Jayne Renault

Musings of a Smut Queen
An Open Love Letter to 2018

An Open Love Letter to 2018

There’s a lot of garbage that I could focus on for this year, but I think there are plenty of others who have those rants covered. Besides, I’m not feeling particularly snarky right now. In fact, I’m pretty gushy. So, the direction this year’s review is taking has followed suit.

A big theme for 2018 for me was Community.

For some people, it’s marriage; success; money; children; love… That thing you seem to want a little more than the rest.

For me, one of the things I’ve hungered after the most in my life is Community. In 2017, I got a little taste of some flavours that agreed with me particularly well, in both my concrete and virtual worlds. But in 2018, I really got to sink my teeth into them. I’ve written some thoughts on this theme at a few others points throughout this year, so I am likely going to repeat myself a bit. But now, I’m taking a step back to look at the whole calendar to see just how much has happened in such a short amount of time to solidify and sophisticate this web of community.

Here are some of the TSN highlights of the big game.

First Quarter

In January, I celebrated my official first anniversary with Bellesa. (Technically, our relationship started nearly a year before that. But it was in January of 2017 that I took on the responsibility of running all of Bellesa’s erotica operations.) Even after a year of just scraping the surface of what this role meant to me and the company at large, I was a mess of existential dread. No matter how much my Bellesa fam sang my praises, I was in a near constant state of doubting my abilities and my (lack of formal) credentials. Who was I to think I could do this job? That I deserved it over someone else? Am I doing enough? What is “enough” even?

Y’know. Typical Imposter Syndrome stuff.

It was also in January that I went to my colleagues with a formal proposal for why I should attend Eroticon in March. As it turned out, the proposal was as compelling as I’d hoped and, though they had never heard of Eroticon until I brought it up, they agreed that it sounded like a good idea.

Thank goddess, because hot damn — everything since then has been a beautiful runaway snowball down the biggest mountain of Kayla Lords-level kinky fuckery. Looking back on that weekend, I’m pretty floored by the confidence and friendships that were boosted and gained simply because I had the gall to show up. But I’ll gush all about the Eroticon magic in a post of its own another time.

In the heady aftermath of the conference weekend, I picked up my first domain name and self-hosting services. Though I didn’t do anything with them right away, I knew it was important to me to set these things into motion in a tangible way. (I also wrote one of my favourite stories so far about a kind of glory hole experience that is a pretty decent little read if that intrigues you at all.)

Second Quarter

It was not long after that when I reached out to Mischa Eliot for the first time. She was one of the first erotica authors I followed on Twitter (and fanned over from afar). I didn’t understand Twitter AT ALL but for whatever reason, I was immediately drawn to her. I took a risk finally by reacting to one of her posts with a Supernatural gif; when she responded, I was overwhelmed but also hopeful. Anyways, much much later, I found the gumption to slide into her DMs and open up a conversation about possible future collaboration. 

No regrets there. She responded with enthusiasm. And my eyeballs sweat on nearly a daily basis now because she’s in my life. Because not only is she chock-full of skill and information for things I have no knowledge of myself, she has been a rock of support and motivation in a professional and personal capacity for the better half of this year for me. She’s totally invaluable as a fellow writer, and I consider her a very, very, VERY good friend. I say in all seriousness that she is one of my all-time favourite humans I have yet to meet in person. *flips scarf*

This is when things really took off. Hot on the trails of my inaugural chats with Mischa, I reopened a dialogue with Dr. J that hadn’t really gotten properly started because of all that aforementioned insecurity stuff, and virtually met Oleander Plume (so I could finally gush over Horatio Slice to her directly). Because this magical triad had gathered for the first time in the real world (and I followed their live updates with the utmost glee and latent jealousy) it was easy to talk to them all more or less at once.

Much to my surprise and continued gratitude, they invited me to join the Sisters in Smut and naturally — (I cried a bunch and then) — accepted the offer with gusto.

By the time the summer made its triumphant return, I’d felt like I was really onto something. The more I practiced putting myself out there, the more comfortable I became engaging with other members of this rich, diverse community. Some days, I even felt proud of the work that I’ve been doing.

Third Quarter

In July, I launched this blog for real to better connect with this blogging community I’d only watched as an anonymous spectator, as well potential new readers. I was a Sister in Smut. And I was almost fully owning my title as the reigning Smut Queen at Bellesa.

Somewhere in the midst of all this beautiful madness, the one and only Exhibit A reached out to me to see if I’d “fancy a trip to Manchester in August” for Coffee and Kink Amy’s second annual Smutathon. They had an open space in their roster and I guess I seemed like the type who might just bite to fill it. History proves that his judgment was very sound.

This event came together with the benevolent goal of raising funds to give to very worthy causes, but it gave me something of incredible personal value as well. I came back with a deepened confidence in my abilities as an erotica writer and blogger, but more than that, I felt like I belonged to something more/greater than I realized before I got there.

I’m happy to say my weekend with those lovelies made the UK branch of my community stronger than I ever imagined, not to mention it’s made me incredibly anxious (in the good way) for Eroticon 2019.

The end of summer and beginning of fall were extremely difficult. The weather here was atrocious and my mental health wasn’t much better. I think a part of me was overwhelmed by all the goodness and successes that I just outlined — that every present Imposter Syndrome and the underlying fear of failure looming just a little higher and heavier to contrast any wins I collected.

