Saturday, September 24, 2016

My Run-ins with the Modesty Police

Over at The Grip this week, I posted a really personal piece about my experiences during the years when I felt uncomfortable wearing a bra. This is something I've tried to express in writing before, but I've always given up in the past. The Grip has an uncanny ability to draw out personal confessions from me.

Our subject was detractors, and this was the thing I've done in my life that earned me the most negative attention from others, including strangers at department stores. Here's one category of detractors I identified:

A) The modesty police: These people seemed to believe that I was forgoing a bra in order to (pick one or more) steal their boyfriends, invite people to look at my breasts, attract men generally, or engage in other forms of sluttiness. Somehow, these people believed this despite the fact that the thing I wore most commonly over my breasts was a XXL black T-shirt, which I chose specifically for its shapelessness. This is a paradox I’ve never been able to sort out. Having now gone through a femme period, I can attest that wearing a low-cut blouse and demi pushup bra, the combination of which bares me nearly down to the nipple, wins me nothing but social approval. On the other hand, my anguish over this garment I couldn’t bear to put on, a fact I attempted to hide with the giant T-shirt, somehow made people think I was out to find a boyfriend.

If you'd like to read more, you can find the piece here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Workshop Cancelled

Just a quick note to say that there wasn't enough enrollment to justify running tomorrow's writing workshop at the CSPH. I'm disappointed not to be teaching it, but I'm open to teaching other workshops in the future. If you were thinking of signing up or would want to sign up for a writing workshop in the future, please drop me a line (annabeth.leong@gmail.com) about what you'd like to see me teach. It would be great to be able to document what people are interested in so I can come up with better ideas for next time. :)

Monday, September 19, 2016

That Reading Over the Weekend Moved Me to Tears

This weekend, I was in New York City at Bluestockings reading from Me and My Boi: Queer Erotic Stories, as I know I said ahead of time. I have to talk about the event in retrospect, though, because it was really impressive, hit me with more raw sexual energy and emotion than I would ever have expected, and made me feel like Me and My Boi is one of those important books that deserves every effort I can make to highlight it.

I was reading with Aimee Herman, Gigi Frost, Dena Hankins, Anna Watson, and Sacchi Green. I found myself near tears at times, squirming with arousal at others, and sometimes both at once. It feels like I should have known that a book about the erotic power of female masculinity would stir up so much, but still it blindsided me.

Moments I remember:

Aimee Herman, who read like your favorite adventurous, hard-drinking friend taking you out to bend your ear, creating this mess of feverish, omnidirectional queer desire more powerful than the strongest whiskey. Coyly, just like that friend would do, Aimee pretended to skip the good part, namely the details of the rough bathroom fuck with a packing stranger known only as Q that the story had been building up to, then grinned at the audience as we all reeled from the tease. (Those details did not, in the end, get skipped.)

Tearing up as Gigi Frost described the almost unbearable intimacy of a masculine woman revealing her chest to her lover.

Having it dawn on me, as Dena Hankins read from her story set on a boat, that I’ve never really recognized my own clothing (often sporty, these days) described so accurately, made so sexy in the process. The lines a sports bra leaves, the struggle with wrestling it away from an ample chest—it felt so real, and it stunned me that I’d never thought to write it, couldn’t recall having ever read it written that way before.

Anna Watson, whose work always floors me with its sheer emotional power, embodying the voice of her story’s stern femme top, whose orders bring about a transformation—from “funny little woman” to newly minted, sexual, being-herself-at-last boi.

Sacchi Green, relishing as always the role of the crone who can make a room full of youngsters get more turned on than we’d like to admit, reading from a story that plays with ideas of beauty and ugliness until both turn into need.

And for my own story, I hope people got something out of the moments I was up at the front of the room. The biggest moment for me was earlier, when I was practicing, and I heard it all as a letter from pieces of myself I’d been suppressing. My story, “Not Just Hair,” which I wrote some years ago now, set off an eruption in my life. I’m divided by the weekend I wrote it—before, when I could still lie myself about some things, and afterward, when I didn’t know the truth but had no choice but to look for it.

