Sunday, January 29, 2006

Winning the Rauxa Prize for Erotic Writing

The big new in my life this month is that my story, Writing Naked won the Rauxa Prize for erotic writing for 2005.

I’m pleased of course but also a little stunned by this. 300 stories were nominated. The short-listed stories are all by talented and well known writers, including Tulsa Brown who is a long term favourite of mine. It is hard to take in that my stories are now being read alongside theirs and stranger to see the story win.

At the same time, I recognise that that particular story, “Writing Naked”, marked a progression in my writing. The title – which I also used for my book of short stories. – explains what I was trying to do. I wanted to write without restraint about what sex can be like, about what it feels to be male and how that affects the rest of your life.

This posed two problems: I wanted to write fiction, not autobiography, and I wanted to cut out the self-serving editor in my head that always wants to make me believe that everything is OK. This was not a comfortable process. I felt exposed and yet compelled to be truthful. When I’d finished I felt reluctant to release the story because it left me feeling raw. But the folks on the list at ERWA helped me to evaluate the story, test its truthfulness and gain some of the distance needed to make it better.

I hope the outcome is a story that is not about me but reflects who I am (who many men are) sometimes – with emotions and motivations that ring true – and a story that is about sex but which is not porn.

For me, porn (which I often enjoy) is about escape and wish fulfilment and urgent release and so it is, at its heart, a lie or at least a non-truth.

“Writing Naked” is a story in which sex is used to show a warts-and-all picture of man with conflicts to resolve. There are lots of ways of getting at a characters motivation and emotional state but sex is one of the most straightforward and most universal. I believe many of us experience it as a conflict in and of itself.

So much for the story, what about the prize?

The main impact on me is to encourage me to write as well as I can. I now know that I can produce good stuff if I focus. The trick is to carry on focusing. I have a slew full of stuff in my work in progress file. It’s time for me to finish some of them.

It’s traditional for the winner of a prize to thank people and now I understand why: I’m feeling thankful.

So thank you to everyone at ERWA who has provided the feedback and the encouragement to help me to strive to write well.

Thank you to Susannah Indigo and the Rauxa Foundation for offering the prize.

And thank you to the judges for taking the time to read everything and for giving me the incentive to write more.

Oh, and did I mention the cash? The Rauxa Foundation awards a $1,000 cash prize.

My alter-ego, he who sells his time and talent to large corporations, makes a reasonable living so I’ve always donated fees for my stories to charity. I like to get paid because it encourages a commercial market for erotica but I find it simpler not to pass the cash through my bank. Instead I ask the publishers to make a payment directly to charity.

The Rauxa Prize is more than twice what I would earn from my stories in a year. I want to make sure it goes to a good use. Both of my parents died of cancer so at the moment that’s top of my list but a little voice keeps nagging at me to do something that encourages literacy.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll work it out.

For now I’m just going to hug to myself the idea that my writing has been noticed. I like the feeling and I want more of it. Time to stop writing this blog and get back to writing fiction

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