Posts Tagged ‘curiosity about sex’

I’ve written a book

August 17, 2012

For more than two years now, “I’m writing a book” has been my job title, my obsession and my reason for being.

On Monday I sent 474 pages of words—95,800 of them actually—to an experienced book editor to see what a professional person thinks of all this research on women’s sexual desire.

While I recognize that revisions—perhaps major ones—are part of the process, I’m naturally thrilled to be done. There’s undoubtedly a line I’ve stepped across; the book is whole now, a complete work. It’s permissible for me to shift over and say “I’ve written a book.”

Though I’m elated and proud and even incredulous about this achievement, I’m a little surprised at how quickly I’ve moved on. The self-congratulatory period was frankly shorter than I think I deserved. I thought I’d linger awhile in the fog of self-satisfaction once I hit that SEND button.

Instead, I immediately began thinking “OK, what’s next?”

First off, I’m way behind on day-to-day tasks and appointments, so I’m scrambling there. More importantly, I have several freelance writing assignments due before the end of the month, so no dilly-dallying in that arena either. In addition, I want to spend some time on marketing and social media (for example: do better at blogging!). And I definitely need to perform major research on the next phase of self publishing. I’ve collected numerous articles about the process and must absorb them in order to determine the best way to go about hiring a designer to pull the book together for publication.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Whelihan wrote a very nice letter to Victoria, our New York agent, and terminated our relationship with her. We received seven rejections (from Perseus Books, U.S. Penguin Group and others), which didn’t discourage us that much. We believe women’s sexual desire is a subject that needs to be addressed in all age groups; New York publishers seem to think we need to narrow the focus of the book and only appeal to smaller slices of the population.

We respectfully disagree. And since Dr. Whelihan is the expert (and after my research, I’m getting there!), we decided to trust ourselves and publish the book that our heads and hearts tell us is what readers want.

At this point, if a publishing house in New York suddenly offered us a contract, we’d say no. It would be 12-15 months before the book was for sale if that happened. With self-publishing, we hope to have copies of Kiss and Tell in hand by Thanksgiving.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to download the book. You will, of course. And we’re even hoping to make individual chapters available online, in case you truly just want to read about sexual desire for women in one decade only. (That’s another perk of self-publishing; you get to do what you want!)

It feels like everything is moving much faster now. Hopefully the momentum will continue and we’ll see our dreams realized of a book to sell by the holidays. Such a brave new world. Scary, but exciting.

Just look what happens when you hit the finish line … when you can truthfully say “I’ve written a book.”

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Good news and bad news

July 29, 2012

The good news is that my surge to finish the book and deliver the manuscript to the editor by Aug. 13 is on track. I allowed myself a bit of padding when I chose the deadline, hoping I wouldn’t panic too much (which I did anyway for a couple days).

The bad news is that I’m using up a lot of the padding with a complete rewrite of the chapter on the 70s ladies. Up until this chapter, the editing process has been a matter of reading along and feeling pretty OK about the work. I occasionally find bumps and even places where I think, “what the heck happened here?” Which means I stop and rewrite, fix the transitions and modify whatever requires it.

But the 70s chapter was the fifth chapter I wrote and I’ve realized my form changed right after that. This was the final chapter where I told the women’s stories more individually, allowing their voice to proceed more or less uninterrupted as they discussed desire throughout their lifetime. The latter chapters, which I like better, interweave the women’s observations and feature several subjects commenting on the same topic, rather than being isolated in their own life story.

I’m editing the book in order, even though I didn’t write it in order. I figure it’s imperative to read the book sequentially at least once. The fact that I made it to the 70s without any chapter screaming for a rewrite constitutes additional good news. And since the 80s chapter was included in my book proposal as “sample pages,” I know it’s going to require very little editing. The 90s chapter is short, so while it may need sprucing up, the work will be mercifully brief.

Meanwhile, I remain bogged in the 70s. The intro to the column wasn’t engaging at all; just dry statistics and overall percentages of what women told us in the general survey. So I went back and read my raw notes for the chapter and found these women imparted surprising and even shocking things about their sex lives.

One woman said she experienced so much pain with sex (right from the start) that it took two years before she and her boyfriend got all the way to full penetration. She delivered this information with no sign of how dismaying a listener might find this. Another 70s lady had several trysts with a 27-year-old lover just weeks after she was widowed and then began a tempestuous affair with a man three decades her junior. During her 48-year marriage, she took an unknown number of affairs or lovers, likely between 75-100. This information was also delivered absent dramatics; the speaker showed no expectation of her words creating surprise.

