Sunday Shorts – “Girls on Campus” Q&A with Rion Woolf

girls-on-campusToday on Sunday Shorts we’re meeting a “new-to-me” author, Rion Woolf. This is, as I’ve said a few times (for those of you paying attention) one of the best parts of reading anthologies for me.

Rion joined me and was kind enough to back-and-forth some questions about her story, “Swim Girl,” which was a great tease of a tale that pays off for the reader, while making you wonder about the time in between.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

College: four years when anything goes and rules are made to be broken. A time for freedom, experimentation, and guiltless pleasures. Come join the co-eds for a homecoming bash, crash a girls-only party, and enjoy study hall where the topic is Eros. From roommates with benefits to sexy sorority initiations, hot professors demanding extra credit after class and summer vacation threesomes, this collection is required reading for anyone looking to earn an A in sex-ed.

NB: “Swim Girl” has an awesome slow boil to it—the brush of attraction, the first interaction, the first touch between the women—it all builds at an aching pace. The parallel with Kinsey’s own sexuality and what she had—and hadn’t—yet done played perfectly into the pacing. How conscious was the choice to make Kinsey a neophyte?

RW: To be honest, the element that started this entire story was water. For me, sexuality and gender have always felt like water—fluid, flexible, and always in flux. So, I knew the story would revolve around that special element. From there, the idea of Kinsey learning the swim strokes from Ellen seemed like the natural bridge that would connect these two women together, in both location and physicality. Swimming can be a very physical and demanding sport that, in many ways, is based on self-competition and self-drive. I needed to move both of these women out of that realm of “self” and into a space where each would be willing to accept the touch of the other. Ellen’s job as a full professor is based on leading people to the knowledge that she holds, so it made sense to me that Kinsey would be a neophyte rather than Ellen’s equal. However, Ellen isn’t necessarily driven by power and control—there are elements in the story that equalize the two women. What makes these two women “equal” in some ways is their mutual desire for one another, and the fact that neither wants these experiences to end. Both women are driven to the other by curiosity and mystery. There is something undeniably sexy about professors and teachers—those enlightened mysteries that seem to be like us, but hold so much more knowledge and experience. Many of us have experienced an infatuation with a prof and fully understand what Kinsey means when she says, “I never knew History could be so sexy.” Ellen finds Kinsey incredibly mysterious as well—who is this student who will someday rival her in the pool, this young woman who seems so different from the others in her class?

NB: For me, it was “I had no idea neurochemistry could be so sexy.” Uh. Right. Moving on… Professors and students is a theme that gets explored in a few ways in Girls on Campus, but your choice to make this a story of reflection put a different frame on the tale. It was almost bittersweet. For me, so much of short fiction is thinking about ‘and then what happened?’ Do you have plans to revisit Kinsey in her present day in a future work?

RW: I loved working with both of these characters, and writing short fiction as opposed to the novel gave me the chance to get to know these two women that I have been thinking about for some time. It’s fun to think about what both of them are doing now or will be doing in the future. I’d love to check in with Kinsey when she has a few more years on her—say at age 30 or 40—but for now I’m leaving Kinsey in this space of “Swim Girl.” I imagine that Kinsey looks back on her experiences in this short story and wonders whether or not it was all a dream. I really wanted the story to have that dream-like quality to it.

While “Swim Girl” is in no way autobiographical, I have been in “secret” relationships before, and they seem to have that magical dream-like quality to them. I found myself regularly asking: did this really happen or did I imagine it all? These types of relationships rarely fit anywhere but in that strange space between reality and dream. This otherworldly quality is also present through the use of water and the environment surrounding a pool. Water in and of itself is a strange and mystical force let alone adding to it the heat and desire of a forbidden relationship!

NB: I love that ethereal quality to “Swim Girl.” Now, this is Sunday Shorts, so I have to ask: has the short fiction bug bitten? Can we expect more from you down the line, or do you have new projects coming up you’d like to share?

RW: The short fiction bug has definitely taken a chunk out of me! Short stories are all I’ve published so far, although I’m working on ideas for longer works that I hope to develop down the road. My short erotic piece “Stay” appeared in the collection Shameless Behaviour: Brazen Stories of Overcoming Shame from Go Deeper Press and the erotic piece “Stump Grinding” was published in the collection The Dirty Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press. My work has branched out into the romance genre, and I recently worked on a short story that I hope will find a home in an upcoming lesbian romance collection. Beyond these short stories, I have plans to continue publishing. So, more to come

NB: Huzzahs! I look forward to more.

If you’d like to catch a copy of Girls on Campus of your very own, you should head on over to the publisher page at Bold Strokes Books here. Or, check out your local brick-and-mortar store—it’s always a good move to check here. And, of course, the book is available anywhere quality LGBT books are sold.


Photo credit: Francesca Woodman, 1958-1981.

Rion is a lesbian erotica writer who loves everything erotic and everything water. Her work has appeared in The Dirty Dirty and Shameless Behavior anthologies. Her latest piece, “Swim Girl,” appeared in the Girls on Campus anthology edited by Sandy Lowe.

Facebook page and contact here.

Want to know more about Rion? Read an in-depth interview with Jaded Ibis Press here.

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