Coming Together: For the Cure
Wildfire would like to welcome author/editor Alessia Brio and some of the authors of Coming Together: For the Cure, Sommer Marsden, Jeremy Edwards, Selena Kitt, and Carys Weldon. When we asked Alessia to tell us about the inspiration for this project and to fill in as our guest interviewer for this special edition, and she was happy to oblige. It looks like the interview has come together just perfectly--
In the winter of 2005, some amateur authors were tossing around ideas for bundling their erotic short stories and poetry into a self-published series of print anthologies. At the time, none were professionally published. They hammered out the details but got bogged down when the discussion turned to money and how to handle the distribution of the proceeds.
Someone made the suggestion to donate the proceeds to charity. They realized that the sales income, once divided 15 or 20 ways, was never going to amount to much. But, if they came together, they could do some good AND get a wider audience for their work.
The first volume of Coming Together hit the cyber-shelves of Cafe Press in June of 2005. Three months later, a second volume followed. Then, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, and they decided that they needed to come together for another cause, the Special Hurricane Relief Edition! Since that time, they've had all four self-published volumes picked up by publishing houses that have agreed to continue the charitable contributions (the fifth, a memorial collection of lesbian fiction, would also have a home if the next of kin could be reached). Phaze is the first publisher to perpetuate the project by sponsoring a brand new volume. Coming Together: For the Cure is the first volume to result from an open submission call. It benefits breast cancer research. Coming Together: With Pride (for which submissions are now open) will benefit HIV/AIDS research. A non-erotic, by-invitation-only collection, Coming Together: For Gabrielle, that is planned for November 2007 release, will benefit BLISS, the U.K.'s premature baby charity.
Alessia: Welcome everyone. Tell us, how has your life been touched by breast cancer?
Jeremy: My wife and I have a good friend who has recently been battling breast cancer. So although the ongoing threat posed by this terrible disease to women everywhere is always part of our consciousness, it's been on our minds in an especially personal way this year.
Sommer: I have personally known two women who battled and beat breast cancer. One is a very close family friend who has been like an aunt to me since I was small. The other is the fiesty mother of my step-sister. I was amazed at their courage during their illnesses and amazed at how many lives are touched by this disease. After both of these wonderful women had recovered fully, a group of us "built" a team and participated in the Relay for Life at a local college. It was an awe inspiring and enjoyable experience.
Carys: I lost my paternal grandmother to breast cancer. She was 76 when she was diagnosed, but had known about her lumps for five years. She was afraid to go to a doctor, and was woefully uneducated about early detection increasing recovery rates. When she finally went for care, there was nothing for her to do but go through mastectomy and chemo. After that, she became terribly dehydrated, had several strokes as a result, and ended up dying (technically) of heart failure. Let me encourage women to get checked early and regularly, and to read up on the experiences others have had, so they can be better prepared to deal with treatment and side effects. Dehydration after treatment is a big problem that often affects recovery.
Selena: Last year in November, I lost my best friend to breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones. She and I met in graduate school, and she was almost finished with her PhD in clinical psychology. She was brilliant, beautiful, and a gift in the lives of everyone she touched. She had been diagnosed five years before, which made her a "breast cancer survivor", as she joked with me a few days before she died. She and I were, coincidentally, born three days apart. She would have turned thirty-seven three days before me this last January, if she'd lived. I love her very much and miss her every day.
Alessia: Do you think erotic fiction has a role in the healing process for those experiencing a life-threatening illness such as cancer? If so, why?
Jeremy: Speaking from the outside (as a person who hasn't been in that position), I would hope that something as positive and life-affirming as erotic fiction could play an important role in healing for some individuals. I think that sexuality is, for many, an important part of the essence of life and an important source of vitality and joy. Its expression and fulfillment can be among life's richest experiences. So if a person is able to experience the joy of sexuality--by reading erotica, for example--even when suffering from a serious illness, I would imagine this might help in many ways.
Sommer: Well, I think any kind of fiction can help heal. Any kind of escape can help relax a person and provide pleasure. I find getting lost in a really good book/story can be a wonderful form of something like self-hypnosis or meditation. I like to think erotica fits into this category because we don't stop being sexual beings just because we have an illness. Just like we don't stop needing laughter or love due to an illness. I think if something helps you focus on who you are and not on the disease you have, it can help heal.
Carys: Let's be honest, we all lead stressful lives. Everyone has problems. And most people don't lead the erotic and sensual lives that we often fantasize about. That's what makes erotic fiction such a great escape. But those that suffer from chronic or life threatening illness, like cancer? They need escape from stressing over their reality worse than anyone.
Selena: I think life goes on, whether you have a fatal illness or not, and that includes an erotic life. Gilda Radner, who founded Gilda's Club, talked about "living with cancer", and I love that perspective. My husband worked there for several years as a program director, and it was an amazing experience to be in the midst of people living with cancer. In some ways, they seemed and felt much more "alive" than most people living out there in the world, perhaps because the prospect of *not* living in it seemed so much closer to them. Reading erotic fiction--good erotic fiction--can be more than just a fun time. At the very least, it can be an escape, a way to forget about present circumstance. At the most, it can be a truly moving experience, even something transcendent, letting us connect to something deeper. Those are things that make life, however long or short, worth living.