Another woman in her 70s had gone for marital counseling in her 50s and was able to speak very eloquently to the things which keep intimacy alive in a relationship when sex is no longer possible. (Her husband’s health issues are the culprit.) Yet another subject says, “I guess I got holy,” when describing how her attendance at a new church has made her disinclined to engage in the affairs of her youth. But the thrice-married woman still struggles with her sexuality: She doesn’t understand why she still has passion if she’s not supposed to do something about it. And she feels trapped by the church’s admonition against sex before marriage, since she has no desire to remarry after her third husband’s death.

Given the exceedingly rich material the 70s ladies shared with me, my chapter just didn’t do them justice. Yesterday I wrote 6 new pages of juicier stuff as a fresh introduction. Then I went through the interviews once more with my trusty colored highlighters, using them to mark comments on common topics. This afternoon it’s back to the grindstone, with the goal of more integration of the women’s stories. I’ll still let them speak at length in places, but the group as a whole needs cohesion. I can see that now.

The clunkiness of this unedited 70s chapter is reassuring in one other way: It means my skills and expertise sharpened as I worked my way further into the book, and I can now bring them to bear on my less polished work. My voice naturally became more sure as I increased my familiarity with the material and came to rely less on recitations of numbers and more on the truths I’ve found at the core of women’s desire.

This was exciting to realize—and it’s what made me sure I had to rewrite the chapter. Before I turn the manuscript over to editor Tiffany, I’m determined it will be the best I can offer.

But dang. Having to redo a whole chapter is the pits. Mumble, mumble, grumble, grumble.

And now I shall STOP procrastinating and get back to it.

A dash to the deadline

July 13, 2012

Exactly one month from today, on Aug. 13, my book’s manuscript is due to the editor.

This is NOT an editor hired by a publishing house; we didn’t get a book deal for Kiss and Tell. It’s an editor Dr. Whelihan and I hired privately, although she also works for all the big New York publishing houses. I mentioned her in an earlier blog, and was impressed with the sample edit she did on the intro to my chapter on the 80s Ladies. (Plus I met her in Austin when I was in Texas for two weeks enjoying an annual girls’ weekend and celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. Her name is Tiffany Yates Martin; she’s 6 feet tall, gorgeous and extraordinarily charismatic. Yes, you’re detecting a bit of a girl crush.)

Kiss and Tell‘s book proposal has now been officially turned down by seven publishers. It’s a little bit discouraging, sure. But the reason they are saying no to the book still strikes Dr. Mo and I as just being off. They seem to think readers will only care about the sexuality of women their own age; that our focus is too broad and no one’s interested in the passion of women in other age groups.

I realize everyone is super savvy up there in New York, of course, but I think the suits in the city maybe don’t know as much as they think they do about women’s sexuality. I mean, did they completely miss the uproar over Fifty Shades of Grey? Why don’t they see that women—of ALL ages—who read about desire in the form of fiction will also read about it in non-fiction form?

And believe me, the book is going to be erotic.

I know this because our agent told me after reading the sample chapters that I needed to mention the material’s steaminess in the proposal. “You’re missing the turn-on factor,” she said. I hadn’t really planned that effect, but I was quick to follow through on her suggestion.

And it makes sense that when women talk about what stimulates their desire, and those scenarios are faithfully transferred to words—reading them might indeed stimulate desire.

I digress!

The breaking news to share here is that I have committed to finishing the book’s first draft in one month. I was terrified into paralysis at first. I spent two days assuring myself this was impossible. For so long I’ve been saying, “I’m writing a book.” I still can’t quite grasp what it will mean to say, “I’ve written a book,” since the process itself has defined me for so long.

But then the soldier mentality took over, and I just started marching. I’m digging in every day; I figure it’s a six-day-a-week proposition from now till the deadline. I have to read every single word I’ve written so far and try to drag them all under the umbrella of one voice. As the project unfolded, the narrative shifted, and now it’s time to solidify the chapters under a unifying voice.

