Ever since Wednesday night’s readings at Sh! with D. L. King and friends, I’ve been thinking about the power of reading stories to each other. I was there to read a bit from one of my own stories, but more importantly I was there to sit back in a roomful of enthralled people and just listen to some of the wonderful authors who have stories in anthologies edited by D. L. King. I couldn’t have asked for more wonderful story-tellers:
Jacqueline Applebee (Where the Girls Are)
The stories ranged from fem dom to vampire to steam punk. There was even a bit of mythology and voyeurism thrown in for good measure. It was a tremendous pleasure to see D.L. King again, and I felt very honoured to be included to read with some of my heroes in the world of erotica. I was literally transported by each story. The thing is, not only were the stories outrageously sexy and sensual, as you’d expect, but the stories were beautifully woven to pull in the listeners, to allow them to get lost in the tale. I was completely captivated.
Since Wednesday night, I’ve been thinking about how much I love being read to, thinking about why there’s so much more magic in a story read out loud. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on my mother’s lap while she read to me. I didn’t care what she read. It was the sound of her voice, the way she made the characters come alive, the way the story made me wonder and think and try to picture in my little-girl head a world so much bigger than the Wyoming lumber camp we were living in at the time, a place where the Swiss Family Robinson were surviving and thriving on their lost island, a place where kids, not much older than I, rode gorgeous black horses and solved scary crimes and chased spooky ghosts.
When my mother wasn’t reading to me, my grandfather, who lived with us, was telling stories of his youth, of near-misses with rattle snakes, of catching the biggest catfish ever and of the horse that no one but he could tame. And my dad had his own tales to tell, of practical jokes played on siblings, of dogs that bit, of destructive tornados.
My family knew the magic of story, and they shared that magic with me. The magic of a good story, the magic that compelled our ancestors to sit around a banked fire and listen to the histories of the tribe, listen to the tales of the family, listen to the myths and folk lore collected over generations is a living, breathing magic that still makes my heart race when I think about it.
Unlike our ancestors, we have it all written down now. We have access to a good story anytime. And yet the magic is never more powerful than when the story is read out loud. The power of story spoken goes bone deep and touches parts of us that are much older than our physical selves, parts of us that have roots around campfires sat beneath a sky full of stars.
Wednesday night, we all sat in the bright pink glow of Sh! basement, sipping fizz and listening to sexy tales, tales that offered yet another layer of magic, the magic and the mystery and the celebration of human sexuality told in a thousand creative ways in a thousand intricately woven tales. We listened to stories of what moves us, what makes us squirm, what transports us beyond ourselves while at the same time connects us most deeply to our own flesh.
Perhaps I’m just shamelessly navel-gazing this morning, waiting for my coffee to kick in, but the D.L. King/Sh! version of gathering around the ancestral hearth to listen to stories being shared made me think again about those things that connect us most deeply to our humanity, the sharing of story by word of mouth and the celebration of our sexuality. It seems to me that sex and story go hand in hand, and the community that celebrates both is a community I’m very proud to belong to.