David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Month: April 2015

Jon Pressick on Best Sex Writing of 2015: Consent, BDSM, Porn, Race, Sex Work & Being Canadian

I met Jon Pressick a few years ago when I wrote a book about sex. That’s what happens when you write a book about sex. You get to meet Jon Pressick. He has talked about sex to some of the coolest sex people in America, and lived to tell the tales. He has put together a book about … wait for it … sex.  The Best Sex Writing of the Year: On Consent, BDSM, Porn, Race, Sex Work and More.  Quite a mouthful, eh?  So I thought I’d pick his brain about one of our favorite subjects. Sex.
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To read on Huff Po press here.

David Henry Sterry: When did you first become interested in sex?

Jon Pressick: I was a truly early bloomer. Blooming all over the place and making a mess everywhere. Middle school? Earlier? I really don’t remember, but I do know that sex has preoccupied my mind for a long, long time. It is great to take those thoughts beyond my own enjoyment.

DHS: I understand you’re Canadian, how is Canadian sex different than American sex? Are Canadians educated differently about sex than Americans?

JP: I’ve never had sex with an American! I don’t think so, at least. Does it involve guns and apple pie, because you know where all about maple syrup and canoes in our sexy time. And of course, it is so polite as to be awkward, at times.  We’re at a crucial time, in sex education where I live (outside Toronto). Our province has just mandated a progressive sex education curriculum that will come into effect next fall. We sex happy folk are rejoicing (even though the curriculum could use more work) while the right-leaning and religious folk are up in arms. On the other hand, I read with morbid fascination Alice Dreger’s livetweeting of her kid’s abstinence-based sex ed class…wow. The more I read and hear about American sex ed, in classrooms, communities and home, I think we Canucks are on a better track. We’re not chugging with great speed, but we’re not derailed either.

DHS: You talk about sex on the radio, is that different than talking about sex in the flesh? What are some of the highlights of your radio sex career?

JP: You know that thing about having a face for radio…? Well, it isn’t that bad, but I am, deep-down, fairly introverted. I can speak freely, openly and happily with my familiars and perfect strangers about sex…but it is even easier on the radio. Sex City has such an open concept with very few limitations so I’ve talked to Bigfoot softcore filmmakers, Dr. Carol Queen and everything in between. Some of my highlights are my infamous armpit fetish model interview and having Candida Royalle tell me I have a sexy voice.

DHS: I see that you are both a pundit and a mogul? How do you get to be those things, and do they conflict?

JP: Well, one is a misnomer, for sure. I’ve been around long enough, tickling keyboards and flapping my lips about all things sex that people actually ask my opinion. I’m still flabberghasted (and entirely Canadian) about that. But, I can usually be relied upon to give good words. Now, the mogul part I’m still working on. Am I wealthy in knowledge, experience and fantastic connections? Absolutely. Do I get excited about sales on sex toys? Of course, because I can’t afford them otherwise.

DHS: I understand you’re also a general gadabout. Is that different than being a specific gadabout? And how does one get started as a gadabout?

JP: I tried being a more specific gadabout. I wrote primarily for the queer community (publications and web) for a number of years. But I found that limiting and had to expand the bounds of my gadaboutry. It was only natural to spread my legs to sex. Since then, I’ve done the radio, performed burlesque, spoken at conferences, participated in sex work, taught workshops and now edited books–all while writing for whomever will take it. I flit around as much as I can. If someone would like to emulate this and embark on the gadabout life, I suggest you get yourself as scattered as possible–but invest in a dayplanner.

DHS: What was it like wrangling all these people who write about sex?

JP: I would offer the cliche that it was like herding cats…but it really wasn’t. Many of the pieces included in Best Sex Writing of the Year came to me (ahhh, willing submission). Others I sought. In almost all cases, the response has been one of joyous, enthusiastic consent. Now, as in all relationships, sometimes we lose focus, sometimes reminders on the fridge are needed. Sometimes we don’t always pick up our socks when we should. But I’ve spent years and years coordinating writers–the majority of whom I wasn’t paying with anything but my heartfelt thanks, good connection and experience. Now, with a budget behind me, I’m in a much better state to work with and help and coddle and cajole writers. Even though I really didn’t have to that much. But I was ready to!

DHS:If there were a position open in the government for czar of sex, and you were given this appointment, what would you do?