I’m also having to finish up certain chapters, which I left undone purposely, waiting for closure on other decades in order to come back and wrap up earlier chapters with more expertise and authority. The overview chapter, which explains what trends we found and sets the stage for the whole book, is proving to be a gigantic time suck. I’m wrestling with whether or not to break it into several chapters, because some of the (juicy) stories that accompany the overarching trends are lengthy.

But big picture problems like that aren’t enough. I’m also doing meticulous copy editing as I go, since there’s no point in ignoring it as I do a final read. Tiffany was kind enough to provide me with some style tips, which is a good thing since it turns out that journalism’s AP style isn’t at all what book editors are looking for. Oh joy. Live and learn.

This final push toward the deadline is a microcosm of what the entire book process has been. If I look up and survey the landscape of what still has to be completed, I become overwhelmed and frightened. If I keep my head down, and put one foot in front of the other, one paragraph after another, I can hold on to the hope of finishing.

Here goes!

Healthy sex

April 29, 2012

Having completed a chapter for each decade of a woman’s life, I’m now turning my attention to the chapter dealing with the health issues that can affect sexual desire. Everything from a medication for high blood pressure to the invasive treatments for cancer can impact (read, diminish) a woman’s libido.

I gathered up almost 20 surveys that mentioned health issues and summarized their concerns for Dr. Whelihan. She sent me 1,500 words about those conditions, in relatively general terms. Now I’m phoning the survey takers for more specifics on their problems, and during a future work session, Mo and I will tailor her responses to each woman’s health concern.

I’ve returned to peruse some of the book’s opening chapters (written a year ago), and I’ll eventually edit each one so my voice stays consistent throughout the book. Something I didn’t anticipate on a long project like this is how much your voice and style evolve during the process. To keep each chapter sounding consistent, you have to continually edit.

Instead of creating a separate health chapter, I decided to segue into the subject from one of those early chapters, titled “A Day in the Life of the Doctor.” It introduces Dr. Whelihan through a “visit” to her office, and sets the scene for how she interacts with patients about sex.

One reason for this adjustment is the realization that many books deal with treatments for sexual dysfunction; very few deal with the subtleties of female sexual desire — and so that’s where we want to keep the focus. We don’t need to venture too heavily into sexual healing territory.

Our agent is still busy pitching the book to publishing houses. So far we’ve been rejected four times. I’m not feeling particularly devastated by this. I think the book is tremendously marketable and so does Maureen, so we remain confident. Plus, I was told that “The Help” was rejected 60 times before it found a publisher, which consoles me to no end.

Our rejection letters, which the agent forwards to us, are generally encouraging. However, one letter said our focus was too broad, and that we needed to hone the material down to a more specific age group. I understand the impulse that drives this suggestion, but I respectfully disagree. I think when you’re talking about sexual desire, whatever age group you leave out will have every right to raise their hands and proclaim “What about ME?”

What could I tell them if I excluded them from the study? “Sorry. Didn’t think you mattered.”

One way to address this concern would be to self-publish the book and market each chapter separately as an e-book. If a 20-something woman for instance cared only about her decade, she could pay $2.99 or whatever for that chapter, and not have to purchase the whole book. But then, isn’t she going to want to read the 30s chapter … you know, to check out how sex is going to be in the near future?

And say that reader is in her 60s. After she reads her decade’s chapter, won’t she be curious to read the 20s chapter to see what women her daughter’s age say about sex?

These are the aspects of marketing I ponder. And though I remain convinced people will want to read the entire book, I am very open to the idea of selling chapters individually online. It does make a lovely kind of sense, because it’s an inexpensive option to owning the book. Maybe someone buys their decade, is intrigued, and comes back for the whole book. Who could argue with that?

Meanwhile, Dr. Mo and I are giving the agent additional time to market our book on a more conventional track. I have no idea how many rejections it will take for us to abandon traditional publishing and embrace self publishing. I guess it depends on what future rejection letters say and how we come to feel about the whole process.

Do my readers have thoughts on this? What’s the magic number? How many no’s do you think we should collect before we merrily go our own way?

I’d be interested to hear … as you know, I’m learning as I go!

Meeting our public

May 30, 2011

Earlier, I promised a report on my first public appearance with Dr. Whelihan to talk about our book. The event took place in mid-May at a private country club in a retirement community, with more than 100 men and women attending. Many in the audience had enjoyed a glass of wine before the talk began, which the Doc tells me tends to dramatically increase the fun factor. I spoke first, for 10 minutes or so, about the concept of the book, and then shared a few stories from the dozens of fascinating interviews I’ve had. And I quickly learned the Doc was right: In spots where I’d hoped for a few chuckles, the crowd erupted in prolonged laughter — something I could get used to, by the way.

