The Protest of a Dangerous Black Person

defiant

Last night on my way home, I could not stop thinking of Keith Lamont. With all of the extra judicial murders of Black people, this one has hit me in a way the others haven’t quite.

The reason is, I could have been him. In the most real way.

When I was young, one of my first negative interactions with a police officer was over a book and being a young Black child in public. I was waiting outside of the library for my Mom to get off of work and was as kids do kind of sprawled out in a messy way, in the sun reading. Prior to that, like most kids my age I was taught that the police were my friends. Prior to that, my image of police was based on being handed a teddy bear after an incident and hugged. I remember a tall White policeman promising to protect my Mother and I until my Dad arrived on scene.

I remembered, a policeman knocking on the door while I was home alone to make sure I was okay because there was someone terrorizing my neighborhood.

That first negative interaction changed it all.

I was accused of trolling for Johns,  I didn’t look like a grown woman, I wasn’t walking or flagging. I was sitting on a concrete bench thing, reading a book. When I was confused, he insisted I provide ID. I didn’t understand because I was a child. No one prepared me for it. Nobody ever told me that a cop might criminalize me and I’d need to figure out how to be safe.

He accused me of stealing the stack of books next to me. Said I was lying about waiting for my Mom. Accused me of doing all sorts of things I didn’t understand. He did go away eventually and I was so terrified I had done something wrong I never told my Mom.

As an adult, I have been questioned for being Black in public at a bus stop and reading. Again, informed that I was under suspicion or someone called the police because I was reading.

In the era of #BlacklivesMatter I’ve been at a deep loss as to how to deal with my terror, despair and rage. Because of my work schedule and need to go to work, I haven’t been to protests. My personal mental health issues make marching not really ideal or good for me at all.

Last night, while I was waiting for the bus and I watched a White woman scoot away from me because I must have looked very scary in my platform shoes and tired face, I decided to protest silently in the way that works for me.

I pulled a book out of my bag, put some music on and read.

Blatantly.

When I got to my second bus stop for the last leg of my commute, I sat quietly on a bench by myself, book in hand. It took less than ten minutes for me to get cruised by police. I watched the cruiser slow down and I looked up at them, then glanced behind me and no one was there.

While the officer was watching me read, I heard men yelling, I saw drunks stumbling but I was the clear danger.

For a minute, I was close to putting my book away and going into the little store by the bus stop or getting up and walking to another stop out of fear of being “contacted” and questioned about who knows what and potentially harmed.

Then, I didn’t.

I made eye contact (a thing I do not do with the police ever) and continued to read my book.

Is this the loudest form of protest? No.

I don’t know if it would be recognized at all. And I’ve realized that isn’t important to me. Because I am Black and have to be outside and in public and cannot hide from the gaze of the police here, I will keep reading in public.

I also want to say this. I’ve heard from people over the past couple of years that me writing about these things doesn’t count. That because I’m not a marching type of person, I am doing nothing.

And then nights like the one I had earlier this week, I managed to walk home with my head held up high, alone while being followed by police. The same police who see me every night, at the same time give or take 20 minutes who have never said hello to me. Who have followed me, spotlighted me, lingered in a creepy fashion for years. I’m still able to get home and I leave my house every day and I’m alive.

I am terrified a lot. Sometimes, I text my partner if I’m nervous, so he knows if I’m too late something might have happened. Sometimes, while I’m walking I have to keep my hands in my pockets because I am shaking.

I’m still here.

I’m still using my voice to the best of my ability so it counts.

 

If I become a hashtag. I know that entries like this will be pointed at as reasons why I deserved it.

That’s all.

 

 

Writing Goals.

ACTUALLY before I talk about that, I need to talk about something associated.

Being a writer as many have pointed out for ages is that being a writer is lonely AF. These days, at least for me part of being a writer in the modern world is just fucking astonishingly confounding.

For me, in particular, coming to terms with first learning the necessity of being able to be creator, marketer, publicist, etc for myself was really hard. None of these were things I included in my learning when I was a kidlet baby writer. The learning process for these things has been beyond hard for me.

