At the opening ceremonies of the First Annual BDSM Writers Con in Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hotel, founder and hostess Dr. Charley Ferrer tearfully confessed that the reason the conference exists today was because she’d read a book; in particular Joey W. Hill’s novel The Vampire Queen’s Servant. Doctor Charley stated, “…it was the first BDSM book I ever read that depicted a Dominant woman respectfully and with great empathy. This was especially important to me as I identify as a Dominant woman and it’s rare that I find a book that doesn’t portray me as a club owning ProDom servicing men,” she explained.
Impressed with the author, Doctor Charley jokingly states she wrote “Joey” a fan letter that started with the line, “I’m really disappointed to find out you are a woman because I wanted to kidnap Jacob…” (Jacob was the hero in the story.)
Doctor Charley said that she started the BDSM Writers’ Conference because she wanted to help decrease the level of misconceptions and prejudice that exists and help other authors create realistic characters where the BDSM practiced was authentic and the characters were real. Doctor Charley stated that BDSM is a very individual experience, and that she did not see that diversity in popular culture, so she wanted to bring that variety to the written page.
When Joey W. Hill got up to give her keynote address, she said that Dr. Ferrer had almost taken the wind from her sails, because the point Joey wanted to make was that the real life experience of BDSM is so very personal. She then went on to share how she never understood that she had a submissive streak in her until she became a writer, but looking back, as a little girl, she always had “Ken hold Barbie captive in a dungeon” and she had been awed by the service the Knights of the Round Table offered to their King and Ladies. Joey shared that the first time her husband, who she said is “not a dom - he considers himself ‘vanilla with a mean streak'” tied her up, she had a cathartic release. But she explained that this was before the internet, so for her it was a very personal journey “explored in solitude.”
Joey then commented that for her, the practice of BDSM is “Soul Love - love that speaks to the need to connect and trust, to be safe and accepted in a very lonely world,” adding that if she can give her readers a “one-handed read or a revelation, or both, it’s a win-win.”
Joey W. Hill ended by saying that she would consider herself “a success as a writer if her books made a positive effect on just one reader” and Doctor Charley’s tearful confession of inspiration for the conference seemed to bring her full circle. Joey and Dr. Charley Ferrer both laughed about the fact that they had not shared notes prior to giving their speeches, and yet had a very similar message to share with participants.
You can review their speeches below:
BDSM WRITERS CON 2014 Speech
Dr. Charley Ferrer
Welcome…I’m thrilled to have you join me
Stand up -- say hello to the person on either side of you.
Behind and in front
These are the people who are going to share this amazing
four-day journey with you into the world of Dominance and submission.
four-day journey with you into the world of Dominance and submission.
Before we get started on this amazing journey, I want to discuss the power of your word.
Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of the four-agreements wrote, “be impeccable with your word!”
He cautioned us to notice how our words affected others, how they can bring about change for better or worse. Being impeccable with your word is about being honest and having integrity and noticing the effects those words have on another.
I want to share with you how one individual’s words affected my life…and by association YOURS.
A few years ago I read a book...
…it was the first BDSM book I ever read that depicted a Dominant woman respectfully and with great empathy. (This was especially important to me as I identify as a Dominant woman and it’s rare that I find a book that doesn’t portray me as a club owing ProDom servicing men.)
The male submissive in this book was portrayed with such integrity and strength of character that I saw many of my own lovers—themselves submissive/slave men—in the hero.
The story was fantastic yet it was the respectful and realistic portrayal of the characters personalities that had me falling in love with them and the author.
It was the first time I felt compelled to write an author and congratulate HIM on an awesome book. And so you’ll understand my surprise when I discovered that Joey wasn’t a man at all. Let me share the first sentence of my letter, it began something like this:
“I’m really disappointment to find out you were a woman because I wanted to kidnap Jacob…”
(Jacob was the hero in the story)
Yep…our very own keynote speaker, Joey W. Hill was the author of this book, The Vampire Queen’s Servant and a catalyst to why you’re all sitting here today.
