For those of us who write often and over a period of time, there is a road of conceptualization and composition that develops its own rhythm, different for every author, but delightful enough—even when a struggle—that we keep on driving. Editing the work of others, I am coming to learn, is a whole different highway.
When I began to receive submissions for my first edited collection of fiction, Shakespearotica: Queering the Bard, I had some ideas of what I most wanted to see, some thoughts of how authors might best interpret the call for submissions, and some expectations of being both delighted and disappointed. I didn't want to get my hopes too high, and I didn't want to miss a gem because it needed a little tweaking. In another part of my life, I'm an academic, and so I'm not unfamiliar with the demands of editing; but I don't teach creative writing, and I had mixed feelings about editing the fiction of others.
Some editors of erotica, I know, simply don't/won't edit submissions. A story simply fits their needs and requires only the minimum of proofing or it doesn't. When rejected, they offer no feedback other than a form letter, and they move on. Because I do teach, I knew I wouldn't be that kind of editor. I provided feedback to all authors I accepted, from reader response to content editing to copy editing and proofing. I offered to provide response to all authors whose work I did not accept as well, and though it was less pleasant than the experience with acceptances, I felt it was important to state why and how the story did not meet the needs of the anthology as I conceptualized it. I was careful to clarify that this was not a wholesale condemnation of the story or even an unbiased professional opinion. One story did more telling than showing; one required more editing of its structure than I thought reasonable for the limits of time and energy I had as an editor. As I told the authors, I hoped they would find a home in print for their tale, and I wished them well. I rejected only the words on the page I received for specific reasons I tried hard to explain with tact and respect.
This helped me to see why so many editors do not provide such feedback for rejected works, but it was important to me as an educator and fellow writer. The fact that I did not receive 100 submissions for a collection of ten tales aided my ability to do as I thought best as a writer/editor. In addition, the majority of submissions I got were wonderful, and the intensive editing interactions I had with a few of the authors were met with gratitude. For me, the editing labor has to be one of love, or I can't do it. I don't write or edit to become rich or as a primary source of revenue, so I could and did work closely with "my" authors and their stories, and I think the collection is the better for it.
Of course, the specific topic of the anthology is Shakespeare, and this no doubt impacted the number and quality of manuscripts I received. While the book is entirely composed of erotica, and queer erotica at that (from gay and lesbian pairings and groups to bi, trans, and gender-playful characters), the inspiration for each story is the Bard and his writing. There are tales that rewrite orientations and scenarios while sticking closely to the plots of the source plays and tributes to performing Shakespeare on the contemporary stage. But all the writing in Shakespearotica shares a love for the master of English playwriting and his creations. If you're someone who knows Shakespeare only as the author of that ornate stuff you had to read in high school that seemed penned in a foreign language, you most likely aren't someone who submitted your fiction to my call. (That said, even those who feel iffy about reading Shakespeare smut will likely find much to enjoy in the collection; the combination of love, lust, and great writing is worth the low price of admission and then some.)
In the end, I can say with confidence that my first efforts as an editor of erotica gave me both pleasure and pain, and a great deal of food for thought. I met wonderful new writers and enjoyed working with several whose work I already knew and admired. I delighted in the creativity of minds that work differently from my own, helping me to learn some new tricks and approaches I hope to try out myself in future. And I now have a book, with my pen name on the cover, that I am gloriously, lustfully proud of. What more could a new editor ask for?
Frolicking in gender play and sexual diversity, the ten authors collected in this volume offer a dazzling array of queer erotica and romance. Stories range from comic to tragic and historical to fantastic, taking up textual hints overt and subtle as they engage with the power of lust and love. By Any Other Name introduces the beautiful young Renaissance thespian Anthony, who faces a challenge for the women's roles he covets. Then, The Buttboy of Nicomedes: A Masque in Eight Scenes offers a gay farce built upon an original chorus of gossiping guards who crassly comment on the gay exploits they witness unseen. For Love or Duty explores a complex affection between Iago and the Moor in, while The Ills We Do reveals their wives' secret attractions.
All Pucked Up: A Midsummer Night's Romp shows new ways the four lovers of A Midsummer Night's Dream can be paired and grouped... with the right magical intervention. Next, A Well-Placed Pinch shows three young contemporary women rehearsing and improvising well beyond the script of Twelfth Night. Improvisation is also at the heart of a passionate encounter between two members of an all-gay cast in Much Ado About a Kiss. A meager Romeo proves the perfect fit for an irresistible beast with three backs when he practices swordplay with his Mercutio and Tybalt in A Tight to Remember. Smoke Signals shows the erotic pleasure of a young woman’s crossdressing experience when heightened by the coaching of her more experienced male co-star. Finally, As We Like It: A Romance brings a science fictional future in which we learn how the trans desires of Ross (née Rosalind) can best be filled.
Whether you're a devotee or just Bard-curious, Shakespearotica has something for every lusty reader.
Shakespearotica: Queering the Bard is now available in eBook ($4.99) and print ($9.99) versions through the Storm Moon Press site!