David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Month: November 2013 Page 1 of 2

Pin-Up Cheesecake: A Real Recipe

Baby_Pin_up_by_PintureiroLight as a feather, yet valuable in hand-to-hand combat, this angelish devil of a cake is so gorgeous you’ll want to blow up a picture of it and stick it on your wall.  The key to making this work is to whip, stir and blend as much air as possible into this baby.  In the words of the great Devo, Whip it, whip it good.

cheese-cakeGingersnap Crust

1 Box gingersnap cookies

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

1 tablespoon finely chopped up candied ginger

¾ stick butter melted

Crush up the cookies until they are crumbs.  Use a food processor, or if you want to go old-school, but your cookies a bag and smash them into submission with a hammer.  Stir in all the dry ingredients.  Pour them into the pan and spread them out evenly.  Pour in the melted butter and work it in the gingersnap crumbs until it’s evenly distributed.  Carefully, painstakingly, build the crust along the bottom of the pan and then up the sides about 1 ½ inches.  Careful not to make the crust too thick where the bottom meets the side of the pan.

Batter

6 egg yokes

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind

10 very thin slices lemon peel

¼ cup tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups sugar (to taste)

1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese (really helps if it’s at room temperature)

 

6 egg whites whip em good real good til they’re whipped but still soft

1 cup heavy cream whipped—to just before stiff

 

Blend together the eggs, lemon, vanilla and sugar.  Then add small chunks of cream cheese until it’s all in.  Once it’s a liquid, slip in the flour.  Then I like to use a heavy-duty Mixmaster and crank that puppy up to 11.  I stop every once in a while to give the machine a rest, and to crush up any big cream cheese chunks.  No matter how much you mix this, there will be small chunks of cream cheese.  Don’t worry, they’ll melt when you cook her.  Seriously, ratchet up the Mixmaster for 15 minutes, maybe even more depending upon your mood.  Then blend in the egg whites and the whipped cream, but use a plastic spatula.  Not metal.  I don’t know if that’s an urban legend, but that’s what I heard on, and I figure, Why risk it?  Pour the batter into the pan.  Put her on a cookie sheet just in case.  Then shove her in the oven as you say a prayer to the goddess of cheesecakes.

Bake at 350 between 50 minutes and 1 hour.  Stick a toothpick in her center to determine if she’s done.  You want her to be a little bit wet, because you’re going to cook her for another five minutes at a very high temperature when you put the sour cream topping on her.  And you definitely do not want to cook her too long.  This is very very important.  Because if you cook her too long she will be dry.  And the pinup should never be dry.  Moist.  Light.  Airy.  Luscious.

Sour Cream Topping

2 cups sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 pinches of salt

1 ½ tablespoon sugar (to taste)

Stir all ingredients thoroughly.  Wait until the cheesecake is practically down to room temperature.  Apply topping evenly.  Bake at 425 for 5 minutes.  Let her cool off.  Many places will tell you she needs to refrigerate for 12 hours.  To me that seems extremist.  Realistically four or five hours should work.  Serve in thin slices.  The Pin-Up is so rich you’ll wish she was a publicly traded company and you were the majority owner.

Kitty Stryker: When A Dominatrix Sex Worker Falls for Her Client

Kitty Stryker tells how she once fell in love with a domination client. From Johns Marks Tricks & Chickenhawks. To buy the book: http://amzn.to/Yg0Lp8johns marks cover cropped

Hero Slays Monster in Jabberwocky

One of the greatest nonsense poems ever written, by the master Lewis Carroll.

Lewissemi

SHOCKING BUT TRUE: CHILD DOES UNSPEAKABLE THINGS TO BROCCOLI!

chronology 264Must be seen to be believed. Shocking footage of the unthinkable.  Very young child eats a raw vegetable!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivy League Pornographer Dreams of Creating Utopian Hippy Porn

Sam Benjamin, the ivy League pornographer and author of “American Gangbang”, on trying to change the world by making a new kind of smut: Hippie Porn. From Johns Marks Tricks & Chickenhawks. To buy the book click here.

Art of the Memoir: Lisa Schenke: A Son’s Fall to Suicide, a Mother’s Rise from Grief

LisaS_WT_design_blueWe first met Lisa Schenke at Book Towne on the Jersey shore.  In one minute she told us the story of her son Tim’s suicide, which led to a series of copycat suicides in South Jersey.  It broke our hearts.  Not just because it was so gut wrenching, but because she told it so beautifully, and with such breathtaking honesty.  Knowing that there’s an epidemic of suicides among teenagers in America is different than staring into the eyes of a mom who’s beloved son jumped in front of a train.  But having a story and writing a book are very different things.  Without Tim: a Son’s Fall to Suicide, a Mothers Rise from Grief is out, so we wanted to talk to her about the process of turning her tragedy into a book.  And, during National Suicide Prevention Month, about the terrible problem of teenage suicide.

DAVID HENRY STERRY: What made you decide to write this book about such a horrific, and very personal subject?

Lisa Schenke book photo 11-12LISA SCHENKE: I felt that I had a story to tell, a story that would help others. My initial goal was to help those who are grieving, especially from a suicide. However, the further along I got with organizing my thoughts and the content for the book, the more I realized I had a bigger goal: to help teens and young adults who are struggling with the many issues facing them today. That’s how my book developed into two storylines: my recovery after Tim’s death, and glimpses into Tim’s life as he grew up- both his accomplishments and his troubles. I was also kind of motivated by people always asking me things like “How do you survive? I don’t know how you do it? How do you get up in the morning?”

DHS: Was it difficult to go back over these terrible events?

LS: Yes and no. Some days were heart-wrenching; trying to figure out the right way to express something so important to me. I also worried about putting my husband, children and immediate family members “through this” again. But more often than not, the writing helped clarify and solidify the details that I never want to forget. And I often reminded myself that I wanted other young people to understand how much they are loved.

DHS: Did writing this story help you in any way?

LS: Yes, very much. I feel that I voiced what many other parents are unable to share. While trying to convince other parents that they are doing the best they can, I kind of convinced myself that I did my best too. I also feel that it is a tribute to Tim. Also a tribute to my family. I want to make a difference in suicide prevention, I’m proud of my family. So many reasons that I wanted to expressing myself. I don’t claim to have the answers, but feel that telling my story can be comforting to teenagers who relate,  parents who have lost a child, and any parents raising teenagers.

DHS: What was the process of publishing like for you?

LS: Very complicated at first! Nothing I had ever been exposed to before. I chose not to send to many publishing houses and not to wait a long period of time before deciding to self-publish instead. I evaluated the pros and cons of self-publishing long and hard before proceeding. I am somewhat of a control freak, and I really LOVED my cover design. After being denied by a few publishers and realizing that I wouldn’t have control over many aspects of the book, including the cover, I chose to self-publish. I got a lot of professional  help by connecting to quality people for each area including copy editing, proofreading, book formatting, etc. I am extremely satisfied with the final product and feel I did not cut any corners in producing a high quality book.

DHS: Did you get help from an editor, and if so, how did this work?

LS: Yes! Each editor I worked with gave me the option of accepting/rejecting the suggested changes. Whenever I had questions, they were open to discussing. My mentor, Arielle Eckstut, was my content editor and she helped me tremendously. She clearly explained when/where the material did not flow, helped with length of chapters, pointed out all areas where chapters did not have a clear endpoint, the list goes on and on. However, Without Tim was always MY book. I never felt as though any of the editors were taking over the writing process.

DHS: What advice do you have for writers who want to tell their personal story, both in terms of writing and the publishing process?

LS: I think of myself as a “bottom up” rather than a “top down” person. I started with outlines containing many, many details of memories and little stories of things I wanted to include in my book. After months of doing nothing more than writing lists, outlines, and short paragraphs, I was finally ready to begin. For me, writing was not like you see on TV: someone sitting at a typewriter or computer moving along chapter 1, chapter 2, …  Also, I would not suggest using a ghost writer. I tried that for a short time, then ended the contract. I don’t feel anyone can tell your story other than you! Regarding the publishing process: I chose to hire professionals to help me because I have no expertise. Arielle helped me in finding quality help without spending a fortune. I published through Amazon Createspace. Because I was not confident with the book formatting process, I did hire a book formatter even though it’s possible to do it yourself. In the end, I will be happy if I can get “out of the red.” I did not write a book to make profit, but it would be nice if I can earn back my expenses! And then I will choose to donate to my son’s scholarship fund and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)!

DHS: What would you say to parents who are worried that their teenager may have suicidal ideations?

LS: I think parents should seek help, better to err on the side of caution. Even though most  troubled teenagers will not end up going through with suicide, they most likely need some help. And if you or your child doesn’t like or connect with the counselor, keep trying another one. Sometimes the match takes time. I know it is frustrating to have to “start again” with your whole story but it’s worth it if you find someone your teenager trusts. Try to help your teen understand that it’s ok to have fears, insecurities, … and that there is a way to get to a better place. Try to be calm and patient; something I wish I would have been better at.

DHS: Do you have any tips for parents on how to deal with grief after a loss like this?

LS: My book describes much of my journey. For me, the infrequent signs I received from Tim were probably the most motivating and positive aspect. However, they were infrequent and never seemed to come when I asked/begged for them! I was fortunate to be surrounded by so many great people, and kind of forced myself to try to rely on them. I also love fresh air and bike riding and returned to it very quickly. I think the path depends largely on the individual’s personality, and my personality is to “dive in” to whatever project I am faced with, good or bad. My grief counselor constantly reminded me to go with the good feelings whenever I could feel them, even though I often didn’t even want to. Then, when difficult times returned, it would eventually become easier to find my way out of them again.

Lisa Schenke was a longtime systems analyst turned personal fitness trainer, but with her son Tim’s suicide in 2008, she took on another line of work. She became passionate about getting the message out to struggling teens and young adults to celebrate and embrace life, and assisting others through the grieving process after a loss of a child or loved one. Lisa has been involved in the Hold On suicide prevention fundraising efforts for 2NDFLOOR Youth Helpline. She’s been featured everywhere from the Star-Ledger, to MSNBC.com, to the American Association of Suicidology newsletter. Readers can contact her at http://www.withouttim.com

The Book Doctors have helped dozens and dozens of amateur writers become professionally published authors. They edit books and develop manuscripts, help writers come up with a platform, and connect them with agents and publishers. Their book is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.   Arielle Eckstut has been an agent for 20 years, and founded the iconic brand Little Missmatched.  Her new book, written with her mom Joann, is The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty and Joy of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet. David Henry Sterry is the author of fifteen book, and his new book is Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition. He can be found at https://davidhenrysterry.com/

 

 

 

Beautiful Twins Pleasure Snowman @ Chippendales, But Not Me

Beautiful twins don’t give me oral pleasure. But they do give toothy love to a superhot superstar Chippendales dude. Video book excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Roller Skates & Chippendales

 

Master ceremonies coverBuy the Book

Press Release!

Cherry Bleeds Interview!

Great Review of Unzipped by The Independent

60 SECONDS: David Henry Sterry

Revealing the Chippendales

David’s UK Online Times Article

Refresh Lite Review of Unzipped!

Sunday Times With David Henry Sterry

Scotland on Sunday, Full Frontal by David Henry Sterry

1985, smackdab in the cash-happy coke-crazy 80s.  That’s when I was hired to be the MC at Chippendales, it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps: movie stars, fashion Titans, movers and shakers shaking their booties and grooving and cruising. And I was right in the center of it, in tuxedo top hats and rollerskates, where every night was ladies night, it was always raining men, and girls just wanted to have fun. When I was hired to be the MC at Chippendales, it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps: movie stars, fashion Titans, movers and shakers shaking their booties and grooving and cruising. And I was right in the center of it, in tuxedo top hats and rollerskates. This book is about a culture of excess and madness spinning out of control, where greed was good, Wall Street was swimming with $, and bankrupt farmers were committing suicide. Where President Reagan’s designer clad Stepford first wife was giving grateful drug addicts everywhere the key to sobriety: Just Say No, even as her husband, flush with the rush of reelection, was funding drug thugs. It’s about a man, Nick de Noia, who was the visionary genius behind Chippendales, a man who wanted to change the world, to fulfill the promise of Women’s Lib, to make a fun, safe sexy place where women could fondle, ogle and sexualized hot man flesh for the first time in history. And he wanted to get rich doing it. He was a tyrant who ruled with a combination of cruel abuse and buttery flattering charm. He was my boss, and this book is about what it’s like to work for a man who gets assassinated. It’s about performing in front of 600 flesh craving, money waving, booze fueled ladies, with the estrogen bouncing off the walls. It’s about working with beautiful half-nude dudes, and never getting laid. But, in the end, it’s about failing at fame and succeeding at love. To read excerpts from the book and an interview go to: https://davidhenrysterry.com/category/books/ To read piece in London Times Sunday Magazine go to: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article2347891.ece   UNZIPPED: A TRUE STORY OF SEX, DRUGS, ROLLERSKATES & MURDER (Canongate/Grove Atlantic) Manhattan, mid-80s: Madonna is wearing her bullet-bra, and Wall Street is cash-happy, while at Chippendales – the world’s most famous male strip club – it’s raining men, and girls just wanna have fun. David Henry Sterry was at the centre of the madness as the roller-skating emcee, fanning the flames of lady lust while Rome burned. Ultimately, though, all great parties must come to an end, and the gangland-style assassination of his boss, the man responsible for the phenomenal success of the beefcake boys, marked the beginning of the end for the party-all-the-time 80s in New York City. With unflinching, brutal honesty, Sterry records the seedy glamour, dirty little secrets and hilarious backstage madness of a world spinning out of control. Unzipped is the eye-popping story of the ugliest man at Chippendales, and his search for happiness in a sea of G-strings, desperate housewives behaving badly and 25 of the most beautiful men in the world.   In Manhattan of mid-80s: Madonna debuts her bullet-bra at Danceteria, a 50-foot Brooke Shields jeans ad adorns Times Square, Wall Street is cash-happy, while at Chippendales – the world renowned male strip club – it’s raining men, and girls just wanna have fun in the club that’s infamous for late-night well-fuelled parties that just don’t stop. Acclaimed memoirist David Henry Sterry, author of “Chicken”, was literally at the centre of the madness as the roller-skating emcee of the nightly beefcake parade. “Unzipped” is the action-packed, compelling true story of a fledgling actor whose first big break results in a two-year stint as the emcee at the world’s most famous and hedonistic strip club. Ultimately, though, all great parties must come to an end, and the gangland style assassination of his boss, the man responsible for the phenomenal success of the beefcake boys, marked the beginning of the end of the party-all-the-time 80s in New York City. Seedy glamour, dirty little secrets, hilarious backstage madness and unflinching, brutal honesty make David Sterry’s “Unzipped” an entertaining and moving memoir.