Recently, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that the entrepenurial part of being a modern writer, and being an indie writer is not something I am capable of doing successfully. I have failed that part so hard.

I’m not looking for smoke up my butt.

These are the facts. I cannot sell my own material to save my life.

Had this been ten years ago, I’d be sobbing right now and so angry with myself I’d not be able to breath.

Enter, Milcah.

We met via the Rumpus. Awww LOOK at that baby face they have. My friend Antonia Crane was doing this series of interviews and I love her work and then there was -that- interview and thus a literary love affair was begun. Since then we have written each other long love letters, I wrote a story for their naked cam work, we made SCLAB book baby together.

The other thing is that Milcah has done something for me that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a baby potato writer- a partner who can hear me at my worst, who believes me, who when we work together fits my (omg Deadpool reference) weird curvy edges AND believes and shares part of my dreams.

Milcah has been that person.

Milcah can do so many things I just am no good at. The business parts. Our writing is different enough that when we work on things together, there’s a fluidity that runs through both of us as humans that works.

Milcah and I are a mother fucking literary power couple.

So, that said.

Because of a lot of stuff that’s happened in our long love letter exchanges and me feeling supported, seen and recognized enough to admit and not hate my failure in selling/being able to do that stuff for myself, my creative/writing bucketlist has changed and exploded.

How things are looking right now:

  1. Letting go of an attachment to baller freelancer status.
  2. Write first, sell later.
  3. Embracing my natural and established patterns of work that enable me to write the best material I can.
  4. Less stress over being the ALL the things artist.
  5. More enthusiasm to be the artist I actually am.

These have resulted so far in the following:

  • Potential to do ONE huge thing off of my personal bucket list.
  • I’ve applied for my first artist grant(I’ll talk more about that later)
  • I’ve started really working on finding my voice in talking about things like beauty, make up, fashion. Go look at my other blog. (Not toally related but earlier one of my other readers spotted a fucking pro Trump ad on my blog, if you see it PLEASE report it. I’m working on trying to be rid of it.)
  • I’ve resumed writing essays that make me bleed. Not the type where I’m struggling to balance the bleed and the sale.
  • I decided to start actively trying to get fiction published again.

Y’all.

Y’ALL.

So money shit is still fucked. I’m poor AF.

But, I feel okay to move on from where I was to where I want to go.

My writing lately has been on mother fucking fire.

I FEEL like I actually can be the artist I want to be.

DO you know how good that feels? Because Milcah in particular (mainly because of our baby SCLAB) has invested time and money in me and never once held that over my head as a way to force me to change, and that we are STILL both so passionate about SCLAB and that we’re working out how we can make it happen, these other things can happen.

When I was a baby potato writer, I believed that the writing life would be like it was in my Henry Miller books. I’d write shit, travel, fuck everyone and mail stuff to some editor shaped person and boom shit would be published. And I’d probably be poor, but there would be money for when I was broke and rich people being my patrons.

The version of that dream I’m living is in the shape of my real actual life. I have the kind of support system (not financial as of yet) that I need in order to be the kind of artist I wanted to be as a kidlet.

Dear Other Writers who struggle with ALL the other writing biz shit,

There is hope. If I can find a situation that is tenable and wonderful and makes good shit for my art. You can do it. It might take a long time, but it is out there.

Right now when I look at my family, my partner Uniballer whom I live with, my Wifey Cookie whom I see when I can and Milcah-

Holy shit y’all.

Being that all my love is romantic on some level love, I feel like I am the warm weirdo center of the most loving big relationship. And it’s so wonderful.

Love doesn’t solve all the problems and don’t pay my bills, but, it does make life and creation so much better.

Publicly again forever thank you for being you, being tough, being loving, being my most beautiful femmeboifriend, being the artist you are and being my ride or die.

I love you Milcah.

And I love you too readers and other writers.

I’m full of hate and migraine pain but, I love you.