Alessia: If you could use your writing to remedy just one injustice, cure one disease, or fix one problem, what would it be and why?
Jeremy: There are so many horrible things in this world. But I have to say that if I could eradicate just one, it would be torture, which I think is the most horrifying of the horrifying.
Sommer: To be perfectly honest, I cannot answer that question. My life has been touched by so many diseases. Breast cancer, Prostate cancer, Leukemia, Lung cancer, Brain cancer. The list goes on. Then there is the subject matter of Spousal Abuse, Child Abuse, Rape, Murder. Again the list goes on. What I can say is, if given the opportunity to improve or save anyone's life with my work, such as contributing to an anthology or raising awareness, I would gladly do so. I would be honored to do so. That's really a gift to me. If my words could help someone else. Even in a very small way.
Carys: Undoubtedly, I would choose depression. I believe it is the single most debilitating problem on the planet. It affects our ability to cope with and overcome everything else including disease, financial problems, and relationship issues. It steals our hope, faith, confidence and ability to function on all levels.
Selena: I would revamp, reform and revolutionize the child welfare system as we know it. Too many children are being hurt within the system. It doesn't work, and it needs to change.
Alessia: Do you believe those in the public eye, such as authors, have a responsibility to increase awareness of social issues and/or causes?
Jeremy: I think that anyone who is in the public eye has the opportunity to potentially educate and enlighten large numbers of people. While we obviously can't demand that authors, musicians, or other artists neglect their careers or shortchange their private lives to become crusaders--nor would we necessarily want or expect them to build "messages" into everything they created--I do think those in the public eye have a certain responsibility to try at least to put in a word here and there, in order to direct attention to important causes and issues. And I think that those who choose to do more--who channel substantial amounts of their time and energy into good causes--are heroes.
Sommer: I don't know if I'd say responsibility. That's places my beliefs on another person. Do I feel I should, given the correct venue? Absolutely. I do so gladly. Do I hope all people in the public eye (to whatever degree it may be) feel the same? Yes. The more people you have paying attention to you, for whatever reason, the greater your opportunity to help make someone's life better or raise awareness of worthy issues. I'm a big believer in the theory that you get back what you put out there and then some.
Carys: Yes, but I believe every person on the planet should be socially conscious. Any time a person is given the opportunity to reach an audience, they should offer useful information, inspire the masses, and make a difference for the betterment of people within their circle of reach. I would like to point out that there is a big difference between informing the public plus encouraging them to do something positive, and shoving a cause down someone's throat.
For example, I am heartbroken over losing my grandmother to breast cancer. I believe her life would have been longer if she had been diagnosed sooner, and received better "after treatment" information before she went in.
I am even more upset to know my best friend has lumps in her breasts and suffers from the same fear my grandmother had, and is too mortified at "thinking she has cancer" to read anything about diagnosis and treatment options. I will do whatever I can to help raise money (and more supporters) to help this cause. The fact is, people everywhere are woefully under-educated.
Here's a major problem I see--my friend doesn't have insurance and is on a low income, but just above the state covered insurance program. She cannot afford to go to the doctor and the place where she is employed offers no insurance. She has no extra money to purchase insurance from other sources.
Since she has two family members who've already gone through mastectomies, I feel like every day my friend goes without diagnosis and care brings us both closer to real heartache. I am afraid that one day I'll be crying over her grave knowing that she could have been saved if she'd received help sooner. Raising money for the cause will surely help us find cures, provide more mammography machines, and affordable treatment centers.
Selena: I think everyone sets an example in their lives, whether they realize it or not, and those who are in the public eye have the burden of having that example, whether good or bad, exposed to many more people than those who aren't. Whether you take responsibility for the example you set or not is a personal choice, of course, but I think everyone admires people in the public eye who are willing to use their celebrity for the greater good.
Alessia: Give me three words that best summarize your experience as a Coming Together participant.
Jeremy: "in excellent company"
Sommer: Fun, exciting, an honor.
Carys: Grateful. Hopeful. Comforted.
Selena: Professional. Enjoyable. Gratifying.
Jeremy Edwards is a pseudonymous sort of fellow whose efforts at spinning libido into literature have been widely published online, as well as in print anthologies. His greatest goal in life is to be sexy and witty at the same moment--ideally in lighting that flatters his profile.