JP: In my role as Grand Poobah of Pleasure, I’d be writing cheques all over the place for groups such as Planned Parenthood. I’d get them in schools and make sex ed classes fun, shame-free learning environments. I’d decriminalize sex work. I address sexual assault by retraining police, reclassifying it as a crime to further protect victims while at the same time punishing and establishing rehabilitation programs for offenders. I’d strip any influence sex negative idealogues have out of the governance of sex and promote sex as a positive, pleasurable aspect of our lives.

DHS: What are some of the takeaways of the best sex writing of the year?

JP: This book is diverse–and that is the key to our evolving societal sexual conversation. All of the voices need to be heard. The young, the old, the people with disabilities, the sex workers, the pundits and gadabouts. There are so many stories, and many of those stories have another side to them. While sex is the common theme…the complexity of our experiences ensures a unique experience in each contribution.

DHS: What did you learn as a writer by editing the best sex writing of the year? And what did you learn about sex?

JP: What I learned was one in the same here. The opportunity to read works and speak with writers of this calibre has created a desire to up my game. Since I completed this work, I think I’ve been a better writer. I’ve seen the work of masters and I’ve seen where I needed to improve–and keep working at it. Writing about sex is unique work. It isn’t easy to create, capture and maintain the nuance of these pieces. And sex is the same way. I read work that challenged me to think about my own sex life. I’m a 40+ year old man and have a type of life experience. Now I’ve seen more…now I want more even more.

DHS: What advice do you have for writers? What advice do you have for people who want to have sex?

JP: Start a blog. Have a public space you write in and contribute to it often. Let people know they can read it. Encourage feedback. Fight for your words when people critique you…but at the same time take time to learn and admit as much when you fail. Write without shame, but don’t shame others. Work hard at finding your voice, your technique and your power. You have it, find it. Oh and sex? All of the above, though be careful with the blog part.

Jon Pressick (<a href=”http://sexinwords.ca/” target=”_hplink”>SexinWords.ca</a>) is a Toronto-based writer, editor, blogger, radio personality and gadabout specializing in topics related to sex and sexuality for more than fifteen years. Currently, Jon contributes to <a href=”http://www.kinkly.com/” target=”_hplink”>Kinkly.com</a> and has been published on/in New York Magazine, Xtra, Quill & Quire and in the books Secrets of the Sex Masters and Best Sex Writing 2013. He primarily publishes to his blog, Sex in Words, sharing and contributing analysis of sex-related news stories, feature interviews and erotic fiction.  As one of the hosts and producer of Toronto’s sex radio institution Sex City, Jon has interviewed some of the sex community’s biggest names, including Cindy Gallop, Candida Royalle, Sunny Megatron, Susie Bright, Tristan Taormino, Kate McCombs, Reid Mihalko, Carol Queen, Dr. Charlie Glickman and many others (including many of the contributors to this collection!). When he pulls himself away from the keyboard, Jon occasionally performs burlesque, DJs, speaks at sexuality conferences, acts as a juror for the Feminist Porn Awards, curates an erotica library and offers prostate pleasure and erotica workshops. Throughout the years, Jon’s efforts have earned him TNT’s Sex Journalist of the Year Award and recognition as one of Broken Pencil’s “50 People and Places We Love”.

<em>David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, editor and book doctor.  His anthology was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  His first memoir, <a href=”http://bit.ly/1ancjuE” target=”_hplink”>Chicken</a>, was an international bestseller and has been translated into 10 languages.  He co-authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his current wife, and co-founded <a href=”http://www.thebookdoctors.com” target=”_hplink”>The Book Doctors</a>, who have toured the country from Cape Cod to Rural Alaska, Hollywood to Brooklyn, Wichita to Washington helping writers.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on National Public Radio, in the London Times, Playboy, the Washington Post and the Wall St. Journal.  He loves any sport with balls, and his girls.  <a href=”https://davidhenrysterry.com/” target=”_hplink”>Davidhenrysterry</a></em>