All this to say, this book is really special. So many of us seemed to have changed ourselves in the course of writing for it, or to have exposed something deep and buried.

I have one quarrel with the way the evening was presented. Sacchi seemed to want to apologize for us a bit, feeling that the readers for the night didn’t present as masculine as she might have wished. It would have been cool to read alongside an unabashed butch, certainly, but I object to any implications that the perspectives presented were all femme. I think we know enough now in the world to see that so many things take place on a spectrum, and so much can be going on beneath the surface of how a person dresses at the moment.

While some stories seemed to have been written and read from the perspective of a femme appreciating a butch, mine wasn’t. Mine was written from a place of confusion and change, yearning for the courage to be things I wasn’t raised to be. Reading the story now, I’m humbled by how frightened I still am of the parts of myself that appear in it. I don’t know where I’m going, but there’s something going on for me with gender. It’s clear from what I write, but it’s hard for me to say anything about it out loud, or to say it in relation to me instead of in relation to characters.

So I wish Sacchi hadn’t assumed things about presentation. I don’t want to speak for anyone besides myself, so I won’t say anything about what I think the other writers might have meant. As a listener, though, I heard that ambiguity, that complexity, that confusion about what gender even is and what it means to enact it with each other as queers who get to/have to find our own way.

And I’m so convinced this book is important. And I can promise you it’s sexy. I hope lots of people check it out.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

See Me Tonight at Bluestockings

I'm on my way to NYC tonight to read from Me and My Boi: Queer Erotic Stories, edited by Sacchi Green.

Here's the description:

Readings from Me and My Boi: Queer Erotic Stories, edited by Sacchi Green for Cleis Press. A celebration of all things boi, butch, masculine-of- center in those who include lesbian as a part of their identities. Cool bois, hot bois, swaggering bois, shy bois, leather bois, flannel bois, butch daddies and the butches, femmes, mommas,tops, bottoms and even girls next door who wouldn’t have them any other way. Featured readers are Annabeth Leong, Anna Watson, Aimee Herman, Gigi Frost, Dena Hankins, and editor Sacchi Green.

Can I just say how excited I am about this? Aimee Herman was the first person to send me an acceptance letter for my erotica, back at the much-missed Oysters and Chocolate. I've been reading many of these writers for years. It always blows my mind to be among people like that.

Also, the story I'm reading from, "Not Just Hair," is a special one to me. It's about changing identities, and the way that it doesn't really seem possible to come out only once. When I wrote it (several years ago now), I had no idea how incredibly relevant those themes would feel to me over the most recent years. I'm excited to share this with people.

You can RSVP on Facebook here.

You can find out more information about the (truly amazing!) Bluestockings calendar here.

Free Erotica: Right Message, Wrong Man, Final Chapter

Forbidden Fiction is currently serializing my story "Right Message, Wrong Man" on their website, and the last chapter goes up today. This is your last chance to read it free—after this week, the story goes back behind the paywall.

Be sure to keep an eye on their free erotica section, though. It's a great way to sample a writer's work, and FF tends to keep a rotation of a diverse set of stories. The work they publish leans dark, the publisher has high literary standards, and if that's your thing this is a great place to find it.

If you'd like to see more of my work with them, they published a collection of dark fantasy erotica from me called Liquid Longing.

Friday, September 16, 2016

See Me Tonight at Sticky Stories

Tonight, I'll be in downtown Providence at AS220 (95 Empire Street) performing at Sticky Stories PVD IV!

I'm doing a piece called "What I Learned in Health Class," in which I talk about Magic Johnson, tight jeans, and the health teacher who liked to show off her tapeworm specimen. I'm also going to say serious things about how strange it is that it feels so impossible to openly talk about incredibly common conditions that almost everybody gets.