INTERVIEW! David Henry Sterry sat down for this interview just before the release of his new book, Unzipped: A True Story of Sex, Drugs, Rollerskates & Murder (Canongate, 2007) Q: What was it like to work at Chippendales male strip club in New York City in the craziness of the mid-80s, when it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps? A: It was absolutely mad, like being in the middle of a Fellini movie. The mid-80s were insane, big hair, tiny skirts, cash-happy and coke-crazy, back when girls just wanted to have fun and it was raining men. 600 flesh-craving money-waving women packed into this tiny club, going berserk, I swear I was high on estrogen every night. To me, watching the women was more fun than anything at Chippendales. They came from all over the world, in every shape and size, bimbo in limos and booming grannies, supermodels and super virgins, hen parties gone wild and desperate housewives behaving badly. Most of these women were so sweet, honestly, I fell in love every night. But some of these ladies, they were absolutely savage. Night after night I would watch them, drunk out of their minds, digging their nails deep into these men, often drawing blood. I remember so clearly on my first night at Chippendales as I came into the tiny stinky dressing room after the show, there was Prince Charming, (that was the name of the character he played in the show), standing in front of a full-length mirror, an enormous $1,000 mountain of wrinkled and sweaty cash in front of him, and as I scanned my eyes down his huge, nude, oiled up perfect body, I saw these teeth marks in his exquisite ass cheek. They were deep and red and angry. Some lady had really sunk in her choppers into him. Seriously, you could have identified her dead body from those teeth marks. I remember thinking, America, what a country! In some ways it was the best job I’ve ever had: four nights a week, two hours a night, making big bank, celebrities like Brooke Shields and Calvin Klein in the audience, it was so much fun. But it was also one of the most frustrating jobs I’ve ever had. You see, I was the master of ceremonies, the MC, the compere, I wore a tuxedo, top hat, and rollerskates. And being a great MC at Chippendales was kind of like being the greatest downhill skier in the SaharaDesert. You may be amazing, you may be the best, but nobody gives a shit. One of the threads of this book is what it was like to be the ugliest man at Chippendales, starving for sex in the middle of hundreds of women every night, and never getting laid. Q. Were you working at the club when the world-famous Chippendales murder occurred? A: Yes, in fact the man who was murdered was my boss, the visionary genius behind Chippendales, Nick de Noia. This book is also about what it’s like to work for a charming tyrant, kind of like The Devil Wears a G-String Nick moved with the muscular grace of Gene Kelly, he had salty, peppery, perfectly-coiffed hair, sparkly eyes, and a 20-gigawatt bright-white mile-wide smile beaming in the middle of it all. Nick de Noia wanted to change the world, liberate women so they could ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh. And, of course, he wanted to get rich doing it. He ruled with a combination of cruel brutish abuse, and charming buttery flattery. He designed a life in which he surrounded himself with ridiculously handsome dudes who liked to make $ taking their clothes off, and needed him to love them. And yet he presented aggressively hetero, had been married and divorced to and from supermodel movie star Jennifer O’Neil, star of the hit movie Summer of 42. Nick saw himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And Chippendales was his legacy to the world. After he was shot, the police came and interrogated everyone at the club. When they asked me if I knew anyone who might want to kill Nick de Noia, I said, “Do you want the short list, or the long list?” I mean, I myself had muttered several times under my breath that I’d like to kill Nick de Noia. But I’ve often thought, what does it take to go from casually contemplating killing someone, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall? Q: What exactly was your job at Chippendales? A: It was my job to skate around in the middle of the Pit, as we called it, and recite a 200 page script. As I said, I was the ugliest man at Chippendales, and I was the only one who talked in the show. Coincidence? I think not. I would introduce the men, and I was responsible for cueing all the light and sound change, as well as for the removal of every article of clothing by the Unknown Flasher, the Barbarian, the Construction Guy, the Hot New Guy and Prince Charming. It was my job to yell out “jokes” like, “You’re going to love our next guy, in his spare time he’s a professional bowler, and believe you me ladies, he’s got a pair of 16 pound balls.” And I was responsible for teaching the women most important thing in the Chippendales show. When I would yell, “Whatttayaaaa wann’ ’em to dooooo?” they would yell, “TAKE IT AWWWFF!” And then a stripper would take off an article of clothing. Let me tell you something, on a Saturday night, when the place was packed to the tits, the sound of all those women screaming was, pound for pound, the loudest, most female noise I’ve ever heard in my life. Q.: What were some of the craziest things you saw while working at Chippendales?  A: Oh my God, where to start?! There was the Dick Pull. The men used to do it before the show, in the dressing room, which was ridiculously small and had mirrors for walls, so everything was right in-your-face. When performing the Date Pull, the penis is taken in the hand and stretched repeatedly, like it’s modeling clay. When it’s all worked up, the penis is laid flat against the thigh, and the black, skintight Velcro pants are snapped over it, then quickly zippered shut, cutting off circulation to the member, thus creating the illusion of a perpetual hammerheaded trouser snake erection. Speaking of craziness, one time I walked into the dressing room bathroom at midnight, a couple of hours after the show was over, and busted in on a pair of twins performing fellatio on the Snowman, the second hottest guy at Chippendales, who had a shockingly sculpted body and an incredible 70s porn star mustache. Then there was the time the Barbarian, in a fit of steroid-fueled rage, hurled a huge metal trashbin across the dressing room, barely missing Pretty Peter’s pretty head. Speaking of steroids, in another bathroom, one time I caught one of the hot guys with his pants around his ankles, being injected with steroids by another of the hot guys, the small metal prick of the needle piercing Hot Guy #1’s exquisite bum. It was one of the most homoerotic things I’ve ever seen. And these were two guys who mercilessly teased other men about being gay, always doing these lisping caricatures of gay men. It was so much fun to catch them in the act. They were best friends, and often dressed alike, as if they were a couple. But of course they acted like tough, heterosexual he-men. I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing and said, “Why don’t you just do each other and get it over with?” Oh, they were so angry, they called me horrible names and chased me with murderous rage in their eyes. But luckily I was on my rollerskates and I got away unscathed. Then there was the time I saw a woman offer Large Mark, one of the huge Terminator-type guys, $500 to snort a line of cocaine off his genitalia. I told him he should have done it, $250 an inch is nothing to sneeze at. And personally, I would have paid good money just to watch her chop it up. Q.: Is it true that most of the Chippendales guys were gay? A: I’d say about 60% of the Men of Chippendales seemed like if there was money to be made, or they were horny enough, they’d fuck pretty much anything that moved. In fact, it didn’t even have to move, they’d fuck it. About 25% seemed completely gay. And maybe 15% seemed no-questions-asked breeders. But these figures are based on my own survey, which, frankly, did have some methodological problems. Q.: Your first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, has been translated into many languages, and is being made into a Hollywood film: what were the repercussions of revealing that you were a teenage gigolo servicing Hollywood women, and was it more difficult to write than Unzipped? A: I didn’t even really think about what the consequences of writing Chicken would be. I just knew I had to write it and get it out of my system. I know it sounds melodramatic to say this, but it really saved my life, helped transform me from an angry raging addict into a semi-normal human being. But of course there was much fallout. My people come from Newcastle, they are Geordies, and my father has never forgiven me for writing this book, he hasn’t spoken to me in many years. Lots of people who I thought were my friends said nasty ugly to me. Many people in the press attacked me personally, especially in the UK. I guess I was unprepared for the vitriol that would come my way from the media. At first I took it personally, but the more I thought about it the more I came to believe it’s got a lot more to do with the post-Victorian terror that the English seem to have about sex, that marvelous combination of titillation and repulsion that appears to be at the very core of British life. And I have taken to heart the words of one of my favorite writers, an Englishman, Oscar Wilde, who famously said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” I guess in the end I’m just happy that people paid attention at all. That being said, for every negative thing that’s happened to me as a result of revealing my sordid past, there have been a hundred wonderful, incredible, amazing things. I remember when I was doing my one-man show version of Chicken at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, after I finished a performance one night, a tiny little Scottish granny came up to me grinning like a schoolgirl coquette and asked me in a thick brogue, “Can I have a wee kiss?” I bent down and she gave me a sweet peck on the cheek. Then she giggled and said, “Now I can say I’ve kissed a gigolo.” I’ve gotten e-mails from people all over the world thanking me for writing Chicken, telling me how much they enjoyed the book, and that they don’t feel like such a freak anymore. And whenever I do my show, afterwards there are always a couple of teenage girls hanging about, shuffling their feet and averting their eyes. Shyly they approach me, and reveal their own terrible stories of sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, a friend, even a priest. It’s obvious that many of them have never told anyone their story, and oftentimes it comes flooding out of them like a geyser, the words pouring out in torrents, and when they’re done they look so happy and relieved, like the weight of the world has been lifted from them. I had no idea that there was this epidemic of sexual abuse going on in our society, it’s horrifying actually. I read about a study in which scientists had people write down the worst things that ever happened to them. They found that when people did this, their immune systems were boosted. When I first read it that seemed unbelievable to me, and yet I can attest that for myself this has been true. Since writing Chicken, I haven’t been sick a day in my life, my immune system is like the locks on Fort Knox. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead writing workshops sponsored by the United States Department of Justice in which I helped teenage girls write about how they’d been used as sex slaves by pimps, beaten with coat hangers and burned with cigarettes, raped by the police, absolutely shocking stuff. It was amazing to watch how they went from being reluctant to wildly enthusiastic about writing their stories. At the end of a conference, four or five of these girls got up and read their stories in front of a packed audience full of politicians, social workers and friends. It was one of the greatest moments in my life to watch the joy that came over their faces when they received standing ovations. These girls often see themselves as only having a value in regards to their bodies, their sex. For them to get so much love and affection for their talent, for their bravery, and for their writing was utterly transforming for all of us. Writing Chicken has also opened up a whole new world for me in that I have spoken and presented at colleges, high schools and universities all over the world, from the University of Amsterdam, to the University of New Orleans, to the Gold Coast of Australia. It was very difficult to write Chicken, for several reasons. One, I had to never written a book before. I’ve been a professional screenwriter, but I always wrote movies that had nothing to do with my own experiences. To reveal the worst, most horrendous, horrific things that ever happened to me, to say publicly that I was a prostitute, one of the worst things you can be in our society, was difficult, it was very painful to relive those events, but in the end it was tremendously cathartic. I used to have nightmares in which I would relive when I was raped, and I used to be obsessed with revenge fantasies where I would kill the man who attacked me in disgusting bloody ways. But as soon as I started portraying him on stage in the one-man show of the book, those revenge fantasies stopped, as did the nightmares. But I recall very distinctly as I was writing the book, many times tears would start flowing down my face, my guts would knot, and my chest tighten. Writing Unzipped was not like that. While there were certainly many frustrations during that time in my life, it was also so much fun to live through it. The glitz, glamour, the drugs. And of course I also met the woman who would become my first wife at Chippendales, she was the costume mistress, an extraordinarily beautiful, sexy, smart woman, who chose me over all those studs. To this day I can hardly believe it. In fact one of the most difficult things about writing Unzipped was trying to protect the anonymity of the men who I worked with. Everyone is so terrified of being sued these days, so I had to be very careful. Plus, I didn’t think it was fair to reveal things about them that they would not want revealed to the world. Many of them are married now and have children. They didn’t choose to write a book, I did. So it was a tremendous challenge to present all the facts, and to show the truth of what happened in that crazy, ridiculous world, while still respecting the privacy of these men. But I worked very very hard at doing that. And of course I did change the names and some of the physical characteristics of the men. But I had a wonderful time writing this book, I enjoyed it so much. I feel like I was very lucky to be right in the center of this moment in history, like I was Nero fiddling as Rome burned. Q.: What are your next project’s? A: Well, I have just written the twelve draft of the screenplay for Chicken, it’s being made into a movie by the producers who did the Peter Sellers movie with Geoffrey Rush. It’s pretty amazing to have gone from living it; to not talking about it for 20 years; to writing a book about it; to making a one-man show out of it and portraying all the characters: from the man who raped me, to my pimps, to the women who paid me to have sex with them; to now finally writing the screenplay and thinking about who’s going to play me in the movies. It looks like Jamie Bell, of Billy Elliot fame, is a prime candidate to play me as a 17-year-old rent boy. Naturally he’s a lot more handsome than I ever was. Also I have just finished putting together an anthology of writings by people who have worked in the sex industry, from college professors to homeless crack addicts, from goddess diva Annie Sprinkles to a 16-year-old girl who was sold into prostitution at the age of nine by her dad. I’m very proud of this book, I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like it, and it comes out of my desire to humanize prostitutes, to show the real people behind the image that society glamorizes and reviles, to take away the stigma from people who have sex for money. At the same time I’ve written two books for 12-year-old girls, under a false name naturally. One is about how to throw a great pajama party, and the other a personality quiz book to help girls figure out exactly who they are and who they want to be, to encourage individuality and self expression in girls. And I just found an amazing illustrator for a graphic novel I’ve written. I’m also finishing up the second book in a series of young adult novels, again written under a pen name. And I’m just embarking on the third book in the trilogy I’m making out of my life. It’s about my time in show business and as a sex addict. Besides being the master of ceremonies at Chippendales, I made my living as a standup comedian, acted in a thousand TV and radio commercials, in dozens and dozens of plays, TV shows and movies, including The Fresh Prints of Bel Air, with Will Smith, worked with everyone from Michael Caine to Zippy the Chimp. I also had a three picture deal with Disney, and made a living as a screenplay writer in Hollywood. All the while I was running rampant sexually, having affairs with glamorous actresses and lovely college girls, going on sex binges with prostitutes that would last for weeks at a time. I tried to figure it out one time, I estimate I probably had sex with 1000 women. The amazing thing is that it was a lot less fun than you’d think it would be. But perhaps the most important project in my life is the new baby that’s on the way. It’s my first, it’s due September fifth, and I’m over the moon. I just could not be more excited about being a father. I’ve wanted to be a dad for a long time, but I knew I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t put someone else’s interests in front of my own, I was too twisted up inside. But now, with the help of my lovely and talented wife, I finally feel able to do that. Although I do worry sometimes what I’m going to say to my child when he asks me, “Should I be a gigolo like you when I grow up?” I haven’t quite figured out the answer to that question.


david chippendales promox3000w Excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Grove Atlantic, Canongate), slightly tweaked.

Master of Ceremonies

1985. Smack dab in the middle of the cash-happy coke-crazy 80’s, a decade dedicated, if not to love, then certainly to sex and madness, when Girls Just Wanted to Have Fun and it was Raining Men, and we all sat around watching Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, and Dallas and Dynasty, hey, greed’s good man, haven’t you heard? Let’s go watch Rambo blow away some gooks at the movies while we drink New Coke, and Michael Jackson’s hair catches on fire. Reagan, flush with the rush of re-election funds drug thugs while his designer-clad Stepford Wife First Lady gives grateful addicts everywhere the key to sobriety: Just Say No! In the midst of this flood of money, in San Diego a guy walks into a McDonald’s and guns down twenty citizens sucking down Happy Meals; while in Iowa a bankrupt farmer kills his wife, his neighbor and his banker. His wife and his neighbor I can understand. But his banker? 1985. That’s when I get hired to be the Master of Ceremonies at the greatest male stripping empire the world has ever known: Chippendales. You know, the too huge, half-nude dudes, in the tux cuffs’n’collars and skin-thin black Spandex with the bulging crotches, mountain peak pecs, 6-pack man wrack abs, and cheekbones for miles. When I first started working with these guys, every night when I walked into the club, I could actually feel my testicles shrivel. Nick de Noia. He’s my boss, the visionary genius who transformed a dank dinky little male exotic revue into the Kingdom called Chippendales. He moves with the muscular grace of Gene Kelly, he’s got salty, peppery, perfectly-coiffed hair, eyes sparkling and shining, and a 20-gigawatt bright-white mile-wide smile beaming in the middle of it all. When I meet him, I really want him to like me. That’s the kind of guy he is. But I get the feeling he really hates me. That’s the kind of guy I am. Nick de Noia wants to change the world, liberate women so they can ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh, to display their lust, and be celebrated for it. And, of course, he wants to get rich doing it. He rules through cruel brutish abuse, mixed with charming buttery flattery. He’s designed a life in which he’s surrounded with ridiculously handsome dudes who like to make $ taking their clothes off, and need him to love them. He presents aggressively hetero, has been married and divorced to and from supermodel movie star Jennifer O’Neil. Nick has sees himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And this show is his legacy to the world. My uniform is a tuxedo, cumberbund, tophat and roller skates. I’m the only one in the show who talks. It’s my job to skate around in circles in the Pit in front of 600 flesh-craving, money-waving, booze-fueled woman, as rampant blasts of estrogen slam off the walls. I have to teach them the most important thing in the show. When I yell, “Whattayaaa-wann’emmmmm-to do?” they yell, “TAKE IT AWFF!!!” “Whattttayaaa-wann’emmmmm-to do?” “TAKE IT AWFF!!!” On my Opening Night the teeny tiny Dressing Room mirrored walls are cramjampacked with the man-skin of a dozen primping, preening, iron-pumping, oiled-up, slicked-down, tanning-bed-browned, blow-dried, hair-product-stiffened Men of Chippendales. It’s like being inside a thermo-nuclear Man device ready to blow. In the corner stands a lanky Man with sandy hair wearing nothing but tux-cuffs’n’collar, and black spandex pants, unzipped. He pulls on his unsheathed penis like it’s modeling clay and he’s making it longer, one stroke at a time, until it’s at full extension. Then he meticulously lays his most prized possession on the inside on his thigh and snaps the spandex over it fast, yanking his pants shut, then quickly slithering his zipper over black Velcro-covered hip. Into a mirror he admires his throbbing Johnson knob, nodding his cocky head, like: Wow! I do look hot. He’s just done the Dick Pull. The principle is simple: if you snap the spandex over your penis fast enough, you can cut off circulation to your member. In a correctly performed Dick Pull, the blood remains trapped in the penis, creating a permanently erect hammerheaded trousersnake. The Man catches me checking him out. So he cocks his fud and busts a gust of loud foul gas that explodes out of him like a sick goose honking on a foggy morn. Then he scrunches up his face and squawks in a cartoon voice: “Hey Ma, I fahted!” Everybody cracks up. Well, not everybody. Only those not lost in the Mirrors of Narcissus. I hee-haw and guffaw long after everyone else has stopped. I’m slightly embarrassed, but that vanishes when I realize no one is paying the slightest bit of attention to me. It’s a feeling I will become increasingly familiar with. I hang up my green Cossack jacket and my black drawstring pants in my locker. Now I’m naked but for one red sock and one blue sock. I turn around. Caught in the mirror with all those beautiful nubile nudes is a puffy white MarshmallowMan. I chuckle. Marshmallow Man chuckles. I’m embarrassed for the guy. If only he could see how grotesque his pallid fatness is next to the Love Gods of Chippendales. I stop smiling, and shake my head. He stops smiling, and shakes his head. Wait a minute- OHHHHHH NOOOOOOO! I AM THE MARSHMALLOW MAN! Mortified, I grab my tux and hightail my fat ass into the Costume Room, disappearing like a chubby cottontail into the bush. After I’m dressed and ready, I claw my way through the flesh-packed Dressing Room: duck a dumbbell, dodge a cock, and slither through all that oily hard tanned skin to my locker. As I pull on my roller skates, I’m interrupted by angry voices pounding out of the Upstairs Office, where all the $ lives. Can’t make out the words, but I can sure feel the rancorous anger. Mister Nick de Noia busts outta the Upstairs Office door like a salt and pepper tsunami, and slams it so hard the wall shakes. He jams down the shitty rickety spiral staircase, and we hold our collective breath like a cranky psychokiller’s got a loaded Uzi in the room. Nick bumrushes pissed-off down the stairs, shoots through the Dressing Room, and yanks open the door. Music floods in. With another slam he’s gone, and the music mutes. The Edwards Brothers, Nick’s NY $ partners, appear on the landing of the Upstairs Office, in their dark hair and suits. There’s a heaviness that hangs around the Edwards Brothers. The Old Gray Man, their silent partner, joins them on the landing, looking like a vulture that hasn’t eaten in a while. He’s 70 going on dead, with sickly thin translucent skin, a wicked comb-over covering his bald skull, and a big hook nose. A coke-laced Teen Queen in a little bitty miniskirt hangs from his withered arm in an I’m-hot-and-blowing-a-guy-old-enough-to-be-my-grandfather-for-coke kinda way. I heave a sigh and roll out to start my first show. On Opening Night, when I roll into the Pit, there are bevies of bachelorettes, and blowsy bluebloods, coeds gone wild and booming grannies, models and supermodels, virgins and supervirgins. Shapes and colors swirl in shooting pools and points of light around the club, like a Monet painting of panting women during a lightning storm. The sheer volume of the vulvic volcano eruption that rumbles out of them is staggering. To this day, it’s still the most carnage-charged powderkegged atmosphere I’ve ever been in. A random picture pops out of the crowd: A wrinkled, pearled, high-collared Grandma with blue hair sits with her granddaughter, who’s got a mohawk that’s a remarkably similar shade of blue. During the Construction Guy number, the mucho macho Construction Guy tenderly, lovingly, longingly lipsynchs the haunting Lionel Ritchie classic, “Hello?” to the red rose he holds. A Big Beautiful Sista wails like she’s just seen Jesus in a G-string. He parades her to the middle of the Pit, gets down on one knee and lipsynchs right into her eyes, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” while she screams and pants and Lawd Almighty’s. Naturally this ignites the moist center of the crowd, which flares and rages again. It’s great theater: a thick beauty getting to be all sexilicious in public, safely and sweetly, with no danger or shame. She really does seem to be releasing centuries of pent-up sexual repression and aggression. She really does seem to be having the time of her life. As do her friends. Looks like they’ll be telling this story for a very long time. And I think, Nick really did it: unleashed centuries of pent-u lust. During my one break in the show, as I trundle and harrumph across the carpet on skates that won’t roll, a large mule-toothed blonde-bleached babe blocks my path. She has her hooks into Large Mark. He’s uber-pumped and ultra-cut, head neck and chest all swolled up, with a washboard man-rack belly. He’s a huge Terminator-type bodybuilder, complete with mammoth sweptback jacked-up hair. On Large Mark’s vast tanned back lives a constellation of angry little zits, an Orion’s Belt in pimples. Gotta be ‘roids: this dude is juicing big-time. Perhaps this would explain his black manic menstrual-like mood, and the muted but palpable diamond-hard rage beaming out of him. I shudder at the thought of his poor wee testes shriveling like grapes being dried into raisins. Bleach Blonde blocks Large Mark’s way, places her hand provocatively on his arm, glares hard into his eyes, and spouts, loud and proud, so everyone within earshot can hear: “I’ll pay ya 500 bucks to snort a line of coke off your dick.” This is officially my Welcome to Chippendales moment. Large Mark pulls out of her grip, curls a lip, and with a massive blast of snarling testosterone growls: “Hey, get the fuck awffa me!” Large Mark gives Bleach Blonde the big-time brush, and bumrushes away, leaving her standing in a cloud of his foul fumes. Immediately I have two thoughts: 1) Large Mark shoulda let her do it – $250 an inch is nothing to sneeze at; and 2) I’d pay good money just to watch her chop it up. After the show, in the tiny mirror-walled Dressing Room, the Perfect Man stands totally nude in front of his huge Money Mountain, and it’s not just 1s and 5, there’s 50s and hundreds in there, on a good night the Perfect Man can make $1000 cash money, for thirty minutes work. My eyes wander down to his perfect ass, and I notice a sexy scar is crawling across one perfect cheek, and I’m thinking that is one sexy scar, damn! But on the other perfect cheek there are teeth marks: uppers and lowers, deep red and angry. Man, some chick really locks her jaws into his perfect ass. You could identify her dead body with those teeth marks. The scar. The bite mark. The mound of $. The risk and reward of LUST. America, wot a country! On April 7, 1987 a man disguised as a messenger walks into my boss Nick de Noia’s office on 364 W. 40th Street and shoots him in the head, killing him dead. The cops interrogated all of us. When they asked me if I knew anybody who might wanted to have killed him, I said, “Do you want the short list or the long list?” I mean hell, I myself muttered that I’d like to kill Nick. But what does it take for someone to go from casually contemplating the murder of another human, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall? I used to wonder what made Nick de Noia so cruel and abusive. Until one time I dog-sat for Nick while he was in Japan, or Alaska, or Guam, expanding his male stripper kingdom. As far as I’m concerned, one of the great pleasures of apartment-sitting is getting to rummage through all the skeletons lurking and skulking in the dark corners of people’s closets. So me and Johnny, the Costume Mistress, and now my best friend, we’re are on a scavenger hunt to discover the dirt behind the man that is Nick de Noia. Sure enough, at the back of a closet, buried under a pile of innocuous tax returns, is a stack of magazines and videos. Get a load of the titles: Big Black Boys Uncut, Dark Meat & Dark Chocolate, Mandongo, Top Cock, and Big Black Boner III (I and II, sadly missing). I find myself wondering: Could you follow the story of Big Black Boner III if we haven’t seen the first two? I recently went back to 61st and 1st, on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan, where the club used to be, to get a look at the old place. Turns out Chippendales has been replaced by a Bed, Bath & Beyond. 


Excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Grove Atlantic, Canongate), slightly tweaked.

