On Ambition and publication news

First the publication news.

I wrote a poem about/inspired by my dear friend Haddayr and it got picked up at Leaves of Ink. I’ve known Haddayr around the intertubes for years now and there is something about her that just touches me in my soul area and I love her so much I want to hug her until she farts and then we can laugh and yell and probably fall down. This poem was inspired by something she said and I am so so honored it got published. ALSO she is a kick ass fucking writer. Seriously. Essays, fiction. Read her.

Next I had an essay edited and published by Antonia Mother fucking Crane. I admit I freaked out a bit when she asked me for a thing about kink and the first thing that came to mind was the topic of my failure to fulfill the pisser portion of being a piss queen. Read it here at The Weeklings. There are few things I love more than having a good editor and Antonia is a fine editor. She coaxed better timing out of me, writing in a world that is very stuck on quick fast and in a hurry she encouraged me to get back to a slow burn.  It was also my first serious try at being on purpose funny. I am a funny person, but never when I am trying to be funny.

I am also cruising along at Xojane with my self care series. Some folks hate it and hate me and that is kind of great. So many other people have left comments there and elsewhere telling me that they need to hear this stuff.  This is my first thing I’ve been paid for on the regular and had it be such a serious affirmation of things that make me feel like a better human. I have a lot of feelings about it.

I am still working really hard on figuring out how to balance writing freelance things, submitting things, writing fiction and working my day job and managing my fucking feelings and holy shit it is all so much.

OH I also relaunched my personal blog. You can see my new spot here.

Watch me segue really smoothly here.

As I am doing these things and gaining exposure to new audiences and doing so while feeling like an actual part of a writing community that accepts and loves me for who I actually am and what I actually write and not my potential to be the next Alice Walker, I am realizing that my ambitions are changing in ways I did not anticipate.

At one time, maybe six years ago I would have said that my ambition was to write novels, get them published with some critical acclaim and to ease off the teat of the dayjob.

Right now honestly all I want is that spreading readership, my writer homies backing me and maybe enough spare money made to get some tattoos, replace my electronics and whatnot.

Some fun money and an awesome readership is what it boils down to.

I am still only semi invested in mainstream publishing and that finally feels okay to me. The more I learn about big deal “serious” publishing the less I see a place there for myself.

I feel like I am learning to put less pressure on myself to be the Big Bad Black Trailblazing Negress. I do it when I feel like it. When I can but I’m not going to eat myself up trying.

I think that’s all for right now. I should update my website but I don’t feel like it. Instead I’m going to eat something tasty and do some work on something close to my little heart.

Later taters.


Dear Authors an Open Letter to Writers

Dear Authors,

I recently finished reading Ghost Story by Peter Straub.(This is an affiliate link sorry)

Overall it was an entertaining yarn. I’m not super familiar with his ouevre but some of what I’ve read was pretty good.

And then this.

Okay look, can we stop with the mystical magical negro?

Also can we not denote said mystical magical negro with some heavily antiquated shuck n jive, minstrel (yeah the one Black man in this book…minstrel..you know) every old black man is a blues man who speaks in raspy jazzy baritone with a lot of I be’s and shit.

Fuck.

Really?

REALLY?

I just, y’all.

Can you not?

Just don’t bother if that is the only thing you can think of. Even for a novel with a timeless ageless mystical magical negro, there are other ways of expressing blackness even antiquated blackness.

White writers this is a problem.

So really if you’re not even going to really try to do something outside of the mystical magical shuck n jive I be playin dem blues boss negro, stop.

Maybe I have too much expectation. Or faith in writers who have made more money than I have ever seen in my lifetime that they could (Straub, King, I am looking at you two) think of something else to do.

Mr. Bunny…Bones…whatever his name was from this book was the evil version of the Black man in the book he did with King.

Literally the same rhythms and cadences and manners of speech.

Authors at large, y’all know there are many different accents and types of Black people speech right?

Frankly anything written after the year 2000, come on now.

I feel like these things are again ruining my love of horror.

Ruining it.

I mean okay if you can build a world within the modern world where there are ancient mythological beings who will fuck up your whole life only because they can and they are bored, and you can populate an entire town with interesting people, and you can research enough so that behaviors from specific time periods make sense why is there only that Black man in so many horror stories.

