WRITER ALERT! The Book Doctors & Jim Levine, Agent Extraordinary @Levine Greenberg Rostan on Voice, Platform, Rejection & what YOU need 2 get published successfully @TheBookDoctors #WritingCommunity #amwriting #amediting #Authors
I work with Rosa Daneshvar, a wonderful writer who’s writing a novel about emigrating from the Middle East. My parents are immigrants, so I’m first-generation, and I’m fascinated by how the experience of coming to America has changed over time. We were talking about what’s happened to her, as this administration tries to ban Muslims, and I was horrified by what she told me. So I picked her brain about what it’s like living in the United States right now when your faith is under attack.
The Book Doctors: So, Rosa, where are you from in the Middle East, and how have President Trumps actions affected you personally?
Rosa Daneshvar: I am a Muslim from Iran. Never in my thirteen years of life in the States had I felt such a feeling of terror. It started the day after President Trump’s executive order came out– when my sister’s frantic back-to-back phone calls deprived me of my lazy slumber on that Saturday morning – when I opened my eyes to dozens of messages exchanged between my brother in Canada, my sister in Washington, my father in Michigan, and my youngest sister in Iran. They all wanted me to confirm the news that there was a travel ban and deportations.
TBD: That sounds terrifying, what happened next?
RD: In the brief moment that it took me to get from my bed to my computer, my naïve, half-sleep, half-dazed self was confident that it couldn’t be true. I was assured that my family had been carried away with false news. Because it was preposterous. Then I found myself staring at the news in disbelief. It couldn’t be. I searched for more information but I found none.
TBD: What did you do?
RD: My first impulse was to write a post on Facebook to see if my Iranian friends could give me more information. I wrote: “My mom is a green-card holder and visiting home for two months. Does the executive order mean she cannot come back to the US? Has anyone had any news on this?”
Then I sank into my chair. A terrible sense of despair overwhelmed me. Gradually I realized the depth of problem my family was in. My mom only had enough money for her two-month stay, during which she was going to take care of my 79-year-old aunt after her knee surgery. With the financial exchange sanctions on Iran, we were not going to be able to send her money to live on until we figured out how she could come back. Mom herself had had knee surgery two months ago. What if she had a complication and needed to see her doctor? How could Mom live in a suitcase in my aunt’s small two-bedroom apartment indefinitely?
TBD: We were able to contact anybody back home?
RD: Yes, I called home to inquire from my youngest sister about my mom’s reaction. As soon as her image loaded on the screen, I recognized those colorful tiles of my aunt’s bathroom. My sister had locked herself up in there to cry freely without worrying others. I asked if she was worried about herself. I told her there was no news about American citizens. She said she was sick with worry about Mom.
TBD: It must be so challenging to live with this every day. What’s that like?
RD: There is profound fear, uncertainty, and confusion, just like it’s always bubbling just below the surface. My family and I have spent countless hours searching the news, checking social media, and calling government agencies and lawyers to see if our mom would be able to come back. It’s exhausting, and very stressful.
TBD: The headlines just seem to feed fears. But the media doesn’t seem interested in filling in the blanks behind the hysteria, to get to the real stories of how people are being affected.
RD: Absolutely. “Muslim ban.” “Making the country safe.” “Securing our borders.” None of the headlines was a satisfying explanation of what was unfolding before us. There was a huge gap of missing information. I wanted to fill that gap because I knew it well. It was only a few years ago that I was in the shoes of those who were impacted by the executive order. I kept wondering why were the people who were among the most educated and progressive demography of my hometown targeted as a potential threat? Perhaps the extreme vetting that visa applicants had already gone through, not to mention multiple costly and onerous trips to a third country, was not widely understood. Surely people could see the political aspect of the executive order and how it was not about securing the borders or about terrorism but purely a move that was there to serve an agenda. Just as no one would question the desire for secure borders, no one would blame one for wanting a safe country. Yes, all these things were true, but how could I make people see what I saw? How could I take them to the corners and niches of that humongous room that the travel ban was, which everyone stepped into it just a foot and walked out of without seeing all there was to see? In searching for an answer, I found myself not thinking about the people who were going to be immediately sympathetic to what I had to say, but about the people who were going to turn their backs to me, the so-called “White Americans.”