The Case of the Missing G-String

Slick Rick is wet from his champagne shower, naked but for one small shiny green g-string, dripping and radiating, his sleek muscle-pumped body engorged and pulsing, standing on a platform above the Pit, looking down at 600 flesh-craving money waving Ladies. Ho hum. Another night at Chippendales, at the greatest male stripping empire the world has ever known. It’s 1985, and I am the Master of Ceremonies at the hottest show in NY, NY. Frankly, I’m fading. My happy I-love-everyone coke high I had an hour ago has long gone bye-bye, replaced by a chemical lockjaw poisoned discomfort sinking ill-defined lowness that has my face frowning for no apparent reason. I just have to get through Slick Rick’s Kiss & Tip, get the Perfect Man on and off, whip through the Grand Finale, and then I’m done for the night. Because I’m a bit preoccupied waiting for Slick Rick to begin his Kiss & Tip, I don’t see exactly what happens next. But here are the facts as I’ve been able to reconstruct them. When Slick Rick pulls on his g-string and threatens to take it all off, silently asking the Ladies with his face and body if they’d like to see his penis, like he does every night, the thin elastic that attaches the triangle of bright green fabric breaks, and the fabric droops forward. Have you ever heard 600 women gasp as one? I hope you have the pleasure of that experience, because all that Lady lungpower drawing all that startled breath in at the same time is breathtaking. Why the gasp? Because Slick Rick’s dick pops out. By the time I see it, the penis is already exposed, swinging, big and fleshy, about half-hard. I believe there is an illusion of erection, created by the Tie-Off, which, as I understand it, was first pioneered in male stripperdom in the wilds of Canada, where men are allowed Full Monty nudity. But it has certainly been used in various contexts for centuries. It’s a simple but dangerous technique. A thin leather or elastic strip is strapped around the base of the testicle/penal unit, when the unit is engorged with blood. When you tie-off, the blood is trapped in the unit. This creates the impression of erection, even when there is no sexual excitation. The danger comes when you tie-off too tight for too long. The penis begins to turn a frighteningly deep purple. Perhaps this is the origin of the expression blue balls. There’s a male stripper urban legend that one dim Canadian stripper woke up the morning after an alcoholic blackout to find his blackened cock popped off and laying like an andouille sausage on the floor. I happen to know that Slick Rick was familiar with, and used, the Canadian Tie-off. I cannot say for sure that he Tied-Off that night, but from the look of his engorgement swinging around in front of all those shocked Ladies, I’d almost bet my left nut on it. Slick Rick’s penis seems overjoyed to be released from its incarceration in that tiny g-string prison, looks like it’s ready to be adored and loved by the fawning female fans. Holy shit, Nick’s gonna pitch a fit! That’s my first thought. Nick de Noia is our boss, the visionary genius who transformed a dank dinky shitty little male exotic revue into the Kingdom called Chippendales. Nick de Noia wants to change the world, liberate women so they can ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh, to display their lust, and be celebrated for it. And, of course, he wants to get rich doing it. Nick sees himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And this show is his legacy to the world. He rules through cruel brutish abuse, mixed with charming buttery flattery, and loves nothing more than to publicly humiliate ridiculously handsome men. I imagine he’s going to rip Slick Rick several new assholes. Hope I get to watch. It’s been drummed into us that any public display of one silly millimeter of penis could result in Chippendales losing its cabaret license. Which would mean closing the show, killing the cash cow, slaying the golden-egg laying goose, and the unemployment of us all. Bug-eyed jaw-dropped silence is followed by a piercing eruption of gleeful female screams. I still believe that pound-for-pound this is the loudest sound I’ve ever heard. Slick Rick looks down at his unsheathed penis. Then back up in shocked surprise. But the whole thing feels planned, canned and reeks of pre-meditation. I have no evidence of this, it’s just the feeling I get: like Slick Rick rehearsed the moment. And he’s always so obsessively meticulous in his preparation. Plus he doesn’t cover up right away. He milks the hell out of his cock-flop: Wow, I can’t believe my penis popped out! Finally, after what seems like about a month of Slick Rick’s naked flailing phallus flapping in the breeze, he hops off the platform, and disappears for a coupla seconds, then re-emerges wearing a new bright green g-string, and dives into his very lucrative Kiss & Tip. Wait a minute. If Slick Rick didn’t plan this whole fiasco beforehand, why was there a stashed g-string all ready for him to slither into? “It’s Hide the Salami night here at Chippendales!” I scream my ad lib into the absurdly expensive mic, and that gets a nice rise outta those who are paying attention. And the show goes on. Slick Rick makes a bloody fortune during his Kiss & Tip. Hundreds of green shoots sprout up and wave in the wind. Slick Rick harvests the cash crop with kisses. A beautiful bride-to-be shoves bills into his G-string like it’s a bank and she’s making direct deposits. Then he buzzes like a sweet bee straight to Big Alice’s honey. She’s the regular’s regular, big and thick and in the Pit more nights than not. She buries her face in his new G-string, nose-deep in dick. With a huge Comedia d’elle Arte-sized surprise-face Slick Rick plays the whole room as the roar deafens. Classic de Noia: the bawdy, lip-to-lip with the silly, it ends up being naughty instead of graphic, teasing instead of sleazy. Nick in a nutshell. Slick Rick rubs up against Big Alice like a housebroken 3-balled cat, and the place goes ballistic. It’s like I’m in the cockpit of a rocket fueled by pure Lady love. When Big Alice shake’n’bake shimmies, a dollar peeking out of her cleavage takes on a life of its own. She plants Slick Rick’s face like a flag in the continent of her décolletage. When he moves his head away from Big Alice’s heavy cleavage he has the Magic Dollar clamped in his teeth. It’s actually attached to another dollar with tape you can’t see. And that dollar’s attached to another dollar. Which is attached to another dollar. As he pulls on the line of dollar bills they snake magically out of Big Alice’s cleavage. It’s the old endless-handkerchief gag, only with money and breasts, instead of kerchief and pocket. Looks like a moving Escher painting. The Ladies give Slick Rick much love as he takes Big Alice back to her seat on the Pit bench, kisses her hand like an old-fashioned chivalrous gentleman in a G-string. This is the philosophy of Nick de Noia. Don’t bring the thin beautiful babe out into the Pit. Bring on the large Lady live wire, the Big Alice. Celebrate the sexiness of the fat and the homely and the old and the lonely. As Slick Rick bows and trots off, his two beautiful ass cheeks disappears into the Dressing Room. He makes over $1,000 in cash that night for twenty minutes work. By the time I finish slogging through the rest of the show I’m irritated, annoyed, exhausted, disillusioned, dehydrated, and I’ve fallen out of love with life. But I’m very curious about the fallout from Slick Rick’s missing G-string incident. When I enter the Dressing Room Sloppy Sam, the stage manager, and the man ultimately responsible for the bolts and nuts of the show, is already grilling Slick Rick. Much to the amusement of the uber-huge Large Mark and longleanlanky Larry Glitter, who seem hungry for the blood of Slick Rick, the man they love to hate. Slick Rick defends himself vehemently. A bit too vehemently: methinks the Lady doth protest too much. “No, I swear to God, the thing just came apart. I guess it was loose. I don’t know, man, but I just did what I do every night, and all of a sudden, the thing just came apart.” Sloppy Sam shakes his disgusted head: “Look, all it takes is one chick to complain. Or one cop to be here under cover, or whatever, and they yank the fucking cabaret license, and they shut us down, and-” “I know, man, but it’s not my fault, the thing just came apart, it just came apart-” The way Slick Rick keeps repeating the phrase ‘the thing just came apart’ seems highly suspicious to me. But again that is strictly subjective speculation. “I don’t give a fuck.” Sloppy Sam is seriously hot under the tux collar. “It was your dick that popped the fuck out, and if it happens again, you’re gonna get suspended for sure, and fired, if I have anything to say about it. You understand?” “That’s not fair, man. It wasn’t my fault,” Slick Rick’s all palms-up-shrugging, bunny-eyed innocence. “I don’t give a fuck. Don’t let it happen again. You understand?” Sloppy Sam demands. “The thing just came apart, man-” Slick insists. “Do. You. Understand?” Sloppy Sam looks like he’s ready to rearrange Slick Rick’s pretty face. “Yeah, sorry, sure-” Slick Rick starts to say something else, then thinks better of it. The effort brings a twitch to his lip, then his eye, as he cracks several knuckles. Sloppy Sam storms off into the Costume Room to confront Johnny, the Costume Mistress. She’s a 20ish wildchild Latina Marilyn Monroe, and my best friend at Chippendales. I exchange a glance with Arnolpho d’Alencar Araripe Pimenta de Mello, a Brazilian back-up dancer, and my second best friend at Chippendales. Arnolpho does a little Brazilian headshake eyeroll, silently indicating that he’s not buying a word of Slick Rick’s story. Large Mark, all pumped up like a ‘roiding blowfish, strides right into Slick Rick’s face, invading his personal space. Slick Rick tries to hold his ground, but a twitch in his right eye betrays him. “If I find out you did dis shit on poipose, I’m gonna kick yer ass awll de way up Foist Avenue, you unnuhstand?” “Hey man, I didn’t-” Slick Rick gets shut down quick. “Shut de fuck up!” Large Mark growls. Slick Rick shuts the fuck up. “If dis shit evvuvh happens again, dat’s it!” Large Mark makes a massive fist and swings it at Slick Rick’s jaw. Slick flinches back into the locker behind him with a bang. Large stops the fist an inch before it smashes into Slick Rick’s face. “Hey, what the hell!” Slick Rick protests. But Large Mark is already gone. Larry Glitter follows smugly shooting a sneer at Slick Rick as he trails like the tail of a comet. Danger momentarily averted, the Men go back to the task at hand: sorting and counting their mountains of $, while I retreat to the Costume Room, to see if Johnny needs the Cavalry. “No fucking way, man!” Johnny’s utterly adamant, shaking her krazy kurls. “I checked that g-string tonight, I swear to God. And before he went on, I saw Slick Rick fucking with the seam. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now it totally makes sense.” She doesn’t look like she’s fibbing. But maybe Johnny’s just an excellent fibber. Still, she doesn’t have that shakiness that guilty people so often display. That Slick Rick just displayed. She has more of the I’m-being-framed-and-I’m-not-going-down-without-a fight vibe about her. Sloppy Sam purses his lips, shakes his deeply troubled head, then says: “Where’s the g-string?” “He says it’s gone,” Johnny nods her head slow, like she’s not buying a word of it, that in fact Slick Rick losing the g-string is more proof of her innocence and his guilt. “What do you mean it’s gone?” Sloppy Sam’s making sure he has all the facts straight for the Nick De Noia Inquisition he knows is on its way. “As soon as I heard what happened, I tried to get my hands on that g-string, to see if he really did fuck with it, like I saw him fucking with it. And all of a sudden, it’s gone. He can’t find it. Yeah, right,” Johnny’s face can barely contain her disgust. Sloppy Sam mulls, gives a little tsk, then exclaims: “Aw fuck!” Johnny shakes her disgusted curls, picks up some funky fur leggings and angrily dumps them in the fur legging box, then stops and proclaims:: “Unfuckin’believable… un… fuckin’… believable…” Suddenly Arnolpho flits dramatically into the room: “Ohhhhhh, you should hhhave seen Miss Thing!” He launches into a spot-on Slick Rick impression: “It wasn’t my fault! I don’t know what happened, really I don’t. The thing just came apart, and next thing I know, my cock just popped right out!” Arnolpho becomes Slick Rick standing there with his dick accidentally-on-purpose out, making a big-eyed face while miming an exposed penis so well you can almost see it. O, how we laugh, Johnny and I, really let loose. “Ohhhhhhh bay-bee,” Arnolpho touches Johnny on her chest while placing his other hand over his own heart. “You shoulda seen hhher, what a performance! Miss Slick better hope she never has to testify on hhher own behalf cuz hhhoney, it’s gonna be, ‘Guilty! Guilty! Guilty’!” “Oh my God!!” Johnny gasps through her laughs. Luckily for him, Slick Rick was never put on trial for exposing himself, and as far as I know, he completely got away with it. Nick de Noia, on the other hand, was not so lucky. On April 7, 1987 a man disguised as a messenger walks into my boss Nick de Noia’s office on 364 W. 40th Street and shoots him in the head, killing him dead. The cops interrogated all of us. When they asked me if I knew anybody who might wanted to have killed him, I said, “Do you want the short list or the long list?” I mean hell, I myself muttered that I’d like to kill Nick. But what does it take for someone to go from casually contemplating the murder of another human, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall? Turns out: money. Seems Nick’s money partner, Steven Banarghee, was so convinced that Nick fucked him over, that he had Nick assassinated. Banerghee went to prison, where he hung himself. The Case of the Missing G-string, on the other hand, remains unsolved.   

Book Clubs: Read Chicken & Have Me as Your Special Guest

Book Clubbers: I found out recently that three different book clubs are reading Chicken. One is right here in my home town of Montclair, NJ. I’m going to speak with them after they finish the book, something I love doing. So I thought I’d offer this to all Book Clubs who are bold and brave enough to choose Chicken to read.  I will come to your group if it’s in the NJ/NYC area. Or I will Skype with you if you are anywhere else on Earth. And I will give away FREE personally signed book plates for everyone who wants one.  Thanks, Daviddavid encyclo haPPY

chicken 10 year anniversary coverChicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Ten Year Anniversary Edition

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound Amazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Moret Morte: “Sophocles with Hints of A.A.Milne, Lewis Carrol, and the brothers Grimm”

To buy Mort Morte click here.

mort morte coverx3000w“Mordechai Murgatroyd Morte takes very good care of his mother with any weapon at hand through the thickets of her murky life. Explosive prose threaded through with a loan from Sophocles and hints of A.A.Milne, Lewis Carrol, and the brothers Grimm, is smoothed with many, many cups of tea. Black comedy, indeed!” …Jean D. Harlan

For more info click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legendary Dr. Carol Queen’s Shocking True Story of Weird Bible Sex @ Lusty Lady

Dr. Carol Queen tells about working at the infamous Lusty Lady and encountering a Bible spouting sexual enthusiast who asks her to do the WEIRDEST THING.johns marks cover cropped

From Johns Marks Tricks & Chickenhawks. To buy the book, click here.

Johns, Marks, Tricks & Chickenhawks: Professionals & Their Clients Writing about Each Other is the follow-up to Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys, the groundbreaking anthology that appeared on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. “Eye-opening, astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny… unpretentious and riveting — graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper.” It is a unique sociological document , a collection of mini-memoirs, rants, confessions, dreams, and nightmares by people who buy sex, and people who sell. And because it was compiled by two former sex industry workers, the collection is, like its predecessor, unprecedented in its inclusiveness. $10 crack hos and $5,000 call girls, online escorts and webcam girls, peep show harlots and soccer mom hookers, bent rent boys and wannabe thugs. Then there’s the clients. Captains of industry and little old Hasidic men, lunatics masquerading as cops and bratty frat boys, bereaved widows and widowers. This book will shine a light on both sides of these illegal, illicit, forbidden, and often shockingly intimate relationships, which have been demonized, mythologized, trivialized and grotesquely misunderstood by countless Pretty Woman-style books, movies and media. This is hysterical, intense, unexpected, and an ultimately inspiring collection.

Publishers Weekly: This collection of personal essays by sex workers and their clients vacillates    wildly from hilarious to depressing but never strays from being utterly captivating. Among the more amusing stories are a client with a “sweater fetish”, a woman who paid for her family’s Christmas presents by stepping on a man’s testicles in a pornographic film, and the dominatrix who got fired because she could not remove a client’s tooth. The phone sex operator asked to do cartoon animal voices for a caller is also not to be missed. Candid essays cover everything from the anonymous “captain of industry” with an appreciation for transsexual prostitutes, to the human misery of a pimp who turned out his own girlfriend. Some pieces are more meditative: Fiona Helmsey recalls meeting a kind client at a bachelor party who later died on 9/11, while Dr. Annie Sprinkle discusses her 40 years in the sex industry and her wish for “a more compassionate sex-positive society” in which “prostitutes and johns would be government-subsidized”. Though obviously not for the faint of heart, this book contains some courageous, raw, and intelligent writing that breaks taboos and smashes misconceptions. (Apr.)

To see on Publishers Weekly, click here.

Book trailer: Who Really Buys & Sells Sex

Great conversation w/ Jon Pressick on Sex Radio: Selling it, buying it, sex books $ love on Sex Talk Radio 4 Johns Marks Tricks & Chickenhawks

Interview with David Henry Sterry for Johns Marks Ticks & Chickenhawks in San Francisco Weekly by Chris Hall

Sexpert genius Veronica Monet on Rumpus.

Master graphic novelist & sexual revolutionary Chester Brown on Rumpus.

David Henry Sterry on Rumpus: Admit You’ve Paid for It.

Sam Benjamin on Creating Utopian Porn on  Rumpus.

Chicken Gets Big Love from Publisher’s Weekly

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

chicken 10 year anniversary coverFind Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound Amazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Huffington Post: The Book Doctors Interview Roxanna Elden on Getting a 2nd Shot at Publishing Success

SeeMeAfterClass_2ndEditionCover-1To read on Huffington Post click here.

When we first met Roxanna Elden during our workshop at the Miami Writers Institute, she said she had an idea for a teacher book. This made us skeptical at first — we’ve run publishing workshops for years, and in that time we’ve met hundreds of teachers who wanted to write books. Quickly, though, we realized Roxanna’s idea was different: a book that debunks Hollywood-movie teaching myths (see Hilary Swank, Edward James Olmos and Michelle Pfeiffer), and shares honest, funny stories and practical advice from teachers around the country. She described it as “Hard Liquor for the Teacher’s Soul.” Arielle and I were impressed, but we know writing doesn’t work like Hollywood either. Many talented writers give up before their work gets into the right hands. That’s why, along with quality writing, thorough research, and smart networking, our workshop emphasizes a fourth component: Persistence. Roxanna took this message to heart.
See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers was first published in 2009. Unfortunately, just as the book was beginning to gain national attention, the original publisher stopped printing its entire line of career books. Situations like these, as we mention in our book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, can test even the most persistent of authors. But take heart, orphaned authors. The book caught the attention of Sourcebooks — one of our favorite publishers. A second edition of the book is out this month with an even better cover, a top-notch publisher, and an author with several years of experience promoting a published book. We are now checking in eight years since we first met Roxanna when she was a writer dreaming of being an author at our workshop. We asked her about teaching writing, writing about teaching, and getting a second shot at publishing success.

The Book Doctors: Congratulations on the second edition, but let’s start at the beginning. When did you start writing your book and why?

Roxanna Elden: My younger sister began teaching three years after I did, and during her first year, I started writing the book I needed during my first year — a funny, honest, practical collection of stories and tips from veteran teachers. There are so many books that share heartwarming teaching stories, but on a day when a second grader curses at you, you don’t want to read a heartwarming success story. You want to read a story about a kindergartener punching a teacher in the eye. You need to know that teachers can bounce back from their worst days and still go on to become successful. Then you need to know the next manageable step you can take to be a better teacher in the morning.

TBD: What has changed for teachers since the first edition of your book came out?

RE: New teachers today spend a ton of time comparing their unedited footage to other people’s highlight reels. They are also caught in the middle of political debates about education that have become much more public, polarized and angry. New teachers are usually not interested in getting caught up in politics, though. They just want to focus on getting kids to stop throwing wet toilet paper at the bathroom ceiling.

TBD: What has changed in your life since you first became a published author?

RE: I’m now a relatively experienced teacher, but I have recently become a rookie parent. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a beginner at something where the stakes are so high, and it kind of brings me back to that feeling of being a beginning teacher.

TBD: How does being a new parent compare to being a new teacher?

RE: Both teachers and parents need humor, honesty, and practical advice. The most important difference, however, is that there is that there are very few parents who quit within five year. Nearly half of all teachers do quit within five years. At low-income schools, half of all teachers leave within three years. Students at low-income schools are much more likely to have a rookie teacher at the front of the classroom. Any lessons new teachers learn the hard way, they learn full of a class full of kids. <em>See Me After Class</em> lets them know they are not alone.

TBD: You have attended the Miami Writers Institute for many years. How did that community help you with the writing and selling of your book?

RE: People travel from all over the country to attend the Writers Institute at Miami Dade College. I’m lucky enough to live ten minutes away. The Writer’s Institute has been like an express train, moving me to each new publishing milestone faster than I could have gotten there on my own. They offer workshops and opportunities that help with every part of the process. My first time attending was the year the Book Doctors were presenting. Your book and workshop gave me a map to follow that kept me from taking unnecessary detours. In later years, I attended workshops on structure and revision that helped make the book everything it could be. Four years into the process I met my agent, Rita Rosenkranz, at a workshop she was presenting on non-fiction book proposals at the conference.

TBD: For many authors, finding an agent is one of the most difficult parts of the publishing process. What was the process like for you?

RE: It was the longest part of the publishing process for me, and the most difficult, ego-wise. I spent many weekends eating pizza in my pajamas and reading “The Rejection Section” of your book. Then, each time, I would decide I’d put in too much work to quit, and start researching other agents. Most of my early queries led to one-line emails and rejection form letters. Then I started getting personal rejections with feedback. Later there were agents who showed interest at first and then said no after months of preparation on my part. This was frustrating, but their demands forced me to strengthen my platform — I launched a website, began performing standup comedy, and began finding public speaking opportunities. I also became a National Board Certified Teacher, which enhanced my credibility within the teaching profession. When I attended Rita Rosenkranz’s workshop about four years into the process, I immediately had the feeling that all of my experiences with other agents — even the frustrating ones — had prepared me so I would be ready when I met her. I handed her a business card and followed up by email the same day. Within a week we had a contract, and less than a month later she got a great contract with our first publisher. Later, when the book went out of print, she acted immediately to get the rights back and find a new home for the book at Sourcebooks, who has done an amazing job with the second edition. Without Rita’s help I would never have had the courage to switch publishers, and even if I did I can’t imagine I would have ended up with such a good one.

TBD: What is different in your promotional plan this time around?

RE: For this edition, I am starting with a much larger network of people who have read the book and are now happy to help promote it. The past four years have also provided a tremendous opportunity to connect with other writers and organizations that work with teachers, which has also helped in promotional efforts. Best of all, in the process of speaking to spread the word about the first edition, I’ve realized I love speaking to teachers and others interested in education. The past few years have brought many new offers for paid speaking opportunities, which has led to an unexpected side-career speaking on a variety of education-related topics.

TBD: We usually hate to ask writers to give writing advice, but you teach writing at a high school — what advice do you give students based on your own experience as an author?

RE: I usually don’t tell students that I’ve written a book until late in the year. Then I do a short unit on the publishing process and also try to relate it to other careers in which people advise you to “keep your day job:” music, acting, art, dancing, etc. I have a Xeroxed packet of my past rejection letters that I pass out early in the talk. Then I tell students the happier parts of the story. In the process, I try to reinforce the same four points your workshop emphasized four years ago, adapted for a high school audience: Put in the time to do it right, make an effort to meet people who can help you, and do your homework to see where you fit into your market. Most of all, be persistent: even if you hit roadblocks along the way, the story is not over until you say it is. But also keep your day job.