On My Mind

Before I get into what’s on my mind right now I have to tell y’all the most exciting thing.

My passion, my real hearts work is making a come back. Milcah and I are re-embarking on the best thing I do.

Self Care Like A Boss is coming back. We’re relaunching. We’re doing it together in a whole new way and I’m terrified and excited because this is really, REALLY important to me and what I want my life’s work to involve.

So y’all, please head on over here to check out our poll on our new merch and if you’ve got a mind to, sign up for our email newsletter. More news is coming soon, this is step 1.

Next.

I’ve got other stuff on my mind.

I started what could become a small series of essays about living in the mouth of the beast that is gentrification and my terror at being swallowed up by it. This is a subject that is constantly on my mind because I’m living it. I’m a little hesitant to write about it deeply for a few reasons:

  • Obviously given my body of work I know -how- to write personally. I’m a bit reticent about writing about this in particular. Mainly because if I do, I’ll need to do it for The Stabby maybe where I don’t have to deal with comments.
  • Emotionally it will be a lot of labor.

Okay on point 2. Here is sort of where freelancing and I disagree. I like to write first then pitch. It takes way more time and is generally a larger financial risk for me because do I spend the hours on the thing and hope I can get paid or do I try harder to pitch then write?

I find both incredibly stressful.

That stress has made me want to turn back towards the lit world. I feel more comfortable in a large way there. I know how it works. I can work the way that means I’ve got a self satisfying output, and when I’m really on that shit a fairly good acceptance/publication ratio.

That said, that also leaves me as poor if not more poor than I already am if we factor in the whole time is money thing.

That said, a lot of my non-fiction work lately has been weird and likely unpublishable anyway, so I’m mostly worried about future work or stuff I have going all ready.

This is an area of the intersection of art and commerce that I do not negotiate very well. What I want isn’t always the best for my bank accounts nor my art. Being in a position where I’m both really too poor to be doing anything for free and not wanting to have to only write saleable material is a hell of a thing.

The other thing on my mind is how difficult it has been for me to just be glad to be read. On one hand it has always been such a deep and wonderful thing for me to know that I have an audience. From the early days of having a tiny 10 person devoted readership of a long dead online journal to here, it is a miracle and wonderful to me to be read ever.

Inside that thankfulness and joy, there is also the struggle of knowing that most of the time mine is not a paying audience. Poverty strikes again. And the minute I have those feelings, I also feel terrible for feeling upset. I don’t want to feel bitter or jealous or whatever.

At the same time, I still need a new pair of pants and have bills to pay.

It’s hard to write from that place of conflict and fear and just general shitty feelings.

Real talk, the most fucked up thing about this is that having this problem/these feelings is somewhat of a personal artistic milestone. The fact that I have the belief in my work to say I should be paid and paid well for this is pretty huge. Ten years ago, I would have the smallest inkling of these feelings. They were nebulous and unformed.

Back then, I didn’t believe my work had real value other than maybe some entertainment. Not even when I had some writing jobs. Not even when on occasion lit mags gave me money.

Back then I didn’t really know how to write non-fiction of any flavor. I didn’t know that one didn’t have to be a journalist necessarily to publish non-fiction. I thought that the arty essays were strictly for “real” writers who were absolutely not me.

I felt bad about not making money writing, but didn’t feel like I deserved it.

Funny ain’t it? I mean now I know that my work has worth, but getting that proves to be fucking really hard for me.

Like, I FINALLy allow myself to view myself as an artist and legit creator.

I allow myself to understand that my work has worth.

And suck at making it work.

I am only laughing because otherwise I’ll cry.

Okay, that’s it for now. I have stuff to do and write.

Imagining the rest. Thinking about #blackspecfic

I have been scribbling away on a couple of way out of my comfort zone pieces.

In one I’ve created an origin story for a myth no one has heard before. It started out as an entire other thing, I wanted to practice finding a very particular voice to put on a narrator and as usual I started with a little character sketch to try and hear it in my head.

