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17.3.10

Doing Good by Being Bad

By Lisabet Sarai

Sometimes I feel like I live an awfully selfish life. I'm married. However, my husband is an independent sort of guy who appreciates my care but doesn't necessarily require it. I have no kids, no elderly relatives for whom I'm the caretaker. My work involves responsibilities to young people whose future in some sense might depend on me, but I do what I do as much for my own satisfaction as for the benefits they gain.

I admire people who volunteer, giving of themselves and their time. I've often thought that I'd like to do something like that. Heaven knows, there are enough causes I believe in. But it always seems that I don't have any time, between working and writing and promoting. In addition, given the fact that I have specialized education and training, it seems silly for me to just be a body, working in a soup kitchen or sorting used clothing. I've always thought that I'd like to be able to apply my skills and expertise toward some charitable purpose, to fill some need that might otherwise be difficult to satisfy.

Recently, I've found a way to do this. And it's so cool that I have to share it with you, even though it means promoting outside of Total-E-Bound. I hope that Claire will understand.

Do you know about Alessia Brio's Coming Together books? She's a legend in the erotica community but I'm not sure how well known she might be among readers of romance. Alessia is an author and artist who lives near Pittsburgh with her partner and children, including a disabled son. A few years ago she began assembling and publishing collections of what she called "altruistic erotica" - erotica and erotic romance books dedicated to the support of various causes. There have been Coming Together collections whose proceeds supported breast cancer research (Coming Together for the Cure), AIDS research (Coming Together With Pride), conservation (Coming Together Al Fresco), human rights (Coming Together At Last), and global poverty (Coming Together As One). She has also pulled together special volumes for natural disasters such as Hurricane Katerina and the southern California wildfires.

Authors contribute their work to these collections in return for the credit and a copy of the book--not to mention, of course, the feel-good knowledge that they're being virtuous while pursuing their art. I've had stories included in a number of the anthologies, including several that I wrote specifically for the theme. I was proud to participate. A story here, a story there--such a small thing, really.

Then last year, Alessia contacted me and asked if I'd take on a larger role in the Coming Together effort. She wanted to launch a single-author series of charitable erotica, Coming Together Presents, and was wondering if I'd be willing to be the series editor.

I do have some editing experience. I've produced and published two multi-author print anthologies. I also do a lot of editing in my real world job. My first reaction, though, was "I don't have the time". I've committed to a bunch of deadlines, plus promotion just seemed to be eating up more and more of my time. My husband would kill me if I committed to something else.

Then I realized: this was the opportunity that I had been looking for so long. The opportunity to do something that relatively few other people had the skills to tackle, for the benefit of humanity. Or, as Alessia puts it, doing good by being bad!

I've been given complete control over these books. I get to decide which authors to approach, which stories to include, how to organize each collection. Of course I've been hitting on some of my favorite authors, who thus far have been amazingly generous in agreeing to participate. I get to write the introduction for each book, explaining why the writer is one of my favorites.

The author chooses the charity that his or her work will benefit. So far, they've all been causes dear to my own heart as well.

We've produced two volumes at this point, Coming Together Presents M. Christian (which benefits Planned Parenthood) and Coming Together Presents Remittance Girl (for the ACLU). I'm working on a third volume with C. Garcia-Sanchez, and I have several other authors signed on for later this year.

Putting a book together is a significant amount of work (although it's easier with a single author than with forty, which was the case with my anthology Cream!) It's not just a question of revising awkward constructions, recognizing point of view problems, noticing repeated words, or correcting grammar, spelling and punctuation. It also requires a level of diplomacy that authors, looking at it from their perspective, might not appreciate. How can I convince authors to make a change in their precious words, without offending them?

Anyway, despite the effort involved, I'm really enjoying the experience. I feel that both books are exceptional, from a literary and an entertainment perspective. I'm really proud of them--maybe prouder than if I were the author.

In fact, I'm so proud that I am giving away a copy of one of my own books to the first person who buys each of the above volumes, reads it and posts a review on Amazon.com. All you have to do is email me with the link to the review and I'll send you your choice of my ebooks.

How's that for doing good? Volunteer a review and reap the benefits!

Or heck - just buy the books for the entertainment they'll provide!

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