Best Sex Reading Thurs April 30 Bluetocking NYC 7pm

This Thursday April 30th at 7pm, the sexiest minds of our generation will gather at Bluestockings bookstore for a thought-provoking and passionate evening discussing sex. Reading their essays from the new anthology Best Sex Writing of the Year 2015—edited by sex-journalism-superstar Jon Pressick—are such revolutionary names as Vice Columnist Stoya, Mollena Williams, Cory Silverberg, Lux Alptraum, and David Henry Sterry. Hailed as a conversation-igniting megaforce and a must-read book of the year, Pressick’s collection of expertly curated articles traverses everything from celibacy to the death of a partner to life as a sex worker. “This book is as diverse and the writing as unique as editor, Jon Pressick, is as a person, and will take you though the wonderful and often confusing world that makes up what we call human sexuality. … Just be warned that this is a book that will likely make you throw everything you think you know about sex and chuck it out the window. It’s thought provoking and in some cases an emotional read and I can’t recommend this book highly enough.” —Clitical Jenne “This book highlights not only the diversity of sexual issues prevalent in the public discourse but likewise the importance of all things sexual to human culture.” —Library Journal “A must-read, regardless of which sex you like.”? —The Advocate For all media requests, including author interviews, cover images, review copies and digital ARCs, please contact Sarah Abrams. 510-845-8000 ext. 201 sabrams@cleispress.com

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Pitch tip: Show How the Characters Change

Today’s pitch tip: I need to know how the characters change in the course of the story. What happens in your story and how do your characters develop?

That’s not to say we want to know everything. Time and again, we see amateur authors pitch by trying to tell the plot of their entire novel or memoir in excruciating detail. Here’s the kind of thing we’ve heard about a squazillion times: “My main character, Frodo Potter, gets up one morning and decides to have breakfast. So he invites his pet rat Bobo to eat an egg with him. But the egg is slightly runny, so they decide to cook it a little bit more….” This pitch, which we heard a few months ago, might still be going on if we hadn’t emphatically put an end to it. Broad strokes combined with specific imagery should display how exciting your characters and story are. Universal appeal should be implied via the mention of themes rather than an endless recitation of events. And, again, the pitch should be the amuse bouche that gives your audience a tiny, delightful taste of the delicacy that is your writing.

Once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate 

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.  Watch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

 

Pitch tip: Build your world through word pictures specific and sharp

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Pitch tip: Build your world through word pictures specific and sharp

A strong pitch helps writers successfully query literary agents.

Today’s pitch tip: Build your world through word pictures specific and sharp, not general and vague.

Your world building needs to be as vivid as your heroes and villains. We need you to show us this exotic world you’re taking us to with word pictures. That’s part of the joy of a book.

Your pitch is your audition to show us your skills as a prose stylist. Just telling us that it’s a rich backdrop doesn’t really let me know that you’re capable of weaving gorgeous word pictures that make your book come to life. For example, instead of telling me that your story is set in lush southern Louisiana, you have to show that landscape to me. Wow me with how beautifully you can portray this part of the world.

Make the pitch for your hardcore, authoritative business book hardcore and authoritative. Make your tear jerker jerk some tears. Make the pot boil on your potboiler.

Once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate 

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Pitch Tip: Show How the Characters Change

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.  Watch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

 

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Telling us that someone’s charming and sexy doesn’t convince me they’re charming and sexy. You have to paint vivid word pictures, just like you do for your villains.

Need examples on how to do that? Read flap copy and, particularly, the backs of paperbacks, where the whole kit and caboodle is limited to a paragraph or two, tops. You’ll see how concise those copywriters had to be, and how they managed to describe a book — and sell it — in only a few sentences. Online bookstores are great resources as well, and they have an added benefit: Because nearly every book is accompanied by flap or back cover copy, you can cut-and-paste phrases you like into a document and then use these phrases to craft your own pitch. Just be sure to study copy that represents the writing style of your book. (And don’t copy copy. There’s a word for that: plagiarism!)

Remember, once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger 

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate 

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Pitch Tip: Show How the Characters Change 

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Watch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

Ann Ralph, author of Grow a Little Fruit Tree

Pitchapalooza Winner Ann Ralph #2 on Library Journal’s Best Sellers List

 

Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph on Library Journal's Bestseller List

Pitchapalooza winner Ann Ralph’s book Grow a Little Fruit Tree on Library Journal

Congratulations to Ann Ralph for her book, Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees (Storey Publishing, 2014), appearing on Library Journal’s list of gardening best sellers! We met Ann at a Bay Area Pitchapalooza a couple years ago and helped hook her up with a book deal.

