. Now I have an external deadline by which to be finished one, ideally two, manuscript(s). So that’s a handy thing as well.

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