I wanted to meet Joey and asked if I could interview her for my television show. She connected me with Stella Price who hosts Authors After Dark and Stella invited me to speak at AAD and help normalize BDSM for her participants. While there, I was asked by a publisher if I ever considered writing a book to help writers in the D/s genre.
I never thought of that. I was so busy trying to get the medical and mental health community to educate themselves about D/s so they could better serve their patients, the thought of teaching authors never occurred to me. Yet now that the seed was planted, the idea took a live of its own.
Within 6-months I had written BDSM for Writers to provide a basic and intermediate look into the psychology of why individuals participate in Dominance and submission and to give authors just starting in the genre, or perhaps already in it, assistance.
In my book, I provided various tidbits that authors needed to know to make their characters not only more realistic but credible as well. I even throw in information about how to train a slave and the various uses of humiliation and pain as well as a few exercises that would help them delve into the psychological aspects of submission and dominance. (My book, BDSM The Naked Truth was the version created for the general public.)
While writing these books, it became clear to me that if I wanted change I had to be willing to stand up and be counted and so I came out of the Leather Closet completely. This did put a strain on my romantic relationships as my partner would now be outed by association.
As for work, the college I taught at thought I might influence my students adversely and some colleagues felt I should be helping to treat my patients to overcome this “perversion” not encourage them to want more.
All these prejudices ONLY SERVED to encourage me provide even more education.
This lead to more connections with writers and the general public and within the year, 2011, I was conducting workshops for writers.
By 2012, I put together a three-day BDSM Intensive workshop for writers where we spoke about the intricacies of the power exchange, the psychological connections men and women make, and the ways writers could incorporate those truths into their stories.
In 2013, it became apparent that readers also wanted to learn about Dominance and submission and thus, we opened the doors to them as well.
This, our third year, expands the program from three-days to four as we added a BDSM Book Fair and Between The Covers Erotica Reading Series. I also persuaded a few BDSM Experts I know that I love and trust to provide you with even more information on this highly erotic and often misrepresented lifestyle. Plus, we invited experienced BDSM authors to also share their valuable knowledge.
As many of you have heard the adage, “there is no ONE WAY to explore BDSM”
And that is true…
HOWEVER you will discover that there is an “individual’s way!”
Over the next four days, I will provide you with BDSM experts and experienced authors who will show you “their” way of enjoying Dominance and submission. And from them, you will start to create your own way of interacting with others—creating your own way of embracing various aspects of this lifestyle.
Writers, I implore you to remember that some of your readers are discovering their desire for dominance and submission for the very first time. Your words, finally give voice to their yearnings. And through your words, you become the judge and jury of whether or not someone’s desires are normal or perverted. Thus, educating yourself –despite the fact that you write fiction—is imperative.
Readers—I challenge you to demand more from your favorite others and discover new ones.
A few years ago I read a book….
Four years, later BDSM Writers Con is a reality!
Today, you embark on a life changing experience. Just imagine what the world will be like next year….
All because of somebody’s words…
Thank you for being here and making my dream of bringing education to help reduce the levels of prejudice that surround BDSM and those that embrace it.
Now I want to introduce to you the woman who’s the catalyst behind BDSM Writers Con, Joey W. Hill
by Joey W. Hill
At conferences like this, keynote speakers usually start out with the statement: “I won’t talk for long”. That’s because most of us are introverts terrified of public speaking. You’re not going to hear us getting up here and saying “Okay, settle in, because I plan to be up here a good long time!” We view the podium more like a burning building and the sooner we can escape back to being a faceless member of the audience, the better.
And on that note, I apologize for reading my notes versus memorizing them, but I tend to blank in front of a crowd like a deer in headlights. Or I go into bionic mouth mode, where I can blurt out 500 words in an instant. And I ramble. I’m still likely to ramble, but at least this way you know I’ve limited my rambling to a certain number of pages. I’ll also use hands. I won an award last week and they actually handed me this little fragile glass bauble – the award - right before I walked up to the podium to give my 30 second acceptance speech. All I could imagine was me doing the nervous hands thing and sending it shooting out into the crowd and bouncing off someone’s head. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
So all my caveats done, I’m so glad to be with you all today. I know at times it’s been a bit of a rocky road getting here, but I thank Dr. Charley and her staff for all their hard work to bring us to this moment and giving us the opportunity to attend. When Kathy Kulig and Cris Anson told me about their positive experiences with her in previous years, and then Dr. Charley indicated she wanted to expand the format to include more material and readers in the audience, I knew all those wanting to learn more about BDSM from a writing or personal standpoint would benefit, and I’m so glad to be included as part of that. Both as one of those learning more about it, and one person sharing whatever value my own knowledge has. Dominant/submissive relationships and BDSM practices are all about people – their personalities, desires and needs – so there’s no end to learning in this area. Just like writing a story itself – it always takes turns I don’t expect, and I learn from every set of characters I meet.
