Art or Smut?

The fire near Los Alamos (the Las Conchas fire, officially) is confined enough now to look like a giant train, steaming ahead on the horizon. I hope it gets where it’s going soon.

Last week, I received the quarterly newsletter from the Ucross Foundation. This is a really wonderful group that supports artists of many varieties. They sponsor a residency program where you can go stay for two to six weeks and, well, create full-time. I particularly like the Ucross take on this because the 8-10 residents at any given time can be writers, composers, photographers, painters, sculptors, etc.

Getting a residency is competitive and you have to pass several stages of admission. Once there, they give you a room to sleep in and a study. I had this amazing study that was like a library, with a little deck off of it. We were on our own for breakfast, which we pulled from this amazingly well-stocked kitchen. At night, we all convened for dinner and always fascinating conversation. For lunch, they would creep up outside your study door and leave a sack lunch. I never heard anyone come or go. It was like we were curing cancer.

This was an incredible experience for me and something I highly recommend to any writer.

This was the first time for me that my identity, and sole purpose for two whole weeks, was entirely about writing. It was a huge transformation for me and will always be an experience and memory I treasure.

They follow their former residents and include news of their careers in the newsletter. The five writers who had stories in Best American Short Stories, the gallery showings, the concerts. All pretty fabulous activities.

I wasn’t in there.

And I’m not saying this as a Poor Me thing. The reason my news isn’t in there is because I haven’t sent it to them. So this got me thinking.

Why haven’t I told them about Petals and Thorns, or the upcoming Feeding the Vampire and Sapphire? I don’t think I’m ashamed. However, clearly I’m not proud.

Or I would have told them. Right?

I know some of this comes down to the eternal battle between literachur and genre. I noticed that a couple writers I know reported fairly minor journalistic publications for listing. I probably would do that, too, before I’d send out notices about my very naughty novellas.

It surprised me that I think this way and I haven’t decided what to do about it. I did a little Twitter poll on the topic and most people said to own it, be proud and send in my info. One gal told me she wouldn’t do it either, but then, she was still “festering” about the people in grad school. Something I totally get.

So, I haven’t decided. Am I eternally seeking approval from the academics? Do I trumpet my work, which is selling far better than anything else I’ve ever written, and spread the good word about careers in digital-first publishing?

What would Anais Nin do?

6 Replies to “Art or Smut?”

  1. I say: Let everyone know about your stories!
    I think it's not a case of Art or Smut. It's Smutty Art 😉
    Seriously: When a story is erotic it doesn't mean it can't be art as well.

  2. Sullivan, you always make me laugh! Smutty art is the very best kind. I think you're right – I should let everyone know.

  3. Be proud! 🙂

    Okay, okay…easy to give advice to somebody else when I still haven't told all those academics I went to grad school with about my book deal yet. I keep telling myself it will be much more satisfying if they just come across my books on the shelf in the SF/Fan section someday. 😉

  4. Here's the thing — are you ready for the thing? Petals and Thorns was absolutely beautiful. It WAS art. The words were poetic and lovely. The genre is irrelevant. You should be standing on the rooftop crowing about it, because you took smut and MADE it into art. There's a lot of erotica out there, but this was something different. Tell them what you did. Screw 'em if they don't think it's worth noting. That just means they didn't read it. — Rachel

  5. Ha, Linda! So funny that you do it, too! Those damn academics really put the everlasting fear of their disdain in our heads, don't they?

    Thank you, Laura, I really think I will, mainly because of:

    Rachel! That is one of the most wonderful THINGS anybody has ever said about my writing. If you can find something so special in what I wrote, then I *should* be crowing about it. Thank you, so very much.

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