HELLO my favorite Space Babes.
Let’s talk about holding onto your stuff.
I write a lot of shit. I have tons of scraps of stories, bits of poems, lil snatches of research and whatnots. From one of my fave books about writing, the classic On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, one of the lasting lessons for me was to stop throwing stuff away. Way back when I was a baby potato, writing in absolute secret I was terrified of anyone finding out and I was so embarrassed by how bad I was at writing, I’d write stories, read them once and tear them up. If I was feeling particularly upset, I’d burn the pieces.
Once I started using computers regularly, I did about the same thing. I wrote stuff, decided I was too shitty to live and deleted them. I did this for probably the first decade (from let’s say age 13 through about 24) of me becoming a writer.
After my first reading of On Writing, the first thing I put into practice was not in fact keeping what I wrote. I still had a bad habit of just deleting anything I didn’t believe in immediately. Back then, I was very vested in being published in very specific ways. I was mainly writing a lot of erotica and copy for a few adult sites. I occasionally got a horror publication here and there.
My criteria for what I’d keep or not keep came down to being held hostage by the Literary Canon. Cis, white, hetero unless it was queer for hetero eyes. That was what got me into the industry. I didn’t believe that my secret work (the baby versions of a lot of what I’m doing now) was worth keeping because I was taught otherwise. On occasion, I ventured into literary Black territory and was usually not rewarded in any way by doing so. There was a time when, I had the audacity to be very Black and Queer on the internet and I lost a really lucrative job because after my employer checked my personal stuff (a blog and whatnot) he sent me a very worried email that I couldn’t really write “normal”.
Fast forward to earlier this morning. I was casting about looking for an older story I was thinking about reprinting and I found a treasure trove of things I tucked away in my cloud storage. In the past five or so years I’ve suffered some catastrophic data losses and computers dying and taking years of work with them so, stumbling on things I wrote in 2010/2011 feels so good.
I spent some time reading some of my early noir, I have the first 60 pages of a super natural/werewolf buddy detective thing I wrote way back in 2010ish. I know that much of the going writer culture is to be terribly embarrassed by your old work. Hide that first novel in a drawer, be charmingly embarassed in interviews when asked about your early work.
I reject that entirely. I am not embarrassed that once upon a time I didn’t know how to walk and routinely shit my pants. Now, I can (well I’m not great at it but) walk and I learned how to use the toilet. I’ve evolved. I’m proud of my growth as a human. I am so proud of myself for learning and changing.
From being confined to writing explicit work featuring a LOT of white people to now I have tucked away in a folder erotica that transgresses gender, race, and a few very creepy kings with impunity. It was purchased by a now defunct publisher so I might go ahead and publish it.
You cannot step back and appreciate your own growth if you hide where you were. I don’t believe in shame about how we become the artists we are. That is why I’m rarely ashamed to show a first draft. I’m rarely upset that I have a snippet of a story that just will never ever work. I’m proud that I’ve found my voice and having this back catalog of stuff that shows me the way I got here is fucking amazing.
Don’t be ashamed.
Keep doing what you’re doing.
Play. When I say play I mean just fuck around. Never written sf? Give it a shot. Try stuff. Let go and play on the swingset and write a crappy ass horror story or a super cheesy love story. As I’ve said in my creative loveletters, make something ugly. Paint something, put together a puzzle, just do something. Get a weird idea and see where it goes.
Don’t throw it away.
Okay below, find a good chunk of the weird buddy werewolf thing I started and may yet finish.
“What do you want White boy.”
Between the noise of the bar behind them, the wafting odors of cigarette and weed smoke, sweat, whiskey, and humans he was relieved that neither his nose nor his intel had been wrong.
“Would you like to have a drink with me?”
She looked up from her sudoku game on her phone and gave him a long up and down look. She licked her lips and smiled.
“Gin and tonic.”
He nodded and walked back inside to get drinks and a plate of wings. He might be alone but he did have manners. Upon returning he found her beating a sudoku game, she smiled at him.
“Top shelf, I ain’t mad at that. What’s your name lobo?”