TBD: Well, I am a white American, what do you want to tell me? What do you want to tell us?
RD: So when I say “White American,” I mean the notion of White American, the negative epithet that is currently used to imply certain characteristics and a set of beliefs: a group of people who would turn their backs to me as soon as I say, “Hi, my name is Rosa and I am a Muslim from Iran.”
What diversity in the States had taught me is that too many times my ignorance had opened the door of my perceptions to a manipulative world that wanted to build an imaginary foe in my head, to bundle a group of people together and label them in a negative way. Too often the image I had let others build for me had been proven wrong. I came to this country 13 years ago with a dependent student visa in hand, like many people who, under the executive order, were not allowed to board their flight with that same visa. I landed in Boston, as my then husband was going to start his graduate studies at MIT. Not long after my arrival, in that melting pot, I met someone who for 22 years had been portrayed to me as a detested enemy. When that Israeli student asked me where I was from, a dazed fear overcame me. How was he going to react when I told him I was from Iran? This is how he reacted: he invited us to his home. We met his kind, pregnant wife and their sweet, little daughter. Even then, my shy and intimidated self was nervous about the conversations we were going to have. My Israeli friends were not like how we were back then: timid, quiet, and culturally shocked. They talked about Persian cuisine and the Persian cookbook that they used to cook from back home. They told us about our similarities and about the reminiscences of our countries’ past cultural exchanges. With their kindness and rich cultural maturity, they turned that intimidating night into something that felt like a casual catch-up with a good old friend. Having had that experience and many more, I will not let anyone build a new perception of “White Americans” for me. No one else should accept any type of group labeling.
TBD: It does seem like we fear the thing we don’t know, and often when we’re exposed to another culture we see how similar we are rather than how different.
RD: Yes! Those types of exposures germinated something invaluable in the diffident and international student that I was, something that gradually flourished to become a defining principle of my character: that perceptions are like crafts. They are not authentically yours if others have formed them for you. My Israeli friend and his wife taught me a priceless lesson. They now live in Israel with their beautiful kids. We have stayed in touch. They are my friends.
TBD: How has living in America all these years changed the way you see yourself in the world?
RD: With every change of status, I had an opportunity to see a new facet of the society. I started my own graduate studies in Chemical Engineering and held a student visa, like many student-visa holders who, under the executive order, were sent home. Along with my professional growth, I nurtured the diverse cultural exposure that was an intrinsic part of American society I was living in. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism were not dry concepts that I would come across in books or news, but an enticing reality of the people who I interacted with daily. Atheism and agnosticism were no longer unfamiliar words in my vocabulary. It was proximity to different religions that helped make happen my long-held desire of attending a church service with my Christian friend. It debunked the “Muslims are not welcome to church” myth. I was fascinated by the merry atmosphere of the service and sense of community.
TBD: What other immigration statuses have you held and how have they impacted your life?
RD: After seven years of residing in the States on a visa, I became a permanent resident, like many individuals who were affected by the executive order. Working became a new reality in my life. My change in status lifted the restraints of a life on a visa, where crossing the borders to visit my family was risking my standing in the States. I did not miss my brother’s wedding like many of my friends. I started working as a scientist in one of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in the world. After years of exposure to this culture, America—that one big entity that had been like one individual with one opinion and personality—started to morph into millions of pieces with countless opinions, ideologies, and beliefs. I learned that there was a red and a blue and that I had lived in the Blue all along and that the Red was something that opposed my opinions and me: a Muslim from Iran.
TBD: Yes, we’ve had lots of difficulties talking about politics as we go on the road to places that seem to be fine with rabid sexism, religious intolerance and racial prejudice.
RD: Exactly. I am guilty of holding prejudice myself. All through my residence in the Blue I remained wary of the Red, even when the hands of destiny made me work alongside one in my team who loved talking about politics. If I was accidentally caught up in political conversation in my conservative colleague’s presence, I was that quiet person who wanted to keep work relationships separate from personal opinions. That did not last long. Now we have walked many walks and talked many talks. I learned, once again, that I had been wrong in assuming one voice and one entity for the Red and that it had as many opinions as it had people. My colleague is the one who said, “You cannot really understand your viewpoint until you can eloquently articulate and defend a viewpoint you disagree with.” Her opposing views challenged me to re-evaluate all that I had thought was right, and separate what I deeply believed in from what I had borrowed from others without scrutiny.