And then Dr. Mo got up. Man did the retirees love her. She has a power point slide show she knows backward and forward, and it’s filled with enough humor, information and shock value to keep everyone entertained. The woman sitting in front of me kept turning to her husband throughout Mo’s talk, her face a changing canvas of delight, hilarity and shock at hearing someone say aloud the things the rest of us only think.

In fact, it was a little surprising the Doc didn’t get a standing ovation. If we’d had books to sell that night, I honestly believe every person would have taken one home.

So. That’s a good start, yes? And then, just this past Thursday, we talked with a much smaller group at The Breakers Hotel on Palm Beach. We’re honing the order of how we present things and figuring out how to make the book relevant to various audiences — all of which is sure to pay off when we have something to sell.

Speaking of something to sell, I am doing my best to stay on track with my goal of finishing a chapter a month. Last month was a difficult mark to hit, what with all the stress emanating from my deadbeat tenants in Texas, which probably shaved a few years off my life. Adding to the challenge is the fact that I found the 20s the toughest decade yet to write, what with their whole transformational subtext. But I made my deadline! And Mo liked the work, saying “if this is a bad chapter, we’re in great shape.”

Thus, I have happily turned my attention to the 70-year-olds.

We selected 6 women in this decade to interview, and I already have 5 meetings either set up or completed, which is fortunate since I want to finish the chapter early so I can go on vacation with a clear conscience. My accelerated schedule translates to 2 weeks of research, and 1 week of writing, so I can’t waste any time.

Of the two women in their 70s I’ve interviewed, I’ve already encountered both ends of the spectrum in terms of the number of partners. One has been with more partners than anyone I’ve spoken with so far (50+) and the other was a virgin when she married and has had sex with the same man for 61 years. An amazing variety right off the bat.

Complicating my ability to meet that deadline is a decided lack of cooperation from my Mazda SUV, which has decided it no longer wishes to steer. I tried to back out of my parking space last night to go to a pet sitting gig, and the vehicle won’t turn. And that nasty little undercarriage light comes on. Fortunately, I could walk to the job — it’s that close. But now it’s Memorial Day and my auto shop is closed. Sigh.

As my friend said: Cars are great — except when they aren’t.

Thank goodness I was able to reschedule the book interview I had today for Friday, and am still on course. But tomorrow morning’s hair appointment for a trim? It’s looking like I’ll have to ride my bike to that one. I wonder just how many miles away that is …..?

Meanwhile, for anyone interested, I invite you to visit the website Dr. Mo set up for our book. It’s at www.KissandTellBook.com and has a feature where you can sign up to get an email when the book comes out. Hard to believe — but it seems our dream of publishing a book may actually come true. How cool is that?

Booking it

March 30, 2011

Earlier this month, right on schedule, I completed the chapter on teenagers. And by right on schedule, I mean less than one hour before my book partner showed up for our monthly work session. Cutting it uncomfortably close, I know, but rather than letting this dismay me, I took it as refreshing proof that deadlines can still motivate the journalist that lurks within.

Now I’m deep into my 80s Ladies, which is how I quickly began to refer to the women who are the focus of the third chapter in the all-important “decades” chapters. (Obviously, I’m not proceeding in order.) Of the six women in their 80s we selected to interview (of 52 respondents), I’ve seen four, scheduled an interview with a fifth and am stalking the sixth. The elusive sixth candidate has some leg pain, you see, and she needed to consult a doctor and we’ve been chatting about it … several times, but as of yet, she’s been unwilling to set a time to let me come talk with her. I remain optimistic.

Anyway, four interviews done, two to go and chapter deadline is mid-April. I like seesawing back and forth between the older and younger survey respondents, because of the fascinating diversity in their life stories. The teenagers I spoke with can’t even visualize coming into their sexually active years in the type of society women in their 80s and 90s experienced. Two of the teens had double-digit partners, one had seven, another eight. In the two oldest decades, it’s a rare woman who counts more than one lover in her entire life. And I found the teens to be talking and, yes, gossiping about sex openly with friends of both sexes, even as the older generation struggles with some of the more direct questions on our survey.

