First please listen to this song by Otis Redding. It is important to what I have to say today and feel free to imagine me singing it in a smokey tenor with a guitar player and bass player.
I love that song. It is one of my all time favorites. It is the theme of what I’m thinking today.
When I was about 9 years old during the annual all county library book sale where I could for 1$ take home all of the books I could physically move out of the space. I made my parents bring my little red wagon. That was one of the first years I was just set loose in the books and I remember buying a big dictionary, a few old solo unloved encyclopedias. There was also a stack of trashy horror novels. Lots of Stephen King and John Saul both of whom I idolized at the time.
I also picked up my first Penguin Classic.
Unfortunately I don’t remember exactly what book it was. I do remember that it was over my head enough that I had it sitting on my bookshelf for years before I read it. I’m going to say it was maybe a copy of Frankenstein or it might have been Candide because I was very familiar with the opera at that age and the Overture (which I later played in school band) was one of my favorite things.
What I do distinctly remember was falling in love with Penguin Classics.
That is the age that my love of the imprint began. There are certain books that I must always buy varying copies of because of the differing imprints. Different typography and graphics. Different book design. Different paper.
Also at that age I started imaging my own book covers because that’s how I thought it was done.
I remember painstakingly (I really cannot draw to save my life and never have been able to) trying to draw fancy covers. I was very drawn to covers for the Greek Classics especially.
Around 14 or so I got into the Beats with a vengeance. Pretty much everything I had to read for school I’d previously read or disliked immensly and all I wanted to do was read Gregory Corso’s book Gasoline (City Lights Pocket Poets Series)
(sorry that is totally an affiliate link, Mama needs to make some money) over and over and over. This is the edition I had purchased at Walden Books and I also remember the clerk being really fucking snotty to me because I was a teenager he assumed it was for my parents. That is after he got done following me around the store.
Thus began my love affair with City Lights.
I spent many happy hours imagining having a shelf in my fabulous home writing office (in my fantasies to this day there is a home office AND an office to go away to) rows of tiny books of poetry by City Lights and the orange spines of Penguin books.
These days I still daydream about rows of my books arranged artfully, covers I love. Typography I want to lick off of the page. The main difference is my interest in mainstream publishing. The more I find my niche and my place and understand more about the likely realities of my place in the big bad publishing world, the more I realize that those huge publishers (Penguin and their ilk) are probably not for me.
Over the past few years I’ve seen various sectors of the publishing industry really fuck with women of color and you know what? I just can’t.
If someone straight up told me that nobody would read my book if my face was on it because white people don’t buy books with brown people on them (yes that happened, no I’m not linking I do not have enough spoons ever for all that shit again) I would I don’t know. My heart would be broken. My soul would probably shrivel up and die and I’d go back to anonymously posting stories places.
At 34 years old, writing is still my sweet and precious dream. As much as it fucks me up sometimes it’s still that one tiny thing that is all mine.
To be less fancy about it, my writing means to much to me to let people fuck with it overmuch or fuck up my experience of it.
Apparently this quarter I can’t get any new acceptances. I’m pretty sure the moon is in a WTF is this even supposed to mean phase and I”m going to ride it out. My acceptance rate is back down to 25%. Two stories, both under 1K nobody loves but me.
So yeah that.
OH SHIT wait, so I had this fancy offline mail thing going on at home and only just now realized it hasn’t been working in like two weeks. I owe Susie and four other people emails. Damn.
Oh well. Enough whining it is time to get back to work.