[Want to 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? Then be sure to check out our Web Exlusive story Booty Call Authors: Uncensored.]
The enjoyment of smut is usually, for better or worse, a solitary pleasure. Not so at Booty Call, the infrequently held reading series put on by Future Tense publisher and occasional Mercury contributor Kevin Sampsell. Booty Call, which returns from a three-year hiatus on Sunday night, July 13, invites writers, zinesters, bloggers, and all-around perverts to share their filthiest stories with a room full of strangers.
"Sometimes you go to readings and the writers are nervous about reading something sexy or perverse, but at Booty Call, I want that to be the norm," says Sampsell. "There are no rules, no discretion. Nothing is too dirty and if you're offended by that, well then... oops. But there won't be any apologies, even on a Sunday night."
We invited participating authors Steve Almond, Melissa Lion, Jami Attenberg, and Zach Plague to share their thoughts on writing dirty and reading dirty.
MERCURY: What are some of the do's and don'ts of writing dirty? Common pitfalls?
JAMI ATTENBERG: I would 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.
STEVE ALMOND: 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.
MELISSA LION: I write sexy book reviews for Bookslut, and when it comes to sex scenes, 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.
What's it like sharing your dirtiest thoughts with a room full of strangers?
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.
LION: I'm a little nervous 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. [But] 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, the better sex between regular people becomes.
What can we expect from your story?
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.
LION: 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.
ZACH 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.
ATTENBERG: Threesomes, cocaine, and the Oregon Coast. But not necessarily at the same time.
Booty Call w/Steve Almond, Jami Attenberg, Melissa Lion, Zach Plague, and music from the Incredible Kid; Plan B, 1305 SE 8th, Sun July 13, 8 pm, $5, 21+. Read the full transcripts of our interviews with the authors online at portlandmercury.com/books.