It’s a constant battle those days, no matter how often you or anyone else reminds you that you’re doing a great job.

Last Quarter

But my lows had no bearing on you, dear Reader. For the last quarter of this year, I received more submissions to Bellesa than I almost knew what to do with. So many amazing new voices have come onto the scene and it humbles me beyond words to have the privilege to work so intimately with so many incredible storytellers. As a result, my skills and my confidence in them have grown exponentially in a very short amount of time. And I have every one of you (you all know you who you are) to thank for that.

My best post of the year was a wordless one that went up in October. A Sinful Sunday image, it was the Stay-at-Home Siren that really ensnared your eye like nothing else I’ve done before. Which is highly encouraging because I was quite nervous about diving into photographic expression. The praise I’ve received in my first few attempts was nothing short of enthusiastic so you may very likely see more of my attempts in the coming year.

Stay-at-Home Siren by Me.

In November, I was humbled further by being acknowledged as one of the New Voices in Molly’s round-up of the Top Sex Blogs of the year. It was also the biggest month for both submissions as well as reader visits to the Bellesa Erotica collection since we launched in February of 2016. Further to that point, I just recently gathered up some of the data for the top reads on Bellesa from this year — a lot of those placeholders were really determined between October and December, like May More story Friday’s Child (which if you haven’t read, what are you waiting for?) that jumped to the top 10 in a matter of a fortnight.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, I think I finally have been able to start to shake some of that existential dread I mentioned at the beginning. To feel like I belong here. That I’m doing something that maybe I was meant to do, and certainly am getting pretty good at. Two years at it, and I think I’m finally starting to settle in… And that feels pretty darn good.

All this is to say that I have seen some incredible personal growth in this past year. And I have each and every one of you who is reading this right now to thank for that.

Victory Lap

Our community is a veritable bedrock of mutual support, positive feedback, and unapologetic boldness. I may be the shepherd of the Bellesa Erotica operations and an ambassador of my own wordsmithing, but the continued success of these projects (not to mention my own evolution as a writer) has been possible because of the varied, talented collaborators I’ve had the privilege of working with, i.e. all of my writer friends, new and old, who have who have felt compelled to share their words with me. 

The relationships I’ve built or deepened as an editor in this past year have been especially poignant. I’m blown away by your talent and grace as we figure all of this stuff out together.

Of course, I’m bawling as I write this because I’m so swollen with gratitude that it just pours right out of me. But they’re no crocodile tears. I mean every word. 

2019 won’t be without its challenges. With bastions of sexual expression and exploration being knocked down like bowling pins from Patreon to Tumblr, the united front we hold now to advocate for the rights and freedoms of the individual is more important than ever. And though it is not always easy or obvious, there is strength in our ever-increasing voices.

We are a community built on a foundation of strong, fearless, bold people. In a world where so many of us are actively silenced by the structures in place, we stand up and make noise. We are made up predominantly of fierce women (even if many of us still constantly question our own fierceness); we have insanely high queer representation; we are open and accepting to the sharing kinks and predilections of any and all flavours; we listen with genuine attentiveness when our friends and strangers alike open up about their struggles, and we are there to support if they need. We have pioneer women like Molly and Kayla and Marie to thank immensely for leading the charge, hosting regular memes that have run for several years now, inspiring bloggers from the babies like me to those who have been here much longer.

Where else can you find this much strength and gumption? This much boldness and diversity? This much raw openness and equally fierce acceptance?

This space that we’ve carved out for ourselves matters. I’m so glad I found my way here and I thank you for accepting me so graciously. I look forward to playing that role for those who

I love you. You are so important. Thank you for being here. I look forward to levelling up with you in this coming year.

It’s going to be a big one. And maybe even a little messy. But I couldn’t imagine facing it with better company.

Cheers to you. 🥂

-J

11 comments found

  1. Of Course this is a wonderfully written roundup 😉 but what an amazing year you have had – and I suspect only more good things to come to you in 2019. It has been a pleasure getting to know you a little, finding Bellesa and the “sisters” – Thanks for mentioning “Friday’s Child” – I remember when the idea for the story came to me – I was walking round a field with 3 dobermann dogs! Life can be funny – good luck to you Jayne x

  2. Wow!! You have had an extremely amazing year and how exciting! I am really hoping to meet so many of you all this coming year and getting to know such wonderful people I look up to. xx

  3. What a great year you have had, so much growth and change, it is both grounding and scary to hear that someone as accomplished as you suffers from imposter syndrome, but that’s how the mind works (or messes with you).
    It’s been lovely discovering you as a blogger and later working with you as the the shepherd of the Bellesa Erotica operations. You’re a very worthy member of the Sisters in Smut, which is shaping up to be another bed-rock of the sex blogger community.
    A wonderful year, but you can top it! I look forward to saying Hi at Eroticon 2019.

  4. This is so beautiful and wonderful and I love that you’ve found a home within the community! As I’m stepping into an editor role for the first time, I feel you on all that imposter syndrome — and you’ve been my inspiration as I tell myself I can do this, even though I’m terrified I’m going to screw it up.

    I can’t wait to see what you do in 2019!! 💜

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