James Smart and Melissa Wan are two students on the MA in Creative Writing (Prose Fiction) at the University of East Anglia. We want to start a conversation about writing sex in contemporary literature and are planning a 1-day symposium on Thursday 6 June 2019 to do just that.
Why Sex Writing?
Sex is not something easily written about in fiction. Very often the act is reduced to a paragraph break or so dressed up in elaborate metaphor that you can barely find it. And in our internet age, sex has become permeated by the language of pornography or drenched in cliché which does little to get us any closer to what it's all about.
We believe the task of literature is to break down clichés and reveal something new about the world in which we live. So how can we, as writers, write sex in a way that reveals something true? How do ideas of shame, normalcy and representation affect our reading of sex-writing? What can we, as readers, writers and thinkers do to create a more sex-positive environment in literature? How does one technically approach the writing of sex, particularly outside of mainstream representations and traditional publishing?
This is an important discussion and we're thrilled to be making it happen here in Norwich, with the support of UEA. We hope to bring together some of our most exciting writers and thinkers to interrogate the culture of sex writing and are sure everyone involved in the day will learn something new – about themselves or their work, or about the literary landscape. We also hope that this is just the start of the conversation.
I’ll Show You Mine...
We've set up a crowdfunding page to enable us to pay our writers a fee, and where applicable, their travel and accommodation. If we sell enough tickets, we can do this whilst keeping our ticket prices low.
This symposium is open to anyone interested in the writing of sex in literature, especially students and writers. A £10 day ticket gives you access to a day of panels and discussions. A £17 day and seminar ticket will also get you a place on our of our intimate sex-writing seminars with an industry professional. More details below!
Session 1: Presentations on the writing of sex
9.30 - 11.00
A panel of writers working across many forms and disciplines present papers covering topics ranging from evolving analogies between writing and sexual practices, the unfixity of desire, the politics behind teratophilia and the practicalities of writing sex scenes featuring inhuman anatomy, and the consequences of eliding or omitting sex from literature.
Featuring: Rosalind Brown, Alison Graham, Vanessa Chainey and Vijay Khurana.
Session 2: What We Write About When We Write About Sex
11.15 - 12.45
A panel of contemporary writers to present on their experiences of writing sex: discussing their approaches and considerations; the cultural and critical reception of their work; representations of desire, gender and sexuality, and questions of what is at stake when we write about sex.
Sarah Hall is the author of five novels, including Haweswater, which won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel, The Electric Michelangelo, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, The Carhullan Army, which was listed as one of The Times 100 Best Books of the Decade, How To Paint A Dead Man and The Wolf Border. Her first collection of short stories, titled The Beautiful Indifference won the Edge Hill short story prize, and her second collection, Madame Zero, was published in 2017. The lead story, Mrs. Fox, won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2013.
- Rivers Solomon
- Rivers Solomon writes about life in the margins, where they are much at home. Nominated two-years running for the John C. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a winner of the Firecracker Award, they produce fiction that embraces alterity via queerness, disability, and Blackness. In addition to appearing on the Stonewall Honour List and in numerous best-of-the-year lists, including in the Guardian, Solomon's debut novel AN UNKINDNESS OF GHOSTS was a finalist for a Lambda, a Hurston/Wright, a Tiptree, and a Locus Award. Their second book, THE DEEP, a project based on a song of the same title by Daveed Diggs-fronted experimental hip-hop group clipping, is forthcoming November 2019.
Rivers received their BA in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity from Stanford University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. They grew up between California, Indiana, Texas, and New York in the United States but currently reside in London, England.
Monique Roffey is an award-winning Trinidadian-born British writer of novels, essays, a memoir and literary journalism. Her novels have been translated into five languages and shortlisted for several major awards. With the Kisses of His Mouth and The Tryst are works which examine female sexuality and desire. She is a Lecturer on the MFA/MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and a tutor at the Norwich Writers Centre. She divides her time between the East end of London, Manchester, and Port of Spain.
Jonathan Kemp’s debut novel London Triptych (Myriad, 2010) was shortlisted for the inaugural Green Carnation Prize and won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award in 2011. He teaches creative writing at Middlesex University. A story collection, Twentysix was published by Myriad in November 2011. His first book of non-fiction, The Penetrated Male, was published by Punctum Books in 2012, with a second, Homotopia? Gay Identity, Sameness & the Politics of Desire in 2016.
Session 3: The Landscape of Sex Writing
13.45 - 15.15
A panel of writers, academics and thinkers discuss the landscape of sex-writing. How is writing sex different across forms and in different publishing environments? How can academic institution, teachers and the publishing industry help create a sex-positive and inclusive writing environment?
