Erotica Anthologies Combine Self-Love & Love Of Mankind
Talking with Alessia Brio
about the sexy humanitarian effort Coming Together
, the series of erotica anthologies which raises funds along with libidos.
Coming Together is a series of anthologies containing short erotic stories edited by Alessia Brio. The books have been favorably compared to Susie Bright's Best American Erotica series ~ but the books do more than provide randy entertainment: All proceeds from the sales of Coming Together publications (paper copies & ebooks) are donated to charity, in what Ms. Brio calls "erotic altruism."
The project began with a few erotica writers who regularly hung out in Literotica's Authors' Hangout and now is a "nonprofit voluntary association.". Success is a relative term, one often associated with wealth, but it's clear that Brio and the other authors are interested in something much larger...
Gracie: So how did this all begin?
Alessia: As I got to know some of the other authors and poets and illustrators in the Authors' Hangout, we began to discuss options for getting an audience for our work beyond Literotica's cyber walls. We decided to bundle our stories into anthologies and self-publish them. When talk turned to money, we realized that splitting the proceeds 15-20 ways was never going to result in a lucrative income. Someone—and it may've even been me, I don't recall—suggested donating the revenues to charity, and Coming Together was born.
The first volume of Coming Together was self-published in late spring of 2005—just a couple weeks before I got "the call" from Phaze Books about my first book. In fact, the two events are somewhat related. It was in the process of gathering all the stories for that first volume into a manuscript that it dawned on me: I could do the same with all of my short stories & poetry. That's how fine flickering hungers became a book.
Gracie: The list of books already published is long, and the charities are diverse:
Coming Together: An Erotic Cocktail v1, v2, v3, which benefits the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Coming Together: Special Memorial Edition (Colleen Thomas), posthumously published collection of lesbian erotica which benefits a hospice selected by the author's partner; Coming Together: For Gabrielle, which benefits BLISS, the UK's premature baby charity; and many more.
How do you pick the theme for each volume?
Alessia: Many of the volumes have no theme beyond the erotic. They contain all colors and flavors of sex. I prefer not to restrict contents by sexuality or kink. Coming Together is all about diversity, so as an editor, I strive to balance each volume. Sex is one of the most powerful motivators known. Hopefully, readers will discover that our similarities unite us far more than our differences separate us. Love is love, hope is hope, and desire is desire -- no matter what sexual organs are involved and how they are stimulated.
However, we do sometimes use themes in a more general sense: interracial sex (Coming Together: At Last), sex in the great outdoors (Coming Together: Al Fresco), etc.
Gracie: Does the theme have something to do with the charity it benefits?
Alessia: If & when there is a theme, then yes, we do try to tie the overall theme to the cause.
It wasn't until Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast that we produced a themed volume. All the stories and poetry in the Special Hurricane Relief edition involve storms. It benefits the American Red Cross.
But don't assume that because a volume benefits, for example, an HIV/AIDS research & prevention charity (as does Coming Together: With Pride) that all the stories will involve gay sex. The disease does not discriminate, and neither do we.
Gracie: How do you select the charities or organizations?
Alessia: Initially, we picked one charity: the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The first volume was published in conjunction with a Free Speech contest on Literotica, and it seemed fitting to have our erotic fiction benefiting an organization that fights to preserve our ability to freely express ourselves via the Internet. Volumes 2 and 3 also benefit EFF.
Themes and causes for the rest of the volumes have a variety of sources. Kat Lively suggested Coming Together: For the Cure, our Susan G. Komen benefit, and it was the first volume to result from an open submission call. It was a 2008 EPPIE Award finalist, a Romantic Times BOOKreviews Top Pick, and the winner of the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Erotica category (and a finalist in the Anthology category).
Other suggestions have come from readers and fellow authors.
Gracie: How do you select the stories for the anthologies?
Alessia: It's all about balance. The quality of the submissions is VERY high. Almost everything I receive is publishable, in my opinion. So, my task is to select material that fits the theme and is well-balanced in length, point-of-view, sexuality, and tone with the rest of the book. I strive for diversity in each collection.
Many of the original participants are still involved with Coming Together. I'm both humbled by and insanely proud of its growth.
Gracie: Since you've now formed a nonprofit voluntary association, do you other plans along with the books?
Alessia: Our toy review blog, Toys for Tarts, fundraises for Coming Together through affiliate sales, and we have a Cafe Press store. I do hope to branch out into other forms of creative expression, such as photography, audio books, graphic arts, painting, etc. But collections of erotic fiction and poetry will remain Coming Together's primary fundraising product.
We'll be adding some single-author compilations. There's a book of Lefty McGee's incredible poetry in the works entitled Coming Together: Pondering the Indelible (the literacy charity is still to be decided) and a collection of erotic short stories by the prolific Laurence Doyen entitled Coming Together: For Her (to benefit NOW). I can wait to put these on the market!
And other volumes are still open for submissions:
Coming Together: Against the Odds closes on December 31st. It will benefit Autism Speaks and consist of mystery-themed erotic fiction.
Coming Together: Al Fresco closes on January 31st. It will be released on Earth Day 2009 exclusively in ebook from All Romance eBooks and will benefit Conservation International. Its theme is sex in the great outdoors.
Coming Together: In the Kitchen is a cookbook; it will benefit Action Against Hunger.
Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions.
Gracie: Aside from supporting Coming Together by submitting stories and buying books, how else can folks become involved?
Alessia: Authors are welcome to submit product reviews for posting at Toys for Tarts and I'll happily include a reciprocal link.
And we have a fledgling audio venture on MySpace called Coming Together: Out Loud.
Gracie: And of course they can spread the word, link to the blog ~ whatever it takes to make sure others know about the books.
For more on Coming Together, listen to Cult of Gracie on XXBN at 9 PM (Central) on December 17th, 2008, when Alessia Brio will be the guest!
© Gracie Passette