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My Writing Roots in Porn Lit

By Anonymous

Gypsy Rose Lee seated at typewriter/ World Telegram & Sun photo by Fred Palumbo via Library of Congress.

The year was 1979. Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Leonid Brezhnev was in the Kremlin, and I had just tumbled, fresh-faced and clueless, from the idyllic confines of a Seven Sisters college in the mid-Hudson valley. I had a plan–graduate school at Columbia University in September–and my very first apartment, a shabby walk-up on 107th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, then a sketchy neighborhood just south of Harlem. But I needed an income, so I found a job as a waitress. On my first day I inadvertently charged one customer $14.60 for an iced coffee, splattered another with gobs of cheesecake from the slice I dropped, and was fired by the end of my shift. Time for plan B. I pored over the want ads in the Village Voice. Telemarketer? Nurse’s aide? Nothing clicked until I read this one:

STAFF WRITER
ADULT FICTION

I called the number and spoke to a woman who was far more interested in my typing skills than my literacy. She told me to write the first chapter of School Girl Crush, a playful, Sapphic romp set in an East Coast boarding school. “It should be around 20 pages long,” she said. “And it shouldn’t take more than four hours.” I’d written a lot of term papers over the past few years, but I had never churned out 20 pages in four hours. Then I thought: East Coast? Girls’ school? Hey, I was a natural. I conjured my own college campus: the scenic pond—where I had three characters go skinny dipping—and the gym’s communal showers—where two others had a passionate, lesbian encounter—and pretty soon, the chapter was written. The next day, I sat across a desk from Flo, a zaftig middle-aged woman with a head of corkscrew ringlets and a big, toothy smile. As she read my chapter, the smile got even bigger. “This,” she said, “is perfect.  When can you start?”