I feel the same way about fantasy stories.

I got two books into the Shannara series and had to quit.

Not too long ago I went on a mission to check out some online horror/sf/f zines.

So much with the Whiteness. To the point where I wonder if classic horror tropes treated outside of European roots would be understood? Accepted?

What is even…ugh.

I’m so frustrated. I want to read shit I like and not feel shitty about it.

Something outside of Whiteness or nah?

Apparently nah.

I don’t want to read another mystical magical minstrelized blues playing shuck n jive negro.

So a lot of stuff is just out.

I am seriously feeling some type of way about this right now. I have a lot of horror/sf/f/ related stuff on my writing bucketlist but I feel like there is no place for me in genre fiction and it hurts my fucking heart.

So really, dear other authors can you not?

Sincerely,

Shannon Barber


Writing Process Blog Tour.

So a new homie Sarah Crawford invited me to participate in this. You can see her contribution over here. Okay let’s go.

1. What are you currently working on?

I am mostly in the process of figuring out how to do my freelance stuff and do my fictions and not completely freak out. One of the things I’m having trouble with is writing some really heavy shit (See here) and remaining engaged but not getting pulled into bullshit or lingering on it.  Because I write about hard shit from a very personal in my feelings perspective, dealing with the hate mail and the rage directed at me that turns racialized very quickly has just been kind of overwhelming.

I did have a bit of a melt down and felt shut down about shit for a minute.

And then I remembered I have shit to do. I have an essay to fix up (it is going to be good wait till y’all see it)  I have articles about self care to write. I have stories to finish.

So that’s pretty much what I’m doing these days.

I feel like I am slowly figuring out how to do more of the writing things while working the day job and keeping myself somewhat emotionally level.

Shit is hard as fuck.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Um.

I don’t really do one genre. I think what makes my work different is that it is written by me. I write about a lot of the same stuff other folks do but it is from my heart and that’s a special place.

3. Why do you write what you write?

Most of the time everything I write starts out for my own amusement. Sometimes I want to play with an idea or method, other times I want to see if I can make something work. Most of all they are the stories I want to read. I think that writing advice came from On Writing but I can’t remember. It has stuck with me and I’ve run with it sometimes to the detriment of my career but that’s okay.

Also sometimes I just want to help other people. I want to be of service and the type of person who writes stuff I needed to see when I was a kidlet.

And sometimes I just have to. I don’t know why but I have to.

4. How does your individual writing process work?

Normally (especially right now due to technological issues) I am writing by hand and at the day job. I do my dayjob shit and have either a word doc or zoho docs open and scribble catch as catch can.

If life was easier/simpler I would be writing regularly at night between say 11 PM and maybe 3 AM.

But life is not fair so I write like a mother fucker every chance I get.

A few random thoughts here at the end.

I really am happy and grateful that I am working through this stuff. For a hot minute I wanted to rage quit freelancing and non fiction all together.

I think what really set me on the edge of saying fuck it was the very instant and hard realization just how hard some people will work to shut down a Black woman. I am not famous, I don’t make a lot of money doing this but I do know that my work matters.

I know that I’ve hit some real tender nerves.

People are so invested in their totally not racistness that they will follow me around the internet telling me how wrong I am any time I open my mouth. I could literally say on twitter or facebook that wiping your ass is awesome and someone would ride into one of my inboxes saying shit like NO NIGGER I WILL NEVER WIPE MY ASS.

It is beyond trolling to the point that some people have taken my words so personally, they believe it is personal between them and me.

It’s not.

I am working hard to return to my state of grace where I write what the fuck I want and give ZERO fucks.

I’m working on it.

I hope I get back to the sweet spot.

 


20 Years.

I realized a few days ago that as of next month, I have been trying to get published/getting published for 20 years.

20 years.

My first publication (I lied) I was 17 and it was a long angsty poem about an older lesbian with auburn colored armpit hair and a very sweet smile.

While I am so full of angst about trying so hard to figure out where my work fits in with the literary world, I’m taking a minute to remember back then.