TBD: Being a writer, you know how important the nuance of words and intricacies of vocabulary are to participating successfully in a culture. It seems like that’s one reason people who come to a new country sometimes hide among their own and don’t really attempt to assimilate. Have you found that?
RD: You are absolutely right. After thirteen years, I am not that international student who is forced to a shy corner by the new culture. Only after these many years, worries of making mistakes while speaking in a foreign language do not force me into silence and solitude. I do not immerse myself in the Iranian community to shield myself from the unfamiliar world that I live in. Now I have lived in the States long enough to get half of the cultural references and realize that the Seahawks and the Red Sox are sports teams. I am fluent enough in the language to make myself understood and brave enough to talk and make mistakes and learn from them. And I have learned enough social norms of communication to surround myself with people of different colors and race.
TBD: Didn’t you recently become a citizen?
RD: By pure chance, I took my oath of citizenship two days before President Trump’s inauguration. It’s deeply unfortunate to say that I feel lucky to have taken my oath before the change of administration. It shouldn’t be this way. My sister shouldn’t have halted her wedding plans because her future in-laws cannot attend the wedding due to the travel ban. My parents should not worry about crossing the border to visit my brother in Toronto. My brother shouldn’t be banned from entering the U.S. to see us. Our story is just one of the many thousand stories of people who have been affected by the travel ban.
TBD: Do you feel the acrimonious contentiousness of this recent election has divided people, and unleashed an anger simmering beneath the surface?
RD: I do. The excessively lengthy political race and its side effects have put profoundly disproportional weight on our differences and have instigated unhealthy hate and anger. “Unanimity” and “global agreement” are attractive and elevating notions, but are not meant for a healthy society. One cannot champion diversity and not welcome differences of opinions. It is barbaric to attack an idea or a group when you don’t know what that idea or group is about. At this time when our differences are being magnified by people who are running their own race, and rage is being fanned by people who are playing their own game, it is time for all of us to start a dialogue with each other. It is necessary for us, now more than ever, to eloquently articulate and defend a viewpoint we disagree with. Dialogue is the only means to peace. It is time that we the people have a dialogue, not to change each other’s convictions, since convictions fast changed are short-lived, but to understand each other and challenge our firm, long-held beliefs against reality.
TBD: Do you ever worry that exposure to different religions and cultures will water down your own sense of who you are, what God you worship, what you believe in fundamentally?
RD: Getting to know my Israeli and Christian friends neither converted me to Judaism or Christianity nor turned my Israeli and Christian friends to Islam. My conversation with my Republican colleague did not revolutionize me to take on a new political identity. Those exposures empowered me with knowledge of new realities, and broadened my perspective so much that no biased, agenda-driven media outlet can ever again color for me every Israeli or Jew with the color of their choice. No politician can provoke me to be against other religions. No uninformed entity can wrap my opposing ideas in one box and sell it to me. Deep understanding of the reality of the world we live in is what all of us need.
TBD: As someone who has come to this country and embraced it, what would you like to say to America?
RD: The enduring greatness of this nation has been the result, in her walk through time, of a continuum of right decisions. Let’s continue to take that walk together, not in unanimity but in unity. Let’s make that right decision together, not in complete agreement but with sincere understanding. To my so-called “White American” friends, my name is Rosa. I am a Muslim and I am from Iran. Who are you? What are your concerns?
Rosa Daneshvar was born in Tehran, Iran and moved to the United States for graduate studies in 2004. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she is a Chemical Engineer at the world’s largest independent biopharmaceutical company. Her first novel is Darya Chronicles. Inspired by her own cultural experiences and challenges of living away from home, she tells a story of the turbulent life of an Iranian woman, Darya, who has moved to the States for her graduate studies. Rosa is an avid Western horseback rider and dreams of having her own ranch with horses and cattle. Visit her at: rosadaneshvar.com
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
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Featured Books by David Henry Sterry
THE BOOK DOCTORS BRING PITCHAPALOOZA BACK TO THE JERSEY SHORE BOOK TOWNE MARCH 3, 6:30 pm
The Book Doctors have helped countless writers go from talented amateurs to professionally published authors (including Genn Albin, their KC winner who got a 3-book mid-six figure deal). Now they’re bringing Pitchapalooza, their signature event, to Rutgers University.