Roxanna Elden is a National Board Certified high school teacher. Her book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, is a funny, honest, practical guide with tips and stories from teachers around the country. Elden also speaks on a variety of education-related topics. For more information visit www.seemeafterclass.net.

The Book Doctors have helped dozens and dozens of amateur writers become professionally published authors. They edit books and develop manuscripts, help writers develop a platform, and connect them with agents and publishers. Their book is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who reads this article and buys the print version of this book gets a FREE 20 MINUTE CONSULTATION with proof of purchase (email: david@thebookdoctors.com). Arielle Eckstut is an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of New York City’s most respected and successful agencies. Arielle is not only the author of seven books, but she also co-founded the iconic company, LittleMissMatched, and grew it from a tiny operation into a leading national brand that now has stores from Disneyland to Disney World to 5th Avenue in NYC. Her new book is The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet.  David Henry Sterry is the author of 15 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, and activist. His new book is a 10 year anniversary of his memoir, Chicken, an international bestseller, which has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. The follow-up, Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks, just came out. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Penthouse, Michael Caine, the London Times, Playboy and Zippy the Chimp. His new illustrated novel is a coming-of-age, Mort Morte, black comedy that’s kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls.  www.davidhenrysterry.com

Me & Sally: A True-Life Interspecies Love Story

sally monkeyThis is how I fell in love with Sally.  But this is not a love story.  It’s a tragedy.  Even though we were instantly drawn to each other with a fiery flame, and grew to love each other deeply, we could never be together.  We were too different.  Our people would never let us.  It would have been too scandalous, too shocking, too forbidden.  The world was not ready for a love like Sally had for me.  And I for Sally.

Sally and I are hired to act in a Michelob beer commercial.  The theme of the spot is evolution.  I am hired to star in the commercial as a Neanderthal Man.  Type-casting.  Four hours I sit while a crew of highly-skilled make-up artists glued thin layers of skin-colored latex over every inch of my face, transforming me from end of second millennium American Homo Sapien into Caveman.  They sculpt a gigantic forehead with a scary hairy monobrow, wee sunken eyes, a flaring nose cauliflowering across my cheeks, thick rubber caveman lips, and huge wooly mammoth-eating fake teeth.  My hair is almost fur, extending from the thicket on my head to my jaw lines, and down both cheeks.

When I look in the mirror I don’t recognize myself.  I look for a long time but I can’t find myself in there anywhere.   Until I look all the way inside my simian face and see my eyes.  There I am.  I have a deep desire to grunt and snarl and hump someone from behind.

Finally, I’m ready for my introduction to Sally.  Her trainer comes up to me, very serious, doesn’t even notice that I’m a 2,000 year old Neanderthal Man.

“Don’t make eye contact at first.  Let her come to you.  Get down on her level and don’t make any quick movements.  Be very calm and very still.  She can sense fear.  Plus, she can jump six feet straight up in the air, and she’s ten times stronger than you.  For example, Sally’s jaw is so strong she could snap your arm in two like a dry twig.  But it’s really important she doesn’t feel any fear coming off you.”

Suddenly all I can see is my bloody Neanderthal hand dangling out of Sally’s mouth and I’m panicking while trying desperately not to panic.

Sally comes out of her trailer, hand-in-hand with another trainer.  I squat down to her level.  Avert my eyes.  I can feel Sally’s stare as she inches slowly towards me wary and dangerous.  Sounds like a bass drum has been transplanted into my chest cavity.  I’m so scared I have no spit.  There’s a small crowd gathering, all quiet tension, waiting to see what Sally will do to David the Neanderthal.  Finally she’s right in my face.  Since I’m not making eye contact for fear of having my Adam’s apple ripped out, I smell her before I see her.  She smells clean, wild, untamed, and of the earth.  I feel myself calm with smell of her.

Sally sniffs me suspiciously, moving her mouth to my jaw.  The tension is unbearable.  Her hot breath breathes on my lips.  She’s brings her lips to my cheek.  She’s going to rip it open, tear the flesh off the bone, I just know it.  I’m trying harder than I’ve ever tried anything not to visualize her biting my nose off with her superstrong jaw that can snap my arm in two like a dry twig.

Slowly, ever slowly, I turn bring my eyes to hers like a simian Southern belle, bringing my eyes up to meet hers.  Sally’s stare almost knocks me over.  Wise, curious, clever, keen, deep, sharp, smart, mysterious animal passion beams from Sally into me, jolting my soul and rattling my bones.  Her face is a picture of puzzlement, brows knitted, head tilted to one side.  As she stares into my half-man, half-monkey face, I find I can read her thoughts.  She’s speaking to me with her eyes:

“What are you?…  You’re not one of them…  But you’re not one of me…  Seriously, what are you?”

I smile.  I can’t help it.

Sally puckers, then covers my face and lips with tiny sweet little kisses.

I’m overcome, undone, head-over-heels in love with Sally.  She puts her arms around my neck and hops into my arms.  The crowd oohs and ahs, witness to the start of a beautiful tragic love story.

The whole rest of the shoot, Sally and I are like sweet and potato.  Whenever she sees me, she runs up to me excited as a longlostlover, jumps up in my arms, and covers me with kisses.  I carry her around like she’s my sweet lovemonkey and I’m her ape loverman, holding hands and going bananas, swooning and spooning.  I’ve never known a female who was so openly, unabashedly, good-naturedly affectionate, who lit up so in my presence.

Work laws for actors like Sally are very strict, due to years of Hollywood abuse.  So Sally works very strict 12-hour shifts.  This may seem trivial now, but it will prove crucial as our story unfolds.

In the commercial I, Neanderthal, will be sitting next to Sally, while an actress, playing a Homo Sapien waitress, flirts with me.  We block the scene without Sally.  The actress walks up to me all stiff and skittishy, just lobbing her line in my general vicinity, like a lazy newsboy tossing an errant morning paper:

“Hey good looking, come here often?”

It’s bad.  Bad, bad, bad.  The director stops everything, walks over to her and says, “I need you to hot it up, honey, make with the goo-goo eyes, like you did in the callback, babe.”  She promises she will, shoots him a sex-baby look, which evaporates the second the director turns and walks away.  I notice her gill are a bit aqua green as she thinks about how Sally’s powerful jaw can snap her arm like a dry twig.

The lights are tweaked for the ten thousandth time.  The camera focused.  Hair, make-up and wardrobe are fluffed, patted, and tucked.  Finally everything is ready, hundreds of highly-paid technicians and advertising geeks all set to make commercial magic.

Sally’s brought in, hops up on her stool next to me at the bar, reaches over and kisses me on the cheek as I whisper sweet little Neanderthal nothings into her hairy ears.

“Scene 4, take 1.  Roll camera!”

“Camera rolling.  Speed.”

“Sound?”

“Speed!”

“And… Action!”

The actress walks towards us like a nervous cat at a dog show.  Even I can feel her fear, and I’m certainly no monkey.  She started to make the most tentative of flirty eyes in my general direction.

Well, Sally goes bananas, jumps up on the bar, bares her teeth, and hisses, looking like she’s going to rip this poor spooked woman’s heart out, show it to her, then eat it.

The actress’ scream curdles blood as she runs raging wailing and weeping through the set, and out the door.

I still think the advertising geeks should have used that in the commercial, because it says more about evolution than any of the lame shit they came up with.

But no, they decide to just write the waitress out of the commercial.

It’s a mad complicated shoot, and because the advertising geeks have been so busy figuring out which swanky restaurant they’re going to eat dinner at that night, we’re way far behind schedule.

So now it’s getting to be 6:30 PM.  7:00 is the end of Sally’s 12-hour shift.  So the advertising geeks send some junior assistant flunky over to Sally’s trainer and he asks if they can get Sally to work overtime, because if they don’t get all her shots, they’re going to have to bring everybody back and go way over budget.

The trainer says he doubts Sally will want to work overtime but he’ll see what he can do.

The geeks huddle furiously, whispering toxically.  It’s now 6:45 PM.  A much better-dressed executive walks up to the trainer.  They’ll pay whatever he wants.  Name the price.

The trainer smiles.  Slowly reminds the executive what Sally is, and how she’s not in any way shape or form financially motivated.

“Well then we’ll give her all the damn bananas she wants,” the better-dressed executive explains.

“Well,” explains the trainer patiently, as if he’s talking to a dumb animal, “Sally already gets all the bananas she wants, but I’ll see what I can do.”

Finally it’s 6:58PM.  The best-dressed executive hustles over to the trainer.

“Listen, I don’t care what the hell she wants, we need to get three more shots off before she leaves, is that clear?”

You can see the trainer is about to lose it, wishing to God that he only had to deal with reasonable mammals.

But before he can say anything, it’s 7 o’clock.  Exactly 12 hours after Sally started working.

Sally steps up on the bar, and slowly, dramatically, like the consummate performer she is, raises her left arm over her head, and slaps her wrist where a watch would be, the international sign for:

“Look what time it is.”

She then jumps down, and starts pulling me by the hand toward the door.  As the highly-paid technicians try desperately not to laugh, and the advertising geeks shit themselves, Sally and I proceed through the set, and straight out the door, hand-in-hand, like a naked bride and Neanderthal groom heading for our abba dabba honeymoon.

They have to bring everybody back the next day, and Sally becomes a hero.  She get sus all another day’s pay, and with incredible style, panache, and savoir faire, tells the oppressive exploiting fascist fatcat Bosses to stick it.  Love Live Sally!

When I ask the trainer about it, he tells me that Sally has an acute sense of time.  Because she works so often, she knows exactly when 12 hours are up, and has figured out that by making the sign for time, not only will her day be over, but she’ll also make everyone laugh real hard.  Which she loves to do.  All day, whenever it’s time for a meal, or a break, everyone from actors to Teamsters raise their hand up over their head, and slap their wrist where a watch would be, in silent homage to Sally the magical beauty.  Much to the amusement of everyone except the advertising geeks, who seem basically jaded and disgusted by pretty much everything except what swanky restaurant they’re going to eat at that night.

As for me, one of the great regrets of my life is that I never get to consummate my relationship with the exquisite, talented and loving Sally.  I know she would’ve been a powerful, wild, romantic, spiritual and highly rocking lover, and a fabulous life partner.  Oh, the spectacular kids we could’ve had!

But alas, Sally and I had a love that could never be.

XXXCITAMINT WITH ERECTOLOX: MY PENIS STAYED HARD FOR A MONTH!

Male enhancement erectile dysfunction miracle cure.

chronology 431

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art of the Memoir: Alan Black on the Illusion of Chaos, Copernicus and the Straight Railway Track to the Grave

To commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I have decided to do a series of interviews with memoirists I admire.  I’ve known Alan black for many years, and I’m not ashamed to say it publicly.  I met him when he was running literary events at The Edinburgh Castle, in the groin of San Francisco’s seed-filled Tenderloin.  In the name of full disclosure, we wrote a book together.

David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

51Os1eNYbkL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_AB: I didn’t write it in His name. I wrote it I my own name. God had already published a couple of biographies, the Bible, the Koran and He even has a global rights deal out in the East with the Upanishads in India. I thought about using His name but then I figured Oprah would find out and I would be exposed as a fraud and I like to keep my fraudulence private like my flatulence.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

AB: Reversing the Copernican model of the solar system. The sun went around me. When you’re at the center, it can be uncomfortable. I felt I was inventing myself. My entire life work of having others define me was in peril. I had to take responsibility for my own story and during the process of writing the book, all I could think of was Jim Morrison yelling at the audience, “No one gets out of here alive!”

DHS: What were the best things about writing your memoir?

AB: Working with an exceptionally talented editor who kept me straight. When I tried to bullshit him by re-inserting a petulant and infantile chapter in the document, he cautioned me – “Now you’re being a sanctimonious asshole. Let’s just get back to being an asshole.” Pure quality! Refreshing and direct. That’s the editor you want.

DHS: Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

AB: I don’t see life as chaos. I see it as a straight railway track to the grave. The good parts are being able to go back to the restaurant car for a good meal or sitting in the observation car watching the world go by. And you meet the finest people on trains unlike planes or hot air balloons.

DHS: How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

AB: None of it was random. I’m a Calvinist. Everything is pre-destined. If you work in a supermarket, you get to understand this. Everything has a sell-by date. It arrives ready to expire. I worked at Safeway as a kid and they still owe me for a week’s wages, the fucking bastards! I never shop there. However, I did learn one think working there – chaos is an illusion.

The beauty of baking the bread in the morning in the store’s bakery was as close to heaven as a person can get. For dough always rises. And tomorrow it rises again.

DHS: How was the process of selling your memoir?

AB: My agent was spectacular, the female 007 of publishing. Within a few hours of it being in the hands of an editor, it was sold.

DHS: How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

AB: I tried hard – went on the radio, performed readings from the book, Google bought a box, but real life held me back via time. Having to work as a bartender for a living kept me short of hours to sell myself as “the next big thing.” Yeah right! I was busy throwing drunks into the street, breaking up fights, dodging punches, slopping up geographic vomit spatters in the shape of Long Island and sprinkling Holy Water Jameson droplets on bilious sociopaths while delivering the benediction – “the power of Christ compels you!” I am available for exorcisms at reasonable rates. I have met some evil spirits.

AB: Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

AB: No.

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

AB: I don’t think any of them read it. And if they did, they kept it quiet.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

AB: I hate you for asking that question! Yes, write your memoir. It’s your story. What else is there?

 

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition http://bit.ly/1ancjuE, has been translated into 10 languages.  He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://davidhenrysterry.com/

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

 

From Chicken: When I Was a Birthday Present for an 82-year-old Grandmother

Excerpt from: Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent.  To buy the book click here.

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

“David, I’ve got a fantastic job for you, Friday night, this is a two hundred dollar job!” Mr. Hartley’s straight shooter baritone reaches down my throat all the way to my seventeen year old balls and squeezes hard.

“Wow,” I say in what I hope is a loverstudguy voice, but which I suspect smacks of eunuch, “that’s great, excellent, thanks, I uh-”

“David,” Mr. Hartley sounds like a benevolent dictator in a three-piece suit, the ultimate Master Alpha, “this is a very important client. And if you do this job well I can absolutely guarantee there will be lots of exciting opportunities on the horizon for you. You understand me David? Do we understand each other?”

I have no idea what he’s talking about so I say:

“Sure, absolutely, I got it-”

“This is a very unique opportunity for you David. I want you to be completely prepared. It’s rather unusual job. But I think it really matches your skill set.”

My brain races like a train on bad speed. Will there be barnyard animals involved? Ritual sacrifice?  Death masks and scat sandwiches?  What will you do for money? Where do you draw your line? How much of your life are you willing to sell for $200?

“David, this client, who I must emphasize is extremely important, has decided she wants to treat her friend to very special birthday gift. And that birthday gift is you. So get ready to put on your birthday suit.” Mr. Hartley laughs like a machine gun: rat-a-tat-tat. “I kid of course. Seriously though, David, it’s our policy at the Hollywood Employment Agency to give our clients all the information they need to succeed. We believe that preparation is essential to success. And for this job, it’s very important that you understand you are being given by one of our most important clients to her best friend, as a present for her eighty-second birthday.”

GULP!

“It’s very important to us that our clients are comfortable performing.  Are you comfortable, under the circumstances, uh… performing… David?”

No. No. No.  I don’t honestly think I can fuck an eighty-two-year-old. That’s what I say in my 17-year-old manchild idiot head. Out loud I say:

“Sure, absolutely, I’m all over it.”

“You’re all over it,” Mr. Hartley’s Ouzi of a laugh rattles my skull. “That is droll David, very droll. That’s exactly why I thought of you when this job came in. I have every confidence that you won’t let me… down.” Bam Bam Bam Mr. Hartley laughs fast and staccato. “I kid of course. David I want you to call me as soon as this job is done. Do you understand? Do we understand each other?”

“Absolutely, for sure, yeah.”

Mr. Hartley gives me the 411 and then I disconnect.

Immediately my shattered brain sees an ancient naked wrinkled saggy droopy granny spread-eagled in front of me and my poor placid flaccid penis is a lifeless piece of useless meat, I have to give the money back I see myself spiraling down humiliated, a brutal failure rejected by Mr. Hartley and Sunny, drummed out of the business shunned by all my chicken peers the only family I know at this point who accepts me for what I am, my paycheck my refuge my people, all gone.

Anonymously knocking on the door in the ultra fancy ass swank swish hotel that smell like Olde Money, my mind attacks itself with vicious visions  of wrinkled, ravaged, sagging grandmother flesh that shrinkwrap my rapidly shriveling penis.  Breath short.  Tight.  Heart racehorsing pounding against my breastplate.  A sticky clammy sweaty nervy jumpy freaky tweaky moisture oozes out of most of my pores.

The door slowly opens.  She’s trim and pretty in pink and a styly Channel-type suit.  She definitely has one of those helmet hairdo, but it’s well done if you like that kind of thing. A huge honking diamond ring holds court on a well tended finger.  Shoes the same color pink as her outfit.  She’s got wrinkles but they’re not gruesome. She’s wearing makeup but it’s definitely not Whatever-Happened-to-Baby-Janey.  But the best thing about her is her smile.  She has a smile that welcomes you in.  After a heavy sigh full of deep relief the first thought that pops into my seventeen-year-old manchild head is: Shit man, I hope I’m doing this good when I’m eighty-two years old.

Like a Hostess greeting an international dignitary, she asks me if I would like some champagne?  Chocolate covered strawberries?  Pate and cheese? It’s all spread out on this fancy silvery tray. Curtains are closed.  Lights are low. Candlelight makes everything soft.  She gives me a long thin beautiful flute of champagne.  With a sweet smile ripe with kindness.  Like I’m all growed up.

I know what to do.  I’ve been trained well by my mum.

“I want to wish you a very, very happy birthday, and if there’s anything I can do to make your dreams come true, I’m here for your pleasure.”

I have rehearsed the speech.  I am pleased with the delivery.  I hold up the long thin beautiful flute of sparkly bubbly.  She smiles kinda shy.  Demure.  Which is shockingly endearing in a lady who’s turning out to be the totally awesome grandma I never had.  That I’m just about to have sex with.

She holds out her fluke for a clink.  Weak clink.  We drink.  The champagne shoots little giddy meteors tickling my lips and teasing my nose.  I love the way it feels inside my mouth like the most sophisticated pop rocks ever. Smooth smooth, smooth, it goes down tingly and frothy, liquid laughter.

She tells me her name is Dorothy.  But her friends called her Dot.  I think that’s a cool name. Dot.  She’s talking about the champagne.  Apparently she knows a lot about champagne. This is from some famous champagne place in France.  Soon as I’m done with the first sip I can’t wait for another so I just let it guzzle down my muzzle all twinkly and sparkly.  One more big gulp and the whole beautiful flute is empty, the contents now inside me.  It comes on quick and suddenly my head floats on my neck and my face is happy, bones melting, blood rushing like carefree debutantes jitterbuging at their coming-out ball.  It feels a lot greater to be alive than it did five minutes ago.

Dot insists I have a chocolate-covered strawberry.  Doesn’t take much arm-twisting.  Apparently it’s some world-famous chocolate from Belgium.  It’s got a hard crunch when you bite it, but then it gets all melty in your mouth, as the fruity juice of the rapturously ripe strawberry sings with the chocolate in mind-boggling two-part harmony.  When I finish I see Dot watching me with a big grin on her face.  Makes me like her.   Even more.

Dot tells me she likes to watch people enjoy themselves. I tell her how much I’m enjoying myself.  And the crazy thing is I completely mean it.  She asks me if I want another one.  I say no, even though I really actually do want another one.  She asks me if I really want another one but I’m just saying no to be polite.  Like she can see right inside my head.  I confess I do and did.  She insists with an impy grin that I have another chocolate covered strawberry.  So I do.  I have two more after that.  I could eat every single one.  But I am there to do a job.  I figure after three chocolate-covered strawberries, it might impair my ability to perform.

Dot tells me all about her madcap romantic husband, how they met, how he proposed to her.  Took her to Europe, South America, Broadway shows.  She hauls out a picture of him.  It’s black-and-white.  He’s in a sharp suit with two-tone shoes, hair all slick and a debonair devilmaycare smile.  I must admit, he was one dapper motherfucker.

He’s been dead for ten years.  It’s sad and happy at the same time.  Makes me like her so much that she has all this love for this guy she was married to for like fifty years or whatever.  Being now the son of a dyke from a home broken beyond repair and having sex for money with grandmothers, I just can’t fathom being married to somebody for fifty years.  But Dot says her old man was a pistol and a mensch and a big old bundle of fun.  Dot tells me about how they used to have these wild and crazy parties with all their brilliant zany friends, where they’d get all dressed up, drinking, dancing and yakking all night about art and politics and life and death and war and taxes.