Which is not to say older women don’t have fabulous sex lives. Au contraire. Most of the teens I interviewed would be jealous of an 82-year-old I met this week. Though her husband’s prostate cancer has curtailed their lovemaking the past two years, prior to that, the couple was quite active — as in every day.

“So … even in, say, your 60s?”, I ventured to ask, ever the skeptical reporter. “Well, probably only four times a week then,” she conceded — and “always on Saturdays and Sundays!”

That’s some serious enthusiasm. Count me impressed, especially as the details of their routine were revealed. (You’ll have to buy the book!) Needless to say, our interview ran overtime, and I was an hour late dropping my car off to get a new radiator. Real life always finds a way to intrude, doesn’t it?

Speaking of real life, my springtime Florida existence is getting close-up inspections from two of my favorite Texans. One visitor just left and next up is Mom, arriving a week from tomorrow. Which means I need to continue being efficient in order to warrant a bit of time off with my company.

Of course, if I know Mom, she’ll be encouraging me to write, write write — even while she’s here.

If only I had the work ethic she dreams of for me. This book would be a wrap!

90s – done!

February 10, 2011

My book plan for 2011, which I shared here recently, is to write one chapter a month, each one highlighting a decade in the life of women and exploring what influences they most commonly cite as affecting their sexual desire during that period.

Uh oh. Long sentence. I promise not to write such long sentences in the book.

Anyway … I’m happy to say I’m on track.

Well, sort of. Kind of.

I know, I know. You’re thinking I’m lame … but it’s the teenagers’ fault, I swear!

Allow me to explain. After two fascinating teen interviews last month, none of the other young ladies would return calls or texts so that I could schedule face-to-face meetings or even phoners. So I revisited the surveys and pulled out additional candidates, solicited my doctor partner for their phone numbers and then diligently tried contacting the new ones. Also to no avail.

With the month ticking away, and my self-imposed deadline approaching, I made a command decision to switch over to my 90-year-old respondents and see if that went faster.

Voila! You will perhaps not be surprised to learn that women of this advanced age group — if not actually awaiting your phone call — are at least willing to have cordial conversations, and in a couple of cases, were bold enough to allow me to come meet them for in-person chats about their lifetime of desire. (Uh oh. Is that another overly long sentence? I feel sure it is.)

In fairly short order I was able to get an excellent sampling of our most senior ladies. I found that talking to the oldest and youngest survey respondents so close together was as enlightening as I’d hoped. I spoke with six 90something women (of 11 who took our survey) who described a sexual climate that seems light years removed from the one the teens I spoke with inhabit. Most of the senior ladies never received a sex talk from their parents, accepted a marriage proposal from a man they were not intimate with and were virgins on their wedding night.

Their talks with me for the book usually constituted the most detailed sexual conversation they’d had in their life. I was respectful of this and very careful in my language with the ladies, who were paying me the compliment of being vulnerable and candid about a subject their lives didn’t prepare them to share easily. I came away with great admiration for them, along with heartfelt gratitude.

I spent four days last week writing furiously, and as a result had the chapter 90 percent finished by Sunday’s work session with Dr. Mo. I had several NEED DOCTOR’S COMMENTS HERE notations, which we talked through as I took notes. The very next day I incorporated all her comments into the text, which means the chapter is virtually complete. I intentionally left it a bit vague at the very end, so that more definite conclusions can be drawn as the book unfolds.

And now I’m back to the teens. On Sunday, we pulled out yet another batch of young candidates and Dr. Mo dug up their phone numbers (which are not attached to the survey to protect patients’ anonymity). I’ve already done a phoner with one gal from Gainesville and have a face-to-face with another scheduled Saturday morning. They have busy lives, I get it. And I need them worse than they need me, so I must wrestle their slippery schedules and vow to be victorious!

How does this all make me feel? In a word — energized. And I’m happy at how well I seem to be responding to my own deadline. Who knew I’d listen to me?

Of course, this is only Month 2. Sometimes I look way ahead, to all the chapters undone, and all the pieces that have to be pulled together somehow. When I do that, when I take the long view, I feel scared and overwhelmed. So I just pull back, and think about the one chapter, the one next call, the one next interview.

And that — I can do.

(Please note: I did not end with a long sentence!)

Sex, sex, sex

October 24, 2010

Sorry for the sensationaistic headline, but, well, it’s true.