WHAT: Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder & gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute!
WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for over 20 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of nine books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 16 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. His first book has been translated into 10 languages and optioned by HBO, his latest book was featured on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. They’ve taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today. .
HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.
PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.
PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.
WHEN: March 3, 6:30pm
WHERE: Book Towne 171 Main Street Manasquan, NJ 08736
New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl.
Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://bit.ly/vm9YSu
Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television
Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapalooza:
“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010
Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published:
“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,
“Driving that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones, you better watch your speed”
Rainbow had long straight grey hair, feather earrings and a floor length tie-dye dress with a dopey hippie happy face on it. No make-up. No shoes.
“Namaste. Enter. Would you like some ginseng tea?” wafted out of Rainbow.
The customer’s always right. When in Rome, drink ginseng tea. While she fetched me tea I survey lots of pots of pot plants. Rainbow returned with my tea in a psychedelic homemade mug with a drawing of some dopey hippie happy face on it. The tea smelled too earthy and dank for drinking, but I brought the Mother Earth medicine scent up to my lips and sipped.
It was good. And good for me.
“Do you dig the dead?”
Rainbow looked at me like she expected something. I was confused. Was this some weird necrophilia deal Mr. Hartley, my employment counselor/father confessor/fairy godmother/pimp, forgot to tell me about? I made a mental note: Find out what’s the going rate for having sex with dead people. But perhaps more importantly, do I feel comfortable shopping a dead person?
“I believe Jerry Garcia is the physical embodiment of the Godhead, don’t you?”
Jerry Garcia! The Grateful Dead. That’s who belonged to that dopey hippie happy face. Jerry Garcia! I saw me digging a grave and putting a gratefully dead Jerry Garcia in it.
“Oh yeah, Jerry Garcia is a total Godhead. Yeah, I definitely dig the Dead…”
I trotted out my best hippieboy smile. Actually, I couldn’t’ve cared less about the Dead. Or the dead. Rule #5: the customer is always right. I was there to get paid. I looked around for my envelope. No envelope. I didn’t like that. I was looking for a low-maintenance score, get in, get out, badda bing badda boom. Relax, cowboy, you’re gonna get paid, go with the flow, flowing, in the flow. Hey, someone wants to pay me to say Jerry Garcia is the physical embodiment of the Godhead, that’s Easy Money.
“Give me your hand,” Rainbow said.
I gave her the hand. She took it.
“You have big hands,” she said.
In my line of work that was a compliment.
“Thank you,” I said.
She looked at me funny, like it wasn’t a compliment at all, just a statement of fact. But she didn’t really seem to care, she looked into my palm like it held the key to the sweet mysteries of life.
GET THE MONEY UP FRONT
GET THE MONEY UP FRONT
GET THE MONEY UP FRONT
Only the newest greenhorn in Greenhornville doesn’t get the money up front. This is what separates the rank amateur from the hard working professional. You’re not here to have a good time, Charley, you’re here to get paid.
But Rainbow had produced nothing, and I could tell she’d be just the sort who’d get all bent if a guy mentioned something as crass as cash.
So I sat and stewed as Rainbow gazed into the crystal ball of my palm.
After she stared at my palm for what seemed like a month, Rainbow was starting to seem demented. I was convinced she was a Charlie Manson groupie with a garotte she was going to use to sacrifice me and the goat I was sure was in the backyard.
I was starting to have serious doubts about Rainbow. About this whole line of work. I had enough money. I could excuse myself like I’m going to the bathroom and walk out and just drive. But again the question: Where would I go? Who would I go to? I had nowhere. I had no one.
“You’re a very old soul…” Rainbow concluded.
You said a mouthful there, sister.