It’s a mad blast listening to her wax about her one wild and precious life.  Makes me hope that at some point I can have one.  A life.  A most excellent wife, some brilliant crazy zany friends, a house with a pool and lots of rooms where people can party.  Sounds nice.

This is such a great job so far.  But of course there’s that nagging tug in the back and pit of my head and belly: how in the name of Pan the horny goat boy am I going to get It up and off?  I am bombarded by the image of my meat torpedo morphing into wet spaghetti.  I am forced to focus extra hard to avoid hyperventilation.

Dot stops talking.  She hems and she haws and she tuts.  Clearly she wants to tell me what’s on the menu for her birthday dinner, but she’s having a terrible time spitting it out.

I’m scared breathless.  I desperately want to give Dot want she wants.  I need to please her.  She’s been so nice to me.  And I want to succeed at this job.  Be an American.  Be a man.  But will I be able to achieve liftoff with a naked octogenarian laying on top of me?  I believe I can.  I know I can’t.  What if she wants to do some weird old person sex thing I don’t know about?

My testes cower in a corner.  My head is like a balloon being inflated by a homicidal clown with ADHD.  My guts rumble thunderously, roiling like a boiler about to blow.

Again I find myself seriously questioning my career choice.

Dot forces out a strangulated sentence like a tongue-tied eighty-two-year-old schoolgirl.

“I’ve always wanted someone to kiss me…” she motions with her head down towards her nether regions, “down there.”

That’s it? Thank you Lord, for delivering me from the wilderness.  A little head?  A wee dram of cunnilingus?  Hell, I can do that with my eyes closed.  In fact many times I have. And then I think, Can you imagine wanting to have someone go down on you for fifty years?  Having a husband you love and not being able to ask him to do that?  I’ve gone down I can and in all this is what he is on every girlfriend I’ve ever had. It seems like one of the most basic sexual things you can do. My mind is officially boggled.

But the weight of the world, so heavy on my head moments ago, has been mercifully lifted.  I assure Dot that I would be more than happy to make her dream come true.

She gets under the covers.  She doesn’t take her clothes off.  This is just getting better and better.

Here are the best jobs in order.

1)      Just talking.

2)      Just talking while I’m naked.

3)      Just talking while I’m naked and playing with myself. And by playing with myself of course I mean masturbating.

4)      Cunnilingussing.

5)      Doggy styling.

6)      Missionary positioning.

7)      Cowgirling with direct eye contact.

So this is the fourth best job there is.

Dot wiggles and wriggles under the covers.  I assume she’s taking her granny panties off.  She doesn’t tell me to take my clothes off so I don’t. I crawl under the covers. I suspect there will be wrinkly grandmother flesh. But what do I care? Cunnilingus is cunnilingus. Luckily I was trained in this art by the first girl friend I ever had, who was much older than me and rigorously demanding, albeit in a very sweet educational way.

So it takes a while for me to burrow myself in, but eventually there I am.  Right between Dot’s 82-year-old legs. It’s very dark in there. Like a cave. I like it. And when I arrive, to my surprise it smells good. Fresh. Manicured. Everything is quite smooth leading up to the area. Which is a very pleasant surprise.

Dot is very ironing board like.  But cunnilingually I’ve been trained well.  I take my time.  I go slow.  I kiss all around the area soft and gentle.  Some lips.  A little tongue.  Very light.  The more I do it the more she softens.  Then suddenly she’s moving herself towards my mouth.  Now there are little moans and sighs and groans and gasps coming from outside the covers.  How cool is this?  I’m thinking, she’s totally into it.

At this moment I feel so useful.

Her hands are on my head and she’s pulling its into her area. And to tell you the truth, her area is much like any other area I’ve been in. Especially in the depth of this black cave.

Dot is now gently manipulating my head, moving it exactly where she wants it and I’m just applying the appropriate pressure.  It’s like we’re dancing and she’s leading while I follow. And she’s exhibiting all the symptoms of excitation. It’s all happening and I could not be happier.

Dot now seems to be climbing the ladder of the stairway to Heaven.  I don’t know how long we been going at this now, but it doesn’t seem that long.  And she’s already manifesting all the physical manifestations of pre-orgasm.

Sure enough, here it comes.  Here she comes.

Here comes Dot.  Diving off the cliff into the sea of sexual ecstasy.

I am overpowered by a sense of joyful satisfaction.  Mr. Hartley  will be so proud of me.

It’s clear we are, you know, done. So I burrow out from undercover and head into the bathroom, to give her a chance to put herself back together.  As I eyeball myself in the mirror, I shake my seventeen year-old man child idiot head.  Can you imagine?  Eighty-two-year-old grandmother pussy tasted great.

Sure enough, when I come back out, she’s totally put together, like nothing happened.  Except for the bloom in her cheeks and the sweet smile of satisfaction on her lips.

Dot thanks me profusely.  She asks me if I would like to take a chocolate covered strawberry with me.  I confess that I would.  I grab a chocolate covered strawberry and head for the door full to overflowing with a sense of well-being. Even though my parents don’t care to speak to me, even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future and I’m wracked by nightmares and lusting for revenge on the man who attacked and broke me into tattered pieces, at least I’m good at this.

As I’m leaving with my chocolate covered strawberry Dot surreptitiously slips a crisp green bill into my hand while she plants of very nice kiss on my cheek. When I pull back, she playfully wipes the lipstick off my cheek.  It’s a tiny little gesture, but it feels so intimate and connected in a world where connection is virtually impossible for me.

I thank her profusely—wish her a happy birthday.

She thanks me right back.

Then I’m gone.

It’s a $100 bill.  Add that to the $200 that was in the envelope on the fancy food platter.  So that’s $300 to drink fancy French champagne, eat world famous Belgian chocolate-covered strawberries and make one pretty great grandma’s dream come true.

As I leave the ultra swank Beverly Hills Hotel, I find myself thinking:

America, what a country!

 

 

 

 

 

Art of the Memoir: Laura Schenone on Shooting High & Raw Parts: Bonus Video

ravioliPB

To celebrate the release of the 10 year anniversary of my memoir, Chicken,  I’m doing a series of interviews with memoirists I admire.  I first met Laura Schenone when I saw her read from her James Beard Award winning book, A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove.  She’s a beautiful, lyrical writer, who is somehow as good at reading her work as she is at writing it.  She manages to be one of those rare hybrids, a writer who is literary and page turning simultaneously.  I recently read her spectacular memoir, The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken and I totally fell in love with it.  And it’s not really my kind of book.  I prefer writing where people are getting their heads blown off and/or are engaged in acts of insane depravity which showcase the darkest heart of humans.  Him but these books are so thoughtful, the storytelling so riveting, and the characters come to life in such a beautiful way, you feel like you’re floating down a warm river through a breathtaking countryside, with some crazy rapids waiting up ahead.  And she also writes about big subjects like family and food and love, using her own experiences often as a jumping off point to illuminate deep human truths.  She’s working on her next memoir, and we thought we would check in with her about what it takes to turn your life into a book.

David Henry Sterry: Why in gods name did you decide to write a memoir?

 

Laura Schenone: I don’t know that I decided.  I think I was writing it in my head my whole life.

 

DHS: What were the worst things about writing the memoir?

 

LS: Complete embarrassment of writing a memoir.  But also trying to make a character out of myself and be honest.

 

DHS: What were the best things about writing the memoir?

 

LS: That’s any easy one:  Italy.  Specifically, Genoa.   My memoir was a quest tale about the search for a long lost family recipe and involved travel there.  I studied the language, and that was wonderful.  I loved the place, the people I met, and the food.

 

DHS: Did writing the memoir help you make some sense out of the chaos we call life?

 

LS: Absolutely.  I felt far more at peace over some things once I’d finished it and still do.  I have much less of a need to look backward.

 

DHS: How did you make narrative out of the random events that happened to you?

 

LS: I had three interwoven themes.  One was the forward momentum of the search for something and an obsession with that.  The other was the flashback associative part in which the past flies up.  The third was me meditating about the present.  I wove them together in the most natural way I could.  In terms of sequence, there was mention of a love story between my great grandparents that had to go more toward the front of the book to hook the reader.

 

DHS: How was the process of selling your memoir?

 

LS: I’d just had a book that had done pretty well, so it was fairly easy.  I loved my editor at W.W. Norton and wanted to stay there.

 

DHS: How did you go about marketing and promoting your memoir?

 

LS: I cooked and made ravioli everywhere.

 

DHS: Did you have difficulty speaking to the public about the most intimate parts of you memoir?

 

LS: The raw parts I never read in public.  But there were times I was uncomfortable when people asked me questions I didn’t want to answer.  Sadly, my book didn’t have much sex in it, so that was no problem.

 

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to the memoir?

 

LS: Some loved it.  Some really did not appreciate it in the least.  There were some very painful moments.

 

DHS: Any advice for someone writing a memoir?

 

LS: There are many memoirs out there.  Most are not good.  Your memoir really isn’t supposed to be just about you.  Before you begin, try to really understand the form.  Study the ones that manage to elevate personal experience to something far greater.  Shoot high.

Bonus Video:

Hysterical LOL Poem: The Llama, by Ogden Nash, Genius

One of the great poets ever, Ogden Nash, with The Llama dalailamaHipster-llama-l

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Nomad on Chicken: “An X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland”

chicken 10 year 10-10-13“David Henry Sterry recounts his shocking, sad and sordid experiences as a 17-year old “chicken” (teenage prostitute) servicing the lonely matrons of 1970’s Hollywood with a standup comic’s sensibility, tone and timing. The overall effect is jarringly surreal, like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes, ranging from the mildly titillating to the profoundly disturbing, expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, unable to put it down, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist. Could all of this have really happened to him? If so, he deserves praise just for surviving to tell his story.”

— Eliza Thomas, Places, the magazine for the Modern Nomad

Johns Marks Tricks & Chickehawks: Professionals & Clients Writing About Each Other

johns marks cover cropped

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Johns, Marks, Tricks & Chickenhawks: Professionals & Their Clients Writing about Each Other is the follow-up to Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys, the groundbreaking anthology that appeared on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. “Eye-opening, astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny… unpretentious and riveting — graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper.” It is a unique sociological document , a collection of mini-memoirs, rants, confessions, dreams, and nightmares by people who buy sex, and people who sell. And because it was compiled by two former sex industry workers, the collection is, like its predecessor, unprecedented in its inclusiveness. $10 crack hos and $5,000 call girls, online escorts and webcam girls, peep show harlots and soccer mom hookers, bent rent boys and wannabe thugs. Then there’s the clients. Captains of industry and little old Hasidic men, lunatics masquerading as cops and bratty frat boys, bereaved widows and widowers. This book will shine a light on both sides of these illegal, illicit, forbidden, and often shockingly intimate relationships, which have been demonized, mythologized, trivialized and grotesquely misunderstood by countless Pretty Woman-style books, movies and media. This is hysterical, intense, unexpected, and an ultimately inspiring collection.Publishers Weekly: This collection of personal essays by sex workers and their clients vacillates    wildly from hilarious to depressing but never strays from being utterly captivating. Among the more amusing stories are a client with a “sweater fetish”, a woman who paid for her family’s Christmas presents by stepping on a man’s testicles in a pornographic film, and the dominatrix who got fired because she could not remove a client’s tooth. The phone sex operator asked to do cartoon animal voices for a caller is also not to be missed. Candid essays cover everything from the anonymous “captain of industry” with an appreciation for transsexual prostitutes, to the human misery of a pimp who turned out his own girlfriend. Some pieces are more meditative: Fiona Helmsey recalls meeting a kind client at a bachelor party who later died on 9/11, while Dr. Annie Sprinkle discusses her 40 years in the sex industry and her wish for “a more compassionate sex-positive society” in which “prostitutes and johns would be government-subsidized”. Though obviously not for the faint of heart, this book contains some courageous, raw, and intelligent writing that breaks taboos and smashes misconceptions. (Apr.)To see on Publishers Weekly, click here.Book trailer:  Who Really Buys & Sells Sex

Excerpts

Resources

  • Great conversation w/ Jon Pressick on Sex Radio: Selling it, buying it, sex books $ love on Sex Talk Radio 4 Johns Marks Tricks & Chickenhawks
  • Interview with David Henry Sterry for Johns Marks Ticks & Chickenhawks in San Francisco Weekly by Chris Hall
  • Sexpert genius Veronica Monet on Rumpus.
  • Master graphic novelist & sexual revolutionary Chester Brown on Rumpus.
  • David Henry Sterry on Rumpus: Admit You’ve Paid for It.
  • Sam Benjamin on Creating Utopian Porn on  Rumpus.

Featured Books by David Henry Sterry

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johns mort HobbyistFinalPRINTCover5.375x8.25inchesCMYK300dpi confessions

The Making of an American Hero: Donovan’s Transformation From Landycakes to Landon the Man

world_cup_0623_01Landycakes. That used to be Landon Donovan’s nickname. As often as he was acknowledged as one of the most talented soccer players America has ever produced, historically he was also perceived as being soft, petulant, churlish, a bit of a puff pastry. He was criticized for wilting when the spotlight got hot, shining only during insignificant games, disappearing when his country most needed him to be all that he could be.

Europe came calling, as it does when soccer talent rears its head. So Landon Donovan went to Germany, where soccer is a religion, played with a rare combination of technical brilliance and cutthroat Hunnish brutality. He struggled mightily, never able to fully display that he had the game, but perhaps more significantly, the balls to compete against the big boys. Sure, the pundits posited, Landycakes can shine in the minor-league caliber MLS, but he doesn’t have what it takes to make it in the real world of big boy soccer.

Then came David Beckham. This international mega-uber-superstar brought his traveling circus to Hollywood, and joined Donovan’s team, the LA Galaxy. Yes, Beckham is in the twilight of his career, but he is still one of the greatest benders of the ball in the known galaxy, and of course he brings his celebrity cachet and the star power of his anorexicish, ex-pop singer wife in tow. From the beginning, according to all sources, there was friction and tension.

According to Donovan, Beckham didn’t take his new job with the LA Galaxy very seriously. Becks was a terrible teammate, and not much of a man. Instead of kissing the hem of the garment of the English superstar, Landon Donovan stood up in front of the world and told his truth. It became international news, shots heard round the world. In fact, it created such a furor, a book was written about it, and there’s rumors of a Lifetime movie in the works. Eventually, a truce was hashed out, and everyone agreed to play nice. But people started looking at Landon Donovan differently. He had become, by standing up for himself and his teammates, a leader of men. Then Landon Donovan received an invitation from English club Everton to play a guest starring role for a month in the stretch run of the English Premier League, one of the very best in the world, studded with international superstars.

Landon Donovan didn’t just play well — he was brilliant. In fact, he was voted the player of the month for Everton, and became a huge fan favorite. It was quite remarkable to listen to the freakishly English crowd break out into chants of, “U-S-A!” when Donovan would rampage. That brief month spent running roughshod over some of the best teams in the world seemed to prove to the international soccer community, and perhaps to Landon Donovan himself, that he had the skills, the flare, and yes, the testicles to compete against the best and the brightest.

Then came South Africa 2010. After a tentative, Landycake-ish performance against the English, the US found itself in dire trouble, down 2-0 to the aggressively Eastern European Slovenian team, in danger of getting bumrushed on the biggest stage there is in the world of sports. This is when Landon Donovan took the game by the scruff of the neck, and hoisted America up onto his suddenly Superman-sized shoulders. He came steaming in from the right flank with the ball at his feet and took it right to the hole. When no one stopped him, from a sublimely ridiculous angle, he fired a cannon shot so hard over the hapless Slovenian keeper’s head, that it singed the poor fellow’s scalp. The ball thundered into the roof of the net, a majestic, monumental, world-class and game-changing goal.

That was the beginning of the beginning for Team USA. America came storming back, and except for the dastardly call by the evil Coulibaly of Mali, they would’ve won handily. But of course they didn’t win handily. And they still needed a victory over Algeria, who suddenly looked every bit a quick, tricky, skillful destroyer of dreams. Sure enough, after yet another travesty of a referee’s decision, denying the US a much-deserved goal, all seemed lost. Seconds sped by with shocking speed. Suddenly, 90 minutes was gone. Four minutes of extra time were now whipping past faster than humanly possible. American fans were gagging on the foul fetid breath of failure belching into their faces.

Then suddenly the ball was in the hands of a player, at this World Cup, who has grabbed the mantle of Best Goalkeeper in the galaxy, Tim “T-Ho” Howard. And there was Landon Donovan sprinting for all he was worth up the right side of the field. T-Ho threw a 60 yard bullet that would’ve made Tom Brady proud, hitting Landon in perfect stride. And there it was, 3-on-1, with Donovan pulling the playmaker strings. He drew the defensive in, laid off a sweet simple ball to Pussycat Altidore, who slotted the ball in front of the goal, where Clint Eastwood Dempsey whacked it as hard as he could. And then the soccer gods beamed down their love upon Landon Donovan, and they rewarded him for all his hard work and suffering. The ball landed like a gift sliding down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

Instead of panicking, disappearing, or choking, Landon Donovan stepped up and made history. He snatched sweet victory from the hoary clutches of defeat, as Americans from Wall Street to Alaska, Hollywood to Bangor, Miami to Minnesota, erupted in full throated roar: “Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!!!” And thus Donovan became Landon the Man.

Amital Etzioni: Why Are You Saying Such Nasty Things About Whores?

hos hookers cover-500 HosHookersShame on you, Amital Etzioni, for the antiquated, insulting and frankly dangerous ideas you trot out like dead horses to flog in your recent essay on the review of the anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys. Yes, of course, some people are enslaved in the world of sex-4-$. Just as they are in many industries, such as the garment and diamond businesses. These traffickers of human flesh should be hunted down like the filthy vermin they are, and thrown into a dark hole where the sun never shines. Yes, we all know this. But many prostitutes, or industrial sex technicians as I like to call them, actually choose to enter the sex-4-$ world as adults who carefully consider their economic options, and have decided it makes more sense to earn $250 smoking cigarettes, drinking and getting head (a scenario you reference in his essay), than earning $8 an hour getting their souls sucked out at McDonald’s. Comparing a victim being forced to have sex for money with a high-end industrial sex technician is like saying slaving in a sweatshop is the same as working at Neiman Marcus.

You wrote that HHCG&RB, “has little to say about the role of money in personal, intimate relationships.” Did you actually read this book? Because if you didn’t, then you have no business talking about it. And if you did, you’re intellectually blind not to see that this book is absolutely packed with stories about the role money plays in personal, intimate relationships. Case in point: Juliana Piccolo’s haunting, melancholy piece, “Vice.” It’s about when she was a 17-year-old massage parlor sex technician, and had a relationship with an off-duty cop client. He falls in love with her. She craves his fatherly attention, even as he makes her skin crawl. The last time she sees him he offers her $100 for a kiss. She doesn’t kiss clients. He holds out the money. She kisses him. The moment is devastating. It is a deeply personal, intimate relationship, and it illustrates the subtle, scary and very real way the line between the need for love and the need for money blur.

And in what post-Puritanical, Victorianically-repressed world does an open, honest discussion of sex and money, “embarrass a bunch of frat boys”? I guess it’s been a while since you’ve spent any time with frat boys. It’s very difficult to embarrass them. Given the fact that there’s a good chance they’re doing Jell-O shots out of the stripper’s vagina. In your opening salvo, you call this book “sensationalistic”. If you had taken the time to carefully read HHCG&RB, you would’ve seen that it is in fact a piece of American oral history that gives voice to a population that is woefully underrepresented and misunderstood.

Finally, one of the biggest peeves I keep as a pet is when people who have never turned a trick in their lives, who have no idea what sex-4-$ is like, try to tell us about it. What do you know about the “facts” of the world of sex? When was the last time you sat around chewing the fat with people who actually inhabit that world? I have a news flash for you: people who exchange sex for money are not illiterate, pimped, diseased, drug addicted, career criminals. And it is grotesque, condescending, and ignorant to imply, as you do, that they are. I know because I was one. An industrial sex technician. No one forced me. My employment counselor/pimp did not take most of my money. Of course he got his taste, just like my current literary agent does. I was not on drugs during my time in the Life. In fact, at the high-end agency I worked for, if you were caught taking drugs, you were fired. I have no diseases. The only time I was a criminal was when the Prohibition era laws of America turned me into one while I was making money at the oldest profession in the world. I edited the above mentioned anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys. I put together this book as an attempt to tear down harmful myths about sex work and sex workers — myths which you sir, seek to perpetuate. But just to show you there’s no hard feelings, next time you’re in New York, call me and I’ll hook you up with my friend Naughty Michelle. She’ll open all your eyes. And it’ll only cost you $300.

