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Rachel Kramer Bussel Ends In the Flesh Reading Series

Author and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel (pictured, via) has been running In the Flesh for five years, but the reading series will end tonight.

We caught up with Bussel before her event to find out why she is ending the series. She also shared advice about how to run a better literary reading.

Q: Why are you ending this reading series?
A: It was not an easy decision to end ‘In The Flesh,’ but I realized that I’ve been losing money on it, because I pay for food, photography and videography. I do get a cut of the bar, but that doesn’t cover everything, and then once I decided to end it, I realized just how much time it takes each month to book readers, promote the event, and generally organize it.

I have loved it and it’s taught me so much about myself, being confident, writing, and has introduced me to a huge network of people. At one point I thought perhaps I’d do an ‘In The Flesh’ anthology with readers from the series (editors, I’d still love to do that!). It’s spawned an LA version.

But I decided that I am ready to move on to other things. I’m about to do a little book tour in San Francisco and LA in January and February, and will be doing other readings in Minneapolis and possibly the UK. Those take a lot of effort to organize and that’s where I want to devote my energies. I will still be doing readings in New York; I’m talking to Bluestockings now about a Valentine’s one, and am doing a discussion at McNally Jackson, but I just need a break to focus on my writing career. There is a level of stress each month around the day of the event that I just can’t handle any more; you never know what the weather will be like, you’re always competing with other events (the third Thursday also is host to Drunken! Careening! Writers! at KGB and Steamboat at WORD Bookstore). I just needed a break, and couldn’t afford to be losing money every month; that is just not the definition of success to me.

I’m very proud of what the series has done, and who knows, maybe I’ll somehow revive it. My dream is to do 3-4 larger-scale events with multimedia—music, film, readings—in a theater setting, and also to keep teaching erotic writing classes and throw the occasional book party for my upcoming anthologies. It’s a lot, and to me part of being an adult is realizing I can’t do everything. I’d rather quit while I’m ahead, and this last reading I can promise you is going to be the best of the best, with free burlesque, more cabaret, a photo slideshow, 500 cupcakes, giveaways galore and wonderful readers, several of whom, like Laura Antoniou and Samara O’Shea, are repeat ‘In The Flesh’ performers. You can sign up for my mailing list on my website to find out what’s coming up next.

Q: Do you have any advice on how to run a good author reading event?
A: I’d say, especially at the beginning, book people whose work you appreciate and are a fan of, because then your enthusiasm will shine through. I booked people in my anthologies and others I’d known from erotic writing at first, and later on started getting pitches from authors and publicist. It’s a wonderful way to meet authors; you can read their book and ask them to come speak.

You also want to prepare them for how long they will have to read; some people ask readers to submit what they’ll read in advance. I don’t, but if they are reading from a book, you should use that book to plug the event.

The biggest thing I’ve found that helps is having a theme. The audience gravitates toward a theme, and I’ve had the most success with themed nights like ‘True Sex Confessions,’ ‘GLBT Erotica,’ ‘Virgin Night’ (for new authors or first-time readers), ‘Comedy Sex,’ ‘BDSM.’ It’s an organizing principle, and it makes the night more cohesive, so even if someone goes slightly off theme, they will acknowledge it, and make it humorous or at least like they put some thought it into. That makes it much more than just “random people reading together” and more of a night to remember, and also shows the audience how different writers will approach a given theme, and how much room there is for diversity of style, content, etc.

Q: Do you have a preparation process before you read aloud erotic literature? Do you channel a character?
A: When I read, I still do it somewhat by the seat of my pants. I get nervous (and, by the way, so do New York Times bestselling authors). Some people practice, and I encourage readers to practice so they stay within the time limits, but I tend to just get up there and have faith that the writing will guide me. I edit on the fly, and often notice words that could’ve been cut or things I could’ve added. I try not to think about anything but embodying the story I’m reading. Ironically, though, I really love being on stage as a host much more than as a reader. When I’m reading about, say, bukkake or spanking or something very intense, it makes me realize, in a way I don’t always when I’m writing, how out there some of the writing is.

I think it’s a great practice for writers of any genre to read aloud. Even if it’s just to yourself in a room; you hear the words differently, and you notice especially if someone else reads your work aloud, that they will do it differently than you would have.

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