“…and you‘ve lived many lives…you were an explorer and sailed all over the world… and you were a sultan with many women. You were a mighty warrior in battle, and you were a slave on a plantation…”
Rainbow looked into me like she had periscopes that went through my eyes.
That was when I noticed her for the first time. In all the confusion I hadn’t really seen her. She had deep eyes, steel-colored with flecks of cobalt. A big Scandihoovian Bergman madly-suffering but eternally hopeful face. I half expected Death to walk out of her bedroom and challenge me to a game of chess for my soul.
“You’re here to learn a lesson, and I’m here to teach you…” Said Rainbow.
Okay, it’s a hot-for-hippy-teacher thing. I breathed easy.
“Do you know what tantric sex is?” Rainbow asked.
I could dish some semicoherent gobbledygook about ancient mystic Asian sex, but she wanted me to be the blissfully ignorant manmoonchild, so naturally I turned myself into whatever she wanted me to be. That was my job.
“No, I don’t…”
Rainbow handed me a smile, and led me through a translucent tie-dye cloth door into a bed with a room around it. It was the biggest bed I’d ever seen. Overhead, high in the tall pointed ceiling was a skylight, where incense curled up thick from fat Buddha bellies; candles tossed soft little drops of light everywhere; elephantheaded Indian gods with massive genitalia copulated with lionheaded goddesses; statue women stared with dozens of breasts; a halfman halfbull was inside a godhead with a doghead; Japanese paintings of Jade-looking beautybabies intercoursed in every position imaginable, one leg up over an ear, the other wrapped around a head; Old French postcards of cherubinesque honeys were Frenched and doggied; a guy went down (or would that be up?) on himself; and a shrine of rosebudvaginas and phalluspeni smiled. Pillows and cushions plump velvety; blankets, fur, and fat cloth made me feel like a cat, and I wanted to roll around getting my belly stroked while nubile handmaidens fed me catnip.
A sculpture of a vagina started talking to me: “Hi, David, welcome to the party, come on in.”
And in the center of it all a big picture of a dark man with long black curly hair and brown magnets for eyes that kept staring at me no matter where I went in the room, it was freaky. He was hard and soft at the same time. I’d never seen the guy, but he looked familiar, like he was the kind of guy who could set you straight if you were floundering around. And I was so very full of flounder at the moment. I made a mental note to find a wise, kind, benevolent guru teacher as soon as I left Rainbow’s. I’m still looking.
“That’s Baba Ram Wammmalammadingdong,” said Rainbow.
I was sure she didn’t really say that, but that’s what it sounded like to my 17 year-old man child idiot ears, all Dr. Seussy.
“He’s the master of sensual enlightenment.”
That’s what I wanna be when I grow up: master of sensual enlightenment.
“Sexual transcendance can only happen when you are connected to the life force that flows through all living things,” breathed Rainbow. “You have to open, I mean really open, all of your… shock absorbers.”
Years later I would realize it was my chakras and not my shock absorbers that needed opening, but at the time I couldn’t care less. I’d open my shock absorbers, my athletic supporters my cookie jar, whatever she wanted. I just needed to get paid, and I needed to get paid IMMEDIATELY. I was seeking enlightenment through cold hard cash.
“Why don’t we start by meditating?”
Rainbow settled into a big comfy-womfy cushy cushion crosslegged, and motioned for me to do the same.
I balked. I’m naturally curious by nature, I was very interested in the whole third-eye transcendent sex thing, and picking up some exotic kinky eastern sex tips would’ve been grand, but I had to get my money UP FRONT.
I sighed quiet. I knew for a fact it will not help us achieve harmony with the life force that flows through all living things if I told Rainbow she needed to pay me IMMEDIATELY.
I was dreadfully dithered.
But just when things were looking their most dodgy, the gods smiled upon me, and Rainbow, God love her, new what I needed and could not ask for.
“Oh, shit, you need some bread, don’t you?” she said.
I could’ve cried. I saw this as a clearcut sign that I was being taken care of by something bigger than myself.
Rainbow got out of crosslegged, rummaged through an old macrame´ bag, and returned with four skanky twenties, a nasty ten, a funky five, four filthy ones and a bunch of loose change, then handed me the whole kitandkaboodle.