My whole life these days revolves around sex — and not because I’m having any personal experience, but that’s a different post.

The survey results about women’s sexual desire are in and we’ve gleaned some basic statistics. (For instance, we surveyed 27 teenagers, 11 women in their 90s, 771 married women and 95 widows.) But because the survey questions were open-ended and difficult to quantify, as of yet I don’t have the juicy stuff, i.e. how many women mentioned kissing as something that stimulates their desire or what percentage of women say rushing to intercourse is the one thing they wish their partner would NOT do.

I talked to my statistics guru about this today and and he explained the need to turn our qualitative answers into easy-to-read categories. It seems I need expanded spreadsheets for each of our 6 questions.

Soooo. I have more work to do.

But that’s fine! I’m totally energized for the task.

Mostly that’s because I had a highly motivating work session a week ago with Maureen Whelihan, my book partner. (If you knew her, you’d see why; she’s super upbeat.) She loved the intro I’d written, which was lovely to hear, but more importantly, we talked about voice in the book. Our conversation and her comments gave me confidence and in general freed me up creatively.

As a result, I’ve spent the week crafting a chapter tentatively titled “A Day With the Doctor,” where I set the stage for what Dr. Mo’s patients experience on a typical visit. (Hint: She asks her patients if they’re having sex, and if so, is it good?) Plus, this is the chapter where I have inserted all the surprising details about how minimal the training is for gynecologists when it comes to sexuality. A study of medical school curriculum in North America on sexual health showed that 61 percent of schools offer less than 10 hours (!!) of study in this subject.

What? Aren’t they supposed to be experts? No wonder physicians and specifically gynecologists are hesitant to bring up sexuality with their patients! Their education didn’t help them overcome whatever prejudices, hang-ups or fears about sexuality they carried into adulthood. Until the majority of doctors are able to have knowledgeable, non-judgmental conversations about sexual function with their patients, women will continue their frustrating quest for reliable, accessible information in this arena.

OK. Climbing down from my soap box now. Let’s see if I can pull myself back on topic.

Oh yes. Overall the book is progressing very well. Dr. Mo and I agreed to talk on the phone for update meetings every 2 weeks and we set our next work session 4 weeks out. This is very motivating for me and breaks tasks down into manageable bites. I definitely feel more organized and productive.

In related news, I’m approaching the 3-month marker for having the braces on, and I still despise them. I never forget they are there, never find anything to like about them and never fail to be annoyed by them. I am, however, resigned. I had two more bottom teeth banded last week and will be given the dreaded spacers soon to make room for more bands on my upper molars. I’m afraid to ask the dentist how many teeth will be banded before this nightmare ends. I reserve the right to take to my bed for a month if the number tops 10.

But maybe a women writing a book about female sexual desire shouldn’t use expressions such as “take to my bed for a month.”

Note to self: Be sensitive.

Progress on all fronts

September 21, 2010

As the dog days of this Florida summer draw to a close, I’m moving into a whole new phase of my book project. Yes! Data entry is finally complete and chapter writing begins.

But first: An interruption for dental news of the most exciting level. The turbos are already off!

It’s true. The nasty metallic spikes glued to the back of my two front teeth — which were installed to keep my top teeth from scraping the braces off my bottom teeth — are gone. I had thought the turbos and I would be intimate pals for 6 months, but a blessed reprieve occurred. Last week, on a quick trip to the dentist to reattach a loose bracket, Iris asked if I’d like to get the full adjustment the we had scheduled for the following week. A no brainer for me. Anything to speed up the process.

So when the dentist wheeled over, I of course wanted to know exactly when the turbos were coming off, because I had a big-time party to plan for the day those intruders were removed. I might have also indicated that I was not amused by said turbos’ unpleasant influence during the previous six weeks.

To answer my question, the dentist told Iris to check my back teeth with that tracing-paper-like stuff they use to get ink on your teeth — you know what I’m talking about, right? And she does the test on both sides and tells the dentist it looks like my teeth are OK and the turbos can come off. “You’re not just saying that so she’ll quit whining, are you?” asked my jovial dentist.

“Let me assure you,” I broke in, “I have not yet BEGUN to whine to the extent that I’m capable of when it comes to these turbos. I have saved that particular joy for my family and friends — and those intrepid readers who follow my blog.”