Le Petit D--jeuner, in A is for Amour [ed. Alison Tyler], Cleis Press
Changing Objectives, in Sex and Seduction [ed. Cathryn Cooper], Xcite Books
Any Day of the Week, in Sex and Satisfaction [ed. Cathryn Cooper], Xcite Books
Every Night, in Got a Minute? [ed. Alison Tyler], Cleis Press
Open-Bottle Policy, in Five Minute Fantasies 1 [ed. Cathryn Cooper], Xcite Books
Half Measures, in Five Minute Fantasies 2 [ed. Cathryn Cooper], Xcite Books
Mindy's Pheromones, in Erotic Tales 2 [ed. Justus Roux], Erotictales Publications
Slightly Ajar, in F is for Fetish [ed. Alison Tyler], Cleis Press
If We Were... , in Coming Together: For the Cure [ed. Alessia Brio], Phaze Publications
Beau Nouveau, in Screaming Orgasms and Sex on the Beach [ed. Shanna Germain], Petty Things Press
Mindy's Pheromones, in Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica [2008 edition, ed. Maxim Jakubowski]
Sommer Marsden's work has appeared in numerous online publications and print anthologies including; The MILF Anthology, Love at First Sting, Spank Me, Whip Me, Tie Me Up, and Clean Sheets (www.clean sheets.com). She lives in Maryland with her family and a fat red wiener dog. She loves dirty stories, fruity candy, thunderstorms, and emailing unsuspecting friends--repeatedly. She can be reached at email@example.com
The MILF Anthology, Blue Moon Publishing
Five Minute Fantasies, Xcite Books
Justus Roux's Erotic Tales 2, Cleis Press
Love At First Sting, Cleis Press
Whip Me, Xcite Books
Tie Me Up, Xcite Books
Spank Me, Xcite Books
The Anniversary Party, Whiskey Creek Press Torrid
Carys Weldon has won over 120 writing awards in the last 4-5 years. She writes in every genre under various pseudonyms. She is also a motivational speaker who can address any organization on any topic. You can find her in a haunted hollow in the Missouri Ozarks, just above Branson.
Her heroines often deal with social issues, depression, health and weight problems, and stress over money.
Caresses Well Done, Mojocastle Press
PACK Werewolf Series:
Leer: Pack Takeover 2, Mojocastle Press
Fera: Pack City 3, Mojocastle Press
Jack: In the Pack 4, Mojocastle Press
Hood: Pack Trust 5, Mojocastle Press
Bark: Pack Taboo 6, Mojocastle Press
Mark: Pack Attack 7, Mojocastle Press
Josey, Mojocastle Press
Destra and the Lustpire, Mojocastle Press
Mira Starks, Mojocastle Press
Vampirubus , Mojocastle Press
The Dark Lord: Love Bites, Mojocastle Press
The Dark Lord: Soul Searches, Mojocastle Press
Angel B.E.T. , Mojocastle Press
To Claim a Queen, Mojocastle Press
Merry Men and Women, Mojocastle Press
King of Wands, Mojocastle Press
Tower of Loneliness, Mojocastle Press
Three in Their Cups, Mojocastle Press
Selena Kitt, like any feline, loves the things that make her purr--and wants nothing more than to make others purr right along with her! Pleasure is her middle name, whether it's a short cat nap stretched out in the sun or a long kitty bath. She makes it a priority to explore all the delightful distractions she can find, and follow her vivid and often racy imagination wherever it wants to lead her.
This sassy, outrageous author lives with her family in the Midwest, including two dogs and two fellow felines, all of whom she thinks are the cat's meow. Her writing embodies everything from the spicy to the scandalous, but watch out--this kitty also has sharp claws and her stories often include intriguing edges and twists that take readers to new, thought-provoking depths.
When she isn't pawing away at her keyboard, she loves spending her time belly dancing, attending drum circles, gathering in women's groups, and taking beautiful pictures of everything in her world.
Christmas Stalking, StarDust Press
Blind Date, StarDust Press
The Surrender of Persephone, StarDust Press
The Flintstone Experiment in Coming Together Volume ,Charles River Press
A Different Angle in Coming Together Volume 3, Charles River Press
Stay in Coming Together For The Cure, Phaze
The Ride, MardiGras Publishing
The Song of Orpheus, StarDust Press
The Heart of Hephaestus, StarDust Press
The Laundry Chute, MardiGras Publishing
Advent Calender, MardiGras Publishing
Pumpkin Eater, MardiGras Publishing
The Gingerbread Man, MardiGras Publishing
Alessia Brio is the sultry, erotica-writing alter ego of an Appalachian soccer mom. She is "sensual, succulent, and satisfying" even when her creator feels like a hairy warthog. Alessia's first sale, a single-author anthology of erotic fiction & poetry entitled fine flickering hungers, won the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Erotica. It is available here on ARe, and in print from Amazon.
In addition to her Phaze publications, Alessia's work appears online at Tit-Elation, Oysters & Chocolate, Ruthie's Club, Literotica, and Desdmona. She has won an honorable mention in two of Desdmona's erotic writing contests: Stiletto Flash and Titillating Tattoo. Her & Will Belegon's Surge HeatSheet, Switch, won the 2006 Preditors & Editors Readers' poll for best short story. At Literotica, Alessia was nominated as Most Influential Poet (2004) and Most Influential Writer (2005, 2006) under the nickname "impressive".
Alessia's altruistic personality makes her well-suited as editor of the Coming Together anthologies, collections of erotic fiction & poetry that benefit various charities.
Ms. Brio lives in the mountains near Pittsburgh and is barefoot as much as life allows. She has an obsessive aversion to "to be" verbs in her prose and gets aroused by creative enjambment in her poetry. Her fetishes include SuDoku, rare steak, stainless steel, and office supplies.
Readers can visit Alessia online via her website, blog, and/or MySpace.