I was starting to dig this crazy chick. I could see her scrimping and saving to give herself a treat. Me. I was the treat for my trick. I vowed then and there to be a pot of gold for this Rainbow.
“Opening the gate that leads to the garden of earthly delights can only be achieved through a woman’s pleasure.”
Rainbow paused to make sure I got it.
“Opening the gate that leads to the garden of earthly delights can only be achieved through a woman’s pleasure.”
She looked at me intensely, so I understood how important this was.
So I thought about it hard. It was comforting to have someone telling me what to think about. I didn’t have to make any decisions, and that moment, decisions were just disasters waiting to happen.
Garden of earthly delights. A woman’s pleasure. A woman’s orgasm. Tumblers click in my head, a lock snapped open, and I saw the light. A woman’s pleasure was the key to sexual ecstasy. Now that I had my money, I was keenly interested in this whole thing.
“A man can have multiple orgasms… most people don’t know that, but it’s true. And I can show you how to do it.” Rainbow said with absolute conviction.
Multiple orgasms? Hell, I had one and it nearly kills me. But I was crazy curious to see if I could incorporate some clitoris into my penis.
“There’s a line where your orgasm is, it’s kinda like a waterfall. See, it’s like you’re in a beautiful warm river, and the current is pulling you along, and you’re headed towards the waterfall, you’re getting closer and closer… until you’re hanging right there on the edge of the waterfall, but you’re not letting yourself go over. You just get inside your own orgasm, and you can stay there as long as you want, as long as you don’t release. Do you know what release means?”
Yeah, I think I got the idea.
“No, what do you mean?” I asked.
“Your release is your ejaculation. So you can orgasm without ejaculating,” Rainbow said carefully.
And the weird thing was, I knew exactly what she meant. River, waterfalls, release, the whole shebang.
“I know it sounds totally… far out… but if you can wrap your cosmic mind around this, you’ll always have lots of groovy lovemaking in your life. You probably won’t get it tonight, but it’s something you can always practice. By yourself, with a partner, doesn’t matter. In the words of Baba Ram Wammalammadingdong, ‘Practice makes perfect.’”
I was starting to really like this Wammalammadingdong guy.
“Wow, that sounds… far out.” I’d never said far out before or since, but Rainbow ate it up like wavy gravy with a tie-dye spoon.
She took off her robe. She was the only industrial sex customer I ever had who took off her clothes while I still had mine on. And for an old broad (again with the proviso that anyone over the age of twenty-five years was Old) she had a riproaring body. Supple muscles firm lithe and graceful, breasts slung low, with big brown chocolate kiss nipples in the middle. Mental note to self: as far as books go, don’t judge them by their covers.
Rainbow seemed to be one of those rare people who was actually comfortable with her own naked body.
“You have a beautiful body…” I would’ve said it whether it was true or not, but in this case it was true, which did make it easier.
She liked it. She wasn’t desperate like lots of my other clients, but she liked it.
“Do whatever makes you happy,” said Rainbow.
“Do you want me to take my clothes off?” Just trying to keep the customer satisfied.
Wow. Whatever made me happy. Reminded me of my mom. No one said that to me in real life, never mind when I was chickening.
Seemed like if you were gonna learn to orgasm without ejaculating, you should be naked. So I took off my clothes. Rainbow set opposite me crosslegged on that continent of a bed. I tried, but I just couldn’t get the crosslegged thing going. My pedophile grandfather’s coalminer soccerplaying legs were just too unyielding. I was tugging and pulling, cuz I was trying to suck it up and play through the pain, but damn, that shit hurt.
“Don’t do it if it hurts. Don’t do anything that hurts…” Rainbow flows. You gotta hand it to the hippies, when it comes to peace and love and all that business, they really know their shit.
Rainbow showed me how to deepbreathe, and we deepbreathe until we felt the life force flowing through us. I didn’t actually feel the life force flowing through me as such, but she did, and that was good enough for me. The crumpled bills in my pocket were filling me with the life force.
Rainbow and I Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmed for about a fortnight. Eventually I did feel a little lightheaded, like when I first smoked a cigarette. But hey, if she wanted to pay me to breathe and say om, that was rolling off a log for a chicken.