Rachel Long is a poet and the founder of Octavia – Poetry Collective for Women of Colour, which is housed at Southbank Centre, London. She was shortlisted for Young Poet for Laureate for London in 2014 and awarded a Jerwood/Arvon Foundation mentorship in 2015. Rachel has run poetry workshops for The Poetry School, The Serpentine Galleries and at the University of Oxford. She is Assistant Tutor to Jacob Sam La-Rose on the Barbican Young Poets programme 2015-present.
Rachel Connor is an academic, literary critic and writer. She is the author of prize-winning short stories and a novel, Sisterwives. Her debut radio drama The Cloistered Soul was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 as part of the Original British Dramatists series. She is Course Director of Creative Writing at Leeds Beckett University and has decades of experience of facilitating writing workshops – most recently ‘Writing the Erotic’ with Monique Roffey in London. She is also a contributor to The Sex Lectures talks in Manchester. You can find Rachel on Twitter @rachel_novelist and online at www.rachelconnorwriter.com
After graduating with a MA from Goldsmiths University, Pippa Roscoe spent four years working in TV. She then switched industries to publishing and spent five years as an editor before deciding to follow her own dream of writing and is now published by Mills & Boon.
Session 4: Sex-writing seminars
An additional £7 will get you a place on one of our intimate afternoon writing seminars, led by an industry professional. Here you’ll get the chance to read and discuss set extracts from sex scenes in literature and to try your hand at writing your own. Places for these seminars are limited and are first come, first served.
Kate (KR) Moorhead
Kate (KR) Moorhead is a novelist and lecturer in Creative Writing at UEA, where she earned her MA in Prose Fiction in 2007. Her first novel, The First Law of Motion, was published by St Martin's Press in 2009. She is interested in feminist pedagogies in the creative writing classroom, as well as writing intersectional identities.
Monique Roffey is an award-winning Trinidadian-born British writer of novels, essays, a memoir and literary journalism. Her novels have been translated into five languages and shortlisted for several major awards.
Monique will lead a 90-minute seminar entitled ‘Cat Person, Why it’s so Good.’ You’ll discuss Kristen Roupenian’s Cat Person, explore what made this story such a viral sensation, and learn how to employ those techniques in your own work and do some writing exercises to boot!
Vanessa Chainey is a queer feminist Romance author under the pen-name V.C. Lancaster.
Vanessa will lead a 90 minute seminar called ‘How to Write a Good Bad Sex Scene?’ Romance is fantasy, but no one fantasises about bad sex, so how do you write a scene without a climax? From first-times to last-times to just-this-times, Romance novels are full of awkward wedding nights, business-like baby-making, and sex in exchange. This seminar uses examples and simple exercises to teach you everything you need to know about the Dos and Don'ts of making bad sex the beginning of Happily Ever After."
- As if this wasn’t enough, the day will culminate in a UEA Live Event at Dragon Hall – with a headliner and UEA students reading work linked to our theme of sex writing. This part is free and open to everybody, whether you've been part of the day or not!
£10 Day Ticket
— Access to the main symposium. Three panels of a bunch of exciting people talking about exciting things for just 10 bob? Yes, please.
£17 Day Ticket & Seminar (limited to 24 tickets)
— For an extra seven pounds, you can get access to the whole symposium, and a place on one of three afternoon writing seminars. Discuss published sex scenes, do a deep dive into the language and spend some time crafting your own steamy (or not) little nuggets.
For those purchasing seminar tickets - please FWD your email to showyouminesymposium.com with your first and second choice of seminar leader. We will make every effort to give you your first choice, though places are limited and are first come, first served. Don't wait to book!
Add an additional £3 donation to any ticket or donate more than £20 to receive the I'll Show You Mine Chapbook, which will include writing and art from and inspired by the symposium.
— Won't be able to attend but think this is a fantastic project? We'd still love your support and think you are a wonderful human being.
Remember, the UEA Live Event in the evening is free! If you don’t fancy spending your day interrogating the ins and outs of sex writing, we hope to see your faces at the evening event (though by this point, Melissa and James might be too exhausted to do anything but cry. Or drink and cry.)
Please remember you can pledge whatever you like even if you don't fancy a reward. If you have any questions about the symposium or any other aspect of our Crowdfunder, then send us a message.
We're very grateful for anything you're able to give, and we look forward to seeing you all later this summer! Follow our social media to keep updated on the progress of the project: @show_you_mine