I know there were some readers initially concerned about attending this con, who felt that if they were merely curious about learning more about the lifestyle because they enjoy reading it, but aren’t practitioners or authors, that they would somehow be perceived as rude, invasive. Nothing is further from the truth. While most of us in the lifestyle don’t necessarily want to conduct a scene in Times Square (okay, some of us might), at the least it would be lovely to embrace our Dominant or submissive desires openly without fear of losing jobs, our children or the friendship of neighbors.
The key to that is helping educate others about what healthy Dominant and submissive relationships are, and what BDSM practices are all about. Some of it is extremely intuitive – I always give the example of Cesar the Dog Whisperer trying to explain to pet parents what he is doing to help their dog deal with THEIR behavior issues. He’s so good at working with dogs, so intuitive, sometimes it’s hard for him to tell people really what he’s doing. They almost have to feel what he’s feeling. There is some of that in Dom/sub stuff, but I think there’s plenty of area to help those who are curious gain a better overall understanding. Having a hands on front row view this weekend will also help with that. Even if some of the things you see can look a little scary. The first time I saw a consensual non-consent scene, I was like Holy Crap. But I watched, asked questions afterwards, and that CNC scene helped me write a very memorable one for Marcie and Ben in Hostile Takeover. Once I learned more, I understood more, could find areas of empathy and make it work in my writing.
(Pause to signify change of subject)
I thought it might be fun to give you a perspective of my own personal journey of discovery when it comes to BDSM and how that ultimately worked with my writing. In my case, it was my writing that brought me face to face with my orientation as a submissive. Side note here, and a point I’ll return to later as well: As many of you may know, Dominant or submissive tendencies exist in all of us to a certain degree. For some it is a deep orientation that manifests itself not only in a sexual way but in a lot of other aspects of your life, and probably started in childhood. That was the situation for me. For others it’s a fun area to explore to spice up a relationship. For some it’s something you enjoy only in the pages of a book. All of those are valid ways to experience and explore BDSM, so my examples/experiences are only one of many paths.
When I wrote my first erotic romance, Make Her Dreams Come True, I wasn’t familiar with BDSM other than the distorted, horrible things we tend to see in movies and TV crime dramas. Much as I love Shemar Moore, Thomas Gibson and Criminal Minds, if the only familiarity one had with the terms Dominant/submissive were from that show, we’d all be under FBI watch.
I had no intention of Make Her Dreams Come True being a BDSM book, or even over the top erotic. It was going to be a spicy romance that took place between two people who meet in a mall. Next thing I knew, Daniel was tying Meg up to ladders, spanking her with a belt, picking out her clothes, and teaching her to call him Master. And giving her a key scene or two to act as the Dominant herself.
The Internet was barely in its infancy, so I had no real resources to figure out what I’d unleashed inside myself, so I decided to follow my personal desires. The first time my husband tied me up, I cried. Not just a few tears. It was a catharsis, as if something had broken open inside me that had been locked up for years. The depth of my reaction scared us both. I was afraid something was wrong with me, wanting and needing that feeling of restraint, and I was afraid I wanted it so much that that need would destroy our relationship. My husband is not a Dom. He describes himself as “vanilla with a mean streak”. He’s been trying to figure out what Fetlife name he should use, and I thought “mean bean” would be really fitting based on that description, but he chose something else.
