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Shannon Bryan

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Posted: September 15, 2014

Use your dirty words: Erotica 101 writing workshop at Nomia

Written by: Shannon Bryan photo

Making dinner can be erotic. Waiting in line at the pharmacy? That, too.

“You can write erotica about anything,” said Rachel Kramer Bussel. “Cooking. Being stuck in traffic.”

Bussel has been writing erotica and editing anthologies for over a decade (including “The Big Book of Orgasms,” “Women in Lust,” “Please, Sir” and “Please, Ma’am”), so she’s well-versed in what makes for good erotica (which is: pretty much whatever you can dream up).

“That’s why I keep writing erotica – I’m always thinking of what’s next, how can I twist this conversation I just heard or something that happened. Sometimes it’s just a word,” she said.

Rachel Kramer Bussel. Photo by Anya Garrett

Rachel Kramer Bussel. Photo by Anya Garrett

And like good reads in other genres, there’s no magic formula to writing erotica. “It’s not like you need three sex scenes per page,” she joked. Or a bedroom, for that matter.

What you do need: a spark of an idea and the willingness to follow it.

That’s exactly what Bussel hopes to offer would-be writers of erotica during her upcoming Erotica 101 writing workshop at Nomia in Portland on Tuesday, Sept 23.

The class is open to anyone who’s interested in writing erotica or learning more about it (even if you have no writing experience whatsoever or you have a background in writing that’s decidedly not erotic).

“It really is a workshop for people who are mostly just curious about erotica and sexuality,” said Bussel. “It doesn’t have anything to do with your life experience. It’s not about you being someone who’s had the most sex ever.” Besides, she added, some people are really eager to express themselves and their sexuality, but don’t always know how to go about it.

“”We don’t have a lot of space in our culture to talk about sexuality,” she said. “It’s not treated as a socially acceptable topic of discussion.”

But during Erotica 101, it’s not just acceptable, it’s encouraged.

Attendees will be treated to Bussel’s industry insights (she says she sort of fell into erotica writing – her first published story was a fantasy about Monica Lewinsky titled “Monica and Me” – but she’s learned a ton along the way) and recommendations for where and how to submit work.

But mostly, it’s about writing – actually putting the words down – so bring a notebook or laptop. To help get the creative juices flowing, Bussel suggests prompts (write a scene that somehow involves a piece of furniture, for example) and then attendees are let loose with their own erotic imaginations.

“People have some ideas floating around, and they might not realize they have these ideas,” said Bussel. “I give them prompts and they come up with stuff sometimes that’s so wonderful and creative.”

Maybe you’ll finally free a character who’s been knocking around your head for years. Maybe you’ll elicit inspiration from the pizza delivery guy or a recent exchange between two strangers in line ahead of you at the grocery store. Maybe your story starts at a table with an everyday cup of coffee.

And, like most writing workshops, attendees are encouraged to share what they’ve written with the group. (Unlike most writing workshops, it’s really fascinating to hear what everyone else wrote.)

“I get energized,” said Bussel. “I’m inspired and I also see how people get as much out of their fellow students. To me, that’s what’s really valuable.”

But this is erotica we’re talking about. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their long-standing fantasy involving your college Spanish teacher and one of the rides at Funtown-Splashtown. And that’s okay.

“You don’t have to say anything,” said Bussel. “You can sit and write and think about what’s happening. I like getting conversations going, but I also know that people process in different ways.”

Then again, “Fifty Shades of Grey” author E. L. James didn’t rake in millions of dollars because she kept her dirty thoughts to herself.

So go ahead, let ’em out.

Also: The sexuality discussions continue on Wednesday when Gina O’Rourke, owner of Nomia, and Rachel Kramer Bussel host a conversation about “Fifty Shades” and other titles; the lines between romance, erotica and pornography; and recommended reads. It’s part of Banned Book Week at the Portland Public Library. More info below.

Erotica Writing Workshop

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23
WHERE: Nomia, 24 Exchange St., Portland
COST: $25
MORE INFO: Call Nomia at 207-773-4774

The Guilty Pleasure of Erotic Literature

Join Gina O’Rourke, owner of Nomia, and Rachel Kramer Bussel conversation about 50 Shades and other titles; the lines between romance, erotica and pornography; and recommended reads.
WHEN: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24
WHERE: Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Way, Portland
COST: Free

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