RT Award Recap: Cecilia Tan Pioneer & Career Achievement Award speeches

I’m sitting here in bed on the last night of RT Booklovers, with my knee up on pillows with an ice pack. Ouch. You see, at Heather Graham’s Vampire Ball, they had a charity fundraiser for a pediatric AIDS organization, where for five bucks you could dance with the cover model of your choice. So I danced with the delectable DeLonn Donovan, which was lovely. But then the next time I tried to stand up, my left knee was so swollen I could barely limp back to my room.
Great thanks to Sarah Frantz Lyons and L.A. Witt (aka Lauren Gallagher) who retrieved me a bag of ice. I did myself a mischief, it would seem!
I figure to recap the convention I should note a couple of things. Like how about my awards speeches? That’s a good thing to blog!
So I received two awards from RT this year. The Pioneer Award is given annually to a few “pioneers” of romance. Last year the pioneers were specifically for multicultural fiction. This year, it was for “genre fiction, the writers who opened the doors…and forged the way for the many subgenres we enjoy today.” The four pioneers recognized were myself, Sandra Brown, Patricia Burroughs, and Cherry Adair.
In addition to the pioneer award, I ALSO won the Career Achievement Award in Erotic Fiction, as well!
So that meant I had to give two speeches. The instructions were to thank the people we wanted to thank but to ALSO say something personal about our journey or ourselves…and keep it under 60 seconds.
chickenscratchI know from my days as a radio disc jockey that 60 seconds is actually a pretty long time if you are focused about what you want to say, but a really short time if you don’t stay “on message.” The announcement of the winners had happened over a month ago, but I write best under deadline pressure, so about 20 minutes before heading to the ceremony, I wrote out notes for both speeches on the back of a piece of paper in handwriting that probably only I can read.
Now trying to reconstruct what I said from the notes and from my memory of yesterday, here’s an approximation of my speech(es). First, the Pioneer Award, which was sort of “part one”:
Thank you, thank you. You know, I wrote my first erotic short story when I was too young for it to be politically correct for me to tell you how young I was. So I’ll just tell you that it featured a hunky alien and sentient vine plant bondage. I guess that means I pretty much always knew what I wanted to do, which was write erotic science fiction and fantasy.
But when I was fresh out of college and bought that big tome of Writers Market and looked at all the markets in it where you could send erotic material, even pornography, not one of them would take science fiction. And of all the places that would take science fiction, not one would take erotica. This was 1992, and it was also a world where you couldn’t say the word “gay” on television and BDSM was so criminalized that if you didn’t keep your windows shut and your neighbors heard you, you could have your kids taken away. It was that bad.
So I didn’t start self-publishing just because I wanted to publish my weird little sex stories. I wanted to change the world. And I thought science fiction and fantasy would be the way to show people there were more kinds of sexuality than what the real repressive world allowed. Now, we have angels and vampires and BDSM all as staples of the romance genre. And we also have marriage equality in a lot of places and we have “grey” SM toys being sold at big box retail stores. So I guess I was a part of helping that happen. Thank you!

Career Achievement was kind of like part two:
So people sometimes as me “when did you know you ‘arrrived’?” I point to a moment back in 1993. Circlet Press and I had been publishing for about a year, and I was at the World Science Fiction Convention. I could not get a reading slot or onto panels or the program there. So I organized a reading off site, at a women’s sex toy and book store called Good Vibrations. And about 75-100 people followed me from the convention over to this other place to hear me read.
At one point we were in the elevator at the con, heading up to our room, and I heard someone stage whisper from the back of the elevator: “That’s Cecilia Tan!” And that’s when I knew I was getting somewhere.
I have a lot of people to thank on this long journey.
First of all corwin, my partner of 23 years,
and Lori Perkins, my longtime agent who always believed in me, even when it seemed like my career was going nowhere,
and the Forever Team at Hachette, especially Megha Parekh and Marissa Sangiocomo, and my original Hachette editor, Latoya Smith,
but there were so many other people who have published me along the way, including:
-Susie Bright, who bought my short stories for Herotica, and Best American Erotica
-Lily Burana and Deena Moore of Taste of Latex Magazine
-Carol Queen, who hosted that very first Good Vibrations reading in 1993
-dear departed Richard Kasak, a hoary old pornographer of Masquerade Books
-and Laura Antoniou who bought my stories for books like Leatherwomen
(at this point I sniffled and teared up and yet managed to keep from crying TOO much because that would have really made my makeup a mess…!)
I am so proud to accept this award and I am so proud of the romance community for embracing the diversity of passions I represent.
Thank YOU, and be proud of yourselves for being part of a beautiful world.
(And then I cried some more and managed to make it off the stage without tripping on my dress, dropping the award on my foot, or smudging my mascara. Whew. Mom, I’m sorry I left you off the list by accident, between not being able to read my own writing, especially through tears, and getting emotional, I missed you. I did thank you in last year’s speech, though!)
My editor did try to capture the speeches on video but hasn’t been able to get them off her phone. I’ll try to post them later if I can!Here is the YouTube video! (Thanks, Megha!)


