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The Best Lesbian Erotica reading at Powell’s last night went exceptionally well, I thought. I showed up a wee too early–meaning I had time to start watching the clock every 30 seconds, thinking “Where is everyone? Shit. I’m going to do this reading and there are going to be two people here. They’re never going to invite me back! And those two people are going to be SO sad that they came…” But then, as the clock ticked down, people did show up. In fact, we filled the place (which means about 55 people, according to those who did the official count).

I got to open by dissecting The Portland Mercury‘s blurb about the event, which read like this:

Best Lesbian Erotica 2008:As hot as it sounds, it’s actually difficult to imagine this reading being anything other than extremely awkward.

And then they listed the date, place and time so that, should you desire to attend something that was “extremely awkward,” you’d know where to find it. The listing made for a funny opener that had people laughing, which is always a good thing to do before you start reading about sex (and one of the gentlemen who came to the reading had even cut it out and brought it with him, which I loved).

I read Ali Liebegott’s introduction, which is funny and hot and a little squicky. And then I read my story. After, people asked good, interesting questions and (I hope) a good time was had by all. I had my lovely new business cards to hand out, lots of friends to greet, and we sold almost twenty books, which apparently is a pretty good number. Plus, I got the warm fuzzy of signing books to old friends, new friends, as anniversary gifts for couples, as thank yous, and even for one student who came as part of her language class assignment.

Of course, when you’re reading erotica–especially erotica that has a specific slant, such as BDSM or lesbian, there are always lots of questions that have to do with sexuality, sensuality and self-definition. I got that wonderful and always hard to answer question, “Are you a lesbian?” (which, really, is the not the question, the question is: “Have you done these things you write about? Do you identify as this sexual orientation/experience/desire?”). My answer is always, “Well, some of my characters are.” But then I tend to ramble on for a bit about sexuality and sexual identity, as well as about imagination and creativity. I still don’t think I’ve found an answer for that question that I like, and I wonder how other writers deal with it. Especially sex writers–I mean, I don’t think that anyone’s ever asked me if my non-sex fiction is real, so I wonder how closely tied into the sex bit that question is. Along those lines, I was at the Phaze website this morning, and saw their classification/rating system for books here, and it made me kind of giggle. Imagine those aren’t books, but sexual identities/experiences. How many are you? How many have you been at some point in your life? Even the heat-level is spot on–while I’d like to say that every sexual experience I’ve had is a five, that’s far from true. Sexuality is so gray for me…I understand that we’ve drawn strong community and political borders at straight/gay, but that feels arbitrary to me. As arbitrary, I guess, as calling a book “Best Lesbian” that is full of bois, dykes, lipsticks, bi-curious and bi-sexual characters, daddies and more.

All in all, it was very good night. Thanks to Powell’s for having me, thanks to Best Lesbian Erotica and Cleis Press for having me. Thanks a million times over to all who took the time out of their busy schedules to come and listen, to laugh at the right (or wrong) places, to smile, to “get a little turned on, before I remembered I wasn’t straight anymore” (as one of my gay friends said about the reading), and to share in the joy of literature, sex, words, community, friendship and stories.