The Intrepid Sarah Berry Talks Writing and Other Outrageous Stuff
KD: My first introduction to you, Sarah, was back when you wrote for the now defunct Scarlet Magazine. I always looked forward to your ‘Berry Outrageous’ pieces because you were the reporter who personally explored the kink we all wanted to know more about, then told us the yummy details in a style that was both entertaining and informative. Since then I’ve known you as the editor of Forum Magazine and the founder of the wonderful women’s group, Fannying Around, and just all around cool chick. Having recently been thoroughly entertained by hearing you read an original work of Sarah Berry erotic fiction, A (getting) Biblical Tale, I was amazed by your versatility as a writer. Could I be so bold to ask for a brief history of Sarah Berry, the writer?
Sarah: Dear KD, the phone is off the hook, the Cava is bubbling and I’ve slipped into something uncomfortable. Fire away…
KD: Oooh! Sounds like the ideal set-up for a fab interview! Let me start by asking what do you like to write most?
Sarah: I delight in writing features that are informative, entertaining and saucy and have carved a name for myself writing reportage features for Scarlet as Berry Outrageous – a joy. There have been thousands of articles written on the likes of pony play, spanking and adult babies, but if you write openly about your own experiences it will always be unique.
Sarah: I met Peter while editing Forum and a collaboration between us seemed like a no brainer. I am relatively young lady who delights in gentler sex play while Pete is a veteran of the sex scene whose deliciously pervy antics frequently lead cheeks (both upper and lower sets) to blush furiously. Our Seasonal Guide captures both our perspectives in a range of features, fiction and interviews, written around a seasonal theme. The Winter issue includes Burlesque queen Ditz Von Teese; Trans porn star Buck Angel; great ideas to raunch up 2012 with our new year’s revel-ations; kinksters who love sneezing, woolly tights and big knickers, sexy ways to keep warm and more. We’re just working on the spring issue – watch out for the bunnies!
KD: Sounds fab! And I’ll be looking forward to the bunnies in the next issue! You’ve written a lot about sex, Sarah, you’ve written investigative pieces, you’ve written blog pieces, you’ve edited magazines on the subject, and you write some pretty steamy erotica as well. Why sex? Why not food or politics or any number of other topics? And why such an enthusiastic ‘hands-on,’ so to speak, approach?
Sarah: Actually over my career I have written on a range of subjects from the latest developments in railways to living with Tourettes (I have it mildly and no I don’t swear – at least not without meaning it). I am currently contributing editor of a marine magazine!
However, the reason my sex writing is so prominent is maybe because people enjoy my unique perspective – indeed Pete says I could sell butt plus to Mary Whitehouse. I am open about the fact that I’ve suffered from a sexual dysfunction (more on that below) and, whether I am writing about amputee devotees or men who like to be kicked in the balls, I try not to sensationalise them. I strive to portray their point of view and offer helpful advice to any readers with similar passions. I encourage people to experiment if they want to but don’t try and shock those who don’t. As long as we’re safe sane, consensual and legal, I say each to their own.
KD: I’d buy butt plugs from you, Hon! If you had to choose a topic other than sex to write about, what would it be?
Sarah: In the future I hope to write more women’s lifestyle pieces.
KD: What do you think was your finest moment, as a writer (so far, of course)?
There’s been lots of proud moments but I think the most important one was the first time I wrote about vaginismus. This is a sexual dysfunction where my brain told my pelvic muscles to clamp up. In my teens sex was impossible, in my 20s it was traumatic, then in my early 30s, unpredictable. It’s only with my current fella that I know I can have sex whenever we both feel like it.
By the time I was 28 I’d had a couple of sex features published and I decided that, if I was going to be a sex journalist, I wanted to tell it how it was, warts n all (I mean this metaphorically, luckily I’ve never had genital warts).
But I felt like I was taking a huge risk. Most of my friends had no idea about the condition, and I was so worried the media world would think I wasn’t qualified to write about sex. So I downed two bottles of wine and wrote a Voice of Experience feature for Scarlet, explaining my struggle with this condition. I read the feature to two ex boyfriends. They both asked me if I was sure then commended my braveness. The next morning, hungover, I edited it for drunken typos then sent it in.
Countering the shame around sex problems is the basis of my groups. The Open Forum is a support group for women with stubborn nethers, in Fannying Around we discuss the good, bad and interesting about our special places and in Private Pictures we draw them. Find out more at www.fanniesrule.com.
KD: Wow! You’ve had an amazing journey, and one that I’m sure is a real encouragement to a lot of people. What would you love to write about that you haven’t?
Sarah: I am hoping to do a lot more campaigning about how the medical profession views sexual problems. Like me, many of the women have been told to, “Just relax,” while many men are palmed off with Viagra. GPs should be more open to referring patients to therapists. Also, I went to a vulvodynia conference the other day. This is an umbrella term for women who suffer from an unexplained chronic pain in their nethers. I will be pitching features about this in the new year. My dream, once I’ve qualified as a sex therapist, is to get a gig as an agony aunt!
KD: What advice would you give to young writers or people aspiring to a writing career?
Sarah: Be honest, be original and, if you’re writing about sex, seriously consider using a pseudonym.
KD: What was the most fun piece you’ve ever written?
Sarah: Gosh… there’s been so many. I think the London Naked Bike Ride was special. I had to swallow all my worries about being chunky and just get on with it. It was so bloody liberating. And when I threw a flier explaining the cause of the ride to a load of builders, they fell on it like I was Angelina Jolie. I highly recommend you give it a go!
KD: Wow! I might consider riding a bike naked if it got me treated like Angelina Jolie. What was the most unusual piece you’ve ever written?
Sarah: Definitely the big toy challenge where I put the world’s biggest sex toys up a very mild tempered chap called PUMA (which stands for Put It Up My Arse). The finale ended up with me drildoing him with a bumpy toy that that was over two feet long, stuck on the end of Woolworths’ drill. When he prolapsed I almost puked!
KD: What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in sex writing right now?
Sarah: The fact that it’s so easy to blog means that anyone can be a writer – of course that means there’s a lot of crap and offensive diatribes to wade through. Also the nature of social networking means we can bring our messages to a wider audience. I’ve had some very touching emails for kinksters and vaginismus sufferers thanking me for helping them to not feel so alone.
Sarah: I’m planning on penning more erotica and a book offering advice on getting laid. Plus there will be the spring issue of Pete & Sarah’s Guide to Seasonal Sex and more exciting fanny projects on www.fanniesrule.com. I hope you’ll all be along for the ride xxx
KD: I wouldn’t miss it, Sarah! Thanks for being my guest. Happy New Year, and I’ll very much be looking forward to lots of great pieces from Sarah Berry in 2012!