Finally when Rainbow was om’d out, she took my hand, placed it on her breast, looked me in the eyes, and with a hypnotic smile showed me how to roll that mammoth mammarian poolcue tip between my thumb and forefinger, and it got bigger and tighter, until it felt like it was ready to pop, while she made airsuck sounds of pleasure.
I could smell her now, Rainbowing as she made my hand the axis between her legs around which she gyrated, nestling my head into her neck and whispering, “Kiss me soft…”
I ate her neck like a fruitcake while she revved in growly moans, everything moved in rhythm like a well-oiled sex machine, the fur blanket softly soft as she guided me like an air traffic controller. Then Rainbow replaced my hand with my mouth and she huffed and she puffed like she was gonna blow the house down, jimjamming and earthquakeshaking.
I smiled inside. I was getting a crash course in the fine art of a woman’s orgasm, and I was getting paid for it. America–what a country!
“Now I’m right there,” she pants, “…if I let myself, I’d go right over the waterfall… but… I’m… not… I’m gonna stay… right here and let the… waves roll through me… there’s one… slow down… Stop!” Rainbow squeezed, fists clenching and unclenching like a baby breastfeeding, “…now slow… there’s another one… ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… God…”
Rainbow let rip with a top-of-the-lungs scream. A gigantic little death. When she collapsed at the tip of my tongue, I understood for the first time what they were talking about, as time warped, Einstein smiling somewhere, eternity in a second, infinity in a grain of sand.
I thought of busting my ass in the grease of Hollywood Fried Chicken. I thought of my father slaving away at the explosives plan. I thought about my grandfather shovelling coal down the mine. I sure as hell wouldn’t be getting black lung disease from this.
A rainbow slowly descended from Orgasm Mountain, while I stood next to her, nakedly rolling my big huge rock up my big huge hill.
After a brief intermission, Act II began. She pulled me into the river, took me right to the edge of the waterfalls, and then stopped. The most important thing, she said, was to turn off your mind, and move into your body. You can’t think and swim at the same time.
Once a man plunges over the waterfalls in his barrel, of course, it’s all over for him. For a while at least. So you have to be very careful and really pay attention. I practiced getting right on the edge and just sticking there. And it was good. When she did something particularly compelling, I felt the spray in my face and the pull of the fall, and by God, quivers did quiver me, then I quickly pulled myself back.
Rainbow was my Seeingeyesexdog.
“Wow, that was groovy…” I said, when it was clear we were done.
Groovy? I couldn’t believe that came out of my mouth, but as usual I’d ceased to exist in my need to please.
I didn’t know what to do next. Should I hang out? Were we friends? I thought for a minute. I still didn’t feel that creeping mudslide of depression I usually got after I worked as a chicken. I was just a little confused, that’s all. But looking around I could see myself moving right in here and being the sextoy for all of Rainbow’s old greatbodied freakyhippie chicks. Sounded like fun, I think, as I grabbed at another salvation flotation device.
“I have something for you…” Rainbow was sweet as you please, slipping into an old soft tie-dye robe. I followed at her heels like a naked chickenpuppy. She reached in a drawer and I was expecting a nice fat juicy tip. Twenty, maybe fifty. Instead Rainbow pulled the out a feather.
“It’s an earring,” said Rainbow.
I had to work hard not to show how totally disgusted I was as I took out the rhinestone in my ear and replaced it with the feather. I looked in the mirror. To my amazement, I actually liked the way it looked. Kind of tribal. Even though I silently scoffed when she presented it to me, that feather became a war souvenir, and I wore it on and off for many years.
And whenever I did, I thought of Rainbow.
She kissed me on both cheeks. She thanked me. I thanked her. She didn’t say we should get together again soon, or that we should stay in touch. I loved that. I did what I came to do, we both got what we wanted, and that, as they say, was that.
Rainbow was the only trick I ever had who gave me more than I gave her.
Motorcycling away from Rainbow, floating on my feather earring in the sweetness of the cool Laurel Canyon night, I was high on Rainbow’s free love.
That she paid for.
Chicken: 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
“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).