How to Get Your Book Published When Everyone Keeps Rejecting It

201201-b-love_inshallah_coverWe first met Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mutta at our Pitchapalooza during San Francisco’s legendary LitQuake. Lots of great writers pitched lots of great books that night. But when Nura pitched her anthology revolving around the love lives of Muslim-American women, we were blown away. She took charge of the room like a seasoned professional, she was funny, charming, articulate, and she had that indefinable It that makes people go: Wow! Plus, the book was so timely, so valuable, so necessary when the world is trying desperately to move from combative intolerance to respectful inclusion. From war and terrorism to peace and understanding. We helped them develop their proposal, hone their pitch, and when the time was right, we introduced them to a fantastic publisher who does exactly the kind of book they wanted to write. This is a mistake so many writers make. They don’t get their book into the hands of the person who is most likely to love, represent and/or publish it. In this case, that publisher was Laura Mazer at Soft Skull. As we suspected, she fell in love with the proposal, and offered them a contract. Right place, right time, right stuff. Nura and Ayesha gathered 25 Muslim-American women writers, and lo and behold, their pitch is now a book. Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women came out last week, and already they’ve had a feature in the New York Times written about them, and the demand has been so large, they sold out of the first printing practically before the book was even out.

THE BOOK DOCTORS: So, this must be a very exciting time, congratulations, we’re so excited for you.

NURA & AYESHA: Thanks, it is. We worked so long and so hard on this book, and there were so many times when we were sure it would never happen, so to have all this great response been fantastic

TBD: So many writers don’t consider who their audience will be, or in fact if there is even an audience, before they write their book. Why did you write your book, and why did you think there would be an audience for it is?

N&A: People are fascinated by Muslim women, but we didn’t see ourselves or our opinionated, independent and intelligent friends reflected in media stories, TV plotlines or movies. We decided this was the perfect opportunity to raise our voices and begin telling our own stories. And what better stories to tell than love stories? As Muslim women, our roadmap to love may be unique, but the destination is universal.

TBD: Most writers don’t understand how important a pitch is. It’s what a writer uses to get an agent and/or a publisher, it’s what the publisher’s marketing team (if they have one) will send out to the media, what the sales team will use to get bookstores to carry your book, what will entice readers on your author page, and on the back of your book, it’s what booksellers will tell customers when they’re looking for a book like yours.

N&A: Exactly! That’s why we spent so much time writing the pitch and practicing it aloud, to make sure it flowed well, that it really displayed what was unique and valuable about our project.

TBD: We always tell people to pitch their book as often as possible. To friends and family of course, but to your mailman, your waitress, your priest, total strangers, whomever. Every time you pitch your book, it’s an opportunity to test market your product. To figure out what works and what doesn’t, and how to make it better. And we meet a shocking number of writers who are afraid to talk about their book because they’re scared someone will steal it. Or hate it. But if you don’t tell anybody about your book, there’s a good chance it will and up just being a file buried in your computer. And you never know who’s going to be friends with somebody in publishing. That’s how David got published. He told an old friend about his book. Unbeknownst to him, her goddaughter was a literary agent. She took him on as a client. Then she married him.

N&A: That’s so romantic!

TBD: In a very book-nerdy way.

N&A: Exactly.

TBD: Since you won Pitchapalooza with your kick-ass pitch, go ahead, lay it on us, what’s your book about?

N& A: Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women is a groundbreaking collection of 25 writers speaking openly about love, relationships, sexuality, gender, identity and racism for the first time. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Muslim women, even (especially!) those who have never met one. We thought it was about time you heard directly from Muslim women themselves. You’ll be captivated by these provocative, funny, moving and surprising stories — each as individual as the writers themselves.

TBD: What made you decide to pitch the idea at our Pitchapalooza?

N&A: Our book proposal was dead in the water, publishers were unwilling to take a chance on this book. When we heard about LitQuake Pitchapalooza in September 2010, we thought it might be an opportunity for us to go public with our hunch that our book’s simple but intriguing concept — American Muslim women’s lives and loves, told for the first time by the women themselves — would have a broad appeal. Pitchapalooza helped us refine our message and hook. The judges’ feedback was invaluable in developing our book proposal. And the audience was so excited about the premise that we knew we’d been right about its appeal!

TBD: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about American Muslim women, dating, and sexuality?

N&A: Muslim women’s lives and sexuality have been politicized by both non-Muslims and Muslims for centuries. On the one hand, we’re seen as oppressed, submissive, and voiceless, and on the other we’re asked to live within a limited definition of the “good Muslim girl”. Neither of these paradigms allows us to celebrate our personal lives, which are full of joy, creativity, beauty, challenges, doubts and mistakes. Both extremes seek to box us into a narrow “real Muslim woman” frame, but by telling our own stories, we are revealing a reality that is far more complex and compelling.

TBD: What were some of the challenges in putting together an anthology with all these women?

N&A: Editing was the most challenging and most rewarding experience of all. We spent a lot of time supporting our writers in taking their stories to the place of honesty and vulnerability that resonates with readers. And, through the process of editing, we developed wonderful relationships with each writer. We deeply love and respect them all!

TBD: Are you afraid that some fundamentalist Muslims will take offense at your book?

N&A: Fundamentalists certainly aren’t limited to Muslims, as we saw with the recent controversy generated by a fringe group in Florida over the TLC show All-American Muslim! There are some people on both sides who want to keep Muslim women tightly inside a box. That said, a filmmaker friend of ours visited over 200 US cities recently and brought back this message: People are tired of the politics of fear and are hungry to connect with each other in more meaningful and compassionate ways. We believe her, and we believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans are going to welcome and be excited by this book for that very reason. Any book is going to have its critics, but we’re confident that most people are going to celebrate these unique, thought-provoking and beautiful voices.

TBD: What’ve been some of the difficulties in dealing with the publishing world?

N&A: A Pitchapalooza judge said that large publishers are leery of taking risks on unknown writers or an untested market.

TBD: That’s why I thought Soft Skull would be perfect for you.

N&A: Absolutely. They’re a independent, cutting-edge publisher, and they respected our context and viewpoints on everything from the stories to the cover of the book, which can be a contentious and difficult issue for writers of color. In fact, the cover is a wonderful example of our partnership: The conventional image on most books about Muslim women is of a veil or veiled woman, even when it has nothing to do with the story or writer. After we explained why that was inappropriate, we found a gorgeous, novel and provocative image to use instead: lingerie! The lingerie strewn across the bed is a metaphor for the book: Muslim women revealing their most intimate thoughts and experiences to you.

TBD: What do you hope your book will communicate to the world?

N&A: We are proud to offer this book as our contribution to contemporary, multicultural American literature. We believe these stories will start conversations in families and between communities about the similarities that bind us together, and the differences that enrich us. We hope that this book inspires dialogues in the American Muslim community, particularly among women, who have been waiting a long time to have these discussions. We’re so ready to engage with each other! Regardless of our differences, we can choose to interact with each other in a compassionate and respectful way. By reading these provocative, funny and moving stories, you’ll discover that what we all have in common is the desire to love and be loved for who we are.

Ayesha Mattu & Nura Maznavi are the co-editors of the anthology, Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women” (Soft Skull Press, 1/24/12). Facebook. Twitter. Amazon.

The Whore Wars

HosHookersjohns marks cover croppedIt took me a quarter of a century to transition from teenage rent boy to best-selling author, but soon after I did, I was invited into the office of the prominent book agent. “David,” he said as he leaned back in his air ergonomic Aeron chair, “whatever you do, don’t get stuck in the sex ghetto.” So I left the sex ghetto, and wrote several books on very straight subjects. On five of those books, the publishers would not allow me to use my real name, because I have the stink of fornication upon me. But the sex ghetto kept singing her siren-sweet song to me. So I plunged back in and co-edited an anthology in which the contributors have one thing in common: they worked in the sex business. Absolutely no one wanted to buy this book–agents, major publishing houses, smaller publishing houses, university presses, even the tiny presses that publish exactly this kind of book. Finally after two years, and dozens of rejections, we landed at a small but well-respected independent publisher. In the end, after we paid all the contributors, we lost money putting together this book. The publishers only printed 2500 copies. Dan Brown has sold that many books since you started reading this piece. But somehow this little book that nobody wanted has put me at the epicenter of the Whore Wars, a fierce and ugly battle that has been raging for years in the sex ghetto.

In the world of sex for money, there are two armies. The decriminalizationist, largely liberal lefty, “sex positive,” it’s-all-good camp. Many are turning tricks to finance their master’s degrees; others are dominatrixes who are equally at home deconstructing the Marquis de Sade and flicking a cat-o-nine tales; lots of very organized loud lesbian activists. Even though they’re always telling you how empowering it is to be a sexual healer, most are either retired, or looking for a lucrative exit strategy because when you retire from the sex business, there’s no golden parachute. They argue that prohibition makes criminals out of hard-working Americans who are just trying to make sure baby has new shoes. Across the road is the abolitionist, mostly conservative, Christian-tinged, prostitution-is-slavery, everyone-is-trafficked, it’s-all-bad camp. They are mostly academics who wear dowdy clothes and look like they haven’t had sex in years; quasi-neo-feminists who claim to speak for the downtrodden victims of commercial exploitation from the lap of luxury; and not-for-profit activists who overcame brutal beatings on the mean streets as junky hos. They will trot out statistics that prove everyone in the sex for money world was sexually abused as a child, and that everyone who trades their body for cash is brutalized by charming but subhuman pimps, traded by smugglers of human flesh. Except for the reformed junky hos, none of these people have ever turned a trick. Not surprisingly, abolitionists and decriminalizationists alike seem to want to simplify this ridiculously complex subject so it fits their agenda.

In 2002, when my first book and I came out, I was recruited by both sides. And before I looked, I leapt. Just say yes. A good recipe for getting yourself into the sex business in the first place. So I collected writing from both the groups. My mission was to give voice to the entire spectrum of this underrepresented population, to humanize these creatures who are reviled and glorified, worshiped and spat upon in the sex ghetto. I invited everyone. If you lived in the Life, and if you had a story to tell, regardless of whether it was polished prose or a diamond in the rough, you were welcomed with open arms. I very consciously didn’t grind my political ax. In our book $2500 call girls, $100 rent boys, and $10 crack hos are bedfellows.

Most everyone, except me and my co-editor, thought this book would fly under the radar and die a slow painful death, probably out of print in a year. But on August 23, 2009, all that changed. That’s when our little book rather shockingly appeared on the front page of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. That’s when it got ugly for me in the sex ghetto.

Usually, a book or an idea gets attacked from the right or from the left. But I’ve got both sides calling for my head on a pike. One side thinks I am, “Deplorable… dishonorable…” The other is, “Disappointed… pissed off…”. I have no idea what percentage of people who toil in the world of sex for money are doing so voluntarily, and how many are doing so against their will. In my experience, it’s virtually impossible to get reliable statistics. It’s not like a census taker can go to a “massage parlor” where trafficked women are being kept against their will (as was the case in several recently busted in the Bay Area) and interview the slaves. Or from an independent contractor who gets her tricks through craigslist. Or, for that matter, from “Ashley Dupree,” after she’s had her way with Elliot Spitzer. And so many of the statistics we do see from the left or the right are manipulated to fit their agendas. The fact is, right now, in big cities and small towns across America, a hard-working sex worker who is not being coerced, who is doing this of his or her own free will, is making money having sex with someone. And at the same time, a victim is being used as a sex slave by the most hideous, vile creatures ever spawned. That’s what’s going on in America, and whether we like it or not, the sex for money business is booming.

Quite simply, our society is sexually ill. It is broken. I believe the vast majority of Americans do not come close to getting all the love and sex they want. So they try to buy it. I believe this book has generated such intense interest in part because the oldest profession seems to be the next taboo being exposed in the limelight of the American zeitgeist. Mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, incest, one after another have been trotted out and examined like a bug under a microscope. Jim Carrol’s The Basketball Diaries, Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss, Pete Hamill’s A Drinking Life and William Styron’s A Memoir of Madness were all deeply personal accounts of aberrant behavior that had been previously swept under America’s rug. And now it seems like the world wants to know, who are these people selling sex? Why are we buying so much of it? Who are these hos, hookers, call girls and rent boys that make everyone from Catholics to Orthodox Jews to Islamic fundamentalists to Mormons regular guests in the sex ghetto?

This book was an attempt to answer that question. It took no sides in the whore wars. Should it be legalized? Prohibited? It seems both sides want the book to take their position. But it doesn’t. Our agenda is to let these hos, hookers, call girls and rent boys speak for themselves. This is why we opened our book with Post-Porn Modernist Annie Sprinkle’s “40 Reasons Why Whores Are My Heroes.” And followed it with Oakland’s diamond-hard mochaluv’s: “Being a Ho Sucks.” Are whores heroes? Does being a ho suck? Yes and yes.
However, as we put this book together, one thing became clear. Until we take the millions of dollars and man/woman hours currently being directed at adults who, having weighed their economic options, choose of their own free will to exchange sex for money, predators and peddlers of flesh who operate in every major American city, largely ignored by law enforcement, will continue to flourish. People who sell sex will continue to be in constant danger of being abused and beaten by both johns and the police, with no legal recourse. While savage killers like Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, continued to prey on women in that world because, in his words, “I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”

If this book helps people see that men and women who have sex for money are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, I will be happy. If it shines a compassionate light into the sex ghetto, it’ll be worth all the slings and arrows slung my way in the whore wars. But if nothing else comes out of all this, I hope the words of the legendary Georgina Spelvin, anthology contributor and star of The Devil in Miss Jones, ring out from between the covers of our book. “Do your part. Take a hooker to lunch.”

Tamim Ansary, the Wisest Man I Know, on What America Should Do About Afghanistan

Tamim Ansary is the wisest man I know. Don’t get me wrong, in many ways he’s as big an idiot as you or I. For example, he’s not nearly as smart as his smartphone. But I know lots of clever geniuses who can make their smartphone dance the chachacha while reciting the Gettysburg Address, but none of them are very wise. Tamim says things that make you kick yourself and go, “Why didn’t I think of that?” And because he spent his Wonder Years in Afghanistan, and has a large web of family (many of whom, apparently, he has no idea he’s related to) in Afghanistan, he knows things that hardly any of us know. About how they think, how they live, who they are, what they want, these people with whom we are so intimately involved yet understand so little. Since he spent the last year or so writing a book about the history of Afghanistan called, Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan, I thought I’d pick his big brain about a subject I want to understand, one which will, I hope, make me seem smarter at parties.

DAVID HENRY STERRY: Reading your book, it becomes more and more clear that Afghanistan has a long history of being invaded. Is there something particular about the people, the culture, the country that screams: Invade me?

TAMIM ANSARY: Afghanistan is the land in between. It’s the place where the age-old “great powers” to the north, west, south and east overlap. It’s the real estate that empire-builders have had to march through over the centuries to get to other, more desirable places. In the 19th century, Russia had to take this land to get to the Arabian Sea, which they coveted because it would at long last give them a year-round port and access to the oceans. Britain was determined not to let the Russians sink roots here because time and again over the centuries, empire-builders have swept down from this platform to conquer India — which was now Britain’s prize possession. In all the tussles of the twentieth century, the powers trying to invade didn’t care about Afghanistan per se. They invaded it so that their rivals would take it. In the mid-twentieth century came the Cold War. Now, Afghanistan was the nut between the pincers of the Soviet Union to the north and the U.S. and its allies to the south. Pakistan and Iran were firmly under U.S. control but Afghanistan was in play — non-aligned. If the U.S. could get it they really have a fence around Soviet power; if the Soviets could get it, they’d poke a hole through that “containment” fence. Once again, Afghanistan mattered for strategic reasons and no one (except Afghans) cared about who or what was actually in this territory. And strategically, Afghanistan still matters today. Oceans aren’t so important anymore, but Afghanistan makes a perfectly situated air-base. Planes taking off from here can reach Iran, China, India, all the Central Asian former-Soviet-republics, and even Russia.

DHS: In America we seem to have turned the Taliban into the bogeyman, like if we could just get this one group of evil villains under our thumb and into Guantánamo, the problem would go away. Reading your book, I now suspect that this is wrong. Who are the Taliban exactly? Who are they not?

TA: When they first emerged, the Taliban were a single, specific, cohesive group. They had a leader, they had top officials, they had cadre, they had an ideology. They were organized by elements in the Pakistan military, were bound together by a radical Islamist ideology, and served as a tool for Pakistani domination of Afghanistan. Their period of rule was, to some extent, just another foreign invasion of Afghanistan, just like those the British undertook. But then in 2001-02, the United States toppled and scattered that Taliban and they fragmented. Today’s insurgents, so frequently and so casually labeled “the Taliban,” are a motley hodge-podge of anti-government rural folks, remnants of guerrilla armies that roamed the land for two decades, drug traffickers, tribal lords whose power is threatened by the reemergence of a central government, newly emerging criminal networks, fragments of the original Taliban that have re-congealed as rural gangs, and so on. A few al-Qaeda-type Jihadists from the Arab world are sprinkled into the mix, and saboteurs from Pakistan are said to be active in Afghanistan as well; but then, “Talibanist” saboteurs from Afghanistan now roam into Pakistan as well, to make trouble. Basically, the area once divided by a distinct border between two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) has dissolved into a belt of unruly, anti-government (any government) militants whose power derives from local sources and amorphous demographic is who we are calling “the Taliban.”

DHS: When you hear about Afghanistan in American media you get the impression there is the Taliban and those against the Taliban. Is Afghanistan really divided like this?

TA: Afghan society features a continuum of values, attitudes, beliefs and affiliations. At one extreme are radical reactionary fundamentalist Islamists, and outward-looking, secular-tending, modernist urban folks friendly to Western values and ideas at the other extreme. But these are merely the extremes, Between the two you’ll find every shade of grey. So it’s not a case of the Afghans being one group and the Taliban another group, with the one attacking the other. It’s more a case of a culture torn by its own contentions and contradictions, a contest that goes a long way back into Afghan history.

DHS: What is my moral obligation as an American, when it comes to Afghanistan?

TA: When the U.S. went into Afghanistan they established a plan that would transform Afghanistan into a secular, Western-style parliamentary democracy and a society in which women participated in public on a par with men and enjoyed equal rights and opportunities. Many Afghan men and women staked their lives on this American project succeeding. They bought into it. They went into businesses that depended on the country moving in the direction the West had laid out. Women dared to emerge as activists, they ran for and won parliamentary seats, they challenged laws, they led demonstrations, they became public figures. If Afghanistan crumbles back into the sort of chaos that wracked it in the 1990s after the Cold War ended and all the foreign powers completely withdrew not just military but civilian and economic involvement in Afghanistan, the people who bought into the project are probably going to be in trouble. Many of them may perish. The U.S. has no choice but to move forward with a withdrawal of at least most of its forces, but this withdrawal has to be conducted in a responsible manner, with some guarantee that America’s partners in Afghan society won’t simply be overwhelmed.

DHS: How much of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is self-serving? And how?

TA: The U.S. has strategic interests in Afghanistan. For one thing, this will be the corridor through which oil and gas from the Caspian Basin will have to pass, in order to reach the West once that oil comes into play; so it’s important that Afghanistan be safe, stable and peaceful in that near future. Also, this land holds the key to the stability of the region as a whole. Chaos in Afghanistan would almost surely trigger chaos in Pakistan, would invite Iran to rush in, would bring China into the picture, which would trigger a reaction from India… Pakistan has nuclear bombs. Even as it stands, Pakistan is unnervingly reckless; if even this simulacrum of a state dissolves, there is no telling who of the many potential successor groups in the country will end up with those bombs. Powerful elements in Pakistan nurse an almost crazed paranoia about India, a hostility that has brought these countries to the edge of war within this decade — if an irrational group fueled by paranoia and hatred gets possession of Pakistan’s bombs, it might decide to settle matters once and for all with India — which also has nuclear weapons. (And now Iran could get such weapon-capability.) What America doesn’t seem to have, particularly, is a self-interested motive related to Afghanistan’s vaunted mineral wealth — the trillion-plus dollars worth of copper, iron, rare-earth minerals and such. The United States has made no move on those minerals, at a time when others, such as China, have worked vigorously to acquire the rights to them.

DHS: What do people think of Americans at this point in Afghanistan?

TA: Over these last few years, a number of events have eroded goodwill toward America among Afghans. Of course sporadic mistaken bombings of wedding parties, of rural children grazing herds, and of other civilians have contributed to this erosion. Of course, Sgt. Bales’ massacre of 16 civilians didn’t help. The NATO policy of conducting “night raids” to arrest suspected terrorists has been a public relations disaster. But to my mind, the single most consequential error was the incineration of Korans in a trash fire by soldiers at Bagram Air Base, especially because Western observers never really understood the gravity of this act in the eyes of Afghans. And yet… and yet… even though many people I spoke to there wanted NATO to leave, some of those very same people expressed the hope that they wouldn’t. All this, however, is in the cities. In the countryside, especially in the south and southeast, I imagine people are more uniformly hostile to the American presence.

DHS: What will it take to have peace in Afghanistan?

TA: There is no certain path to peace. Every road passes through difficult terrain. In the long run, the foreign powers have to find a way to declare Afghanistan a non-aligned zone whose neutrality all outside parties pledge to observe and respect. At the same time, an international consortium needs to oversee continued aid to Afghanistan, ideally to help the country take control of its own vast, rich mineral resources and to develop that wealth. Once outside interference in Afghanistan is curtailed, Afghans will begin to settle scores among themselves. This might be very painful for outside observers to watch, and it might be very tempting for one party or another to intervene in order to make sure the struggle comes out “the right way.” But the outcome in Afghanistan will be meaningful only if Afghans attain it on their own.

