Monday, May 18, 2020

TBR: The Pleasure Plan: One Woman’s Search for Sexual Healing by Laura Zam

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe! 

Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?

The Pleasure Plan, based on my New York Times Modern Love essay, is a memoir and sexual healing guide. in my forties, I married the man of my dreams¾after a lifelong search¾discovering quickly I had six kinds of sexual dysfunction, associated with child abuse. To save my marriage and claim my right to pleasure, I tried 30 erotic-healing techniques, which led me to the cutting edge of orgasm, libido, cures for pelvic pain, and trauma recovery; mixing memoir with tips, I share these discoveries with my readers.

What boundaries did you break in the writing of this memoir? Where does that sort of courage come from?

Well, since the topic of my book¾sexual dysfunction¾is pretty taboo, I was confronted with many boundaries, especially in talking about this project. I’d be at a dinner party when a stranger would ask me what I did. After I said I was a writer, this person typically asked, “What are you working on?” At first, I didn’t know what to say because I felt society had created a barricade I was supposed to stand behind. Crossing to the other side seemed disobedient and harmful; like I’d be wounding this person by asking him/her/they to step with me into shameful territory. I didn’t want to lie about my book project though, so I started discussing my work matter-of-factly. I’d say: “I’m working on a book about reclaiming sexuality in the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. What kind of work do you do?” After the first few times of talking this way, casually, the barricade, or boundary, disappeared. I realized this separation had been needlessly severing a shared humanity. People began telling me their own shameful secrets! I became addicted to these conversations. I felt free and fearless. You asked about courage; this fearlessness I found, that’s what allowed me to finish the book. As for where any of this bravery comes from, I’d say: “Fuck it.” I mean: “Fuck it”; I’m just going to tell the truth of who I am.

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

Getting an agent and then a book contract after five solid years of trying¾writing book proposal, submitting it to agents, having it be rejected, improving my proposal, and wash, rinse, repeat¾was thrilling. It’s still thrilling.  

Well, having the coronavirus hit right when I’m about to launch my book has been…interesting. But I’m excited about creating more virtual events*, and getting to my readers via amazing blogs like this one. Thank you, Leslie. You’re a beautiful literary citizen, and human! [Editor’s note: Awwww….]

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

Chunk it down. Never having written a book before, I found the enormity of the project terrifying. Eventually, I realized I could create daily, manageable assignments for myself that would move me along. This helped a lot.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

My own tenacity surprised me. Normally, I’m a person who starts yawning at 8 pm. But when I was in the thick of it, I’d stay up till 3 am, determined to get one paragraph right. I was shocked to discover how far I was willing to go to make this book as good as it could be. This crazy ambition, or maybe stubbornness, feels like a super power now.

Who is your ideal reader?

My ideal reader is a woman who struggles with sex. This could because of trauma. Or it could be related to another situation, like cancer, lack of pleasure education, the stress of childrearing, relationship malaise, pelvic floor issues, menopause, or something else. Quality information about solving these problems can be hard to find, because, like I said earlier, women’s sexual health is still a taboo subject.  In fact, on my journey I found too many doctors and mental health professionals uncomfortable (and uninformed) when it came to female sexuality. Part of my mission writing this book is to help other women take control of their sexual health by finding the right practitioners and acquiring solid knowledge. In other words, I suppose my ideal reader is a woman who struggles with sex, but would also love to do something about that.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book?

Great question! Since my book is about pleasure I’ll highlight the most scrumptious and decadent treats readers will find in The Pleasure Plan.: Belgian chocolates in a gold-trimmed blue box, tied up with a sky-blue ribbon; sliced mango melting in the mouth; perfectly salted and crisp French fries…I’ll stop here because I’m making myself hungry and coronavirus is already adding some pounds. My friend calls it “the corona fifteen.” To end on a pleasure note though: forget the pounds! Let’s eat what we want right now, infusing our lives with as much good feeling as possible. Pleasure is grounding. Pleasure is mindfulness and stress relief. Pleasure is a big dose of life.

*Watch Laura's virtual event at Politics & Prose bookstore:




DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.