He sat and passed here the drink.
He waited for the traditional laugh about his name, she took his hand and shook it.
“Latisha, nice to meet you Marian.”
They sipped in silence for a while, sniffing each other out.
“Thanks for not laughing at my name. The jokes get old.”
Latisha examined him coolly, nodded.
“I don’t joke on folks names. Besides at least it’s not Sue.”
Marian dead panned.
“How do you do?”
Latisha stared for a moment and they both burst into laughter followed by singing the whole song to each other. Someone at another table clapped and they stood to take a bow.
Usual wolf etiquette required a lot of growling, sniffing and biting. Especially among strange males and females. Unfortunately they were in public and neither really was the traditional type. Marian gave Latisha a long look.
“I hope you like your wings spicy. I got us a couple of platters. ”
She raised an eyebrow at him.
“And you got me chicken? I’ll get a pitcher of beer since you’re being all traditional with the gifts and whatnot. If you sniff my butt I’ll lay you out.”
Unable to resist he gave her his best puppy eyes.
She cackled, mouth wide open her big black eyes twinkling.
“Don’t write checks your ass can’t cash Sue.”
Regardless of the seriousness of the problem he’d sought her out to help, it felt good to have that kind of easy banter with another wolf. Once the chicken arrived Latisha ordered the promised pitcher and they both tucked napkins into their collars and went to work in companionable quiet.
Both had enough manners not to snap the bones and suck out the marrow, nor did they bite each other when it was down to three wings and a half inch of foam in the pitcher. When they were down to one wing, Latisha picked it up, delicately nibbled off near half and handed it to Marian.
He took it and nodded.
“Since you’re being all traditional, I’ll let you sniff my butt later.”
Full and sipping fresh beers they sat looking at each other until Latisha broke.
“So, White boy with gifts what do you actually want? I’m sure you heard I’m not in heat. If you were here to kill me we’d probably be fighting already so what do you want?”
Marian put his beer aside and folded his hands on the table.
“You know who I am. You know what I do. I need some help and I think you’re the one to help me.”
She looked dubious. Marian shook his head and leaned forward, his forearms on the table hands folded.
“No I’m not trying to put a baby in you. The time for culling has past. All of the genetically viable packs from Alaska to Argentina are taking care of their own. I want to do something better and I think you do too.”
Her eyes narrowed and he could see her nostrils quiver, smelling the truth on him.
“I won’t say I’m not interested. We can talk about it later. I wanna dance.”
She rose and he followed not ashamed to admire the jiggle of her backside and her strong thick thighs. It had been too long since he’d been with another wolf. She glanced over her shoulder at him and wiggled her hips.
“I hope you dance better than you leer. You can dance can’t you Whitey?”
He loped ahead of her, catching her hand as he went by.
“Don’t write checks your ass can’t cash Sue.”
Inside the band was warming up into a swinging rendition of some country song and he pretended to try and get his bearings before he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into a fast two step. Whooping she shimmied around him, a few old men clapped and hollered.
“Give ’em hell girl!”
Another old man shouted from his left,
“Get down White boy.”
He could tell none of them were lupine family but they were her family. He had to impress.
The lead singer of the band chuckled into the mic when the song ended.
“Looks like we got us some dancers. Y’all got any requests?”
Marian looked up, grinning.
“Keep it fast til she drops.”
The assembled crowd howled and surged to the dancefloor. The band was good, they alternated between traditional two step and easy dirty blues that had couples grinding wall to wall. Marian pulled Latisha close, her back molded against him. He put his nose behind her ear, inhaling her scent deeply. He could smell the coconut oil in her hair, the cocoa butter on her skin and the beginnings of arousal wafting up between them like the sweetest most delicate perfume. She turned in his arms and took a handful of his hair and pulled.
“You bein’ nasty Marian.”
He smiled at her, baring his teeth,.
“Yeah. You too Latisha.”
He put his hand on her backside and squeezed, she pulled him by his hair and kissed him lightly.
“Let’s go Whiteboy we can talk business over breakfast.”