Selfie at the end of an epic night! (After the awards there was champagne, and then much congratulating, and then epic bar shenanigans and then a late-night coffeeshop discussion of publishing and the world with Lauren of Christina Lauren, Christopher Rice, and Adam from Gallery)
Selfie at the end of an epic night! (After the awards there was champagne, and then much congratulating, and then epic bar shenanigans and then a late-night coffeeshop discussion of publishing and the world with Lauren of Christina Lauren, Christopher Rice, and Adam from Gallery)


  1. Congratulations, Cecilia! This is a well-deserved award. I remember seeing Pearl Diver in Ms. Magazine many years ago and thinking about how amazing you were and how you had furrowed new ground and that the world would never be the same. What I didn’t realize was that this was just a beginning to a better and more open world of good erotic fiction and acceptance of a wider view of sexuality, largely due to your work as a writer and a publisher. Steve and I are so happy that you’ve been recognized for what you have done for all of us over the years!
    And, btw, you look stunning in that dress!

    1. Thank you so much! <3 I feel a bit like some of the punk and alternative music pioneers who never made much money in the 70s or 80s, but now are having "reunions" that are hugely successful now that they're recognized. 🙂

  2. Thank you for being who you are. I truly value our friendship. Daron’s tip jar changed my life forever. You look absolutely spectacular in that dress. Really, I mean it. If I didn’t already have a huge crush on you, that dress would have done the trick!

  3. It’s all right that you didn’t mention me. I know how you feel about me. I’m confident in your love. I knew when you were in Kindergarten that you would become a writer. You wrote the story titled “Sno Bonee.” You did not know how to read yet, but you were attempting to write a story. At that point it was not erotic, just phonetic. I should have had a clue when you told your friends in first grade that your mom was pregnant and then exactly how that happened. Boy, did we both get in trouble. I am so happy for your success in doing what you want to do. I was very impressed with you when at 17 you told me you liked the way you looked. Most women don’t. From there you just forged ahead and did what you decided was your life’s work in spite of obstacles like you mentioned in your blog entry. I admire you. Many women in my era did what was expected of them. Some were happy with this life, but many were not. Thank you for being a pioneer. I’ll just share with your readers that I was visiting in Tampa, FL when your story in “Penthouse” came out. I ran to B&N to purchase “Career Track,” and I bought them out. The lady at the cash register was kind of horrified, and I said, “I usually only buy one, but my daughter has a story in this one.” “Likely story, “she said. When I couldn’t get enough copies for my friends, I xeroxed them. I hope I helped your career along just a smidge.

    1. You helped a lot more than a smidge, Mom! Like I said at your 70th birthday, you raised me to believe I could do anything and to believe in myself, and your support has always made the creative struggle seem a little less of an uphill battle than it otherwise could be. Love you lots.

  4. I’m so happy I was able to meet you at RT before the awards ceremony… you see I had heard of you but had no idea of exactly who you are in the community. After reading your mom’s comment I see the warm, intelligent and very easy to chat with person I met was the same growing up. I look forward to adding you to my list of authors to read and ones to seek out for a quick chat at future events. Congratulations again for your win and having such a great mom!

    1. Thanks, Steph! My mom’s even easier to chat with than I am. 🙂 Definitely say hi at the next shindig, whenever that may be! RT in Vegas next year maybe?

  5. Go you! We’ve both survived the last 23 years and I’m betting we both make it for at least 23 more. You might like to know that I attended a dissertation defense last week in which my friend Jenée Wilde was presenting her work about the ways in which science fiction informs bisexuality and vice versa – and I think you bear at least as much responsibility as anyone for making a world in which someone can earn a doctorate with that topic. Many hugs, and hopes for a slender and painless knee, Janet

    1. Thank you, Janet! It’s a strange an wondrous road we’ve been on, isn’t it? And OMG that sounds like a fantastic dissertation topic. Will it be published anywhere?

  6. Congratulations on two well-deserved awards, Cecilia! Loved your acceptance speeches. I’m so looking forward to your Keynote Address at the 2015 BDSM Writers Con in New York City. For anyone in the area, the Conference is August 20-23 at the Doubletree on Lexington Avenue.

    1. Thanks, Cris! I’m looking forward to BDSM Writers Con, too. I think it’s going to be a really great meeting of the minds there.

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