Booty Call Authors: Uncensored 

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Read the full transcript of the Mercury's interviews with Steve Almond, Jami Attenberg, Melissa Lion, and Zach Plague, about writing dirty and talking dirty.

The authors will be reading their most scandalous stories at the Booty Call reading series at Plan B, 1305 SE 8th, Sun July 13, 7:30 pm, $5.

MERCURY: Have you ever participated in a reading like this before? If so, what's it like sharing your dirtiest thoughts with a room full of strangers? If not, what're your feelings about doing it for the first time?

STEVE ALMOND: I have no compunction whatsoever about reading blue. Any person with an ounce of passion inside them is a complete horndoggle, in thought, if not act. It's actually a relief (to me, anyway) when people talk about this stuff openly.

ZACH PLAGUE: There's a great reading series in Chicago called "Oops" that I've done a few times, the premise of which is to read from your old journals, or tell really embarrassing or uncomfortable stories about yourself. The last time I did it, I ran down a list of ex-girlfriend incidents, in front of an audience that included my current girlfriend. There was a botched love triangle, and some bondage gone awry. Thankfully, she hasn't dumped me. Yet.

So, I feel like I have a little bit of practice, though the "dirty" aspect may throw me for a loop. I'm usually too embarrassed to write really dirty stuff, so reading it aloud will certainly be an experience. It helps that my girlfriend won't be present this time.

JAMI ATTENBERG: I have a lot of sex in my books so I've definitely read dirty stories in front of people before. There's also a lot sex-related readings series across the country I've participated in. In New York City there's "In the Flesh" at Happy Endings, which is hosted by Rachel Kramer Bussel, and in San Francisco there's "Writers with Drinks" at the Makeout Room, which is hosted by Charlie Anders. Usually when you're doing a reading series that's identified as a sex reading series the audience knows what they're getting into, so it's not like I feel particularly uncomfortable. This kind of audience is generally there to have a good time and is pretty receptive and lively. It of course helps if there's cocktails involved, for both the reader and the audience.

MELISSA LION: I've never participated in an erotica (porn?) reading and I generally don't write erotica, but both of my novels [Swollen and Upstream] have sex scenes in them. I think sharing my sexual thoughts and fantasies with an audience is terribly sexy and necessary. The more we normalize sex in our culture, make it about regular humans and not the bizarre plasticine men and women of mainstream porn, or conversely the heathens our Puritan culture is fighting against, the better sex between regular people becomes.

I'm a little nervous that people will think my story is true. And I find myself warning people that my story is fiction, fiction, fiction, and then I hear Hamlet—the lady doth protest too much.

I'm excited to be up there and intimidated as hell to share a stage with Steve Almond and Jami Attenberg, both of whom I admire deeply. And I'm a little worried that I'll be too turned on to focus on a proper reading. But I think that's part of the fun—the voyeuristic element of watching prim and proper writers writhing a bit.

What are some of the do's and don'ts of writing filthy? Favorite words? Words that should never be used? Pitfalls?

ALMOND: Genital euphemisms are almost always a bad idea. Sperm puppet and hairy taco just don't put me in the mood. Penis and vagina are buzzkills, too. Most people are so freaked about writing sex scenes that they go over the top or straight to clichés. But they shouldn't be writing about sex. They should be writing about characters in emotional danger—who just happen to be naked.

PLAGUE: This is a tough one. I think writing sex can be difficult, because it's really easy to cross the line into cheesiness, cliché, or just plain smut. I tend to skirt around the nitty gritty. I'm happy to mention the orgy going on in the next room, but I can't quite bring myself to describe it in detail. Maybe one of these days I'll be braver.

Sally Alatalo has a great project where she took a romance novel, put every word in it into alphabetical order, and then the re-published it on her press, Sara Ranchouse. There were, like, three pages of just the word "thrust." If I could work more instances of that word into my writing, I'd be happier.

ATTENBERG: I would just say that if I'm writing a sex scene, and it turns me on, then I know I've succeeded. For me the way a character has sex in a fictional work is the same as what a character has for breakfast or what's on their bookshelf. It's another defining characteristic.

LION: I saw Amy Bloom read at Powell's a few months ago and she said something about writing the hot things cold. It makes sense. I write sexy book reviews for the blog, Bookslut, and when it comes to sex scenes, the more frank, and the plainer the language, the better. Enough with a woman's "honey"! Say she was wet. Her pussy was wet or salty or sweet. But honey? God, it's not even the right color. I'm also a little concerned with so many characters in erotica getting impaled or skewered on cocks. That does not sound pleasant. Or like any amount of woman-honey could ease the sudden pain of that unfortunate situation.>/p>

I love the classics. Fucking, cocks, pussies. Tits, ass. I like pounding, and licking. I love reading about threesomes. I wish more people focused on the smells of sex. It's such a distinct scent. And, for me, a person's smell is really important. I don't mean cologne, but really, what they smell like. I love men, and I love the way their bodies smell all the time. The way a lover's scent can linger on my skin for days even after showering is part of the mystery and magic of sex.

I remember a moment I was in the sunshine and a breeze blew and I smelled the last guy I'd been with. I could smell his skin on mine even though we hadn't been together for days, and we were in different cities. And we wouldn't be together ever again. It was a little magical and one of my favorite moments of that encounter.

What's your favorite dirty lit?

ALMOND: Lolita is a Mack truck. A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. Portnoy, of course. Updike has some nice kink. It's a short list.

PLAGUE: Well, I'll tell you the only book that ever made me hard, just from reading: Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille. It involves a few teenagers, sacrilege, some death, and an egg. I can't say more than that. But anyone with a healthy interest in perversion (read: everyone) should read it.

ATTENBERG: I'm not a porn person. I think it when things are sort of seamless and part of the literary whole. A.M. Homes does this really well. I grew up reading John Irving and always thinking he did a nice job with sex scenes.

LION: I love anything and everything Rachel Kramer Bussel does. She's a great writer and edits the most fantastic erotica anthologies. For online stuff, I find all of my favorite sexy websites from Violet Blue's blog, Tiny Nibbles. Both women are tireless advocates for smart porn and are so sexy in their own right.

Any hints as to what your story will be about?

ALMOND: I have a story about skull fucking—excuse me, skull lovemaking—but I'm not sure what I'll read yet. I'll see how nasty the crowd is. I'm hoping Extra Pornland Nasty.

PLAGUE: Well, I don't want to give away too much, but I understand I'm being billed as "Mirror Fetishist." So I can say that it will be "self-congratulatory" at the very least. But I promise not to take off my clothes. Unless people bring dollar bills.

ATTENBERG: Threesomes, cocaine, and the Oregon Coast. But not necessarily at the same time.

LION: I co-host a storytelling series here in Portland called Back Fence PDX. And after watching our storytellers completely capture the audience like no reading I've ever been to, I'm thinking I'll tell a story instead.

I'm going back and forth between telling a fictional story about what it feels like to be 32, two years after having a child and suddenly feeling my sex drive turn over into turbo mode. Or maybe I'll tell a story about a fling, and the beauty of 28-year-old boys—old enough to know better, young enough to keep it up. Or maybe it'll be a combination of the two. Fictional, of course.

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