What’s interesting to me right now is that after reading this piece from Fireside when it came out, I’ve done a lot of looking at my body of work both published and unpublished. I’ve been looking at what interests me in terms of the new fiction I want to create.

It is all fucking speculative fiction in one way or another.

Wiki says this about speculative fiction:

Speculativefiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements, notably science fiction, fantasy and horror. The popularity of the term is sometimes attributed to Robert Heinlein, who referenced it in 1947 in an editorial essay, although there are prior mentions of speculativefiction, or its variant “speculative literature”.

Well, yeah. That’s everything I write these days. Looking back, I can see points in my writing life where I’ve done my level best to not do spec fic. I’ve spent time trying to be straight up literary or horror or whatever.

I have found a comfortable *for me to create in* space that is both speculative and slipstream.

This is what wiki says about slipstream.

Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. The term slipstream was coined by cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, in July 1989.

In terms of my work, I’ve found a freedom in living in this place because I don’t feel the pressure to do any particular type of performative Blackness in my work. In these worlds that are our world and other worlds, their Blackness is not othered they just are. They can be created without me being distracted by all the other bullshit that happens when you write to represent yourself (because that’s great advice if you’re a creator) and shit gets difficult.

Okay, now that I’m thinking about what I’ve been writing and potentially getting back into submitting to places that take stuff that lands on the spec fic spectrum, and I still have some trepidation.

I’ve seen some magazines, etc. try to respond.

I don’t know how I feel about it. If I’m going to be real about it, there are probably four magazines that take the more spec fic/slipstream stuff I think I’d even have a shot at. Not necessarily because of the quality of my work, but because the Blackness in my work has just been there. It’s not part of a larger point, these are just the people who populate these worlds. And that isn’t necessarily the type of work by POC that a lot of places feature.

I want to believe that the industry has heard the call and will start getting itself right. I don’t want to spend time reformatting (because how I work visually means I always have to overhaul when I submit to genre mags because so many still only take manuscript format..that’s a whole other thing), researching, editing, etc. etc. to submit to places where, I might feel like my work would be the token nod to “diversity”.

I don’t know. I guess I’m just suspicious.

I’m suspicious of the genre industries because I feel like I can’t turn around without seeing some kind of racist fuckery. I don’t mind being aware of it, I find that important, but as a writer who will be submitting, like I don’t want to fuck with it. Sometimes I wonder if I do gain traction in any of the genre areas I like, am I going to wind up as a target of the raging puppy types?

I have a lot of complicated feelings about it.

On one hand, I have come to understand that I will not be able to sell my fiction directly to my readership. This isn’t a plea right now it’s the plain truth. That particular adventure is pretty done. It was a grand experiment, but I need to shut it down because it’s been mostly stressful and cost me money. I don’t have money to spend like that.

So what now?

I think I’m ready to get back into the swing of submitting fiction around. I have been thinking about #blackspecfic and I want to be in it. I want to be part of it. I got my hard hat and big girl boxer briefs on, I’ve got stories to tell and I’m ready.

It feels kind of nice to have that particular ambition again. I have my new and shiny submission tracking spreadsheet started up and I’ve clocked in some nice rejections already.

Aside from the failure of my indie authoring, the other thing that has drawn me back into the industry this way is that I have hope. For every racist fuckery filled comment section or twitter tantrum or attempt to sway awards, I see people fighting for the things I believe in and I can’t completely resist.

All this is a very roundabout way of saying, you could likely start seeing my name again around in magazines. And it feels good.

That’s it for now. I have been doing my author loveletters *newsletter but whatever* and this weeks is a good one. Come check it out here and subscribe if you like. New one every Saturdayish and never any spam.

Updates and whatnots.

Hello People.

Or robots.

So I’ve been a bit AWOL. I went on vacation and while I was on vacation, I had grand plans for celebrating my partner’s birthday, a day out including dinner and movie and some writing time.

Instead, I got dog shit sick AND got a bit of shit news and paid one large bill that rendered us too broke to buy a pizza for a number of days. Thus, I got very depressed as well and anxious.

