Taking Off My Clothes In Public
Written by
Marisel Vera
June 2011
Written by
Marisel Vera
June 2011

Countdown to Publication—Week Five


“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter.”   Oscar Wilde


          I am five weeks away from the publication of my debut novel IF I BRING YOU ROSES and I am scared. 

            Readers—strangers, friends, and family—will be able to see me naked.  Friends and family will wonder if they ever truly knew me. Some will judge me and wonder how they were misled.

            Strangers worry me least, for if they read my novel, it’s because they want to read it, and not out of obligation as friends and relatives might.  I am used to writers, agents, editors, reading my work. Most of them are experienced readers and lovers of books.

            But what about my family and friends? I doubt if either my mother or mother-in-law will read IF I BRING YOU ROSES.  My mother doesn’t read novels and my mother-in-law only reads Spanish.  I did try to mention at least once or twice that there is sex in the book so that they, especially my mother, will be prepared.  My uncles back on the island are looking forward to reading about los jíbaros and I haven’t figured out a way to have my mother warn her born-again Christian brothers. Mami told me our old parish priest Father Maloney is looking forward to reading my novel. Did I think he could read it?  Yes, if he likes to read, I said.  I figure if you are a priest or a reader of literature, you’ve been exposed to the good and the bad (as you often are in real life) and a little sex isn’t going to faze you.

            A close friend who has read IF I BRING YOU ROSES wrote me that she thought to herself, “Is this my Marisel?  I never hear words like this coming out of her mouth!” She wondered if I had obliged my husband to take part in a Spanish Inquisition to understand the male psyche and to be able to write from my male protagonist’s viewpoint.  Of course, my friends and family are non-writers so they don’t understand the way the mind of a writer works, but I would like to state here unequivocally that no male was interviewed or harmed in the writing of IF I BRING YOU ROSES.  The responsibility was mine and mine alone.

            I made a conscious decision to write honestly about my characters’ sex life because I enjoy writing about sex.  Plain and simple—I like writing sex. And I think I’m pretty good at it. The quandary comes from my coming from a family where we never talked about sex.  Some women talk about sex with their sisters, friends, and maybe even their mothers.  I don’t.  Never.  As much as I have tried to evolve into a liberated woman, I am a product of my family and my prim and proper upbringing.  Nice Puerto Rican girls don’t talk about sex.  Or at least not when I was growing up.

             Maybe that’s why I like to write about sex, because I can express myself through the written word the way I never could verbally. I try not to shy away from describing it.  I can let loose, take my clothes off, shake my booty.  I find it delicious and freeing and, hopefully, my writing expresses that.  And, now, my friends and family will know a little bit more about me and it makes me want to put my clothes back on.  But it’s too late. 

            Only five more weeks to publication and I have to keep on shaking my booty.


She Writes Amigas, have you ever been scared that you have exposed too much of yourself in your writing?  And is that a good thing?




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  • Marisel, congratulations on your upcoming publication! Hold on to that feeling and the excitement. When I wrote the sex scene in my novel, I thought--I'd never do that! Then I told myself --Who cares what you'd do, this is about your character and she can do anything she wants! Those words released me and my character. (Though I have a couple of friends that tell me the sex scene is hard to read without their thinking it's me, ha!) That's the power and beauty of writing. If your mother is anything like mine (adoring, Catholic and over 80) she'll read your novel with pride and love, and never mention the sex scenes at all. Can hardly wait to read.

  • Susan V. Weiss

    I know what you mean, Marisel (except for the sex!). People who have read bits of my novel My God, What Have We Done?, due out in September ALWAYS ask me if the couple in one of the two storylines is me and my husband. For a while I denied any connection. But the more I'm asked, the more I realize that my character is, to a large extent, me. I'm just not sure I want to admit it.

  • Barbara L.W. Myers

    Oh, I learned my lesson a little while ago and started giving him pieces once they're done.  By the time he reads it, I usually say, "Here, I wrote this, I submitted this--would you like to read it?"  Thankfully I have other readers whose opinions I value who can look drafts over for me and make helpful suggestions and give valuable feedback.

  • Elizabeth Young

    I am glad Marisel's post hit a nerve and created so much interesting feedback. This is awesome She Writers!

  • Laurie Boris

    I agree with Marisel. My early work is tender. I don't show it to anyone except my writing group. Husband and loved ones get to read it after I've gone through several drafts. Otherwise, it would be too easy for a cutting remark, however it's meant, to change my work.

  • Marisel Vera

    Hi Barbara, is your husband your editor? Even if he is, don't share with him what you are working on until the piece is complete.  I think we writers have an obligation to protect our work until it is ready to be given to the world and that includes protecting it from our loved ones.  The fact that you sometimes feel self-conscious is very telling.  Listen to your instincts. As Carol said below, thinking about how others will view your work will change it.  If you like, you can worry about that later when it's going to be published!


  • Barbara L.W. Myers

    My husband swears he sees me and himself in everything I write.  I mean, sure, there may be tiny bits and pieces here and there, but he's gotten so paranoid about it, sometimes he can't even read what I've written!  It's gotten to the point where if there's a female character with kids, or a male character who's a nice guy, he's convinced it's us--sometimes makes me a bit self-conscious while I write.

  • Widdershins

    It's scary how much pressure we put on ourselves when we focus on 'what will they think'.

    Look at it this way, whatever their reactions, (they will judge you anyway) seeing you as you really are is a good thing. 


  • Carol Clouse

    Funny... i was just thinking about this today.  Thank you for sharing!

    My memoir is in editing, and as I re-read my words, my mind suddenly flits about in the minds of friends and family - as they read.   I start reading it from their perspective!  No!  No!  This will change how I write! 

    As Love Babz said - I need to get back up and shake my booty - some more!  It's  a personal choice.  If there is truly something that I wrote, that I feel will have reprecutions that I'm not willing to live with, then I do need to adress that.   Personal exposure and the art of writing well, surely are sympathetic to one another...

    You subconsously already made a choice. 

    Let it go - Set it free!  and All Good Things To YOU!

  • Laurie Boris

    PS: Congratulations, and good luck!


  • Laurie Boris

    Counting down to publication, myself, and fretting about similar things. Last weekend I felt naked and claustrophobic at a party just talking to a bunch of people about the book! Oy. But in my case, perhaps this is a good thing. Coming out of my shell.

  • Cece Box

    I recently read something in my writers' group and was really surprised that one or two people reacted strongly to a strong word or two, which was absolutely in the natural voice of the character.  It was difficult enough to commit to being honest in my representation of my fictional characters.  Realizing I had shocked someone shocked me.  Yet being honest and true in my writing is something I've fought with myself about for a long time, so I really appreciate your feelings, and am in awe of someone who's gotten to that point of revealing themselves.  Best of luck to you!

  • Elizabeth Young

    I totally understand what you are speaking about, but to be honest I'm tired of women on here talking about taking off their clothes in public. Enough already!

  • Love Babz

    "If you really do want to be an actor who can satisfy himself and his audience, you need to be vulnerable. You must reach the emotional and intellectual level of ability where you can go out stark naked, emotionally, in front of an audience."  
    Jack Lemmon  


    I suspect this quote by Jack Lemmon regarding acting has to be true for writers too.  I'm a mama, you're a mama, we are proud of anything and everything our children do!  So your mama will be proud! More proud than you can ever imagine or dream of being.  Shake that booty! Shake it on down to the ground and Get back up and shake it some more! LOL!

  • Sarah Pinneo

    Hang in there!  I'm sure it will all turn out just fine.