Here's a description of the event as a whole:

Sticky Stories was designed to create a space for you to share hilarious stories from childhood or adolescence (or now if your life is particularly amusing and ridiculous). We look forward to hearing your sticky stories about wet dreams, awkward crushes, embarrassing love letters, coming out stories, sexual debuts, locker room horror stories, menstruation disasters, or what you thought sex was before you knew what sex was and more!

You can RSVP on Facebook here.

You can buy tickets for the event here.

I hope to see some of you there!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Guest Post: Celebrity in a Time of Geeks by Avery Vanderlyle

There's a new book out today from Dreamspinner Press called Starstruck, full of m/m stories about (fictional) celebrities. I noticed that my friend Avery Vanderlyle has a story in the book ("The Ruby"), and I thought it would be interesting to have her post about some of the philosophy behind her story. In the Internet era, "celebrity" is one of the most relevant and fascinating things to consider. With no further ado, I'll turn this over to Avery.

Celebrity in a Time of Geeks
by Avery Vanderlyle

My first crush was Chekov on the original series of Star Trek (played by Walter Koenig). So you see, I'm a geek from way back. Full disclosure: this was while watching re-runs of the show with my parents in the 70's, so not as far back as you might be thinking. But the point stands.

So when I heard about the theme for the Starstruck anthology, I thought about celebrity through a geeky lens. I've grown up through the era when "nerds" were ridiculed and looked down upon to a time when some of them were lauded as the pioneers of the computer and internet era. These are celebrities who are intellectual, creative, sometimes awkward. Many are not that good-looking.

The dark side of promoting these geeky celebrities is they are almost all men, almost all white, almost all straight. Lauding them, establishing a certain geeky "type" in popular culture, has contributed to the feeling among women and people of color that they don't belong in that world. (GLBTQ people have always been there, though it wasn't always safe to come out.) I hope our ideals of what geeks look like is changing and will expand to allow more people to identify with them.

Part of the internet era has been the rise of video games as a force in the entertainment industry and in the popular culture. My time is too limited to play, but I try to keep up with the trends. Everyone earlier this year was discussing the new virtual reality systems coming out. Would v.r. stop being a niche toy and break out into popular consciousness? What would that look like?

My story began to take shape. The person who creates the first break-out virtual reality program will become another of the pantheon of geek celebrities. Okay, he'll be the celebrity half of my protagonists. What kind of program will it be? How about a fantasy version of the wild west, a variation on a mythos that many people are already familiar with? Parts of the story can take place in this virtual world; there can be adventures. Quests. The hero has to win a gem to meet his idol, the game creator. And "The Ruby" was born.

It ended up being a sweet, fun story about two geeks who share a love of the internet age. Erza has to fulfill his quests to connect with Toby; Toby has to be open to the interest of a fan. "Virtual reality" is just one more mechanism for us to connect with others and fulfill our dreams.


This is the publisher's description of Starstruck:

Lights, camera, action!

To the average person, celebrities seem to have it all—money, fame, and droves of adoring fans lining up to fawn over them. But a life in the public eye can make romance challenging, and deep down, these guys are looking for the same thing as any other man: someone to share a steamy tryst with between acts or to ride off into the sunset with after the curtain has gone down. Luckily there are those willing to love the men behind the billboards and on-air personalities, and they’re looking for a private performance from their favorite drag queens, musicians, reality TV stars, actors, rodeo champions, and video game designers. Even superheroes and legendary defenders. Money and fame might not always equal happiness, but these celebrities will leave stars in their lovers’ eyes.

Love, Stage Left—L.A. Merrill

Rodeo Champion—Jay Starre

Marked by the Queen—George Loveland

The Ruby—Avery Vanderlyle

Pride and Panoramas—Asta Idonea

Such Beautiful Music—M.T. Aspen

Out on Stage—Elizabeth Coldwell

Shooting Star—Rob Rosen

Drastic Measures—Sydney Blackburn

Garden Variety—Bell Ellis

Defying Gravity—Charles Payseur

The Defender of Ruldan—Jessica Payseur

You can find more information here.