Pitchapalooza

Pitchapalooza is the American Idol for books (only without Simon) and it works like this: Anyone with an idea for a book has the chance to pitch it to a panel of judges. But they get only one minute. The Book Doctors, me and Arielle Eckstut, team up with guest industry insiders to form the judging panel. The Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, all Pitchapalooza attendees come away with concrete advice on how to improve their pitch as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, the judges come together to pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work. Join us for an upcoming Pitchapalooza. 

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

We’re pleased to bring Pitchapalooza to the New England SCBWI Conference on April 24, 2015. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is the international professional organization for writers and illustrators of children’s literature.

Ann Ralph

Ann Ralph

Author Ann Ralph

Ann is a fruit tree specialist with twenty years of nursery experience. She teaches pruning classes in the San Francisco Bay Area and lives in the Sierra foothills near Jackson, California.

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

Grow your own apples, plums, cherries, and peaches in even the smallest backyard! Expert pruner Ann Ralph reveals a simple yet revolutionary secret that keeps an ordinary fruit tree much smaller than normal. These great little trees take up less space, require less care, offer easy harvest, and make a fruitful addition to any home landscape. Think Elements of Style for fruit trees.

“…a thrilling read for the backyard farmer…”

    — Publisher’s Weekly

“Beautiful and essential. Ann Ralph is your good-natured guide to the sometimes intimidating task of planting bare root fruit trees, thinning fruit, and that nail-biter of them all: pruning.”

     — Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

“Ann Ralph argues her case for pruning with such deep knowledge, and wit, and obvious affection for fruit trees, that you cannot help but be converted. A delightful and useful book!”

     — Mike Madison, author of  Blithe Tomato

“This backyard fruit tree owner’s manual should come with every fruit tree, or, better yet, get it while you are still deciding what trees to plant.”

     — Pam Pierce, author of Golden Gate Gardening

Learn more about Grow a Little Fruit Tree and buy a copy here.

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate

Give us a villain we love to hate. Show us someone unique and dastardly whom we can’t wait to hiss at. It would be great to give tiny little physical descriptors to your main characters. Show us that you’re capable of painting beautiful and realistic tableaux as you make your story world come to life.

Remember, once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

Writer beware

Yes, we did use Lord Voldemort as an illustration, but your pitch must be selective about comparable titles and characters. Do not overpromise. Have you called your opus the next Eat, Pray, Love? An even better version of Harry Potter? Early Philip Roth with a dash of Jane Austen? If so, you’ve got trouble. Better to underpromise and overdeliver. As Daniel Greenberg of the The Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency says, “Anytime anyone compares himself to a big bestseller, it’s a big turnoff. While it’s not impossible that there’s a real comparison to be made, it raises my suspicion that the person is overhyping himself.”

Instead, construct a pitch that specifically explains how your book will speak to the audience of those über-authors: “What happens when the repressed male sexuality of Alexander Portnoy meets the strong-minded, spunky joie de vivre of Elizabeth Bennett? Watch the sparks fly in The Shiksa of Herefordshire, a new twist on the old battle of the sexes.”

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Pitch Tip: Show How the Characters Change

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.  Watch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

Show us stakes and danger pitch tip desert

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger

Show us stakes and danger pitch tip desert

Get an agent with a strong pitch

Show us stakes and danger on an immediate level and on a mega quest level.

Don’t underestimate the power of the pitch. Your pitch will be both the backbone and lifeblood of your book, from idea through (and past) publication. When you approach an agent, you will have to explain what your book is about. When your agent approaches an editor at a publishing house, she will have to explain what your book is about. When the editor presents your book at his editorial meeting, he will have to tell his editorial colleagues as well as his colleagues in publicity, marketing and sales what your book is about. And they will all be evaluating his pitch to determine whether or not to buy your book. If you’re lucky enough to sell your book, the sales force will go out to large retailers and small booksellers alike to pitch your book. And the publicity and marketing staff will be pitching your book to the media. If you get on the Today show and Matt Lauer asks what your book is about, you better have a very good answer.

There are two kinds of pitches:

  1. The elevator pitch, which is over by the time the elevator gets to the next floor
  2. Your long-form pitch

Never, ever, let your pitch go longer than a minute. Whenever pitches go longer than a minute, eyes start to glaze and boredom sets in. Hey, most people are willing to give you a minute, but often not a second longer.

Once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate 

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Pitch Tip: Show How the Characters Change

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book PublishedWatch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

 

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