DHS: What should America do about Afghanistan?

TA: Build connections, contacts and relationships with all the various factions and forces in the country, leaving a door open to have a diplomatic relationship with whoever emerged as the ruling group, do the hard work of global negotiating needed to ensure Afghan neutrality in the global contests of today, and play a peacemaking role as best it can while gradually easing out of the scene. But that’s easy for me to say. The devil is in the details.

Tamim Ansary can be found at his website. His new book is available online or at a bookstore near you.

 

Shame on Joe Paterno & Penn State & a Plea to Abused Kids From a Rape Survivor

 I was raped. By a large, athletic, violent man. I was young, naïve, and defenseless. Being the victim of this unspeakable violence destroyed the kid I was. Every single day I am internally tortured by this abuse I survived over three decades ago. I became a drug addict. I tormented everyone who was stupid enough to love me. It took me years, decades, just to be able to function without indulging in self-destructive behavior on a daily basis. I was lucky. I had a family that stuck by me. I had resources to eventually get help. I healed myself with the help of a hypnotherapist, writing about my abuse and telling my story, and the love of a good woman. But I vowed that I would try, in whatever small way I could, to speak for boys and girls who are not as fortunate as myself. Who don’t have the resources and love in their lives. Needless to say, I was greatly affected by the news that Jerry Sandusky, a man who built an organization that purported to help kids, has been charged with violently and sexually abusing them. There are even reports that he pimped them out to other adults, in order to further his own apparently grotesque needs. I’m filled with rage. I want him to suffer as he made these defenseless boys suffer. I’m filled with fury at Joe Paterno and the other officials at Penn State University, who were complicit in this horrible alleged abuse. Who helped to hide this monster. He is every bit as guilty as the man who actually allegedly perpetrated these deeds of shocking cruelty. I’m filled with disgust for the fans of Penn State who continue to stand by men who allegedly enabled pedophiles. Why aren’t they in the streets expressing solidarity with those boys whose lives were ruined? Why aren’t they in the streets expressing outrage that men who pretended to have the best interests of boys in their hearts, were actually hiding and enabling the most vile creature imaginable? But mostly I’m filled with sadness for these boys who suffered so miserably at the hands of adults. I want to help. I want to tell these boys, these young men, the survivors, but they are not alone. They can get help. They need to tell their stories. If there’s anything I can do, please just let me know.

The Real Clive Davis: Dishing the Skinny with Don Silver, the Man Behind the Man

413PS0eklTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-70,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Now that Kelly Clarkson has called Clive Davis a liar and a bully, and revealed that she felt violated by his account of their relationship in his autobiography The Soundtrack of My Life, I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of a man who worked under Clive. Don Silver came to New York in his early 20s with stars in his eyes, a song on his lips and a dream in his heart. Using the chutzpah that only the young man can muster, he talked his way into becoming an A&R man, scouring the country looking for great new acts that Clive could turn into superstars. And now he’s written a memoir about it: Clive: Working for the Man in the Age of Vinyl.

DAVID HENRY STERRY: What did you think of Kelly Clarkson calling Clive Davis a liar and a bully, that she felt violated by his book, that he belittled her and tried to sabotage her record?

DON SILVER: I take her comments at face value. She felt the way she felt during artistic disputes with Clive, whose job is to push artists to use material that will reach the widest audience. That Clive issued a statement saying essentially that her memories and feelings are wrong and that his book was fact checked by five witnesses is astonishing to me. Why be defensive? It actually makes the point that he is always trying to deny, which is that unless they want to be as rich and famous as possible, he often has a different bottom line than the artists he works with.

DHS: Did you observe Clive trying to change other artists to his own end?

DS: He was always looking for hit songs for artists that didn’t write their own. Once, he took what I thought was a pretty lame song I’d pitched for Manilow, “Whatever It Is,” and had Aretha Franklin record it. I thought to myself, really? You’re going to steal the Queen of Soul from her illustrious career with Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records and turn her into a middle of the road singer? After the Band broke up, Clive pressed us for covers for Rick Danko, but this time I couldn’t bring myself to send anything in. While I was there he signed the Dead, whom I loved, and put pressure on them to be commercial, which resulted in two of their least satisfying albums, Shakedown Street and Go To Heaven.

DHS: So, what made you want to go into the ridiculous music business?

DS: I was a kid from the Philly who grew up on great music. It was the most important thing in life to me and I wanted as an adult to immerse myself in it. I was in a band, thought I had a really good ear, and I read–and re-read Clive Davis’s autobiography. I mean, I studied that book. I thought he was, based on that book, something of a god among men.

DHS: How did you get a job at Arista?

DS: I sent in my resume and then did what my dad told me every twenty-two year old who was driven did: I kept calling Clive’s office until one day, his secretary Rose called me back and said, “Be here tomorrow at 5. Clive will see you then.” I had enough of that innocent, ballsy belief in myself that used to (circa 1980) open doors–even for a kid like me.

DHS: What was it like meeting Clive for the first time?

DS: It was like having an audience with the great and wonderful OZ: I was ushered into his gigantic office, took a seat, then just listened while he pontificated about the music business. Then he started sampling music and asking me my opinion. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

DHS: What was your job there?

DS: I was a junior A&R guy, so my job was to listen to unsolicited tapes, scout new talent at clubs, and pitch songs to Clive for artists on the label. My office was what had once been a supply closet, but I had a seemingly limitless expense account. I was living the dream! Until, of course, I wasn’t.

DHS: What happened?

DS: I grew-up. Fast. I went through happens to a lot of young people who go into a business believing they’re going to be working with art, but when they get there, they find out that art and commerce don’t really mix. On top of that, I had hugely unrealistic expectations about what kind of a boss, what kind of a person, Clive would be: I thought he’d teach me how to do my job with a certain kind of integrity, a certain kind of style and grace. I expected him to be a sort of mentor figure. But I realized, pretty quickly, that he wasn’t someone I wanted to emulate. At all.

DHS: Why is that?

DS: I landed at Arista when he was in his golden days, building the company into a major label. He’d begun to master the manufacturing of the empty pop star. He wasn’t interested in making great music or cultivating artists–he was interested in selling hits. I was a guy who wanted to be around the kind of amazing music I grew up listening to, and here I was, working for a man who seemed determined to eliminate that soul–that heart–at all costs.

DHS: Don’t you think that’s a bit of a harsh assessment?

DS: Actually, I don’t. I worked for the guy who was able to host a party on the same night his “dear friend” and protege–Whitney Houston–died. And not only did she die that day, she died in the same hotel where he was throwing his party. That qualifies as pretty heartless in my book.

DHS: What happened after you left Arista?

DS: I left after just a couple of years, totally disillusioned, but not defeated: I started my own production company with my friend who’d been Clive’s former assistant. I wound up–of all things–becoming a writer. I guess, in the end, the artist in me prevailed.

Don Silver is the author of: Clive: Working for the Man in the Age of Vinyl

His memoir about working with Clive Davis is available now.

The Art of the Memoir: Rebecca Tells Her Dirty Little Secret

51312Kszf2L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_ Rebecca has a dirty little secret. And now she’s telling the whole world. Because it’s a dirty little secret that way too many girls and boys, men and women carry around with them, locked away in their closets. And she wants to do something about that. We first met Rebecca at our Kansas City Pitchapalooza. When she pitched us her book, it was clear she had something special. But it wasn’t ready to be published yet. There was work to be done. Lots of writers tell us they’re serious about getting their book published. But they don’t build the house brick by brick. Rebecca is one of the hardest working writers in show business. She just kept grinding away and grinding away. Yes, she has tons of inspiration. But she also cranks out the necessary perspiration. Now that her first novel, My Perfect Little Secret, is about to come out, I wanted to ask her about what it was like to write her book, about the publishing process, and yes, her dirty little secret.

The Book Doctors: What made you want to write about such a difficult topic?

Rebecca Glenski Coppage: I wrote about a teenage girl struggling with an eating disorder because it’s something I am very familiar with. It was easy for me to write about something I know and understand so well. I also wrote about this topic because I feel like there are not enough novels out there for teenagers that have a strong character who is dealing with an eating disorder. There are tons of self-help books and textbooks about eating disorders, but I don’t think that’s what teens want to read. I wish a book like mine had existed when I was in high school, and that made me want to write it for teenagers now.

TBD: How did having an eating disorder change your life, and how did you get over it?

RGC: Having an eating disorder impacted my life in every aspect. It made high school and college a very difficult road for me. I protected my secret at all costs, which meant building walls and not getting close to people. I kept friends, boys, and family at a distance because I couldn’t let them find out about my eating disorder. It made it hard to socialize, to make new friends, to keep the friends I had. I didn’t get to have the typical college experience because halfway through my first semester, I had to leave to get treatment for my eating disorder. It made my dreams harder to accomplish, and it took away some really amazing opportunities. I missed out on building strong relationships, I missed out on dating opportunities, and I had to start college over. Keeping a wall up around you is exhausting and it makes every part of your life that much harder. That said, it made me a much stronger and more secure person after having gone through it. It has shaped the person that I have become today. It took many, many years for me to “get over” my eating disorder. The process has been long, with several relapses. Essentially, it consisted of learning to see myself in a different light and retraining my thought process regarding my body and my relationship with food. I credit my family and my husband for their support, love, and open minds with helping me heal.

TBD: Was it hard to write about such a painful thing when it’s so personal?

RGC: To be honest, writing this book was very freeing for me. An eating disorder is a difficult topic to write and talk about but so many people suffer from this in silence. It is a problem that touches so many teenagers all over the country, and all I had to do was remind myself of that when the writing became difficult. I want my book to be a voice and to help teenagers feel like they have someone to relate to.

TBD: Why did you choose to make a novel instead of a memoir?

RGC: For me, there was never a thought of a memoir. I didn’t want to tell my story. While having an eating disorder is a subject very familiar to me, I didn’t want to write about myself. I wanted to create a character, explore her life, and tell her story. It was fun to have the creative freedom to develop Lilly and to not worry about if I was getting the facts straight. I’m not going to deny that Lilly’s character and her life have many similarities to mine when I was in high school, but this novel is not the story of my life.

TBD: Tell me about your road to publication — what were some of the pitfalls and what were some of the joys?

RGC: The road to publication was so incredibly long and difficult. It was filled with a lot of rejection and a lot of waiting. The worst parts of trying to get your book published are the rejection letters from agents saying they aren’t interested in your book. It is also hard to hear criticism of your book when you have spent so much time working on it and developing it. It was especially difficult for me because many of my rejection letters stated they weren’t interested in my book because it was an “issues” book. Essentially, they don’t want to represent a book about an eating disorder because it’s a controversial topic. Even with all the pitfalls, I kept my head up and persevered until I found people who were excited about my book. Now here I am with a published book! I think one of my biggest joys on the road to publishing was receiving my first few reviews! Reading all the positive feedback and finding out that teenagers really enjoyed and related to my book was amazing!

TBD: What do you hope people take out of reading your book?

RGC: I hope that people, especially teenagers, walk away from my book with a sense of being understood. Part of having an eating disorder is that it is this huge secret. No one talks about it but it is around us everywhere. So many people I talk to about my book reveal that they suffered from an eating disorder or that they struggled with poor self-image. If they didn’t, they know someone who did. I want readers to know that they are not alone. I also want the reader to know that having an eating disorder does not negate the fact that she is a normal person with hopes and dreams.

Bob Calhoun Dishes the Dirt on Comicon, Star Trek, Mitt Romney, Westboro Baptists & Bigfoot

cover_indexfirst met Bob Calhoun when we were on the same bill at one of the greatest literary dives in America, the Edinburgh Castle, deep in the seedy groin of San Francisco’s Tenderloin. Bob is a genuine force of nature. He talks like he has a megaphone in his mouth, and I’m sure that somewhere in his family history a giant procreated with one of his ancestors. He’s lived a wild life, full of extreme wrestling, beer, blood and cornmeal. Combine that with his mad skills as a bona fide wordsmith, and you got a man who’s as fun to listen to as he is to read. He’s got a new book out called Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay, and Conflict on the Expo Floor, and we thought we would pick his brain about the crazy world of fan boys and girls, expos, trade show and conventions.

DAVID HENRY STERRY: What made you decide to write a book about the crazy world of conventions?

BOB CALHOUN: Conventions. I can’t get away from them. I end up going to toy shows or comic cons without even really trying to, and then there are the tradeshows that my job at UC Berkeley sends me to. A week ago I was at the Latino Comics Expo in San Francisco, and at the end of the month I’m going to the California Advancement Researchers Association Conference at the Long Beach Hilton. I’ve finished writing Shattering Conventions and I’m still living it! But at the time I started this book, I thought that since I’m going to cons all the time anyway, what if I went to even more cons? I still ended up going to Comic-Con and “Star Trek” cons, but I also went to a Republican Convention, a conspiracy con, a gun show, a hemp expo, a livestock show, a Bigfoot hunters’ con, and a Twilight con in Portland. I went to every con I could get into. I even got chased out of Moscone Center in San Francisco for trying to get into a Congress of Plastic Surgeons without a press pass.

DHS: What were some of the most ridiculous/fascinating/crazy/sexy/insane things you saw?

BC: Crazy would have to be the Mad Fag for Christ — his words, not mine. He just circled around the parking lot of the Santa Clara Hyatt to protest the California Republican Convention in a white van that had the words “Mad Fag For Christ” painted on one of the sides. I was about to flag him down for an interview, and then this town car pulled up, and Mitt Romney got out of it. It was still a year or so before he was the frontrunner in the GOP race so there was only one woman in a power suit there to meet him. Mitt didn’t have Secret Service protection yet either. That guy in the van could’ve just plowed straight into him. Sexiest would be a bar full of drunk green women at the Vegas Star Trek con. Why didn’t this happen at sci-fi cons when I was a teenager?

DHS: Why do you think people are so obsessed with the world that is embodied by fan conventions?

BC: Well if you can’t be obsessed about obsession what can you be obsessed about? But really, the main reason people go to cons is to be around people just as obsessed as they are, and where they won’t be judged for this obsession. This is true not only for fan cons, but for about any convention really. You go to World of Concrete in Vegas and people are so happy to be around other people who are just as into cement as they are. I talked to a woman at a Twilight con in Portland who told me her favorite con was the raw foods show in Arizona, mostly because everyone there was passionate about raw foods. It was the only place in the world where she didn’t have to negotiate a menu.

DHS: You’re a big guy, but were you ever physically or emotionally scarred by anything you saw or encountered?

BC: I was at a Conspiracy Con at the Santa Clara Marriott. This guy named Texe Marrs was speaking. His whole shtick was that what he called “Satanic Jews” had taken over the world. He started listing the names of Jewish government officials. He’d say “Rahm Emmanuel,” and everyone in this conference room would chant “Jew!” “Ben Bernanke!” “Jew!” They had a mini Nuremberg Rally going on in there. It was pretty revolting. I also had to spend a day with the late Andrew Breitbart at a Republican convention and he called me out during a Tea Party Express rally. That was pretty jarring, but the little Nazi rally at Con Con (they really called it this) was the worst.

DHS: Did you see a connection between the extreme wrestling world of your first book, Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Wrestling, and this extreme world of conventions?

BC: The big connection is cosplay. We all like playing dress up. When I was talking to the guys in the 501st Legion, a Star Wars cosplay group, or some Klingons from Daly City, Calif., I had to remember all the time I used to spend digging through fabric remnant bins to put together outfits for the wrestling show. And the reason for that was because of the power you get from masks, uniforms and crazy outfits. Those people dressing like Klingons and Stormtroopers become Klingons and Stormtroopers, at least for a day or two during these cons. A little bit of leopard print made me into Count Dante, the Deadliest Man Alive. When I wore a burlap tunic, I was an ancient Christian fighting a guy in a in lion suit. If you think about it, the Tea Party was able to take over the Congress by dressing like George Washington or Ben Franklin. Cosplay is some powerful, powerful shit.

DHS: How did being in the world of conventions change you?

BC: It made me realize that I’m a lapsed fanboy in the same way that I’m a lapsed Catholic. I can’t get all that excited about the next superhero movie trailer like everyone else at Comic-Con. I don’t have the adulation for this stuff that I used to. There’s a sense of loss with that, but every so often I can sync up with that magic for a moment or two.

DHS: What did you learn from spending all that time in the world of geeks, fan boys and fan girls?

BC: I learned that the discovery of dark matter may make warp drive possible from an early morning lecture by a NASA scientist at Star Trek Las Vegas. I learned that the lighting systems you’d install in a mega-church don’t always work for small congregations at the Christian lighting seminar at the National Association of Music Merchants Show in Anaheim. But the main takeaway was the lengths that people will go to feel a sense of belonging — that often they don’t find this in their own homes and marriages, and that they go searching for it in hotel conference rooms of all places.

TBD: What are some of your favorite conventions?

DHS: My favorite convention by far was the unfortunately named NAMM Show, for the National Association of Music Merchants. They throw this huge tradeshow every January in Anaheim. All the music instrument manufacturers are there with these mega booths. Fender Guitars, Gibson, Marshall amps, and even the makers of bassoons and accordions and sheet music publishers. But what’s amazing about the NAMM Show is that Carlos Santana or Gene Simmons are pressed into demonstrating these companies’ new guitars and amps, so it takes these big rock stars and makes them into product pitchmen, not much different from a Maytag sales rep doing a washing machine demo at a home appliance show. They also have jam sessions that go on past midnight at the two big hotels next to the convention center there, and all the top people from rock, jazz, metal — you name it — end up sitting in on those things, but they always take time in between songs to thank their sponsors.

My other favorite con is the Big Wow Comicfest in San Jose. It’s just an old school comic book convention. It still has that swap-meet feel that the San Diego Comic-Con lost years ago. You can still buy a big stack of 1970s Devil Dinosaur comics there for a few bucks and walk away happy. Comic books still matter at Big Wow, and you can talk to your favorite artists there. Comic-Con is an ordeal, but Big Wow is like old home week.

DHS: What advice do you have for convention goers to maximize their convention experience?

BC: A lot of convention goers spend all of their time rushing from panel to panel — especially at something like the San Diego Comic-Con. They adhere to their schedules and spend a lot of time waiting in line for things. I say free up the schedule a little bit and allow for some random, crazy shit to happen to you. I snuck out of one the Star Trek cons to the hotel bar, and ended up getting chewed out by Gary Lockwood from 2001. That’s a magical convention moment right there, but this wouldn’t have happened if I’d kept my butt glued to a chair in the conference room.

DHS: After spending so much time in the world of conventions, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of mankind?

BC: I’m actually going to go out on a limb and say optimistic. When Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptists showed up with their “God Hates Fags” signs to protest Comic-Con, it wasn’t long before all the fanboys and geek girls inside the convention center were out there counter-protesting with their own signs that said things like “Odin is God; Read Mighty Thor #5” and “God Hates Jedi.” I was in the middle of that thing only a few hours after I’d interviewed George Takei about the struggle for marriage equality. A couple of weeks later and I was at that science lecture at a Star Trek con. No matter how bad things get in this country, Trekkies and sci-fi fans still give me hope for the future.

I do want to add a cautionary note to this however, and that’s to resist the temptation of nerdy triumphalism. I’ve been to sci-fi cons where Adam Malin of Creation Entertainment or Wil Wheaton boast about how nerds have all the best jobs now; how nerds have won. That’s great. We’ve all had enough sand kicked in our faces. But I think nerds need to use their powers to create jobs and opportunities for even their former tormentors; otherwise we end up with the Tea Party threatening to destroy the science and education that we all thrive on. Nerds need to decide if they’re going to be super villains or superheroes right now.
Bob Calhoun used to wrestle men in Sasquatch suits while drunks threw food at him. He chronicled these days of glory in the punk-rock/lucha-libre memoir Beer, Blood & Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling, a national bestseller. His work has appeared in Salon.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, AOL News, Filmfax, Giant Robot and Inside Kung-Fu. He is also the co-author of The Godfather of Grappling, the autobiography of martial arts and Hollywood stunt legend “Judo” Gene LeBell. Calhoun is currently a Sr. Research Analyst at the University of California, Berkeley.

Shattering Conventions Website.

To buy Shattering Conventions.

 

Writers, You Need a Platform: Or the Power of Facebook for Authors

 “Is’t possible that on so little acquaintance you

should like her? that but seeing you should love

her? and loving woo? and, wooing, she should

grant? and will you persever to enjoy her?”
— William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act V, Scene II

s-GET-PAID-TO-WRITE-A-BOOK-smallEvery day published, self-published and unpublished authors breathlessly ask us, “Do I really have to have a Facebook page, and if so, what the heck do I do with it?” We will endeavor to answer these questions. But there are also a lot of questions we are not asked, but we think authors should be asking. Our goal is to present a roadmap that will help any writer navigate this increasingly complicated — and crucial — cyber-landscape.