It was the mid 90s and when I could afford it I would buy copies of Poets and Writers or I would sit with them at the library and copy the names and addresses of literary magazines. I would then go to my high school (while I was in high school that is until 95) computer lab and furiously type up poems and stories in secret. This was of course after weeks or months of rewriting on paper.

Nobody ever really wrote back. I remember crying because I’d spent a quarter of a paycheck my senior year on having nice paper, envelopes and postage. With SASE and nobody wrote back to tell me no even.

That first published poem I submitted under a pen name I told nobody about. I was ashamed and proud. Ashamed because I didn’t feel like I was allowed to be a writer. I should have done better in school, I should have had a better body, I should have been a better daughter, a better person.

I had one little copy of the print zine, I had gone downtown Seattle to Left Bank Books and bought it for a quarter. I may have whispered (I was very shy) to the guy at the register that I wrote a poem in it, or I might have imagined that.

After that when I could afford it I bought literary magazines. Or I bought Poets and Writers. I tried really hard to write what I thought people would want to publish.

I wrote, I cried. I obsessed.

I remember having this obsession with Muses and the nature of them. I wrote about shoveling coal into a furnace. I wrote about my Muses getting naked and fucking each other in my head.

I masturbated while reading Henry Miller and On Our Backs.

I had the seeds of what would later become my love of writing weird syncretic mythologies.

I wrote observational freewrites while I sat on the sidewalk outside of Nordstrom Rack at 6 AM waiting for a but home.

I wrote about a boy who smelled of sweaty boys skin, leather and smoke. I slipped it into his pocket and walked away.

I did not get published in print again for a few years.

At one point I “retired” from trying to be a writer. I was living hard scrabble with a friend, working a minimum wage office job and doing phone sex. I had my first foot fetish for pay thing. I let a man give me money for looking at my cunt.

I started feeling incredibly crazy. I started to journal again and as I listened to men jerking off on the phone I started to learn how to write erotica. I wrote little stories about Puppy training and humiliation. I learned about forced feminization and how much I wanted to do those things.

At the same time I was reading amazing Queer erotica and had a terrible crush on Patrick Califa.

I wrote.

I did not tell a soul. No one.

A while later I got internet access. I found other writers. I posted on Literotica, I posted on other websites. My dear friend Anthony posted my first finished horror erotica piece in his print magazine.

I got paid to write lesbian erotica.

I got lectured by an editor not to be so Queer in the work I was going to be paid to write for him. Not because I did that but because he read my personal sex blog. That was the first time I stood up for myself and my writing to an editor.

I wrote and saved my work on floppy disks I carried in a tiny purple accordion looking thing. I lost work. I cried. I hated computers.

I learned how to submit things via email.

I wrote.

I wrote so much.

I got rejected a lot.

I got published sometimes.

Now in the last ten years I started to stop giving a fuck about what I thought people want to publish. My writing has changed and become something far more indicative of the writer. I stopped forcing myself to adhere to Whiteness. I get published a bit less often.

Around four years ago I made the decision that even if it means I will never have “commercial” success, I will talk about racism in the industry and name names when I need to. I will talk publicly about my experiences and how I feel about them.

I decided to publish things myself even though I’ve been told it will ruin me. I published imperfect work that I am proud of because I made it and I have learned from it. I am not ashamed of that. I have (don’t ask me how) made myself a small niche where I feel good. I feel like I am doing this shit on my fucking terms and it is okay.

Sometimes I am still pretty scared that I will never be published again because I like being published. On the other hand, some days I don’t give a hot fuck.

I write.

I am still doing this and I believe in myself.

I feel good about the shit I write that gets rejected by everyone because it’s not absolutely perfect or because it’s not a “story story” or it’s too dirty for literary magazines, or it is not racial uplift.

It is painful sometimes but I am still doing the damn thing.

Sometimes I help some people.

Sometimes I make people really angry.

Sometimes the scribbles in my notebook are poetry to me and I feel like I’ve shown a bit of my soul even if every editor hates it.

So 20 years in the industry, no fame, no fortune.

20 years and hardly anybody knows who I am and that is okay.

I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be.

Happy Anniversary me.

Happy fucking anniversary.


On Feels, decisions and shit I find questionable.

I have a little stash of micro/flash fiction sitting around and as I am thinking about submitting it I keep running into things.

