Flamed, And It Burns

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to submit two short stories to the Naked Girls Reading contest.  I posted to FetLife to get some feedback from friends and also to the ERWA listserv I belong to.  The listserv is great because it’s made up of other authors and wannabe authors who have a lot of experience submitting their work.

I asked they critique two stories for me, Tech Support and Awareness.  “Tech Support” went through without a hitch.  But I apparently unknowingly stepped over the line when submitting “Awareness”.

“The underage thing really, really turns me off… I keep thinking I should apologize for that… but heck no. I’m not sorry to be turned off by something about kids younger than my youngest.  I had some idea that the posting rules were against underage stories too…  Sounds harsh I know – but I guess I can be the bad guy on this one.”

“The age in this makes me uncomfortable.  I am not sure it qualifies as erotica, per se.  Now if the competition is about self-exploration or raw memoir type thing, it might fit.   I don’t really know if I would be comfortable putting out something like this- whether it were  honest or not.  …  The other thing I would think about, is who exactly do you think will get turned on by this?  Seriously–what audience do you think it fits?  I know as the struggling artist we are, we don’t want to think about such things as audience and markets, but the truth is that what you write is the product you will end up selling…This seems to be a sort of personal erotic memory–not really a story.”

I have to admit, when I first saw these two messages, I was completely caught off guard!  “Awareness” has been online for over a year and has had +5,000 views from ShortFiction and 200+ on this blog, and I’ve never had a comment regarding the age of the characters.

Still, I was really pleased that both those writers took the time to explain their thoughts and I wrote back right away to thank them.

“Thanks to both “K” and “B” for putting different spin on this.  My apologies to those who felt it broke the rules regarding underage posts (I actually never even thought about that since there wasn’t any “sex”, sorry).  It’s always hard to put your work out there for others to read, but I really value the expertise of other others to open my
eyes to anything I may have missed.  Thanks again.”

But apparently that wasn’t good enough because another message was sent to the listerv.

“…Also I would like to make a point that masturbation is a sexual activity–I think that someone has been attending the same sex ed classes as Bill Clinton.  Seriously since when did sex become defined only as intercourse?  If that is so, it is a damn boring activity.  I don’t think we were the only ones squicking over the age thing.”

I guess an apology and having my own personal feelings on masturbation vs. sex wasn’t good enough?  But happily the listserv moderators have the final say.

“Awareness does indeed break the rules regarding underage characters…’No underage characters: no characters under 18 allowed in scenes where sexual activity occurs. This is a legal issue, so no pushing the envelope on this one.’  You have two 13 year olds, masturbation, and sexual language — all posted to a list dedicated to erotica. That makes it illegal. I want to be clear that I’m not saying the law is right or wrong when it comes to stories like Awareness, I am saying that it’s illegal and ERWA needs to  stay on the legal side of the law, whether we like it or not.  On more point: if CK simply left off any actual age reference — the ‘thirteen’ word in ‘My girlfriend taught me how to masturbate the summer I turned thirteen.’ there wouldn’t be a problem with Awareness, which is a good story.”

“Hi, CK,  Well, you’ve strayed over the ERWA guides, which you’re no doubt aware by now. But, as to the story itself, it is a nicely recounted and very gentle tale of self-discovery, and not at all prurient. If anything, it seemed to be a small slice of memory and I think you could expand this.  The problem is, most pubs in erotica are very insistent in not accepting stories with underage characters. It’s a shame because young people do experiment and it’s all part of growing up. As this story shows, it can be handled in a mature and touching way.  Some moms on the list might be squicked, but I think this was nicely handled…”

So I decided to listen to the list moderators who, despite the age reference, still felt it was a good story.  I’ve made a couple of wording changes and have decided to submit both “Awareness” and “Crush” to the contest.

However, I have decided to leave the original version of “Awareness” on my blog and hope that readers take it in the spirit it was intended.


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