Despite my surly attitude, a closer examination by Mr. Dentist revealed that my front teeth have actually moved forward enough ALREADY to avoid the lower teeth, although little rubber “bumpers” were fastened to four bottom teeth for good measure. (The clearance is still too close for comfort; thus the friendly bumpers, which are actually kind of fun to moosh my top teeth against cause they’re bouncy.)

Needless to say, my life took an immediate turn for the better. Iris said the turbos would come off in 30 seconds, but that getting the glue off the back of my teeth would take much longer. She was right; that glue was more like cement. But so what? Turbos were off! I left the dentist elated.

The fretfulness I felt from the awkwardly placed spikes disappeared, the constant soreness of my tongue was gone in 24 hours and the necessity of disentangling food from the turbos after every single bite of food was over. Hallelujah indeed.

Thus, I was able to turn my attention to much more rewarding pursuits and wrapped up the data entry phase. Only a dozen surveys remain to be added to the spreadsheet, and they await missing information from my book partner, Mo. Meanwhile, I’ve gone back into my book proposal to update it with solid information about what we learned from the surveys, replacing the speculative statements I wrote before the numbers were in.

But I don’t want to spend too much time there. I’m itching to get into chapter writing, and interviewing the 6 or 7 women from each decade who will “represent” for their age group. Because we have the largest representation from women in their 40s and 50s, I’m considering doing more interviews from those decades, and perhaps only 3 or 4 from the teens and 90s. There seems to be so much to learn from mid-life women about what does and doesn’t stimulate desire.

More to come about these fascinating women. But first, a short trip to Texas — because I seem to have this thing for states where the summer drags on forever.

The data entry phase

July 29, 2010

This blog is aptly titled: It labels the present phase of my book project. Yes, as tedious as it sounds, I’m entering data—painstakingly—into a spread sheet.

Surprise, surprise! I’m actually enjoying it tremendously. My book partner (a sex specialist and gynecologist) is using her practice as our survey group, and we agreed that when we collected 1,300 surveys, we could call our sample complete. Well, we hit 1,300 two weeks ago!

That’s the number of respondents (ages 15 to 97) who answered our six questions on sexual desire. We’re collecting data on the ephemeral nature of sexual desire in women and how it fluctuates throughout their lifetime. Women’s desire is influenced by many factors—environment, hormones, stress, children, financial circumstances, etc. Whereas testosterone tends to keep a man’s desire fairly steady throughout the years, women are up and down on the libido meter. And no one’s done a study like this!

So as I’m entering all this data from their surveys, I’m becoming acquainted with  ‘my women,’ as I call them. You could say they’re the characters in my book—and I find I’m enjoying our time together. I started with midlife women (my faves, natch). First I did the 40 to 44-year-olds, then 45 to 49, 50 to 54, etc. Now I’m spending my days with the 70-something respondents to our survey, and naturally the answers are very different from women in their 40s. When I get to the end, I’ll go back and start forward with the teenagers. I’m sure I’ll find some interesting things there, but my initial examination of the 21-and-under responses left me a little bored. For instance, in answer to “What stimulates your desire?” they’ll write, “Seeing my boyfriend.” OK, then. Good to know. Next.

In the older age groups, questions such as “What’s in your head during sex, i.e. What are you thinking about?” and “What is the one thing you wish your partner would NOT do in regards to sex?” draw fascinating responses from our survey takers. We also ask women to describe their best sexual encounter ever, which brings out their storytelling abilities. I find as I’m typing their responses I’m alternately identifying with their answers (I’m with YOU, girl), shocked (Really??), puzzled (Wonder why she doesn’t like French kissing?), sad (you don’t know what you’re missing), mad (your spouse must be brain dead), and any other number of emotions. And I love seeing the trends emerge, because I know they’ll make the book that much more interesting.

So. You can see I’m making progress. I’m about halfway done with entering the surveys and will likely spend another month on this phase. Then it’s back to interviews and chapter writing, based on the outline I drafted before my previous post. I wish I was doing all this faster, but after a lifetime of deadlines, it’s pretty great to not have anyone breathing over my shoulder. No publisher is standing by with a whip, and since I’m living pretty frugally, I can continue on this path for a while.

I’m sure soon enough the day will come that I’ll be back in deadline mode. Meanwhile, it’s a sweet summer I’m having here in Florida.