For one, when I write flash fiction apparently something I like to do is to play with conflict that is outside of the Western literary idea of what plot is.  I didn’t even really realize it until I read this.

The problem is that 90% of the rejections I have gotten for these stories (especially the ones that are completely outside of Whiteness in an explicit way) is that they are not understood, that the readers don’t “feel” anything, that some of my references to Black culture both past and present are not understood. Etc.

The other problem is that as far as magazines for POC go, I feel out of place because a lot of my writing is dark as fuck and a lot of those magazines strive for uplift. I understand that philosophically but, personally I feel like the odd kid out.

As I get older I keep finding myself in this position with the shit I like to write. Too much that is too sexually explicit or says fuck too much for the literary minded, but that is not quite erotica.

Drugs, whores, badly behaved queers, POC narratives that are not pain porn but are also not racially uplifting, hood life that is not the scare all the white people or eventual escape from the hood stories.

I dunno.

I have a cache of things that are just not really what I see in the market. And even though sometimes editors really like them, they just don’t fit anywhere.

That being what it is I’m still really hesitant about writing a novella, or putting together a proper chapbook, or really digging into the horror stories I have been working on.

Granted I could self publish everything but honestly I just don’t have the energy to really devote to that level of I don’t give a fuck.

On one hand I feel like when I was told to write the stories I want to read I took that and am running with it. I am marathoning the fuck out of that.

On the other hand, while I’m running with it I’m seeing fewer and fewer promising leads on being published. I like being published. I like people other than the people I know seeing my work.

I don’t know how to feel or what to do with myself and my shit.

What really trips me out is that my non fiction, not essays but article type things are finding homes and shit. People like them and I like that. I like helping people and it feels really good but that isn’t all I want to do.

Is this some kind of writer leveling up shit?

I don’t know or understand how to navigate my own feelings about it. I keep alternating between sad and rage.

Okay here is what I know:

  • I am not going to purposefully censor myself or what I’m writing.
  • I am working on not tying my sense of identity as a writer to the publishing industry at large.
  • I am not one story. I am multitudes. (See here for reference).
  • I may not know what the fuck I am doing but I am doing it.

Okay I feel a little better and I have a fuckload of writing to do.

/end bleating.


New Things

So my first article at XOjane went live over the weekend and you can read that here.

I also have a kink essay to finish, a new article for Luna Luna to get ready and more for XOjane.

Now while I am really into these non fictional someone likes me (OH MY FUCK YOU LIKE ME) things happening something else has happened that I’m not so about.

So I’ve written about it, meditated about it, steamed about it.

I feel like this is a level up moment.

The thing is I am really fucking angry but beyond being angry I just-

okay I just don’t understand WHY the need to make shit personal about me when I didn’t make it personal about you.

Fuck.

These are the kind of mother fuckers I can’t fuck with. if you can’t be grown enough to say, I don’t like you and then hear, well I don’t like you either and we go our separate ways. I am not the droids you are looking for.

I have shit to do that does not involve trying to negotiate feeling victimized and then consequently really angry every fucking day.

As a dear dear friend guided me a couple of years ago, when my guts are churning I’m going in the right direction.

So with my new non fiction I’m putting my head down and coming through like a tweaked out train.

I am not here for other people’s bullshit.

Okay I had to get that out.

Later this week I have some other announcements. AND really if y’all could swing through the etsy store and maybe drop a few bucks I’d be delighted. I’m trying desperately to save up enough via my writing to buy a new phone because mine is failing and I do not feel safe commuting without my phone.

Thank you.

OH and before I go here how about some stuff to read that I am really excited about right now.

First, Tannarive Due has a new story at Lightspeed and I freaked out. GO read it or listen to it right now.

This piece by Rebecca Carroll at XO is hella relevant to my life right now and I want you to read it.

My dear friend Anna March wrote this piece in Salon. It is about the Pope and save your sanity stay out of the comments.

Another love of my Dena Rash Guzman wrote this about monoculture in farming at Stir.  Read it.

Actually here, that whole Lightspeed issue is fucking great so you should read or listen to all of it.

Literary Orphans got a good nod in Poets and Writers so check that out here.