While we get our Facebook on every day, we turned to two experts, Annik LaFarge and Antonella Iannarino, to give us the skinny on the latest and greatest ways to use this monster of a tool.

Annik spent 25 years in the publishing business in senior marketing, editorial, and publishing positions. Today she runs her own company that specializes in online project management, editorial work, and consulting on digital strategy. She recently wrote The Author Online: A Short Guide to Building Your Website, Whether You Do it Yourself (and you can!) or Work With Pros. Antonella, an agent and digital media maven at the David Black Agency, has helped authors like Mitch Albom get their websites and Facebook pages up and running. Here Annik and Antonella offer us both the Big Think about how to use Facebook and also some more granular how-to information (just follow the links…) that will help you get started today.

First, Annik addresses the most popular questions The Book Doctors hear from authors about Facebook:

1) How many Facebook fans is enough to impress a publisher?

What seems like a lot of fans to one publisher might seem paltry to another, so rather than think in terms of actual numbers I urge you instead to think about growth. Facebook’s analytic tool called Insights allows you to easily track the number of monthly active users, Likes, wall posts, comments and visits that your page receives, along with the increase or decrease on a week-to-week basis. So pay attention to that data and aim to present your publisher with a percentage of growth rather than a fixed, context-less number. More impressive will be the fact that with active use and engagement you grew your key metrics by ten or twenty percent over a period of several months or a year. That shows dedication on your part, and demonstrates that you understand how to provide high value content to your readers. Even more impressive will be the number of Likes your page has garnered from fans. Read on and you’ll understand why.

2) Should I set up a fan page for my book or just use my personal page?

You should set up a fan page because these are accessible to anyone on the web, whether or not they’re Facebook members. And they don’t have to be your friends to access it; the page is open to anyone. This way you can post special content or links on your Facebook page and mention it in media interviews. For all of you Luddites out there, Antonella wrote a great primer about how to do this: The 7 Essential Elements for an Author’s Fan Page. Everything you need to know is there, along with screenshots plus a link to a piece that outlines all the important settings for your Facebook page. At the end of this article we’ve offered a few examples of author fan pages that you can use to generate ideas of your own.

3. When should I set up my Facebook page — when I start writing/once I have a book deal/once my book comes out?

It takes time to build an audience. The sooner you begin the more time you’ll have to grow your fan base and start learning — by studying your Insight analytics — what sort of content resonates with them. Start as soon as possible. How about tomorrow afternoon?

4) How often should I communicate via Facebook? What is too much?

You’ll know when it’s too much because the postings will feel forced. Communicate as often as you have something worthwhile to say. Being consistent is good, but not essential. Some people insist that you should post to a blog or Facebook page at least once a week. I think the better rule of thumb is: always default to quality, not quantity. Your friends and fans have other things to read; just make sure that whatever they find on your page is worth their time.

5) I’m worried about privacy issues. What should I do?

You don’t need to include personal information on your page. You do need to provide some details when first signing up for a personal account with Facebook, but that’s for registration and you can keep that information private through your privacy settings. But for your Page, the only details you can elect to include on your “Info” tab that might be of concern are your birthday and contact information. Think carefully about posting your birthday online. The upside is that your friends can send you nice messages, wishing you a happy birthday. The downside is that your date of birth is used by banks and other institutions as a legal identifier, and so there are reasons to keep it private. Antonella points out that some people include their zodiac sign and list their publisher’s address or a P.O. box for fan mail. As for managing information on your personal profile, our best advice is to closely monitor your settings and stay up-to-date on changes that Facebook makes. They happen often, and are widely discussed online. Often, Facebook’s default options are not pro-privacy. So pay attention, and ask your friends what they do if you’re unsure. And of course, use common sense about what information you share. Anywhere.

6) Should I put up pictures? Video? What kind of picture should I put up for my profile?

If your pictures and videos enhance what you’re sharing on Facebook then sure, use them. But don’t post any visual media just because you have it. Post it because the stuff is worthy of being posted — because it helps you amuse, entertain, educate, engage. And use something dignified. A goofy picture of you and your dog is okay for your personal page but not, perhaps, the image you want to leave potential book buyers with. Many authors (myself included) use their book cover instead of a photograph. That’s fine too, just try to keep the image relevant to you and your work.
Now that Annik and Antonella have covered the questions The Book Doctors get on a daily basis, we want to introduce the questions you should be asking, but aren’t. Take notes!

1) So now I know I need to get people to “Like” my page. What’s the best way to do this so I can build my list of friends/fans?

Two ways. First, post relevant, engaging content: questions, insights, books you’ve read, etc. Give people a reason to visit your page, make it interesting, interactive, and a true reflection of you and your work. Then tell people about it in all the ways available to you: link to it from your website or blog; place a link in your email signature; mention it on the flap or back cover of your books; send a message with a link to all your personal Facebook friends asking them to join your book page by clicking the Like button; etc.

2) What’s the deal with the “Like” button and why is it so ubiquitous?

As you may have noticed, the “Like” button that appears at the top of a fan page, is now showing up in lots of other places: on people’s blogs, next to products on online stores, and in nooks and crannies all over the World Wide Web.

I recently had a conversation with Greg Lieber who runs business operations for GraphEffect, one of the fast growing social advertising platforms that Facebook works with closely. They develop and manage Facebook campaigns for large brands that go way beyond the spookily targeted ads you see in the right column of your Facebook page.

He helped me understand the basics of how Facebook works by explaining that its algorithm, EdgeRank, gives a value to all of the items that appear in your News Feed and that a huge component of this is the number of Likes and comments that are associated with it.

So let’s say you have a blog and you’ve installed a Facebook plug-in that places a Like button alongside each post you write. When someone clicks the Like button your post appears in that person’s Facebook News Feed and becomes visible to all of their friends, plus it includes a link back to your blog.

This allows people to discover your work and enables them to either like the post directly in the feed or to click on the post and like it directly from the post itself. As the likes increase via Facebook’s viral channels the value of the post increases in EdgeRank and makes the post more likely to appear in your friend’s News Feed. However there are other factors at play: for example, if there’s a friend or page you interact with frequently on Facebook, then this person or page’s post will likely appear towards the top of your News Feed. Another factor is timing: the older your post, the less likely it is to appear in the News Feed of your friends. Finally, the “weight” of the post’s feedback plays a role, meaning that comments on a specific post are going to have a greater impact than ‘Likes’ of that same post.

[Side note: you may have recently seen that new “Send” button on Facebook. It’s similar to the Like button, but allows you to share a link privately with a friend or Facebook group using Facebook email. Whenever someone clicks it, it does increase your total like count, but it will not show up in the newsfeed.]

3) What sort of landing page should I have?

Creating a special “landing page” that people will see when they first come to your page is an effective way to use Facebook almost as you would the home page of a website. You can convey the “voice” of your site (in words and images) and tell folks what sort of regular content you’ll be providing there. A good example of this is a company called Global Basecamps, a popular eco-tourism business. See how their landing page expresses what the business is all about, tells you a bit about what they offer (weekly travel quizzes!) and, most important, encourages you to hit the Like button. Once you’ve Liked their page you’ll start landing, in future visits, on the wall page where they post all kinds of useful, interesting, amusing, content. The more good stuff they post, the more their visitors hit the Like button. And the more they hit the Like button… well, you know about that now.

But be warned: Facebook recently changed — and made more complex — the programming language that members use to customize their pages. Today creating a landing page requires some knowledge of basic programming. Antonella’s 7 Essential Elements for an Author’s Facebook Page article has some very helpful background information and tips for how to get started (see #7), and she also includes links to third party apps that you (or your developer) can use.

4) Should I connect my Twitter feed or my website to Facebook?

Probably, but if all you feed to Twitter is your Facebook status updates you’re not making your Twitter account unique. Best of all: create unique content for each platform and give people a reason to follow you in both places.
Now that we’ve laid down the basics, look around at some author pages on Facebook and see what you like (lower case…) and admire. Some people share a lot, others very little. But it bears repeating: follow the quality over quantity rule and post your updates and links with care. Offer value to the people who come to your page, and remember that because you’ve made it public anyone can come there — it’s not just your friends and family. Think about all the many different kinds of people who might end up there — young or old, familiar with your work or not, interested in just one aspect of a subject you cover, etc. Visit your page periodically like you’re a perfect stranger, and consider how the content, style and look may strike those different audiences. Then review, update, revise. And for goodness sake, whatever you do, have fun!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Founder Chris Baty on Writing, Writers, Doing & Dreaming

We first met Chris Baty about a decade ago, when Arielle agented his book No Plot, No Problem: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. We watched as he built this strange, beautiful community of lunatics and dreamers who, every November, write a 50,000 word book in 30 days. NaNoWriMo, as it’s called, now has hundreds of thousands of participants all over the world, writing writing writing. Then last summer, an astonishing librarian named Amy Marshall brought us to rural Alaska with the NaNo team, to make cyber-presentations to libraries in the most remote parts of Alaska. We saw bears and whales and totem poles with Chris. He has boundless enthusiasm, a wicked sense of humor and he listens when you talk. The most telling thing we can say about him is that our daughter loves hanging out with him. She’s five years old. So Chris has moved on from National Novel Writing Month, and we wanted to check in with him to see what he’s working on now, and what he learned from being around all those crazy writers writing all those crazy books.

The Book Doctors: What in God’s name made you want to start National Novel Writing Month?

Chris Baty: I have a history of dragging friends into questionable endeavors, and NaNoWriMo was one of many self-improvement schemes that began with me saying “What if we all got together and…” I thought the 21 of us who agreed to write 50,000-word novels in July of ’99 would do it once, make a complete mess of it and never do it again. But somehow lowering our expectations and transforming novel-writing into a group activity — most of us got together after work to write — ended up doing good things to our brains and books. Our stories definitely weren’t anywhere near bookstore-ready, but they were promising in their own lopsided ways. And the experience of writing them had been more fun than any of us had dreamed.

TBD: Did you have any idea that it would take over your life?

CB: Not at all! It wasn’t until the third year, when I was planning for 200 participants and 5,000 people showed up, that I first realized that the idea might have some appeal beyond my friends.
I kind of blame the name for the event’s growth. For the first two years, everyone who took part in National Novel Writing Month knew it was a homespun challenge run by a twentysomething book nerd with a lot of enthusiasm and almost zero fiction-writing experience. When the third NaNoWriMo rolled around, though, a handful of blogs sent thousands of new folks to the site. They didn’t know the history. They just saw the “National Novel Writing Month” name and the long list of writers taking part and assumed it was some sort of vetted national literary initiative.
I think that gave all the newcomers a healthy jolt of confidence. Behind the scenes, I was worried that the magic from the first two years wouldn’t scale. But because everyone believed our promise that you can write a novel draft in a month, they did exactly that. And that was the tipping point. When those 5,000 people came back the next year, they brought friends with them. By 2006, when we became a nonprofit, we had 75,000 participants. By 2012, when I stepped down as Executive Director, we had year-round programs serving 300,000 writers, including tens of thousands of kids and teens writing books with our Young Writers Program. It was totally unexpected and completely wonderful and I never in a million years could have predicted any of it would happen back in 1999.

TBD: How did being surrounded in the sea of writers change you as a writer?

CB: First off, I think it helped me see that writing can be a great social activity. If you want to get more writing done, try working in the same room with other writers. There’s just something about the sight and sound of people typing that makes it easier to get words on the page.
It also made me a devout believer in the power of shared deadlines. Even if you can’t sit at the same table with other novelists, just knowing that you’re part of a group all working towards the same goal at the same time keeps you writing when the going gets tough. A terrifying deadline, coupled with a supportive community, can work miracles.

TBD: What mistakes do you see writers make over and over and over?

CB: I think a lot of writers set impossibly high standards for their first drafts, which tends to sabotage the creative process. I know why we do it: We’ve read so many great books, and we unintentionally use them as yardsticks to measure our own efforts. When we fall short (which, for me, usually happens around the second sentence), we take it as a sign that our stories are doomed. This is a tragedy because, as Ernest Hemingway said, “the first draft of anything is shit.” Most of the novels that have inspired us started out as horrible messes. Confusing plots. Flat characters. Clunky dialogue. I keep hoping that publishers will offer downloads of the first draft of bestselling novels as a public service to writers. I think we’d be astonished. And relieved.
To me, your novel’s true essence doesn’t become clear until you’ve written an entire draft. Finding out what your book is really about is the consolation prize granted to writers by the Novel Gods for all the hours of TV watching, internet surfing and personal grooming we had to forgo to get to The End. The life-changing thing about second drafts is that you get to take this newly clarified vision for your story and all the best bits from the first draft and shape them into something that’s better than the book you initially set out to write. And the third draft gets even more powerful. Which means that most important thing someone can do in the early phase of book writing is to turn off their inner editor and just focus on getting a beginning, middle and end down on paper. In an early draft, quantity trumps quality. A bad story decision is better than no story decision. There’s a wise saying that you can revise a bad book into a great book, but you can’t revise a blank page into anything but a blank page. Neil Gaiman wrote a fantastic pep talk for NaNoWriMo about how doubting your own writing abilities during a first draft is just part of the process. If you haven’t read it, I totally recommend it.

TBD: Your first book, No Plot No Problem was, of course, nonfiction. We heard on the grapevine that your working on a novel now, what’s it like making the transition to fiction?

CB: Yes! I’m in the middle of revising two NaNoWriMo novels, along with a couple of screenplays that were born in NaNo’s sister event, Script Frenzy. With non-fiction, it feels easier to isolate (and address) problems when something isn’t working in the piece. With novel revision, I get this vague feeling that something is broken in the machine, but it can be hard to know exactly how to fix it. I think this is one of the thing that makes fiction so irresistible and so frustrating — it’s a magnificent puzzle.

TBD: What your favorite thing about Alaska?

CB: Traveling by float plane! I also love the sense of humor that the miserable winters engender.

TBD: What’s it like watching all those NaNoWriMo writers get published? When one of our people gets a book deal, it’s a very happy day around our house.

CB: It’s amazing. Bashing out that first draft in NaNoWriMo is just the start of a long journey, and the writers who make it through to the end of their revisions are heroes regardless of whether the manuscript sells. That said, it’s totally exciting to see projects that started in NaNoWriMo show up on the New York Times Bestseller list or peek out from bookstore shelves. One of my favorite NaNoWriMo memories was going to see the Water For Elephants movie with the rest of the NaNo staff. So cool!

TBD: What are some of things you learned by watching all those people write 50,000 words in a month?

CB: 1) Everyone has a book in them. (Actually, that’s not totally true. Everyone has a bunch of books in them.)
2) Writing one of those books will change the way you see yourself, deepen the way you read and make life feel a little more magical.
3) You can have about a hundred cups of coffee in one sitting before the caffeine becomes lethal.

TBD: Where do you see the future of books going?

CB: I wish I knew! We’re clearly heading into the era of e-books. I’m guessing that within two decades paperbooks will become what vinyl records are now — cool, retro objects embraced by the faithful and seen as quaint and impractical by everyone else. Whatever form books take, though, I still see a big place for them in human hearts. People have been proclaiming the death of novels and reading for a long time. But I’ve watched hundreds of thousands of people voluntarily give up a month of their lives to take part in a writing contest where the only prize is the manuscript itself. I find this very reassuring.

TBD: Is there a huge gaping hole in your life where NaNoWriMo used to be?

CB: Yes! It’s hard not to be working every day with the incredible staff and volunteers who continue to kick so much literary ass. The nice thing about my role as board member emeritus is that I still get to write encouraging emails and give talks. I’m also still a very enthusiastic participant, and look forward to writing my 15th mediocre novel this November. I’ve also continued to work with illustrators to create posters for writers through my latest questionable living-room-based endeavor, Chris Baty Studios.

TBD: I hate to do this to you, but do you have any advice for writers?

CB: Keep going. Keep growing. Finish your book. And have fun.

Chris Baty founded National Novel Writing Month in 1999, and oversaw the growth of the annual writing challenge from 21 friends to more than 250,000 writers in 90 countries. Chris is the author of No Plot? No Problem! and the co-author of Ready, Set, Novel. When not revising his future bestseller about two monsters who find a VHS tape and set out to return it, Chris gives talks about writing and creativity, creates posters through Chris Baty Studios and freelances for such publications as the Washington Post, Afar magazine, theBeliever and Lonely Planet guidebooks. His quest for the perfect cup of coffee is never-ending, and will likely kill him someday.

 

Tegan Tigani, Kid’s Book Buyer: How to Successfully Publish Your Children’s Book

2013-06-13-tegan.jpg We first met Tegan Tigani a few years ago while we were on tour in Seattle. She was so excited to give us the grand tour of her kingdom: the Queen Anne Book Company kids section, where she is the book buyer. Her enthusiasm and passion for books was completely contagious, she was exactly the kind of evangelist you want selling your book. We’ve subsequently used her to edit several of our clients’ children’s books, and she is one of the most knowledgeable people we’ve met when it comes to books in general and kids books specifically. So we thought we’d pick her brain to find out some of the secrets to successfully publishing a children’s book.

THE BOOK DOCTORS: So, how did you get started in the ridiculous business of books?

TEGAN TIGANI: Serendipity!!! I’ve always loved reading, bookstores, and libraries; I volunteered and worked in my high school library back in the day. When I moved to Seattle from Rhode Island after college, I thought I was going to work in museums and education. (I studied History of Science in school.) My first day in town, the first place my then-boyfriend-now-husband took me was Queen Anne Books. As we left, new purchases in hand, I commented to him, “I’d love if I could get a little part-time job in a place like that until I find my real job.” The next day, the owners posted a sign that said “Book lover wanted.” I started working there that week. That was over 14 years ago.

TBD: Tell us what you do at Queen Anne Book Company.

TT: I am a bookseller and the Children’s Book Buyer. We all wear many hats, so I help with event coordination, website design, and all sorts of other things, but I spend most of my time recommending books, ringing up purchases, and meeting with publisher reps to decide what great new books we’ll carry in our kids’ and teen sections each season.

TBD: It’s been an incredible saga, what with the closing and re-opening at Queen Anne. What the heck happened?

TT: I wish I really knew! In April of 2012, a new owner bought Queen Anne Books, which had been beloved in the community for over 20 years. By the end of October 2012, she closed the store. After a truly sad holiday season, the community got the great news that a new owner and management team wanted to start a brand new bookstore in the location of the old Queen Anne Books, and Queen Anne Book Company was born. The new owners were able to hire four staff from Queen Anne Books, so we have some continuity even with our fresh, clean start.

TBD: What grabs you in a children’s book?

TT: In picture books, I tend to gravitate toward books that beg to be read aloud but also stand up to hours of flipping pages independently… I want something that uses clever, age-appropriate language and has illustrations that really contribute to the story. I find that good picture books are so crucial to readers’ developing comprehension; I love a book that makes the adult and child look at the picture and text again and really mull things over.
TBD: Why is there a prejudice in the picture book world against rhyming?

TT: Ha– I almost put “great rhymes” in my previous answer! So I don’t think there’s a prejudice against rhyming; I just think it’s very hard to do it right. If it’s not just right, you shouldn’t force it, so it’s better to go with prose. One of the biggest delights during my bookselling career was discovering Skippyjon Jones. I remember when that first came out, the rhymes were so good, we couldn’t stop reading it aloud to each other in the store. If you can get the rhythms of poetry to work in a kids’ book (Dr. Seuss!), it’s magical. If it’s not, even the youngest listeners will cock their heads, know something is off, and choose another book to read next time.

TBD: What mistakes do you see children’s book authors make?

TT: I have a very hard time with children’s books that are too preachy. Some kids and parents enjoy a concrete lesson, but most readers I know like to draw their own conclusions from books. I also wonder if some children’s book authors actually read their books aloud before they submitted them. Pacing and language are tremendously important in picture books, and I think reading aloud is one of the best ways to check if you’ve gotten it right.

TBD: What advice do you have for people who want to write a children’s book?

TT: Think about the audience. Before, during, and after, children’s book authors need to consider who they want to reach with their book. If they keep the audience in mind, voice, vocabulary, pacing, even subject matter will match, and the book will be more successful. My other piece of advice is to let the professional illustrators do the illustrations. I’m delighted by the layers of meaning well-done illustrations can add. The right illustrator can make a good book great.

TBD: Thanks, see you at the bookstore!

TT: Thanks, you too!

Tegan Tigani loves connecting readers and books, whether as bookseller and children’s book buyer at Queen Anne Book Company, tutor, freelance developmental editor, ghostwriter, editor of nwbooklovers.org, vice president of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, Seattle Book Examiner, blogger at tsquaredblog.blogspot.com, or party guest. When she isn’t reading or talking about books, she enjoys traveling, cooking, eating, and walking (sometimes all at the same time). She lives with her husband in Seattle.

SF Gate, Beth Lisick on Chicken: “Sextacular… Poignant…”

“Sextacular… Poignant… Effortlessly whip[s] himself into pimps, hos, housewives, hippies, swingers, nuns, and nice girls…” — Beth Lisick, San Francisco Gate

chicken 10 year anniversary cover

sfgateTo buy Chicken click here.

I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up chronology 459against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs.

It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

 

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

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