Anyhow, that moment made me realize my submissive needs ran deeper than just a desire to spice up the relationship. This is where I started what my husband might call re-engineering – taking something apart to figure out how it was put together. First, I looked at my then current “day job” career. I have a management degree, but during the 20 some years I was building toward my fulltime writing career, the job I embraced was administrative support. I loved serving people, making them shine, making their lives easier. I was detail-oriented, exacting about how I wanted things done, because doing them right was important to ensure the people I was serving could do their best job.
Because my husband is quiet and shy, and I’m a control freak who has to take over if something isn’t being done right, many people assume that I’m a Domme. Whereas those pretty deep into it, after they spend any time with me, pick up on the power service side quickly. In fact, I have to share - at Authors After Dark, Carrie Ann Ryan and Sasha White were having a good time messing with me during our Mastered photo shoot. We were dressed up for it, and I was wearing a corset and chain mail choke collar type thing, so Carrie Ann was running a crop along my shoulder and Sasha grabbed me by the collar, just to get that little dazed reaction you often see in a sub’s eye… Sadists, all of them.
Going back to my early year reflections about being a submissive, a couple key moments from my childhood also come to mind. I remember being absorbed in the stories of the Knights of the Round Table, especially how these powerful, amazing men would go to their knees and beg for a favor from a lady, or serve their king to their last breath. Their service was as powerful as a faith, even when they were capable of leading armies, fighting dragons and bravery I couldn’t even imagine.
I also remember Ken holding my Barbies captive in a dungeon, tying them up by wrists, hair, whatnot. One of my favorite role playing games was being the tied up damsel in distress that Batman rescued – yes, the Adam West Batman – he was so masterful - only I was more intrigued by being tied up than rescued. Most times, Batman ended up tying me up again. I think Adam would have been in to that. He gave me that vibe.
In my teens, I latched onto bodice rippers that not-so-subtly reflected elements of Dominance and submission with their heroes and heroines. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure it was Elizabeth Lowell’s historical romance Untamed where the hero imprisoned the heroine in luxurious quarters and told her he would gain her trust the same way he did his falcons, feeding her only from his fingertips, teaching her to respond to his voice and touch alone. Then there was Valerie Sherwood’s Bold, Breathless Love, where the pirate captain ravished the heroine over and over to give her the will to live when he feared she’d lose her life to grief. The Kubler-Ross model should really incorporate that idea into addressing the five stages of grief.
Finally, I remember a friend with strong feminist viewpoints who grumbled about her fiancé wanting to give her an engagement ring. She told him if he needed to give her a symbol of ownership, he could just pee in a circle around her. I thought about that, the ring as a symbol of possession, of ownership (lift hand to show ring), and I thought…hmmm. That’s really hot.
So the signs of my sub orientation had always been there. However, as ironic as it sounds in this setting – and bear with me on that - in some ways I’m glad that my journey started in solitude, rather than where I had a great deal of resources at my disposal. I figured out who and what I was without being overwhelmed by terminology, the way other people do it, etc. I explored the psychology of being a Dom or sub in my erotic romances long before I did the mechanics, the toys, the trappings. As a result, the psychology has remained the strongest leading element in my books, and I think that element holds the deepest appeal to romance readers. At least, I know it does for me.
I learned just how individual being a submissive – or a Dominant – is, and that in turn has allowed my writing to explore a great deal of areas without stifling myself by worrying if I was doing it right or wrong…I just followed my own observations and understandings and let the characters guide me, whether I was writing Doms, subs, switches or everything else in between.
Now, before you think “is she saying that attending a conference like this isn’t worthwhile?” I can say the answer to that is far from it. I’m VERY glad there are now resources like this con where you can validate your understandings, learn more and steer yourself away from the pitfalls. Not everyone who wants to write BDSM has a Dom/sub orientation and, as I mentioned earlier, the best way to help people understand what healthy BDSM is, is to portray it with reasonable accuracy. Even if you have the orientation, there is SO much to learn about this lifestyle. I discover new stuff all the time. I cringe at the stuff I did get wrong in those early books.
No, the reason I brought that up is that, when this weekend is done and you’re going home with all sorts of new knowledge, don’t forget the heart of your story is your characters, and what their unique Dominant and submissive desires and needs are. They lead the way, and the direction they take will determine how you apply the knowledge here. Not the other way around.