Solarcide is expanding and has a new release out. Go check them out I’m pretty into it.

And you should check out the new issue of Flapperhouse.  I have it and I am into it.

Okay now I have a lot of work to do and should eat food because I’m a grown up.


A Love Letter to Antonia Crane

So we know I adore Antonia but this will be a combo review and love letter.

I’m having a very emotional week for a lot of reasons and I just finished reading Spent: A Memoir.

Wow.

Okay first of all the hardback is really physically beautiful. For my fellow tactile book nerds, the cover has this beautiful artwork and is glossy. It feels nice under the finger tips and the little half dust cover is gorgeous.

And then you open it and start reading.

As soon as you start reading, you realize that this memoir is not tidy. It is not full of sunshine and flowers. It is not a story of a woman who dabbled in the dark and ran from it. While I was reading I was thinking of Antonia’s big beautiful smile and the prior readings of her words and I fucking got it.

You can see in her work that there is a sparkle in her eye and a knowing that you’re going for a ride.

In this book Antonia does not pretend.  She is naked in a way that is so important to me when I read memoir by other women especially sex workers and others who have been through it.

I personally cannot connect to women’s writing that sticks to the sunny and immediately redemptive. I can’t connect emotionally or (in my case) want to sit down and talk to a person who peers into the dark and skips away unscathed.

Antonia got scathed.

She wrote that shit like her life depended on it and even though I don’t know her super well, I’m going to assume her life did depend on it.

Now, I have been waiting for this book since the first time I saw her writing way back on The Rumpus. She had no book deal and I (sorry Antonia if I got creepy) followed her around the internet to get sips of her words. Even from the bits and bobs I read, I knew here is one of my people.

There is a power for me in coming across women who however they do it just take my heart. How they talk to and about other women. Certain styles of sex work writing. There are let’s call them (forgive my woowooness) vibes I get that make my say yes.

Now let’s talk about sex work memoir as a genre.

Back when sex bloggers/workers were the it thing in publishing and I was a semi sex blogger myself, there was a big explosion of shiny books written by madams, hookers, strippers etc.

For me during that time up through now the genre itself was lacking. I read them in a fairly greedy manner and after two or three I realized that the predominant narrative was fairly standard.

A lot of those stories were either handjobs to redemption and ‘saving’ from a illicit life. The heavy handed I AM FEMINIST THEREFORE I DO WHAT I WANT, the pretty White girl going to college and venturing into stripping to boost her self esteem etc.

The tragic was covered, the Red Shoe Diary salacious type semi stroke material.

What was missing to me was the grit. I have known and loved many sex workers in the last (I’m gonna round it out) 15 years give or take. From a beloved crack whore who taught me incredibly valuable life lessons, to peep show workers, strippers, high cost escorts and in talking to a lot of them and living some of it myself when I did a bit of sex work back in the day, the struggle in those stories was missing.

There was often the struggle to reconcile religious or feminist beliefs with sex work but not the how the fuck am I gonna pay my rent, how the fuck do I get out, where do I go from here type narrative.

A lot of sex work memoirs are designed more to give the reader a sense of satisfaction at the end that while sex work is glamorous and full of money and presents, it’s way better to retire gracefully into wifedom or something.

That doesn’t do it for me as a reader or as someone who has not really seen that happen.

Antonia’s book is full of the grit. Her writing is silky and funny, it is rough and gut wrenching but it is not glossy. There is terror. The way she writes about her Mother’s illness and death is going to haunt me.

That is why I love her and her work. I honestly cannot stand writing that seems too shiny. When people write about terrible things but there is a everything turns out in the end gloss. I have a thing about that.

This is not a Red Shoe Diary stroke memoir.

It is sexy but not fap material.

This is real and raw.

Antonia’s work is naked and glorious.

Spent is the kind of book I will return to because writing that is so full of power and beauty moves me. It makes me feel at home. It makes me feel a sense of community when I feel like I’m drowning in suburban bundt cakey blandness.

I am so deeply terribly thankful that I found Antonia’s work.

So before I start blubbering.

This book is fucking fantastic and I absolutely recommend it.

I fucking love Antonia Crane.

If you get a chance to see her read or take a class with her do it and tell her I sent you.


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