Shit was not awesome.You can read more about it here, this is my author newsletter. I call it a love letter and it is a more intimate rambly type thing with the occasional announcement. I promise no spam.

The other thing that’s going on right now is I’m trying to recalibrate myself and how I’m working. I’ve been trying the method of see a call, start a thing, pitch-wait.

That ain’t working.

I’m coaxing myself back into doing things the way they were working (if not in a profitable way, but in a less soul killing type way) write the things, peruse the calls, maybe pitch, submit.

To that end I’ve got myself a few new spreadsheets. I started a new submission tracking one for both fiction/non fiction, whatever.

A maybe I’d like to pitch these ideas/write these things doc.

This is not the most profitable. However, I have to stop punching myself in the heartballs over it. I keep trying to force some seismic change in how I work and what I do and it just never fucking works out. I always wind up feeling like shit.

Y’all, I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself.

No that’s bullshit I do. Because money and poverty brain and my small financial ambitions.

Currently the reality of trying to survive and take care of my family in a rapidly gentrifying area when my income is not going up at all is so stressful. Reality is that we could very well be priced out of our home come next March and that could mean having to move another hour away from my job.

A lot of bad things are right here in my face.

That said, I’m trying very hard to trust that I will get through and be able to keep writing the shit I want. I want to trust that the work I’ve done on myself around these issues won’t keep me from achieving what I want.

Now that my panic has passed a little bit. And I’ve allowed myself to cry and be bitter and be angry I am poor- I’m back to a bit of calm.

I’m struggling to balance my artiness with my need to, you know live and whatnots. I’m trying.

Now I’m off to work on Patreon stuff.

If y’all could be so kind, feel free to check out my Etsy because I’m gong to be taking everything down in a week or so. Also I’ve got my teespring shop up and running so check that out and get u a poetry sticker.

And again (I may say it too often) seriously if you know folks who might be into what I’m up to, please share my links. I know a lot of y’all are poor like me and getting more eyes on my stuff matters pretty heavily.

Thanks for coming along y’all.

(I’ll be x-posting this to medium.)

 

Hustle and Grind updates.

Ooohkay.

Head on over and check out my Patreon update. I’m in the process of figuring out how to make it better for patrons and for me.

I’m not entirely sure what to do. To be honest, I’ve gotten zero feedback as to what folks want to see so I’m half assuming that means nothing.

I’m not sure.

I’m working on it. I was going to say more but I don’t really want to spill my purse and insecurities today.

What else?

OH I’ve launched my merch store. Currently I’ve got tees and stickers. I have full poems on stickers and will be designing some slightly fancier ones. I’ll be doing some other stuff as well. I’ve linked it on the right down there under my etsy widget.

I’m workin.

I’m workin on stuff.

I’ve not abandoned my big dream stuff, I’m rethinking it.

I’m very committed to keeping my dream things accessible to folks who are poor like me but I also want them to contribute financially in a positive way to my life. I don’t know how to do that exactly yet.

Shit is so hard. It is very emotionally taxing and apparently a big anxiety trigger for me. I hate feeling like I’m just doing it all wrong. Not that I’ve failed because I’m good at failing, but that I’m fucking it up and have no chance not to fail.

This is the part of arting that has made it difficult for me to do it.

That said, the most interesting part of how things are turning out for me is this. As upset as I am about dayjob stuff or other poor people poverty bingo bullshit, I find I’m saying, yeah I don’t have time for that I have art to make.

AND I don’t only say it to myself, I fucking mean it.

As seriously in need of cash that I am right now, I am not panic pitching to places I hate. I am not forcing myself to smile and deal nice with editors I’ve seen show ALL their racist asses.

I still feel like this and say, fuck you pay me.

Emotionally, this is huge progress for me. I’m not sitting here with burning guts and panic shits and crying because I’m not able to turn off parts of my heart to make a buck.

I’m also super privileged in that I have some support. Folks who believe in my heart and my art. Even when I hate both.

So that’s what’s up.

More news possibly later this week.