If there is one point you’ll likely hear me repeat this weekend, it’s that just like faith, happiness and putting on your clothes every morning, there is no one way to truth and understanding. Love and faith are closely related to me, and I’ve always been baffled by the idea that there’s only one path. We’re a species that can’t limit themselves to one pair of shoes, yet we’re supposed to have only one right way of expressing love, faith, belief, etc… In BDSM there are basic tenets that are important for everyone to observe – safety, personal responsibility – but how we experience our Dominance or submission – is a very individual journey. And that’s an important thing to remember if you are a writer in or out of the lifestyle, trying to write a great BDSM story, or if you are a reader wanting to learn more about it.
I know there are those here who write erotica versus erotic romance, so forgive me if I keep mentioning romance, because it’s what I know. Unfortunately, BDSM romance fights the same fight mainstream romance itself has fought. First off, we all battle the immaturity of our society when it comes to sex. After thousands of years, you’d think most of us would have progressed beyond viewing sex the way 12 year old boys do, snickering over their first Playboy. Yet, whether you loved or hated 50 Shades of Grey, when it first came out, what happened? It was immediately dubbed mommy porn, which to me, seemed to be a tactic to trivialize and denigrate it. After all, if it’s a book that encourages us to embrace our sexuality, we should mock it, right?
Early on in my writing career, I was told putting lots of sex into your story was just a way to avoid the hard work of writing an ACTUAL good book. Why we haven’t matured to the point we can see sex as a valid emotional and spiritual component of a relationship, a way to reach deeper levels of ourselves and our understanding of others, I’m not sure. But the very cool thing is it’s something that we understand when we’re neck deep in a Dom/sub interaction, in person or in the pages of a book. To me that is one of its deepest appeals. We can pity those who decide to stand on the outside and condemn it, seeing only silly role playing games, or manifestations of deviant, abusive behavior, but those who seek to experience or understand it will see it differently.
The way we love is very much the same at the soul level. Beneath male, female, white, black, gay, straight, vanilla, kink, we’re all souls. We need to connect, to trust, to feel safe with and accepted by someone in this often lonely world. Sex is a sacred act. It’s a vital part of our romantic relationships, can aid emotional growth, and has been a part of many faiths. If someone enjoys my book as a one-handed read or as a personal revelation, that’s lovely, but when it ends up being both, I consider that a win-win.
I want to wind this up with a few comments about the integrity of our craft. Authors have many reasons for writing BDSM stories. For some it’s a personal exploration; that’s how it started for me, coupled to my love of romance and a desire to see more explicit sexual content in it. Yes, I wanted to be successful. But it wasn’t my overriding goal. I didn’t want my sales figures to be based on some marketing genius figuring out how to convince people the naked emperor was wearing Armani, or chasing trends. I wanted my success to be because one reader read my book, and thought WOW, I want to share this with someone else. Someone else NEEDS to read this so I can talk to them about it.
Ultimately, this cycles around to help me as well, because my subject pretty much rules out discussions with family, childhood friends and co-workers. Fortunately I found readers who are willing to talk to me about things like “how did Gideon feel when Daegan had him tied over double and was going at him like a jackhammer?” For some reason my brother didn’t want to go there with me. His reluctance kind of relieves me because there are discussions I don’t want to have with family members either.
As anyone in this audience knows who has written a story worth telling, writing is hard work, no matter the genre, because the elements of a great story are all the same – great characters, craft, story development. In short, it involves hours of your time, effort, and a mix of emotions from frustration to elation. There are those out there who write just for money, yes, but for most of us we write what’s in our heart, what our muse tells us to write. It’s way too hard to write a great story to do it just for money.
Use this conference to help you write an even better story, or help you appreciate the BDSM books you read even more – or both. I hope all your experiences at the con will be positive ones, but I encourage you to explore your own feelings about what you see, ask questions, and learn all you can from the many resources that are here. Be respectful, kind and patient with one another, and above all, have a good time. I thank Dr. Charley and her hard working volunteers again for making this happen and hope this first year of an expanded format will become a resource for BDSM writers and readers we can all enjoy annually, for years to come.